Thursday, August 22, 2013

Updates and such

We're still trying to find a school for Snuggler for the fall. Yes, this fall. That means two weeks from now. It's not an easy process; New York is notorious for being difficult about school placements, and we're looking at a complicated array of needs. I went to visit one school a couple of weeks back, about which I had many questions and for which I only began to find out answers yesterday.

After talking with the school social worker I spoke with the "educational consultant" who is helping us, to de-brief. "I think that woman doesn't like me," I told her, "But she'll get over it!"

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My mother gave Snuggler a Nook for her birthday. I have mixed feelings about it; I'm beginning to hate what screens do to the family dynamic. But there are benefits, too.

The other night Snuggler downloaded an app called Songify, which turns whatever you say into a pop song. My kids are big Jane Austen fans, so they recorded oddities like "Mr. Darcy eating cheesecake in a bathtub outside", and had them altered into some sort of rap song. It was quite clever. And then all five of them (Eldest is home for an end-of-summer visit) sat around doing preschool karaoke and laughing endlessly.
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When you have several children, there is an enhancement to the one-thing-always-leads-to-another rule, so one thing leads to two or three things. I dunno what's with that; somebody must think that moms of many have an inner need to stay busy. On Tuesday I took Big Guy for a routine checkup and now I need to set up appointments for allergy shots, an ENT visit, and possibly a sleep study. Yesterday I went for a routine checkup and now I have to schedule a bone density test (thanks to my broken jaw), a dermatology visit, a mammogram, colonoscopy, GYN appointment and, er... something I can't remember. I go back to the dentist in ten days.

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Nonetheless, things are looking a bit better around here. I know that sounds ridiculous, because the odds that they could get worse (or even continue in the same vein) are pretty small. Snuggler is feeling more like herself. Andrew's depression is lifting. The boys are less anxious. My jaw is healing. I've had work coming in steadily, and even -- gasp! -- had time to do it.

I've been getting plenty of walking in, usually between two and four miles a day. This is easy in the city, because a) we have lots of sidewalks, and b) the alternative is paying for public transportation. At $2.50 per person per trip, it makes sense to walk if at all feasible. I also get in an extra quarter mile walking to the grocery store after discovering someone ate the last butter/milk/bread. And you know how often that happens!

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Tomorrow I'm off to Big Guy's school for his "senior meeting". Yes, it's his last year in high school. It will also be Eldest's last year in college. Andrew will officially become a senior, too, in October. Me, all I get are senior moments. I think that's okay, don't you?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Healing and growing and something nice

My jaw is doing a lot better. I'm still wired up, but the bulk of the pain is gone. On Monday the dentist told me I was healing nicely... and that I shouldn't chew on the left side for another two weeks. Fortunately I can now chew gently on the right. That's okay; the memory of last week's pain is strong enough that I am still a  long way from yearning for a toasted bagel with cream cheese!

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This week I've been bogged down in a backlog of work. This is good, inasmuch as it means I have work, but I'm feeling a bit like Katy and the Big Snow, with a whole town to plow through.

When I think of how I've grown up in recent years, learning to plow through hard stuff is definitely near the top of the list. There are skills which help: breaking problems into smaller pieces so they're not so overwhelming, re-framing problems, acknowledging how I feel and then moving on, consciously paying attention to the positives. Getting out and doing things for others, whether it's talking about how to homeschool or how to handle a tricky parenting issue or teaching a class, keeps me from getting too self-absorbed, too.

That said, at this point I'd just as soon have a nice long streak of good luck. The broken jaw was kind of over the top.

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Fort Tryon Park TrustAs if to signal a change of direction, the other day I ran into the woman who's in charge of the park for our part of Manhattan. “I’ve been meaning to call you,” she said, “Would you be willing to be our honoree for the Fort Tryon Park Trust benefit next month?”

“What would you be honoring?” I asked, jokingly. I’m not a big financial donor. I volunteer at events and teach classes because I can, not for thanks or recognition. I don’t care for awards or shout-outs or thank-you's. 

“We want to honor you for being an asset to our community,” she replied, "For all the things you do." 

I thought about that, and decided I could own it: to be honored for being a light, rather than to bask in the limelight. Besides, this is one of my favorite events of the year, and one that I helped establish. It's pretty awesome to sip wine overlooking the Hudson at sunset. If you can come and support the park on September 17, please do. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Effective Complaining

I've been reading The Squeaky Wheel, which is about effective complaining. There's an epidemic of whining and venting in the world today, and most of it isn't even intended to correct problems.

I'm always interested in solving problems, in making things a wee bit better. But I do neglect to write letters of complaint when I'm sold a bum good, and I don't always call 311 to report (yet another) streetlight out. The author cites a survey which says that the #1 reason people say they don't complain to someone who can fix the problem is that "they don't have time". However, the same people report they vent to between 7 and 10 people about the problem. So the time's there... it's just not spent effectively.

I'm not a big fan of venting. It gets my heart over-focused on the negative. If I "need" to vent to seven people, chances are I'm ruminating, re-experiencing a negative event seven times, instead of processing it.

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According to the book, another reason people vent instead of complain is that they don't know the right person to contact to fix things. Not in the book: there is a class of problems in life for which there is no correct contact person.

There is no decision-maker whose responsibility is to make a mentally ill person well.

There is no one who can approve a change in a bad relationship to make it better.

And to whom do you complain to fix a chronically ill child?

Those of us who are let's-fix-it types have to be careful to remember that not everything is fixable in the same way. (And yes, even though God can fix things, it's not his job to do our bidding.)

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My upper left jawbone is fractured. It happened at the dentist, a freak accident. I am not going to sue anyone, though undoubtedly I could (and I'd win). Sometimes complaining -- effectively or not -- is not what one needs to do.

Instead, I spoke to the distraught woman who broke my jaw, and told her I forgave her. My jaw will heal, but perhaps her life would not, without gentle words.