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Posts Tagged ‘events’

I was watching the news while getting ready this morning, and the story on yesterday’s 100th anniversary celebration at Fenway Park got me all misty-eyed.

Celebrating 100 years of Fenway Park
It started with Varitek and Wakefield wheeling Pesky and Doerr onto the field, but what really got me was Terry Francona (lovable, loyal, unflappable Tito) touching his heart and waving to the cheering crowds. If it hadn’t been for the amusing image of Pedro Martinez and Kevin Millar (two of the biggest hams I have ever seen in my life) leading the toast from atop the dugout, the tears might have actually spilled over. The history and nostalgia of Fenway is so wonderful, and it’s another reason I love living in Boston.

Then, in keeping with the sentimental start to the day, I heard a song from the musical Elegies, called “14 Dwight Ave, Natick, Massachusetts”. (I often listen to the Emerson College radio station, WERS, on the weekends for their programs Standing Room Only – all musicals – and All A Cappella.) The song first caught my attention because I drive through Natick every day on my commute and wondered how the town ended up in a musical. But the song is a beautiful piece about a life well-lived and the friendships many women share. (The video below is the best one I could find on YouTube, but it actually features two songs from Elegies, so don’t be put off by the 10 minute length.)

My last sentimental moment of the day requires a little more in the way of explanation. I once had a hedgehog for a pet, an African Pygmy Hedgehog to be precise. I find them ridiculously cute, so I am a little obsessed.
Anyway, because of my fascination with hedgehogs, another song on WERS (this time on All A Cappella) snagged my attention with the lyrics “He’s a hedge pig.” I honestly never thought I would come across a rock/pop song with something about a hedgehog in the lyrics, and it turns out the hedgehog is a central feature of the song. It took some internet sleuthing when I got home, but I finally discovered that the song is “Benjamin” by Midnight Youth, and beyond the hedgehog bit, it’s a really fun song.

Of course, as with anything hedgehog related, the song reminded me of my hedgie, Percy, who sadly died in 2005.
Percy
But the song still makes me smile. Especially the “prickly little porker” line which has a really nice rhythm to it.  I have to admit, though, that I have no clue what the song means.  My best guess is that it’s about a dream or a drug trip or something.

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It’s tough to watch and read the coverage of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis in Japan.  Not really being able to help, other than making a little donation, makes it even harder for me.  I have found myself avoiding a lot of the coverage.  The other day, though, I was reading Barbara Meltz’s parenting column in the Boston Globe, and found her advice on talking to kids about the situation.  I am trained in explaining scary scenarios to kids, and I have to say that Meltz does a fantastic job of outlining the key points. It dawned on me that it may be a little thing, but I can help a bit by using this blog to share tips on supporting kids during times of tragedy and disaster.

Many parents are tempted to shield children from disturbing news or try to dismiss the fears that may arise.  After all, many adults are struggling to understand how these things can happen.  I don’t think it is helpful, though, to totally shelter kids.  For one thing, images and discussion of the disaster is everywhere, so it is almost impossible to prevent even very young kids from learning about it.  For another, if we protect children from distressing news, they will never learn how to cope with the tragedies that they will inevitably face and we rob them of an opportunity to develop empathy.  Many kids will never face a serious earthquake, much less a tsunami, but if they are given the chance to learn about and discuss such an event in a supportive and loving setting, they will gain resilience that they can use in situations they face in their own lives.  That is not to say that it is okay for kids to be constantly exposed to the intense, rapid-fire, confusing images and sound bites of media coverage.

Like Meltz, I firmly believe that we should be honest with kids and give them permission to talk about scary events, so that their impressions and thoughts don’t grow and get distorted.  I love her suggestion to ask kids if they have seen or heard about the earthquake and tsunami and let them know you are willing to talk about it.  Many kids will feel that the troubles in Japan have nothing to do with them and may be totally unconcerned.  That’s normal and okay, but it is also normal for kids to fear that a similar disaster could happen to them.  The latter kids will need reminders of their safety, such as Meltz’s suggestion to point out how far away Japan is or that earthquakes don’t happen often in your area.  No matter how outrageous your child’s fears may seem to you, they are real.  Telling a child not to worry, probably won’t work, and may make him hid his feelings from you or even intensify them by giving the impression that the situation is too horrible or terrifying to talk about.

Play and other open-ended expressive activities are great ways for kids to deal with the fear and stress from disasters and other tragedies.  Kids naturally try to make sense of the world in their play, so you might see a lot of block buildings being knocked down by earthquakes or drawings of big waves.  You can gently ask your child to describe what is going on in her dramatic play or pictures and use that to guide your conversations.  Children may not want to talk, or they may not have the words for what they are thinking and feeling, though.  You can help ease fears by suggesting safety and rescue elements: “It looks like Buzz Lightyear got hurt when the building fell down.  Here comes an ambulance to help him.”  Outdoor and very active play also help kids deal with strong feelings indirectly.

Children who have a strong reaction to the disaster may regress or become unusually clingy or moody.  Try to be matter of fact if your child suddenly needs a nightlight, has toileting accidents, fights more with siblings, or doesn’t want you out of his sight.  Such issues should be temporary, but if problems last a long time, talk to your pediatrician or seek help from a counselor.  Similarly, kids may have occasional nightmares or episodes of sadness, but it is cause for concern if they are persistent or interfere with school and favorite activities.

At times like these, children are likely to need as much familiarity and predictability as possible in their lives.  Disasters can be a reminder to count our blessings, so we may be tempted to shower children with extra affection or goodies.  Letting your kids know you love them is always a good call, but letting go of family rules or greatly relaxing expectations can actually make kids feel less secure, by sending a signal that something is awry with their world.

Doing something to help disaster victims can be therapeutic for kids (especially middle- and high-schoolers) and adults alike.  Involve your kids in brainstorming  how to help, whether it’s collecting pocket change from friends and family or having a garage sale and donating the proceeds.  (Charity Navigator has great tips on how to help, along with a list of highly rated organizations involved in Japan relief efforts.)

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I need to get quicker at this blogging thing.  Every time I want to post, I don’t have the time to actually do it.  Hence the delay in posting about a really lovely annual event here in Boston that I finally checked out.

Each year, Forest Hills Cemetery hosts the Lantern Festival.  It is based on the Buddhist Bon Festival, which is meant to honor the dead, particularly one’s ancestors.  At Forest Hills, the festival includes performers and setting memorial lanterns afloat at dusk.

I’ve been to Forest Hills a couple times.  Like Mount Auburn Cemetery, it is a beautiful, peaceful place to wander, full of pretty trees and plants, along with an eclectic assortment of tombs and monuments.  I’d never been to the Lantern Festival before, though.  My brother, D, and friend, M, agreed to go with me, so we met up after work on the night of the festival.

If you are trying to read the characters, this is a view from the back of the banner, so they should be reversed.

This drummer was powerful and graceful, incorporating what looked like martial arts moves into his drumming.

We arrived in time to see and hear some excellent drumming by students of Grand Master Tsuji.  The drumming seemed to be choreographed, not just played, and it was very impressive.

Again, this is a view from behind the banners

After watching and listening a bit, we moved on to make our lanterns.  You can purchase the materials for a lantern, which you can decorate and assemble to float on the lake later.  Calligraphers are available to put Japanese or Chinese characters on the lanterns, but M and I decided to decorate our own.

M with her completed lantern

My decorated lantern

M chose to adorn her lantern with an assortment of smiley faces.  I had in mind a couple of my patients who have died and a dear mentor/friend of mine who passed away not long before the festival, so I created a sort of illuminated monogram of each person I was remembering.  I had one face of my lantern left, so I added a butterfly.  A bit cliched perhaps, but it worked for me.

set afloat

At dusk, volunteers help light the candles in each lantern, and people set them afloat on the lake in the cemetery.  As I set mine on the water, I thought of how the people it was created to honor had touched me and vowed to keep them in my memory.  It was very therapeutic, and I think I will try to attend every year to remember any patients and loved ones I have lost.

The wind moved the lanterns across the water, which, combined with the low light, made it hard to get clear photos, but this one seemed more appropriately ghostly than just blurry.

There were hundreds of people at the cemetery, and it was both beautiful and moving to see all the lanterns floating on the water as darkness fell.

lights in the darkness

lanterns and reflected twilight

myriad lanterns

I’d highly recommend checking out the festival.  I believe it happens every year on July 15th.

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