As we continue our “Monday Story Series” I’d like to introduce you to Ami Neiberger-Miller, a public relations consultant and writer who lives near Washington, DC. Several years ago, Ami posted a review of Chasing Superwoman on her blog, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Ami, please introduce yourself (and tell us the many hats you wear).
I am a mother, stepmom, and wife – as well as a hopeless idealist, advocate for nonprofits and associations, media maven, and writer. My life was chaotic long before my house had diapers in it and a sandbox in the backyard. I became a Christian at age 8 and have always felt that faith is demonstrated through actions, not just words. I joined my first nonprofit board at age19 (a Habitat for Humanity affiliate) and never stopped working as an advocate to make a difference.
What key events have marked your journey?
Like many women, the key events in my life have involved my relationships with others. Marrying my husband more than a decade ago, who had three kids from a prior marriage, was a key event that also forced me to grow and change. I found it much more challenging to be graceful when it was my own home and dealing with other people’s needs, than I did in a more public setting. Thank goodness for forgiveness. Adopting our daughter three years ago, after the older kids were all grown, was another key moment that was filled with joy.
What is your greatest struggle?
My brother, Christopher Neiberger, was killed in the Iraq war on August 6, 2007 by a roadside bomb, three days after his 22ndbirthday. The sixth anniversary of Chris’s death is tomorrow, and I’ll probably spend at least part of the day at section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery reflecting on my journey, honoring his life, and perhaps visiting with some of his Army buddies. I divide my life into “before” and “after” his death. On a spiritual side I have wrestled with how a loving God allows senseless and random evil. I have also struggled with how others in the church have at times responded to us as survivors of a traumatic loss. I would say that his death has helped me see many things differently.
My definition and understanding of what “sacrifice” means changed when Chris died. My ability to tolerate people stressing over small things like the metro being late, or yelling at their kids in a store, has also diminished and I am less patient at times with others, because I see them squandering the joy they could have. My definition of a bad day also changed – I know what a really bad day is, and most days are not that bad. I hope that I am now a more generous and understanding person but I am not sure I am there yet. I try to appreciate my family more, help others coping with traumatic loss through my work in my practice and as a spokesperson for families of fallen troops, and to live my life like every day counts.
How do you integrate your faith, home, and work?
I am extremely fortunate that I am able to work from home 2-3 days per week so I am near our three-year-old and her activities quite a bit, even if I am working, Commuting is a major expense and time suck where we live, so re-capturing some of that time for other things keeps our lives more sane. And when I am commuting – I try to use the time to nap, catch up on email or do some writing. I could not do even half of what I do, without the help and support of my husband –who has spent the last year and a half as a stay-at-home dad. We have struggled to find a faith community in the last few years, but we are persistently searching. Finding a church where our daughter can spend part of the worship service with us, where all of us can be nurtured, and where all our family can feel accepted is important to us. I get a daily devotional via email, but I miss the structure of a more comprehensive and focused study with other women on a weekly basis.
We also find that eating meals at the table and saying grace together as a family are important. My schedule can have some unpredictability because I am subject to the whims of breaking news and the ever-cranking 24/7 media cycle. So it’s important to me that I plan ahead to meet my family’s needs, regardless of what happens to my schedule – that includes keeping certain things for meals and household needs stocked around the house. And sometimes I just have to pinch hit – it’s important for me to remember my faith when pressure hits. I once had to have a very important and time-sensitive conversation with a reporter while in a grocery store with my daughter, who was about 2 at the time. I took a cupcake off a shelf and let her eat it in the shopping cart while talking to him about adjusting a story before it mass-ran on the wire. She was covered head to toe in frosting and my client got a much-needed story adjustment that helped them assist more hurting people.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Remember what matters in life – people, not stuff. Do not allow the tyranny of the urgent to overshadow the moments you have with your family. Turn off your electronics at least some of the time, and especially do it when you have “family time.” Do not feel you have to be perfect or “get it right” all of the time. At some point we have all had messy homes, kids that don’t act perfectly, a Bible study we are too exhausted to read, and a desk that looks like a tidal wave of paper and email drowned it. Focus on what matters to you, and cut yourself slack on the smaller things. And don’t worry about what other people think – so long as your choices are right for you and your family – you will be ok.
Thanks so much Amy for sharing your story! We are blessed to have you as a friend and fellow working mom on this journey. Amy also writes a blog on media relations for nonprofits and associations, as well as work-life balance, and you can follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.
Does Amy’s story strike a powerful or familiar cord? If so, please let her know!