Saturday, August 29, 2009

Death Ed 101
~ by Jay

Miss Conduct recently posted a question about mourning rituals on Facebook. In the comments, folks got very exercised over the right way and wrong way to comfort a mourner, and struggled with their lack of knowledge about mourning rituals of various cultures. They asked for Death Ed 101.
I know it helps to know the rules (assuming the mourner is going to follow the rules) but honestly, here's the thing about comforting mourners: just do it. Just be there - wherever "there" is. "There" might be on Facebook; it might be over Email; it might be a comment on a blog post; it might be a casserole or a cake or a shiva call or an appearance at the wake or a stop at the cemetery. It doesn't matter. Just be there. And stay there. Grief does not end in a day, or a week, or ever. It changes and evolves and eventually the mourner will emerge - not back into the world before, but into a sort of new normal.
Well, maybe one more thing: remember it's not about you. It's about the person who is sitting in front of you, looking numb, or the one rushing around the house looking for something insignificant, or the one trying not to cry because really, it's enough already and she can't breathe through her nose. It's not the time to work through your own grief about your dysfunctional relationship with your father, or your anger at the cousin who took Grandma's best china without asking, or your disdain for organized religion.
Grief is waves. At first the surf is heavy, and the mourner is pounded ceaselessly. She can lose her footing and be dragged underwater, and it helps to have someone nearby who can grab and hold on. Gradully, the waves become smaller and less frequent, but you never really leave the shore. There are waves that are predictable - holiday waves, birthday waves - and waves that take you by surprise and leave you gasping and sputtering, drenched again in sadness and loss. Be a ready hand and a steadying raft in the surf, and that is comfort.

(cross-posted from Feministe)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eve and Her Two Mothers
~ by Jay

(crossposted from Feministe)

Facebook brings up all sorts of etiquette issues I never would have expected. Friend your boss? Tell your cousin that the pictures of drunken revelry are upsetting the grandparents? Mention your upcoming trip to Big City even if you don't want to see all the Big City Facebook friends while you're there? Who knew these would be the burning questions of our day?

And who knew that I would log on one day to see my daughter's picture in someone else's Facebook profile?

We started out with a "semi-open" adoption; we met Laura when she was pregnant with Eve but didn't exchange any personal information, and only had contact through the adoption agency. We left it that way for several years, but then we had two disrupted adoptions (that's what it's called when the baby's birthparents change their minds) and we wanted to stop dealing with the agency. We also had gotten beyond our fear that contact with Laura would disrupt our family. So we sent our address, phone and Emails to Laura in our next letter, and a week later she called. Now she calls a few times a year, we have regular Email contact to exchange pictures, and Laura and I are Facebook friends.

We maintain this relationship, uncomfortable as it is, because it's the right thing to do for Eve. It is challenging to come face-to-face with Laura's pain every time we chat and she asks me what Eve is doing. I know my discomfort is nothing compared to hers. I know I am a mother because of my class privilege, my education, my relative wealth. And every time the relationship shifts, I have to recalibrate. I have to talk myself through it each time.

Tonight I signed on to Facebook and found that Laura had posted a picture of Eve, customized into a little animated-star image of an angel. No caption, just the photo.

My first thought was no. Not on your profile. Not my kid.

Sam had the same reaction I did, and then he looked at me and said "Why are we uncomfortable"? Well, because it's our kid. Except that we can't say she's not Laura's child, can we? No, we can't.

And it's not supposed to be about us. It's supposed to be about Eve.

What would Eve think? I bet Eve would think it was pretty cool. Maybe it will help counteract any questions Eve has about Laura's love for her. Documentary evidence, right?

So I didn't ask Laura to take the picture off.

No one taught me Facebook etiquette when I was growing up, and no one taught me how to build a relationship with my daughter's birthmother. One of these things is more important than the other, but both require common sense, clarity of purpose and generosity of soul. Here's hoping I can find all three when I need them.

I'll Be Absent From Feministe, Too
~ by Jay

Back in June, it seemed like a great idea to guest-blog again on Feministe. It was a lot of fun last time.

It would still be fun this time if I had time to actually post...I'll try to cross-post what I do get around to writing, so come on over and hang out.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back To School, or Lessons Learned in Target
~ by Jay

School shopping can be so educational.

First, Eve realizes she can do math rapidly in her head when she needs to figure out how many pairs of jeans she can buy with her allotted budget.

Then Mommy learns that Eve is trending toward a rock/biker chick look this fall.

She chooses this Tshirt

to go with these leggings

and a little plaid mini. Was very disappointed when they didn't have the black ankle boots in her size.

We added a few pairs of jeans and another spangly rock-chick T-shirt, and then we start looking for sweatshirts. Eve loves to layer hoodies over everything, and she found several from the Paul Frank for Target collection. All the Paul Frank gear is emblazoned with this monkey, and the one Eve picked up had lipstick and sunglasses as well.

and all I could think of was this

Eve put the hoodie in the cart and I thought "You are being paranoid. This is not racist. No one else will think this is racist". And then I flashed forward to how I would feel every time Eve put the sweatshirt on, and I took it out and hung it back on the rack.

Honey, I know that's a really cute sweatshirt, but that kind of picture has been used for years to make fun of African-Americans, and I'm not comfortable having you wear it.

I'm not making fun.

I know, but that's the way the picture looks to me. I promise we'll find you a sweatshirt, but not that one.

OK, Mommy.

We ended up finding a less expensive hoodie with colored circles that she liked even better.

Then she found a pack of underwear with monkeys on the back (why? I don't know) and said "Are those monkeys making fun, too"?

"Those monkeys" were less stylized, more cartoonish, and didn't have the heavily emphasized lips.

"No, honey, those are just monkeys".

Eve looked confused.

"When we get home, I'll show you some pictures on the computer so you understand what I mean".

And there are all too many to chose from.

Education comes in many forms.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Have Seen The Future....
~ by Jay

and this is it, with me in the role of Sally's mother and Eve, of course, as Sally.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Made Me Cry
~ by Jay

President Obama presenting Sidney Poitier with the Medal of Freedom.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Not Betty Friedan's Fault
~ by Jay

You know that women hate housework, right? And it's all the fault of those nasty feminists who told women that they had to go out and work instead of staying contentedly at home. Why, until Betty Friedan wrote that awful book, women were perfectly happy at home, which is where they belong.

Except that The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963, and the people who marketed Jello Pudding knew about the discontent in the 1950s. Hmm.

I particularly like the treadmill she's walking on, and the black scribbles. Very evocative.
(am I the last person on earth to realize that if you right-click on a YouTube video, you can save the embed HTML from the context menu? Yeah, I thought so.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vacation ~ by Tigermom

We are so lucky.

We are healthy, happy, and have good family and friends.

We also have a relative with a great house in the woods.

Who invites us out every summer.

Our yearly pilgrimage to the house in the woods will end tomorrow.

And it has been great. Lots of laughing and staying up too late and lots of ice cream parlor ice-cream. I must admit I bagged out of today's all day activity and went for a solo bike ride. I got lost and sweaty and asked two strangers for help getting home. But boy did I feel virtuous and well exercised.

Then I ate half a bag of pirate booty. Only because half the bag was already gone. ;-)

Here is a shot of the back deck of nice relative's house.

Thank you nice relative!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Palliative Care Grand Rounds
~ by Jay

Risa, a hospice nurse who blogs at Risa's Pieces, has posted the current edition of Palliative Care Grand Rounds, and it's worth reading (not just because she honored me by including one of my posts). Lots of wonderful stuff there, including a nice roundup of posts rebutting the ridiculous idea that discussing end-of-life-care with patients - and getting paid for it - is tantamount to euthanasia. I've tried to write about that nonsense, but I kept typing WTF? over and over, because that was all I could think of. Good thing a lot of other people have been more coherent.

For the record, President Obama's health care proposal provides payment for clinicians to have a conversation about end-of-life care with their patients once every five years. Who would think that was a good idea? Anyone who has ever worked in an ED or an ICU, or ever had a loved one admitted to the hospital with a sudden or severe illness, or who has shared the President's experience of supporting a family member on their journey with the help of hospice. Who would think that was a bad idea? Rush Limbaugh.

That's all I have to say, except of course the obvious. WTF?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ah, Technology
~ by Jay

At the beginning of the baseball season, a friend of mine suggested I buy the MLB AtBat app for my iPod. $10.00 for the year, and it lets you listen to every game live. Very cool.

Tonight, in my hotel room, I dock my phone into the handy iHome they provide on the bedside table, pull up the app, select the Yankee/Red Sox game, choose WCBS and hear the dulcet tones of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Just like when I was a kid (well, that was Phil Rizzuto and Bill White, but you get the point). I smile, and I realize I have now transformed my $300.00 phone into a transistor radio.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Was I Thinking?
~ by Jay

It's my second trip with my Kindle, and I'm still enjoying the luxury of walking on to an airplane carrying only my purse. Unfortunately, there's that pesky period after takeoff and before landing when all electronic devices have to be in their upright and locked position, so I need something on actual paper. Last time I remember to stick a book of puzzles (Stan Newman's Cranium Crushers, Orange) into my bag but this time I found myself in the airport with only my gadgets. Hmm. Well, there's always a newstand, so I bought some magazines.

I have magazines at home, but they're not the kind of thing I'd want to read on the plane. Well, Brain Child would be good reading anywhere but I read each issue pretty much as soon as it arrives, and I don't really want to lug National Geographic or Cook's Illustrated or Sierra on vacation. So I bought Good Housekeeping and Cosmo and The New Yorker.

What was I thinking?

Good Housekeeping looked positively progressive by the time I finished Cosmo. Never mind the Photoshopped ads or the "must-have" $600.00 pocketbooks or the fact that fake-fur vests are apparently in this fall. That's nothing compared to the advice - oy, the advice. Don't be a doormat, they say; tell "your guy" if you disagree with his opinions. Of course, the whole reason to do that is to make yourself more attractive to "your guy". And, also of course, you shouldn't take it too far. I know armchair evolutionary psychology is the comfort of anti-feminists, who are happy to crow about how "natural" it is for men to dominate women. I hadn't realized that evo-psycho-babble had also become the language of articles aimed at women. Cosmo is full of it (in every sense): women crave connection because we evolved that way. Men don't talk much because it scares off the wooly mammoths. Women have to be mysterious and sexy and self-reliant but not too strong and have jobs but not make too much money. Oh, and know how to do "reverse cowgirl" when he's had a rough day and it's too much to ask that he prop himself on his elbows.

I fly home Sunday morning, so I can pick up a New York Times at the airport so I can read the book review and do the puzzle on the way home. I'll mutter to myself about the $(#)%) KenKen that replaced the Second Sunday puzzle, but at least I'll be spared any more ventures into the world of the Cosmo Girl.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The First Time Was Just Practice
~ by Jay

So it turns out that back in May when the Apple Store replaced my hard drive, they replaced a 120 GB drive with a 60 gb drive. I didn't realize that until a few days later. Since they'd replaced it for free (much to my surprise) I decided I'd just live it with it for a while and eventually take it in and have a bigger drive installed.

"For a while" ended last Friday, when I didn't have enough space on the hard drive to reliably run Parallels. I made an appointment at the Genius Bar for Sunday and headed off - only to find that they shouldn't have replaced the hard drive in May at all because it wasn't original equipment (the original hard drive died before the Apple Store was in business and I'd had it replaced by an independent vendor). So sorry, they say. We don't do third-party drives. But you can do it - they sell them at Best Buy.

I can replace my own hard drive? Really?

Sure! they said. It's easy. Takes five minutes with a screwdriver. Hard drives are cheap. There are videos on YouTube that show you how.

Alternative: take it back to the independent guys and wait a week. Hmm.

So we go to Best Buy and purchase a 320 gb drive. Go home, have dinner, put Eve to bed, do the grocery shopping, finish the puzzle. Confirm that Sam does own the necessary screwdriver. Look up "Replace MacBook Hard Drive" on YouTube. Sure enough, it's easy-peasy.

Figuring out how to restore the OS and the data - not quite so easy-peasy, but eventually done. Nothing left to do but run Software Update and go to bed.

Came downstairs this morning and found it waiting to restart. Clicked the button, and realized it was going to take a while, so I might as well eat breakfast. Moved the computer over to the sideboard.

Big mistake. It was off the edge of the sideboard, just where a wound-up dog could reach it and knock it over.

Which, of course, killed the brand new hard drive.

Good news: I know how to put the old one back in! Back to Best Buy over lunch to buy a new hard drive. Have now restored the OS and the data - again - and the updated software is downloading. It can restart - securely on my desk - while I'm in a meeting.

So I impressed myself with my mad techie skillz, and then promptly fell on my metaphorical face. Isn't that always the way?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Conversations With My Daughter
~ by Jay

What movie were you watching?

Kung Fu Panda. I didn't see the whole thing. Can we rent it?
We'll see.

It's OK, Mommy, there were girls in this movie.

There are girls or women in most movies, sweetie, but I notice the main character was a boy panda.

But in THIS movie the girls do the same thing the boy does. Honest, Mommy. And the boy doesn't need to rescue the girls or anything.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pondering the Dentist
~ by Jay

The J-man (no relation) had to go to the dentist recently.

The J-man is autistic and has significant oral sensitivity, so going to the dentist is a Big Deal - rough on him and his parents and, one supposes, the dentist and hygienist. I have one neurotypical child who has no oral issues that I know of, but I was struck by the comments J-man's dad made about the pediatric dentist who used to take care of J-man. It sounded so, so familiar.

First there was the reception area, a
crowded, noisy, pediatric dentistry waiting room with enough noise, TVs, fish tanks, video games, and other insane stimuli to drive us all batty.
The first time I took Eve to the dentist, she was 3; she had never been able to sit though an entire movie of any kind and had recently had to leave a playdate sobbing after watching part of the "Strawberry Shortcake" movie, because it was too scary. What was the first thing we saw as we entered the room? The stampede scene from "The Lion King" on a large flat-screen TV. Eve dove under my shirt and stayed there until I persuaded the office staff to turn it off, which they did (grudgingly) because we were the only people there and I made it clear that we would leave without being seen if the movie was left on. This did make for a reassuring start to the afternoon, and was not covered in the "Visit to the Dentist" picture book we had read the night before.

The second was the attitude. I've never been segregated into a "special needs" slot, and I don't mean to compare my experience completely with Tim's. Their practice claimed to accomodate special needs kids but in reality found them to be far too "difficult" to treat with respect. Ours was simply obnoxious to everyone, as far as I could tell.

There was the hygienist who took us back that first day. Eve, still not recovered from the stampede, refused to walk, so I was carrying her and she was sucking her thumb. The hygienist removed her thumb from her mouth and said "OK, Mom, time to break that habit". I resisted the tempation to say "I'm not your Mom, you idiot" and murmured into Eve's ear that it was OK to suck her thumb and no one was going to make her stop.

Then there was the dentist, who didn't talk to Eve (why do you become a pediatric dentist if you don't want to talk to small children?), didn't introduce herself and didn't really explain anything. Eve had a tooth that had been damaged in a fall and needed to be removed; please make an appointment on your way out.

It was the appointment clerk who informed us they'd be using nitrous oxide for an anesthetic at the next appointment, so she needed to go without food or drink for three hours. See you at 11:00 AM next Wednesday.

OK, so I can't take her to preschool, which means I have to keep her home without anything to eat or drink after breakfast. Hmm. And why nitrous? Dunno. No one explained.

I called my oldest friend, who's a dentist, and she said "Forget the nitrous. The whole reason the tooth needs to be pulled is that the root is dead. It's trivial". I tried to call the dentist to discuss this; no response. So on the day in question, Sam and I took Eve to preschool, let her have snack, picked her up at 10:30 and brought her to the dentist's office (where I have never been so relieved to see Barney), and informed them we were refusing the nitrous.

I was immediately ushered into the office and informed that I didn't understand the decision I'd made. I said I did understand, thank you very much, given my MD, and preferred that Eve have the procedure without nitrous. Well, I might understand physiology, allowed the dentist, but I didn't understand children. I understand my child, and I think she'll be fine.

Sam took Eve in to the procedure room where the entire thing took less than 15 minutes and my daughter emerged, smiling and gaptoothed, picked out her toy from the basket and headed out the door. I went home, fed her lunch, and called my own dentist to find out if he was willing to take care of Eve. He's done so quite nicely for the past six years - no TV in the waiting room, no nasty hygienists telling me what to do, no problems.

So a big "go, you!" to Tim and Mary and everything they do with and for their son, and a big thank you to the dentists out there who know how to treat all kids as if they were special.