Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Making the Band

These photos are by Becca Worple of owenemma photography.  They are totally used without her permission, but with much love and respect.

Sometimes I feel young, sometimes I feel old, sometimes I'm just happy with who and where I am.  The old part sucks.  I'm on high blood pressure medicine (which in and of itself makes you feel old because you are so freaking tired) and getting physical therapy for bursitis and tennis elbow.  Did you know there is a sack on your hip called the bursa and it can get inflamed?  I'm thinking I've had this since puberty and thus why I have saddle bags no matter how much I do or don't exercise.  Still there are a lot of days--once I've dragged myself out of bed--that I'm just happy to be who and where I am.  Ok never really happy about the saddlebags, but other then that.  My kids are a great age, they have great friends, we live in a great place and we have great friends.  We have terrible things happen--right now it seems like we are losing a lot of parents to things like cancer.  But I believe as long as there is a "we" we can get through it.  I'm very lucky because I haven't lost a parent, but I have lost my brother.  The "we" got me through it.

Now I've left this paragraph for most of the day, I have no idea where this pre-coffee random thought was going.  I'm pretty sure it was just an excuse to post the above picture.   I call the band "Midlife Crisis" however, most of the band does not like that name.  I guess some aren't there yet (the cute young lead singer and even younger guitarist) and some are happily on the other side.  The drummer on the other hand loved the name--his drums are a symbol (no pun intended) of his midlife crisis (which ironically enough coincided with the sudden death of his father).  Since they didn't like that name now I call them "The Old Man Band" (sorry to Marc and Robby).  It was very cute to have them come over twice a week to practice their music.  They would each come in with their six pack (of beer not belly) and go play music in our basement for a few hours.  Saturday night they played at our lacrosse fundraiser.  They sounded great (although I worried a bit that playing in the basement was like singing in the shower--which always sounds better then real life), they had a great time and I think most of the crowd was pleasantly surprised by their talent (and ability to all play the same tune at the same time).  
And (perhaps what I was trying to get at pre-coffee) it was fun to be "us" on Saturday night.  Didn't really matter whether we were 38 or 58, we had a few beers (or wine), admired the fact that some of our neighbors can sing and play instruments, and just had fun.  We were "in the moment."  I probably could have stayed up past midnight.  Fortunately I didn't since I rode my bike home uneventfully until I hit my driveway, literally.  

It's important to remember to take your feet off the pedals when you stop.

(Hoping to shamelessly steal video from Becca so you can hear their groove.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

My kids fight.  Whenever I get one of those Christmas letters that tells how the brothers get a long so beautifully, that Frank eagerly awaits Teddy's arrival home on the bus or that Teddy is teaching Frank all about legos, I think bull shit.  It's like the babies who sleep through the night at 6 weeks.  My kids fight, so I get great comfort when other people's kids fight.  I especially appreciate it when they get physical.  Sometimes I wonder if and when they will ever say a civil word to each other.  Well it got really bad so I signed up for an online workshop--Siblings without Rivalry.  I was especially excited to find out the secret to "managing the fighting." Since I treat my children so fairly, I didn't really need the rivalry part, that couldn't be the problem. The problem is that I'm not strict enough or give enough chores or something.

Well it turns out it's all about the sibling rivalry.  There's the old comparison--what if your husband came home with another wife one day and said, hey, you're great and all and I love you just as much as I always have, but I thought adding another wife would just make things that much better.  You'll have a friend to play with!  Well, apparently no matter how well you handle it, your first born will feel this way.  Annoyingly it really makes sense.  There is no way in hell that I would want my husband to bring another wife home.  Now you can deny the difference because having multiple children is widely accepted whereas, apart from Big Love, having multiple wives not so much.

So it's easy to deny this comparison, but then she gave examples.   When you say "no" she runs to your spouse and tells on you.  Your spouse comes in and says "why can't you share, let him/her have a turn. "  "Why must you complain all the time?  Find a way to get along and stop running to me with your problems all the time."

"Find a way to get along..."  oops I think I said that 10 times yesterday.

Of course it outlines the expected touchy feely--accept their feelings.  Validate their feelings.   Blah blah blah my kids are whining,  that's not feelings, that's annoying!

Then she goes on to say--this may have been my breakthrough moment--"Don't love them equally, love them uniquely."  OK I think I'm getting it.

"Instead of giving time equally, give according to need."  Ha ha, if I give time to one the other immediately needs me.  Although upon inspection, if you give each what they need rather than equal at some point you reach equilibrium because if you are giving equally sometimes you are giving something the other doesn't need so you are just wasting time.

Oh and the secret to "managing the fighting" is "rough housing is by mutual consent only."  My kids laughed in my face when I said that.  (this apparently as opposed to--"someone's going to end up crying!")

But then I guess I digested some of this because I started to see and understand some of the dynamics better.  Please rest assured that I do not say things like, "wow it sounds like you are really angry with your sister, do you want to draw a picture of your anger?"  But when Parker says, "why can't Mollie take out the trash, why can't she do a poop check?"  (for the uninitiated, if you have dogs and a yard, having children is really great because they can pick up the poop for you and I'm pretty sure it hasn't been labeled child abuse yet).  I began to understand him to say, I have to share this house with her, OK, but she should have to lift a finger on occasion too.  When I realized that my answer would be, she complains about it more than you do so you have to do it, well that I perhaps needed to make some changes after all.  And that needs come in many different packages.   

But the most amazing telling moment came last night.  I really don't even know what to do with it, but still pretty interesting.  We were watching Extreme Home Makeover--you know the show where there is a sick child and a bad house and they fix it up and send them to Disney World.  There were two sisters.  One big, one little.  The little one had a terrible blood disorder and had to have like daily blood transfusions.  The big one was clearly upstaged and backstaged by the little one.  Parker said, "That's not fair that the little sister gets all the attention and the other one just has to stand by."  DING!  Empathy for the big sister!  Little sister gets all the attention.  I'm the nice caring one, hello!

Well it turns out the big sister is actually the younger sister and the little sister (the one with the illness) is the older.  Hmmmmm.  Which he then denied, because that couldn't possibly be so.

So "Siblings Without Rivalry" is not a cure all.  But it does help give some insight.

By the way, my kids still fight.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The First Laugh After the Loss

I know I promised to dedicate the next entry to Mollie, but she will have to wait.  I have these great inspirations to write (usually while I'm driving) and then I forget.  Or I have an idea and then I lose either my motivation or my time at the computer (despite the fact that it is my own).

But today I had a really fun encounter on Facebook.  Take the glazed look from your face.  A friend from college published 100 books you should read before you die--you are supposed to check off the ones you've read.  I'm not even going there, but it was fun to read the list and think about what was and wasn't on there.  Bridget Jones yes, Secret Life of Bees no.  So then we did have a brief discussion about what was omitted and why (it was originally published by the BBC so no Proust).  I even got a new FB friend out of it, some new reading recommendations and reconnection with an old friend on a new subject.  All before 9 a.m.

Appropos of nothing I started thinking about Kelly Corrigan and my friend Leah.  I could tell you the whole thought process but then your eyes really would glaze over!  Several friends have emailed this to me and I've dutifully passed it on.  There are no threats of bad luck attached just the connection to someone who has put my life into words.  Someone who understands what friends and family mean in our lives.

In it she mentions The First Laugh After the Loss.  Actually I've watched it about 20 times and today was the first time I noticed that line.  The First Laugh After the Loss.  It's one of the biggest comforts during the grief process.  You can call it up again and again.  It's like a little flower that grows and lets you know that it will be OK.  Well most people have heard the story, but I want to keep it for perpetuity. 

Leah's loss was sudden and shocking.  When Robin left me a message to call, she sounded terrible.  So what did I do?  I called Leah.  Leah was someone we all turned to.  We'd all just gotten an email from her offering her life coach services for free in the new year.  We were planning our next Avon Walk for New York City.  It wasn't her time.  We were robbed.

Well we weren't called the Pigeons, but we were and are the Beta Delts.  Beta Delta Chi--Burning Down the House.  The picture above are the Beta Delts who made the trip along with Leah's boyfriend who is slightly out of focus at the end of the table.  The other male is Reuben who is an honorary Beta Delt along with a lot of other Sigma Chis but that's a whole other conversation.  So when Robin called (I like to think that Robin and I were the founding members since we lived on opposite ends of the hall, blasted our stereos and both played Talking Heads.), she asked if I would call the others.  She had called Leah's family and Seattle friends and didn't have the strength to call our group.  Leah, like most of us had many different groups of friends--high school, college, first job, second job, grad school, Michigan, Ohio, Washington.  But of course the Beta Delts were some of the closest and most important.  We try to be in touch and we've even made a couple of trips in the last few years to reunite.  Some or all of us have made most of them.  We are all SO glad that Leah joined us on both of them!!   So I called.  I must confess that while I made the calls and during the course of the evening I got a little tipsy--a martini to start the numbing process.  By the last call, I was professing my undying love for Julie.  It was probably just like college.

Leah being Leah, one memorial was not enough.  She had one on each coast.  I really wish I could have gone to both.  I'd love to compile all the tributes.  The sad little group pictured above gathered for the Michigan memorial.   Marjie and I were the first for-sures because we live within driving distance.  Then Ellen, poor Ellen was/is living in Senegal.  Senegal sounds like an incredible place (you can read about it in her blog SenegalEase), but it is terribly far when one of your dearest friends and confidants dies.  We went back and forth and finally found her a ticket so that she could come.  It was really important.  Then Peg and Reuben emailed to say they wanted to come it was just a matter of scheduling.

We all gathered in Southfield.  I immediately felt comforted just by their presence.  I hadn't seen Reuben or Peg in a really, really long time but it didn't matter it was like graduation was yesterday--it had just been a really really busy night.  We spent a lot of time driving around in the snow looking for some place to eat.  I don't know why but there was something comforting in that too.  When we finally came upon the place above, we were so happy.  Oh and we had picked up Ciss, Leah's boyfriend along the way.  Fittingly in the full circle of our lives, Ciss is from Senegal.

We stayed at the Hawthorne Suites.  We got a 2 bedroom suite and a Queen room.  The price seemed a little too good to be true, but I checked with Leah's mom and she said despite the fire, it was a very nice place to stay.  Reuben, Ellen and I stayed in the 2 br and Marjie and Peg stayed in the Queen room which had a pull out couch.

The next morning we gathered for breakfast.   Peg was near tears, but not those sad tears we'd been experiencing the past few days.  I said, "what's up?"  Well the story goes something like this.  Peg and Marjie went to their room.  They decided that they'd use the sleeper sofa so they could each get a good night's sleep.  Marjie in the bed, Peg on the sofa.  Peg went to pull out the bed, but there was something stuck.  Was that a remote control?  She grabbed and pulled and squealed.  It was silver and shiny and no remote control.  Yes, it was a dildo.   

We laughed and laughed and laughed.  We tried to figure out the scenario that would have someone using it on the pullout rather than the bed.  We laughed and laughed some more.  

It was the relief we needed.  
It was the missing piece of our comfort.  
It was the First Laugh After the Loss.