Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Of Prematurity and Pandemics

November 17 is World Prematurity Day. It's also my preemie twins' birthday. Coincidental? I think not. Their first year and this year of the pandemic have become deeply intertwined in my brain. It's a weird brain, I admit. Jump on over to the Mike&Ollie site to view my musings. 

If you would like to honor Molly and Isaac's amazing journey, please wear a mask. 

Be well. Be safe. Be careful. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

28? No Way! Happy World Prematurity Day

There are two kinds of people in the world: those old enough to have 28-year-old twins, and those not. Clearly, I am far too young for that, but a woman who looks an awful lot like me has written a spectacular tribute post celebrating their birthday and World Prematurity Day over on the Mike&Ollie blog. You don't want to miss it. Read more here.

Happy birthday, Isaac and Molly!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Vote 2018

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way the could do this is by not voting. — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States 
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who vote and those who don't.
It's your right.
It's your responsibility.
Not voting is not a form a protest, it's abdication.
Not registered? You can register to vote on Election Day (November 6, 2018) in:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • DC
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Now Hampshire
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Don't know where your polling place is? Find it here.
Don't know how to cast your vote? Take a minute, get a sample ballot from your area here, and figure it out.
Don't know why you should vote? Here are some of my reasons:

  • Vote because you are a citizen and it's your privilege and responsibility.
  • Vote so you have a say in how things run and who we will be as a country.
  • Vote so you can complain. That's right, put up or shut up.
  • Vote because when you don't, someone else gets to tell you how things will run.
  • Vote because "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried…." So said Winston Churchill, who was paraphrasing some unknown pundit. 
  • Vote to keep this crazy, mixed up, flawed, fantastic experiment of a country from losing the bet that it wouldn't work.
And if those reasons don't do it for you:

Vote because I said so. 

Please. I'm asking you nicely.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Heros and Goats

©Charles M. Schulz
There are two kinds of people in the world: heroes and goats. Just one of the many lessons I learned from Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang.

For the record, we're Michigan fans. That's The University of Michigan. We bleed maize and blue.

I never miss Michigan football. At just 13 per games per season (when we go to a bowl game), it's an easy commitment to make. I've always liked Michigan basketball (in theory), but freely admit that the season is just too long for me, with more than 30 games in the regular season and a bazillion tournament games.

But last year, our team nearly got blown off an airport runway and then went on to win the B1G (Big Ten) Championship, and I got sucked in. It was a great story. And then we won the B1G again this year, and that was just plain fun

Basketball is fun, at least college basketball, and March Madness is … mad. It's one of the few times in life when you feel like anything can happen. And, according to my brother, it usually does. The youth, the adrenaline, the superstitions, the speed of the game, all add up to a level of unpredictability that can change the momentum in a literal moment.

It's a time when a school no one has ever heard of—University of Maryland Baltimore County—becomes the trending hashtag #UMBC as the first ever 16 seed to beat a #1 team in the NCAA tournament

It's a time of upsets, broken records, Cinderella stories, and buzzer beaters.

It's a time when fans (even only sometimes fans, like me) are on the edge of their seats. I had a great time watching Michigan's buzzer beater against Houston last Friday night. It was particularly sweet because I got to watch it with my own Michigan junior, who came home for the weekend. We ran around the room cheering, like the team ran around the court after watching Jordan Poole arc that perfect winning three-pointer into the hoop at the last second.

The last two minutes of a basketball game are all that really matter (blasphemy, I know, but it's true). This was certainly true of the Michigan-Houston game. Watch those two minutes in the clip below and you can see the "hero", Jordan Poole and his winning shot. You can see the "goat", Houston's Devin Davis, miss his last two free throws, which should have won the game.

You may have already seen a clip of that shot. I wouldn't be surprised. It's been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

But have you seen this clip? Maybe not. These seven seconds were caught by Jeffrey Parsons just a few seconds after the buzzer beater. Michigan's forward Mo Wagner stopped mid-celebration to console Houston's devastated Corey Davis, Jr. The photo at the top of the article shows Wagner giving a conciliatory pat to Devin Davis—the guy who missed the free throws.

Or how about this one, University of Virginia coach Tony Bennett, who could have been the goat after his team's historic loss.

Everyone wants to be the hero. Jordan Poole and his "overdose of swag" certainly does. He's practiced for it and that's great.

No one wants to be the goat. Certainly not Devin Davis, who has overcome a lot in his short life, and shouldn't get derailed for two missed free throws.

It's a world of heroes and goats. But I like the way Wagner and Bennett are redefining things for us. Maybe a hero is not just the guy who made the winning shot, but the guy who took a second to recognize another's pain. Maybe the goat is a hero in disguise, teaching us the most important life lessons.

Because everyone has the potentialities of a hero or a goat.

Because, despite what we see in the world, in politics, and in business—in life, it is how you play the game.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Here we go #NaNoWriMo

Here we go again. Haven't posted here in ages. Haven't written (my stuff) in ages. November 1 crept up on me and I'm not at all ready to do this. But I'm doing it. And I've got to say, it feels really good to be writing. How long will it last this year? Who knows. But I'm over 5K words already. I like my idea. What more does one need.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

The First Time I Felt Like an Adult*

There are two kinds of people in the world: adults and children, and these designations have nothing to do with age.

My world today, at this moment, is crowded with all things adult. I've been trying to suck up all the adultness I can muster to find rational, effective, and productive ways to fight all the new battles that have been launched by our new administration.

In the midst of all that, my best adult role model — my mom (who I am pretty sure was born an adult) — is lying helpless in an ICU hospital bed. There is nothing like a critically ill parent to make you have to adult-up.

Then along came Christine Wolf (an amazing writer), who shared a writing prompt from ChicagoNow: When was the first time you felt like an adult. Thank you for the prompt and the distraction, Christine. I've already paced every square inch of this hospital and you reminded me that writing is my way through things.

It's almost ubiquitous that having children suddenly makes you feel like an adult. My first high-risk pregnancy and my very preemie twins certainly started me down the path to adulthood, but the first time I really felt like an adult was a couple of years later, when the daily traumas of their premature birth were pretty well behind us.

It was an ordinary day with two toddlers (if there is such a thing). I was on the phone getting a fix of adult conversation when I heard a small crash in the kitchen. Upon investigation, I realized Molly had knocked over the trash. Not a big deal. I picked everything up while I continued my conversation.

Molly came up to me and put her arms around my neck and hugged me tight. I finished up my call and picked her up into a hug. She was not crying and didn't seem upset, but she wouldn't let go of me. I set her down and noticed that her fists were squeezed tight. A stream of red leaked from her right fist down her arm. I started hyperventilate. I wasn't great with blood.

You are the grownup, I reminded myself. "Sweetie, open your hand so Mama can see," I told my daughter. She did, and I saw more of the internal anatomy of a hand than I had ever hoped to see. I figured out later that she had picked up the sharp lid of a tuna can from the garbage and in transferring it from her dominate left hand into her right, she had sliced open her palm. Not good.

I grabbed a clean kitchen towel and told her to squeeze it tight. Then I called my husband at work. "Hi …" That's all he got out.

"Molly cut her hand. It's really bad. And I just realized you can't help me." And I hung up on him. Poor man.

About to panic, I once again reminded myself that I was the only adult in the house and that meant, well, that I had to be an adult.

I called my neighbors who had four kids. Ed tried to chitchat, but I told him what had happened. He, being a full-fledged adult, asked "What can I do?"

"Come get Isaac," I said. I grabbed Molly and one diaper bag, practically threw Isaac, his blanket, and the other diaper bag at Ed as soon as he got to the door, and buckled my wounded daughter into her carseat.

A wave of vertigo swept over me as I started the car. "Stop it," I said to myself. "You can do this. You must do this." So I rolled down the car window and spoke encouragingly to Molly all the way to the hospital where they had spent the first five months of their lives.

Molly and Isaac were practically legends at Evanston Hospital. Several people on staff (even in the ER) recognized us. We had to wait quite a while for a hand specialist to make sure there was no ligament damage before they could stitch her up. Molly was stoic. She still had not cried.

Once the x-rays and exams had been taken, a nurse in the room let me step down from being an adult during the most crucial moments of the night. "Look," she said. "You don't need to be here. You won't be able to hold her. We have to strap her down. If you stay, she's going to think you are a co-conspirator. Go take a break, check on Isaac, and when you come back, you can be the hero who rescues her from us monsters."

I wavered for a good 15 seconds before I took her advice and bailed. Some adult! I called to check on Isaac. He was sleeping peacefully at the neighbors. I called my husband to apologize for leaving him hanging and to update him on everything. I waited five more minutes and then I made my way, guiltily, back to the ER.

The nurse was right. Molly stopped crying and reached for me the second I came back into the room. She glared at the medical staff as if they were the devil's own and clung to me as we left to go home and pick up her brother. In her eyes, at least, I was the adult she could count on.

*Thanks again, Christine, for allowing me to escape being an adult for this hour while I played with my words.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Debate: Arguing Semantics

There are two kinds of people: those who think words matter, and those who don't. If you guessed that this blogger/grammar nerd believes in the power of words, you'd be right. Let's start with a disclaimer: I'm not really interested in having a political debate here. If you know me at all or read on, you'll probably be able to predict my vote today (please vote), but I'm not looking to stand on a political soap box or to incite a comment war—there are plenty of people doing that already.

While watching the debates this year, I also followed along on Twitter—at once an enlightening, inspiring, disheartening, and exhilarating experience. Among my favorite debate twitter feeds came Dictonary.com, which posted about the trending word lookups during the debate. (Bestill my beating heart, people were looking up words in the dictionary! So proud.) Here's a sample (click the image to read more):

So, let's start with the word debate. There are many definitions, the two most common being:

(noun) a discussion in which people or groups state different opinions about a subject.
(verb) to argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner.

My favorite, however, is this: "to consider an action or situation carefully before you decide what to do." That's what our presidential debates should help us do. They should be part of what has been called civil discourse—the notion 
"that people can have very different values and political preferences, but can still discuss these differences in a civil manner (from the National Institute for Civil Discourse). Sadly, as I've said before, our public discourse is rarely civil these days. 

Earlier in the election cycle, I read a great article by the novelist Nicholas Delbanco who argues eloquently for the the importance of the liberal arts, particularly language and literary arts:
"I believe a culture does itself no damage by attending to its language, and the idea that every phrase should and must be scrutinized is central to democracy."
I feel that virtually all of our political discourse has mutated from civil to vitriolic, and that the language we use has sunk to the level of playground bullying. I don't like to engage in that kind of conversation—in virtual shouting matches where no one listens and everyone is angry. Frankly, it gives me a headache.

Not everyone is facile with words, or uses them precisely and with ease. My husband has often said: "English is my second language. I don't have a first." Funny, yes. But is it an explanation or an excuse. Early on, we had one of the marital "discussions" (read fights) that has defined virtually all discussions going forward. Somewhere along the line, he said something to this effect: "I'm not as good as you are with words. What I say and how I say it aren't important. You should know what I mean."

I disagreed. Vehemently. I said that it felt like I'm being made responsible for both sides of the conversation. I hear: "It doesn't matter what I say or how I say it, it's your responsibility to reinterpret it so that I sound good."

I, on the other hand, pride myself on my use of language. I have a strong vocabulary and try think about what I say before I say it. Which means, that when I say something rude or angry or mean, well, I probably mean it. At least at the time. I take no pride in that. Lately, some of my personal discourse has been less than civil, and it's something that concerns me. That's the main reason why I have avoided political discussion this election cycle. But it turns out, I do have just a few words to say about it.

One of our candidates for president doesn't believe in the power of words—"It's just words, folks." In fact, that entire campaign dismissed even its own candidate's words as inconsequential.

But as a writer, I believe that words do matter—that thinking about your words, practicing them, and stating them with passion and compassion, is vitally important.
"Words matter, my friends. And if you are running to be president, or are president of the United States, words can have a tremendous influence." — Hillary Rodham Clinton
 I've only got two more words to say about this election:

Please Vote