Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bated Breath

All of my kids at some point when they were babies had croup.  Each time it was awful.  Each of them made a trip to the emergency room at Children's Hospital for it.  Each time we were told there really was nothing they could do.  But when your baby struggles with each breath and won't stop crying and coughing it's nightmarish and you just want help.

The thing about those times I remember best was the drive to the hospital with the baby rear facing in the backseat, always in the dark, out of reach.  And I couldn't tell what was worse: Hearing each tortured inhale, or the silence in between breaths.  Each strangled breath was bad, but wondering if something worse had befallen my baby to cause the silence was equally bad.  Times like that when your imagination is spinning out of control and your instincts are hyperactive make for a very long drive (even when it's only 10.7 miles).

We are far from the baby stage now.  Those parenting challenges are hard, and some things do get easier as your kids grow, but somethings don't.

When your children are old enough to have their own lives away from you, monitoring what they do and how they do it is almost a losing battle sometimes.  You have to trust that you taught them enough early on to make choices without your direct guidance.  But some things no one can control, not you or your child.  And then you just try to deal as best you can.

There are days lately where I feel exactly as I did during those drives with a baby with croup.  I watch, I hold my breath as I listen for clues, I run in circles in my mind about what I should do, what I might do differently, how I can be the right parent for my child at this time.

But sometimes there's nothing you can do.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Escape the Room

This past weekend we decided to try Escape the Room.  It was really fun.

Escape the Room is a game where you are in a room filled with puzzles and locks and have one hour to figure how to get out.  We managed to escape (with lots of hints from the Clue-Master) with over three minutes to spare!

I'm not going to give anything away because it would be a lot less fun for anyone who wants to try it to know much in advance, but I will mention a few general things, and some that were unique to our experience.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Now What?

It's taken some time since election night to get my thoughts in order.

Watching the returns made me panicky.  The next morning I felt ill.  For the most part over the past several weeks I've gone back and forth between trying to stay informed (which alarms me with each new headline) and avoiding the news (which preserves my sanity and any good faith I have left toward my fellow citizens).

Donald Trump is the new president of the United States.  This says some unflattering things about ourselves as a nation, and reveals some important truths we must come to grips with.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Luna Moth Dream

If I really wanted this blog to be entertaining I would simply write about my brothers all the time.  Either of them is an easy go-to topic for me at parties because there are endless interesting stories available, and in case I'm in a situation where the company is boring, talking about Arno or Barrett keeps me amused.  I love them and could not have asked for kinder, funnier, or more intelligent siblings.

Arno is a neuroscientist who currently works at the Child Mind Institute in New York City.  He always talks to me about his work as if I'm a knowledgeable colleague, which is flattering, but consequently I have no clear idea what he does.  The bits I can follow are fascinating, and he does important research that will improve people's lives, but don't ask me to explain any of it.

But this post relates to a project coordinated by my other brother.  The baby of the family by four minutes, Barrett is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse where he specializes in entomology and insect sleep research.  He's also a talented artist who has done lots of model making and scientific illustration, and he is particularly interested in cultural entomology which is where insects meet art.

Last year he commissioned 30 artists to make small books with the theme "Insect Dreams."  He was generous enough to invite me to participate, and despite the limits on my time there are moments when an intense little project is a good distraction from other things so I recently buckled down over a weekend and made my contribution.

Want to see?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Who We Want to Be

When I was in high school I remember walking out of a local grocery store past a man collecting donations.  He may have been a Shriner, and he asked me as I stepped through the door if I would, "Help the retarded* children?" and having no change on me I simply said, "No" and walked on.  But then I felt terrible.  What kind of person was I that I didn't want to help the retarded children?  Wouldn't a decent human being go find some change to give that man?  I nearly cried I felt so guilty.  I felt guilty enough I obviously still remember it to this day.
[*please see the comments]

Of course, this is kind of silly because we are bombarded with requests from all levels of charity all the time.  Most of us don't want to live the kind of life where we give everything away, but each of us needs to find a balance where we maintain the life we want while still sacrificing for others.

The part of this that interests me is the narrative we tell ourselves about how good we are or want to be.  Feeling sad about "the retarded children" is not the same as actually helping them, although it can feel that way.  Being sad about it makes me a good person, right?  Not really.  It's only the potential for good.  Without action it's not tested or true.  It's fine in your head to decide you approve of helping others, but if you don't do something with that feeling it makes the same impact on the world as if in your head you loathed the idea.  It's great to make up your mind to be against racism or bigotry or sexism or cruelty, and another for that to become real.

The problem for me is day to day life is busy with mundane activities and I'm exposed to the same situations and people over and over.  Most of our time is consumed by little bits of necessary routine, such as getting dressed and brushing our teeth and moving around dishes and laundry.  Being a parent means managing other people's daily routines as well, which often feels like falling behind while simply trying to stay one step ahead so appointments aren't missed and things are signed and everyone is fed.  There is a lot to do just to feel like we're even treading water rather than going under, let alone moving forward.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Dear Child of Mine

You are beautiful and talented and smart and amazing and funny and kind and the world is better for having you in it.

You are right when you say I think those things because I am your mom.  But it's not because I am blinded by my love or exaggerating your worth because you are mine.

My love means I see you with greater clarity, not less.  I have studied you since before you took your first breath.  I have watched you grow and change, and I remember you before you remember yourself.  I care enough to examine you to a degree of detail unmatched by anyone.  I know you, I see you, and I adore you.

I'm sorry the backlash against using the word "special" in our society has robbed you of the chance to rightly own it.  I'm sorry there have been other parents who somehow labeled their children special while equating it with entitlement, and without tempering it with the idea of humility and respect for others.  They have tainted the word and made it unfairly wrong to use earnestly.

But you are special.  And worthy.  And loved.

If I could have anything on this day, it would be for you to see yourself the way I see you.  Then you would know how right you would be to love yourself too.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Looking Back on the 2016 VSA Convention

Before the past year slips too far from memory I want to take a moment to reflect upon the VSA convention I attended back in November.  It was quite an experience and I'm very glad I got to go.

2016 was a competition year.  The Violin Society of America (VSA) has an annual convention that moves around the country, and every other year they hold a competition for violin making with awards for workmanship and tone.  This year I entered my latest commissioned violin.

Renaissance Hotel, Cleveland
The convention was in Cleveland again.  I drove myself out there, and shared the drive back with my friend Robyn.  I loved having a few days alone in a hotel room where the bed magically got made every day and new towels just appeared.  (There are few things I envy the rich for, but maid service is one of them.)  I also enjoyed Robyn's company the last few days of the convention and sharing a room with someone who didn't need me for anything other than occasional grown-up conversations.