Saturday, February 21, 2015

Not in MY house of worship

Had a weird experience today. 

There's this guy who has been attending services for the past few weeks, as a guest, who seems to be trying to drum up support for a presidential campaign. Yes, of the USA.

At the kiddush, I heard his voice, with a bit more country in it than that to which I am accustomed, say something about "Not Adam and Steve."

Hackles up.

After several others including the rabbi let him know that we don't hold by anti-gay rhetoric here, I stepped in and rearticulated, since he wasn't taking the hint. "But I'm in favor of marriage! Man and woman!" he said.

"Most people are born liking the opposite sex. Most people are born right-handed," I said. "But some people are born liking the same sex. And some are born left-handed. We are a progressive congregation, and you won't find support here."

I don't think he spoke with anyone else there but he sat there for awhile. I looked at him a few times.

I hope he takes the hint. Families come in many forms and the way some people build their families...does not affect what others do. The Gay is not contagious.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Facing demons

Today I attended a funeral. This was the second Friday afternoon I had spent at the Jewish funeral parlor. Last week, it was a great-uncle, aged 91, who had a long and healthy life. He will be mourned and missed, but it was very expected.

This week it was my second-grade teacher whose daughter was in my class.

Without going into excessive detail--although I'm sure it has been mentioned before--elementary school was a traumatic experience for me. I was bullied and rejected by students and teachers alike for being too much this and not enough that. Who even knows or cares anymore? All that matters is, my children will never attend that school.

My second grade year was my first year attending the school where I would go through the end of sixth grade, and it was the only year in my recollection where I did NOT want to throw myself out the window of that school. Which had two stories and a basement, so what would be the point?

Anyhow, my mom was very impressed with my second grade teacher. Everything was done in such a way as to make me feel as though she knew me and cared about me. I still remember my very first spelling pretest. I correctly spelled all the regular words, all the bonus words, and the elephant word, "constitution." And I felt really special.

I knew it would be hard to go to this funeral. I have been dealing with the reality of having more and more of my peers lose their parents. This teacher was four years younger than my mom. She was the same age as my mother-in-law, who died after a lengthy illness.

I'm not sure which is worse.

The other difficulty in attending this funeral was seeing people who reminded me of my miserable school experience from whence this teacher came even though her class was a decent place. It reminded me that the things that stick with us from our childhood are likely forgotten by those adults who were there. Not that I don't remember anything that happened during interactions with my students or my own children, but I would imagine that I've glossed over my fair share. And if I hurt any feelings of students, or my own little ones, by not validating their experiences, I am sorry.

We talked this evening about some of these eventualities. It's not pleasant, but it is a part of being a grownup.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years 2015

It's 2015. Where's my hoverboard?

This has been a year full of ups and downs. So should most be, because that's what keeps life interesting.

Positives for this past year included a fantastic trip to France, a new career direction for me, continued advancement for Musical Daddy in his new career path, excellent barbershopping experiences for him and me, new musical opportunities for the two older children, recreational baseball, and the cultivation and enrichment of several amazing friendships and working relationships.

Negatives for this year included a hospitalization for Musical Daddy, more money spent on car repairs than we would have preferred which resulted in us purchasing a new kidmobile (ultimately exciting but not financially ideal at all), broken leg for The Baby (who is 3.5 now...), and a third visit to the ER for chin stitches for Little Bear.

I'm certain that if I were to sit down and categorize everything, I'd be WAY ahead in the positives column. Overall I feel pretty darned good about this year, as evidenced by my very few but very powerful (commence horn-tooting...) posts. Powerful to me, anyway.

Last night we had a party at our house for New Years Eve. We had a few families come by, one of which stayed until midnight, and my parents and another friend also stayed until midnight. Good times. Great kids, all of them. And it's a game-changer when all children who stay up until midnight are toilet-trained and are independent enough to either play together or contribute meaningfully to games with adults. The two hits of the evening were Phase 10 and Spot It!  as well as some Wii Sports. The TV was playing some quality movies.

One of my resolutions that I made with The Boy, my oldest and most challenging child, was that we were going to treat each other better. I started this by honoring his unusual request to have a backwards meal day. So it was sandwiches for breakfast, leftover hors d'oeuvres for lunch, and french toast and eggs for dinner. And ice cream cones for dessert. 

The Boy is strong-willed and obsessive. Persistent and a lover of scripts, he often enjoys following the rules but will frequently eschew his responsibilities around the house in favor of electronic games, unless he is sufficiently motivated. We clash because he will make up a rule or a script to something faster than I can anticipate where it comes from, and he sometimes just wants to be contrary because that's how he rolls. I need to pay better attention to his currency and his desired modes of communication, because he ultimately doesn't want to hurt me any more than I'd ever want to hurt him. 

The other aspect of my relationship with The Boy is that I'm clearly his third favorite adult, if I'm lucky. Fortunately, his number one and number two grownups (Daddy and Grandma, respectively), are not so in need of the ego stroking that they would ever fan the flames of favoritism. They cherish their relationships with The Boy and also nurture mine. 

As such, I really want to improve my connection with The Boy. There may still be remnants of the hard times from five years ago, where I was only the bad guy in charge of medicine and shots. 

Despite a mostly awesome day, the kids have been a bit twitchy and antsy. Bath time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A long night, long ago

It was six years ago, right about now, when we took turns sleeping and trying, and failing, to soothe our sweet Boy, as we smelled him, smelling not right to us anymore.

He was 22 pounds at nearly 10 months old, and 2 pounds of that was tumor.

To be removed the next morning, as we waited. And waited. Me diligently hooked up to my Medela Pump-In-Style every few hours.

Our wedding anniversary is in 2 days. It will be ten years for that, but one countdown forever intertwines with the other.

We are forever changed. We are lucky. We are scarred, and scared, relieved and yet still on our guard.

I remember looking at his abdomen after the surgery and thinking, he'll never be the same. And that was only one scar.

More scars have faded, except for one of his port scars did the keloid thing and is still puffy. From far away you can't tell, and from close up nobody else cares.

Ten years ago on Friday, we thought we had everything all figured out.

Six years ago today was when we were first told that our baby had cancer.

Today our lives are delightfully simple, but nowhere near what we thought they'd be.

Most importantly, we are together, all five of us now, and we are stronger.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Review of Procedure for the ridiculous

Mom and I are in the process of helping a family whose infant son is undergoing treatment for neuroblastoma. It's a different course of treatment but still calls to mind our experiences. It puts us back in that mode, but by the same token it doesn't, because we are (B"H) viewing his situation through hindsight.

Today we gave his grandmother a foam floor mat. This is the reason why:


Toddlers like to play on the floor. Toddlers with cancer (I cringe to even have to say it) are susceptible to germs but have little understanding or respect for the concept, but a set of floor mats are perfect. Also, it creates a sort of "clean zone" for the little one. Not to mention, this mat has numbers and our friend has letters, so there's the education value. And don't knock it--without ever having to use a single flash card (except when he decided he wanted to play 52 flashcard pickup), The Boy took to letters and numbers at a very young age. He spent so much time in the hospital with not much else to do. 

We are so blessed and so thankful for the good health of our children, and we pray for this other little boy every day and every week. I don't want to give out any identifying information about him without the consent of his family but you need to know that there are still children, every day and every week, being diagnosed with cancer. Some, like this boy and like my Boy, were 10 months old at diagnosis.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Thank you for being a friend...

What happens when a person has many friends, so many people who speak kindly of her, so much positive recognition within her community...and it is insufficient?

What happens when the treatment becomes worse than the disease and instead of being a balancing force, it pushes her over the edge?

I know the answer. You know the answer. It isn't pretty.

Accompany the dead for burial. Comfort the mourners. Those aren't just nice things to do; they are commandments. So I do those acts. I sing for them. I hear their names. But the whole situation is awkward because no one wants to talk about the real problem.

The following remedies are socially acceptable: medication. Therapy sessions, but only if you can afford them.

The following remedies are not socially acceptable, and requests for such remedies are frequently followed by some form of "pull yourself together" "cheer up!" or "back in my day there was no such thing as 'mental health days.'": Taking time for oneself. Reaching out to people, in person, even at odd hours, if you're not on their list of acceptable companions. Taking days off from work for emotional and mental recovery, if you cannot afford to do so.

I'm guilty of this: I talk about my friend and how great she was and I find myself thinking, if I had reached out to her, she'd have thought it strange, because we weren't that close. If I'd had any clue that she was struggling like this, even as I saw her successful personal endeavors through social media, I don't know what I could have done. I maintained a positive image of this superstar woman who deserved nothing but happiness, this wonderful and talented woman whom I had known since we were children. But I'm guilty of dismissing my own power as a friend and source of comfort.

Emotional displays never came easily to me. That's my husband's job--he can feel all the feelings and I can be stoic and insensitive. Logical, rational. Helpful skill to have in order to keep the ship running, but probably what stunted my abilities as a singer and made me uninteresting to watch as a performer. No one cared what I sounded like because, when I was younger, I had nothing to say. I am rediscovering myself through surprising new idioms and embracing the emotional aspects of singing, for work and for fun, and even the ability to evoke emotion in other people.

I don't know where to go from here. I don't know that I've sufficiently learned the lesson of how to be a good friend because I stay stuck in my world with my own family--my husband and children, as well as my parents who still care for me unconditionally. And I try to return the favor. It's hard because I do call people, and they don't call me back. Or they do call but they're too busy.

I don't miss the companionship of one person or another until it's too late.

I wish it were never too late.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgivukkah reflection

It is at this time of year that I reflect upon the dramatic turns taken in my life, because it was four years ago on this holiday that we made our big move. This was a geographic move and, as it turned out, a career move.

If you know my husband, you know that he is a great educator and a great music director. He has a certain sort of charisma that cannot be taught. And when he was a band director, he was completely invested in his work and it seemed both effortless and joyful. I knew better because as a music educator myself I know the process and I saw the work that he did. It was everything he knew and everything he thought he should be, to be in front of groups and create musical cultures. He was really, really good.

He doesn't do that anymore. 

I've been trying to do what I did, before the move. Before cancer. And I may not be doing that anymore either. 

The job that I was doing, while it exists for now, doesn't seem to be available to me. There's a connection I'm missing. I don't know the right people, even though I thought for sure that I did. I have to accept that there may not be a place for me as a teacher of orchestra or any other music, in a full-time professional capacity. Maybe I'm just not supposed to be in that spot right now. 

Four years ago there were two children--the sick toddler and the raging infant. Now, there are three. The Boy, wise and wonderful warrior survivor; The Bear, the intense and energetic preschooler who was given a chance to be something other than a piece of luggage at doctor and other therapy appointments; and the toddler who is his own sweet person and yet, I get these glimpses of what The Boy might have been like had cancer not stolen toddlerhood from him. 

But where I am is working for me. I have taken on part-time religious work, both teaching classes and singing for services, and I am expanding my capabilities in every direction through this work. I am so motivated and excited about it. The teaching is okay but the singing and prayer work for the kids is great fun. And singing for the main services is fulfilling personally and musically. The pianist/organist/music director is such a fine musician, and communication is so easy. 

Considering my lukewarm attitude toward religion growing up, it is surprising that I have become so embedded in the culture of a temple. 

I was meant to be where I am right now.