Monday, February 23, 2015

When A Shortcut Isn't Worth It

The human brain loves a shortcut. Maybe not as much as my Dad did, driving through the rural back-roads of Oregon, but pretty close, I think.  The look of pure satisfaction on his face as he turned in the opposite direction that we expected him to, the glee when he discovered a different route that would shave minutes or seconds off of our trip, it was a thing to behold.  Cheating the system, cutting a corner, figuring out a pattern and exploiting it - that was the stuff of legend in our household and always good for a cheap thrill.  I took notes as a kid, and my brain followed suit, laying down a nice flat steamrolled bed of gravel and pouring some asphalt over the top of it. Streamlining the process for the next time and feeling smug that I had discovered a better way, a faster way, a more efficient way to deal with all sorts of things, not just how to get from Point A to Point B.

After a few times of traveling that new road my brain laid down, it increased the speed limit for me. How nice, I thought, I barely even need to think about this anymore. It has become reflex to react in this particular way to this particular set of events. And, often, it was nice. It was time-saving. But when I got to the point where I could navigate those paths blindfolded and in my sleep, I forgot that they were crafted by a child.

When I was a kid, my brain laid down a path to being okay with people leaving. Forged over the span of a few years as some pretty critical folks peeled off and left, it gave me a way to shortcut the hurt whenever I suspected someone else was about to go. I used that road for a long time, and I got really good at it. The signage on that road went a little something like this:

GO AHEAD. I'M FINE.

and

I'M DONE WITH YOU, ANYWAY.

Long-time readers may recall that about ten years ago, Bubba was really sick with some mystery illness. He was in and out of the hospital every few months for days at a time and it took many doctors over three years to figure out what was wrong. But in those three years or so, he did his level best to keep on keeping on in-between episodes, continuing to travel internationally for work and provide for the four of us. This meant that on a few occasions, he would fall seriously ill in a foreign country and I would get a phone call in the middle of the night - from Prague or China or somewhere that felt really, really far away.  That path went from a foot-worn deer path in my brain and heart to a full on superhighway.

GO AHEAD. WE'LL BE FINE.

When he was home, I was guarded but loving. Affectionate and caring but ready to pull away just in case.  As if that shortcut would circumvent the deep wellspring of despair I would have plunged into had anything happened to him. As if I could distance myself enough emotionally to be able to just carry on if he were gone for good.

And yet. That shortcut beckoned. My brain saw that path as the well-lit one studded with diners and rest stops along the way and it was so well-traveled that I could barely discern the other road off to the side.

These days, I'm working on creating a new path. As Bubba readies himself for another long trip and Eve pulls away more and more in search of a new kind of independence and Lola hits the stage where her bedroom is the best room in the house (as long as she's in there alone or with a girlfriend), I am discovering that that old highway is no longer useful. It never really got me where I needed to go, anyway. There's no getting around the hurt when someone leaves. So instead of pulling away preemptively, I'm going to hang on a little tighter. I'm going to squeeze every last drop of affection out of the time I do get with these amazing people and hopefully the signs on my new road will read

I LOVE YOU AND I MISS YOU.
GLAD WE HAD THIS TIME TOGETHER.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Listening to Stakeholders

It is often hard to remember that listening is the best first step to creating solutions, especially when the solutions are not for us, personally. The older I get, the more I understand that listening is truly the best first step in nearly every situation, though, whether it's meeting someone new, planning a project, walking with a friend.

If we don't listen, it's easy to forget that someone else's perspective might be incredibly valuable.  Last October, Gloria Steinem told this story to a room full of people I was lucky enough to be in.

She had traveled to Africa to attend a summit on sex trafficking with many, many organizations and governmental representatives all gathered together to come up with ways to combat this rising challenge.  During a break in the meetings, she was approached by a woman who asked her to travel with her to a small village where several women had recently been lost to this trade. Gloria was flattered and shocked, unsure of what she could do to help this small village, much less how she would manage to communicate with the villagers, but she went.

She described a scene where a feast was prepared and blankets spread out on the grass, with all of the women in a circle ready to address her.  Translating their concerns was difficult, but they found a way to get their request across - the women of the village wanted elephant fences.  Gloria was confused. What do elephant fences have to do with sex trafficking? The women explained:

The livelihood of this village was largely dependent on growing maize.  Over time, though, as elephant habitats become smaller and smaller, the elephants discovered the fields of maize and came  to the village to feed on them.  This left the village in dire straits - they had not enough maize to feed their own families, much less to sell to others.  It is because of this that three young women traveled to the nearest large city to find work to send home money to support their families. When they arrived in the city, they were kidnapped and sold as sex slaves.  The rest of the villagers reasoned that if they raised the equivalent of a few thousand dollars to erect fences that would prevent the elephants from eating their maize, they could keep their young women from having to leave the village to find work.

Gloria was stunned by this simple solution - one that nobody at her enormous conference would have come up with. She traveled back to the city and worked for several days to raise money to build the fences.   More than that, she demonstrated the power of listening. By traveling to the village to hear the ideas of the people most affected, she was enabling them to empower themselves and helping them find a way to prevent their girls from being sex-trafficked.  It is not a solution for the many, to be sure, but for this village it was monumental. And it cost mere pennies compared to the proposals being raised at this multinational conference, most of which were not preventative solutions, but punitive ones for the traffickers themselves.

I am so often struck remembering this story as I read stories in the news about government agencies or non-profit organizations who are puzzling over potential solutions to poverty, hunger, major health issues, and violence in particular countries or communities. The first question I ask myself these days is whether the folks with the leverage and money to provide help have asked the communities in question for their stories, their ideas, their solutions. Bringing American-style answers to questions that exist in non-western countries may turn out to be wasteful or overkill and it may well be that if one or two people listen to the individuals living with the struggles and ask for their perspective, they can come up with simpler, more comprehensive solutions.

It seems obvious, but it is so easy to get caught up in our own viewpoint and the belief that wanting to help is enough. I do the same thing with my kids all the time, swooping in to offer advice or put into place some new system that I think will fix a pervasive problem in our household without asking them what they think. And, especially when it comes to kids, I think adults do that a lot. I watched my daughters' middle school revamp their dress code four times in four years, having discussions with staff and administration, parents and board members, but it wasn't until they listened to the students that they came up with a solution that everyone feels good about. It was a student that got so frustrated she crafted a PowerPoint Presentation to illustrate the issues and potential solutions, and it took a month of student council meetings to come up with a new set of guidelines that has everyone breathing a sigh of relief. Four years (at least). Four years of meetings, research, discussion, fiddling with different ideas, and nobody was happy.

I have a photo of an elephant fence tucked inside my nightstand as a powerful reminder that listening is one of the most effective, efficient things I can do every day. Even if I see my strengths as collaboration and a strong desire to help, it turns out that the best way to do that is by asking the stakeholders what they think, no matter who they are.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Perspective Achieved

Last week I got to spend three days with Lola and her 7th grade class (26 12- and 13-year old girls) on part of the trail that Lewis & Clark trekked. We slept in yurts, explored Shipwreck Beach, hiked to the lighthouse at Cape Disappointment, visited Fort Clatsop to learn about the living conditions, and listened to folks tell stories of their discoveries. It was a lot of driving (I had four girls in my car), and I can honestly say that I don't recall when I have laughed that much.

There were two other moms who came along as chaperones and four dads that joined the teachers on this trip, and it was really great to see how different adults interact with the students. One dad talked (in front of everyone) about how much he appreciated getting to spend this time with his daughter before she truly launches into the more fully independent teenage years which got quite the sweet response from us all.  Some parents watched the kids pretty closely while others gave them a wide circle of trust, but we all ultimately had everyone's back.

There were moments of tension, and some tears along the way, but for the most part, the girls enjoyed exploring, talking about what it might have been like to be Sacajawea (the only woman, the only teenager, and the only Native American on an all-white-male expedition), and having a little bit of freedom.

As for me, it was just exactly what I needed.  The previous week had been one of angst and turmoil for me. After launching The SELF Project and officially putting the word out, I spent a week making a few connections with folks I thought might be interested and another week waiting and wondering. While I engaged in many of the normal activities of my life - blogging, editing a piece for publication, cooking and shopping and running the girls to school and their various activities - I was constantly taunted by thoughts that I ought to be doing something else. That if I were a "real" entrepreneur, I would know the right steps to take to get clients and start some projects. That I was somehow not good enough or smart enough to make this endeavor work.

The three days with these girls showed me that those voices are wrong. I had several conversations with teachers and parents on the trip about the social-emotional health of the girls, discussing my insights and understanding and making suggestions for future trips. I was able to see patterns in some instances that others hadn't seen and it reinforced my belief that engaging in mindfulness with these kids is terrifically important in so many ways.

I came home exhausted and rejuvenated, my belly sore from laughing at their antics, and feeling a renewed sense of wonder about this beautiful place where we live. More than that, though, I came home knowing more about how I work best and that actually immersing myself in the work is where my talents shine through.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

How Do You See The World?

When I look at this image, the first thing I see is an old woman and it's hard to see anything else.  But as soon as someone points out the young lady facing away from me in the same lines on the page, it is nearly impossible to see the old woman again. I am stuck with the view of the young lady.


In order to switch back and forth, I am forced to focus on certain parts of the image instead of looking at the whole. If I want to go back to the view of the old woman, I seek out the line of her mouth and raise my eyes up to her beak-like nose.

If I then want to see the young lady again, I look out to where her eyelash and nose are to shift perspective.  And as I do so, I am reminded that I possess the same power of perspective in my daily life.

Perception is reality, right? So if we're in a challenging situation, or a pattern in our lives where our default perspective is glass-half-empty, it's up to us to change the way we look at it. The trick is not to fill up the glass, but to see that it is half full instead.  We have to focus on certain parts of the whole that help us to see things in a different way, and it is important to teach our kids how to do this for themselves. As they hit adolescence and emotions become king, it can be really difficult to perceive things in a positive way, and once the negative patterns have been set, it takes work to change them.

If you have a teen who sees things in a decidedly unhappy way (I hate school, nobody likes me, I suck at math/history/lit), there's no use challenging their perception. You will get nowhere by disputing their sense of reality or belittling their emotional responses, but you can help them turn the tide slowly by helping them see things in a different way. One powerful way to do this is to begin a gratitude practice (although you may not want to call it that).

When Eve started high school there were a lot of challenges and it didn't take long for her to feel like a square peg in a round hole. After weeks of angst and hand-wringing (on my part), lots of conversations designed to build her up, and a few frustrated arguments, I decided to lead by example. Every night before turning my bedside lamp off, I texted Eve a list of three things I was grateful for and asked her if she had three to tell me about. I wanted the last thing in her mind before sleep to be happy.  She started out slowly, often able to come up with one or two things, but sometimes getting stuck. It took a week or so before she was texting me first and asking for my reply, and her list of things has deepened from "my soft pillow" to items like "teachers I can trust" and her own strengths. Her perspective is shifting right before my eyes and I would be remiss if I didn't say that it has made a difference in her willingness to get up and tackle each new day as it comes, challenges and all.

It is a practice, and, like the effort it takes to focus my eyes on one set of lines or another in that drawing when I want to see a certain perspective, it is continual. The best part about it, though, for me, is the reminder that I am ultimately in charge of which lenses I see the world through - hope or fear, scarcity or abundance, gratitude or anger - and I hope that my girls are learning that, too.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mourning Cosby

There is an autographed, glossy, 8x10 photo of Bill Cosby on my mantle. It has been there for years, although in the last several months it has been face down so I don’t have to see it every time I sit down to watch TV with my kids.

Many of the most cherished moments of my childhood involved Bill Cosby.  Much of my childhood was tumultuous, peppered with divorces and multiple moves and brothers and sisters split up into different households.  My parents hated each other, but in the years before their divorce, at least once a week my siblings and I would lie belly-down on the shag carpet in anticipation while Dad packed his pipe with sweet-smelling cherry tobacco, pushed the 8-track in, and settled in his favorite chair. We spent hours listening to tales of Fat Albert, rolling around in hysterics and trying desperately to stifle our giggles so we wouldn’t miss the next hilarious line about the dentist or Buck-Buck Number 5. Those evenings were magical. There were few things that we could all agree on – vanilla ice cream with Hershey’s syrup and Cosby’s routines being the only two I can recall now – and we listened to those tapes until we could recite them verbatim. I used to delight in spontaneously rattling off a line in the middle of a boring road trip or somber meal just to see everyone crack up.

After an ugly divorce from my mother, Dad and I had issues. He was a complicated man who didn’t always do the right thing. He cheated on my mom. He cheated on his second wife. He had a terrible temper and ruled with shame and fear. He was also committed to teaching us to be better people, coaching my brothers’ soccer team and letting me help him wash and wax the cars and change the oil. He was serious and meticulous and didn’t laugh easily, but when he did it was like Christmas morning and my birthday all rolled into one. I was simultaneously terrified of him and desperate to make him proud of me. For much of my life there was no more powerful force in my world than Dad.

 Mom had a lot of really terrible things to say about him and nearly a decade after their split when his second marriage began crumbling, my stepmother added to the accusations. I was a senior in high school and a budding feminist. I was disgusted by the tales of my father’s cheating and indignant in my defense of my mom and stepmother. I began to distance myself from Dad, which was fairly easy since I was soon to be off to college, anyway. I never confronted him, certain that he would deny their allegations, and kept all of our interactions purely superficial.  I didn’t trust him and wasn’t about to put myself in a vulnerable position.

When I was 29 and expecting my first child, things changed. I had been too afraid to formally disengage from Dad’s life since that would have required having an honest conversation about why I was choosing that route. Instead, I held him at arm’s length, determined to protect myself. But as my belly grew, I began daydreaming about the life I wanted to give to my child. I recalled my own family Christmases smack in the eye of a tornado of cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents; torn tissue and ribbons and smiles all around. I remembered that allies don’t always come in the form we expect them to and, regardless of how fiercely I hoped to be the one my child came to when she needed help, it dawned on me that I may not be the one she chose. I decided that I wanted to give my baby the biggest, most loving family in the history of the world. I wanted her to know her aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. I wanted her to hear their stories and see their hilarious antics. I wanted her to stand in the center of a room full of her people and feel loved and protected and cherished, and I realized that that group included Dad. My heart melted as I recalled some of my favorite moments with him  – playing Heart and Soul together on the piano, hiking in the mountains on a sunny summer day, lying around cracking up to Bill Cosby routines. I had forgotten how safe I had felt with him as a kid.

But I was unsure how to go about it. I would have to steel myself for this conversation, this decision to let him into my life for real. I figured I would have to confront him with all of the accusations Mom and his second wife had made and ask him to answer for them. I lay in the darkness, one hand on my belly, my anxiety ratcheting up as I imagined the awful fight we would have. The baby started kicking furiously, turning somersaults and flipping around.

Gradually it began to dawn on me: was there anything he could say that would appease me? Could I imagine a scenario whereby he would say, “I cheated on your mom because of ‘x’” and it would be okay with me? Could I come up with any plausible explanation for some of the crappy decisions he made as a parent? Anything that would make me nod my head and say, “Oh, I get it. I totally would have done the same thing.”

The baby stopped moving and I went cold. It was in that moment that I realized I had been vilifying my father for decades and he was simply a human being. He hadn’t had a set of rules or guidelines for being the perfect parent any more than I would.

Yeah, but did he do his best? the devil voice on my shoulder sneered.

The answer surprised us both. Yeah. I think he did.

When faced with this question I was forced to admit that I didn’t honestly believe anything my dad ever did was motivated by hatred for me or my siblings or even my mother. I don’t think he was ever trying to hurt any of us. Not that his actions were excused or excusable, but it wasn’t my job to make my father pay for his mistakes, especially those he made with his wives.

And so Dad and I started over. From that moment, as adults, we began again, without mention of or atonement for past mistakes, with an acknowledgment that we were both human and fallible. Our relationship as adults was based on mutual love and respect and while I still wanted him to be proud of me, I no longer needed his approval. Most importantly, I stopped judging him.

We had eight fabulous years as father and daughter. We spoke on the phone a couple of times a month about anything and everything and he never hung up without saying, “I love you, Kari.” Watching him get down on the floor with my girls and play Polly Pockets and build Lego houses and sing goofy songs, I often thought my heart would bust wide open. He was funny and irreverent and would have done anything for his granddaughters. He was amazed at how smart they were and wanted them to have every opportunity in life. More than once, I saw threads of him woven into the fabric of my children – their tenacity and determination came straight from him through me, I’m sure. Because of my children, I was able to recapture the good memories of Dad. Before that, I only saw the cheating and lying.

My father died in my arms after a brutal battle with lung cancer six years ago. I spontaneously offered to write and deliver the eulogy at his memorial service and for a few terrifying hours I sat on the guest bed at my in-laws’ house searching for inspiration. What came to me was Bill Cosby. As a kid, Dad was stern and serious except for those nights when he lit his pipe and put his feet up and laughed at Cosby’s routines until tears rolled down his cheeks, and that is what I told the room full of people that came to pay tribute to my father. I chose Dad’s favorite routine – the one where God is trying to convince Noah to build the ark – and wove the humor and persistence of that bit into my acknowledgment of Dad’s gifts.

Today, I mourn for the tainted memories. I am relieved that my daughters never took to my attempts to hang out and listen to Bill Cosby CDs as a family because now I don’t have to dismantle that family tradition for them. They are too young to have watched The Cosby Show or have seen any Jell-o adds featuring Cosby, so all they know about that autographed 8x10 on the mantle is that it belonged to Papa. I will throw away the CDs I’ve had tucked away in my car for long road trips, naively thinking that the girls would stop listening to their own iPods long enough to hear the “snakey lick” routine that still makes me giggle, but I’m torn about how to handle the photo. Do I burn it and repurpose the frame? Do I throw the whole thing out? And what do I do with the memories? How do I reconcile the bonding that occurred over his comedy routines with the possibility that, during that time, he was drugging and sexually assaulting young women? 

Oddly enough, I’m very clear on how to handle such things with my children. They are very aware of which music I refuse to buy because the musician is not someone I wish to support.  The misogynist characters who build their reputations on objectifying and, at times blatantly threatening women and girls are not welcome to be heard in my car. One day as we drove to school, a PitBull song came on the radio and my youngest quickly reached for the dial to change the station.

“You know, it’s sad, Mom. He is a horrible human being, but he is a really good rapper.”

In our current era of social media and citizen journalism, I suspect we know far more about today’s celebrities than we ever have before.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that many of the artists I listened to as a teenager did awful things but were lucky enough not to get caught by the general public, and it makes me wonder whether I would rush to get rid of all of their music now in response. If I discovered that Robert Plant or Jimmy Page had committed terrible acts against women or gay people or Latinos, I would be devastated. Would I never again listen to “Stairway to Heaven?” I don’t know.

Can I separate the individual acts from the performance? In the case of entertainers like PitBull and Eminem, it is clear from their music that they espouse certain beliefs and claim particular entitlements. It has been claimed that there were indications in Cosby’s routines as far back as 1969 that he wanted to drug women. I remember the Spanish Fly bit and, honestly, I don’t remember thinking anything of it at the time, mostly because the whole notion of Spanish Fly seemed confusing and “adult” to me.

I am a firm believer in consequences and if it turns out Bill Cosby did the things he is alleged to do, he deserves to pay harsh penalties and he has a lot to atone for. But the organizer in me wants to know which file to put those memories in, or whether I ought to just bag them up and throw them out with the dog poo. 


Friday, January 23, 2015

Fear and Excitement

What a week! I am putting the first touches on the website for my new project (that I've been hinting about here for a while, now), and it is a lot of work, but it's really fun. You can visit the site here and give  me any feedback you have on what you see/what I might change or add.  The endeavor is called The SELF (Social-Emotional Learning Foundations) Project. The goal is to bring social-emotional education to tweens and teens at schools, after-school programs, and other places where they gather.  The curriculum is divided into six areas:


  • mindfulness
  • living with joy
  • dealing with stress, anxiety, and fear
  • developing self-worth
  • compassion
  • big questions of life
I'm offering one-off events as well as entire workshops based in these areas and hoping to do a few summer camps this year.  I will also facilitate groups for parents and others raising tweens and teens to talk about mindful parenting through this tumultuous time, again either as ongoing meetings or as one-off speaking/facilitating events.  Eventually, I hope to develop the curriculum so that it can be licensed to other people who want to teach it in their own communities.  Each focus area has discussion prompts, worksheets, activities, and guided visualizations/meditations in order to offer different ways of looking at the same ideas.  It is based in research I've done over the past eight years as I raise my own girls and strive to help them develop as whole human beings, and most of the meditations and worksheets are things I created to help my girls through challenging times. If you know of schools or other organizations (YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, etc.) who might be interested, please pass on the link to the website so they can check it out.   I am happy to travel in the Pacific Northwest to speak and teach.  

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Also, in case you missed it, I had a piece published this week that I have worked on for a while and I'd love it if you headed over to read it - especially if you know tweens or teens that have questions about sex and sexuality.  You can find it here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

No Easy Answers

FhaC protein of Bordatella pertussis
In December, Eve had whooping cough.  We didn't realize it at the time, but when I finally took her to the doctor three weeks later to see why her cough hadn't resolved, we figured it out. Of course, by then, she was 90% recovered with just the lingering chest-rattling hack as evidence. Me? I was instantly chastened and laughed to the Physician's Assistant, "HA! Sign me up for Mother of the Year!"  She was quick to let me know that I shouldn't worry - there wasn't much they could have done for her anyway. And, hey, now she likely has natural immunity, so it's all good, right?

The thing is, it didn't really occur to me that whooping cough was a possibility, mostly because Eve was vaccinated on schedule.  I had peripherally heard about whooping cough outbreaks - mainly in high schools around the area - but they never really penetrated my consciousness enough to worry about it.  (That said, I will relay the memory of one time a few years ago when a local private high school was closed because of a widespread outbreak of whooping cough and my Facebook feed suddenly reflected a whole lot of vitriol directed at "those people who don't vaccinate their kids" despite any sort of hard evidence that it was an unvaccinated student who was the cause of the outbreak. That was a little shocking to see, but since I didn't have a dog in that fight, I left it alone.)

So how the heck did my kid (and all the other high school kids in the area) get whooping cough, especially those who have been vaccinated against it?

There seem to be no simple answers.  At least not any based in medicine.  I was told (on Facebook) by a friend that my daughter likely "got exposure from another who had not been vaccinated," but I don't see how that's the most likely explanation.

Certainly, it seems that the whooping cough vaccine that kids are getting is not as effective as it was meant to be. Most kids get their final booster around age 11 or 12, and the outbreaks are happening to high-school aged kids - the vast majority of whom have an unpleasant week or two and then are absolutely fine.  The CDC speculates that it is possible that the kids who have been vaccinated against whooping cough can harbor the bacteria in their system and when the vaccine efficacy wanes, as it is wont to do, it rears its ugly head and voila, kids get sick.  Of course, they also speculate that it is possible that there are some unvaccinated kids out there who get it and pass it along.  And they also speculate that the bacterium itself has mutated just enough to render the vaccine itself useless.

Like I said, no simple answers.  Folks who like to believe that there is an anti-vaccine conspiracy often say that if everyone were vaccinated, there would be no virus/bacteria left to mutate and that is why everyone ought to just go get their kids every shot offered.  Except that many of these shots are NOT SAFE for babies of a certain age, so there is no way to ensure that the virus/bacteria is gone forever.  And there are some folks whose medical status is too fragile for them to get the vaccine, which means they have to weigh the odds of potentially dying from getting the shots against the potential that they might one day come in contact with the virus/bacteria in question.  Again, no such thing as 100% vaccination and, thus, eradication.

In the days before vaccines, people did get sick and die from diseases like whooping cough, although generally that was because their health was not great for other reasons - malnutrition, immune disorders, age.  More often than not, people got viral or bacterial infections and recovered from them and built natural immunity. Nursing mothers could pass this natural immunity on to their children in many cases, and there was very little need for a vaccine, much less a boost of immunity later in life.

All this is to say that I don't think we can continue to place an inordinate amount of faith in the vaccination system. Yes, smallpox was eradicated by a vaccine. We all know the story. But one success story does not mean that this solution fits everything. And it also doesn't mean we ought to stop asking questions about vaccine efficacy for other, different, less deadly diseases (READ: HPV). And it certainly doesn't mean that we ought to feel free to vilify and radicalize people who are rightly concerned about their own children's individual health.

Eve most certainly caught whooping cough from someone at school.  Whether or not they were vaccinated against it means nothing to me. That kid came to school infectious, whether they knew it or not, coughed on Eve, or at the very least in her close vicinity, and the rest is history. Should I go on the school website and rail against the parents who send their kids to school with a fever or a nasty cough because it resulted in my kid getting really sick? I don't think so. Generally, the only people who end up needing hospitalization for whooping cough are babies, the elderly, and those whose health is already compromised, so there was almost no chance she would suffer long-lasting effects from her illness.  Going to school where there are other people - heck, going out in public, touching a door handle, using an ATM machine, breathing on an airplane - is putting you at risk for catching all sorts of things from other people who are either knowingly or unknowingly sick.  We cannot ever hope to eradicate all possibility of getting sick from other people unless we choose to live in a bubble and that is a pretty sad, pretty fear-based existence.  I'm not pissed off at the person who shared their whooping cough with Eve. I consider it part of the price of 'doing business' as they say. I'm only a little bit sad that Lola didn't manage to catch it at the same time, if only so I know they're both immune.  Shhh, don't tell her I said that.

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