It’s OK to be Cliche

Be grateful for everything you have. I was reminded of that recently after learning some tragic news about an admired acquaintance.   I took pause to enumerate all that is good in my life. I have my health. I have a marriage to a wonderful man that has lasted more than twenty years. I have three exuberant, healthy children that can drive me nuts (yes, that is a blessing!).   Then post-reflection I checked my email and began, almost reflexively, stewing about some thing and some one and some situation that was described in the time-suck that is my inbox. How quickly my feelings of gratitude were replaced by the ridiculous rumination on a very small “problem” that really doesn’t matter now and won’t matter next week or even tomorrow.   What IS important is every moment, person and gift we take for granted and could lose when life takes an unexpected turn.

Make a list of the good. Keep it ever present. Don’t lose sight and appreciation of all that is precious in life. Be grateful. Encourage others to do the same.

Be cliché and don’t sweat the small stuff.

I’m Having a Baby, Why Doesn’t Anyone Believe Me? (a Semi-Deconstructed Parody)

This is a true story (except for the fancy driving and the UZI-wielding).  The people are real.  The conversations actually took place.  Importantly, my husband can vouch for it in entirety.  And he is relieved beyond belief I have written this because he thinks I need the whole experience out of my system.  In composing this post I attempted, with “bracketed” statements, to dissect the story into elements of a screenplay…just for the fun of it.  But this is otherwise a work of nonfiction as there’s no way I have the talent to make this stuff up…

[Opening scene:  a hospital reception area.  It is very early morning.]

At two am on an early spring day my mother walked into Labor and Delivery and announced she was having contractions.  The staff looked at her like she was nuts, her pregnancy concealed by a long winter jacket (keep in mind this was spring in Minnesota).  But four hours later and as many weeks early, I made my debut, punch-drunk from the cocktail of drugs given at the time to make a laboring mother more comfortable.

Mom showed them.

And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

[Teaser, used to draw the audience in. It can be in the form of a flashback or anecdote, as demonstrated above.]

My daughter’s birth was not beautiful in the made-for-tv-movie way.  It was beautiful in that she was delivered healthy, by a highly-experienced obstetrician.  Just as we hoped.  Getting her here is a whole other story, steeped in absurdity. Parody, even.  It was chaos in the delivery room that evening and even though my unborn baby [our Damsel in (Near) Distress] held her own it was a scary experience.  Staff converged on the delivery room, ripping apart sterile packaging and draping blue sheets across my stomach for modesty (really?  does it matter?) like time was of the essence.  Which it was.  But it shouldn’t have been.  Thankfully I had a no-nonsense, straight-shooting OB [Hero].

[The scene-setting Introduction, which gives the audience a taste of what is to come and hopefully keeps them hooked.]

Until my doctor entered the room, it was a complete surprise my third child was about to be born.  That is, it was a deniable fact to everyone but me [Protagonist].  And this is why:  1)  my contractions went from seven minutes apart to four in half an hour; and 2)  there was The Problem [plot device to give the protagonist depth and incur sympathy and support of the audience].  Just trust me on this one…this tale is not No Country for Old Men or a story by Quentin Tarantino…I want to “keep it real” but without the “R” rating.

So when The Problem started, I called Labor and Delivery and told the nurse [Antagonist] on the other end of the line about it.  She replied:  “Well, you can come in if you WANT to and we’ll monitor you….”  Her tone was dripping with the oh-boy-another-crazy-hormonal-mom-to-be, like I was a tremendous waste of time.   Crazy and hormonal, sure…just ask my husband…but I was not stupid.  The Problem was not normal and meant no matter what the other facts were, this baby was going to crown.  Soon.

Nurse’s attitude ignored, my husband and I hit the highway [Dramatic over-the-curb driving, a la chase scene from The Bourne Identity. Audiences love that kinda stuff, right?].   My contractions were 7 minutes apart and I was terrified.  Things were going wrong, and the nurse didn’t seem to get that, and I worried what exactly a monitor would reveal about my unborn daughter. [Tension building]

We arrived in Labor and Delivery 30 minutes after I made my phone call and got the monitor hooked up promptly, no questions asked.  I informed the nurse again of The Problem and got no response.  None.  LIke I hadn’t said a word.  Just a passing “I’ll be back in 10 minutes to check the monitor…” as she disappeared out the door. [Let's call her attitude Character Development.]  It was like talking to a wall.  Nothing could be said to change what this nurse wanted to believe was happening, or what she needed to have happen at that moment, for whatever reasons she had.

And by the way, I was in agony.  Contractions were then at every four minutes and intensifying, the proverbial knife getting in a couple twists when my husband [Sidekick/Comedian], says to me:  “Huh.  I’ve been watching the monitor, and your contractions are four minutes apart.  You’re going to have a baby tonight.”  Brilliant.  Up until that point, even the father of my child thought this was an act.

Twenty (not ten) minutes later my nurse returned, “checked” me, and said with alarm [Weakness in antagonist…audiences love this, too]:

“Um, you are at 6 centimeters, I’m calling the doctor.”

What a wonderful idea.

So.  Apparently I was having a baby.  With the nursing staff finally on board, things started moving in a frightening blur [climactic point].   Like there was no time to lose.  Then, [cue comic relief, a plot device used to diffuse feverish tension] a tech came to place my IV access and said, “I’m going to numb the skin so you won’t feel the needle stick.”  I gave the woman a dirty look as I was too busy with an excruciating labor to give her a tongue-lashing.  Like I’m going to notice what she was doing.  My husband whooshed in and redeemed himself [Sidekick demonstrating he's more than just the cut-up]:

“I don’t think she cares about the IV stick at the moment.”

My nurses clearly needed a reality check.  And they got it, in a big way:  an hour after admission, I gave birth to my little girl. [Antagonists foiled]  Healthy, just a little over six pounds.  She was screaming her head off, like all babies on tv do.

[Hero doctor saves the day.  Protagonist and Damsel win.  In other words, we have the formulaic Happy Ending.]

And I hope when my little apple has her own little apple-let, there is no parody involved.  That he or she arrives straight-shootin’, documentary-style.

[Credits]

[Fade to Black]

Wow, you’re still here!!!  You know how at the end of some movies, audience members who stick around get treated to bloopers?  Boy, do I got one:

It is well after midnight following the birth of my daughter.  She and I are cuddling in my darkened hospital room.  A member of the nursing staff I do not recognize walks in, asking if I need anything for pain.

Me:  “No, thank you.”

Crazy person:  “You don’t want PERCOSET?  You NEED PERCOSET!!!   It is AMAZING!!!!”

Me:  “Um, NO.  THANK YOU.

Then I, the tired, fed up protagonist, whips out my UZI,  deciding after all I need a little Tarantino.

THE END

Ok.  This is a really important footnote [Disclaimer, perhaps?]:  I respect nursing staff.  Having had the privilege of working with many of these gifted individuals over the years and in many capacities, I feel it is simply a stroke of bad luck that this was the team present the night my daughter was born.

"Holy crap, what just happened to me?!"~not an hour after greeting the world

“Holy crap, what just happened to me?!”~not an hour after greeting the world

Happy (almost) Birthday to my baby girl!

The September 2014 Book is Not About a Lot of Things

My husband is a TED talk devotee.  I try to remember TED even exists.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Technology, Entertainment and Design is an amazing resource.  I just rely on my husband to funnel the most intriguing talks my way.  One evening, he was insistent we watch one in particular that featured writer Jennifer Senior.  She opened her lecture with how the parenting section in a chain bookstore is overwhelmingly stocked with volumes on how to raise the “right” kid and the crisis these overladen shelves symbolize.

By the way, Jennifer Senior has published a book.

But it isn’t about parenting (a term, she states, only came into regular use in 1970) and how mothers and fathers can affect and mold their offspring; its premise is exactly the opposite.  All Joy and No Fun:  The Paradox of Modern Parenthood is about how children affect their parents.  Along the way, Ms. Senior talks with parents-in-the-trenches who are at all stages in the parenting game.  She utilizes a multitude of disciplines to explain the anxiety contemporary humans have over what people have been doing for centuries…raising children.  How the author brings sociology, economics and psychology into one 265-page volume on parenthood is certainly intriguing.

And definitely check out Jennifer Senior’s TED talk on TED.com…she is a wonderful, wryly humorous orator:  “For parents, happiness is a very high bar.”

 

The Itchy Trigger Finger

I came across this quote the other day from one of my favorite comediennes:

If you are creating anything at all,

it’s really dangerous to care about what people think.

~Kristen Wiig

And not even a week prior I tuned in to an episode of the tv show Glee on in-flight entertainment.  Not being privy to the goings-on at McKinley High, the premise was out of context but a statement by Idina Menzel’s character to daughter Rachel was not:

No one achieves success by playing it safe.

I may not have her words exactly right but that was the gist of her message.  And it hit home.  Really hard.  There are two drafts sitting (lurking?) on pulseonparenting.com that I kinda like.  No, who am I kidding?  I’m not one to toot my own horn but I’m proud of these potential blog posts.  What has kept me from pressing “publish” is that very real possibility others will not agree.  While that is always true, these particular drafts are, at least in my book, a creative risk.

But now it’s time to take the plunge.  Ms. Wiig and Elsa (no, it’s Shelby, right?) have laid out so clearly for me that I should go for it.  Publish these works I am proud of and just see what happens.

Time to pull the trigger.

The Next Challenge

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I get the urge to sort and surrender about every other month.  When it seems our house is overrun by “stuff,” I grab a box and get to work.  Then the kids discover the collected past-treasures and realize they can’t live without the coloring book or stuffed animal or two-sizes-too-small t-shirt I have deemed for donation.  They haven’t given those items a mere thought in months but a newfound awareness of their presence makes these things dearer than life itself.

Awareness is powerful.  The recent “Ice Bucket Challenge” for ALS is a recent prime example of how knowledge can make things happen.  As of this writing, ALS has raised $40 million-plus since social media was flooded with clips of people dousing themselves in icy water in the name of  Lou Gehrig’s disease.  As a result, a staggering number of people now know about this devastating hereditary condition.

So what’s next?  We have awareness (and a windfall amount of funding), and if awareness is knowledge and knowledge is power, where now should this newfound power take us?  Our children are heading back school; they are ready to learn and discover.  Primed to be challenged.

So let’s shift our focus from buckets of ice water and Facebook posts to fostering our children’s curiosity of science.  Watch Bill Nye (Iin his episode on skin Bill sweats it out with an NBA star).  Do home experiments (Who doesn’t love vinegar and baking soda explosions?  Or the Mentos-and-diet-cola geyser?).  Ask and observe.  Observe and ask.  Encourage our kids to do the same.

ALS (and other devastating medical conditions) needs awareness and funding.  Better treatments and a potential cure won’t find themselves.  The next challenge is cultivating the brainpower and developing inquisitive, analytical minds to make these discoveries a reality.

Let’s use our grassroots momentum to spark the “Brain Bucket Challenge.”

But It Smells Good!

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We stash it in the glovebox, in our backpacks and handbags.  There’s a ginormous jug of it sitting in our kids’ classrooms at school.  Stores sell it in mouthwatering scents (cucumber melon!).  And it gives us piece of mind that with each squirt we are protecting our children from illness.

Not necessarily.

The newspaper often goes from our driveway directly to the recycle bin because the content is just plain depressing.  However, I happened to pick through it recently and immediately catching my eye was the headline:

Hand sanitizers dirty record; let soap do the job

We all know good old fashioned soap and water are best for keeping our hands clean and germs away.  But a sink is not always accessible, nor is hand washing always possible.  In my previous career I dealt daily with germs, or at least the idea of germs, and multiple times a day I used hand sanitizer to reassure clients (and myself) I would not be transferring an infection to them from the previous person I examined.  So this recent news article by Philip S. Wenz, an environmentalist, got my attention.  According to Mr. Wenz, here is the down-low on the stuff we have been led to believe lowers our and our children’s risk of falling ill:

~chemicals found in some hand sanitizers (and other products labelled as “antibacterial” like soap**) can contribute to the growth of cancerous cells.

~with repeated or over-use, some of these same chemicals can reduce the user’s immunity and cause infection with “superbugs,” bacteria that have evolved to such an extent that they do not succumb to antibiotics.

~use hand sanitizers (avoid those labelled as “antibacterial”) with at least a 60 percent ethyl alcohol content.  These products are considered safe for you, reasonably safe for the environment, and also are the most effective against bacterial exposure.  That said, these hand sanitizers do not kill the viruses usually associated with the common cold. Continue reading

Beautifully Sad

A friend on Facebook posted this sad yet beautiful quote recently and I couldn’t get it out of my head.  We have all suffered loss, or if we haven’t we will at some time.  The loss can be a death in the family, a breakup, or having to give up a pet.  In any circumstance of a loss, this quote embodies guidance, reassurance and hope:

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Game On

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“Boo-Ya!”

“That’s what I’m talkin’ about!!!”

“In your FACE!!!!”

Sound familiar?  Just another friendly family game night.  It’s amazing how much trash gets talked with a high-stakes game of UNO.  Or when the Old Maid deck gets dealt.  And in our home, when the dice are rolled and the marbles moved during Murder, our homemade version of Sorry, verbal carnage (G-rated!) abounds.  Yup, friendly games can turn friendly families into fierce-tongued families.

It wasn’t my competitive streak that caused the card game Beat the Parents to catch my eye at the store, but the clever word play on the movie title, “Meet the Parents.”  When I read on the glossy, uncreased box that the object was to pit kids against their parents in a game of trivia (the parents field questions about kid-world and vice versa) and figured we all may learn a little something, I had to buy it. Continue reading

Plucking the Petals of Daisies

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If you have a daughter, you know all too well her mood can change with fleeting regularity. And you may also be surprised at how early an age the emotional roller coaster can take a plunge.  I know I was.  In our household, that age was two.  My husband and I did a “What the…?” as our little darling, a shrieking carmel-haired blur, ran from one end of the house to the other spurred by an unknown insult, only to emerge seconds later in a strangely calm trance, blankie in hand.

At the time, her display was darn funny.  It still is, but in a how-I-wish-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now kind of way.  Nearly age eight, my youngest can turn her emotional status on a dime with little effort.  It’s like a game of “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not.” One minute she is sweetly cuddling with me on the couch, the next she is a sassy, screaming mess concluding her rant with an “I hate you!!!!” Continue reading

All “Growed” Up

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Some would say it is turning age 18.  Others would say it comes with earning a steady paycheck, moving away from Mom and Dad, and paying income tax.  Yet others would agree it is becoming parents.  But after passing those milestones of life, (some of them achieved a couple decades or so ago!),  I don’t feel like a grown up.  Not even close.  And I’m pretty sure I don’t act like it.  Here are some examples that serve as proof:

~ I have never read Dickens or Austen…nor do I feel the urge to.

~Occasionally I find myself giggling with my kids about bodily functions.

~I buy and hide tooth-rotting cereal so I can eat it myself.

I could go on.  But so I don’t humiliate myself further, I won’t.  Still.  Do we ever really, truly become “grown up?”  Having mortgages, careers and kids imply we must certainly be so.  Obligations + Responsibilities = All Grown Up.  But those tangible aspects of life don’t equate an internal sense of maturity.

Even though parenting is an obligation and responsibility, having kids “keeps us young.”  They make us laugh with silly knock-knock jokes.  We take them to youthful playgrounds like water parks and Legoland and, well, playgrounds.  Candyland, Chutes and Ladders and Clue dominate family game nights.   No wonder adulthood seems a far-flung idea. Between paying the bills and answering work emails our lives are devoted to kid-geared activity.

So on that note, I need to run.  It’s a rainy June day and the kids have cabin fever.  PJ party with Christmas music anyone?