What Will We Tell Our Children?

            The year is 2040 and our children are now adults. We all survived the Covid-19 crisis, yet survived is not quite the word we should use. We made it through. We are still alive. However, we did not leave unscarred. The children we raised during the health crisis and pandemic have questions for us. After all, we were the adults at the time. They were just the children of the pandemic, following us, trusting us. They did what we told them to, because we were the parents at the time. Now, they are adults and they have questions for us. The young children see pictures of themselves during the Covid period of time and the older children have questions for us based on what they remember from during that time. One of their questions burns through me when they ask me.

            “Mom. We wore masks for TWO straight years in school. TWO years. You didn’t wear a mask! You were at home during the day and you mostly didn’t wear masks unless you went to a store or were traveling.”

            “I know, honey, I’m sorry. I know that two years in a mask all day at school was hard.”

            “But, we were just kids. We trusted you.”

            “I know. We thought we were doing the right thing. We thought it would stop the spread of the virus.”
            “But, Mom, what did you do to stop it? Did you fight the mask rule at schools?”

            That is when I stand there silently. I have nothing to say.

            “We trusted you! You told us we had to wear the masks, because it was the rule and there was nothing you could do about it! There was nothing you could do about it, because you didn’t do anything!”

            “I wanted to…I just…I didn’t know what to do.”
            “Did you even try?” They will ask me. “Didn’t you want to help us?”

            “Of course, I wanted to help you!” I am silent again. I am thinking of the days when I was so grateful that school had started again after having the kids home for six months that I dropped the kids off happily and I did, indeed, tell them to please wear their masks. We were nervous that if the kids didn’t wear masks then the schools would get shut down like they did in New York when the Jewish day schools were trying to get around the mask rules. I just needed them to be in school, whatever the cost.

            I remember that as the year went on and I would do school drop-off, I would cringe and look away when I saw the little kids going into school with masks. The five year olds putting on their masks and skipping into school as if this was normal. What did they know? They were only five. They were just doing what their parents told them to do.

            The year went on and school stayed open. Parents and teachers got vaccinated. Some kids stopped wearing masks. Then the mask rule was unofficially over and the kids didn’t need to wear masks anymore, but it was already May. During the summer of 2021 anyone over the age of 12 could get vaccinated, which included my daughter at the time.

            “But, you told me when I got that vaccine that summer that I would never have to wear a mask again! I was so sick. Remember after the vaccine I was in bed for two days! You lied to me!”

            “I didn’t lie. I didn’t know. I thought you would never have to wear a mask again.”
            The new school year started, and along with it, the new variant of the virus. The governor made an indoor mask mandate for the entire state of Illinois, whether vaccinated or not. But, I worked from home. I didn’t have to wear a mask all day like they did.

            The second year of the mask mandates at school, my almost 4 year old started preschool and he had to wear a mask all day.

            “But, Mom, I was tiny! Look at those pictures of me in preschool wearing a mask! How could you put me in a mask!”

            “I didn’t know what to do! You had to start preschool.”

            Why didn’t I fight harder? My kids will ask me. They will ask what we did, how we fought. They were the kids. They trusted us. We were the adults at the time. They did what we told them to do. And, we told them to wear masks for two years in school, because they had to go to school and that was the only way they would be able to go to school.

And what did I do? I did nothing to fight it. I want to have a good answer for my kids when they ask me in 20 years what I did to fight the mask rules, because they will ask me. And, I know that when we look at pictures of our small children in masks all day at school we will ask ourselves why we didn’t fight more. I know this, because school just started today and I am already wondering why I didn’t do more.

How Social Media Has Destroyed Our Lives

I grew up in the late 80’s and 90’s and I remember when I was 12 years old we got a computer in the house and AOL. My siblings and I each got our own email address, and even though you could have up to 5 email addresses per account, I got my own. We got “The Internet”. But, as long as you weren’t near a computer and had 20 minutes to log on to the Internet, you couldn’t stay on for too long anyway. Email turned to AIM and we could message our friends in real time and chat. Next came Blackberries. You could email from your phone! I was already in my early twenties and I swore I would never get a Blackberry, because I thought it was weird that people were emailing from their phones and always busy with work.

A few years later, I was married with two small kids and I started doing freelance graphic design work. Eventually I found it easier to respond to emails via my phone rather than run to a computer so I bought myself a phone that I could email from, but not a Blackberry; I wouldn’t succumb to that low of a level.

iPhones became more and more readily available and affordable and eventually I got an iPhone. I think it was about the same time that Facebook and then Instagram were becoming more and more popular and I had accounts for both Facebook and Instagram. Once I got my iPhone and I had Facebook and Instagram on my phone, I would get notifications on my phone whenever I got a like or a comment on a post I had put up. Soon I was getting notifications on my phone from Facebook for everything. For example, my acquaintance from school in Israel that we attended together ten years before that posted about her daughter’s school play. That’s when it started to get to be too much. I tried several things. First, I took the apps off my phone and forced myself to have to log into Facebook or Instagram on Safari, which was an extra step, plus I wasn’t getting the notifications on my phone.

But, in my mind, things had already changed. Why were people posting every single thing they did and ate? Why were they posting all these pictures of their kids? What about privacy? What if a crazy child pornography person got ahold of the pictures of my kids I posted? Why did I need my old boss or the random person I didn’t really know seeing pictures of my child’s birthday party? I stopped posting pictures and even tried to delete all the old pictures I had put up on Facebook over the years. I logged out of my Instagram account and then I even forgot my password to re-log in the next time I wanted to go on. I opened another Instagram account a few months later and tried to only follow stores, celebrities and public figures. I didn’t want to follow anyone I knew personally.

I realized that I had a real issue with Instagram, specifically. As Instagram grew more and more popular, I was following local women that I knew. But, it was weird to to follow someone who I wouldn’t even say hello to if I bumped into on the street, yet I knew every detail about their life via Instagram. And, I realized, they knew nothing about my life. It was a strange situation. The other issue was that my mental health was suffering. When I saw women I knew out for drinks, at a party, or going anywhere where I thought I should have been invited to, I felt sad and jealous. I would scan photos of beautiful, skinny women and mourn my body that never looked as good. I was never dressed as well as the beautiful influencers. My kids weren’t as well dressed. My house wasn’t decorated right. My pantry wasn’t organized enough. I also wasted hours scrolling through social media when I probably could have been doing something more productive with my time, like actually talking to other people in person. In my opinion, watching a TV show is better than scrolling through social media.

After another year or so on my new Instagram account, I made the decision to delete my account on Instagram and delete it off my phone for good. This was over 2 years ago and I don’t miss it. I chose to keep Facebook for the time being, because I felt it did less damage to my mental health and the benefits of Facebook outweighed the cons. I mostly use Facebook as my news feed; I follow a lot of newspapers and media outlets that I like to read. I am also part of allergy groups, writing groups, a Chicago moms group, a Chicago Jewish group, etc.

So, how and why was I convinced to leave Instagram and how did I get myself to do it?

It was right after Passover two and a half years ago when I decided to do delete my Instagram account. My husband had checked out a book from the library entitled something like “Ten Reasons to get off Social Media Now” as a joke, because he always teased me that I am addicted to social media. But, it was no joke. I knew I was addicted to social media and I was miserable because of it.

After reading the book over Passover, I vowed to delete Instagram for good when Passover was over and I did. I knew that the only real way to stop myself completely was to delete my Instagram account for good. It felt really good and freeing. It’s been over 2 years now and I have not gone back to Instagram and I really don’t miss it. Sometimes I miss out on local stores’ announcement or sales, but mostly I’m okay. My friends post ads in WhatsApp groups for local places so I’m not totally out of it.

After being off Instagram for so long, I was trying to convince some younger friends of mine to get off Instagram. Most of them shrug me off, but I see how unhappy it makes them, too. Sometimes, these friends will even discuss Instagram posts in our WhatsApp chats, and they will go so far as to screenshot a picture from Instagram and post it in the chat. Although it’s interesting, I beg them not to, because I really don’t want to see. That is the reason I am off Instagram. Mostly, though, my younger friends tell me that I’m crazy to get rid of Instagram, and ask me how I survive without it.

Recently, the answer hit me. Millennials, or people in their low thirties and younger have never lived without social media. They don’t even know the beauty of life without it! How free it is. How there are no awkward pictures of you out there for the world to see whether you like it or not, because someone who isn’t even a friend of yours who you were at a party with posted the picture on Snapchat and someone else screenshot it and now so many people have seen it that you can’t even keep track of where the picture has gone. Millennials don’t know life before social media and they can’t imagine what life is like without it, because they’ve never experienced it. This is probably why social media doesn’t bother them as much. They’re used to it so it doesn’t feel so strange to them, like it does to me.

I know that I still have other social media to get off of, like Facebook and TikTok (my newly acquired social media outlet!), but in the meantime, at least those aren’t making me unhappy. They are only time wasters, which is its own problem. I still enjoy TikTok and I find Facebook useful, so until that changes, I will keep those social media outlets. But, as soon as I feel unhappy because of either of them, I won’t hesitate to get rid of it.

Vaccines, Vaccines, and More

The other day I was looking in the mirror and thinking about how fat I look (as usual), when it suddenly hit me: I have had more side effects from my IUD than I have had from the Covid vaccine I received a few months ago. I’ve even had more side effects from taking antibiotics than I did from the Covid vaccine.

I did have side effects after getting the Covid vaccine. About six hours after receiving my second Covid vaccine I started to feel the fatigue. Then the aches and pains began and the fatigue became so extreme that I could barely drag myself out of bed to go to the bathroom. After about twenty-four hours of this, I told my husband, “If this is what Covid felt like then I did not have Covid!” It was pure hell. But it was also over in twenty-four hours. As quickly as it started, it ended. After the day of hell, I haven’t noticed any long-term effects since receiving the vaccine five months ago.

I have, however, noticed long term effects from my IUD. After my last child was born, three and a half years ago, I put in the Paragard IUD. After about a year and a half of heavy bleeding for ten days and then spotting for the weeks in between, I decided it was enough. My doctor had already checked me out and decided there was ‘nothing wrong.’ So, in October 2020 I had the Paragard removed and the Mirena inserted at the same appointment. Within six weeks, I gained eight pounds, none of which I’ve been able to lose over nine months later. I am also spotting two to three weeks of each month. If you’re wondering if the spotting from the IUD is related to the Covid vaccine it’s not possible, because I had the Mirena IUD put in October 2020 and I had my Covid vaccine in February 2021.

Let’s talk about antibiotics. I used to have chronic sinus infections and I was constantly being put on antibiotics by my doctor and ENT. Eventually, I had sinus surgery done – which didn’t help, by the way. I still got chronic sinus infections after that and I ended up going to a nutritionist who helped me finally get better. Through diet and supplements, I healed my gut, and then my sinus issues slowly improved. It was a long process. I had to detox my body of all the antibiotics I took, and heal my body from whatever was causing the nonstop sinus issues. I ate whole foods, whole grains, and piles of fresh fruits and vegetables. I only ate organic. I finally felt better and I also stopped getting sinus infections. I had some other nice surprises after following this healthy diet: my headaches stopped, my seasonal allergies lessened in severity, my stomach stopped hurting all the time and I lost weight, of course. It is almost ten years later and I rarely get sinus infections anymore, but if I do get one, I don’t take antibiotics. And, guess what? I feel better after seven to ten days, anyway.

Since recovering from my twenty-four hours of being sick after my Covid vaccine, I haven’t felt any lingering side effects. A few months after I got the vaccine, I had my blood drawn and my nutritionist did a CBS – a complete blood scan to check my blood for any lingering issues. She found nothing out of the ordinary.

I don’t want to really get into the debate about the vaccine or try to debunk theories. I am not a scientist or a doctor nor do I have any medical background. What I do want to point out is that there are side effects to every medication we use and every single thing we put in our bodies; including every morsel of food we consume. I am very careful about what I eat since having chronic sinus infections and subsequently eating healthy and organic. However, I did choose to get the Covid vaccine, because in this instance I believe that the benefits outweigh the risk of side effects. I sure wish I hadn’t gotten this IUD, though…

Dr. Fauci as Time’s Person of the Year

From my understanding, Time’s big declaration of their “Person of the Year” is usually someone who is most influential in that year. It’s not a reward for the person who is the best or who we love the most.

I remember when Time chose us as their Person of the Year. It was the year that YouTube was either invented or blew up and making videos and posting them on YouTube was a novelty. So, Time chose the us, the people, as the most influential person of the year and to demonstrate this the cover of Time magazine had a mirror on it so when you looked at it, it was YOU who you saw as the Time Person of the Year.

I was in my early twenties at the time and that made a huge impact on me. Since then I’ve always looked to see who Time chose as their Person of the Year based on that year, because as I understood it, Time’s big honor was to name the most influential person or people of that year.

I don’t have a problem with Biden and Harris, however, they haven’t even started their term yet. Perhaps, next year they should be the Person or People of the year. I hope they do a lot in their term that Time will want to recognize them for the year 2021. But, what we should be focusing is on the year 2020. Who had the most influence on us, as a country, this year?

You might say Donald Trump, who was certainly very influential, whether some say for good and some say for bad. But, he’s already been the Person of the Year, plus he’s already been President for 4 years. You might say the healthcare workers, and they’re VERY deserving of this honor. But, I don’t think they have been so influential, per se. The healthcare workers and the essential workers should be given the HONOR this year. They should be rewarded for their hard work and dedication and selflessness. But, I wouldn’t choose healthcare workers as my top choice for Most Influential.

I vote for Dr. Anthony Fauci. Did anyone even hear of him before the Coronavirus outbreak? Maybe I should be embarrassed of this, but I never heard his name before. Then, suddenly, this little old man gets up their with Trump and suddenly the eyes of the country are on him. “Dr. Fauci said this” and “Dr. Fauci said that” is on everyone’s lips. Every move we make depends on Fauci and everything we do these days is influenced by what Dr. Fauci has said.

Everything our country has done during Coronavirus has been directed or been under the advice of Dr. Fauci. He’s quoted in every news article you read, and his picture is seen everywhere. Every time you turn the TV on, it was Dr. Fauci who was standing in front of the White House giving a Coronavirus breiefing. Who doesn’t recognize Fauci now?

And as of December 2020, we’re still looking to Fauci for direction. We saw pictures of him getting his vaccine, and we asked him if Santa will be coming this year. Every move we make depends on what Dr. Fauci says or predicts.

If it were up to my vote, I would vote for a little old man by the name of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has apparently been an advisor to the President for the United States since Ronald Reagan (according to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Fauci). President Trump assigned Dr. Fauci to lead his Coronavirus Task Force in January 2020, and since then Anthony Fauci has been a household name.

I applaud Dr. Fauci for his hard work this year, and I wish him luck with President Biden and helping to conquer the Covid-19 virus once and for all. I feel that as a United States citizen, living during this pandemic, I have been most influenced by what Dr. Fauci has said and done this past year.

Covid-19: Mental Health and Suicides

We talk about the hospitalizations, the deaths, the election, the riots, the protests, and whether schools or restaurants should be open. But, there is a huge part of the Coronavirus pandemic that I feel not enough people are talking about. Every once in awhile I will see an article discussing the effects Coronavirus, and subsequently, the quarantining, is having on the our mental health. I feel that it is important to talk about Covid-19 and how quickly the vaccine is coming. But, I think it is equally as important to talk about the mental health of the people who have been quarantined for months, lost their income and in many other ways been affected by it.

During the quarantine time we had in March, April, May, and June most people didn’t leave their houses at all unless to get groceries or go for a walk. My brother-in-law, an NYC paramedic who responds to 911 calls, told me that he tended to many more suicides during that time than he usually does. You see, when a person commits suicide, 911 is called even if the person is already dead, because a paramedic needs to officially pronounce the person dead. Often, my brother-in-law would be waiting by the river for a body to be pulled out by a jumper off the Brooklyn Bridge. He would also respond to calls for people who had overdosed or hung themselves. At that time he was responding to approximately 3 suicides a week. I wondered how many suicides he normally responded to, before Coronavirus, so I could get a comparison. He said in the old days he would respond to about 0-1 suicides per week. This is just one paramedic, working a few shifts a week, in New York City, who was responding to 3 suicides a week. Let that sink in a bit.

My husband had an employee who called him one day in June in a panic. He was nervous about catching Covid, because he works in the health field and he was stressed about supporting his wife and kids during this stressful time. My husband told him to please take some time off and to get some help, because, as he relayed to me later, the man sounded like he was ‘going crazy’. About a month later, this man’s wife found him hung in their garage.

I remember reading this article in April, posted by an Israeli media site. https://www.timesofisrael.com/shop-owner-at-closed-jerusalem-market-dies-by-suicide-amid-financial-woes/ The Shuk is an open air street market that was completely shut down in Israel during their lockdown period. An Israeli Shuk owner committed suicide due to loss of income from the quarantine.

I have a friend who I consider one of my most grounded friends. She seems to be the person who never loses her cool, and always has control of things even when everyone else around her is losing it. A few months ago she started experiencing panic attacks. She began taking anxiety medication after being taken to the hospital after her first panic attack. She has started testing herself and her children for Covid obsessively, sometimes even on a weekly basis, convinced that they either have Covid or they’re going to infect an elderly family member with it. It is so hard to see a friend who I once thought of as my “strong” friend cracking under the pressure.

My sister is a nurse in a pediatric E.R. in Brooklyn, NY. Since she works in the pedatric E.R., it has been relatively quiet there since March (this is another entire story…) so I’ve been curious what it’s like now. Last week, she worked at the E.R. for two day shifts, meaning two twelve-hour periods. During that time she had three teens brought in for overdosing, and another two teens brought in by their parents, because the child was lashing out at the parents. These are teenagers who are locked up in their houses or apartments, doing school online, with little to no social interaction. They have no place to go and nothing to do. One boy got so angry at his mom that he broke the 65″ TV in their house. Last night, I got a text from my sister while she was working at the hospital. 3 people came in for overdoses in one overnight shift. That’s one 12-hour period.

Anxiety is such a common mental health issue, along with depression. Both are mental health issues that the world at large experienced during the quarantine and lock downs during the worst weeks and months of Coronavirus. People with more severe anxiety, or people who had a lot of anxiety before Coronavirus ever rocked our world, are suffering even more so now. Those people are still locked in their houses, still doing grocery pick ups, and they walk around outside with masks and gloves. Whether they are right or wrong, I do not know. What I do know is that they’re scared. They’re anxious. What if they get sick? What if they get a loved one sick? What if they get hospitalized? What if they’re in the hospital and no one can be there with them? What if they die? These are some of the millions of thoughts that are running through an already anxious person’s head.

The problem is that staying inside and running away from everyone and cutting off all social contact is not going to work. Social contact is the very thing that people need to survive and keep their mental and emotional health in check. Social isolation is NOT the antidote to anxiety. Having people locked up in their houses with their anxiety and depression is not the answer. Now people are hiding in their houses not seeing anyone ever and getting absolutely no support. Not physical support, because they’re scared to have their cleaning help, their babysitters, or any family members come to their house to help out. And not emotional support, because they don’t see anyone on a daily basis to talk to. There are no coffee dates for adults, and there’s no school for kids to see their friends.

Mental health is a real issue and I believe that Coronavirus and quarantine have made it much, much worse. It is wonderful that a vaccine for the Coronavirus is coming out soon. I just hope the scientists are working on a vaccine for all the new mental health issues that have cropped up. When this is all over, and the deaths have stopped, will we be ready to count up the amount of suicides and compare them to the deaths from Covid-19?

Zoom Doesn’t Replace Everything

So, here we are, on day 500 million of the Coronavirus lockdown/quarantine. Basically, we haven’t left our houses in two months now, besides to go out for essentials, or to go for our daily walk or bike ride.

Before Coronavirus did anyone ever hear of Zoom? I, for one, didn’t. But, suddenly, Zoom was everywhere! School classes are now on Zoom! Pilates is on Zoom! Gym classes for my two year old are on Zoom! Synagogue gatherings and prayers on Zoom! Bar Mitzvahs are on Zoom! I just attended a Bris this morning on Zoom and that was one view I never want to see again.

Anything, and everything you’ve ever wanted is on Zoom now. We can all virtually be there! It’s almost the same thing as being there in person! Now we have Zoom to replace all of our social interactions. We’ll never have to leave the house again!

I have one teeny tiny problem with all of this, however. Zoom can’t replace everything. For example, my two year old can’t really do his gym class on Zoom. I mean, if there’s no gym, how can he climb up the ladders and go down the slides? He can’t very well do that on a computer screen? In the beginning, I actually signed him up for a gym class on Zoom. He looked at the computer for roughly 30 seconds before smacking the laptop closed and saying ‘bye bye!’

Then, I had my kids’ piano teacher texting me about her Zoom piano lessons. I told her no thank you, and that we will resume piano lessons once we can do so in person. My kids could live for two weeks, or even two months without piano lessons. Maybe they would actually practice in the meantime.

I’ve been getting weekly emails from my son’s baseball little league organization. They changed their mind so many times about starting baseball later in the season, or later in the summer, before finally deciding that they will cancel baseball for this year and refund us our money. Good decision, considering MLB also cancelled their season. But, don’t worry! In every single email were links to watch videos of baseball lesson demonstrations. You can also email in a video of your son practicing baseball!! I honestly have no idea if my 9 year old son would be interested in any of these videos, because I forgot to show them to him. Yes. Every single week when the emails come.

I’ve been married for 12 years now, but I’ve heard from single friends that what I’ve been reading online is true. They’re actually having Zoom dates. One friend told me about a Zoom speed dating room she attended one night. I can’t even begin to fathom how this worked and if anyone started “dating” after. I’m not in the world of dating right now, but for once, I finally feel worse for my single friends than I do for myself home with three kids all day, including a very active two year old boy who doesn’t like his Zoom gym class.

But, if he didn’t like his gym classes on Zoom, maybe he would do his speech and occupational therapy on Zoom? My 2 year old had been in an Early Intervention program for about 6 weeks before the quarantine started. He had a speech therapist and an Occupational therapist. Both came weekly with a big bag of toys, and sat on the floor for 45 minutes playing with him. The speech therapist was teaching him to say more words and …well, actually, I’m not entirely sure what the OT’s goal was. Anyway, when the quarantine started, both therapists contacted me and asked if we wanted to continue therapy via Zoom. Well, after the gym class disaster, I declined therapies. I told them we will resume after quarantine, whenever that may be. His speech was already improving greatly, just because everyone was home with him talking to him and stimulating him all day, so I wasn’t concerned about that, and the OT…well, you know by now why I wasn’t nervous about that. I just have no idea how we would do speech and occupational therapy with this active child over Zoom. I certainly wasn’t going to pay to have him slam the computer shut again. I told the therapists that we would love to start again after the quarantine is over.

My last topic that I wanted to address on Zoom are the introverts in our lives. My husband doesn’t like socializing on a regular day. In fact, this quarantine has barely affected his life at all. He mostly stayed off Zoom for the first month. By the second month, however, the Rabbi of our synagogue wanted to organize small groups of five men to meet up on Zoom and have a little class with the Rabbi. My husband was planning on opting out of this, but a friend managed to talk him into joining a group.

“How do I download Zoom?” he asked me on April 22. The rest of the family had been using Zoom for over a month now and he didn’t even have Zoom downloaded on his computer or iPhone. I explained it all to him, and I suggested he just do it on his iPhone and hold it close to his face and then that is all people will see. He tried to do this for the first class, but right before the session started the Rabbi asked everyone to use Zoom on their computers so this way everyone could see each other at the same time and it would really feel like they were together, around a table, talking.

“Where do I set it up? I don’t want everyone to see me! Why can’t I just leave my video off?” I had to coach him before the first session and convince him to just try it.

He hated it. And he still hates it every Monday evening.

“It’s such an invasion of privacy.”

Boom. He hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what Zoom is. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, Zoom is an invasion of our privacy. And people just expect you to be able to pop on Zoom whenever they feel like setting up a meeting. Maybe I just got out of the shower. Maybe I’m in the middle of a breakdown right now. IT’S JUST NOT A GOOD TIME, is what I have learned to say when me, my kids, or my husband are just not in the mood of joining a Zoom meeting.

Zoom doesn’t replace everything and as soon as this quarantine is over, I’m going back to my actual pilates class, because I like to see people in real life and not just over a screen. And that gym better open for my 2 year old asap.

 

 

Why do people put others down?

It’s a question I often wonder when I see or hear adults putting other adults down. Why do people feel the need to put others down? Why call someone else’s opinions stupid, or talk about how a girl is ugly or fat?

I know that the first answer you automatically think of is that people talk bad about others, because they’re jealous or because they’re just trying to make themselves feel better. Which is probably true. Everyone knows that people tend to make fun of others when they’re jealous. They’re jealous of their Instagram pictures so they make fun of the way the people look in the pictures, of the people they’re with or the activity they’re doing. Or there are people who get jealous of someone’s money so they will make fun of every other thing about that person – the way they look, how they act, or even their children. People tend to put others down to make themselves feel better. It is the way of the world. But, why?

The answer, as I see it, is that people are just selfish. We’re all inherently selfish. Everyone is born that way. Babies are born as selfish human beings, crying and demanding what they need when they need it. However, as a child grows up, it is our job, as parents to teach children not to be selfish. To think of others and their needs. To ask themselves, what can I do for the world? To teach them empathy, a very important social component of human beings. Why is this so important?

Sometimes when I talk to people I’ll get a strange response and at first I’ll be confused and wonder how that is a response for what I just told them. For example, you tell your friend you’re pregnant and she says, “Wow! Already! I didn’t think you were going to have another one right now!” And you think to yourself…I have 1 kid right now, who is 3 years old. It’s not so crazy to be pregnant. Besides, it’s your own decision with your spouse. But, then, you look at your friend’s family. She has two kids already, and they’re aged 4 and 1. She is NOT ready to have another child. So, when you tell her about your pregnancy, her reaction is only about herself and her own situation. It’s the way people are. You can use this example for anything that people say to you. Anything you tell people and they react or respond in a way that you wouldn’t expect, turn the whole conversation around in your head and think about what is going on in this person’s life and you’ll completely understand why they’re responding in that way. It works in every situation. And then, all of a sudden you understand their strange or surprising response to what you just spoke to them about. Everyone’s only thinking about themselves.

And this is why I think we must teach our children, and work on ourselves, not to be selfish and to learn to really listen to what other people are telling us and respond in an appropriate manner – not one that has to do with us or our feelings, but maybe, truly be happy or sad for the other person. Also, maybe we can learn to be less judgmental of people and put others down less. If people weren’t so selfish they wouldn’t put others down. I think that when people put others down it is usually for their own selfish reasons and whatever is going on in their lives that makes them do it. Not because it has anything to do with you.

I’ve had people call me fat, stupid, etc. Of course they say it as a joke or teasingly, but we all know that there is always truth to what they’re saying. Or at least they really mean it. And at first I’ll get really insulted. You think I’m fat?? You think I’m stupid?? But, then, I’ll stop, sit back, and think about why that person is making that remark they just made. And I can always find a reason why they said what they said that has absolutely nothing to do with me. This is also a great way not to get insulted too easily. I don’t necessarily have the right reason for why people like to put others down, but I think I at least have the answer to what you can do for yourself if you hear someone putting you down.

The Dreaded Epi-Pen

epipen

I am no stranger to the world of allergies. When my now 5 1/2 year old son was born he almost immediately started throwing up and having reflux from all dairy. We discovered many other allergies along the way through trial and error. We took test after test and tried to figure out what else was causing him so much pain all the time. I took him to countless pediatricians, allergists and Gastroenterologists in the Chicago area. Through the guidance of some very knowledgeable doctors, we ended up taking him completely off of the top 8 allergens and many other foods. When he finally began to feel better, we slowly re-added foods back into his diet. We also took him to a feeding therapist who taught him how to eat solid foods, because he had developed a fear to many foods, since most of them had caused him so much pain in the past. He was about two years old at the time.

We have had him in a stable place now for the past few years. He has been completely off of dairy, soy and gluten and things have been good. He’s gaining weight, feeling good and starting to try more foods. He even has foods that he loves to eat. You should see him stuff 4 slices of salami into his mouth at a time. It’s scary!

Recently, however, he had an outbreak of hives completely over his body. We’re not sure what he could have eaten that caused the outbreak, but we gave him Benadryl at the first sign of the hives. At first it was just on his arms and a little on his face. A few hours later, the hives had spread all over his body. We gave another dose of Benadryl and waited. The hives still didn’t go down. At this point, I was getting nervous. I had never seen hives all over his body and I had never seen hives not go away after two doses of Benadryl. It was late on a Saturday night, so I texted my sister, who’s a nurse.

“Give more Benadryl,” she texted back. “If it doesn’t start to go down, you need to go to the E.R.”

He had finally fallen asleep and I didn’t want to wake him just yet, so I kept checking on him. It finally went down an hour later.

After that, I decided it was time to visit the allergist again. I had never seen my son have a reaction like this and I was confused. I had recently found a new allergist and I had brought in my daughter and myself for new allergies we were also recently discovering, so I made my son an appointment. We went in the next week and got him food allergy tested again for the first time since he was 1 years old. The results showed that he is allergic to milk, soy (though less significantly than he used to be, we think), and a new one: peanuts.

In addition, he is still sensitive to gluten-this we discovered through trial and error. He ate not one, but two hamantaschen while I wasn’t looking and was gagging in the bathroom 10 minutes later with reflux. When the reflux finally went down he was up all night with diarrhea.

At this point the allergist recommended that we have an Epi-Pen at home.

“You will probably never need it, but I think you should have one with you. It might get worse the next time he has a reaction.”

Just the words a mother with a son with food allergies wants to hear.

I reluctantly picked up the prescription, finally, a week later. I think I was in a bit of denial at first and we stored the Epi-Pen in the kitchen and figured if we ever needed it, it would be in a place that’s near the food.

Then, I realized he needed an Epi-Pen at school also, so I called up his teacher and told her I was sending it to school, but I didn’t want my son to see it. I didn’t need him seeing this needle and him worrying all the time if his throat was closing up and if he needed it. Also, he’s a bit of a drama king in addition to everything else, so I don’t want him being all dramatic and telling me he can’t breathe unless it’s real.

The teacher informed that I can’t just send an Epi-Pen to school. I needed an action plan from the doctor. Which I knew. Duh. I’m part of so many allergy groups and the mothers are always talking about the action plans. I just didn’t think my son needed one. But, I was beginning to realize how much things were changing.

A few days later, I finally called the allergist’s office and requested the action plan for school. Another few days later, when the doctor was back in the office location we usually see him at, the wonderful office staff took care of the action plan and faxed it straight into the school. I spent the whole day on the phone with the school nurse, playing phone tag with the doctor (there was a mistake in the action plan that I needed to have corrected), and both of my son’s teachers to inform them of all this new information. Then I sadly packed up a ziplock bag that contained one Epi-Pen Junior and one bottle of Benadryl. My husband brought in the bag discreetly this morning and gave it to my son’s teacher to put in a cabinet in the classroom. I am waiting to see the final action plan today and then the nurse will bring it to my son’s classroom and speak to the teachers about making the classroom peanut-free.

All in all, everyone involved was more than nice to me. The doctor, the office staff at the doctor, the teachers, the school nurse. Even my son’s teachers who I kept on the phone way longer than I should have to tell them every detail of my son’s life and allergies.

I couldn’t have had a better experience in terms of preparing everything. But still. I am so sad. I am so scared. I don’t want an Epi-Pen. My sister told me that the first time her son, who’s severely allergic to fish, had his first bad reaction was when he was 7 years old. I’m nervous. What if the worst is still yet to come?

I know the Epi-Pen could save his life. I’m thankful there is such an invention as the Epi-Pen. I just hope that there never comes up an instance where we would need it. I hope that if we ever need to use it that it works.

I just wish we never needed it, even in the “in case he ever needs it” way that my son needs it right now. And I know I’m not supposed to say this. Everything we’re tested with in life is only because G-d thinks we can handle these tests. But, I never asked for this test. I don’t want it. I don’t think I can handle it, G-d, so, um, can you please give me a different test, that perhaps is easier to deal with?

Throughout my experience with having a son with food allergies, I have met various people who say things they probably don’t meant to, but they say it because they don’t know what else to say. Among those people are the people who say, “It’s a good thing I don’t have a kid with food allergies. I wouldn’t be able to do it!”

I usually just smile and nod when people say that, because, really, what can you say to that? What I want to say to them is, “Yes, you would. You would figure it out just like I did. And you would do everything in your power to shop and cook allergy friendly food just like I do. You would spend days on the phone with doctors and teachers preparing everyone for the emergency that you hope you never have. Because this is your child, and this is your test, and you don’t really have a choice.”

 

What’s a Jew to do on Christmas Eve?

Nothing. Just nothing. Why do we have to ‘do something’ anyway? We don’t have to eat Chinese food, because we can just eat the food that is in our fridge already. We don’t have to go to the movies, because we can just watch what’s on TV or on Netflix at home. It’s not like we go out every night. And even if you do (God knows how you have the time and energy to do that), stay home for one night. Just one night. Because everyone is CLOSED. I know that some Chinese restaurants are open and the movie theaters are open, but you don’t need to go just because. You can just stay home and do nothing. It’s not like most of us ever do too much on a regular night.

I don’t understand why people feel like they need to do something on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There are many Jewish parties for singles on Christmas Eve. Why does it have to be then? Why can’t it be on a random Saturday or Sunday night? I just don’t get why Jews feel like they have to do something on Christmas. Just do nothing, sit back, and let other religions celebrate their holiday, just as they let us celebrate our holidays (in most places and eras).

Aside from the fact that Jews, and anyone else who doesn’t celebrate Christmas should just stay home and clean their houses, there are also the employees who work at the various places open on Christmas to think about. Even if the employees working Christmas day are not celebrating Christmas, I’m sure they would rather be at home relaxing just like the rest of us on our day off.

Resist the urge to go get Chinese. Resist the urge to go see a movie. And try to resist the urge to go to the emergency room! That’s really a shout out to my favorite nurse and paramedic, my sister and brother-in-law, respectively, who will be working Christmas Eve in the emergency room and on the ambulance. As all good Jews should do. Just like we take off for our holidays and the non-Jews take over and work for us, we should work on their holidays to allow them the space to take off.

So, whether you celebrate Christmas or you’re just celebrating a day off of work, have a Merry Christmas or an awesome day off of staying home and just doing nothing! And remember, just be okay with the fact that you’re staying home and doing nothing

What am I supposed to do with all of my digital pictures??

This past weekend I spent at my parents’ house with one of my older sisters and her 7 kids. No, my parents don’t live in a mansion. We just squash in so we can spend quality time together, because we love each other. No, we really do.

For much of the weekend, we spent time looking at old photos. My 14, 17, and 18 year old nephews enjoyed looking at the old pictures my parents have as much as my sister and I did. Her 12 and 8 year old daughters liked the pictures too and my kids were looking at the albums too.

We laughed at old pictures of ourselves looking stupid in our ’80’s and ’90’s hairdos and outfits. We reminisced about family vacations and when my sisters kids were little. By the way, we realized there are almost more pictures of her kids than of me when I was born, but who’s counting? We asked my parents who people were in the black and white photos of their wedding and other old pictures we found. It was a really nice weekend and it was great to look through all the pictures and have all generations enjoy it.

At the end of the weekend, my father brought out a huge box of loose photos. All the other photos in the house were in albums, carefully organized according to child and then grandchild. There are albums of weddings and bar mitzvahs and different time periods also. My mother always says it was my father who took the time to organize and print all the pictures and place them carefully into albums. She claims she was too busy raising her 8 kids. So, my father puts the box down on the table and tells us to choose what pictures we want from the box, because otherwise he was going to throw away the rest. Now, after looking at pictures all weekend and realizing just how important pictures are to me and to us and to everyone, I was horrified. Throw away our precious memories?

I quickly enlisted my nephews, my husband, and my sister and brother-in-law, my grandmother, who was there that evening for Chanukah, and I begged everyone to help divide up the pictures and we would go through them and put them into albums ourselves!! It took awhile, but with everyone helping it took quicker than I thought it would. We had more good laughs while we went through the pictures as we found old pictures we had never seen before in this mysterious box. After we divided up the pictures, I wanted to get albums to place them in, but time had run out for the weekend, so we organized the pictures into ziplock bags to put in an album another time. And we hid them from my father so he wouldn’t throw them out.

How could he even imagine throwing out all of our memories? These pictures held every memory and every event, whether big or small, from our childhood. There were pictures of my nephews and nieces visiting my parents and going on every imaginable trip, from horseback riding to the zoo to the now non-existent Kiddieland. We need to preserve these pictures so we can always look back and remember all of our good times.

I once read an article that highlighted the amount of time and money spent on the digital pictures we take nowadays. I wish I could remember where I read that article. It was a few years ago that I read it, but it has stuck in my mind all this time, because it was so true. It talked about the amount of time we spend organizing our digital pictures.

Imagine…all those years ago my father (assuming my mother really WAS that busy, ha ha) took all those pictures on film. Then, he brought the film to Osco or Walgreens, had the film developed, picked up the pictures and excitedly went through them. We couldn’t view pictures on a camera while we took them, unless you were the proud owner of a Polaroid. It took that long to take pictures and develop them, plus it cost more money. And he had all those pictures.

Now, imagine all of our digital pictures we take. The hundreds of snapshots we take on our iPhones that are always with us. Then, you have to transfer all the pictures to your computer. Then you upload these hundreds of pictures to a picture purchasing website: Snapfish, Shutterfly, Walgreens or Costco or something like that. Then you have to start weeding through all those pictures and decide which of the 10 shots you took of your kids was the best and should you just buy all 10 of them, because really, they’re all cute. Or do you just choose one that you think is the best. Either way, you have already wasted plenty of time choosing. Then, you finally order your pictures. When your box of 300 photos come from Snapfish, you need to buy some albums and start squeezing them in through those tiny slots.

Okay. You have just successfully wasted hours and hours of time. BUT! Is it wasted? No, because one day you will have children and grandchildren who spend a whole Chanukah weekend looking through all of their old pictures.

The only problem with digital pictures versus film and old cameras was that we take hundreds more pictures than we used to and it takes more time to go through all of them. In some ways it’s better, because we have so many more pictures. On the other hand, it takes so long to order the pictures that I often put it off. I am currently 2 years behind on pictures for my family. I order a picture book/album from Snapfish from our big summer vacations, because that is a little easier, but as far as all the loose pictures to place in albums of every school graduation, first day of school picture, lighting Chanukah menorah picture, and swimming at Grandma’s pool – those pictures I haven’t ordered in 2 years.

After spending the weekend enjoying the pictures, I realize how important it is this will be my push to get moving again on picture organizing. After all, I’m thankful my father did it for us and I’m sure my kids will be thankful I did it for them.