Horrible and Wonderful

Today, I’m taking a break from “Five-Minute Friday” because I have so much on my mind that it really wouldn’t matter what the “word” is – my subconscious would take me down a particular path anyway. I’m still going to write this free-write style (writing continuously, no editing), but 5 minutes isn’t gonna cut it today.

I’m thinking about a conversation my brother-in-law and I had a month and a half ago about when he asked me my thoughts on parenting. As the mother of two teenagers who have, so far, turned out reasonably well, I suppose I’m as qualified as the next person to offer perspective. In that same conversation, my brother-in-law recommended the book Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful, the title of which is based on a tweet from comedian/producer Harris Wittels: “We are all horrible and wonderful and figuring it out.” (I highly recommend the book, by the way.)

It’s been an emotional week, parenting-wise, precipitated by 3 concurrent events: health insurance re-enrollment time, my daughter turning 16, and my son’s quarterly endocrinologist appointment. At the moment, I’m inclined to borrow from Wittels’s tweet: Parenting is horrible and wonderful, and we’re figuring it out. Key word is figuring because the reality is that I don’t think any parenting issue is ever “figureD out,” case closed, end of story. It’s too contextual. It’s too nuanced. From kid to kid, from age to age, from one day to the next day.

I’m changing my mind and my stance ALL THE TIME. To all the first-time parents-to-be that I know: get comfortable with the grey and humble yourself…or parenting will gladly do it for you.

Here’s what’s been “horrible” this week: the slap-in-the-face reminder, per health insurance reenrollment, that Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an expensive condition that has shaped our family’s choices and limited our options and will most likely continue to do so for Owen when he becomes an adult (and I’m not just talking about health insurance here – that was just the catalyst). I think back to when Owen was first diagnosed and he asked me, “If you could give me your pancreas, would you?” Oh, honey. You have no idea. I actually tried to at the hospital the night he was admitted!

It’s an absolutely horrible feeling as a parent to know you cannot relieve your child of the heavy, lifelong burden that is a chronic disease. When I was going through my grandmother’s files this summer, I found an article announcing the bionic pancreas that would soon change the lives of those with T1D. The article was from the late 1970s, when her son, my father, was almost 30 – long out of the house, married, and with me on the way. Holding that article in my hands, I felt so close to my grandmother. It was tangible proof of our connectedness as mothers worried about their son’s health and wellbeing and how that worry never leaves. My grandmother has been dead for over 25 years, but it felt comforting to know she gets me.

Here’s what’s been “wonderful” this week: I got to watch my 16-year old daughter celebrate her birthday with a large, coed friend group that beats any that I could have hand selected for her. Avery had a lot to lose when we moved to Cincinnati 4 years ago – her role as the ringleader of the neighborhood pals, her spot on the town swim and softball teams, which our school did not have for middle schoolers. Watching her navigate the transition with such aplomb has been truly wonderful.

But not so fast – back to horrible: Owen’s endocrinology appointment yesterday, where the doctor really wants him to consider a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), a device that is attached to him 24/7 to monitor his blood sugar levels. A device he does NOT want.

I’ve tried to teach both kids that they are in control of their bodies. I imagine that control is particularly important to Owen, who had no say in T1D setting up camp in his 9-year old body. If he wants to prick his finger 5+ times a day and give himself insulin injections rather than have technology permanently attached to him all day long, so be it. But the data we can get from that CGM would be much more helpful in managing his disease than the data we get from 5 finger sticks a day. As his parent, isn’t it my responsibility to be the adult and have the bigger picture in mind, something 14-year olds aren’t exactly known for, much less able to do?

And, not to end on a bad note, back to wonderful – nothing reminds you that your life is not your own like being a parent. To many, that indeed sounds horrible, but, really, what a wonderful sense of responsibility and purpose. By providence, these children are mine and I am theirs, and we are figuring it out – each horrible and wonderful step of the way.

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Five Minute-Friday: Sausage

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity adapted from Kate Motaung’s blog. Each week, I use https://randomwordgenerator.com/ and write for five minutes straight with the word as a prompt, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

Seriously? Last week “joystick,” and this week “sausage!” (I can hear the jokes now.)

I have been vegetarian now for over a year. (I had bouts of vegetarianism and veganism in the past.) When people ask why – “Is it an animal thing, or a health thing?” – I answer, “Yes.” And also an environmental thing. The best resource I can point to is the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, as that was the book that made me rejoin the vegetarian world.

It’s not that hard, actually, even living in Cincinnati, a city nicknamed porkopolis. Meat substitutes abound for just about anything. All this week I’ve eaten sandwiches for lunch, and the “deli slices” look like any other lunch meat, but it’s really white bean and kale. Last night, I made “Kickin’ Western Chili” from a diabetes cookbook that is entirely plant-based. And, if we want to get technical, I am not a true “vegetarian.” I eat fish. And Eating Animals horrified me, but apparently not enough to eschew dairy, eggs in particular.

I’m a fan of adding restrictions to your diet, whatever those restrictions may be. Every time I’ve been vegetarian, or the many-months stint I had as a vegan, it forces me to think before I eat. I have to read labels. I have to often pre-plan. It’s mindful eating at its best, really.

Who’s on Your Board?

20180716_172758At the Creative Problem Solving Institute I’ve attended for the past two years, one of the tools to inspire new thinking about a challenge is to imagine how someone else would solve it. A set of BrainNoodling cards I purchased promotes this idea; it contains 40 cards featuring different people whose lives and values prompt questions for you to apply to your life, like this one on Mother Teresa.

I’m taking this idea and appointing myself a Board of Directors. (Yes, I know it’s mid-July, and this activity seems better suited for the start of the year, but as someone in education, summer is when I hit the reset button, so July ’18 – July ’19 it is. Plus, this is my board, and I can appoint them when I wish.)

Apparently, this concept of a personal board of directors is not original. Forbes talked about it in February, though theirs is more reality-based than mine. They suggest you pick people you have regular contact with, people who check off different criteria such as one in your field, someone who can introduce you to others, one who will critique you, etc. I think it’s great advice, and maybe someday I will take it.

But for my first Board of Directors, I’ve picked people whose lives can inform and inspire my specific goals for the next 12 months. Though it would be phenomenal if I could, I will not physically meet with them for regular check-ins; out of the 6 people on my board, 3 are dead, and 4 of them wouldn’t even know who I am.

Instead, it’s up to me to remind myself of their purpose and, if all goes well, my board members will guide me with their spirits. In no particular order, here’s who I’ve picked and why:

BoardWEB

P!nk, for her body positivity, down to Earth parenting/marriage views, commitment to artistry and creativity, and for her athleticism.

My dad, for always wanting what’s best for me, for our shared values, for his fatherly wisdom, and for his undying (ha!) support.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for her inclusive concept of feminism, her dedication to her craft, and for her reminders to reject (and not write) the “single story.”

Brené Brown, for her urging to choose courage over comfort, her guidance on bravery and necessary conversations, her love of research, and for her belief in creativity and vulnerability.

Mamie Till, for her strength and ability to channel her grief for good, her faith and devotion to her son, and for championing Civil Rights and challenging the status quo with grace and tenacity.

Donald Murray, for his generosity, his reminders to write a line a day, and for his dedication to his family.

My list of runners-up for future consideration is long, but these are the people who can best challenge me and cheer me on to reach my current goals.

I think this is a worthy exercise, but even if you don’t do it to the extent I am, I’m curious: If you were to appoint your own Board of Directors, who would be on it and why?