Kids are smarter

As I am entering my 16th graduate-level class, I feel, at times, what is sometimes referred to as “smart.” That is, until I go home and my kindergartner, Spencer,  rattles off several parts of the head–in Spanish. Until my high-schooler, Regan, admits that she was unchallenged by her geometry final and tells me that she wishes t had been harder. Geometry. And she wants it to be harder. Until my 7th-grader, Audrey, talks about the short story “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson, explaining how awesome it felt to discover (with the help of her English teacher) the underlying theme of the mob mentality and doing things because that is the way they’ve always been done, regardless of how ridiculous that may be. Until my 6th-grader, Elizabeth talks about the life-cycle of rocks told via a clever work of fiction. Huh?

There is talk about the folly of schools and about other countries outscoring our children. People decry our public schools daily. And perhaps they should. We talk about the dumbing down of society and how students seem to be ill-prepared for jobs. These are all legitimate concerns.

However, if my house, I will submit that the brightest bulbs are still taking Flintstone vitamins. When I think about how my critical thinking skills have developed while in school, I am already amazed at the skills and knowledge my kids will have when they have completed their degrees. And I assert again: kids are smarter.




2013 Barsch Christmas Card

Are we an angry, hateful society?

     It has occurred to me lately that the American (and perhaps worldly) phenomenon is to be angry. Mad. Livid. P.O’d. And I don’t mean in isolated moments when a person is righteously indignant. I am referring to what appears to be the status quo of our culture—which is to be always mad at someone or about something.
      We are angry that the cashier is taking too long to cash people out, despite the evidence pointing to large consumption by many people in line. We are angry on the road because people drive to slow, drive too fast or pick their nose while operating a moving vehicle (which is a blight to society, I agree).  We are mad when the class we wanted to take is full because we neglected to wake up and register on time. We are mad at spouses, children, neighbors, co-workers, governments, random people we not know but whose posts we see on FB, people in the service industry, people with tattoos, people without tattoos, construction workers (Ok, I kind of get this one. Nothing appears to be more frustrating than miles of cones with nary a construction worker around.)
                We also seem to hate people on sight: have you even been out with a group when one person declares that they do not like the server/hostess/random person based on no discernible reason? And this person then decides to give the server/hostess/random person a cold shoulder or death stares, making things uncomfortable for the rest of the group.
                People have hated others based on reasons that I cannot fathom—color of skin, the way the other person looks, their vernacular, how they serve the food at a restaurant, the point of the political scale on which they fall. I just don’t get it and I am begging someone to explain this phenomenon to me. Hatred takes effort; why spend your effort on this?
                If any of you can clue me in on this, I’d appreciate it. Is it because we also feel entitled? In the meantime, I will promise to find all of you likeable, promise to smile waaaay more often than I frown, continue to love Archie comics and promise not to hate you—even if you insist on wearing those ugly crocs (sorry!), pick your nose or dive slow. I will not dislike you based on myriad of other traits that others might deem annoying.
Please….let’s share the love (just hold the drugs, please).

I am a polite speeder

If you have ever been lucky enough to be in a vehicle while I am at the helm, it probably took you about 2.3 seconds to realize that I am a driver who reaches the maximum allowable speed quickly. I have also, a time or two, gone a few (gasp!) m.p.h.s over thr speed limit. Look, like a lot of us I have a billion things to do, and being in a vehicle slowly and sluggishly heading to my destination just does not appeal to me. I have preety good reflexes at a green light and do not hesitate to motor myself through the intersection.

At the same time that I cannot stand pokey drivers and feel that it causes physical pain to be behind them, I am also polite. Even though I can I can push my vehicle through the intersection quicker than some can register the green light, I think it is rude to drive in a lane that ends and quickly jump into the other lane right before it ends, unless, of course there is a large berth and I know for certain the vehicle in front of me is of the pokiest nature.

There are apparently a lot of people who have decided that they do not give a hoot about courtesy on the road. When I travel on U.S. 23 South, towards Saline, to turn right (West) onto Michigan Ave, I stay in the inner-most right-hand lane, as I know the outer right hand lane will end. However, thousands of people apparently do not share this philosophy and will use the outer-right lane and EXPECT to move over to the inner-lane before it ends, no matter how many vehicles are in the correct lane…no matter how much that lane is already backed up. It is the expectation that these rude drivers hold that irks me. Hey, I like to drive as fast as the next person (faster in many cases), but I do not expect to be in the wrong lane–knowingly–and have everyone move over for me.

The lack of courtesy on the road really concerns me–whether it is the person with their phone stuck to their ear and foregoing signals, the loser in the wrong lane expecting to get in, or the person whom you let out into traffic who is too entitled to give you a nod and a wave–it seems that we are losing our manners on the road.

Let’s change that, shall we? Practice–smile, nod and wave. Drive on.

The hardest job you will ever have…naming your baby

If you were like me when you were expecting your bundle of joy, you obsessed with what moniker you would ultimately bestow on your little heir. You might pour over baby name books, or even post a baby name poll on After rigorous research, you may have even considered yourself an expert in the etymology of names.

Like many parents, I did not want a common name, or a trendy name that would date the child’s name to a particular era or a name that is, well, not very pleasing to the ears. Baby names became a very important topic in my life and upon hearing many a name given to a child, I would think “out of all over the beautiful names in the world, THAT is what you came up with?”

Naming your child is a very personal decision and, frankly, I find it to be a daunting task. The name seems to define the child before you get to know him/her. What if the name you choose, once so lovely to your ears, becomes like that pop song that you just loved….but then hated after hearing for the bazillionth time.

And then, of course, is the annoyance that your spouse also has to like the name. Yes, yes, yes, I know…the child is his, too, and he will put just as much energy into parenting as I. However, it is hard not to feel territorial about something that you carried inside of you for 40 weeks. Something that caused you to vomit, have to use the restroom 49 times a day, have heartburn and a shifting of your body weight.

I named my first child, a daughter, Regan, after a character in the “Trixie Belden” series. Of course, this character was a male and a Regan was his surname. But I thought I had a get out of the trendy jail card with the name, because Shakespeare—and how much more classic can we get?—used the name in “King Lear”. I still like her name—and the meaning it has for me. But, I sometimes fear that we scrambled for a middle name. For some reason, I was “fixated” on the first name and middle name “going together.” So, I choose a Celtic name “Aislinn”, pronounced “Ashlyn” in the US and AshLEEN in good ole Ireland. Looking back, I wish I had chosen a middle name with more meaning. A relative’s name, perhaps.

When I was pregnant with my second child, also a girl, I decided that the name Josephine was spunky, had a serviceable nickname “Josie” and was timeless. I felt, though, that the name did not go well with Regan. So, we decided that Audrey was more in the vein of Regan, was also a Shakespeare name, and that Josephine would be a great nickname.

My third child, another girl!, became Elizabeth. Elizabeth is also a classic name, has oodles of nicknames and, in my opinion, is beautiful. While I was 6 months pregnant with Elizabeth, my father-in-law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Because pancreatic cancer is almost always terminal, we decided that Elizabeth’s middle name should be a nod to him. My FIL’s name was Henry James Barsch. We toyed with using the feminine version of Henry—but Elizabeth Henrietta is quite a mouthful. When it became time to sign the birth certificate, I decided that if we were going to honor my FIL, we should do it straight up. So, her name became Elizabeth Henry. Which I still find to be beautiful and regal—just like my third child.

Said child, however, hates it. She insists that we change her name to Brittany Rose or Bridget Rose. Sigh. I am hoping that someday she sees the significance of the gesture of her middle name and comes to embrace it.

As for my fourth child—my only boy—this child was hard to name. Girls are easier to name…so many more choices. And while I used to think naming girls with boy names was cute, I now feel a bit differently. The boy name pool is dwindling! However, we managed to pull the name Spencer out of the air and gave him the middle name of Jeffrey, after my father.

I still obsess about baby names and fantasize how different my kids would be with names like Neve, Phoebe, or Piper. And just like when I was expecting my own adorable baby, I have all kinds of opinions when learning of a newborn’s name.

I just have one piece of advice for expectant parents: yes, you are naming a bay, but your baby—if all goes well—will be an adult for a lot longer than they will be a child. Please name accordingly.

Filgastrim…ain’t your party drug

I’d like to preface this post by saying that despite the flip nature of the title, I do not condone the use of illegal drugs, or the misuse of legal drugs.

What I have heard and seen most since I told people rather excitedly that I am a match for a patient needing a bone-marrow transplant is a look that says “you be crazy” and the words “isn’t that quite painful?” I’d like to dispel a few misconceptions about the process.

Injections of Filgastrim certainly make you feel funny. It is hard to describe the feeling it causes. At times, it almost feels as if my bones are taut—and being pulled in all directions. Similar to the old-fashion quartering. Except all of my body parts stay inside. It is not necessarily a painful feeling, but rather a disconcerting one.

The biggest side effect of the drug is feeling sllleeeepppyyy. Which does not bode well when you have four kids needing your attention, or Admin Law tests, or that pesky little thing called your job. The nurse explained that this side effect makes sense as my body is working overtime to create the peripheral stem cells which will be pulled from my body during the donation. This is wonderful to hear, but does not help much when I want my blankie at work and I appear to have acquired narcolepsy.

So, in short, the “pain” or discomfort is manageable, particularly with over-the-counter meds such as Tylenol or Advil. And let’s face it: is the cause not made that much better by having some pain? The pain/discomfort acts as a badge of honor, a tangible reminder of the good you are doing for someone. Those of you who are moms, would you agree that the pain that comes from childbirth is kind of cool, in that YOU overrode that pain and pushed a beautiful being into the world? Is it not cool the lesson that we learn when giving birth—the one that lets us realize how strong we are and what amazing things human bodies can do?

While injections of Filgastrim are not particularly enjoyable, they are but a little annoyance in the scheme of things—a little thing to bear when saving someone’s life.

Not 1 in a million, but one in ten million!

On Saturday, March 31st, I started receiving shots of Filgastrim. The first shot, given to me that day at Dundee Urgent care, was also coupled with a blood draw—my 6th one since starting this process of bone-marrow donation. I dragged along Nathan Clark, of the Washtenaw Voice, who managed to crack me up despite the fact that we were at an urgent care on Saturday morning as opposed to our beds, which is pretty much where you can find me on Saturday mornings.

The medical assistant was unable to find my veins to draw my blood, so she sent me to the lab where a registered phlebotomist was able to find my vein post hence and even managed to withdraw blood from it. I’d say that phlebotomists really learn their stuff. I am very sorry that I have taken them for granted in the past.

The Filgastrim burns a bit when it goes into your skin (this shot is not administered into the muscle, but rather into shallow tissue) though the nurse who makes house/work calls—yes, they make this process convenient for you—is able to give me both vials of Filgastrim without much burn at all. She is a pro!

I have had three injections of Filgastrim and will receive my 4th today before class—as if Administrative Law wasn’t inherently agony enough—and my 5th tomorrow right before my donation.

After my 3rd injection yesterday, the nurse looked at me wondrously and asked me how it felt to be the closest match of the 10 million people on the National Bone Marrow Registry. Hey, I’ve always wanted to be one of a kind, and I guess 1 in 10 million isn’t so bad.


Be careful what you wish for…not just an axiom to ignore

I saw a picture recently whose caption said something similar to this “sometimes as a mom, I feel as if I am being hen-pecked to death.” I think that most mothers know what this is like: Mom (peck)…Mom (peck)…Mom (peck)…Mom (peck)….peck, peck, peck!

Ok, so who would not, in this scenario, jump at the chance for to be ALONE in a hotel room for three nights? Save for my compute to/from work or school, it is safe to say that I am never alone. Even my 4-year-old can jerry-rig the lock on the bathroom door, which he flings open as I am showering to ask “Mama, watcha doing?”

When the chance to attend the NASPA conference in Phoenix presented itself, I was not thrilled just for the myriad of sessions they provide. I was excited by the silence and serenity that would greet me each eve in my hotel room. Except, this time silence invited a mistress–the dreaded stomach flu.

I can say with some certainty that being alone and sick is not romantic or calming or nice. It is, well, lonely. As I lay in my room grappling with my symptoms, I would have given anything for my little Batman to come into the room asking “watcha doing, Mama?” So while the grass is indeed greener on the otherside, it may not be a very pleasing hue.

Medical procedures vs Flying…I will take the colonoscopy

Let me preface this post by saying that my Gramps worked for American Airlines and as a youngster I would fly non-rev all over the place. Ok, mostly to Florida, Chicago, San Fran and Denver.

However, when I think of my impending trip to Phoenix this coming Sunday, I see this scenario: me calling Student Activities to request bail after being tasered by an air marshall subsequent to a claustrophobia-induced panic attack. This episode, of course, will be recorded by no fewer than 7 smart-phones and immediately uploaded to YouTube, and played on newscasts all over the country. My kids, who already think I am rather dorky, will avoid being seen with me in public and my husband will suddenly be “really busy” at work whenever I suggest going out on a date. Yes, I seriously see this playing out.

As a kid, flying did not bother me–in fact, I rather enjoyed it. Heck, I stalked Bill Laimbeer for his autograph in the Raleigh-Durham airport…and this was at the height of the “Bad Boys” days. Since then, I have always looked at airports as hubs of possibilities….you never know whom you might meet…   And since crashes and mishaps are relatively rare, these odds did not bother me–still do not, actually.

What bothers me now about flying is the fact that you are locked in a tube with what seems like millions of other people–who are always bigger than you and thus require more space–without means of exit for what seems like an eternity. WITHOUT MEANS OF AN EXIT. In a car, you can always pull over to stretch your legs, go to the bathroom in a stall that is large enough to accomodate all of your body parts, and to, well, get away from your travel mates for a few minutes. THIS CANNOT BE DONE IN AN AIRPLANE. Aiplane passengers are virtual prisoners until the aiplane lands and taxies to the exit and the plane pulls up to gate, etc.

I am not sure why my claustrophobia is so out of control as an adult….I just know that I need help. So, if you would, please text me at about 3:30 or so on Sunday the 11th–I will need some distraction and the other passengers will thank you, too.

In the meantime, when the chance of going to a conference involves an airplane, I will call my doctor to schedule that colonoscopy…

Karmanos kicks bum!

I grew up in Ann Arbor. And what do we like here? Wolverine sport and medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. I have to admit that I felt safe and well taken-care of when I was giving birth at UM’s Mott Hospital. We all know that UM is best in class in a lot of ways.

At first, I balked (only in my head, not aloud) at the idea of going to Karmanos when I am familiar with UM and it is right down the street. Plus, I have no problems getting to Detroit…it is leaving that scares me, what with the one-way roads and crazy drivers and poor singage. I must admit, however, that I am a fan of Karmanos Cancer Center.

I had several things happen while at KCC:

  • More blood drawn (good grief, are they killing me to save someone else?)
  • an EKG
  • urinalysis
  • physical exam by a doctor
  • health questionnaire
  • chest exray
  •  vein check
  • a look at the aphresis room

I was there for less than 2.5 hours which included checking-in and registering for the first time. Again, I have the utmost respect for UM, and they are renownded for their cancer center. However, if these same items has occurred at UM, it would have taken at least 5 hours, I am sure of it.

I was also sent a complimentary valet parking pass to use, which eases some of the anxiety about going to a new place and parking.

I was impressed with KCC and felt very much like they care about the people who pass through their doors. I am very lucky indeed, to be able to walk into that place in my condition–as a healthy donor–rather than someone who has cancer and is fighting for their life. And now, I am even luckier because I can pass some of that good fortune onto someone else…