Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He will be posting twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Most of us, we bring a Barbie doll or a baseball glove home to our kids and we feel like a hero. But I have a friend who puts us all (or at least me) to shame.
In an article I wrote last December, I talk about my friend Matt Kabel and how he and his wife, Nicole, weren’t letting their daughter Sally’s rare form of cancer, known as Infant Mixed Lineage (MLL) ALL Leukemia, spoil Christmas for their family (and specifically for their two sons). Matt and Nicole threw on festive music, dressed up as elves, and did just about everything within their power to create an environment in line with the Christmases they grew up celebrating. And they did it all with smiles on their faces.
However, we’re now in summer’s third trimester, and a new wrinkle has surfaced in the Kabel family’s fight against cancer. Matt became aware that several friends and organizations had formal requests denied to have the Empire State Building “go gold for pediatric cancer.” Going about it another way, Matt posted to the ESB’s Facebook page, politely and respectfully appealing to have them reconsider. His posts, along with Sally’s photos, were promptly deleted, as were other posts made by fellow parents of children with Leukemia. This lit a fire within a community already well versed in fighting for what they love.
“Before this, the Empire State Building was my favorite skyscraper, anywhere,” Matt told me. “It has been a symbol to our family that, when we travel away, is a sign that we have returned home when it pops into view. Now, when I see it, my heart sinks, almost like finding out an athlete you admire is a fraud.”
Refusing to be cast aside, Matt swiftly maneuvered within his social network to capture the attention of Fox News, which quickly ran a story about the injustice. But it didn’t end there.
The story was picked up by the New York Daily News.
And The Huffington Post.
Sally’s mom, Nicole, was interviewed by CBS and a strong flock of supporters showed up on The Today Show.
Famous rapper Tyga made a public plea to ESB to go gold.
This store in Brooklyn showed their support for the cause with this roadside sign…
And to offset ESB’s refusal to illuminate in gold, Coney Island agreed to do just that.
But despite the overwhelming support and iron-clad case that ESB should show the same support for pediatric cancer that they have for the Democratic National Convention, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and meaningless sports playoff wins, the group that manages the famous structure’s calendar claims (via a recent statement) that there are simply too many different forms of cancer to accommodate all lighting requests, defending their stance by insisting that, by lighting up for “World Cancer Day,” they have effectively covered all forms of the disease. But I believe parents of kids with pediatric cancer would concur that with children, it’s wholeheartedly different. It just is. And if the Empire State Building wants to stand above us as the true “Heart of New York City,” the people in charge of it would have a heart. And pay the same attention to seriously ill children that it has to fictional, nun chuck-wielding turtles and men who throw balls for a living.
What I find saddest about this situation (aside from the sick children themselves) is the fact that the Empire State Building, an inanimate object loved by many, will now forever be viewed in a different light — pardon the pun. The structure itself has done nothing wrong. Yet, as Matt stated, he will never look at the building with the same reverence and awe that he once did. And frankly, that’s a shame. But what isn’t a shame, what isn’t sad at all is that Matt and Nicole (and so many parents like them) are serving as a powerful example of the lengths a parent will go to in order to defend the honor of their child. There is no cash award, no medal to hang around their necks should they succeed. Just the knowledge that their baby girl is being rightfully acknowledged, and that there is compassion in a world too often tainted by injustice. I truly hope that the Empire State Building comes around. And if they don’t, I hope the Kabels and other families dealing with pediatric cancer know that they are loved and supported by many and are not alone in their fight.
Me and my favorite skyscraper, Matt
For more information on the Kabels’ vs. the ESB, check out their Facebook page.
And to become a part of the Sweet Sally Sunshine community and to receive poignant analysis and updates on Sally’s condition, visit her Facebook page.
* Empire State Building photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Barbie, brooklyn, cancer, cbs, Coney Island, DNC, empire state building, empiregogold, fox news, huffington post, leukemia, New York Daily News, parenthood, sweet sally sunshine, TMNT, TODAY show | Categories:
News, Parenting, The Parents Perspective
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
On Monday, Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero and her husband, Brett Cavaliero, appeared on the TODAY show to talk about the 2011 death of their 1-year-old daughter, Sophia Rayne, whom they’d nicknamed Ray Ray. As Brett explained in great detail in our June story “You’d Never Forget Your Child in the Car, Right?”, Sophia had died after he had inexplicably forgotten to drop her at daycare, and instead accidentally left her in his truck for approximately three hours on a warm day. The Cavalieros have since channeled their grief by creating the nonprofit Ray Ray’s Pledge. Its mission is to reduce the number of hot-car deaths—which average around 40 in the U.S. each year—by asking parents to have a simple agreement with their child-care provider. The parents agree to notify the provider whenever the child won’t be coming that day, and the provider agrees to call the parents if the child doesn’t arrive. This agreement would have saved Ray Ray’s life.
During the TODAY segment, Sophia and Brett talked about the gift they’ve been given in the three years since their daughter’s death: the birth of twin daughters. Sophia used a term I wasn’t aware of: “rainbow babies.” This phrase is well-known in circles of parents who have experienced the death of a child, Sophia explained: “A rainbow baby is described as a light in the center of the storm and darkness—and it doesn’t take away the fact that the storm was there; it doesn’t take away the clouds or the rain, but it does offer a light of hope and a ray of color where previously there was nothing but darkness.” Her words gave me chills as I thought of the rainbow babies who have blessed the lives of friends in recent years.
Ray Ray’s Pledge is currently advocating in the form of a petition to the White House to equip cars with “smart occupant detection systems.” Essentially, this system could, among other things, allow cars to start and activate its climate-control system in order to prevent it from getting too hot if a child was trapped inside. It could also send a text message to the owner of the car, notifying him or her that someone is inside. The goal is hit 100,000 signatures by next Tuesday, July 22–but there are less than 1,500 signatures so far. Will you consider taking a minute (truly, that’s all it takes) to add your name to the petition?
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Monday, June 30th, 2014
The TODAY show‘s Matt Lauer interviewed General Motors CEO Mary Barra last Thursday, and he didn’t hold back on the tough questions—asking the car company’s chief about whether there will be additional recalls, whether there was “something criminal going on” at the company, if there was a cover-up involving the ignition switch issue, if cost-cutting played a role, and what it was like for her to talk to grieving family members who lost loved ones due to the problem. Ouch.
But it was a different, more personal, question from the interview that’s still making news. See the partial transcript, posted by Time.com’s Charlotte Alter:
LAUER: You’re a mom, I mentioned, two kids. You said in an interview not long ago that your kids told you they’re going to hold you accountable for one job and that is being a mom.
BARRA: Correct. (smiling.)
LAUER: Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?
BARRA: You know, I think I can. I have a great team, we’re on the right path…I have a wonderful family, a supportive husband and I’m pretty proud of the way my kids are supporting me in this.
Alter ended her post with this: “How’s this for a question: Can Matt Lauer be a good dad and host the Today Show? Let’s discuss.”
Hear, hear. As a working mom (and a journalist myself), I’m simply tired of this question being asked when a high-powered CEO who happens to also be a mom does an interview. Aren’t we past this yet? (Sadly, it appears we’re not.) Lauer took to Facebook to defend the question, writing:
“Thanks for all of the comments and feedback around our interview with GM CEO Mary Barra this morning. I wanted to share some thoughts around one of the questions that has started an important conversation. As part of the interview, I referenced this Forbes article where Barra talked about the challenge of balancing work life and home life. She said, “My kids told me the one job they are going to hold me accountable for is mom.” She had just accepted the job as the first female CEO of a major American automotive company, and in the article she said that she felt horrible when she missed her son’s junior prom. It’s an issue almost any parent including myself can relate to. If a man had publicly said something similar after accepting a high-level job, I would have asked him exactly the same thing. A couple weeks ago, we did a series on “Modern Dads” and the challenges of fatherhood today. Work-life balance was one of our focuses. It’s an important topic, one that I’m familiar with personally, and I hope we can continue the discussion.
But plenty of commenters called bs on that explanation, including the author of the Forbes article Lauer referenced, Joann Muller, who wrote that she “never felt compelled to ask if a ‘mom’ could handle being CEO, because I already knew the answer.”
Sorry, Matt, but I just don’t believe you would have asked a man this question. In fact, I think you’ve probably had ample opportunity to do so in your years as a journalist, yet I’ve never seen that headline come out of one of your interviews. (And I trust that it would, indeed, be a headline: Newsflash! Male CEO Asked if He Can Be a Good Dad and Run a Company at the Same Time!”)
It’s true that Barra herself has brought up the work-life balance issue—but frankly, given the seriousness of the issues facing GM right now, how is her personal life even relevant? How Barra performs in the job of CEO of a huge, public multinational company—one that makes products that can potentially affect the lives of every single person on the road—is certainly my business. But how she’s doing in the job of mom? That’s hers.
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