This is totally embarrassing. I had been doing a lot of stash and dash at my desk at home – work papers, teaching ideas, bills, notes for blog topics, kids’ school papers, my art projects.
I posted a picture in a closed Facebook group, 2012 – Out With the Old Declutter Group. The group, founded by Alison, is a way for about 30 eclectic friends and acquaintances to hold one other accountable for making and keeping our home organizing goals.
And one Saturday in January I posted this picture:
I saw what I needed to do. I told the group I would clean my desk. So, little by little, throughout that one day, I organized. I found things I had been missing, like my wedding ring. I also found a still life of a pear that I’d painted and thought was pretty good, so I framed it.
To organize my papers, I grouped like with like. I filed some papers in my file cabinet, started a binder full of curricula, threw out papers, Christmas cards, my art.
And then I posted a pic of the finished, decluttered desk:
It felt so good to make my home space pretty and functional. And I didn’t need to hire personal organizer. I just needed social media — my online accountability group and my camera phone. Priceless.
Cat was watching a Linda Ellerbee Nick special. I frowned. She explained, “I want to know what happened.”
“Turn it off,” I said.
“It’s okay, it’s on Nick. There will be no upsetting images,” she said.
I left the room. A few minutes later, I heard H. tell Cat, “Turn it off. This show’s upsetting me.”
Cat turned it off and came into my room. “Why does it upset you? Do you know anyone who died?” She asked.
“I did. I knew this great, nice, fun mom. Celeste Victoria. Though sometimes I’d get her name mixed up. And I’d call her Victoria Celeste. But she’d laugh that off. She worked with me at Manhattan Neighborhood Network. She was incredibly kind to everyone. Seriously. I remember telling her that too, ‘You’re so nice to EVERYONE. To all the crazy people with cable access shows.’
“She helped me with my show. And it was just so unfair to me that someone so incredibly nice and beautiful would die. She was a single mom, about my age. Her little daughter would be with her at MNN sometimes, doing homework at the reception desk. She was such a nice little kid too. It was just crazy that her mom would die.”
Back in my MNN days, I’d heard Celeste’d gotten a job in the corporate world and had left MNN. And I learned Celeste was helping to staff a breakfast at Windows on the World that morning. I thought of how she must’ve found it lovely to arrange a breakfast there and probably had looked forward to it. I always loved going to Windows on the World with friends or family, especially when I was in college.
All during college I worked as a front desk clerk the Vista Hotel in the World Trade Center. I walked through the concourse hundreds of times, ate my lunch in the windy, sunken courtyard between the buildings.
It’s really too much. The commemorations are everywhere you turn this week. On every newspaper cover, on every TV channel, on every announcement in the my workplace elevator, there’s some kind of ten-year anniversary reminder, prayer service, discussion group. Christ! And then there are the images — ghost-like light beams of the twin towers at night.
If I have to remember 9/11 at all this week, and apparently, I have to, I’ll remember Celeste Victoria and her smile.
I don’t want to be re-traumatized. I don’t want to return to the incredible beauty of that morning.
Maybe it’s okay, it’s raining all week. It’s fine to be depressed.
Dreary’s fine. Eventually we’ll get sunshine. We won’t get Celeste. But we can be like Celeste — hard-working mothers who are friendly to everyone, even (and especially) the crazy people.
I feel guilty for working. My husband does not work much, but when he does, no one makes him feel bad. It’s a mother thing.
My sister-in-law who owns her own business reported that in a parent-teacher meeting one of the teachers told her, “I can tell that you work outside the home, because your children are very hard workers.”
I think about that conversation a lot. It comforts me. Although I am plagued with guilt – whenever I have to be away from the kids for a night or a late evening for work — I hope that the kids notice, appreciate and feel motivated to work hard too.
I hope women on all sides of the work equation realize that women’s lives are in flux.
One of my best friends whom I met when our kids were in preschool, is a banker. She wore a business suit to the preschool graduation. In my stained sweat suit, I was jealous. I was a stay at home mom, trying to scare up freelance writing work, but found only new toddler Mommy and Me classes. I contemplated writing a book called Stay at Home Moms: How They Work! Then I landed my fulltime gig.
My friend quit her job. For seven years she was a stay at home mom, working for no pay — as in serving as president of the parent’s association. This year she returned to the paid world of banking.
I’ve been a fulltime working mother since the girls’ toddler years, saving my sweatsuit for the weekends.
I like to think the kids secretly like and benefit from the fact that their mother works hard and is the family breadwinner.
Working Mother magazine reported that ’57 percent of working mothers feel guilty every single day, and 31 percent feel guilty at least once a week.’ I am not alone.
This relates to my Rule Number 7 to Embrace uncertainty. One day you’re a stay at home mom and the next day you’re back in business. Enjoy it. Work hard wherever you find yourself and try not to feel guilty or jealous along the way.