Friday, October 30, 2015

Circa 2015

I love the population density of NYC. I like people watching. Sometimes other women just stop me in my tracks.

I'm sitting in an outdoor cafe. This is not something I do often. A woman with dark hair walks by. Her hair is styled but not overdone. There is a name for this hair. It is called beachy waves. Magazines like to explain how to achieve these waves.

Some of her hair is its natural deep auburn color and some of it is dyed a rich forest green. It shouldn't work but it does. It's not haphazard. It’s not punky. It’s not garish. It is elegant. She is wearing an autumnal green coat that is darker than her hair. The effect gives me the same feeling I get looking at a beautiful painting.

This is a look I could not pull off. That is precisely what I love about seeing this woman. This would look good on very few people. She is one of them.

A middle-aged woman joins me on a subway platform. She's a style train wreck but there is one bright spot. She has this cloth tote. The construction and the luxe materials make me think that this is not a 5 or 10-dollar bag. My guess was that it sets you back 50 dollars. Maybe more.

It has a youthful whimsy that evokes the patterns of Marimekko if you mixed in a touch of Lily Pulitzer and Paul Rand.

This woman needs a total overhaul. Someone could help her match her bag. As it stands now, the bag would look better on me. In other words, I would like this bag.

I remember a woman from earlier in my life. A young social worker from a Jewish organization would visit us when our son Jacob was hospitalized. She was with us in some of our darkest moments. Jeremy and I discussed the support she gave us. But we also talked about her clothes.

She was a member of the orthodox Jewish community. She dressed modestly. Skirts had to fall well below the knee. Arms needed to be covered. You can't be flashing skin around if you're her.

She conformed to all of the rules and regulations that her culture asked of her. And then she totally rocked it.

The sweaters and skirts were chic. There was a little bit of irreverence to some of her choices. She'd be covered up but the fabric design would be fashion forward. Her pencil skirts didn't look frumpy. Something would be a little asymmetrical or there would be a flirty element in the sleeve detailing.

She brought to mind a modern version of Audrey Hepburn. And even though fashion was the last thing on my mind and I could wear whatever I damned well pleased, I borrowed elements of her look.

It's autumn. I stare at all of the shoes. I think that Cozy Mocs are over until I see this year's version. They are more streamlined and less bedroom-slipper-like. There isn't any fleece spilling out the sides. Indeed, the pair I have from 2014 are passé. This is where it's at now. I want a piece of this action.

Ultra shiny ballet flats that match the woman's skin tone exactly. Saturated coral lipstick on an otherwise subtle face. A young Columbia student wears too much makeup, but gets away with it.

A 50 year old with a long blond/gray braid without a hint of bright color on. She looks luminous rather than plain.

There is one man. His face, facial hair and man bun are perfect. He is the only man in the world who looks good in a man bun. There is a male fashion icon walking around the streets of NYC. It is he.

I jokingly think about women appropriating the man bun after men appropriated the man bun from women. Then I see a woman who is clearly doing this. It's incredible - no joke.

It's not the magazines or the runway shows that make me want to expand what I will wear, or at least try stuff on. It’s the streets and the subway. It's the hospital. It's Starbucks.

I'm on the A train now. A 70-year-old woman is sitting in front of me. She's wearing scrubs, Crocs, is carrying an out of style purse, and her glasses frames are neither here nor there. She has high cheekbones and gorgeous tawny colored skin. The right photographer and hair and makeup could turn her into a lifestyle model for AARP.

Her hair is thinning and is dyed bright magenta. I shouldn't like it, but I do.

I wonder if infinity scarves are still in style until I see a stunning young woman, sporting perfect mix of trendy and classic. She’s wearing one. Apparently infinity scarves are safe for one more season.

I'm obsessed with Ombré but don't want to try it myself. Same with matte lipstick and platform sneakers. I adore seeing this around. Just not on me.

I do buy myself a pair of multicolored winter boots.

I am a photographer. I rarely photograph people. I've been thinking about it though.

Last November, I was dining out with Jeremy and our willowy waitress was dressed entirely in shades of cream with a chunky sweater and thick infinity scarf. I went out of my comfort zone and asked if I could take her picture. She was awfully nice about it.

But because of my nervousness I worked too fast. That and the dim light made for a bad photograph.

I need to get ready.

I need to be ready to work quickly in less than ideal light. This shouldn't be too hard. I'm used to this with my non-human subjects.

I need to rehearse a polite and authentic script. I don't have to ask permission of the weeds and flowers and trash I photograph. I need to have a quick explanation as to why I'm doing this. I have some figuring out to do about that.

I need to anticipate a variety of responses. Some people are going to think I am crazy. Some people are going to say no. For people who say yes, I will have s small clipboard with forms where subjects can put their name and email address. I will have business cards so they can check out my work.

No matter how terrific someone rocks their handbag or outfit I won't stop them if they have that hurried look about them. I won't bother them if they're texting.
"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation." - Arthur Ashe
I’m at a gathering. I had some fun getting ready. I’m engaged in an oft repeated, casual conversation with another woman. She admires my outfit and asks me where I got it.

I tell her that the top is from the 96th street Salvation Army, the skirt from Target, the tights and purse from Marshall’s and the ballet flats from Payless.

My companion looks incredulous and delighted. Before she asks me how I do it, I go ahead and tell her.

Most of the stuff you find in these places is crap, I say. What you’re looking for is the diamond in the rough.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015


The NYC subway ridership is a melting pot. If you want diversity, ride the train.

Rush hour starts when school lets out. I'm on the subway, going to a meeting. My kids aren't with me. They are old enough to travel home by themselves.

The subway is doing a brisk business but is not too crowded yet. I have a seat.

A mom enters the train with a little girl. She's about three years old. She has blond hair, very light skin and blue eyes. Her hair erupts in a million perfect curls, so platinum that they are almost white.

The atmosphere in the subway car shifts.

All of the adults on the train notice. Moms with kids of their own smile. Some people exchange delighted glances. Grandmothers get all crinkly eyed and grin, missing teeth and all. Some really maternal types catch her eye and wave or blow kisses. Fathers and grandfathers aren't immune either.

The little blond girl is a big hit.

Many - most - of the people smiling, buzzing and happy to see the blond girl have kids with them. The kids are of are all different ages. Some are babies. Some are toddler aged, like the blond child. Some are older.

All of the other kids are brown.

Their skin color ranges from creamy caramel to coffee, from mahogany to hot chocolate.

Their hair is dark and ironed straight, poofy, frizzy, curly, cropped short or kept long. One little girl has fancy cornrows with colored beads attached. There's an Afro.

Nobody seems to notice the brown children. Not with this girl on the train. She has surpassed all of the other children.

The brown children do not elicit a bad response. They are invisible. No one's face gets all scrunchy when they walk onto the train. No one is whispering about their curls.

As a human, I do not like being taken for granted. If you treat me like chopped liver, I bristle. I turn this over in my mind.

The blond girl and her mother exit the train. Everything quickly goes back to normal.

I hope that the brown kids didn't notice. My gut says some of them did, even if words weren't involved. It might be experienced differently than that.

My mother-in-law was born in 1932. She told me she hated Shirley Temple.

I've seen pictures of my mother-in-law as a child. She was adorable. She grew into a radiantly pretty young woman. When I knew her, her smile could light up a room.

She was Jewish. Shirley Temple made her feel ugly. That's what she said.

I think about the light-skinned blond girl and all of the other kids for the rest of the ride home. When I get off the train, my mind goes to other things. But while I'm still sitting there I feel like an idiot.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What To Say

I like going to parties. I like to meet new people. After a bit of back and forth, the person I have just met asks what I do. I'm not upset about it. I do the same thing.

For 15 years I had something crisp to say. I'm a freelance still life photographer. I work for magazines, design firms and ad agencies.

Then that line of work no longer fit.

For another several years, I worked for another photographer. He shoots these exquisite portraits and I helped with the behind the scenes work.

My what do you do conversations became a bit more complicated. It wasn't as tidy. It became a tangent of this work, taking care of my kids and various volunteering.

Then I stopped working for money. I work very hard. Just not for a paycheck.

All children need their parents. Some kids need extra.

Because of this, I have an impressive laundry list of skills. I enjoy doing these things a lot, and feel a deep sense of competence. At some point, I may promote these skill sets and start a business. That business will have a name and a short description. Then it will be easier to talk about myself at parties.

This is a possible plan for the future. It doesn't do anything for me now.

If someone asked me today, I could say that I am amassing skills that I plan to monetize later. That actually sounds pretty good. I might even say that the next time I meet someone.

I am reading a book. There is nothing to say except that this book is incredible. Right after I started it, the author, Ta-Nehisi Coates won a McArthur Grant. The name of the book is BetweenThe World And Me. I consider it required reading for everyone.

There is a part of the book that had resonance with me in a way I didn't expect. For most of the book I am being schooled about racism and things I don't already know on account of my being white. This one small piece took me in a different direction.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is at a party. People ask him what he does. He said that he's trying to be a writer. Then later in the book he feels entitled to just say that he is a writer. He gets rid of the trying part - somewhat tentatively. That is how I remember it anyway.

Ta-Nehisi Coates and I have lived very different lives. My white privilege follows me everywhere. That is mostly what I think about when I think about this book.

But I also think about that one little part. This author would probably be surprised but he sort of helped me out with the party question.

Not everyone who gets asked the party question feels confident in the answer. It always feels like everyone else has something compact and easy to say. But that isn't so.

I wear a lot of hats. But I also do one hell of a lot of writing and photography. I'm seriously prolific even though I am not holed up somewhere at an artist colony. I'm writing this while multitasking.

I can say that I'm a writer and a photographer. Or at least trying to be. Or the other thing about amassing skills and monetizing them later.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

What's Become Of You, What's Become Of Me

Before the investiture
The steely-haughty
Pre-patrician - how I hate that limp word!

Before you rose as if from nowhere
To grab the laureate
Tenured glinting but not shiny
For that would be crass
You still stroll among us after all.

The tales I could tell!
Hands waving and swatting
The irritant memorialized
Exhumer of old bruises
That's what I am now
When you rose up, that's what I became.

The shanty nettles
Smudged then wiped away
Lofty serfdom, huddled kin
It really wasn't bad, those days.

We tripped, we swore, we craned and cobbled
There's noble in the callus, the bent knees
The supermarket wine sloshed in mismatched cups
Sacred, before the sanctimony took you.

You don't walk so much as drift
Hovering – no, skimming!
Minimalist humane, foggy apparitional, minced
I pity the poor Spartan
Who looks for you now.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lying In Wait

There is writing I have finished. It's pretty damn perfect. But I will not share it publicly now.

Someday is a time when I can share this writing. I feel badly that I cannot share it immediately. But not badly enough to post it.

I am not sharing it because it might make someone else feel bad. It's cryptic but they might figure it out anyway.

So I'm sitting on it.

It feels good to tell you about this writing that I have done. If I choose not to share it now, then at least I can talk about the writing. That's better than nothing.

There is some writing that lives in my head. I haven't worked on it yet in a literal way. That is because I knew from the beginning that this writing would get me into very, very deep hot water.

I've worked out the bones of my story but I haven't used my iPad to record it in the usual way.

So this writing is going into the someday pile also. I'm willing to risk small quantities of hot water, but not this much. I like to stir the pot - a little.

There is writing that is too personal. It is too revealing.

There is writing that is about parenting but would be potentially embarrassing. So that's shelved.

I am glad that I've shared the writing I have. There are one or two pieces that are on the edge of what I should have shared. Would I share them again? I don't know. Some days feel like yes, and some no.

The more stuff I write, the more I've written and shared. I've got a good meaty inventory of it on my blog now.

The more I write and share, the more I've shelved. There is a bank of this unshared writing.

There is writing that I may never share. I could share it if I'd burned every bridge with all of my previous writing. You can see that this will probably never happen.

I've written this. I've shared it. I've mentioned other writing that exists that is not getting shared. You can't read it now but it's not invisible. It's been given its due.

Here is what is helping me now. Keeping good writing that is potentially inflammatory on a shelf is not the same as ignoring it or throwing it away. A stockpile is not a trashcan.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Crisis Sidestepped And Averted

I'm at the pediatrician's office with my teenager. She's been complaining about something for a few days. She's had no response to the mild OTC interventions we've tried. I'm concerned but not alarmed. 

The doctor seeing her today is not her primary, but a familiar member of the practice. He's kind and smart. 

The bright young pediatrician is full of vigor and calmly focused in spite of this visit being late on a Friday afternoon. He is also perplexed.

His brow is furrowed. My daughter's symptoms and presentation are not fitting neatly into a box. I recognize this phenomenon immediately. 

My teen is having a comfortable exchange. I go back and forth with a series of questions to attempt to break through the flummox. The doctor is giving me non verbal signs of his uncertainty without sharing his process.

Her primary is different. She and I are partnered up and a well oiled machine. She gives a lot of information. She narrates her line of thinking. She goes three steps ahead without my asking. She goes to the worst case scenarios, none of which are ever terrible. 

She treats me as a colleague. 

This doctor answers my direct questions. Her heart sounds fine. Her lungs sound fine. 

The meds we were giving her are apparently a joke. We gave them to her because we knew it would never hurt her I said. We laugh.

He gives us a line of treatment. This treatment would also serve as a diagnosis. When you give this medication, something different and  stronger than the one we were using before, you should see some improvement after three days. The medication working would serve as a reasonable diagnosis even though some of her symptoms point to this and some don't.

If we see no improvement after three days, we should bring her back.

My daughter seems fine. She's gathering her things and getting ready to leave. She's comfortable with what the doctor has said. She can deal with taking a pill twice a day.

An emergency is brewing. This one is mine.

I recognize the signs, less frequent than they used to be, but unmistakable. I'm feeling lightheaded and standing now would be inadvisable. A sense of unreality has crept in and is gaining momentum.  I am out of my depth.

I am clear headed and quick in a crisis, including my own.

I have not studied method acting, but know its basic principle. I tap into the part of me that remembers being competent  and calm. 

In a performance worthy of Meryl Streep, I smile at my daughter and the doctor. I ask her to meet me in the waiting room because I have a private matter to discuss with the doctor. It's about her brother.

She's used to this. Sometimes I actually need to discuss her younger brother, who is healthy but larger than life. But sometimes, it's something else. This is one of her primary doctor's favorite methods. It gives the two of us a chance to talk about the child privately.

The door closes. I lied, I say. I know, he says.

I come clean.

I'm having a panic attack and some PTSD. I say. If I don't have this conversation with you now, I'm going to pass out. I don't want any of this happening in front of my daughter.

He sits down. I have his full attention.

My eldest child  died. I say. He had a rare form of pediatric cancer. It is nothing like what we are experiencing here. The presentation was completely different.

The doctor is surprised and sympathetic. I see his demeanor shift. He's starting to straighten up. He's taking charge.

As a result of this trauma, I say, ambiguity is sometimes an issue with me. That's why we need this additional conversation. 

I have delivered my one minute elevator speech honed by years of taking care of children in the wake of what happened to Jacob.

The doctor nods. 

Do kids have heart attacks? I ask. Is she going to need to see a cardiologist?

He is definite. No. There is no heart attack happening. There is no cardiac concern.

I'm glad you said something he said. It's probably in the chart but I apologize that I didn't look. 

That's no problem I say. I mean it. I spent 40 minutes watching this doctor rush from one exam room to the next. Most of the kids were screaming. 

Thank you for taking the time. I say. I'm honored to do it, he says. He means it.

I feel the blood rushing back to my face. I know I'm pinking up. The conversation turns ordinary.

This child feels everything intensely I say. Sometimes things clear up on their own and we never really know what they are. She reports things other kids wouldn't necessarily notice.

Chances are, when she feels she is being addressed, her symptoms will improve, I say. She'll take some of the meds and frankly it will most likely work. 

The doctor feels this is a reasonable assessment. He reiterates that he feels there is nothing critical or urgent happening with my child. He also mentions that he is on call this weekend if I want her seen again or need to talk on the phone.

I know what is going to happen after I leave. Even though he's had a busy day - exhausting really - he'll phone our primary or the senior member of the practice. He'll run it by them. 

The next time I see him, he will remember me and my story. He'll anticipate that I may have extra questions. Since he seems to be a fast learner, he may even fill in the blanks when I haven't asked.  He'll be extra careful even when he doesn't need to, and I'll appreciate the effort.

I may have  gained a new colleague. It's okay if he's not. Not every doctor needs to be a hero as long as some of them are.

In a In a couple of days  there will continue to be something in the situation that is more grey than black and white. She'll be improved but not all the way. There will be  will be  a lot rolling around in my hopper.

I'll I remember every single mom from my support groups. Most of the moms in this group had kids who died from cancer. But one of them had an issue that initially presented with something like this only more severe, It congenital and uncommon. The kid kid died stunningly fast. 

I'll think about this. As a concern it won't take on its own life. My daughter wwill be hearty, bright eyed and not exhausted. She'll be too energetic and wholly herself to have this problem. Just like today.

Some things need some extra days to truly show themselves. They take on clarity with time and the only thing to do is wait. I'll check back in with her often but not too often.

There might be an additional phone call. There could be a visit with her primary or a specialist. Or this could be the end of the road. The symptom will disappear as mysteriously as it arrives.

None of these scenarios involve a watershed day where life as we know it changes forever. It's possible, but very, very improbable. 

This I know. Nobody else can teach you this stuff. It's experienced, amassed, cataloged, saved then accessed. It's sorted, pruned re-sorted and re-experienced. 

Hindsight and present day are deft in their collaboration. Eighteen years at this job has taught me a lot. Thanks to these doctors-slash-colleagues, I'm hitting my stride. I'm doing this thing and I'm up for the task.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Talking With Me About Stimulant Medication

I've had experience talking with people about stimulant medication. I've had experience reading what people have written about stimulant medication. I've had experience reading Facebook posts about stimulant medication.

I have five years of experience supporting, managing, teaching and observing someone who takes stimulant medication.

Previous to and overlapping with that, I had several more years of experience supporting, managing, teaching and observing someone engaged in occupational, speech and language therapy and social skills group.

There are people I would like to talk to about stimulant medication. There are people I would not like to talk to about stimulant medication.

Now I have some rules for myself around talking about and reading about stimulant medication. They are the same rules I have for talking about and reading about ADHD.

This is not a 10 Things Not To Say list. Those lists bother me. They assume everyone is the same. This post is about my vantage point. That said, you might relate it to your particular situation or learn a few things. Any comments you make might teach me something too.

If you are a psychiatrist, psychologist, pediatrician, neurologist, neuropsychologist, family practitioner, nurse practitioner, developmental pediatrician or internist with experience working with those who take stimulant medication, then I would like to talk with you about ADHD and stimulant medication.

If you currently take stimulant medication I would like to talk with you. If a close family member takes stimulant medication then I would like to talk with you. I would like to hear what you have to say whether the experience has been good, bad or indifferent.

If your name is Dr. Ned Hallowell and have written a book called Driven to Distraction then I would like to talk with you. I also like to read what you write about ADHD and stimulant medication. You are welcome to contact me for conversation at any time.

If your children are exceptionally well behaved and you are wondering why all these kids are getting drugged up I have a feeling that a conversation about ADHD and stimulant medication would not go very well. It would be like me having an opinion about team sports. I don't play team sports. My kids don't play them. It didn't take. So I don't go around giving opinions on neighborhood baseball teams.

If you don't know anything about ADHD or stimulant medication and would like to ask me about it, I would welcome that.  If you are asking in the spirit of greater understanding then I would be more than willing to participate.

But if you have a lot of preconceived notions that you are very invested in, it might not be a satisfying conversation for either one of us.

If you like comparing carefully prescribed stimulant medication to crack, illegal amphetamines, speed, espresso, cold brewed coffee, tranquilizers or dark chocolate then it is unwise for me to engage with you on that subject.

If you have accidentally or purposely tried a tiny bit of someone else's stimulant medication and you yourself do not have ADD or ADHD, then I would love to have a conversation with you and compare notes.

If you are currently contemplating treatment for yourself because you've been struggling and these struggles are pointing you and your doctor to ADD, then you are welcome to talk with me. There are many people who learn more about themselves as adults. Adults who are self aware, change course and seek help are brave adults. I'll talk carefully with you and mostly listen.

If you are wrapping your mind around helping a child, then I know that in spite of what other people say and write that this is almost always a difficult decision and a multi-tiered one. I will walk on eggshells and you'll do most of the talking.

If you are a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech and language pathologist or special education teacher with experience in this arena you are people I admire. I always want to hear what you have to say.

If you are a classroom teacher I like talking to you. You see a high volume of kids every day. That alone is worth the price of admission.

If you are Judith Warner and you have written a book called We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication then I would like to personally thank you for writing it. You would be a person I would enjoy talking to about stimulant medication and ADHD.

If you are writing a book and want to say something about ADHD or stimulant medication, then do deep research and talk to real people walking the walk and the people who work with them. Otherwise, people like me see right through your book or article.

If the words Adderall Nation have crossed your lips or peppered your writing then you will find a lot of like-minded company, just not with me.

If you have no experience with this, whether you are a grandparent, a journalist, a friend, or a public figure, be humble. Own your inexperience. It's important to know when you are out of your depth. Know that you don't know.

If you are wondering if this person or that really needs stimulant medication consider that they may look like they don't need stimulant medication because they are in fact on stimulant medication. When they are not on stimulant medication is when they look like they need stimulant medication.

Think about it. There is beauty in this logic.

If you are thinking that your generation was better because nobody needed stimulant medication when you were coming up or when you were raising kids I find a conversation with you will be like talking to a brick wall.  There are gaping holes in what you are saying but its better to agree to disagree and change the subject.

If you feel the need to point out that there is no ADHD in France, and that French mothers are doing a categorically better job of parenting than American ones, then I don't want to talk with you about stimulant medication or ADHD. I will no longer read what you have to say.

If you are not a parent at all but have opinions about the use of stimulant medication in children then maybe you'd like my opinion on stuff I know nothing about—how about those Yankees?

In addition to all things already mentioned, I am skipping any conversation, article, podcast or reference to the Marshmallow Test. For personal reasons I have adopted a no Marshmallow Test policy.

The elevator speech version of the long-winded stuff I just wrote is this. If you are in the trenches, I'll talk to you. I'll read your book. If you are not in the trenches but know you are not in the trenches them I'll talk to you. All others, no. I'll talk to you about other stuff. Just not stimulant medication and ADHD.

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