Category Archives: #judgment

The Great Chicken Pox Crisis of 2015

image from

You’ve all heard by now that there has been an outbreak of 59 confirmed cases of measles at Disneyland recently. This has fanned the flames of  the embers of the debate between the vaxers and the antivaxers, which meant the topic was right at the front of my brain this morning.

Twenty-two years ago, when I was about to become a mother, I had a limited viewpoint. Sorry. I just didn’t realize. I think at least part of it was just from being egocentric. All I could see was my own special snowflakes. And what I heard about vaccinations and their dangers scared me a lot. So, I took my time on getting the kids vaccinations. They got them, but not usually on the timeline of the doctor.  I was mostly unaware about the existence of children who would not be healthy enough to tolerate the vaccination and/or the disease.  Having a child with special needs was my entrance into the world of understanding that those who choose not to vaccinate can put those who do not have the choice at grave risk.

Fast forward to today. My phone rang. Whenever my caller id says “Primary School,” I brace myself for bad news. They don’t call me unless there is a problem or Kepler is sick (also a problem). Sure enough, the nurse tells me she thinks Kepler has chicken pox. Kepler, the kid who has had his vaccinations, and who really does NOT qualify as a good candidate to get the pox.

My inner volcano erupted. What does this mean? Greg is out of town. How long will Kepler have to be off school? Didn’t I get him vaccinated??? (Nurse said I had not) OMG, what if he is miserable with the itching? What if he has terrible complications because he has Down syndrome? And, OH YEAH, why didn’t my sisters get their children vaccinated, since three of Kepler’s cousins just had chicken pox very recently? The molten lava poured out in tears of fear because I have been with Kepler when he is sick. Like most kids, he doesn’t really understand why he is in pain. In two minutes, I had created quite the worst-case scenario.

I am a card-carrying Judger of All Things and People, although I am losing my card more and more often. Apparently, I had left my card elsewhere this morning, because I suddenly calmed myself. The eruption stopped; the lava slowed. I didn’t even know if he had chicken pox. I was borrowing a boatload of trouble. I was crying about difficulties with itching that maybe weren’t even going to materialize. The presence of chicken pox in my child did not mean my sisters were mistaken in their vaccination choices, because it is not up to me to decide what is best for someone else.

Two lessons learned:

1. Expressing my feelings as I did, allowing the tears, got the intense feelings out, instead of keeping them inside where I would turn them inward and get depressed (anger turned inward). And once they were expressed, I had the emotional space to then think about the next thing.

2. Saying yes to what is sure feels better than saying no to what might be.

And the rest of the story: I arrived to pick him up at school expecting to find him all weak and puny and sad, curled up on the nurse’s couch, absolutely covered in spots from head to toe. Reality: Bouncy, happy, glad to see his brother and me. One spot on face, two on back. Doctor diagnosed strep and thought the spots were related to the strep. He’ll miss school tomorrow. Time will tell for sure that this is not chicken pox, but for now, I believe the Great Chicken Pox Crisis of 2015 has been  dismissed for lack of evidence.

Book club with the sweet old biddies

Books clubs are ubiquitous in this day and age, right? Meetup groups, branches of the public library, online clubs with Mark Zuckerberg right now, Oprah’s book club, church book studies, etc.

I remember being in a church book study group years ago where we studied Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God, shown here (see left) with its extremely intense front cover, which matched perfectly the intense prose inside. As I was looking for an image of this book for my blog, I discovered the newer version (see right) of this book. I guess the publisher realized that if they were going to publish such an intense and terrifying book, they better at least make the cover look less terrifying. But I digress.

So, what with the all-consuming nature of my parenting experience the first 20 years of being a mother, book clubs were just a fond daydream, something I could maybe pursue one day when I was no longer doing seventeen things at once.

I’ve been wanting to be in a group for awhile now. But the time finally came in 2015 when the stars aligned; my parenting intensity had lessened, the difficulties of 2014 were seemingly in the past, my brain was available to look around for a book club, and voila, there was a club scheduled near me reading a book by an author that I thought I would enjoy at a time I wasn’t already scheduled to be three other places. Sign me up!

My take on library book clubs is the daytime clubs are populated by an older generation of women, and the evening clubs are populated by younger, working mothers, or women who otherwise can’t get free until the evening.

So, after I completed the multiple tasks of signing up, checking out the book, reading the book, going online to discover whether there were book study questions I might prepare, and managing not to double book myself with a doctor visit for one of the kids, I got in my little Camry and drove me and my book to my First Book Club Experience of 2015. It was actually my first experience of this century!

Indeed, the group of ladies there were mostly grandmothers, and were lovely. I tried the mnemonic trick of associating something beginning with the same letter with the names of the participants. I thought Breta was beautiful. Helen had memorable hair. Things got a bit dicey when all I could think of for a rather heavyset woman was Wanda is wide. Rest assured I did not write that one down on my list. I did my best to be open to the different ways of reading the book and characterizing the story and the characters. Helen reads the end of EVERY book before she decides whether or not it is worth reading. Dear, sweet, grandmotherly Mary Carol had a sheaf of papers where she had written down her gentle observations. Patricia had interesting comments to make about quite a few of the characters.

I was mostly quiet, observing. I was practicing not judging the women, a new hobby of mine. Also, the leader had instructed us to go around the circle and give our impression so that everyone could share what they thought, but a number of ladies didn’t like that idea quite as well as a lively cross-chat where there were lots of ideas being tossed around like juggling balls. My reticence to speak was further fueled by the fact that my response to the book seemed to be qualitatively different than the majority of what I was hearing.

The book we read featured a more minor character called Susan, which is my given name. Susan was a divorced mother of a 19yo son who had impulsively carried out an act which had huge political implications. I felt like I could relate to a lot of what she went through because of my own experiences with a 19yo son who recently carried out quite a few impulsive actions which have had huge legal implications. So, my response to the book was just fine, but very different than the rest of the group who were all repulsed by the character, Jim.

Group members were friendly to me, including me in what was a relatively established group. The leader seemed intentional about guiding the discussion and allowing everyone to speak. There weren’t any group-killing members; you know, the ones who dominate the conversation or somehow make the focus of their every comment themselves. (Oops, the Me who Judges slipped in here, I think).

At the end of group, the leader revealed next month’s book. Two long rows of copies sat on a library book cart. I hesitated for only a moment before I picked up a copy and committed myself to another book club experience next month!

In an ideal world, my book club participants would each pause a moment before jumping in to respond to someone else, thereby allowing just a smidgen of space for internal processing of what was just said. But it’s a busy world, and we all have a lot to say.

Tell me about your ideal book club? Who would be in it? What kinds of books would you read? What role would you play?