Monday, May 22, 2017

One Day

Over the weekend my husband and I went on a date. We went out for an early dinner, and as we sat in the restaurant there was a family with three kids in the adjacent room eating, as well. We went to a new restaurant that put a small sliding door between the game room/bar and the dining area. The game room had a skeeball machine, as well as a pool table and some other games I have never seen. It looked fun, but whoever thought to put the skeeball machine up against the dining area was really not thinking. While we sat down for our one-on-one dinner, we began hearing the whining of the youngest child. I laughed at how we are paying a babysitter so we could listen to someone else's kid cry. I tried to ignore it since I didn't have to fix anything, and I could just sit and have a nice conversation. A moment later though the two older kids began playing skeeball and between the hard balls rolling down the side of the machine and the sound of the balls being thrown I was having a hard time ignoring the noise.

There is so much pressure to a date night when you don't have them often. It's expensive, and if you don't go to a good place it can be disappointing. This restaurant not only planned the design poorly but they also chose some dubious staff members. Our waitress was a bit too friendly and not in the nicest way either. When my husband couldn't decide which beer to get she tried to joke that today would be nice for him to decide. She then tried to laugh it off but it wasn't really funny. Whenever she came back to our table she would say "Yo yo yo, how is it going?" when we didn't quite know how to answer her, we asked her back how she was and she took that as an invitation to sit down at our table. We found out she moved here from Chicago to strip. We awkwardly nodded, squeezing each others legs under the table, and then she said she was kidding, and that she is a comedian. Not a funny one I guess. At this point I was trying to figure out what was going on with our date and can we get it back? That is when she told us about her next show and asked if we were on social media. My husband, being the kind gentleman that he is, took out his phone to add her to his Facebook. When he did she grabbed it and added herself for him, then asked about Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Then she looked at me, and begrudgingly I took out my phone so she could grab that one too. She was so inappropriate and invasive that those things alone made her funny, not her jokes. Once I accepted the fact that this would be a noisy strange dinner, we chilled out and enjoyed each other. At the very least we were in agreement that the night was a bit odd, but the company was solid.

The food was actually really good, but we wouldn't go back for all the other reasons. We declined dessert there and went to get ice cream somewhere else. Before we payed our bill I snuggled in close to my husband. I missed losing track of time with him. I missed being spontaneous and driving around to find out where we wanted to go instead of planning it out. I missed traveling with him. I missed sleeping in and reading the paper in bed. I missed staying up late, and I missed unstructured days. I missed going out to the movies and seeing whatever we wanted. I looked over at him and told him that I don't for a second want to rush through my time with my young children, but when they do get bigger and they will, it will be "us" again. There will be a time, and it will come faster than we want it to, that we can do all of those things we miss together.

For now though, we are on this ride. As bumpy, exhausting, and and difficult it can be, it is also magical, loving and wonderful. As we walked out of the restaurant that night, after that family had left I couldn't help myself: I played a game or two of skeeball. It is my favorite arcade game and I just couldn't walk past it. I didn't play too long since I didn't want to interrupt the other diners. After all, it was a pretty obnoxious sound to eat with, but I did stop to have fun for a second. If I keep waiting for that one day to come to start enjoying impromptu opportunities, I am going to miss out.  From now on, I want "one day" to start today.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Surgery


When my son was born, we learned that he had what’s termed an undescended testicle. The doctors said if it didn't come down on it's own by age one, it would need to be surgically pulled down and clamped. My husband and I continued to monitor him and eventually brought him to a handful of pediatric urologists to get opinions. All said they didn't think we needed to do anything about it. When there were no visible changes, we brought him in to see two more doctors. They both agreed he needed surgery. At this point he was three, and because we didn't have such great insurance at the time, we waited until we had a better health plan. We were racing with the clock though because the older a child is, the harder going through surgery is.

We met his surgeon, and liked her right away. She was matter of fact but warm at the same time. She spoke to him respectfully and answered every question I had. We told him as little as we had to, and waited as long as we could before bringing it up. We explained that he was going to the doctor -- he asked if he was getting a shot. I explained that she was going to fix something that needed to be fixed from when he was a baby. We told him he  would go to sleep and when he woke up it would be over. I explained to him that he wouldn't be able to eat anything that day but that when he woke up he could eat whatever he wanted. I also told him he could watch a lot of TV and movies when it was over. He seemed pleased with that, but didn't want to have to go to sleep at the hospital.

The time of his surgery was at 1pm and so he could drink clear liquids two hours before. He hadn't eaten since the night before and when we got to the hospital we were informed that they were behind and they wouldn't go in until 3pm, so with as much distraction as we could muster up, we waited. When they finally came in about a half and hour before to prep him, my husband and I were eager to get this thing over with. They gave him "happy juice" to relax him before being anesthetized. Within a few minutes our son was loopy. He smiled, laughed and kept telling me that I had so many eyes. When my husband and I told him we loved him so much, he asked if we love him more than his sister. When we said we loved both of them so much, he said "but me a little bit more right?" We were laughing with him, but also kind of freaked out at the intensity of this drug he was on. They had explained to us that we would be able to walk him all the way down to the operating room, but then we would have to say goodbye.

My husband said when they told him that, he wasn't thrilled. I just figured that was the last time they could have all of our outside germs near him, and wanted him to be as safe as possible. Once in the operating room, he would be fully anesthetized and perhaps I was better off not seeing that. That part was what I was most concerned about. Handing over my healthy child and having them slow his heart rate and put him into an unconscious state. The questions they asked about family history, and reactions to anesthesia didn't provide me much comfort either. My husband and I wondered what would drive someone to want to go to medical school to be the doctor who puts people to sleep and then wakes them up again. That is some serious business right there. 

When it came time to wheel him down the hall I thought I was prepared. I smiled down at him, stroked his hair, and assured him he would be okay. He innocently looked back up at me and smiled. When they stopped at the end of the hall and asked us to say goodbye, I lost it. I swallowed back as many tears as I could so that he wouldn't see. As I gave him his final kiss and turned around the tears streamed down my face. The next few moments were similar to only a few experiences in my life. My ride to the hospital when I was in labor, everyone outside is having coffee or meeting a friend, while I am in the most intense pain of my life. Or when I was hiking Runyon canyon on September 11th and heard in about the World Trade Center in my headphones, but everyone around me continued hiking in oblivion while I staggered down the mountain in shock. Or when someone you love dies, and you are carrying the heavy weight of loss around while others seem to be capable of staying joyful, light and optimistic. As we walked away from him, my heart sank. The world hadn't fallen apart, but it felt like it to me. 

Within a few minutes we got a call from the doctor saying she had found something else when they began, and that the tubes leading to his testicles had never closed on their own. She wanted our permission to fix that as well. She said if we didn't do it now we would have to come back again some other time. It made no sense to have to come back, so we signed off. What was supposed to be 90 minutes tuned into over two hours of surgery, and what was supposed to be one possibly two incisions, turned into three. It was a long and difficult day for our boy, but when they told us he was in the recovery room, I finally truly exhaled. He was tired, and not fully awake, but he was okay, and it was over.


This surgery is fairly routine, and not uncommon in little boys. Our doctor had done two others like it that very day. I found this all to be very reassuring. I also knew that we had done was not a procedure to save my child's life. There were cancer risks for not doing it, but it was preventative. As I went through this day I often thought about the children who spend months in and out of the hospital, those who have had countless surgeries, or battle a terminal illness. My heart goes out to their parents who watch hours go by during their kids surgery and pray that when the doctor rolls them out that there will be some good news. Now as I go about my day, I count my blessings, and feel like I am keeping my eyes out for someone who might be suffering. Not because I can help them, although, I wish I could, but because perhaps I can connect with them and let them know I understand. It is never a question of IF we will all suffer in life, it is a question of when. If everyone could learn that, perhaps then we could be a bit more sensitive. Speaking of sensitive, my boy's road to recovery was a few tough days of being afraid to stand up, but once he took a few steps again it was hard to get him to stop. So grateful!





Friday, April 21, 2017

Cuba!

Taking a five day trip without my children wasn't something I had planned on doing for a long time. I have had the travel bug for the last few years and I just kept daydreaming about how we could all hop on a plane, or when we will one day pull the kids out of school and live abroad for six months. I have high hopes that my kids after-school language classes will be enough so they can translate for us when we go to China...someday. If only we had sufficient disposable income, we could visit our close friends in Europe for a weekend. A girl can dream.

Cuba has been on top of my list since I met my husband. On our first date he told stories about his time in Havana. He spoke about how life-changing the country was, how it was a time piece, and how the locals welcomed him when he was there. When he spoke of his experience there was a magic twinkling in his eye. I needed to see it for myself. We had always talked about going together. He even had a website that he created for people who wanted to go from America. Since at that time it wasn't legal to just be a tourist, there were other ways to plan a trip. He made T-shirts that said "Cuba" on the front, and "Travel bans are unAmerican" on the back. We even met with a Cuban family here in LA to plan a trip together, but then I got pregnant, and traveling to Cuba took a seat in the back of one of the old Cuban cars, and drove away...for a while.

This past January when friends of ours were getting married in Havana, the idea popped back in my head. I wanted us to go, but we couldn't figure out a way to both go, and we didn't feel comfortable leaving the kids behind. Then my sister called a month later from Israel, and asked if I would meet her there. She explained that I didn't have much time to decide because she needed to buy her ticket. After a quick conversation with my husband about logistics, I said yes! I booked my ticket and planned my trip.

It wasn't until a week or two before that I realized I wasn't just going to New York or even Europe where I might be far, but I would be reachable. Cuba has little-to-no wifi -- what if my family needed me? What if I needed them?  I got a bit panicked, and questioned my decision. As the days approached, I got teary, scared, and my old friend anxiety reared it's head. I was worried my nerves would ruin my trip, but I was determined to have a good experience. After all, the best travel is equal parts terrifying and thrilling. It is what I craved. I wanted my eyes open to a new place, a new culture, and a new world. That is exactly what I got.

Upon landing in Havana and getting a cab, I learned quickly that I would have to try and speak in Spanish even if I sounded like an idiot. Immediately I could hear my dad's voice in my head saying, "I told you you should've taken Spanish more seriously in school." I definitely didn't work hard enough in that class, and I am sorry now. I got to my casa particular (a home you rent from a local, where they host you, and cook you breakfast) and took in my surroundings. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was beautiful and broken at the same time. The city was bustling but the buildings were dilapidated, the colors were vibrant and new, yet as far as my eye could see, everything was from a different era. It was, in fact, a time piece: the cars, the sky, the Malayan surrounding the city -- all of it was a feast for my eyes. My sister and her friend met me there and we had an exciting reunion. The three of us spent the first day or so together, and we kept saying, "Hey, we are in Cuba!"

The first night I went to sleep with a lump in my throat. I missed my husband, I missed my children, and I felt really far away from anything even remotely familiar. I wasn't able to make contact with my family, and it with the first time since being a parent that I couldn't at least tell them goodnight and I love you. I didn't sleep well. The chickens in Cuba are very confused and were clucking in the middle of the night. Time seemed to be moving too slowly and the idea that I would be gone four more nights made my heart hurt. The next day I spent with my sister and her friend, and it was a fun, full and busy day. Still there were so many days ahead, and it felt like a daunting amount of time to be away. I also hadn't spent any real amount of one-on-one time with my sister in years. I know I loved her, I talk to her often, but we also have had troubles seeing eye-to-eye on some visits together in the past. We were never alone though. There were always so many other people, schedules, and family dynamics that came into play when we saw each other. I was worried that those elements would cause us to bicker, or that our individual idiosyncrasies would annoy the other. Traveling well together with other people is not always easy.

The next day my sister's friend left and it was just the two of us. I learned very quickly that telling someone else what you think is wrong with them can only negatively impact your time with them. I am sure she was reminded when she was with me that I had some annoying traits. For example, I don't know anyone who appreciates my sense of timing, because it sucks. We all have our "stuff" but just because thoughts come into my head, doesn't always mean it would be a good idea to say them out loud. So I kept my mouth shut and surprisingly, I started to only see the qualities in my sister that I missed for so long. We had such a good time together. We laughed together at how bad our Spanish was. I was so impressed at how well she knew how to read maps, how she could somehow communicate with a mix of Spanish and Hebrew, when at times only Italian came out of my mouth. We finished conversations that have been interrupted since we both started having children. We rode the local bus, rode every kind of Cuban taxi, and even rode horses. We swam in the bluest water at the beach.We tried food we loved, and food we will be happy to never try again.  We took nightly walks down the street where we stayed and got ice cream for 17 cents, and tried to figure out what flavor it was since none of the words translated.

The night before she left, we went out for dinner at a really beautiful restaurant. Our last day together had been one of the best. We joked that we had done it all, since we had a little list of things we wanted to see and do and we managed to squeeze it all in. We should have been festive mood but instead I felt a flood of anxiety. I was so proud of us for taking this trip and we had an amazing time, but I suddenly got so sad. I mentioned it to my sister, and she helped me. She talked me through exactly what I was feeling, helped me look at what was rational and what was irrational, and then she helped me plan the rest of the time I would be in Havana without her. The way she took care of me was the way she did when I was younger. She has almost nine years on me and I have always looked to her for advice growing up. I grew up though, and so much time had past since she I have needed her in this way, and yet the quality of support she gave me was just as I remembered. I was crying because I missed my family so much and I was relieved to go home, but I was going to miss her.

Like many places in the world, when in Cuba you quickly realize all we take for granted here. There are very few resources available to them. Supermarkets carry only what is available to them so you will see the shelves filled with the six random items they were able to get that week. You feel how far you are from the instant gratification we get from Amazon, Target, and a green tea latte. When asked where I was visiting from, they can only imagine what California would be like. The politics, policies and limitations don't allow for Cubans to travel outside of the country. So while I might have looked around at them and felt grateful for all I have, they looked at us like we were crazy when my sister and I said we live in different countries. Once home my sister and I have quickly jumped back into a day-to-day lives, but Cuba will never be forgotten. We both traveled pretty far for this trip, and what what we found in each other will never be lost again.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hug!

This is not my best week. I know I am not in the minority when I say this is a strange year so far. I am trying to see the bright side. This week however can suck it! I am not happy with the state of our world, our country, and more specifically my house.  As soon as I clean it, it gets messy. As soon as I put out one tantrum, another begins, As soon as I put down a nice meal, the complaints come. My parents moved across the world and I miss them. It's spring time and I am not skipping about it yet. My lips are chapped, my kids a whiner, and I am always running out of time!

Sheesh, that made me feel a bit better. This morning after I dropped my kids off at school, I thought I should get home and get to some of the things I need to do. I realized why I don't run off after dropping them off though. It is my only time to connect with other adults after the chaos of getting them out of the door. I crave those few brief connections I make before I go about my day. This morning I saw a friend who recently lost her dad. I hugged her, we chatted about politics, family, wills, and how we spent our twenties trying to get away from out parents and now we would do anything to be closer to them. I had a bit of a cry, and as we parted ways we hugged again. I really needed it, and took it in.

Yesterday, my son was being really testy. He is definitely going through a rough week himself. He is asserting his independence a lot lately. I doubt he could be much ruder about it. He wants my husband over me from the moment he wakes up. If I am the first person he sees, he lets me know instantly that he is disappointed. It's a pretty awful way to be greeted first thing in the morning. He is obsessed with candy and TV, so when we remind him that we aren't giving in to either one of those requests at 7 in the morning, it's an instant meltdown. There are a lot of tears, usually his. Yesterday, out of nowhere though, he came up to me and gave me a huge hug. I melted. I thanked him and took it in.

Last night, my husband and I were both exhausted. It was after 9 when we finally sat down just the two of us. It was the first time all day that we could discuss something other than the kids. I brought up things that we need to get done, and after a long day of work that was the last thing he wanted to hear. We got into an argument, which is not the norm for us, and he got up and said he was going to bed. It was just a case of poor topic and timing on my end, and it was a pretty awful way to end the day. I sat on the couch for a while, trying to figure out how to turn it around. I didn't come up with anything except to put the day to rest.

When I went upstairs, my daughter was still awake. She was having trouble sleeping and so I sat next to her. She could tell I was upset and she asked if I was okay. When I told her I was sad, she asked why. I answered that I didn't exactly know why. She took me in her arms and hugged me. She rubbed my back, and I took it in.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Seat Beans


The second child often doesn't get the same kind of baby book the first does. My husband took pictures of me pregnant every week with both pregnancies, but only one got an album made. I also kept a great pregnancy journal with the first. The second's is sporadically filled in. When my daughter was born I brought the brand new baby journal with me to the hospital to begin filling in her details. With my son I never even bought one. My friend who is a third child jokes that her parents filled in her sister's baby books but she stubbled on hers and it never made it out of the wrapper.

Now my son is four and a half, and my daughter is eight.  Before I forget all the first things they have done, I want to also remember the last time they do them. We ride our bike to school and my son still fits in the toddler seat on my bike. His head is right in front of mine.This is one of my favorite times of the day because we are so close to each other and that I get to see things the way he does. Along with my daughter we pass a block that has a lot of snails, and everyday we count them on the way to school. I made a decision that no matter how rushed we were, I will always slow down to count the snails. I love listening to them find them and count them out loud.

Every night we cuddle up to read books. My son gets two books before bed and we read them together with my husband in our bedroom. My daughter is into her own chapter books now, so she usually reads in her bed until I am done putting her brother to sleep. After I read him his books, I put him in his bed, say goodnight and then he will ask me to check on him in one minute. I come back in one minutelater and say sweet dreams. His reply has been "Seat Beans" until this week. He said it correctly "sweet dreams.” There goes another last.

Bedtime reading has changed with my daughter too. We can no longer read her books. That last happened when she discovered her love of reading in first grade. Now we cozy up on her bed at night, each of us reading our own books. It is one of may favorite parts of the day and I hope it stays forever.  Today is the first day back to school after holiday break. As parents said goodbye to all the slow moving kids, who were out of the routine, a parent said,"Here is to the second half of third grade!" This is the fastest moving slow time I have ever experienced. 


I remember the day I came home from the hospital with my newborn son. My husband was carrying him up the stairs to show my daughter. I walked behind them and as he called to her to look at her baby brother, she called out, "Is mama home?" Up until the moment I had left to deliver her brother, her mommy was all hers. We were so bonded and when we brought a new little person into the mix, we were all a bit thrown. We now move as foursome quite well. Sure, there are days where we get on each others nerves, but more often than not we are stopping to smell the roses together. We just have to remember to hold those inhales a bit longer, since the blooming happens rather quickly and we don't want to miss anything.



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Smile!

There are many things that I am, but shy is not one of them. I am usually pretty friendly, and on a typical day I smile at most people I walk by. This wasn't always the case. Growing up in NYC, rarely did you smile at anyone while you walked down the street.If we did our face would hurt from smiling because there are too many people to smile at, and anyway no one is really looking at each other. Everyone is too busy trying to get somewhere.  It would be like people in LA trying to smile at every driver they drive by in a car. It just doesn't happen. When I pass by people now though, I smile. You never know whose soul it might warm that day.

This has been an interesting time of year for friendliness. A lot of people are on edge with the state of our country. There has been so much division, haters and an uneasiness has fallen upon many of us. If nothing else, I think a smile might be the smallest gesture of "we are in this together" that is needed right now. I have been teaching mindfulness to the classes in my daughter's school. I teach the kids about eye contact, about noticing themselves and the people around them. As I left the school today I was thinking of my own lesson, and I took it to heart.

My husband and I both have aging parents, and we got some not so great news yesterday about one of them. I was in the middle of a lunch with someone when I got the call, and I was too shocked to finish my lunch. There is a time and a place fore faking it, and then there is a time to be real. Tears filled my eyes as I told her what I had just heard. I processed out loud as much as I could before losing all words. I excused myself and told her I was too distracted and needed to leave. There might not be the "right" words to say, but people understand.

Our heads have been occupied by confusion, sadness, worst case scenarios and prayers. We have been putting up our best stiff upper lips, going on about our days as best as we can. As I came home from taking the kids to school, I ran into a friend on his way to work. We went through the regular chit chat, and then I asked him how he was. He confessed that he is suffering. His mom is really sick and he is depressed. He battles between gratitude and "whats the point?”. For a quick moment, judgmentally I was taken aback. Why was he telling me all this? Then I realized he was being honest, and it was helpful for us both to hear each other.

Life is hard. One moment you see rainbows and shooting stars, and the next you could get hurt, or lose someone you love. It's not always fair, but no one is alone. As my father said yesterday when I complained about illness and aging, "No one leaves this planet alive." We need to make the best of the time here and when it sucks, we need to be gentle on ourselves. I passed by a total stranger after walking away from my friend, and she smiled at me. As I smiled back, and felt grateful. Her smile was a little gift and I needed it. It warmed my soul.

















Friday, March 3, 2017

What Breaks Your Heart?

My kids and I went to the park after school recently, and I started talking to some of the other parents hanging at the park. A mom with whom I'm friendly was talking about an event that she had been to the night before. It wasn't quite a motivational seminar as there were no major plans for life changes that came from it, rather thought provoking ideas to take home and ponder. She was explaining a bit of what they did, and who spoke. I was trying to understand what it was, and she told me some of the questions they asked. One of the questions was, "What breaks your heart?". I haven't stopped thinking about this question.

I thought about mental illness, homelessness, war, but my quick answer was the elderly. Personally I have aging parents and so this subject is on my mind a lot lately. I have always been sensitive to the aging though. When I see a senior citizen at the end of their life I get sad because the way people slow down, and fade away is done with so little respect from younger generations. There is very little dignity in getting old. I was discussing this at a dinner recently and a friend joked that her heart doesn't break for the elderly because they can be so annoying. It is true that when we stop being capable of taking care of ourselves and suddenly have to cared for like babies again, it is understandable that crotchety behavior rears its head. I've also watched so many people have to live in pain when they get older. There is a point where doctors often say, "there is not much left we can do to help you." That would put me in a bad mood.

There are so many things that I wish I could change. After a week thinking about it, I became acutely aware of the injustice, racism, hatred and inequality that fills me with rage. I think about the social change that I wanted to see happen in college that is sadly more in need of happening than even then. With time, I understood that there are so many things that break my heart. Depending on the day, week, month, or minute my quick answer will be different. When I think about ageism though I do feel that people generations ahead of me, are wise, and although they may not always be in the most friendly mood, they have a lot more experience living life than the rest of us. Each and everyone of them have lived through more history than I have and have pretty fantastic stories about how freedom and opportunities have changed since they were young. So when thinking about what breaks my heart, I can answer it quickly but it is a complicated answer. I didn't even go to this workshop and I have gotten so much out of that question. I have begun to open my eyes to what my part is in working towards change. If there is something I feel is unjust, I want to do more than simply identify my feelings. 


What breaks your heart?

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