By Carolina Fernandez
Plucky (pluk’e) adj. Brave and spirited; courageous.
Have you ever noticed how few people possess radiating energy? How eyes lack sparkle and how few real smiles there are out there? How almost no one looks you in the eyes when you talk or how few people have truly gracious social skills? One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the lack of charisma or magnetism or exuberance among people everywhere!
So when I met Lorraine and Cam, I was immediately drawn to their energy. To their lit-up eyes, frequent laughter and bubbly personalities. Now they’re not particularly bubbly as in “effervescent.” No, they are actually more on the subdued side. But when one talks to them, their eyes twinkle. They smile when they talk. They maintain fabulous eye contact. Good upbringing? Perhaps. I’ve met both of their parents, even though one set lives in Scotland and the other in England (and we live up here in Connecticut in New England) and they are, indeed, darling people.
It’s even more amazing that we were drawn to each other with laughter and happy-talk considering the common thread that brought us together in the first place: leukemia. Their sixteen-month-old daughter, Katie, was diagnosed just before our seventeen-year-old son, Nick, was. Both children are treated by the same team of doctors. We met, for the first time, in the west wing of Yale’s Children’s Hospital. All of us were scared and admittedly, in a rather sad state.
Yet we continued, throughout treatments for our kids, to help each other get through them. I chased Katie around the chemo clinic when Lorraine and Cam were simply too worn out to do so, or held her when she needed a finger-stick and kicked the nurses too hard to get it done; we read stories together and sometimes she let me rock her to sleep. We colored, watched Dora the Explorer and played with puzzles. Cam engaged Nick in talk or made coffee and bagel runs for all of us. Lorraine kept me company and together, we helped keep each other’s spirits high.
They are back at the hospital, this time at Sloan Kettering, as Katie has undergone a bone marrow transplant this past week. It required weeks of pre-transplant consultations, tests, radiation and chemo. It also required Lorraine and Cam to temporarily set up house in New York City, in a rental apartment a couple blocks from Katie’s hospital room.
Some of us might complain about the difficulty of this situation. About lack of personal time, poor hospital food for weeks on end. Of watching our own children endure rigorous testing and annoying, seemingly endless blood work. Of the unfairness of the circumstances.
But not Lorraine and Cam. They maintain a positive attitude and continue to deal with every little detail with spunky, feisty attitude. They possess an enormously high “Pluck Factor.” They have a “to-heck-with-you-attitude” when people get in their way. They trudge through their days with laughter and verve. Hospital food the pits? No worries. Lorraine brings to Katie’s hospital room a crock pot along with bags full of groceries. When nurses wander in from the aroma of a slow-cooking roast and firmly let her know that she’s breaking all the rules, she tells them that she’s not dealing with the crummy food they’re trying to serve her. When little Katie does something adorable, Lorraine sends out an email blast for all of us to enjoy the moment. During the actual transplant, a video was made and we all got to witness closely (albeit from a distance) what it was really like. The video clips were amazing…..And afterwards? She and Cam celebrated with champagne and scrumptious food at a local French bistro.
Forget sad faces and going along with the ho-hum motions that most people simply accept as part of the circumstances. Lorraine and Cam have decided to maintain a spirit of resolve and a completely positive mental attitude in order to get through these days with grace. They let no one, and nothing, stand in their way. Katie’s well-being is their over-riding concern, and all of their efforts are directed to that end.
Strong-minded people serve as tremendous inspirations for me. When life throws you a curve ball, a U-turn, a disappointment or an unpleasant surprise, the outcome will oftentimes be greatly dependent on the way in which you handle yourself during those times. It takes practically no strength of character to be charming and adorable when everything is going your way. It’s when things get dicey that your true character reveals itself. And that’s when you need a high Pluck Factor. When you need to be courageous, to turn the ordeal into a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. To show your true colors, and your grit and the stuff of which you are made.
Many readers of this Newsletter are going through ordeals at this very moment. I know so because you write and tell me of them, and my heart goes out to each and every one of you. I hope this letter finds you determined to increase the Pluck Factor by just a little bit. To hold your head up high and courageously get through these days as have my dear friends Lorraine and Cam. You will serve as wonderful role models for someone else who, one day, will need to exhibit a high dose of pluck, too.
Carolina Fernandez earned an M.B.A. and worked in investment banking and as a stockbroker before coming home to work as a wife and mother of four. She totally re-invented herself along the way. Strong convictions were born about the role of the arts in child development; ten years of homeschooling and raising four kids provide fertile soil for devising creative parenting strategies. These are played out in ROCKET MOM! 7 Strategies To Blast You Into Brilliance. It is widely available online, in bookstores or through 888-476-2493. She writes extensively for a variety of parenting resources and teaches other moms via seminars, workshops, keynotes and monthly meetings of the ROCKET MOM SOCIETY, a sisterhood group she launched to “encourage, equip and empower moms for excellence.” Please visit www.rocketmom.com
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