Faith. Family. Career.
Those were the priorities, in order, the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin so clearly articulated during a fast meeting this week in Madison. She excused herself to take a quick phone call to help her daughter, which opened the door to chatting about a few personal details of her life when she came back to the table.
During the meeting, we discussed not only colon cancer but motherhood, career and important life priorities. Packed within her cancer story were tips and insights on how she balances all of the moving parts in her world.
I was impressed and appreciative of the honest peek into what it's like for her to be a cancer survivor, working mom, wife, politician and Christian.
I walked away from our meeting not only inspired as a survivor and connected as a believer, but encouraged as a mom. I realized just like cancer survivorship, one of the most powerful ways moms can help one another is by simply sharing our lives. It's worth it to push past the fear of judgement or "mom guilt" and show each other how we undergo the universal balancing act it takes to keep our lives sane.
Inspired by Lt. Gov. Kleefisch who gave me a peek into mom life from her office at the Wisconsin State Capitol, I wanted to pay it forward and offer the same transparency and here's glimpses into my world this week on the blog.
This was a travel week for me. On average, I travel once a month or so. I enjoy the trips when I travel with Anjee, the Fight CRC president and a fellow working mom of an elementary-aged kiddo. It's really nice to not be alone in the "we're away from our families but doing important work" boat. We both work and hope to set an example for our kids on how to use passion and skills to help others.
This is Matthew. A couple years ago when I realized Mae was getting older and could potentially struggle with my March travel season, we went to Build-A-Bear and got this dog. I recorded a little message that reminds her I love and miss her when she presses his paw. Matthew stays in his cardboard dog house all of the time, except for when I'm gone. Then she takes him out and plays with him. He's usually her constant companion when I'm gone. At times, I feel my plan has backfired because when she hears I am going to be gone for a few days, she gets super excited because she can play with Matthew. But I'd rather see her joy over any tears.
Speaking of tears - I'm seeing fewer of them on Sunday mornings. A few months ago, Mae would break down on Sunday mornings when it was time to go to church. Right around this time, my husband's job shifted and he began to work Sunday mornings. I took the opportunity to change our routine and began having one-on-one time with her, teaching her lessons on how to keep a prayer journal and find Bible verses. We'd round it out with a fun craft. I've seen a big change in her attitude and am glad I "broke tradition" on Sunday mornings. It might not be a forever routine, but it's been what we both needed for now.
Routine change is about to be the theme for one of my dearest friends who's becoming a Mama Bear herself in just a few weeks! We met at church several years ago and she's like a sister to me, an aunt to Mae, and we can't wait to welcome a new baby girl into the fold. It's getting me all giddy to be an aunt again. I'm excited to dish all of the working mom advice I know to her. And if I'm being honest, it's making me a little weepy at the realization of how my own baby girl is so big (turning 7 next week!)
She's so big, she ran/walked an entire 5K this weekend! Fight CRC had a team at the Kansas City Get Your Rear in Gear run - an event that raises money for local colorectal cancer awareness. I wasn't able to participate myself because of the chronic pain and irritation I have from post-radiation side effects but I gladly cheered on my co-workers and my family as they participated. It meant the world to see them running to honor me and so many others who've faced colorectal cancer.
I was glad I'd written the post 5 Tips for Talking to Kids about Cancer before the race, because Mae had a lot of questions about colon cancer for me while we were out there. She opened with the biggest, "Who will be my mom if you die?" followed by "Why did you have advanced colon cancer?" as we walked through the inflatable colon. The questions came to an end when I reassured her she did not have colon cancer herself.
Sometimes it takes an interesting emotional and mental balance to survive cancer myself, work in it full-time and involve my family and friends in it.
But, as complex as it can get, I try not to forget the day I wasn't sure I'd be alive - much less a mom working for a national colorectal cancer nonprofit. And while each day brings its own challenges, I'm thankful for the opportunity to even take a stab at balancing faith, family and career.