07 December 2012

Be Nice Out There

It's not news, exactly, that Bad Things Happen to Good People.  But this semester, I've been really struck by how very many Bad Things have happened to Good People I know--and also struck by how many of these Bad Things are probably invisible to onlookers.  I remember, vividly, the first afternoon of the separation that was the first step towards the formal end of my first marriage.  I didn't quite know what to do with myself, so I took a walk downtown.  I remember thinking that my world was crumbling, and marveled at the fact that every person who walked past me on the sidewalk had no idea how sad I was.  We carry our burdens quietly and sadly, so often.

This semester, I know people who have:

  • watched their child die
  • watched a parent die
  • been abused by a spouse
  • had trouble finding medical help for a seriously ill family member
  • suffered a depressive episode
  • filed for divorce
  • failed an exam
  • failed out of college
  • gotten fired
  • gotten a scary new diagnosis
  • called a crisis line
  • despaired that a problem would get better
  • refused medication that might help
  • been rejected by a sibling
  • watched a parent decline
  • gotten a call about a distant parent falling suddenly, seriously ill
  • struggled to help a child get to school
  • been separated from those they love for too long
  • had trouble finding schools for a student with special needs
  • lost a spouse
  • watched a child drop out of school
  • separated from a spouse
  • had a cancer recur
  • had a parent go to jail
Some of these people I know well; some I know through nodding acquaintance.  Some live near me now; some live far away.  Some of these stories I know well--although they are not mine to tell--some I know just the barest details of.

In response, I've also seen people circle the wagons and surround people with love, meals, and offers to walk pets; I've seen administrators reach out to help.  I've seen a lot of good things moving in the world--but oh, the sadness I've been aware of.

Which just makes me think, as the days grow longer: we should all put some kindness out into the world.  We could all use it.

27 November 2012

Overheard

Curious Girl is 10 now, and one of the reasons I've been blogging lightly of late is that I'm not always sure what's her story to tell, and what's mine.  I'm working that out, still, but will try to focus on my part of her story......

School is a bit of a struggle for her, and we've been working for the past three years to understand just why things are hard and how to best support her.  She's a bit of a perfectionist, it turns out, and she has some extraordinarily talented friends, so when she looks around and then looks at herself, she often finds herself wanting.  She's not always an accurate observer, I hasten to add, but she does look about and conclude that she's just not fast enough, not accurate enough, not smart enough.  This breaks my heart.

We pursued an independent educational evaluation, which turned up an ADHD diagnosis, and otherwise generally confirmed that she struggles in math.  (Not so helpful to take your child in for an evaluation because she struggles in math, to get a report that says she struggles in math.  Rightio, then.) We hadn't talked with her about the particulars of the report (in part because we're still in the talk to the teachers, follow up with the evaluator, make sense of it all mode.)

Tonight, though, Politica was on the phone with someone, seeking some advice about how to handle part of our plan to support Curious Girl.  And CG, who'd earlier run upstairs in anger, had crept down the stairs to eavesdrop.  I found her on the stairs.  "Mommy thinks I have ADHD!" she said indignantly.  "I don't!!!!!"

Oh, dear. Can I borrow jo(e)'s language and talk about my beautiful smart wonderful daughter? She is just an amazing little person, and it breaks my heart to see how broken she feels inside.  And overhearing talk about ADHD probably isn't going to help her feel any less broken inside.  She's not broken.  Although perhaps she is broken.  But not in the way she thinks. I feel so, so sad for the burden she carries, and for the ways she resists help because she fears admitting a problem.

We're still coming to terms with it all, Politica and I. One thing the report suggests is that this isn't an issue of just "catching up" in math.  Curious Girl has been saying that math is hard since Grade 1, and those complaints coincided with two years of rather poor math instruction.  We were hoping that some catch up, once she got teachers who were more comfortable with math, would ease her way.  But it looks like she's facing a longer-term project where we'll need to find our way to help her face work that is challenging.  She can do it, I know.  But on a different timetable than the school curriculum has progressed.

I feel a bit like I've gone down the rabbit hole, ending up in a world where I need to be a guide to my wonderful girl, helping her figure out what kinds of practice and work-arounds will help her have the wherewithal to persist in the face of challenge.


01 June 2012

Another Gay Day

Thanks to Dana at Mombian for being the central location for Blogging for LGBT Families Day.


Another week, another Friday: woke up, read in bed for a few minutes, snuggled with Curious Girl, went down for breakfast and wowed her with the new cinnamon sugar shaker I'd put together after my last pilgrimage to King Arthur Flour.  I wrote her a little love note and tucked it inside her homework folder (ordinarily, I put it in her lunchbox, but on Fridays, she gets school lunch). I helped her practice cello (inspired by an acquaintance from a local music program, she's been aiming to keep a cello practice streak going, and is currently at day 107), and then we walked to school.  I went to work, although I left a bit early to come home and shovel mulch around in the garden after Politica called to say that our 3 cubic feet of mulch had arrived.  Then off to pick up CG, and then to gymnastics, where Politica met us and where she and I cheered for each of the girls as they performed their routines on bar, floor, and beam.  Home for dinner, and then out to a marshmallow roast at the neighbors'.  The kids ran around in the cool evening, while the adults talked around the fire.  We talked about aging and failing parents, about school, about kids, about houses, about summer.  We talked about spelling. We walked home.

Such is the life of the homosexual elite. When the Westboro Baptist Church came to town last summer, they said we were headed to hell and destroying society.  Me, I'm more concerned with trying to help my kid figure out how to cope with school projects than I am trying to undermine our neighbors' straight marriages.   In fact, I rather enjoy most of my friends' marriages--straight or gay, legal or not--as I find that most of my friends-with-spouses/partners tend to choose people who are themselves interesting and wonderful. We can all support each other--no one's marriage is a threat to anyone else's.

This is pretty much the kind of post I wrote last year for this occasion: a post chronicling the ordinariness of a day in the Granola household.  We work, we read, we play music, we eat, we garden, we hang with friends.

Tenured Radical writes today that marriage isn't her top political priority, but that the ways in which the Obama administration has worked in stepwise and significant ways to reduce institutionalized homophobia can ultimately work to reduce the power of marriage or other gay rights referenda to serve as get-out-the-vote drives for the far right.  She hopes for a day when marriage will be a purely private matter, not the public moral one it is right now.  Marriage didn't use to be my top political priority--and truth be told, it's probably not my top priority right now either.  But goodness, am I tired of the political initiatives that let voters in various places step up and vote on whether or not to take rights away from me, or to put in place insulting laws or policies that further distance even the possibility of change.  I'm tired of the challenge of remaining hopeful in the face of bigotry, even as I do.  I'm tired of the hypocrisy of a world in which cheating politicians pontificate about the sanctity of marriage.

But here and now, I'm tired from a day of good work and hard parenting.  I'm tired from a week of trying to figure out what sorts of school problems are normal and age appropriate and what sorts of school problems might be more concerning. I'm tired from a week of special events that keep my child up late and run all of us happily ragged.  I'm tired from a week of worrying a bit about aging parents (who seem to be fine now, but still...it's hard to be old).  I'm so tired, I'm not really up to the task of ruining society.  I have enough to do just keeping my little corner of the world working OK.

04 May 2012

Where I've Been


Today Magpie wonders where her readers have been. Turns out I've been to a lot more states than I'd thought: only 6 more to go to have been in all 50! Still a lot of work to do on the Canadian provinces, though (although it's hard to see the Maritime provinces I've been to on that small map).  I've always wanted to ride VIA Rail across the plains and the Canadian Rockies.

Where are your travel dreams focused on? (Maps made here.)



Ten

There are some newborn babies being rocked in their pumpkin seats at the table behind me at the coffee shop.  They're sleeping, their wrinkled little hands involuntarily curling as their bodies snuggle into handmade blue blankets.  Every now and then I hear a little snort or sniffle, and catch a glimpse of an eye slowly opening, then closing.  It's a baby's business to sleep, sometimes, and these two are working hard.

9 years and some months ago, I was in a coffee shop with Curious Girl, herself getting rocked in a sling.  She was 9 months old, not quite a newborn, but so very new to me.  She loved the foam on the coffee drink Politica got (and we had no idea then what foreshadowing that foam held: it would be years before she could really drink a beverage, years in which she would rather just play with the foam on the surface and ignore the nutrition).  And we loved seeing the drink through her eyes.  The foam was fun.  The spoon was fun.  Just being out of the hotel and out on the streets with a baby--our!! baby!!!--was a miracle.

Today, I sit in the coffee shop alone.  My baby--for she will always be my baby, I tell her, just as I at nearly 50 am still my mother's baby in a way--is off at gymnastics, and then off to dress rehearsal for a figure skating show.  She could drink a whole beverage tonight if she cared to.  She can flip and turn and twirl and jump, on ice or off.  Her life seems a blur (literally, she would tell you.  I love the way she uses literally, as in Literally, I love the way she says literally so often.).  She doesn't just walk places.  She turns cartwheels or forward rolls or walks on her hand.  She does waltz jumps or ballet jumps as she moves from the kitchen to her bedroom.  She's ever in motion, so absorbed in just the sensation of moving that she might not hear us speak.  She's so graceful, so packed with power.

And curious, ever curious.

And 10. Happy birthday, beautiful girl.  Happy birthday, my big, small-and-mighty girl, who's growing into her very own mighty self.

10 April 2012

Good Viewing: Love Makes a Family, and Practice Makes an Eater

Just a short pointer to a very cool documentary made by The Devotion Project.  It's called Listening from the Heart, and it profiles two loving women and their almost four-year-old son.  He's got a feeding tube, and looking at them feeding him, and doing what they call "therapeutic meals" brought back so many memories for me.  The Fitch-Jenetts keep a blog, and I'll be adding it to my feedreader.


09 March 2012

The Arc of the Moral Universe

Jody posted today about book spine poems, and here's one from me.  I'll call it Maryland, I think.

Anyone else want to play along?

19 February 2012

Looking Up

There's a folder on my iPhone labeled Space, and in that folder is the NASA app, and a star gazing app, and apps that show the phases of the moon, and ones that let me explore the surface of both Mars and the Moon.  In my twitter feed are various NASA missions (to Mars and Jupiter)--I have a space list, in fact, that you can follow if you like.  They are there because of Susan, a blogging friend who was a Discovery program scientist at NASA, and whose writing about science, children, and space reminded me just how fascinating it is to look up at the stars and wonder.

There have been so many beautiful remembrances of Susan written by people who knew her better than I did, like Maggie and Bon (and of course so many words over so much time by Susan's best friend Marty).  I don't quite know what to say about such a remarkable woman--an astrophysicist, a breast cancer advocate, a friend.  Susan was smart and funny and savvy and prescient.  Her post about inflammatory breast cancer has been reposted thousands of times.  Her post about the idiocy of Facebook breast cancer awareness memes and the need for action instead got her a BlogHer voices of the year honor. Susan was unlucky, in some respects, getting so much cancer so young.  She blogged her life from the diagnosis on, and inspired and educated so many of us.  Breast cancer doesn't need to start with a lump. Early detection isn't the panacea we might think.   And we need more research into cancer.  Until we know what causes cancer, we can't prevent it.

I learned a lot from Susan's fierce writing about cancer.  But what I miss, most, are her posts about every day, her tweets about friends and NASA missions and science with her kids.  I miss exchanging tweets about what we were doing with our kids--I know how much she loved getting outside with her boys, showing them science in action, showing them love.  Last summer, when we were both reading posts by all the folks we knew who were at the BlogHer conference while we were not, we traded a series of tweets about what we were doing instead.  Nothing particularly eloquent, but a delightfully ordinary connection with words.

Susan wondered, back in 2007, What am I leaving to be remembered by?.  In that post, she mentions her ability to work with other people.  She was a connector, someone who brought people together, and the many, many posts full of love for her are proof of that.  Later in 2010, Susan thought ahead to questions her sons might someday have.  Reading this post again last week took my breath away:
One day, when my children ask, “Why didn’t my mother fight the cancer harder?”  I ask that you tell them, “She did, honey, she did,” and also, “Your mama also trusted in God.  She prayed for healing, and for her aches and pains to have a purpose.”
I don't know that any of us ever know the real purpose of our lives here--and I'm sure that each of us brings a different understanding of the role of God in those lives.  Susan's approach to living encapsulates a sense of purpose better than anyone else I've ever met.  As she put it in her mantra, "All that survives after our death are publications and people."  She tended to her words and her people carefully, loving her family so very much, using her words to encourage women into the sciences, to capture the history of space exploration, to advocate for cancer patients and research, to advocate for a better world for today's children.


She reminded me to look up, and to look ahead.  I can't see the stars and the moon without thinking of Susan.  I miss her.  And I will remember her.


Susan's family requests memorial donations to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Or, in her husband's inimitable words:  "Or please choose to make a difference somewhere, anywhere, to anyone."  Susan did make a difference, and she made anyone who knew her feel that we, too, could make a difference.  Go and do likewise.