Thursday, May 05, 2016

Chicago Culture Update

Now that my older son has finally chosen a school {choir of angels sings}, I can get back to my life. His decision, or indecision, really, had occupied a pretty large chunk of my mental space. Most people who asked me about future get-togethers were told to wait until May 1 for my response.

Now it's May 5 and I'm ready to roll. Here are a few events on my horizon. Note that I often receive media passes from the organizations below.

The Lyric Presents The King and I


The Kind and I is playing at the Lyric Opera House now through May 22. As you'll see below it looks like a grand feast for the eyes. I'm pleased to offer readers a discount on weekday performances from now through the end of its run.

“Whistle a Happy Tune” with HALF OFF tickets to Lyric Opera’s critically acclaimed production of The King and I! Use code “SIAMBLOG” for 50% off Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday performances. Offer is subject to availability and not valid on previously purchased tickets or in combination with any other offer. Please see lyricopera.org/promo for full offer details. Code expires 5/19/2016. For more information on The King and I visit www.lyricopera.org/kingandi.



The Joffrey Ballet Presents Cinderella


The Joffrey Ballet concludes it's 60th season with Sir Frederick Ashton's Cinderella accompanied by live music from the Chicago Philharmonic. Performances will be held at the Auditorium Theatre May 11-22 with select Saturday and Sunday matinees.

Chicago Sinfonietta Present Chromatic


Last year DH and I had our first exposure to The Chicago Sinfonietta. It's not your typical symphony experience. They push artistic boundaries by doing unexpected things and taking risks, like bringing tap dancers and flamenco dancers to perform alongside the musicians. Their talented musicians make lovely music, and the atmosphere is still formal, but a less stuffy than one might find at a typical performance. They also play out their commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as racial and cultural equity in the arts.

You'll get a feel for what I'm taking about when you see the line-up for their 2016-17 season, Chromatic. Concertgoers can look forward to a unique Día de los Muertos concert featuring silent films provided by Chicago Film Archives, and the Sinfonietta will hold a first-ever program dedicated to LGBTQ composers and musicians as part of their new series.

Look for Chicago Sinfonietta at Ravina on Thursday, June 16 at 8 PM where they will perform in conjunction with a dance troupe, the Highland Park High School Marching Band and the Waubonsie Valley High School Mosaic Choir.

They will play at Cantigny Park on Thursday, August 4 at 7:30 PM.

See full details of their upcoming season here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Opiate Abuse (Surgery without Sedation)

Last week I had minor surgery of my left hand and arm. #OldPeopleProblems Previous surgeries (gallbladder removal! wisdom teeth! appendectomy!) required that I be knocked out, but I had the option of staying awake for the work on my arm. In fact, because the doctor planned to block all feeling in the limb, I didn't even need to be sedated if I didn't want to.

I'm a hugs, not drugs (or maybe neither hugs nor drugs) kind of gal, so I told the anesthesiologist that I'd keep things clean. She was supportive of my decision, but assured me that the drugs would be nearby and easy to add to my IV at a moment's notice should I change my mind. She told me that if the time came, I could still decide the degree of sedation.

As they prepped me in the operating room, a nurse tightened a tourniquet high around my arm. I'd be warned about it and told it might feel "a bit uncomfortable" for 20 minutes or so.

Inhale.

Exhale.

I could see this getting more than a little uncomfortable Then they started the nerve block. My fingers tingled. Then they burned. Then they were on fire. I did some quick thinking. Who cares if I get sedatives? There's no medal of honor, not even a special cookie for making it through with my senses intact.

"Uh, yeah, I think I'll take a bit of sedative after all."

I'm not sure what she gave me. It didn't put me to sleep, but it did put me in a happy place. I didn't babble on (I don't think), but I did ask to see this bit they removed (as much as I could see without my glasses, which is not much). I did learn that a body part can survive about 2 hours in a tourniquet without long-term harm. Not much else happened.

I didn't expect a whole lot of post-surgical pain and I'm not a fan of the dizzying effect of Vicodin, which has now fallen out of favor for a low acetophetamin pill, Norco. Both are opiates. Both can be a gateway to heroin abuse. Unless you are like me and they just make you want to vomit. That kinda ruins the appeal.

At any rate, I'm not a fan of the drugs or having them around the house, but they seemed to really want me to have some just in case the pain got bad.

"Can you just prescribe, like two or three pills?" I asked. I'm a small person.

"Here's an Rx* for 30!" The nurse cheerfully hand me a piece of paper. (Maybe not so cheerfully. That sedative cocktail was good!)

30 pills? What the hell? 

"Oh, and be sure to take a stool softener with them," she practically sang. (And suddenly those commercials about the drug that helps you poop while you are on other drugs had a meaningful context.)

Anyway, so now I have 29 potentially addictive pills left. What do I do with them? What's the street value? "Probably about $5 a pill," guessed my mom.

Apparently she's right. Uh, Mom? How did you know that? (I'm going to assume it's all those True Crime TV shows.)

To be clear, I would never sell these. I know a nearby medical waste collection spot, so I brought them there.

At any rate, opiate abuse is a large and growing problem and today the CDC released new guidelines for prescribing opiate painkillers. It's mostly due to doctors overprescribing these meds for chronic pain, but I still take issue with the large amount relative to my needs.

*If I was inclined to take the pills, this might have only be a few days' supply: 1-2 pills every 4-6 hours. But it still seems like a lot pills given the fact that I didn't expect to take more than one or two to begin with. Also, I'm not clear if that dose is designed for someone my size or more of a one-size-fits-all dose.


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Important Message for Illinois High School Seniors!

So I was going to write this post titled, "Shonda, two ways." I was going to talk about Shonda Rhimes' new book, Year of Yes, which I recently read and enjoyed And then I was going to talk about the Yiddish term shonda, which means shame. Only it's more than just shame, a shonda is, like, SHAME. With the second shonda, I was going to talk about the budget crisis in Illinois and some of the services that are being cut because our state has not had a signed budget since the end of the last fiscal year in June 2015.

Anyway, I never got around to that post, but the budget crisis persists. Many Illinois residents who are most in need of social services are not able to get them. This Illinois Budget Clock, a product of a weekly civic hack night meet-up in Chicago, provides an update on the length of the crisis as well as stories of how it's impacting my state. Today I received an urgent note from the college counselor at my son's school, which prompted me to finally write something.

The Illinois Monetary Awards Program (MAP) provides a limited amount of grant money to low-income college students who attend approved colleges in the state. As with so many other bills, the MAP grants have gone unpaid since the current fiscal year. This means neither the students nor the schools are receiving this money. From what I can tell the schools are doing their best to try to support the students who are not able to pay the related chunk of their tuition, but just because the state is managing to avoid paying its bills doesn't mean other institutions and people have the same luxury.

So anyway, the urgent note from the college counselor warned that Illinois students must submit their FAFSA* (federal student aid report) by March 9 to be considered for an Illinois MAP grant for the 2016-17 school year. MAP will be suspended by March 10. (Of course, this assumes that the state will make good on its current obligations and then have money allotted for the program during the next fiscal year...)

That gives you 24 hours, peeps. Go!

*Even if family income is such that the student will not be eligible for aid, many colleges request or require this form.




Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chicago's Joffrey Ballet Debuts Bold Moves



DH and I received press tickets to the Bold Moves, the season opening of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet (are tickets to Hamilton next?!). Bold Moves is playing at the Auditorium Theatre through February, 21, 2016.

As my senior cultural correspondent, DH shared his take on the Joffrey's latest. 

The first piece, Forgotten Land, began with a cluster of dancers in baggy clothing, including floor-length dresses. Not a tutu in sight. Nor was there much walking around on their toes by the women. I’m sure there’s a dance name for that, but it doesn’t really matter.

The dark stage had a backdrop that looked something like a Great Plains supercell was waiting to happen. The sound effects of violent wind whipping around the dancers reminded me of the arctic cold outside. One by one, and sometimes in pairs or trios, they wriggled like leaves falling off tree branches, blown around the stage and coming back to rest in their original spot. When the orchestra began, the music (Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem Opus 20) was disturbing. It was not a pleasant, joyous sight to watch the dance, but it was hypnotizing nonetheless.

I don't see a lot of live dance performances, but I immediately GOT IT. I sat there thinking that I understood perfectly what the performers were trying to convey. The entire first piece seemed to be about desolation. Like early North Dakota settlers in an 1870 blizzard, stretching to be free of the confines of their primitive huts, where they were snowed in for the winter. Anyway, that’s what I was thinking, but I was still chilled from walking to the theater.

The choreographer, Jiri Kylian of the Czech Republic, said it was based on a painting by Edvard Munch of women staring at the sea. In some ways, though, the ballet evoked the desperation and anxiety of The Scream.

But on a more pleasant side, it’s amazing to watch human beings who spend their days stretching and dancing (as opposed to sitting at desks writing) their limbs all over the place. The women kicked the hems of their long dresses higher than human thighs ought to allow. And the men casually lifted and carried their partners all over the stage. Typical ballet stuff, but it’s still impressive to watch.

Tipping Point, British choreographer Ashley Page’s piece, was even more intriguing, although still unsettling. All the performers, men and women, wore similar sleeveless, legless outfits. In some cases, this greatly accentuated the difference in stature between, say, a male dancer well over 6 feet tall, and his much smaller female partner. In fact, throughout the entire piece, I felt we were forced to focus more on the dancer’s movement because their costumes made them harder to distinguish from one another.

Bold Moves will end its run at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University on February 21.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

College Application Update in Haiku

college scholarship haiku
A friend of mine started this Facebook group, Haiku Moms, and it's been a fun distraction as well as a creative outlet. As far as the college stuff goes, I'd say all of the applications are in, though I'm not sure if my son agrees. I think he does, though, especially after DH and I explained that any future applications will be on his dime. At this point he's been accepted to several great schools and he's excited about a couple of them in particular.

It's still near impossible to figure out how much any given school will cost. I have a note from a recent Financial Aid Night at school, that many people typically pay about somewhere around 50% of the sticker price at schools. It's like shopping at Kohl's. Did you get the 15% coupon or the 30% one? It seems like most everyone gets a little something off, whether it's because they took a certain class in high school, got a certain test score or come from a certain background. So what does the sticker price mean, anyway? Even the Net Price Calculators can only give you a general expected figure, though some schools do have price calculators that can estimate grants and merit aid.

Needless to say, we've encouraged my son to pursue some scholarships and a few weeks ago, I "live haiku'd" my side of the experience. In talking with friends who also have high school seniors, my experience seems to be a universal one. It's a bumpy road, this whole "getting your child ready to leave the nest" thing. Even when it's clear your child is itching to spread his wings.

*Sigh*


What's the hurry, Mom?
Scholarship applications
Not due til midnight!

"Hey, look at this, Mom."
"Your finished scholarship app?"
"Funny Twitter things."

Scholarship essay
Just about ready to send.
Due in half an hour.

Essay deadline met!
Will brilliant child's efforts
Reap handsome reward?

Oh, and in the meantime, my sophomore took the PSAT last fall and left an email address that leads to my inbox. Since scores were released a few weeks ago, my inbox has been deluged with email from schools that want to "get to know him." Seriously, I'm getting about a dozen messages a day offering a free quiz to choose a major, a free booklet sharing tips for a great college visit, etc.  Each one has a "hook," but I'm not biting and neither is he because I delete the messages.

I imagine that once the thrill of the attention wears off for students (like in maybe two days?), these messages just become a pain. For me, it's a bit confusing as several of the schools reaching out to him are schools my older son has applied to. I'm tempted to ask them to wait until we're finished with child number 1 before they starting wooing number two.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Thoughts from an American Muslim Mother

Given the hateful, anti-Islamic rhetoric that is being spewed right now, I followed the lead of my friends Jeanne Marie and Kelly, who posted messages on their Facebook walls offering support to their Muslim friends. I decided to reach out to a Muslim woman I know. We've never shared a meal or gone for coffee or out for a meal, but every Jewish holiday, she sends me an email with good wishes. I am embarrassingly bad about reciprocating. And yet, without fail, there's a Happy Chanuka! or Happy New Year! from her in my inbox.

So I sent her a note expressing my concerns about the current wave of religious intolerance and offering to support her and her friends where I could.

A simple act of kindness can bring unexpected results. Whereas I thought this was a rather small gesture, it apparently meant a lot to her. More than I could have known. (That's a good Life Lesson right there.)

Our email exchange will become a real-life dialogue with a group of local Muslim and Jewish women later this month. I urge you to reach out within your community as well. NPR aired a story the other day about what happens in the Muslim community when we let the media in its Trumpified glory do the talking for us.

This here below is also what happens. Please read my friend's reflections on her community. I am sharing this with permission.

The overall feeling many of us are going through is fear, dejection, depression, and helplessness. I hate turning on the TV with my kids around because bigoted remarks are being made openly and unflinchingly over and over against us--we are being bullied, so to speak, through news and media/social media and no one seems to understand the impact this is having upon the psyche of the Muslim community and its youth. I just can't believe what I've been hearing ever since 9/11 and it has gotten much worse!


And even worse than that, we hear the bigotry spewing from mouths of people in leadership positions! The world has become brainwashed into thinking Islam/Muslim is now synonymous with terrorism--no one even seems to think twice about it now (sadly, not even many Muslims, so you see the psychological damage that's already taking place) even though countless terrorist acts are being committed in our nation and worldwide by people who are not Muslims--recall Dylan Roof and the ideologies he prescribed to when he decided to kill African American church members, the massacre of over 70 people in Norway by Anders Breivik, or the genocide occurring in Burma.

Very few seem to believe (or if there are many, we don't hear them drowning the rhetoric that supports otherwise) that some of these perpetrators are violently reacting due to geo-politics, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. They live under oppressive regimes & inhumane conditions and they have nothing to lose.

Some have suffered severe trauma and have seen horrific things committed in unstable or war-torn environments; and now they've found a cause that gives their lives some meaning and a way to implement some sort of justice. Leaders of these organizations carry out their message in hopes to target these vulnerable people who will support their cause. And we know that when emotions become so raw, it may lead to horrible consequences--whether it's taking ones own life or the life of others.
And like any other community, mental health is an issue in the Muslim community as well, so those who are mentally ill are prime targets. However, somehow these factors are overlooked and an entire group of people are now being targeted, their faith and religious figures being attacked as the root cause of the crimes--because that seems like the most simple answer to something far more complicated which we are unwilling to confront.

Very few media outlets effectively publicize the many Muslim organizations and people who are condemning these acts or it falls on deaf ears. Hate crimes against Muslims seem to fall under stricter guidelines to even be labeled as hate crimes. Some Muslims here do think the terrible possibility of internment camps for Muslims is coming down the road.

When you look the history of the Jewish Holocaust and the internment of the Japanese here on US soil, the things we are seeing out there today are following the exact same pattern that lead up to these events. I attended Anne Shimojima's presentation of the Japanese internment camps at the library. When I mentioned this very real fear that American Muslims have, she said she is not aware of any laws that can prevent this from happening again; meaning, technically, the US government can take such action.

The question is, will America and the world be able to avert such a human disaster?

The Muslim community understands it has to confront these movements because these violent organizations prey upon OUR "own," our youth--we have countless seminars for people to educate them on what to look for in the community, how to help our youngsters cope with stress. Do people really think we want to lose our children to such movements? These groups may be angry about some legitimate issues, but do people really think the entire Muslim world feels this is the way to solve problems? The inciteful message being sent out in answer to these questions is "Yes--that the core value of Islam is to kill non-Muslims!"

I recall a Chicagoland Muslim mother crying and pleading with ISIS to leave our children alone after her son was convicted for planning to carry out an attack--but that is not something publicized and played over and over and over again to show America that Muslims are struggling on two fronts--protecting our own children and fellow Muslims from such organizations and protecting ourselves from racism and bigotry from the rest of the world.

If you look at my son, he will remind you of Ahmed Mohammed, the boy who was falsely arrested for a clock he made that an educator suspected was a bomb--and after the truth was discovered fairly quickly, no apologies were made by the police or the school, which never even followed protocol if a bomb was suspected to be on school grounds. What is going through this bright, young man's head?

Will I live a life worrying that my children will be targets? Will they be denied jobs, basic rights as they get older?

So that's what's going through some of our heads right now. We never thought we'd see such a day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dear Santa, A Book Review


I know my kids are older, but I still can't resist a good picture book. Indeed, I miss them and still tend to linger over them at the library (hopefully not looking like a creepy childless stalker in the children's section). So I was intrigued when I got offered a review copy of Dear Santa, Love, Rachel Rosenstein (affiliate link) by Amanda Peet and Andrea Troyer, illustrated by Christine Davenier.

Admittedly my first reaction was, Amanda Peet is Jewish? And then Amanda Peet is a playwright in addition to being an actress? Already, this book was educational.

Dear Santa is an adorable picture book that many Jewish kids and their parents (me!) can relate to. Young Rachel Rosenstein enjoys her family's Jewish traditions, but she really, really wants to celebrate Christmas.

Oh, how I yearned for a Christmas tree as a child. I lobbied for years, eventually coming full circle by the time I was in college. "No Christmas tree or Chanukah bush in my house. Ever."

Anyway, Rachel manages a visit to a mall Santa, sneaks up a few Christmas decorations at home, and even prepares a snack for Jolly Old Saint Nick, to no avail. In the end she comes to realize that her family isn't the only one that doesn't celebrate Christmas, and in fact there are lots of cool holidays celebrated by people of different religions and cultural backgrounds. Like so many kids before her, Rachel (mostly) makes peace with her lot in life.

If you have a child like Rachel (or me), this is a wonderful book to normalize those Christmas yearnings.

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