Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Celebrating Freedom

It sort of all fell into place this week - it is after all a July 4th weekend - so maybe it it is fitting that we celebrate freedoms. 

Here is my list of freedoms that I will be thinking about this week;

Freedom of speech - I mean after all really how can one write a blog, post it, have it be seen round the world and not be thankful to live in a place where I have freedom of speech.  Yes freedom of speech - now you could say something stupid, hateful or just plain nasty and you know what there are many who would denounce you, companies that will not work with but you can still say it and for everyone who thinks you may be a jerk there are those who will read what you said and see themselves in you.  Scary and liberating at the same time. 

Freedom to vote - seems bit obvious - so umm why aren't more people who can actually using this vote - I know point above means you can complain ad nauseum about everything but with silence and the pull of a lever you actually would be louder. 

Freedom from school - this one is for my and all kids .. man I envy that stretch of summer they get.  Let them enjoy it because it doesn't last forever, no not even in Sweden or France even they do not have full summers off as adults .

Freedom from being cold all the time - ok well this one is particular to me and areas with seasons - but I like the fact that some point I am free of every season  - to exercise my right to freedom of speech and complain about winter and praise every other season. 

Freedom to love and marry - there are plenty of those of us who have always been able to get married who may have a few sarcastic comments about why someone would want to marry but according to the Supreme Court now you can marry whoever is a consenting adult.  This is awesome and while I know that there are those who seem to want to tell me that it is not in deity book of choice I say "who cares" we do not live under sharia law which I am grateful for every day.  

Freedom from work - for the coveted long weekend since unlike my kids summers for me are not off with pay. 

Freedom - in general, it is a coveted and wonderful thing.  Maybe this July 4th we should remember that it is not easily gotten and that this country and every other that has it has fought hard for it.  This Independence Day it is time to let free hate and disdain and all those things that take our freedom to enjoy life.  Free yourself from hate and anger - it will be so liberating - give you so much time to focus instead on what you can accomplish rather than what you want to tear down. 

Thank you to those brave souls, imperfect in many ways, infallible in others who decided it was not about the good of one but the good of all to have and enjoy freedoms ... Happy Fourth !!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness......Declaration of Independence 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Evolutions and Retirements

In the past couple of months I have gone to 2 retirement parties - for two people I could never actually imagine retiring.

One of the parties was for one of my my first bosses.  He and his wife were the model that I try and manage people from.  At his retirement party his daughter mentioned how she learned to eat fancy from one of her dad's doctor friends - I learned to eat fancy from her mom and dad.  They encouraged me to be more than I thought I could be and believed in me when I was my best and even when I stumbled in my life.  I owe my career choices and much of who I have strived to be to them.

The other retirement party was for another doctor that I worked for later on in life.  He also taught me about ambition and goals.   As he became my friend and we shared interest in books, wine, music, art he also became my mentor and someone whose counsel I seek all the time.  He never has been too busy to listen to me ask him a career or personal question.   He also introduced me to his daughter who has become one of my closest friends.

I learned to appreciate how awesome it is to know a renaissance man and it has in many ways influenced the way I am raising my boys to be men who are well rounded, curious knowledge seekers.

I think what I have seen with these two men was an evolution in medicine, which has had leaps and bounds in the things we could do and have done to keep us living longer and longer, that changed the doctor patient dynamic and is taking it's leave with them and their generation.  They are the doctors who returned phone calls, listened to the patient, understood that sometimes you were a pain in the butt that needed that millionth reassurance, that a test that cost thousands wasn't always warranted yet other times absolutely necessary.  Of course among them were the ones who as in the famous quote said " I do not have a god syndrome - I am god - for it's me you pray to when I am in operating room - to me to not make a mistake" (Alec Baldwin gives a rockin' speech in Malice) but am sure those will always be around.  

They learned to be better doctors and their patients cried as HMOs told them they could no longer see these healers because they were not on the list of doctors they were trying to not pay.   Their patients stayed with them for years when they could and referred their families to them, nothing says I trust you like referring a friend or family member to a doctor.  They got more rushed too as their payments got smaller so they needed to see more people to keep up with their expenses, their time spent more on paperwork and explanations to someone who had at best walked by a medical school but was making decisions on cost alone, they spent more money on staff who handled billing insurance and learning coding and had to make tough decisions about not being able to write off a balance in a tighter economy.  They paid high rents, they paid for staff and in the end while the money they made ensured they too led a nice life they worked harder and harder to just maintain it.  Their patients' never felt the wrath of their anger with what became a witch hunt pitting them against their patients - because after all the insurance companies even had some woman in the NY Times op ed say "the poor insurers" - their malpractice high even when they had no claims against them, their judgement challenged by people who write a blog or are actors as if they knew anything about medical treatment.   Being informed patients was good for them, dealing with so many who think going to WebMD means they now are just as well trained to diagnose must be frustrating.

This is the evolution of medicine - or is it the retirement of good medical care that took care of the whole rather than the disease? We will have generations who will know nothing of private practices but only groups - who will not get personalized attention but technology and medicine that may save their lives.  We will complain that costs go up even though it was the HMO introduction that has cause much of this much more rapid cost growth and wonder how we can have it all, which we cannot.  There will always be good healthcare providers and we will continue to live longer due to pharmaceutical and technological evolutions.  Yet is bittersweet for we will retire our expectations along with the remaining doctors of that generation; to have doctors who take care of us as much as they take care of our bodies.  They practiced the art of medicine rather than the treatment of the disease.

I learned much from these men and I am fortunate to have had them in my life for so many years - they deserve their retirement and I thank them for setting the bar so high in my expectations of what I can accomplish, what to expect of medical care and most of all in what truly special people can do when you have them in your life.  I am lucky I will always have them in my life, and my memories, but I am sad for the patients who will not get to experience this art of  medicine, such is evolution.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

11 going on puberty

My 5th grader is having the puberty discussion today in school.  I have known this was coming all year and to some degree we talk about some things already but he is curious, nervous, giggly and knows only bits and pieces of what they may discuss (all gleaned from the class that went today and of course from the classroom known as back of bus talk).  This image I chose covers how I feel about my son - my baby who is on the verge of puberty .. ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The puberty talk - on the week of his birthday.  I know it is cliche but it really has gone so fast.  The first 2 years went slowly - maybe it was the lack of sleep, the frantic pace of trying to understand the whole motherhood thing and just the wonder of every blink, turn, milestone that was watched for with CIA stealth like surveillance (by me - yes by me).  

The rest of the time seem to speed up every time - here he was going to his first day of pre-k so how is it that in record speed he is now finished with elementary school?  I look at his friends and have the same thoughts - who are these boys that are getting taller?  these girls who are taller than the boys and have the beginnings of breasts?  I mean they are little kids still in so many ways and their bodies are pulling them toward teenager much too fast.  

I remember the puberty talk in my own 5th grade class.  I remember that they told us about menstrual cycles and showed us these pads that I still suspect may have been crib mattresses by the depth of them.  I remember smelling my arm pits to see if I had the smell they were talking about - I did not but may still be a bit of a fanatic about ensuring that I do not smell.  I also remember the blush and giggle of learning about the changes that were coming for me and boys, as well as about the penis ... who knew it could change shape like that ?  I did not grow up in an overly conservative house, my parents and their friends were good at off color jokes but puberty that was not open for discussion.  I recall getting my period in end of 6th grade, looking for pads (smaller than the mattress sized ones I saw in the movie, oh yeah which had some odd belt thing that I did not know what it was until later) and then calling my mother calmly to tell her.  My mother cried and then told family and friends -- nothing garners an eye roll like that memory.   Tampons came much later - my mother and her friends had a virginity issue with them no matter how much I told her it did not do anything to you, top it off with the Toxic Shock Syndrome cases that came out about that time and it took me and a job to get those in my arsenal. 

My son already heard about the dreaded "period" and I tried to calmly tell him that it is not a terrible thing - that he should not make girls feel weird about it because it is just a part of growing up - he was not that convinced, his friends explained that it was gross, I have some work to do.  I am not sure I am ready to think of my son and his friends in these terms but puberty and time wait for no one to be ready - it is awkward to go through it and I am finding it is a balance to mother to it.  

I am trying to balance between how much information my 11 year old, still yikes writing that number, really can handle, how not to make him think of sex as dirty or puberty as bad, to work on being ok with the changes and keeping the dialogue going and knowing that these things come with respect for yourself and for your partners.  I want my son to not be shamed or uptight without being flip about these things.   I do not recall having open discussions with my mom about these things, even older it was bits and pieces and a large part of that was not on her but on me.  As many kids do I was not sure she would ever relate, was hesitant to get a negative response and there is the natural yuck factor - I mean I really still would not want to swap details with my mother about anything that has to do with sex.  I know now though that she would have probably been kinder and less shocked then my younger self judged her.  My son will have his puberty talk at school tomorrow and I have had 11 years to build a trusting relationship with him that will continue to grow along with my amazing son. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

D.A.R.E and then some

  My son and his fellow 5th grade class just completed a D.A.R.E. graduation.  I was so proud, as were the other parents there,  about how awesome our kids are.  This is a program that is run by the local police department and is nationally recognized to start at a young age to teach kids to make good choices.  I know many laughed when Nancy Reagan first said "just say no" because it was simple - it is simple to say but you had to add some context to help kids know how to say no when yes is that much easier to say. 

In the years since it's inception this program has evolved and I have to say the kids were really jazzed about it.  It also brings back policing to not a "war on" which make it a us v them and combatant mentality to a community doing right by youngest citizens by teaching them to make good choices and the consequences of bad choices. 

As a mother I am sad and nervous about the drugs.  I know I am not supposed to say this but honestly I feel like I can work around the smoking thing  - though if I had to think of a gateway drug cigarettes are definitely it.  I remember my first stolen ones, from my parents, and I still say I loved smoking and the memories that go with it.  I chose to stop because I understand the consequences of continuing to smoke - so I said no .    I do know I made my own choices from there but I never crossed some boundaries - there were drugs that even at a young age I knew would be something I could not bounce back from - that would deprive me of my ability to say no. 

How do we keep our kids from drugs or drinking too much or drinking too early or having sex too early?  You cannot go all ostrich or hell and damnation on them because that does not work - they need to want to walk away and have the tools to do so under peer pressure.  Take yourself back to middle school or high school and remember that moment at a party when the beer can stopped in front of you or the joint stopped in front of you.  Even if you were never an abuser with all eyes on you saying no was not a choice most of us felt we had - if you did well then you are special.   So how do I keep my kids from knowing how to walk away.  I was lucky I knew that I should no longer hang out with a group of friends that was moving past the pot and the cheap liquor - tangent warning.  I cannot imagine why we thought drinking cheap liquor was a good idea, besides economics, it was nasty, it gave you the worst headache and most of all it got you nasty drunk.  So when my friends were moving into the heavier stuff - I made a choice to not hang out with them so much.  The guys were nice, shrugged it off, the girls were vicious - friends can hurt you more than any enemy.  I can share this experience with my kids - I survived but I also did not have to deal with social media attacks and I had enough other friends to support me.  Our kids need to make their own mistakes at times and they will all we can hope for is that we can help them make mistakes they can recover from or help them recover from them when the road gets hard.  We would love for them to not ever be in that position and provide a safe zone for if they are.  We owe them our attention and our support and they owe themselves respect - nothing should take that away from them.  

What we can teach our kids is how to choose friends who like them for who they are not for who they need to be to be friends with them.  We can encourage an open dialogue and even if we do not like what they are telling us to let them know we will help them.  We build this dialogue years prior to the age when these things are options and encourage their honesty.  It is not easy but what in parenting, besides the feeling of love you get, is.  

I applaud the D.A.R.E. program and I love the song the kids learned - we should remind them of it, a lot.  Drugs and alcohol and most of all peer acceptance are all things that have a very appealing pull - we just have to remind our children often, even when we are not comfortable, that they are in charge of their choices and that they shouldn't let the choices become in charge of them.   So the road to middle school begins ... 
People can tell me what they’ve done.  Maybe some things.  Maybe none.
But people can’t tell me what to do.  I will choose the way that’s true for me.
Don’t want to fall into the trap. Don’t want to be somebody’s sap.
I’m better than that.  I’ll go to the mat to prove I can be drug free!  Yeah, yeah!

D!  I won’t do drugs!
A! Won’t have An attitude!
R!  I will respect myself!
E!  I will educate me!
Repeat chorus

People can tell me what they know.  I will listen as I go.
But people can’t take my mind away.  Only I can have a say in me.
Don’t have to follow others’ path.  Don’t have to know their aftermath.
My mind is my own!  I’ll reap what I’ve sown!  I know I can be drug free!  Yeah, yeah!
 Repeat chorus twice

BOYS:              Check your attitude at the door…

GIRLS:I’m gonna beat the odds.  I won’t do drugs.  I won’t give in
 I’m gonna call the shots in my life.  And I’m going to win.
Don’t push me.  Don’t press me.  Don’t call me friend when
All you wanna do is drag me down.  It’s time for this to end!
Check your attitude at the door!  I do not want to score!
I only want to win in this drug war!

Yell: D-A-R-E

Everyone sings chorus 2 times with clapping
Sing Chorus 1 time quietly with no clapping.
Sing Chorus last time really loud!
Everyone:  Now!  Now!
Yell: D-A-R-E!
Sing:  I will dare!
Yell: Dare!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Cyber Bullies - delete this behavior

It never ceases to amaze me when people write a mass email or post on FB things that are happening to them privately.  I see social media like a virtual cocktail party - you know where you walk in, high heels and pretty dress, smile for the camera and share interesting but not deeply personal tidbits.  It is a good way for all of us to connect and to be partaking in a cause or the accomplishments of our friends and acquaintances.   It is not a sleepover with you and your couple of best friend, pints of Hagen Dazs/drinks and tissues at the ready as you spill because those people actually care and want to help.  The cocktail party crew they want to enjoy the time out and raising their glass along with you for a hearty "cheers". 

When that moves to personal, from kids to adults, complaints of everything from your best friend to your spouse to your child who may be struggling with a serious life issue well then I find it does two things 1) it makes those of us who are in cocktail party mode feel like we just walked into the bathroom and caught our neighbor in a flexible yet compromising position with someone other than the spouse she came with - we will look, gasp and this leads to 2) we feel empowered to have an opinion whether we saw you 10 min ago or back at the last 25 year high school reunion.   Worse yet it allows for bullying - I get it more than ever how bad this must be for kids. 

When I went to school at worst your name made a bathroom wall or you got shoulder bumped in a hallway - there were always people who were mean and who defined themselves at the expense of others.  Girls in particular are vicious - I cannot say I was ever bullied but I did have an unpleasant experience or two in my time.  I was lucky I was always friendly enough and social enough to have a buffer to shield me and move me along.  Not so lucky were girls who had to endure months or years of this - I saw it and sometimes I said something and others I shamefully will say I just did not have the time to give them.  Yet when we went home at worst you got a nasty hang up or call but it was not cyberspace  - that follows you - that allows kids to jump on the bullying bandwagon - that provides a place where you can just be as vicious as you want and others may actually click on Like for your nastiness.  

This happens with adults - people reply to all on emails where someone should probably have not sent it to all to begin with - people want to be part of the action and somehow we see too often people love to publicly shame people.  Not for big infractions but to sit smugly back and say well that's not me.  

As one of my kids is entering what is now a mine zone called Middle school I as a parent of this century need to know how to protect them and give them a safe space to speak when it starts and more importantly how to not be part of it themselves.  I went to an orientation and the principal was spot on with this "it starts with a friend group often that changes dynamic".  Happened to me when I chose not to go along with some behaviors I at 15 knew were pushing the envelope and did my close friends turn nasty on me ?? Yep but I had other friends and it broke my heart and I got over it and so did our friendship.   Now imagine that coming through your FaceBook Instagram Snapchat Vine Kik accounts and imagine it not going away and imagine that others who had nothing to do with it took the side of what was the Alpha because you know it's much easier than taking the side of right.

How much of that can we model for our kids to show that this is not  how we behave and how much do we tell our kids how to handle this ??  A lot is the answer in my mind.  I too have to watch how I treat these things - how I continue to be at the virtual cocktail party vs my diary on social media and most of to show them that it is just as cool and powerful to be kind - actually more so.  It is a minefield but you can help them be protected and ask for back up when needed.  More so you can teach them to not empower this behavior - be the power of positive.  So enjoy the media - in a social way - not as a diary.