Rising up, albeit slowly.

I’ve allowed myself to feel grief and pain about what happened to my son without springing back up for about 3 weeks. It has been difficult to let myself do but I believe it’s been the best thing for me. I’m still battered and I still think about the thing that causes me pain but I suppose you could say, I’m absorbing it, processing it and dare I say, I’m healing. I am rising up one millimeter at a time.

Over the three weeks, I’ve distracted myself with work in the city and I’ve given my husband a hand with building a back deck when he needed one. I still thought about my problem, but not as consistently as I had in previous weeks and I had moments when I was only focused on the tasks at hand. Meanwhile, my son who was the physically afflicted party continued to move on in a positive way. I haven’t seen my son much since his surgery but he looks good and seems happy and that encourages me to feel the same.

I’m still not where I’d like to be but I suppose I am where I need to be, inching my way towards full acceptance and a sense of peace. I’m trying new things, busying myself at work and looking forward to good things to come.

Resilient… He still is but can I be just one more time?…I’m not so sure anymore.

My son, Adam lives with autism. He is 22 years old. He copes with the byproducts of autism daily but he manages to have a good life nonetheless. He is a busy person who loves to move, create, experience and explore. He is an artist, a decorated summer and winter Special Olympian and he enjoys cycling and kayaking as of late. For everything Adam has accomplished whether it was learning to speak, read, tie his shoes, swim or live on his own, there has been struggle. His is a life with double and sometimes triple the obstacles faced by others who live without physical or mental afflictions but for every time autism rears its most browbeating attributes, with his family and amazing support staff at his side, he rises up and shines. 

As his mother, in my heart, I always want the most recent challenge to be the last. We have already gotten up and dusted ourselves off so many times in the twenty years he’s been living with the effects of autism that I just want it to be smooth sailing from the end of each hurdle for the rest of his life. I always want the conquered hurdle of the moment to be the last, but life does not work like that no matter how much I want it to. For my family, there have never been any miracles or quick fixes for the heavy duty stuff that autism is able to lay upon us —  upon Adam. For all the joy, triumph and miracles we never thought we’d see surrounding Adam, I am weary from pressing myself up off the ground after having been run over by the Mack Truck that autism drives from time to time. I can’t dust off the tire marks anymore; the repeated rolling over me has left deep grooves that have reached my soul —  and then I look to my son, who gets up faster than I do every time and just continues on with his day and I realize that I need to do the same. But I am getting older. For me resilience is becoming harder. It (autism) is still here. It isn’t going anywhere and while Adam is older and manages it better and better, it won’t stop being a life long challenge for any of us, especially him. Living daily with Adam’s autism might have become easier in general, but its the occasional out-of-the-blue sucker punches that’re going to get us as long as we live.

The Covid-19 pandemic was the perfect setting for a good old autism sucker punch. Hell, we even readied ourselves and still it took us down and delivered a flurry of rapid-fire fisticuffs that took our breaths away for months. The pandemic was hard on everyone and it was a right *$&! for people living with special needs. Everything in Adam’s life changed and he just was not able to understand why he couldn’t do the things he loved to do. He was in his last year of school and the sudden staggered school schedule confused him and shattered the routine he’d proudly created for himself. He was fine with washing his hands more often and actually loved wearing a mask but he wasn’t sick and just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t go to the social dances, speed skate or participate in track and field. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t volunteer, go to the movies or to his favorite restaurants. We couldn’t let him go for walks on his own anymore as we wanted to make sure he stayed protected from the virus. What if he took his mask off and went up and spoke to someone? What if he tried to enter somewhere and didn’t understand the Covid protocol? It was easier for us to accompany him during this time than let him be on his own because no one understood very much about this pandemic and we had to keep him safe. No matter how we tried to explain the pandemic to him, Adam felt like he was being punished. He felt punished and he resented us for “punishing” him. He became bored, frustrated and angry. All the skills he learned that enabled him to live on his own fell by the wayside as he plummeted into behaviors brought about by the loneliness and boredom caused by the pandemic restrictions. At 21, autism aside, Adam wanted what every young adult wants — independence, separation from his parents and his family, the opportunity to work and be productive, to make new friends and the ability and freedom to be his own boss. He saw that his younger brother still had these things in some form but because of Covid-19, he’d lost them completely and it wasn’t fair. Autism never plays fair and we chose his health and safety as priority one and postponed his launch into complete independence.

Adam developed severe anxiety and he quickly became someone we did not recognize and though we tried, we struggled to help him feel better. With everything and everywhere locked down, it took us about 3 months to find a psychiatrist and several tries attempts at finding the right medication to help our son. We drove back and forth to the hospital on days when he felt so anxious he asked to see a doctor. He was lonely and needed people but of course, he didn’t want Mommy and Daddy at this stage of his life, who would? I set about trying to increase his support staff as in his latest condition it seemed best for him to have 24 hour supervision and I sought to create a team that was a blend of people with years of experience as well as people close to his age so that he would feel less “baby sat”. Support persons were difficult to find but as usual, I kept trying as I believed there had to be people out there still willing to work with people like my son during the pandemic. I made the social services agencies aware that I needed assistance putting these things in place for my son urgently. Social Services struggles in the best of times to do whatever they can to help their clients and try as they might, they could not be as immediate as Adam needed them to be because nothing was happening immediately during Covid. Still, everyone at the agencies inched along working as hard as they could to help us, help Adam, and I am extremely grateful for their efforts. Unfortunately, things hit rock bottom before they stabilized and got better. Not only did my son singlehandedly destroy his community support apartment, he starting hitting himself in the face to try and stop whatever it was that was that was making him irritable. He also became aggressive towards us because we are his family. He looks to us for answers, comfort and to make things better and with my son’s autism, sometimes rationalizing and waiting are not strong suits. As spring 2021 approached, Adam settled. He was calm. He was living in a bigger, brighter place. He was happy and he was in control of his life once more. He became (as he likes to call himself) “the boss” again as plans to help him heal slowly fell into place. I hired him the most amazing, compassionate support staff, got him a fabulous psychiatrist and through the social service agency, was introduced to an absolute miracle worker in the form of the wisest and most intuitive psychologist in our area. The sun shone on our son and our family once again. As more people were vaccinated, things began opening up and we all slowly got our lives back. Adam started smiling again and he re-discovered the joy that was suddenly cut out of his life. At our 2nd annual staff meeting in May, the team was so happy and proud of Adam’s rebound. We had much to celebrate and if I could pick a theme song for our family to describe this time of renewal it would be Ella Fitzgerald’s Blue Skies. You know the one, right? ~

Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see

Blue days
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on

 Shortly after our merriment in May, Etta James’ Stormy Weather had taken over the number one spot on our music chart as it had throughout the years, knocking MS. Fitzgerald’s Blue Skies completely out of contention. Because Adam had taken to hitting himself hard in the face over during the first year of the pandemic, I sent him to have his eyes and ears checked as often as I could, even paying out of pocket as by the second visit, it was outside what our provincial health care would cover annually. On each occasion, Adam had perfect hearing and 20/20 vision in each eye. His father, his support team and I did all we could to make sure he was okay as we went through the process of the therapy and the medication working together to gradually help Adam with his anxiety. He’d stopped the destructive and self harming behaviors. Even the dosage of his medications were reduced. (I hear you, you’re thinking we should still be singing along with Ella, right? WRONG). Despite all our efforts to make sure his eyes and ears were healthy and unharmed, Adam somehow had damaged his left eye. In early June, one of our support workers found his left pupil looked cloudy and we took him to the hospital where they said it was a massive cataract. In young people massive cataracts are often the cause of blunt trauma. We had made sure his eyes and ears were in good shape so while we knew he did engage in harming himself, we were sure he hadn’t done any damage. The x rays and scans were clear, he could read the eye charts perfectly with each eye and he displayed perfect vision. Did he fall? Did he hit his head? Everyone on our team was stumped. Adam is not only the most surefooted person we know, he hadn’t had any accidents with his return to skating and track and someone was always with him and there wasn’t an incident we knew of that could have caused this eye condition. Now, hold on a hot minute! When Adam started leaving the movies in the middle of a show back in May, was that a sign that he couldn’t see well in that eye? No, Batman was too long and not his kind of movie and I mean, Pattinson, the vampire boy? Not Adam’s type of superhero. Plus with the second movie he’d gone to see, he’s already seen a couple times. Maybe he left because he was bored with it? He’s the kind of guy that would leave if he wasn’t having a good time. Soon after he saw that Top Gun revival with his Dad and sat through the whole thing. Surely if he couldn’t see well, Tom would have noticed, right? The questions swirled around our family and his support team like a tornado. Everyone was stunned and saddened when the doctor had discovered Adam wasn’t seeing out of his eye at all but were hopeful that it was just a cataract because you can fix a cataract!

We were referred to a specialist who wanted to make sure the rest of the eye was in tact and he performed a more revealing ultrasound and saw a small funnel retina detachment that he felt could be repaired along with the cataract. With the cataract being so big and thick and the retina being detached, laser technology was not an option and Adam was referred to a surgeon in Kingston. After the appointment the surgeon booked him for surgery the following week. I asked the first specialist if there was a chance that my son would lose vision in his eye and he told me that that was always a possibility but so was restoring some percentage of vision in the eye. I know that matters of the eye need to be tended to quickly, and I realized that while my son’s condition was serious, given the time between the in-depth ultrasound, the referral to the surgeon and the date of Adam’s surgery, it was still serious but less urgent than it seemed before and I began to prepare myself and my family for the reality that Adam might be down to one functional eye. My husband and other son also reminded me that there was a window of hope but being in this autism rodeo as long as I have, as the main person speaking to the doctors over the years, I knew we had already started down a darker rabbit hole because of the lack of urgency for the next steps. The surgery took longer than anticipated because the surgeon tried his best to repair the extensive damage to the retina but when my husband relayed what he had said post surgery, it confirmed what I knew in my heart — what I most feared. Adam was going to be permanently blind in his left eye.

I will say this, if Adam was not autistic, he would have said something about his eye when he first noticed his vision was changing. While he reads, understands, spells, texts, writes and speaks, verbal communication has been his primary hurdle. He is a man of few words. He is an observer and a planner. The fact that he can communicate as much as he can verbally and by writing and typing is incredible considering he stopped speaking at 14 months and did not utter a sound until he was 2 1/2 with phrases and sentences returning 2 years after that. If Adam was not autistic he would have drawn attention to his left eye which was slowly failing him. Instead, he quietly adapted, much like an animal would I suppose. This quiet sucker punch to me was the worst one autism has delivered since his diagnosis. I actually feel I accepted his diagnosis of autism better than I am accepting that my son is blind in one eye. I think it is the worst blow I have received. I have learned to navigate around and incorporate Adam’s autism into our lives and it has become our normal. I don’t resent it for being a part of Adam because it is what makes Adam unique and the Adam we know and love, but I have spent so much of my life with my husband doing all the extras to protect him from the things that he would not readily be on the look out for, that I cannot understand how he wouldn’t just say, “hey, what’s going on with my eye?” I mean he talks about things that make him uncomfortable all the time. Why didn’t he say anything this time? Autism. Fucking autism, that’s why. And what is worse, I missed it. The doctor said this damage occurred long enough that the retina was too scarred to be repaired. Somewhere between the eye exam at the end of winter this year and June, Adam was losing vision in his left eye. I’d seen him numerous times and the staff was working with him every day and we missed it. If Sam (who works with Adam) hadn’t stared at him that day when she thought she’d seen something cloudy in his eye, we wouldn’t have known anything was wrong. We took him to the doctor immediately but it was too late. We missed it but in my heart, I missed it and I don’t miss much and when it comes to Adam, his brother, Logan, their father and myself regarding our health. This is the first thing I’ve missed and it sickens me because I can’t change it. I can’t fix it. I can’t give him my left eye. If it was a possibility that you could transplant and eye, I would have done it without a thought for myself. The whole time I was going between the ER and the specialist and the surgeon, I was thinking, this will will turn out aright. We might not get 100 percent of the vision back but we will get some and we will get the right glasses. It will be fine. Adam has autism and he’s been through so much and come through so much and he’s so healthy, he’s never sick and he heals quickly and shit, the guy lives with autism, he doesn’t need any more grief. He will be fine. He’s always fine. Then “will” turned into he “should” be fine and that changed to he “might” be fine and as logic switched back on in my brain and reality slipped back into the channels that keep me focused, the sentence I saw in my mind clearly read “he’s lost the use of this eye and we are entering a new phase of Adam’s adult life journey”. My head hit the mat hard and then my body landed in slow motion. Autism pinned my neck down with it’s foot and the referee counted me down for the loss and I haven’t had the energy to get up. Not this time. Not yet.

I know as a parent, we try to do all we can to take care of our children and I know I can’t protect them every second of every day. I let my sons do all sorts of stuff but I’ve always been able to advise them, and show them how to be smart and protect themselves as best as they can but this was a big blow for me. It’s the biggest blow to Adam, of course. He now has to live with monocular vision and really take care of that right eye. Of course, he’s adapted to it since he first started to lose vision on the left. I mean he duped us all because he just went on being himself never giving any physical indication that he could only see on his right. He went kayaking, swimming and hiking as usual. Heck, he even went to an outdoor concert in Toronto before his surgery and after the surgery went to a barbecue at someone’s house. He’s going for walks and going to his favorite restaurants and in a couple weeks he starts working again at the Y and at the food bank and he’ll be able to go rock climbing and kayaking again in about 3 weeks. He’s moved on so now I pretend that I have as well when I’m with him. I’m not going to give him any indication that I am worried or sad about what has happened. I need to continue to encourage him to live his best life just as I always have and show him that I trust that he understands that he has to be super careful with his vision now. We have discussed that he will be seeing more of his eye doctor to help him with this new journey and I have to step back and give him his space. As usual, I am in awe of him and I am very proud of his resilience. He’s living his life. He’s adapting more to this change every day. He’s donned his very cool protective glasses (he has several pairs) and is as handsome as ever while wearing them and he knows to always protect his eyes when outdoors in the sun as well. I will schedule him regular eye exams and make sure he continues to eat healthily and act with caution when he’s doing his activities and be there and be as ready as I can for the next hiccup. 

 But, I’m not good with it. I feel like I’ve been beaten this time. Even though I did everything I could to make sure his eyes and ears were not damaged, it still wasn’t enough. We’re all tired. I am tired. I am so very tired from doing all I can to have just fallen short of being able to protect our boy. I am deeply damaged by this one for sure. I don’t know when this wound will heal and contrary to my personality, I kind of feel like staying down for the count with this one for a while. After all we went through during Covid with Adam’s autism I didn’t think I would have anything to share or write about because we came through it, you know? Nothing but blue skies, right Ella? And I didn’t want to re-hash it or re-live it or garner any sympathy from anybody, you know? I thought, well, this is great because we’re all just going to move on but this bitch ever so silently and stealthily wound up and got me on the jaw and I saw stars and I haven’t recovered. Adam seems to be on the mend but his momma just doesn’t have it right now and I’m not sure when I’ll get that gumption I need and rely on to move past this one and I don’t even want to try right now. I am deathly afraid that one day he will lose vision altogether even though he may have sight until the end of his days. He’s not the only pirate-come-lately in this family (oddly enough, I think they all lost vision in the same eye) but he is the only one with autism. I am his mother and he has autism and now he has one functional eye and I will continue to worry, fuck it! It’s my baseline. I know as time goes on, this left eye blindness will not take up the forefront of my mind. I know that one day I won’t feel the stabbing pain of useless guilt 90 percent of the day and one day I won’t wake at night worrying about his sight. One day I know I will be able to be completely engaged in a conversation without having my thoughts drift to my son’s blind left eye. I know until then I will continue to do what I do best when I am working on coping with heavy stuff — I will pretend that I’m okay, especially around Adam, in the hope that one day, I will make peace with it as he has. Though I am worn down and and blemished by 20 years of autism’s attacks on my spirit, I hope I too can be resilient, but for now, I may have to let Etta James croon about the way I feel a little longer ~

Don’t know why
There’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather…

Stormy weather, stormy weather
And I just can get my poor self together
Oh, I’m weary all of the time
The time, so weary all of the time

The Last Guy Left

White browed Sparrow leaves nest — Kenya (stock)

Last year, our younger child left home. He left to play Jr. A Hockey in the Maritimes and then for a team in Northern Ontario. Wanting to make the most of his last two years of Junior Hockey eligibility, he was not content to be on the top local team as the sixth or seventh defenseman. While he loved being on this team and he loved the coach and the organization, he wanted to play and at this level, the top teams sit and trade players right up to the deadline in December, because they want to win. At this level of competitive hockey, coaches of the top teams need to win. They need it because it secures their job for another season, opens them up to higher level hockey coaching jobs and since many of them have families to support with all the bells and whistles that come with having a family, job security is key. After surviving the bullshit of Minor Hockey, my son understands and appreciates the business of this more serious level of hockey.

Logan James — Defense — Photo D. Barsotti
2019–20 Logan’s last year in Minor Hockey — Major Midget Quinte RedDevils AAA
Photo D. Barsotti

Understanding the business of hockey is very important as a Junior player because you learn your value quickly and you learn how to train and market yourself to get to where you need to be, so, that in the end, all the dedication and sacrifice can get you what you want. Often that want is a scholarship to a university where you can further your education, get to a team in Europe, or for some players getting both and if amidst all the high level competition, you somehow make it to The Show, then that’s just fantastic gravy.

2020 Playing during Covid pandemic — Logan masked up and played with Picton Pirates Jr. C Hockey Club — Photo T. James

With all his friends either working or going off to school somewhere, my son, restless with his lot in life, went to his coach at the end of training camp and clearly, respectfully and maturely articulated that while he understood Coach had to do what he had to do to win, he also had to do what he had to do, to fulfil his goals and asked to be traded.

Photo — Deroche
Spring 2021 — Hockey returns after a Covid lock down — Logan Playing for Trenton Golden Hawks Jr. A Hockey — Photo — Deroche

A week after his meeting with his coach, my son experienced what it meant to “Ask and and you shall receive,” and he came to me on the back deck looking a little green in the face. He nervously told me he was offered a trade to the east coast and asked me what I thought he should do. I smiled at my just-turned-19-year-old and told him that I couldn’t tell him what to do. I already lived my youth. I explored, traveled and made decisions on the fly and navigated my way from my teens to adulthood pretty much on my own and that it was his turn to do the same. He told me it would be a 20 hour drive away from home and I responded that it was therefore a 9 hour journey by air, ferry and car adn that we would be able to get to him if we needed to. He said he would not make it home until Christmas if the schedule allowed and I reminded him that he was the one fretting about not going away to university or working like many of his friends from highschool and that to play here as a 6th defenseman while living at home would not be as fulfilling as starting his own unique adventure.

“Won’t you miss me?” he asked, indignantly.

I will not,” I replied, “I won’t miss you because I will be happy for you that you are chasing your dreams and goals. I won’t miss you because I am proud of the way you have made the leap from high school into adulthood in your own way. I will be celebrating the way you decided to throw caution to the wind and jumped in feet first at the opportunity to do something new and I am confident you will swim and not sink. Like your brother, you know how to cook, you know how to do laundry and take care of yourself. You can respectfully voice your opinion. You are not careless, rash or unsafe, you are good with money and you live in the era of advanced technology and we are a facetime and a text away whenever you need us. Son, if that doesn’t scream you’re ready, I don’t know what does. Whatever you decide, your father and I will support,” I said and because my personality is what it is, I also told him we were anxiously awaiting the opportunity to walk about our home for hours in the nude if we wanted to and that the longer he stayed, the longer we were going to be deprived of such freedom. He groaned, made a face and left upon hearing that sentence. Isn’t it funny how young people only see themselves worthy of being sexual and see their parents as asexual, platonic friends? Four hours later, after he literally slept on it, (he became a napper in his teens)he came back out onto the deck for dinner and told us he accepted the trade and was leaving for the east coast on September 2nd. He was beaming and and didn’t seem as nervous as he’d been just hours before, about the prospect of going far away from home. I could tell he was proud to have a new venture and I could see he was excited and ready. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge. We knew it and now he did too.

My children are not typical by any means. After our first son was diagnosed with autism, we knew our family life was going to look very different from everyone else’s and when we accepted that, we were able to raise our boys to embrace being different and to be capable of taking care of themselves. Growing up in a small community makes being different very difficult but if you are able to show your children the value and the greatness to be celebrated in being authentically themselves, they will be confident, successful, accepting and inclusive human beings. As parents, we do not believe in the cookie cutter rite of passage where a child leaves high school and goes straight to university or college. We believe that teaching a child how to be independent and self sufficient is far more important. We believe that learning how to be a part of the workforce should come before pursuing higher education. We believe that a person should explore everything and find out what intrigues them so that they can discover their passion. We also believe that higher education is not for everyone and that everyone has a lifetime to learn, grow and change. We also believe that young people should embrace all the ways one can achieve higher education, if desired, and that some people do well with the bricks and mortar aspect of College and University while others, like my son, do better on line, one course at a time. So, in just 9 days, Logan packed up what he needed, had a farewell party, and even though he pissed me off when he missed spending a promised 30 minutes with me on what to expect when going through the airport since 911, he got himself to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in one piece. I have to say, even though he went for one last hurrah and blew off my tutorial on the airport, his father and I thoroughly enjoyed sipping our coffees while watching him blunder his way from the oversized baggage check counter then through security. In true baptism by fire, he did everything wrong and felt the wrath of the grumpy airport security staff. He took so long checking in, he didn’t have a chance to grab a bite to eat before the flight and ended up with only a small complimentary bag of 4 pretzels and 3 mini cookies during his two and a half hour flight. Hunger for an athletic teen is the worst form of torture. He was in the air at 9 am and by 9:19 we were at Ikea buying the things that needed replacing after raising two little boys in our home over the last 14 years.

The First Trade — 2021 Logan playing for Yarmouth Mariners — Photo Team Photographer

Don’t for one minute think we do not love and adore our boys. We do. We have done our jobs as parents. We were there raising them every day, step by step. We were there for all of it, the broken bones, the cuts, the stitches the bruises, the bullying, the anxiety, the arguements, the fighting, the yelling and the screaming. We were there for the confidence boosting, the rage, the crying, the doubt, the stress, the fun times, the crazy times, the zany times, the heartbreaking times, the first day of a new school at least 4 times each and the first wins, the first losses, the first loves and first heartaches. We loved them through it all and we taught them well and they absorbed our teachings and applied what they learned to their lives. They were equipped physically and mentally to go off on their own and most of all, they have grown into respectful young men of honour. We were proud to see them leave home and are excited and curious to see the rest of their stories unfold.

Albeit autistic, Adam, lives on his own with support, has 2 jobs and is pursuing his passion for art and outdoor adventure. Logan is playing Jr. A hockey, taking on line courses and pursuing a scholarship to a university to study Kinesiology with a desire to one day perhaps play professionally in Europe and my husband and I? Well, we are slowly renovating our home to our liking and planning our travel itineraries for the next few years. It’s our time again. Time for our new adventures and for re-discovering each other. Raising our family was not always easy. At times it was financially tricky and at times emotionally draining but we did it together, as a family, always appreciating what we had, and always working hard to get what we wanted. Sometimes we failed and while many may not consider what we we have achieved as the ideal picture of success, we consider ourselves massively successful. The nest is officially empty with a few drop-ins here and there and we can love them not as our little boys but as our adult children as they appreciate us not as Mom and Dad but as adult parents. It is indeed a very cool time of our lives.

Why is Figure Skating still an Olympic Sport?

Every Winter Olympic Games there is scandal in figure skating and it usually involves Russians and doping or bribing and cheating. The country’s name and flag have been banned from the Olympics since 2018 as a punishment from the World Anti-Doping Agency. It was a group of athletes from Russia, not involved in the doping scheme who appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be allowed to compete as neutral competitors. Competing as the Olympic Athletes from Russia they have adopted the acromym ROC — Russian Olympic Committee when competing. But somehow, Russia fails to understand what being penalized truly means. They continue to sabotage their athletes but doping them without them even knowing it and the younger and more naive the athlete, the easier it is for them to be duped.

It is hardly likely 15 year old skating phenom, Kamila Valieva chose to consume a banned substance used for angina patients. The drug in question, Trimetazidine, can potentially help athletes perform at a higher heart rate for a longer period of time. This means on Olympic sized hockey arena ice, which is bigger than NHL ice, a trick laden routine can sap your energy. But if your heart rate is up and you can still keep going without feeling tired, well, you just might win an Olympic medal, preferably a gold.

But results and information about cheating always has a way of leaking out during the most important competition for an athlete. As it stands, the figure skating world has a catty, diva-ish aura and a shady side when it comes to judges and scoring. You could be perfect in every way and come 4th while a favourite athlete from a certain country could fall on their ass multiple times and win gold. Skating tetters between the world of performance art and sport. In my opinion, it is closer to ballet than it is to sport with the music, the costumes and the makeup. Of course, like ballet and gymnastics (another question mark in the Olympics with it’s own share of abuse and judging scandals), figure skating requires a great deal of strength and athleticism. What is disgustingly and unfair is that this so-called sport requires the dedication, determination and sacrifice of any other sport but it seems to be the one in which adults are able to abuse and manipulate young athletes, especially young girls.

The story of Kamila Valieva is a tragedy. Four years ago she was an 11-year old girl who loved to skate and was damn good at it. Now she is a broken 15-year old who was embarassed and confused and splashed across the media and the internet for something that was done to her, most likely without her understanding or knowing that she was being doped. The Olympics are an athlete’s dream and Kamila’s own country truned her dream into a nightmare. Still, they young skater, went onto the ice and performed her two routines as best as she could given the pressure, scrutiny she was under and the comments she might have heard from other athletes and coaches. She fell numerous times but she tried her best. She even told the lie they told her to tell whe she said she most likely sipped water that belonged to her grandfather who uffers from heart disease. Yeah, that’s right, that’s how she got an angina medication in her system along with some other stuff too… Drugs incidentally, that have been previously found in bobsledders and cross country skiers that caused the ban placed on Russia from the games.

The cover was blown when the silver medal Russian skater, Alexandra Trusova, who was supposed to be part of a teenage Russian podium sweep, broke down and angrily expressed her hatred of the sport, and her hatred of her coach whom she told off just before the medal ceremony.

“You know everything that was going on!” she shouted at her in Russian. “I did four quads and I came second. Everybody has a gold medal except me. I am never going on the ice again. I hate it! I hate this sport!”

Since Valieva bombed her routine and didn’t make it onto the podium, the winners were able to have their medal ceremony, which is everything to an athlete at the Olympic Games. Two of Russia’s teens placed first and second and Japan took the bronze. I will not be surprised if we see Valieva skate again but I would completely understand if she didn’t. We know silver medalist Alexandra Trusova isn’t interested in representing her country again. Perhaps Russia should just be banned from the Olympics once and for all. Perhaps, figure skating should not be a sport but a performance fans and spectators pay to attend like a play, ballet or symphony. It is no good at being a sport because it is laden with scandal and cheating and for what? Ruining the greatest feeling an athlete can have after devoting their life to their passion and representing their country with pride. I don’t think representing ROC is easy. I don’t think it is worth the pain or the shame this young is feeling and will feel for years to come. Maybe figure skating could be a part of the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. Maybe it would be more successful and gentler on skaters if it becomes a stand alone art form. I will gladly pay admission to a figure skating show but I cannot bring myself to watch it as sport when all I see every four years is some little girl or boy of the moment sitting between adult coaches clutching a stuffed animal and weeping over missed jumps and tricks and low scores, due to the pressure of a scandal. Perhaps the only way to fix the problem with competitive figure skating is to get rid of competitive figure skating.

How to squash a pandemic: Are governments going too far or are their methods justified?

On November 11th 2022, Quebec Premier Francois Legault showed his province and our country he’d had enough. With the omicron virus spreading rapidly throughout the province, he reinstated lockdown protocols and curfews to try and curb the spread of this virus that is heading into a third year of squeezing the world in it’s tight grip. Sure, there were protests and those who broke curfew were fined or thrown in jail, but he held firm and didn’t relax any of the measures he’d put in — and he’d reinstated the tighter restrictions on New Year’s Eve to boot. Having lived in Montreal for five years, I know how much that hurt because Quebeccers know how to party, after all they embody joie de vivre.

Then, Premier Legault had another idea, no doubt arising from the reality that patients in the hospitals’ ICU’s and patients who died of Covid 19, were mostly unvaccinated, often asking for the vaccine moments before being intubated. To save lives, Legault decided that all Quebeccers who wanted to shop at liquor stores, beer stores or marijuana shops must have proof of vaccination. Vaccination rates have quadrupled since the requirement was put in place. Go figure.

And if you think that was a lot for citizens to bear, Legault announced that his government is currently working on a “health-care contribution” (a no-vax tax) that will be placed on all adult Quebec residents who refuse to get vaccinated for non-medical reasons. Not surprisingly, some citizens especially the anti-vaxers are outraged, infringement of human rights etc. but for those who have no problem getting vaccinated, well, let’s be real, they’ve thought about it and spoken about it amongst themselves. Many people in favour of vaccination were outraged when they learned the hospital care cost of Covid 19 to the taxpayer. According to a CBC news report based on data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), a COVID-19 patient needing intensive care in Canada is estimated at more than $50,000, compared with aproximately $8,400 for a patient suffering from a heart attack. The average hospital stay for a COVID-19 patient in Canada is about 15 days which is twice as long as as a patient suffering from pneumonia whose treatment cost is about $8,000. Severely ill COVID-19 patients are admitted to the ICU and are placed on ventilators and one out of every five dies in intensive care. According to CTV News, today in Canada (January12th 2022) 1000 people were hospitalized with Covid 19 while another 124 died . 13 percent of Canadias are unvaccinated and they make up 79 percent of the Covid 19 patients admitted to the ICU. We are losing the battle against this virus and people who work in health care are losing interest in their job and they are burning out and walking out for good. Some pro-vaxers say they are tired of the skeptics and that they are tired of having to undergo the same restrictions as those who have chosen to be unvaccinated. Everyone is pandemic weary. Everyone’s had enough … just like Premier Legault.

Roughly 10 per cent of adult Quebecers are unvaccinated and they represent about half of all patients in intensive care. With over 2,700 total hospitalizations in La Belle Province, with an increase of approximately 180 patients per day and over 200 people in intensive care and 62 deaths the day before the no vax tax announcement, are we really surprised the Legault government came down heavy handed? His bold actions and suggestions have made some other Premiers in the country, stroke their chins while other’s who are more conservative, or unwilling to fall through the cracking political ice beneath them as elections approach, have balked at Legault’s bravado. The Prime Minister, however, didn’t praise Quebec’s latest proposals but he didn’t shoot them down either, because like all of us, he’s mentally through with this pandemic and it’s variants and the toll it has taken on health care, ecomomics, employment, education and mental health.

Whether or not you agree with the Quebec Premier’s ideas, it’s hard not to admire a politician who has the gumption to make bold decisions and try and do something to curb the spread of Covid 19. Leaders are chosen to lead and in our society, we can vote them out later if we’ve disliked what they’ve done. Legault, like all leaders were caught off guard by this pandemic and as the world hemmorhages into a third year of covid misery, he’s trying to get to the end of it and not all citizens are on board. This pandemic has revealed in this era of widespread mis-information, conspiracy theory, skepticism and naivete, leadership has become tremendously challenging. The mis-trust of government, science and media is endangering society at large and during this pandemic it has led to the crippling of health care systems worldwide. And, so, when it comes to Legault’s ideas, and countries like Austria and Greece with fines in place for those unwilling to be vaccinated we ask ourselves, are brash government moves a step too far or are they justified?

IMPORTANT!

My sons are entering what I like to call full adulthood. They are at the stage where they tackle problems on their own and let their father and me know the outcome. This is great to see, because we have all done the work to prepare them to do this and while they are relatively open with us and seek advice occasionally, more and more they’re trying to involve us less and less. It is a natural progression that is both beautiful and slightly unnerving to witness this carving of paths and shaping of lives and as their mother, I have to accept this aspect of their independence. Their father is far better at it than I am.

I check myself before I convey how I feel about them or when I want to give that boost of confidence they might need. The innate desire as their mother is to go back in time when I would hold them in my arms and tell them how special they are and how proud I am of them and end the pep talk with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek — but we’re not there anymore and those moments are what I refer to as fond foundational memories. I know they have dark moments. We all do. If you are alive you have dark days. In a world with so much failing around us, it’s impossible to avoid dark days when you feel like no matter what you have done right, everything is piling onto you. I am from the generation where we were told that we shouldn’t whine,that no load is too heavy to bear, that we had nothing to complain about and to suck it up. Today, we can go to the extreme if we are not careful and we can fail to teach our youth how to cope. Other times we can disable them by jumping in and disarming them of problems by solving it for them, parent-style. We walk a fine line as parents no matter the age of our children and we have to come up with ways to lift them up without patronizing them or disregarding their ideas and opinions.

Last week, one of my sons was working through an issue and we could tell in the initial phone call, he was upset and was making rash decisions and spoke about giving up on something he has been working so hard to achieve. He had done nothing wrong but the circumstance in which he finds himself is unfortunate and out of his control. All he could do is be his best self within the organization in the midst of the disarray and work on ways to get out and transfer to another that would be a better fit. After listening to what he had to say, we gently reminded him that over the years when we opened the door for him to quit, he never did and that he needed to give himself twenty-four hours to cool down and look at it with fresh eyes and not give in to making rash decisions.

The next day we listened to a much calmer young man who reiterated that he was not a quitter and that he was thinking with a clearer head and planned to take things patiently, day by day and continue to do his best until something better came along. We were happy to hear this but not surprised and it was then I recognized I needed to tell him something I hadn’t outrightly ever said to him or his brother in their teen years and this was the perfect time to tell him why I agreed with his plan. I simply said,

“This plan makes sense to me because of how important you are,” I began. “I hope you know that you are important, son,”

His silence indicated he was waiting for my explanation. I told him that beyond his academics, job and his sport; beyond his importance in our family and his circle of friends; he is important to society. I told him I was aware that he knows he is a good human being and I want him to remember that society, our community and any future community in which he finds himself, needs him. The world society needs humans like him. He is important for the survival of our species and our planet because he is a human who wants to do the right thing and knows how to get things done. He is a human filled with compassion and patience and he is a kind, loving and always-willing-to-help human who spreads happiness and joy. And while we are all flawed, he makes us proud parents because he is the best of us plus all the innate goodness he showed up with nineteen years ago.

I imagined what it would feel like to be told how important I was at a young age. If sometone tells me that now, I believe it because I am a parent, a provider,I provide service to clients, I am knowledgeable and I have the means to teach and to help. But when I was young and had nothing tangible to show in order for me to feel important…man, if someone explained why my mere existence and my actions made me important, hmmph, that would have lifted me up beyond the stars. We need to tell people they are important. We need to let them know that we see the role they play in life and why they are vital to our existence.We need to tell them that they don’t need material possessions or titles to be important because they are one unique and special piece of a much greater jigsaw puzzle that is life and we can’t be whole without them. We need to show them how their very presence on the planet is key to the success of many other people and that everything they are a part of would be worse without them. And while everyone is important, our young people are especially so, because they are the ones to take us into the future — a future, I might add, we have severely tarnished — a future they have to fix. We need them. We need them to cope so that they can survive. We can save their lives if we tell them how important they are…tell all of them, not just the ones who appear vulnerable. Tell them all!

You are important. You are needed. You represent change. You represent hope. You are the best of us and we are here to help however and whenever we can because you are important and the world does not work without you.

Dear Young Person between the ages of 19 and 29,

SLOW DOWN!

I want to tell you something that was told to me at times in my life that I didn’t heed until the day I HAD to accept it . SLOW DOWN AND BREATHE. There’s no reason to rush and you can’t control an unpredictable future, so why not take life in stride and see what it presents to you? You will miss so much if you life your life by a plan laden with benchmarks and goals and if you pressure yourself because others have achieved something you haven’t yet. So, if this is you, an over-planning, over-achieving youngster, staring at life through eyes-only-on-the-prize glasses, please stop and read my words and understand that I know what I’m talking about.

When I was growing up, adults loved asking children what they wanted to be when they grew up. Considering it is the business of children to grow at their own pace without agenda, this is the most stupid question an adult could ask a child. How can someone who hasn’t spent much time on a planet filled with so much to discover and experience answer such a question? Some adults forget what being a child is like because they have lost the creativity of their childhood and don’t know what to ask kids. As a result, they come up with a question about something they can relate to — the soul-sucking world of work and highly regarded careers, thereby unconsciously tampering with the natural programming of being human where we learn with our senses, thereby sparking curiousity. Posing questions about the future to a child, infiltrates their mind with pointless benchmarks and a man-made need to have a life-plan bombarded with goals for success without failure.

When I reflect upon my my mother’s younger years, I can see she did the best she could with what she had, living by society’s rules. I remember she would coach me to give impressive answers to the what-I-wanted-to-be-when-I-grew-up questions. I was coached not to speak my truth of wanting to be a creative person but to say I wanted to be a linguist working at the United Nations headquarters, a lawyer or a doctor. When I was young, I wanted to be a nurse who was also a dancer who painted and wrote stories to read to her patients for fun in her spare time. While I was praised for dancing beautifully with incredible expressiveness, lauded for my ability to move people with my writing, or complimented on the impecable first aid I lent to others, I was also told that certain pursuits (mine) allowed only a chosen few to find success and that the rest of us (me) needed to pursue not what we loved but what was sensible(things that were considered lucrative). After a while, I believed that any compliment I received for anything creative I had done was a polite lie. Disenchanted, I started buying one liner greeting cards instead of filling blank ones with my heartfelt words. Writing wouldn’t make me any money, dancing would mean I was an academic failure and since I was the firstborn and had to “set a good example” for my sister, I set aside what the adults in my life saw as “fairy tale”dreams and forced myself to find a profession that would not make me become a disappointment in a world that was “not going to get any easier, you know”. It was so confusing being encouraged to put my mind to doing anything I wanted to do, so long as it was the sensible thing to do. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life at eighteen, nineteen or twenty (I’m hard pressed to believe anyone does) and in my my haste to choose something to study at University, I choose to study for a career in Television and Radio like my father. And even while at the embassy applying for my student visa, my father, whose footsteps I was about to follow, told the man who was processing my application that he thought I was stupid to choose what I had because at sometime I would have to give it up when I had a family. Forgive my late father’s statement. I have. He was a product of his arrogant generation’s oppressive thinking and he also did the best he could with the tools that were available to him. I knew he loved me but I don’t think my father ever recognized when he hurt my feelings or made me feeel small. That’s just how fathers were then I suppose. To this day, to protect themselves (or rather be on the offensive), my family likes to brush off or pretend to forget the things they did wrong (because they are never wrong) and they all wish I would just let things go but I can’t. However, I use these things I can’t let go of not to be bitter towards them, but to be a better person and parent and offer better guidance to my sons and the young people I encounter.

There was only one adult in my life, a university professor, who made a statement about life and careers that stuck with me and perhaps my entire graduating class of 1992. He said, “Do what you love and the money will come later,”. If I could have my youth back, that is exactly what I would do, because success is not about titles or money earned but it is about soaking up what life offers us every day. Living is about experiencing moments, seeing things, meeeting people,trying new things, scary things, tasting new food and finding comfort in the familiar. It’s about helping people, feeling emotions, being selfless and inadvertently finding out who we are and what’s our purpose. Life provides experiences that fuel ideas and innovation and invention while art inspires and uplifts our souls and sometimes, we feel like we are soaring instead of sinking and it feels good, if only for just a moment. Life is short…even if you live to a hundred …life is short; too short to live by a plan or a ridgid schedule. It is okay to not know what you are doing tomorrow or next week, next month or next year. If you live life by a ridgid plan you will have more disappointments than achievements and you will not be happy. Now, let’s not mistake disappointment for failure. Failure is a reset button. Failure is the greatest teacher because you can’t improve or achieve anything great without the mistakes that lead to failure. Failure is the foundation and stepping stones to success. Failure is temporary, really, if you use it as impetus to try again. Disappointment tends to linger and sometimes never goes away.

I have learned that in life, (and to be successful you’ve got to believe this) you have to do what makes you happy and though sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get by, it does not mean you have to put aside or not do the thing that is the essence of who you are — the thing that comes from your soul. You also can’t find happiness if you hold on to regret. I suppose I could say I regret not doing this or that, but I realize I can still do some of those things now. I couldn’t when I was younger but I have the chance to re-visit some of the things I had postponed now. It’s up to me to do them. I have no reason or excuse not to. I had so many plans that were laid on a shakey foundation that consisted of what I was told would make me a successful. It was a plan laid on a foundation I made based on what other people had in mind for me — people in retrospect, who were not more intelligent than I was. It is quite surprising and a little unsettling when you realize you are far more intelligent and intuitive than the people that raised you — after all, they were supposed to know best and yet their guidance was often wrong. I know that nothing they did was malicious but rather were ideas that were formed out of fear because they could see the world changing, becoming harder and that human beings were becoming more ruthless and selfish and to protect us from being ravaged by the world, they felt they had to steer us to choose paths that would make us financially able to survive. After all, money has always made the world go round, but I see loopholes of hope. Having missed the opportunity to pursue my passions in my youth, I see that there are no age limits or rules that say I can’t at fifty four.

When I was in my twenties I had a life plan set on a time frame. By twenty-five I’d be working at this place earning this much. By twenty-seven I would own my first house in such and such a neighbourhood and I would be driving this specific car and be taking vacations in country X and Y. It was a tough, rigid, impossible plan, really. Back then, I didn’t have the extra tools like the internet or a smart phone to help out with these grandiose plans of mine but I was determined to stand out in any way that I could to get it all. And then, life happened and I became just like any other ordinary grunt out there. I wasn’t special, famous or succesful or financially rich. Life happened and I had a baby who would later be diagnosed with a life-long condition that would determine everything we would do, say, think or feel forever. And while I was suspecting something was worryingly different about him, I was pregnant with baby number two who, upon birth would be colicky for six months and susceptible to both bronchiolitis and bronchitis. Quickly, my life-plan was a vague speck of an idea created for some other woman from some other time. My husband and I bought a house much later than our peers, shared a very basic four-door sedan for a very long time and we spent more time worrying about the future of our one child while busting our asses to create a “normal” life for the other.We didn’t have a lot of money back then and when we did have extra life threw us major hiccups like a broken down furnace or kitchen appliance. We seemed to be perpetually climbing out of a very deep hole, shaking off the dirt that landed on our heads as life tried to bury us. Ours was a life set before a backdrop of constant chaos, constant change and movement, perpetual tiredness, brain straining days and nights of thinking outside the box to create the best environment in which to raise these two little boys while everyone our age in our neighbourhood was worrying about which tiles or hardwood they should buy to increase the value of their homes.

By the time I was thirty-six, my husband and I quietly understood that we had been placed in fixed roles. He would work outside the home and do other other lucritive work on the side to pay the bills and put food on the table and I would be at home with the boys, overseeing our special son’s therapy while raising the other and the only job I could do kept me inside the home, babysitting other people’s typically developing children and pretending to like the ones I really didn’t. I learned to re-use and re-purpose things and replenish the basic needs of our family with a budget based on what I called a creative banking system. It goes without saying that life was grinding us down back then and I could absolutely relate to Lee Lawrie’s famous sculpture of the plight of Atlas. I had to make a concerted effort to find joy in each day so that I could face the next. I was often bitter, angry, hurt and just so sad because at the time, I felt that my child was ripped off by his diagnosis and that we were ripped off as a family. It felt like we had to work so hard for the simplest of things; work so hard for peace and happiness.

Dear People between the ages of nineteen and twenty-nine, I can sincerely tell you that ALL my plans went down the drain. I couldn’t remember what they were or why they were important and I had no idea who I was. But, I survived and I truly lived because I got out of bed every day and sometimes went through the mundane motions and sometimes I experienced heaven before my eyes or in the palm of my hand and eventually, when the grief and pain subsided; when I stopped letting myself believe the medical community who kept telling me I had a short window to help my child develop; when I quit frantically rushing around trying to fix my son and fix our lives from something bad that I believed was lurking around the corner…. when I stopped to breathe and take life more slowly, I started to see and I mean really see what was life was all about and just how magnificent it all was. I understood that there was no plan that was going to make me happy. What was making me happy was what I have been doing for the past twenty one years. I had to get to the end of my parenting road to realize my value. I had to become an empty nester before I could say I understood the puropse of my life and now, it’s time to write a new chapter for myself at fifty-four — it’s time to see what other purpose I will fulfill.

I spent too much time doing what I thought I had to do in my twenties and not doing what I loved. Circumstance made me shelve my passions but I was able to take all the mistakes and poor advice that I spoke of earlier and make sure I did better as a parent and a person. I had the wisdom to break the cycle of haste and planning and mapping out a life that surely none of us could predict. In life there are only a few sure things — you are alive, you need food, water and air. You need love, joy and a sense of belonging and purpose and then, one day, you die and your life is over. So, don’t you think we should make the most of the time we have?

I encourage my boys follow their passions. I try to expose them to everything by taking them everwhere and showing them what this world of ours has to offer. I give them love and affection and I give them my ear, always. I think truly listening to a person is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to them. I welcome their ideas and opinions and love when they teach me something new. I have given constructive criticism and I have known when to hold back and let them fail. I have learned to be patient whenever I watch them flounder before they rise again. I have wiped tears and offered words of encouragement more times than I can count. I try to make them confident and strong knowing that some days, they can’t be strong and they just need time to be emotional puddles — but they are my puddles, my boys, two important contributors to the planet that I have had the great fortune and privilege of raising and propping along the way. I was there for every first and every struggle and every heartbreak when life was not fair. I have been there for every achievement and I am proud not just of who they’ve become but of what the four of us have been able to achieve as a family. I might not have become anything I dreamed of but my husband and I continue to take on the twists, turns and sudden drops of this roller coaster life of ours. We look at the short comings of our parents as teaching tools because we know we are able to do something better — we can support our sons as they shoot for the stars and we can encourage them to slow down and be patient and see how life unfolds amidst a world society that still bases success on archaic patterns of generations gone by. We try to do better by our boys because we know what it is like to not get the opportunity to try and pursue our passions.

I might not have gotten the promotions and important corporate positions I thought I wanted. I live in a simple house that is a glorious home. There is enough money in the bank and there are even some well-performing investments and we’ve since upgraded the sedan to two more reliable and comfortable cars. We are at the point in our lives where we are looking to do and see more and possess less. I didn’t become famous for anything earth shattering but my husband and I have been complimented repeatedly for helping nurture two incredible human beings. As we lived through those tough, tough times, we became passionate about helping our sons and other young people embrace their talent, live their truth and follow their passions and it continues to be extremely rewarding. What we feel every day is something money could never buy. I know now that if I was working for some powerful corporation when my son was diagnosed, my family would not have turned out as wonderfuly as it did. I cannot imagine doing all that I did with my sons and working in a demanding environment at the same time. All those moments I devoted to raising them would have been split with and lost on a career and I don’t want to imagine what kind of person I would have become . I don’t have material accolades to show that I am indeed successful. Truth is, I never needed them and I was able to get the necessities of life in the long run. It didn’t matter that the things I needed came when I was twenty-five, thirty-five or forty-five, the point is, we got what we needed and what we don’t may still come, or not but I don’t care because there is no benchmark or deadline. We have our health and we have a bit of wealth but most of all we have love and an openess to receiving and accepting all that is to come or that is to be denied.

Take it from a middle aged woman about to start new things — slow down, be patient, take it all in. Breathe, lie back and stare at the sky, dip your toes in the water, taste all the flavours, listen to all the music notes, take a walk in the rain, feel the sunshine on your face, jump into a pile of leaves, make a snow angel. The planet isn’t what she used to be, there are no starter homes that young people can afford and higher education is more expensive when it should be free. Choose to follow your passion and follow it your way because it is okay to break the mould of stringent path of elementary school to high school to college and university to hopefully high paying job. It won’t work because it can’t work if you haven’t allowed yourself to experience life. If you don’t allow yourself to live, how will you ever know what you want to do in life? Life will deal you several hands, be flexible enough and love yourself enough to be able to play each hand you are dealt. If you just want to be alive, stay on the carousel. Jump onto the roller coaster if you want to truly live.

Duck Face

The Human Duck Face

D. Barsotti & J.A. James

Social media is not the cause of duck face but it certainly has encouraged it and it is one of the reasons I cannot bear to scroll through Facebook and Instagram anymore. The moment the human race was able to take selfies, it was evident the acceptable facial expression, the new image of beauty, was the duck face — head tilted ever so slightly, lips pursed together causing cheeks to suck in, eyes vapidly staring into the lens of the phone’s camera.

Kiss Me – D. Barsotti & J.A. James

And almost everyone did it and for some reason, no one thought it was unnatural or stupid looking. Now, if you are twelve through sixteen….even through eighteen, sure — you’re young, you’re goofy and posting silly, social media faces is really your domain but after thirty, and definitely beyond forty and fifty, it’s just asinine.

“the unfortunate thing is, in their heart of hearts, people know this but they continue to post and expose themselves to the judgement”

Cold, Hard Truth – D. Barsotti & J.A. James

But, “friends” click like and heart and comment with all kinds of uplifting and cutesy decorative emojis, saying how someone is “just beautiful” or “simply gorgeous” and then, in minutes, tell or text others what they really think of a person’s duck face and or body. Their true thoughts are usually unkind and often horrific. The unfortunate thing is, in their heart of hearts, people know this but they continue to post and expose themselves to the judgement because society’s approval has become as vital as air, water and nourishment.

Fish Mouth – D. Barsotti & J.A. James

Social media encourages those who could afford it, to take duck face to the next level. The level of permanent duck face which evolves into a disaster of unnaturally tight skin around the eyes and mouth, skeletal noses, perma-surprised eyebrows and swollen lips that make what was once a duck’s bill, a fish mouth. Man, if animals could capitalize on human beings’ need to look like them, they would financially dominate the world.

We are not meant to stay in the incompleteness of being young

There are some people I know (and some I used to know) who barely resemble their original selves. Skin pulled tautly over bone, I’m never sure if they are smiling, scared or eternally surprised. Social media fuels this need to be impressive, be the most beautiful and the most popular and it has prevented many of us from seeing just how lovely we are, inside and out. Many humans do not recognize how valuable they are. Many of us are more concerned with our outward appearance and have forgotten about the essence of who we are and how much more we can become as we get older. I truly believe one must take care of oneself. Eating good food, exercising, moisturizing and caring for our skin with good clean natural products; caring for our hair, our teeth and nails is vital to being healthy…but caring for our minds and self-esteem is just as important. Being able to cry, be angry and to laugh without feeling like our face will snap is a wonderful and natural thing. We are intended to age, to grow more experienced and wiser. We are not meant to stay in the incompleteness of being young. It’s not natural and let’s call a spade a spade…it’s freaking weird to see an old person with a face that looks like it is ironed onto their skull. Some humans are beginning to look like walking corpses — face all pulled back, filled in and oddly “perfect” while the body is aged. What is the appeal of looking like twenty when your forty old mind has so much more it can offer if it were less occupied with trying to perpetually look young. Many in the fashion industry are embracing all body types, natural attributes and individual quirkiness to reflect reality. The effort is there but it is such an uphill battle to show people that imperfection is actually …perfection! Skin is not supposed to be flawless. Whatever happened to the saying, “every flaw is a fashion?”

Ironically, it was my vain mother who taught me that I was enough and encouraged me to love myself and own all of me — every bump, every chip, every blemish. I know my mother, even at eighty-two has many things about her face and her body that she has never liked but her words of encouragement juxtaposed with the many times I have watched her be self-dissatisfied, enabled me to accept myself. I love and accept my crooked row of bottom teeth, the big cleft on my chin and the, blue-black birthmark on the left side of my face, close to my ear that is the size of my fingerprint. I lived with constant commentary about it looking like a stain, a sideburn, dripping hair dye, or a black olive on my face but I never hated it and never intentionally tried to cover it up — ever — because it was unique to me. I love the freckles under my eyes and across my nose. I love my thick, dark eyebrows people would relentlessly tease me about. I cherish my bouncy and often unruly, greying curls. I adore my skin tone, dark eyes, small boobs and very present ass that was a favourite topic of conversation among some of my aunts. I love my strong thighs and calves that show my athleticism even at fifty-four and I embrace my stretch marked belly that housed my much wanted and adored two, ten-pound-baby-boys I delivered into this world. I have scars from three kidney surgeries that saved my life and a five inch scar on my right elbow that is the conclusion of a snowboarding run gone horribly wrong. Perhaps I am not as attractive as I was in my teens or twenties but I feel and believe that I am exquisitely, interestingly, splendidly, confidently, intelligently, gracefully, sublimely and elegantly fifty four. I mean, I continue to get my husband’s attention from across a crowded room and in our bed. To me, all I am externally is imperfectly beautiful and I am on a perpetual journey to improve my internal flaws. As I grew older, I have made it a point to separate and discard what I deem frivolous, inconsequential and unneeded in my life. It has been my mission to be nicer, kinder, more patient, more tolerant and more accepting of others and it is imperative I remain informed and continue to learn and improve my mind.

The physical signs of aging, much like scars, are the badges of honour we earn living life. It does not matter what people think of us and it matters less when their true thoughts are masked by fake comments about us online. In order for young people to develop self-esteem, self-worth, and an acceptance and joyful anticipation of ageing, older people have to lead the way. Ageing isn’t a bad thing. When you get older and your children leave home, you get back the gift of time. Time to rediscover yourself, try new things, see new places, meet new people, grow things, cook new thigs, play new sports and learn a couple new languages. There is time to read more, create more, make more of a difference to our endangered planet and pass on what we know to those who will inherit and inhabit her when we are gone.

“You are enough”

And while I understand that for some, when artificial, cosmetic enhancement is started, it cannot or is difficult to stop, I urge those of you who have not succumbed to this ritual to try something simple — Look at your face, your hair and your naked body and smile. Really look at this amazing vessel that houses the essence of who you are. You are enough and if you want to strive for more, if what you see looks unhealthy, or not as fit as it could be, heal it and take care of the vessel in a healthy and safe manner. Cherish your body. Feed your soul. Enhance your mind. True friends, and I mean real people, don’t care about what your vessel looks like but rather care what you think, what you have to say and what you do. There is nothing wrong with looking lovely, stylish or wearing something that makes you feel good but you don’t have to go to painful extremes and you don’t need blue thumbs up, smiley faces or hearts. Unpurse your lips, turn off the filter and smile, really smile from within and show the world just how beautiful you are … because you are and truth be told, you always have been.

Learning my place in society (and loving where I have found myself)

Isle ChileJust now·9 min read

I am fifty four. I am active, I take care of myself and I do what is interesting to me. I am using the time that has been returned to me, to learn new things and to get back to hobbies I’d put aside. It is really nice to get to this point after years of evolving into a person who cares not what others think, while respecting the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinion and their space on the planet.

I do not have conversations with or read posts made by people who can’t get over that things have changed since they were young. I do not waste breath or time with people who don’t realize that the problems the world faces today has SO much to do with the way things were done in the time of their heyday.

Human Lifetime Evolution Stock Image

I remember my husband’s grandmother asking us how much we earned, when we started off with our first “real” jobs. When we answered her, she looked at us incredulous and asked, “Where are all the starting professional jobs? You know, the hundred thousand dollar starting salary jobs?” and all we could tell her was, “Your son’s generation took em all! They enjoyed the spoils then implemented cutbacks and downsizing, Grandma,”.

You see, what the older generation forgets, is while things may seem different, not much has changed. We still live in a world where things are convenient and abundant for a certain few. Colour, creed and race still determine who rises to the top and who settles like sediment beneath. We still live in a time of status symbols and where race and gender can determine whether you fail or succeed and the world still operates on having that “in” because of who you know. Society still has dangerous addictions and status associated with certain brands is still a thing, but at least we no longer see ads like these where being successful was only associated with being male.

Source: Kenwood

People had two to three point five children, drove huge polluting automobiles fuelled by oil that often spilled in transit into the oceans and lakes. They put food in a can and filled it with preservatives to get mother out of the kitchen and off her feet so that she could be considered a modern woman. As a woman, I am really glad I was around to see that type of advertising change.

Source:BiC

I know progress has to start somewhere. I know that advancement comes with it’s problems but every generation has to take responsibility for the fallout it caused and we must show support and encouragement and assist the generation trying to repair the damages. I am tired of hearing derrogatory comments from older people regarding young people and they way they live their lives, their taste in art and music, their likes and dislikes and the way they access information. I am tired of hearing them complain that X-treme sports are included in the Olympics. I am tired of them disregarding and disrespecting the things in the world today that they cannot use because they don’t understand how to navigate a virtual, digital world. I am tired of hearing about the “good old days” and how much “better” it was “back in my day” and I am tired of the criticism that young people don’t know the value of a hard days work. If they don’t know, it’s because my generation, the children of the grumpy old critics, didn’t teach them because we were so busy trying to not be like our parents, some of us forgot to pass on the valuable stuff that we were taught. If our young people cannot cope, if they feel overwhelmed, if they lack confidence it is most likely because we did not teach them how to develop these abilities. Do not dare call them entitled, if you had a hand in entitling them. Do not call them unmanerly, if you spoiled them and forgot to teach them kindness, humility and gratitude.

The world has never been perfect. The world has always been evolving to make life better. Before you generalize and judge our youth for always being on their phones, remember that the radio and television was your “cellphone or tablet”. Before you criticize their demeanour, remember the generations before took away the well paying jobs giving way to a time when it took two working parents to sustain the basic needs of a family, removing a parent from the home whose best gift to a child is presence and loving guidance. No generation is perfect and every generation has it’s share of complete mis-informed idiots. But take a look around. This is the generation that is calling out abuse of law enforcement and authority. This is the generation who accepts differences in gender, ability, race and culture. This is the generation who is making us mindful of our adjectives …mindful of the way we phrase things. This is the generation that says, “Hey wait a second, I need a break. Things are a bit much right now,”. This is the generation forcing politicians to at least sound mindful when they address of the eclectic society of the world in which we live.

Living beings, especially human beings are adaptable. If we choose to not be left behind, we won’t. I’m not saying to make your way onto every social medium and interract with it exactly as young people do; what I am saying is be openminded and accepting.

Shakespearean English isn’t spoken on the daily anymore. We don’t whip out our stone tablets to chisel a letter to someone; we dont have to pound away on clunky typewriter keys and thankfully, in a pinch, when we need information, confirmation or money instantly, it is possible to receive it instantly. Isn’t that kind of nice? So what if news papers are becoming a thing of the past and fewer and fewer people have a landline and maybe we only know one person with a rotary phone. So what if I don’t need to have a paper dictionary anymore? Yes, jobs have been lost to downsizing and AI, but new jobs are and will be created and we will evolve. I mean, isn’t it fantastic that we don’t have to print, or save information on a floppy disk, writable disc or thumb-drive we can misplace because we can upload our stuff to the cloud? Isn’t it nice that there is so much less stuff to physically collect and figure out where to store? Dealing with waste is an on-going problem on our planet, which by the way is a problem that was created generations ago.

Please understand I do not believe everything in the past is archaic and worthless. We must have a past to have a present and attain a future. We have to learn what to keep and what to archive and if we choose to be left behind, we must not complain about the way things are or criticize the people who function just fine in the state of the world. I am fifty four and my children are grown. I have time now to think about what I want and what kind of senior I would like to become if given the opportunity. I want to continue to support young people in their determination to speak out against inequality, racism, sexism and bullying. I want to continue to applaud their innovations when it comes to sustainablilty and environmentally conscious ways living. I want to help them repair the planet and maybe, when they get tired, feel anxious or overwhelmed , when they feel depressed, maybe I can be there to talk to them, lift them up, and teach them ways to cope without a prescription, because they are human and they inherrited a lot of troublesome baggage from the generation before me. And my generation? Well, I think we spent a lot of time getting angry at it all, but didn’t do enough to clean up the mess. I know I could have done more.

Now, I have an opportunity now to do better by the younger generation. I don’t want be someone who constantly criticizes everything they do. I also know I don’t fit into or understand every aspect of their world, and that’s perfectly fine. We can’t be a part of everything that changes in society, all the the time but we don’t have to cut it down because we are not capable of adapting.

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As I always have, I look forward to technology yet to come. I may not be able to immerse myself in all of it, but I am looking forward to being a part of whatever I can. I want to be able to live comfortably in my senior years and have technology be the reason I live without the physical and mental hassle of the silly stuff of daily living. I want to be the senior my children don’t have to be concerned about. I am fortunate enough to have been able to put things in place for when I am unable to care for myself so that I will never be their burden. It is not my children’s duty to take care of their mother while simultaneoulsy caring for their children, their jobs and the problems they will face in their lives. I want my children to want to visit me and not make time to see me out of guilt or loyalty. I am watching my parents’ generation and I am learning what NOT to do. I want my senior future to be all it can be. I want to live life with the same openmindedness I posess now. I want to see what these young people are going to do next because I am in awe of them, I believe in them and I love them. I am fifty four and I hope to be blessed with as many healthy, happy years on the planet as I have had in adulthood. I am not perfect. Things were not better back in my day and most of all, by learning and accepting my place in society, I am still able to be excited about the future. I know my place and accept that I do what I want to do, whenever I want to do it. I accept that my way of doing things may work for me but not for my twenty-something-year-old sons. I accept that my role is one of quiet observation, thought and decision making. I accept that it is possible to have a quiet role and still be impactful by throwing my support behind those charged with finding the solutions and make the changes that will save our species and planet. I accept that I do not have all the answers and I accept that things “back in my day” have become and will continue to be, my memories to share, but not begrudgingly compare to the things that “kids these days” do.

I am fifty four and I am choosing to NOT be a fussy, frustrated, frumpy, furrowed, conspiracy theorist, fosil. If longevity means becoming some paranoid, old-way-is-the-only-way, crazy,conspiracy theorist, then I’d rather die sooner, thanks very much. I remember my friends mother telling her grandmother once “Oh, gosh, granny, stop griping about everything people younger than you do! Be nice, let people like you!” Those last six words? ….Ones to live by!