Your Name: Audra O’Connell
Children: Daughter, 2
Work: Lead Case Manager at The Guest House of Milwaukee
Favorite part of being a mom: Seeing my daughter’s eyes light up and her scream “Momma” when I walk into the room.
Least favorite part of being a mom: The feeling that I’m becoming my own mother.
Little known fact: My ancestors built a castle called Termon McGrath in Co. Donegal, Ireland in early 1600’s. I’ve been able to visit what’s left of it a few times.
I’ve been working my way through a book called “Wait Till Next Year,” a memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin about growing up in suburbs of New York in the 1950’s and the love she felt for her family and the Brooklyn Dodgers. It’s a beautiful thing to read—her and her father’s love for each other is intertwined with their shared love of baseball.
I was a child of the 1990’s. A child without a father, but in many ways I see my own childhood in the stories of Doris’ childhood. My grandfather (Papa) became my father when I was growing up. I think in many ways he chose to step up to the plate because he knew all too well what it was like to live a childhood without a parent. He saw the Giants move from the Polo Grounds of New York in 1957 to San Francisco and Seals Stadium. Why did he choose the San Francisco Giants as “his team?” He grew up in the middle between Dodger and Giant territory, and easily could have chosen the Padres, Angels or A’s as well. Personally, I believe he chose the Giants because as a very young child he spent much of his time in San Francisco as his mother (my namesake), lay in a hospital bed dying of cancer with his father there by her side. I think in some ways San Francisco is the only place he remembers his mother, his childhood prior to her death, and his father prior to his grief and anger at the loss of his wife. He tells me, however, that he became a loyal Giants fan in 1954 when the New York Giants faced the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, and won in four straight games and his loyalty continues to this day. Game 1 of that series is known in history for “The Catch,” when centerfielder Willie Mays caught an over-the-shoulder hard-hit ball at the warning track to prevent two runners from scoring and preserve a tie game. He’d also go on to score the winning run in extra innings of that game. Papa was 22 when this happened and I can imagine his excitement even today as the iconic picture of “The Catch” still ellicits excitement from baseball fanatics such as myself.
As far back as I can remember the Giants were always a part of my Papa. Each evening he could be found in his backyard, Giants hat on to do yard work while the beat-up radio in his shed blared each game. Before I really even understood the game I remember playing back there as he worked and listening to stories of Kevin Mitchell, Jose Uribe, Robbie Thompson, Matt Williams and my childhood hero, Will Clark. I remember him cheering when they clinched the NL West in 1987 (I was five), and then of course his quick despair when they were beat by St. Louis in the NLCS.
I was quite the tomboy as a child, a trait I think my Papa appreciated. He had four granddaughters and two grandsons. Out of the boys my older brother had absolutely no interest in baseball and my young cousin, Seth lived three hours away in the Bay Area, which made it difficult to pass on a love of the game and the Giants (something my uncle made sure he instilled in his son). So when it came to watching games on TV (by this time Bay Area television had made its way to our town), listening to them on the radio when yard work was being completed and talking about baseball—it was left to myself and my Papa. He enjoyed sharing his passion for the game and the Giants with the next generation. I remember when he took me to my first Giants game at Candlestick Park—the massive concrete walkways; the hot dog which for some strange reason tasted better than any other hot dog I’d ever had in my life; the roar of the fans; the total ambiance of sitting there with my Papa, taking it all in. We’d go to more games then I’d ever be able to count—almost always sitting in the section in which Will Clark hit most of his home runs.
It was a difficult time to be a Giants fan. In 1989 the Giants easily won the NLCS and advanced to the World Series in a match up that was dubbed the “Bay Bridge Series,” which culminated in the Loma Prieta Earthquake – a 6.9 quake that occurred on TV as it happened less than 30 minutes prior to the scheduled game. Game 3 was delayed for 10 days and the Giants were swept in the series, which was devastating; but even more so for my ten-year-old self was seeing the images of the damage the earthquake left—most vividly the Bay Bridge itself. I had ridden on that bridge numerous times but to see where it had buckled and to watch people driving without realizing the road was missing and falling to their deaths was too much. To this day when I drive over any bridge I imagine it collapsing below me, a leftover concern from my ten year old self. Then in 1992 the Giants were almost sent packing to Tampa Bay after being sold. Of course two years later all baseball fans dealt with the strike which caused 900+ games to be cancelled. Through all the ups and downs of life at this time one thing was always the same: the love my Papa had for his “baseball buddy” (a term my mom began using to describe mine and my Papa’s relationship) and our love for the Giants. To this day we are known to speak several times a week and the opening sentence almost always begins “Did you see that game?” or “Did you hear they traded…” Thankfully, some things never change.
Happy *almost* New Year! With 2011 screeching to a halt and 2012 around the corner I can’t help but reflect on the last year. It seems that with the exception of 2011, each year since I’ve been married has seen some amazing changes in my life.
2006 – My wedding
2007 – Graduated college
2008 – Found out I was pregnant
2009 – Had my beautiful daughter
2010 – Bought my dream home
2011 - ?
I did lose a good friend and co-worker this year; secured a promotion/raise at work; my best friend gave birth to a beautiful baby boy; and we headed back to California to visit my family. Other than those happenings, it wasn’t anything to write home about, so to speak. Maybe it’s because in the coming year I will be turning 30, or maybe just because it’s time, but I’ve decided that this year I’m going to begin a “101 things in 1001 days” challenge. Per the website here are the rules: tasks must be specific (i.e. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (i.e. represent some amount of work on your part).
Personally, I’ve never in my life kept a New Year’s resolution. The reason I like this challenge is because it sets more a more realistic deadline for my change. 2.75 years is a better time period as far as giving you leeway, organization, trial and error, room for freak occurrences that could cause you to be unable to complete something the first time around, and timing.
I’ve broken my list up into ten categories:
Growing Up/Financial Responsibility
Fixing Up The Place (all about stuff around the house)
Well-Rounded (think culture, literature, language, etc.)
Digging Deep (the really hard stuff you know you should do)
Giving Back/Getting Involved
In order to maintain balance I will originally only have ten tasks/goals per each category with the final one (#101) being a free-for-all of my choice if I’ve completed all the others. This alone has been difficult as it was super easy for me to find 10 for certain categories (such as arts) but really hard for others (like the growing up one)! I like this model for me because it causes me to really look at myself and make each aspect grow rather than weighing down one side of me and letting the others go free.
Just to get a taste of what I’m looking to accomplish here’s two tasks/goals from each category.
1. Take Rory on a walk every day for 90 days.
2. Finish the Hep B vaccine I never seem to finish.
Growing Up/Financial Responsibility
1. Go two months without shopping at Target (this one is a LONG shot in my world).
2. Have a will or living trust completed
Fixing Up The Place
1. Clean up/organize the basement
2. Buy a dining room set
1. Watch a baseball game in every ballpark (4/32 already completed)
2. Head back to Maine and Massachusettes in Autumn
1. Read 10 books I already own
2. Use my Rosetta Stone for 30 minutes each day until completed
1. Go a week without the internet
2. Stop cursing
1. Pray at every meal for 30 days
2. Go to church every weekend for three months
1. Make two items I've pinned off of Pintrest
2. Begin a Christmas ornament story book
1. Throw a fantastic St. Patrick's Day party for my dear friends
2. Complete a random kind act for each of my siblings and siblings-in-law
Giving Back/Getting Involved
1. Get invovled at the Irish Cultural Heritage Center
2. Volunteer at Elena's House monthly for 6 months
On the Day Zero Project website you can keep track of your list, find ideas from others and gain motivation.
Wish me luck and have a happy, blessed 2012!
With Christmas just around the corner, lots of family and friends have been asking me what to get my two-year-old for Christmas. The problem? She has everything. Every kind of toddler toy, ride on, art supply, book, everything. Everything she doesn’t have I’m pretty sure she’s getting already from someone else this holiday season (including a drum set…not a plastic one but the real deal; a digital camera; that obnoxious Elmo that’s on TV; etc.). It’s really rather out of control. So, when a friend e-mailed me the other day about what they could get Rory that she’d absolutely love, I responded with the list below:
1. Dirt/mud/water – This child could spend years of her life playing with any and all of those three. She loves splashing in puddles, going “fishing,” getting messy.
2. Toilet paper/wrapping paper/paper towel rolls – Again, I never realized how valuable those things are but the moment she sees one she instantly says “Arrgghh, matey” and we try to search the skyline for monsters and pirates and daddy’s that are monsters and pirates. We make binoculars to head into the jungle and we use them as telephones.
3. Sticks – She loves to write in the dirt with sticks. She uses them to play “baseball,” “hockey” and “golf.”
4. Yarn/string/twine – She seriously runs around like one of those ribbon-dancing gymnasts in the Olympics. I really have no idea what she’s doing when she has any of these but she has a blast.
5. Cardboard boxes – Typically they are ships, houses, cars and buses. She has also told me that one was a toboggan. She plays with them until destroyed and usually plays with them even after that.
6. Empty egg cartons/milk jugs/boxes of pasta – She LOVES to put them in her shopping cart and take them around or act like she’s cooking.
7. Bubble wrap – As an adult I still love laying it on the ground and jumping…apparently that gene was passed on to my daughter (although when she does it she says “farting!!!”).
Ah, the joy and simplicity of childhood. I wish I found anything as entertaining as my daughter finds toilet paper rolls. Obviously the person didn’t get the humor in all of this as they immediately ordered her some stuff from Amazon.
No, I’m not Jewish. My husband isn’t Jewish. I have a degree in Comparative Religion. In college I focused on Hebrew Studies, taking Biblical Hebrew language classes and writing my senior paper on Judaism.
For years, I studied scripture (of various religions and time periods), the history surrounding these religions and commentators. One of my favorites was the Jewish historian Josephus (he was writing around 94 AD). In regards to Hanukkah, Josephus tells the victorious story of Judas Maccabeus, and the yearly eight-day festivities he declares after rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem that had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Hanukkah is also described in the Talmud (Jewish religious text) as well as in 1 & 2 Maccabees (although not specifically called by its name, the story is described). It’s a story I’m all too familiar with. It also happens to be a beautiful story and an amazing one. Jewish religion had been outlawed, idols to other gods erected in the temple, pigs being sacrificed at the temple, circumcisions stopped, and revolt ensued. He was successful and in 165 BC, the temple was rededicated. According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed to burn the menorah throughout the night and there was only enough oil for one night. The menorah stayed lit for eight nights until a fresh supply of oil could make its way to the temple.
Hanukkah doesn’t have to be exclusive to Judaism. Although it does not appear in the Protestant Bible (which is a subject I could drone on about for quite some time), it does appear in the Catholic Bible as well as the Talmud and early Jewish texts. It’s a story for the masses; a miracle of the “little guy” over the “big guy”; “good” versus “evil”. Maybe it’s because my own Irish heritage has instances where my culture, heritage and language were outlawed, or maybe it’s because of the years I’ve spent studying this stuff; but I want Rory to know this story. I want her to understand that sometimes being you isn’t accepted and that means you have to be willing to put up a fight. I want her to know that these people were so passionate about their faith and ethnicity that they were willing to die to see it live. Most importantly, I want her to understand Christianity’s historic tie to Judaism. It’s unfortunate that often times in Christianity we separate ourselves from the Jews to a point that borders intolerance. I’d like to ensure that my daughter doesn’t continue that tradition. I’d like her to understand the beauty that is Judaism and respect the tradition that spurred our own religion. So, for these reasons (and many, many others), we will be lighting our menorah (yes, we have one courtesy of my Jewish convert brother and brother-in-law), saying the blessings and singing the songs.
As my previous post mentioned, I’m into the Christmas spirit big time this year. With that said I thought I’d show some of the recent Christmas crafts my two-year old and I have been working on. Hopefully, it helps give some ideas on things we can do now that we’re indoors and need some relief from Caillou and his whiny antics.
Rory's name in lights! String, glitter glue (or you can do the glue + glitter) and construction paper
Christmas handprint tree. Paint, hands, paper.
Gingerbread House. Via a Wilton kit from Michael's. With a coupon it was less than $5. I realize it's not "picture perfect" but nothing with a two-year old ever is! My little one is constantly asking to "go in there".
Foam reindeer. This was a $1 kit from Target. Rory LOVES it. Mommy had to do most of this one.
Rudolph toilet paper roll. Toliet paper roll, pipe cleaner, brown construction paper, eyes and glitter glue.
The most labor intensive (for Mommy). Salt dough ornaments. These ones are still a work in progress (Rory hasn't been able to paint/glitter them yet as they are still wet). Leave a comment if you'd like the recipe. These are going to be decorated, a ribbon added for hanging and given to family members from Rory for Christmas.
Foam snowman. Same as the reindeer--$1 kit from Target.
This is a nice filler project. Construction paper and anything you can find for little hands to practice gluing. We used pom poms, pipe cleaners and foam stickers.
One of my favorites. Thumbprint lights. Paper, sharpie (to make the strand of lights), different colors of paint and little thumbs. So cute!
Another filler. Construction paper tree, popsicle stick tree and anything you can find for little hands to glue.
I’ve got some major Christmas spirit going on, to the point that my co-worker thinks I need an “intervention”. If it had been up to me the Christmas tree would already be up in our household. Unfortunately, it has to wait until this weekend. The day after Thanksgiving I began decorating our fireplace mantle in anticipation. Anticipation? I know what’s going to happen in December—I’m going to run around like a maniac making cookies for this party and picking up a gift for that person and spending my nights writing out Christmas cards. I love doing all those things, but why am I so “into” it this year as opposed to last? Simple: my daughter can really enjoy it this year. She enjoys ripping wrapping paper off of presents; she’s been into singing “Jingle Bells” and notices the Christmas decorations and lights as we’re driving. She gasps at our decorations inside the house and enjoys making crafts now. She has given me the greatest gift of all- seeing Christmas again through the eyes of a child; the beauty and simplicity and amazement of a holiday that often times is associated with stress and worry. She reminded me how beautiful something as simple as Christmas lights or a single ornament can be. She is reminding me of a magic I lost so long ago.
As a kid, my mom bought my sister and I each little two-foot-tall fake Christmas trees for our rooms. We were thrilled because we got to decorate them EXACTLY how we wanted and I remember each night going to sleep staring at the lights and anticipating what the holiday would hold for me. I’d wake up each morning becoming more and more excited about the prospects that laid ahead—would it be cookie making or present wrapping or Christmas concert day? Christmas for me was more than just the gifts; it was an entire season made up of traditions that always warmed my heart and made me sad when December 26th rolled around. My little Christmas tree was the guide to all of this; each day I woke up and it was there was another day in the Christmas season; it brought me more joy than almost anything else each season. The other day I put Rory’s little Christmas tree up in her room and showed it to her when I was done (it was a surprise); the look on her face was priceless. All of the joy in this world radiated from her smile.