WARNING! NOT REALLY FOR DUDES! The Left Side of My Body Is Angry with Me: Ergo I Am Happy to Make It Shut Up.

Friday started with me waking up suddenly at 1:48 am. Just jolted awake for no apparent reason. So, I did what you do when you wake up way too early, I went to the washroom. I returned to bed and lay there, my mind roaming to this and that (the slightly insane way mother’s, wives and workers do), organizing the day ahead of me, uttering a few prayers. I started feeling uncomfortable and I figured it was the kidney as usual.  The kidney that is back to it’s original size and is functioning better than it ever had before, but this time was having issues draining now and then because it’s ureter is being squeezed by my uterus that has about 2 buckets of golf balls embedded in it. Nothing an Advil could not keep at bay if I needed it to. But then, there was a different ache, this time on the right side of my abdomen from my belly button radiating across the right and down. A sigh and an eye roll. Really? Now? With the pain no better but no worse, I decided to head to the shower at about 6:00 a.m. as Tom and I were leaving for Ottawa to meet with a client. I was disappointed that the hot water didn’t provide the usual comfort to reduce the intensity of the pain, so I popped a Tylenol and an Advil as my urologist recommended for pain management, and we started towards Ottawa. By the time I was 10 minutes along Highway 37, I decided to turn around. Now, I bear pain really well, after all, I had two, 10 pound, bouncing baby boys vaginally and I’m an average sized woman. I did think I could muscle my way through it, get the appointment done and in a worse case scenario, I would be in the nation’s capital and the hospitals there are better than the one where I live but as my husband pointed out,  driving in a car putting up with 6 hours of discomfort with no known source was not the ideal way to spend the day.

The pain was more intense by 8:15 am and it was only on my right side. I called and cancelled with the client and started googling appendicitis. My symptoms were very close to both appendicitis and gall stones so I had my husband drop me off at the Emergency department of our local hospital. As usual, it was not busy when I got there and I was in a room, wearing the flattering blue and white gown with the God-knows-what pattern with the little flimsy white strings at the back. Nothing makes you realize how vulnerable we all are, more than that flimsy, misshapen, shitty little hospital gown. Nothing makes you feel more helpless and on display than when they make you lie on the gurney as they push you to the ultrasound department that you are most certainly able to walk to and nothing makes you think how horrid aging can be as you look at the many elderly people laying on gurneys in hallways moaning while they wait for their tests or in many cases, a room where they can rest comfortably.  Yes, with all these little ER visits I have had recently, I have had a solid look at the hospitals, the well-meaning staff who are too few in number to handle the volume of patients coming through the emergency department. Dear Ontario Government, the lack of dignity the elderly and everyone for that matter experience laying on gurneys in the hallways of the ER is unacceptable and inexcusable. Please make it right.

My blood and urine samples were sent to the lab right away and I got to see a great doctor and had my ultrasound within minutes of being placed in an examination room. The waiting happens when you find out that there is only one technician reading the ultrasound findings for all 3 hospitals in the area. Dear Ontario government, please release the funds needed for the hospitals to have more staff on hand to take care of patients. It was almost 3 pm before my doctor was able to come in and tell me that my pain was due to a rather large ovarian cyst that had ruptured. She explained everything thoroughly and I was so grateful to the time she took to make sure I understood what had happened and how it was going to be treated. The symptoms, at first made her think that I was either suffering from appendicitis or gall-stones as I had thought, but my internal ultrasound was what revealed the ruptured cyst.

                                                             

 

So, here’s what I learned. According to my cousin Susie, (who dives into the realms I never can because our lifestyles are completely different), the left side of my body, my female side, is upset with me. My Chakra is not balanced.

 

                                                              

 

Well how the hell can it be? I live with three active and fun-loving men and I hate all things about my body associated with female reproduction because it has been a pain in my … well…it’s been a right pain and obstruction and interruption since I first got my period. I have always put up with my female reproductive system because I wanted children. I have my boys now and I have no problem letting my female side know that I hate it as much as it hates me. It makes me achy and uncomfortable and in the past it has made me physically sick once a month. Without fail, it made me fearful of the 30 day anniversary of all things horribly associated with menstruation.

                                                                

Since I was 12 or 13, I have known the anxiety of those last few days before my period came. I knew I’d have cramps that would have me curled in to the fetal position, I know I’d need to always walk with a bottle of Midol or whatever I could find to keep those debilitating cramps at bay. Everyone knew when I had my period. I couldn’t keep it discreet if I tried. At least I went to an all girl high school where there were many sufferers just like me.  If I was not curled into a ball of pain, I was puking because of pain. I constantly went through 5 days of bleeding; the first three spent sick and cramping. My period was the arch enemy and saboteur of my dancing and my sports. It made swimming a real concern because no woman is 100% confident in the protection of a tampon.

                       

Fifty-one has not been kind to me so far, but I’m dealing with this menopause stuff as patiently as I can. A uterus full of fibroids can squeeze your bladder, ureters and your bowels and make life uncomfortable.

                                                               

I learned that when an ovarian cyst pops, it hurts like hell because the fluid it releases with all the     hormones and blood can be very irritating to the abdominal wall and the pain is much like the pain and symptoms associated with appendicitis and gall stones. Don’t assume the pain will go away and because you won’t know if it is a cyst, appendicitis or a gall bladder problem, DO go to your doctor or to the emergency department and find out what it is. Ibuprofen helps with the pain of inflammation and DO take it easy as the pain lasts a while until your body eliminates the junk from the cyst.  Don’t be too concerned with your belly that suddenly is pregnant like and hard and tender to the tough. It too shall pass.

                                

 

                               

 

Similar to my decision to have an ablation, I am over the moon about my hysterectomy in June. I’ll still have my ovaries so I can still get a cyst that could burst but at least I’ll go through menopause naturally and in good time. I love being a woman but I have always hated the bloody, bloaty and uncomfortable components of being a woman.

I never “girled” well when it came to my cycle or female organs that caused me so much grief and pain and lost time at work and lost hours of fun, often in my life. I hated it so much, that as soon as my gynecologist put me on the pill when I was 19, I as thrilled as it gave me a pain free and regular cycle and an uninterrupted active life.

                                                                  

When I was ready to have children, I made the decision to come off my beloved pill that made my life so much better. Oddly enough, after being on the pill  for 12 years, I got pregnant quickly. This was good because coming off the pill to get pregnant meant fighting off the fear of the pain and suffering that the return of a regular menstrual cycle would bring.

After my second son, I wanted to wean him from breast feeding before I went back on the pill. I remembered how horrid my periods were and how unnerving it was to sit anywhere when I had my period post babies. All the crap people said to me about how much lighter your flow is after kids, was just that – utter crap. My cycle was worse after I had my boys. I remember being unable to rely on a tampon and having very little faith in pads as I nervously sat at the hairdresser’s, or worse, at work where there were men everywhere.

I am not a person who just puts up with anything. I don’t believe in “this is how it is”, or suffering through anything. I have a challenging life as it is and if I can make it manageable or easier, I am willing to try whatever there is to try. I was tired of my family planning everything around “Mom’s cycle” so I had an ablation.

         

Fortunately, it worked for me and off to Disney World we went…twice… and to the Bahamas, and to New Orleans and to Punta Cana, North Bay, Corner Brook…we went everywhere and that miserable period I had? …Well, there has been no sign of it since 2008 and I don’t miss it one bit. Now that my boys are pretty much men, I don’t need a uterus or Fallopian tubes and since I have no choice but to go through menopause, I’d rather go through it without unnecessary female parts. I am looking forward to so much and I hope to see and do all or as much as I have planned, so the least I can do, is do what I can to make the so-called feminine side of my being, as cousin Susie calls it, quiet and content as it tags along.

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Even If “Just Once in a Blue Moon” It’s Good and Important to Reconnect.

 

The lyrics of the theme song from the TV show “Cheers” comes to mind when I think of the night of July 20th 2013 when I stood in a room with my SJC sisters.

                                             

We were a smiling sea of blue in a room where everybody knew everyone’s name and not because of the gigantic name tags we were wearing but because we Trini gyals take really looonggg time to age. I had no problem recognizing anybody and I was so happy to see everyone so lively and well. Almost like when we were in school, we were dressed the same, we were all the same age, we looked very much the same as we did years ago and after chatting with everyone, it was clear that though we had all lived a whole lot of life and had found our niche in the world, the essence of who we are is still the same.

 

   Even if just “Once in a Blue Moon” everyone’s soul needs  to experience reconnection. This year is our 35th high school reunion.  Unfortunately, try as I might, I cannot attend this year and I am sad to miss it. My God, we are all 51/52 years old! I think back to when we were in Form1 through 5 and for some Lower and Upper 6 and I just don’t know where the time has gone. I can barely wrap my head around the things we thought were so important back then but I am glad to have reconnected with these beautiful, down to earth and amazing women and learn about what matters in their lives today. Having lived abroad, longer than I lived at home, the Trinidad in my head is the Trinidad of my childhood through age 20. Most of those memories are warm and tasty as a nice piece of sweetbread fresh out  of my mother’s oven and they put a smile on my face much like the one I would have when I slathered butter over said sweetbread in anticipation of eating it up. Other memories are a little bitter (what is life without the bitter to make the sweet, sweeter?) but not so bitter that they would ever keep me from reuniting with the now grown women I went to school with.

           

Living in another country is not easy. It was not my idea to move, but with no house to come home to after graduation, I chose to make Canada, my home. For me, it’s not the weather or the culture that makes it difficult – that stuff is easy to adapt to and enjoy. For me, it was a struggle adapting to the nature of people who grew up so differently from me. There is a distinct bubble within which people live in this country that casts a sort of shroud of hesitation and skepticism over them. People here sometimes wary of letting people get close to them. They don’t trust easily and have a hard time throwing  caution to the wind.  They have schedules they can never stray from and the walls they build around themselves for self-preservation are obvious. In a big country, people are from everywhere and it can at time be difficult to make sincere connections, friendships and relationships. Throw into the mix something that makes you different. For me it wasn’t so much race or colour, accent or culture that separated me from  other people in my adopted country, it was my child who made our family of four quite …odd.

                                              

          

 

Long story short, I wanted to come to the 25th reunion and couldn’t at the time because Daddy was ill. So, when the 30th reunion came about, I was hell bent on being there. It was called “Once in a Blue Moon” and I really felt that if I missed the 30th, I would miss out on so much more that it had to offer. I had a sense that if I did not go, it would be harder for me to get a chance to reconnect with anyone for a very long time and that scared me a little. I felt like that would snip away even more of what was left of the roots of my youth, which was a happy and carefree time of my life. I needed that reunion so I made sure I wasn’t going to miss it. After the uphill battles of my life, I needed something, somewhere and some people who were familiar….I needed home. I needed ole talk with women who shared  a similar girlhood. I needed to say “hear nuh,” “in trut” “Oh geed” and  I needed to steupes and say “ent?” and “how yuh goin chile?” without having to translate my dialect.

    Lord, it was like breathing  in a nice sea breeze just talking and having people understand everything I was saying. That year I needed to be among people who grew up the way I did. Sure, I have Trini friends and cousins in Canada and at home whom I visit, but I think the reunion in 2013 was the homecoming I was looking for to remind myself of who I was then and that that same girl with the long plait and Oscar eyebrows was still dwelling inside me.  At “Once In a Blue Moon” she surfaced because she was among childhood friends.

To be clear, it was not easy hooking up with people on Facebook. I wondered with every friend request if they would  A) remember me and  B) like me and  C) want to connect after all these years. I am happy to say, most of them did with a genuine warmth and to be honest, it is the only reason I am still on Facebook.  Since the reunion in 2013, I have met up with many girls in many different places enjoying some good laughs and walks down memory lane. At the last reunion, whether it was at a pre-lime or post-lime or just getting a drop from somebody, I heard so many stories from these women I had known since I was 11, some since 7 and some even from age 5. Stories of situations they experienced, stories of their children (a few with a child like mine) stories that made me understand that we all lived a whole lot of life and the petty shite of our teen years never surfaced.

As I listened to them speak, I realized that though I often felt alone in Canada, I was not the only one who went through the twists and turns of life. These women have the same stubborn strength I have and like me, they knew when they needed to tap into it to set everybody straight. I came to reconnect and for a week, I was plugged in again to a sweetness I’d let slip away in the blur of North American life.

I will also tell you francomen, that the actual night of the reunion, I was a little apprehensive. I had already limed with some people but there was a whole lot more to bounce up that night and I wasn’t too sure how it would go down. Would people remember me? Did I make anybody vex back in the day? Were they still vex? I know I was still a tomboy when everybody else started looking nice and checking out boys. I know I wasn’t very cool because my parents were strict and I was barely able to leave the house without grief if it wasn’t for dancing or some sport. I remember getting closer to the doors of the venue that evening hoping to God everyone would be warm and friendly and I have to say by the time 20 minutes had gone by, I was talking to people as if I never left the country. Did I get chummy with everybody? Of course not. Not everyone is going to flock to you, not everybody will have nice things to say and yeah, you get vibes flying off some people. But if there is one thing I have learned from having my wonky family is that there is no point in judging people; no point about coming to conclusions about people whom you may find judgemental.  Everybody has something they have to deal with. Everybody. It is hard to let go of pain. Hard to forget something that may have hurt or even humiliated you when you were young. But the beauty of youth, is that it is temporary. The beauty of youth is that we all do mature and become wiser with age and the beauty of youth is that it has it’s place in the past. I have to live a life where I look forward. If I glance back too long, I will stumble and find myself at a standstill or drowning in a deep dark hole. I went to a reunion fittingly called “Once in a Blue Moon” because I have no idea when I will see these women again; these women who gave me that little dose of familiarity and grounding I truly needed that year. I went, I re-connected and I came back to my home in Canada revitalized and reassured that I have 75 or so women who run their lives and their family much like I run mine and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that. I reach out to them sometimes with questions about various things and I get a genuine answer whether it is about children, work, travel, cooking and just about anything you could think of and I hope I have been a great source of support for them as well. We celebrate each other in times of joy, and comfort each other in times of sorrow … And when one of us needs prayers we don’t have to look too far. There is nothing like the honour of receiving the support and strength of a few girls from Convent among a bunch of Canadians punctuating the pews at your father’s funeral in a country where no one thought he would rest his bones.

  I am glad Carla found me on line (as only she would with her passion and determination). As a grown ass 51 year old woman, the silly girlhood bygones are bygones. I think if we spend too much time thinking about nonsense from years gone by we are wasting precious time. I enjoyed the reunion and enjoyed my time with everyone there and I love seeing what they are up to on social media and meeting up with them when I am in their neck of the woods. I don’t care what people think about me. Honestly, I’m not any more special or interesting or important  than anyone else. I have  my crosses to bear like everyone so when I get a chance to enjoy what life has to offer, I do. In my job I help people protect and grow their earnings and I walk them through graduation, first job, marriage, first investments, first home, first car, first kid, first day of retirement and before you know it, I’m delivering the first death claim to a family.  In my job, I am reminded every day how short and precious life is and that we should spend as much time as we can enjoying the journey while we are still upright and breathing because it will change and we will be stunned by that change and then it will happen again and again. So, before we can easily count how many of us are alive and well enough to gather together, if you can make it this year, get your gold dan-dan or your gold accessories and have a drink for me.

As many of you know, if you come to Ottawa, Toronto or anywhere along the 401 corridor or anywhere in the GTA, give me a shout out on line and I will show up and lime if you could take me on. No hard feelings if you don’t want to but I have been known to show up and cheer on people’s field hockey children,      

I have bowled in winter with people’s young children     and I try to lime with the girls living near me as often as I can and there is always time for a spa day, a meal or a drink.

                     

If you are up my way, don’t be a stranger because I am not shy about bouncing you up when I am in your neighbourhood. Have a lovely time with each other at our 35th anniversary reunion. I will miss out this year but I will certainly enjoy all the photos on line and I know I will see you all again as we make our way to the 40th.

Celebrating the Return of Free

Our second family dog died the Tuesday of March Break. It was sad, it sucked and we all came to the conclusion she was the last dog we would share as a family.

                          

The “having a pet” door for Tom and Daniella is now permanently sealed shut.  We are dog people but we don’t have the lifestyle anymore that will be fair to or accommodate a dog. Life with the Lady Haley has come to an end and it seems that the chapter that was waiting to begin has indeed begun. It seems horrible to think of it, but in a way for 7 months we were caring for an ailing doggie. We saw her through vertigo which was literally the beginning of her downhill slide and everything we did needed to be planned around her care. This after living a life throughout Adam’s younger years planning around his autism. I think we all felt like we were waiting for her to leave us before moving on to the things we wanted to start doing as a family. Her passing was difficult but it was a release for her from her pain and our release to move on to the next phase of our lives.

Tom and I are 3 to 4 years away from giving or rather renting our current home to our older son, Adam. There is still a lot to be done with regards to that goal but things are in the works to give him the most independent life we can give him. It is a very big undertaking but we know this project will only be a success if we put the work in now to get the support he needs in place. We love Adam and he loves us but he has wanted his independence from us for a very long time and it is just a stone’s throw away before he has what he wants and what we get to have – time together that does not have to include or be specially planned around Adam.

Logan’s graduation and the start of him going off to be adult Logan will happen around the same time as Adam’s leap to living without us . Adam will stay in high school until he is 21 to brush up on his life-skills and we will have 2 graduates that year. Once everything is all settled and everyone knows where they are going to live, the travel chapter of our lives will begin and so will the march toward retirement. God willing, a hopefully long, healthy and very much deserved retirement before we meet our Maker.

The next thing that needed to go was my hair. I am surrendering to the grey. I’m done fighting with it. It is too strong and I am tried of highlighting and touching up roots.

I want to spend my precious time doing things that I enjoy and that matter. I have had all sorts of styles, lengths and colours of hair in my life and I have never had a problem going from very long to short and while I am not interested in it being super short. I have no problem cutting it somewhere in between.  It was sexy long for about 4 years. Now it’s time for sexy shorter. Not really interested in being the older woman with the long grey hair – nah! With shorter tresses I could have a little fun with the occasional lavender or light silvery blue highlights when the mood catches me. I’m not interested in bleaching out my greys and highlighting them light brown or blonde like the nine thousand people I see with what I like to refer to as brass heads. The hair goes in a few hours, never to be excessively long again.

Another chapter that needs to get going is the one concerned with my aching boobs.      I am perimenopausal and shit starting getting weird about 2 years ago.  It has not been horrible (maybe because I have been taking Estrosense and Menosense for about 4 years in preparation for this life stage) but it hasn’t always been comfortable. I had a weird heart beat for a period of time a couple years ago that has since settled, then I would get uncomfortably warm as I slept some nights which for anyone who knows me is strange because I tend to be colder than anyone and then for a while I had what I used to call pregnancy brain back in the day when I would lose my train of thought and forget stuff. I’ve had two hot flashes in the past year while in a freezing rink watching my son play hockey and now, my boobs ache much like they did when I was breastfeeding my babies. So, it’s time for a dietary modification and I am raring to go with all the subtle changes I researched that I could implement to help me nutritionally get through this bizarre phase of my life. Hmm…wonder if these boobs will get bigger? Hope not too much bigger because I like my small boobies –  always have…or at least I really started liking them in my twenties. I would not know what the heck to do with big boobs.I certainly don’t wear traditional bras anymore.       If I can’t wear a sports bra  or conveniently and comfortably stick on a bra    …I’m not interested. Sweet Lord I really hope I don’t get more boobs in menopause. I imagine they’d just be in my way so I think the plan will be that I’ll stay active so that nothing accumulates in my sports bra.

I also have to deal with some stuff that has popped up after 50 ( sciatica, fibroids) and while I still do pretty much everything I have always done, I don’t like being uncomfortable so whatever I need to do to get rid of these issues, I’m going to do. I love getting older. There is a really cool perspective you get that makes the issues that you fretted about in your 20’s and 30’s insignificant. Mentally and spiritually there is now a peace within me and a connection with the Divine that keeps me balanced and I approach everything I do now from a place of love…even the difficult things. Physically, aging is a joker and an occasional nuisance. Every now and again Tom and I will have an A moment (age moment) where one too many laps or too many reps cause us to ache a little more and a little longer. We don’t just get lactic acid build up, we ache and when one ache goes away another one happily takes it’s place. It’s a combination of sports wear and tear over the years and well we just ain’t 20 anymore even though oddly enough I think we are healthier than when we were younger. I dunno…it’s a hard one to explain. Still, we persist so maybe we’ll add a little glucosamine to the supplements…we ain’t stopping cause we are just getting started on a new and exciting phase. My only fear that I push as best as I can to the very back of my mind is not being healthy enough to do the things Tom and I hope to do and see together. But, God willing we will do it all before we leave the planet.

I think because it is so cold outside today, I’m going to do a little cosmetic and skin care spring cleaning. I might just throw out my nail polish and eyeliners and lip colour and eye shadow.  I’m tired of seeing them and using them so they have to go. I don’t have much but I think a new set of colours with the new hair might be nice. I think I’ll replenish my body scrubs while I’m at it as spring is around the corner or so they say. Think I’ll lay my old, tired, dirty, gray Converse’s to rest and change it up with a fresh colour…maybe a soft green low cut this time. Heck, maybe when it is warmer next week, I might even grab a couple dresses or skirts for the warmer weather.

This spring feels a little different from springs past. I feel freer, lighter and much altered for the better and I am looking forward to so much in the years ahead. Maybe it’s because we are all changing in our family and heading towards new things and I am as excited for Tom and myself as I am for the boys as a new phase of the journey of life begins. My boys are entering adulthood and they are going to become these awesome men and their father and I, God-willing, are going to see these chapters of their lives unfold and while we watch we will get to really focus on our new time together.  I feel like I am actually going to be able to spend more time in my home office writing on my computer again because I have more uninterrupted time lately and with Logan on the verge of driving, I think I will have even more time because I’ll have no car lol. I suppose I’m gonna have to share a car with Tom like we did way back in the day. I’m excited to get time back. Time to create, eliminate excess stuff (even though I’ve already tossed  many things over the years) time to read more than a couple books a year.  I can work longer if I want to, stagger my days when I need to…Oh this is going to be fantastic! I’ve already gotten rid of my iPad and the couple stupid games I used to play. I’m gonna shelve Netflix for next winter and I’ve already deleted Facebook from my phone.  I’ll keep it on my computer so I can be in touch with friends and family who are far away. I don’t need social media on my phone because for me it’s distracting and a bit of a time waster and I have much to do because this is Chapter 3  – Time to celebrate the return of free.

                                                                                           

To Today’s Youth: Stay Loud, Stay Strong!

Yesterday, I went on a 12 hour day trip with my 15 year old. Every so often I plunge myself into this world of his that is so fascinating to me and I come away with a greater sense of what it is like to be young today. I have to say, it’s a little complicated, it’s got it’s difficulties but is it also it’s pretty cool. It is quite different from my time as a teenager but some of the struggles are still the same.  The worst part of being a teenager is being misunderstood by adults who are just teenagers who finally got old enough to have their way and boy do they ever hang on to it for dear life!  My teenagers are going to be adults one day too who will have their way and my only hope is that they remember to listen and approach the younger generation with eyes and mind wide open and be okay with letting go of some of the ways they do things in order to evolve. I hope they approach the young better than we have in generations past because just maybe they would learn something from them, the way I do now.

During the drive with my son, I listened to some very poetic and emotional rap with enlightened ears and learned why my son identified with it. I was taught the difference between talking to a specific girl and dating a girl. I found out that in his high school, it is understood that different groups exist and are accepted. It doesn’t mean you have to hang out with everyone but it certainly means that if you are discovered to be a hater you are considered a loser and pretty much a cave person. I learned that he is ever so gradually making decisions about things in his life that are making little statements about who he is and who is is striving to be and I couldn’t be more proud.  One thing was clear to me in light of my conversations with my son yesterday, good kids are raised by good people but there are still too many negative people and situations that we have to get around, so much archaic nonsense we need to get rid of, that stand in the way of our youth making significant change.

Last weekend I watched American youth march for what they believed in. They marched for change. They were not asking their government for anything unreasonable. They want their government to implement stricter gun control, implement stricter laws surrounding weapons. They were asking their government to help them live. They were asking their government to help them survive at school, a place where they should be safe so that they can learn. The world watched a turn out on March 24th that was massive. The youth had a voice and stayed strong amidst many horrible comments from politicians funded by the NRA as well as the ignorant masses who were solely concerned about their right to own a gun. The positive support these young people received outweighed the crass negativity. The youth stayed loud and strong and they prevailed.

Over the course of history, it was the young who initiated significant change. The young possess and fire and a drive to live life the way they want to – the way life needs to be lived. They want safety, they want justice, they want humanity, they want peace and so did we when we were young. Young David Hogg, Parkland, Florida”s Stoneman Douglas High School  shooting survivor, said in an interview with Anderson Cooper before the event on March 24th, “It’s like when you try to tell an older person how to do something with their phone and you keep trying to explain to them what to do and eventually you just turn to them and say ‘just give it to me’ and you fix it. That’s what we are doing now. We are saying to the government just give it to us. You’re not doing anything to fix this so we are going to fix it”. For many of us, that burning flame inside us that drove us to make a difference was extinguished. Maybe we hit hard times, maybe we were tired of trying and being beaten down but when we looked behind us there was always someone young  who picked up that torch and began walking towards that goal of achieving all the things we all ever wanted as a people on earth. That is what is happening in America now. The young are tired of waiting on adults to fix the problems in their society so they are stepping up to the plate and do what needs to be done to stop 96 Americans from losing their lives to guns daily, because it is possible. Japan, Australia, Canada, Finland and many countries have proven that strict gun control law is the best way to prevent death by firearms. We have all seen the videos on social media and the stats. It is possible, yet America chooses not to amend gun laws because politicians need the funding, the funding comes from the NRA and politicians want to be in power to rule over the people who may not survive a gunshot wound on any given day in America.  Add to that, the ignorant masses who just want to have a gun for the power it gives them as they clutch it tightly in their hands.  No one looking from the outside really understands this twisted concept neither do the young people who are rallying against lax gun ownership laws. No one with half a brain understands why grown men and women are trying to character smear teenagers who just want to see their government make it harder for their peers to walk into a gun shop and buy an automatic rifle so they can return to school and slaughter students and teachers.

I love young people. Young people who possess the qualities of leadership make me proud to know them. They don’t just pop out of thin air either. They come from adults who teach and guide them as they navigate their way around right and wrong and around equality and injustice and good and evil. Good youth come from good people who raise them – parents, teachers, clergy and yes, occasionally good politicians.

I am so tired of the criticism of today’s youth because they happen to have grown up in the biggest and most impacting technological era of our time. I am tired of hearing older people criticize them for not socializing and for having their head down, eyes glued to the screens of their devices. My God, remember when youth were criticized for watching too much TV? Remember when Rock and Roll and Heavy Metal was looked upon as Devil Worship Music? To be young is to be criticized. That will never change because when people grow older and are unable to keep up with the way things evolve around them, they get jealous and grumpy and they say exactly what older people said about them when they were young. If you can’t find a place to be on the planet as it changes around you, don’t be cynical, just be quiet and kind because if you are, maybe that young person will help you turn on your phone.

 

Turn Off Your Damned Device and Get Some Sleep!

My husband and I were getting ready for work the other day and we were tuned in to a morning news/talk show. As usual there were various segments, a cooking segment, a travel segment, an interview with a Canadian author, an interview with a financial person, a political pundit was on and then there was a woman with a sleep pack who was insisting that this is a must have in today’s world because we are kept awake by the blue light from our electronic devices. We paused the TV and scooted back to the fluffier segments and we noticed a pattern. People love to be told what to do. We love to be led on by gimmicks and we have no problem literally buying into this mumbo jumbo and lining the pockets of these gurus looking to capitalize on their 15 minutes of fame.

In one morning, viewers were shown the fastest, most nutritious and most colourful and friendly March Break foods that “busy moms” can prepare for their children. We were shown various coloured mason jars (available at the dollar store or is you wanted something fancier you could look for them at Michaels’s or Bed Bath and Beyond (oh,yes) where we could put our latte money and splurge at the end of the week as a reward to ourselves for not blowing our money on frivolous things. (Yeah I know, eh?) We were shown the most mentally stimulating toys for kids (all electronic, mind you with that evil sleep stealing blue light) and my all time favourite that day, the essential sleep pack.

Before I get into my analysis of the ridiculous, let me give kudos to anyone able to rip us off by tricking us into thinking and believing their products are so vital to our well-being. If the trendy, frivolous gullible can fatten your bank account, then so be it. People, please, why do we think that we need to buy a sleep pack that has 8 parts to it? There were specially tinted shades for the blue light, a lavender oil that you can put into the mist generator so that the steam will give off a soothing scent sure to lull you to sleep.There was a mask/blindfold thing to put over your eyes and headphones that plugged into the sleep sounds audio machine along with a two tubed rubber thing to stick up your nostrils to allow easy air flow to prevent snoring, and oh yes, it came with a cooling gel pillow. So for just $380.00 plus shipping, handling and taxes, you could buy your way to sleep. How about this for free? Turn off your device 45 minutes before you are ready for bed, shut your curtains and go to sleep. Remember reading a book with paper pages and going to sleep? I know some people have real sleep issues but for those of you who really don’t (and you know who you are) just be disciplined enough to not have caffeine before bed time, shut down your device and your day and get some rest.

 

 

And Moms, how is it that every new generation of mothers is so much busier than the one before? How is it with the invention of washing machines and dryers and stoves and microwaves and air fryers, food processors, blenders, juicers, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, slow cookers and one cookers, mothers have become busier than mothers who had to make food from scratch, wash by hand, wring clothes by hand and hang them to dry on a clothes line? How is it that with the vacuums and fancy Swiffer’s and robot vacuums we are busier than mothers throughout the generations that did not have devices like these to help them about the home? For Moms who work, how is it different from when mothers from past generations worked?  What are new Moms doing that eat up so much more time than generations past? I mean, how long is play group?

 

 

 

Why is it that we need a pack, a book or a guide to figure out how to make special, fun and colourful food for our kids? And why do we have to put so much effort into the presentation of their food to make it colourful and pretty so that they will eat it? Why not teach your kids to cook and prepare their own snacks safely and cleanly over March Break? It won’t take very long to teach them and they will develop a great skill and a sense of independence.

My point is simple. With such an advanced state of existence, with so many devices that help us do so much, why do we need to be told how to do the simplest things? Why is everything an issue, a hurdle or a problem? Make a variety of food for your kids and don’t freak out if they don’t like something. We all have things we like and dislike. In my house, all I ever asked was that my family taste something before deciding they didn’t like it. My boys eat pretty much everything.They have things they don’t like and that’s fine but I cook one meal for the family to share because I am not making something different for each of us. If you take the drama and the power away from food, kids will eat and if you set the example of eating good nutritious food, that’s what they’ll choose.  By the way, you new Moms out there, we are all busy. People are busy and dare I say there are people out there in the world who don’t have young kids who are busier than you. Parenthood doesn’t make you busier than anyone else. I raised a very energy consuming, time and emotionally consuming kid with autism and there were and still are many people busier than me. Get a grip, get organized and whatever you can’t do one day, do in another. We make our lives harder than it needs to be in a time when so many devices make it so easy. And for God’s sake if you are tired, shut off your device and get some damned sleep.

Human-Kind

My son was not well at school yesterday.  When his teacher called to tell me he was feverish and sleeping in the quiet room, my heart sank.  It sank for him because yesterday was a day of the long awaited fulfillment of plans.  He was waiting for almost a year to go to a concert in Kingston with his support worker and friend, Lindsey, and the rest of the family was heading to Toronto to see a dress rehearsal at the National Ballet for my birthday. But that’s family life. Things are planned and plans change and we chalk it up to bad timing or bad luck or what have you. The James family day of artistic appreciation was taking a big hit.

My husband, eager not to disappoint (Tom is big on birthdays and hates to disappoint us) asked me to call around and see if (a) we could get Adam to a doctor to maybe have him quickly checked out (Adam is autistic so on the rare occasion when he is ill and it seems significant enough we like to get him checked out as he sometimes does not explain his symptoms properly) and (b) see if someone could stay with him while he rests in bed or (c) see if someone would go in his place and he would stay with Adam.  Willing to pull the plug on all of it (I am not big on making a fuss over my birthday and I am okay with disapointment), I compromised and called around to see what I could do.  The doctor said it sounded just like a cold was coming on or a flu and if he was the same the following morning to bring him in. Everyone else I called was going to this concert so I decided to fold and called his teacher to tell her Tom would pick up Adam from school and bring him home.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Adam, now 18, insisted on coming home on his bus.  He absolutely did NOT want his father to pick him up from school. He was willing to take an Advil and come home on the bus AND he was going to the concert. I could hear him vehemently stating his case, so to avoid a lengthy argument, we let him come home on the bus. By the time he got home, he had a big speech all planned that involved telling us in every which way he was going to the concert.  He was not burning up, he had a bath and as per the doctor’s suggestion, I gave him a Tylenol to go along with the Advil he’d had a bit earlier. He was perked up. He dressed as per Logan’s style suggestions in a light t-shirt, with a bluish hoodie, a black boxy jacket and his grey joggers that Logan gave him for Christmas. He ate a sandwich as a snack and showed me he’d eaten all his lunch at school and he was listening to the band he was going to see through his headphones.  He was going and THAT WAS THAT.  When a child who has never really been able to decide much for himself looks you in the eye (a thing rarely done by autistic persons) and puts his foot down regarding his own life, you have to respect it.  I had to respect his judgement.  He is 18 and is finally able to do what we have been waiting on for so long which is for him to express himself in a clear and well thought out fashion.  Against all of my maternal instincts, I agreed with his father, brother and teacher and with Adam and he went to the concert and we went to our show. After all, I remember taking the Comtrex back in the day when being at the party was of utmost importance to me. It was not easy to get to go out when I was younger and living at home with John and Angela. It is the same for Adam. It isn’t easy for him to go do a lot of stuff on his own and I can only imagine how frustrating it is for him to be stuck with Tom and Daniella when he knows people his age have so much more freedom. Mind you,Adam has a lot more freedom than most people with autism his age but there is always room for more because he has had a big taste of it , so who am I to stand in his way when I opened this door to his possible freedom for him? I have to respect his needs and decisions even if they are hard for me to do so. Should he have stayed home last night?  Most likely, yes, but I am not him and he REALLY wanted to do this and he got to do it even though it was miserable. He had full control of his life for a night which is after all, the point of growing up, isn’t it?

When Lindsey checked in with me, everything was good. She sent a photo of them smiling. They had eaten and had arrived at the venue. There was nothing to worry about as he was fever free and was smiling and happy. Around 7:30 we were involved in something going on before the performance when Logan noticed the Snapchat on his phone going off. He chose to ignore it at first but the Snaps kept coming. It was his friend from hockey and school whose mother also happens to work with us. Checking out the messages, he smiled and said that his friend just said he saw Adam heading into the concert.  A bit later on, the same friend Snapped again to tell Logan that he wanted him to know that Adam was throwing up in the tunnel of the arena and that he wanted to let him know in case his helper did not tell Tom or me. Of course, Lindsey had her hands full at the time and did text me a short time after and said that all was okay and though she offered, Adam was insisting he stay as long as he could and that she would pull the plug after a few songs.

Here is where the human kindness comes in. We (mostly I) worry what will happen to adult Adam when we are not around to look out for him. Not yet capable of being 100% independent, Adam is probably at around an 80% capability of independence right now and will to my best guess top out at about an 85%.  He may surge to 95% and prove me wrong, which will be fantastic but from what I know now, he will be able to live semi-independently, in that he may need support when it comes to getting to places on time, being mindful of his schedule and with his purchasing ability to a degree. I do not have this worry over Logan. But what this story proves to me, is that I have less to worry about than I thought because some of the people in this little town which I moved to kicking and screaming (I am more comfortable in cities), may not be perfect for me but is is for Adam. I have had neighbours and friends call me to tell me that they had just seen Adam walking over at place X and they wondered if that was okay and if I knew he was out of the house. At the time, Adam was on his way to work or practice and they had not known that he was at that point of independence and it was very reassuring that people (adults) do know him and want to make sure he is safe. What was the icing on the cake for me last night was that it was a soon to be 17 year old youngster who saw Logan’s brother and not only was happy to tell him that he had seen Adam, but was concerned enough to contact Logan again when he saw that Adam was not well. In an age of Millennials who barely speak words, (which is ironic because one of the biggest goals with Adam was to get him to communicate with words)  Tristin, at 17, showed the human kindness and concern I hoped Adam’s peers would show towards him and us. So many people turn a blind eye. So many people keep to themselves. So many people do not make time to connect with good friends, old friends or make new friends, it is nice to see that a teenager – someone who is a part of the most criticized group on the planet – was able to show such basic human kindness and therefore maturity which has been lost on many Millenials. Tristin used the same device teens are criticized for using excessively, to Snap his friend and let him know about his brother because he knew it was the right thing to do. The human kind thing to do.

Lindsey was as usual her wonderful human kind self.  Some of the support persons we had when Adam was younger would have bailed and brought him home and insisted we come home or would not have agreed to take him and give it a try. I already was loaded with guilt and “if only’s” and she did her best to put me at ease. She is also very keen on treating Adam age appropriately and respecting him as a young adult who can make wise decisions and choices. Adam tried to stay for a few songs but he ended up sleeping with his head rested on her shoulder before she woke him and skipped out of the venue and brought him to her home where she put him to bed. She told me how sorry he was that he got sick in the tunnel and that everyone was looking at them (which is an extremely rare thing for an autistic person. Since when does Adam care what people do or think?) Lindsey told him he did nothing wrong and it just happened and he was not to worry about it or worry about the people who were watching because it was none of their business, to which Adam replied “Yeah, $%^% them!” in between hurls. (Well he is 18, he has ears, has internet access, loves you tube and goes to high school – hence the answer, lol)

How fortunate and blessed we are to have put together such an amazing team for Adam in what are the most important years of his life as he launches into adulthood. We had been exposed at times to fantastic people who personally supported Adam as a child and many who were fabulous in the rough teen years, and now on this springboard upon which we stand as we prepare to let the world have our boys and let them fly into this unknown (to them) phase of life called adulthood, I couldn’t ask for a better team.  We have a great young male role model in Sebastian. In Courtney, we have a perfect just -a-year-older peer who teaches Adam how to be and in Lindsey we have a friend who is practically family. She has been with Adam and Logan from the time they were 9 and 7 when she was their teacher, then their tutor and now just a great support worker for Adam and I trust her so much that she is included in much of the decision making when it comes to Adam’s future.

There is so much to still worry over. The world will never be ideal no matter how easy it is for us to make it ideal for everyone by just acting out of love and human kindness. It is reality and we must accept it because we aren’t doing enough to change it. My worry however, is far less than it used to be because in this little town in which I have not found my groove, there is a groove for our Adam. As much as I love the city and Adam enjoys being in the city, a groove would have been much harder to carve out for him there. In fact, it would have been close to impossible and it would have been frightening to think of all that he would be vulnerable to in such a large, busy environment. I know my younger child will fly far from the nest. He has a lot of me in him and he will not settle in one place for a very long time and I understand why. But I am satisfied that my older child will thrive in an environment that is home to kind humans of all ages who are decent and good. The stories about Autism are not always uplifting. Autism is difficult. Autism is puzzling. Autism is isolating to the person and their family. Autism can feel like a life sentence that no one signed up for. Today, my story is one of hope for not just people with autism, but for all people. In spite of my weariness. In spite of my worries. In spite of my frustration. In spite of all the road blocks in this journey with Adam. In spite of my life, I have hope in humankind and this 51st birthday will be one to remember as the birthday when I felt in my heart the kids are going to be just fine.

 

 

Raising Boys in a #metoo Moment in Time

*This commentary is my personal opinion on my blog that I have chosen to express after conversations with my son and some of his peers. I believe in men and women being respectful to one another and I know this is possible between the sexes. I was prompted to write this because I am worried that many innocent men (including my boys) are open to having their lives ruined by wrongful and perhaps malicious accusations. You are also entitled to your opinion but obscene remarks will not be tolerated and will be reported.

 

Speak to a teenager about the things that go on in their world and you are propelled to places and things you never knew could exist. In the Caribbean when a teenager was a fast mover people would say.”Yes she self she so hot up. she and he go get theyself in trouble, oui!” or “Who he? He too mannish for his age! Cyah tell him nothing!” But it’s not just the world that pertains to teenagers that stuns me, it is all of it.

Oh, my goodness the times in which we live in are head shaking times.There is much to be proud of and fascinated by as there is to be disturbed about and I worry for my children. I worry because their father and I put so much into raising them to be good, kind, respectful, young men and though I know they are moving along the right path ( they are not perfect by any means), there is nothing that will protect them from things that my grandparents would have ever imagined happening in the world. From drugs to child pornography, to sexual, verbal and physical abuse, drinking and driving, being high and driving, to the possibility of being shot or stabbed at school, bullying, suicide, bullying due to sexual orientation, having no help and no hope, self harm, low self esteem, cutting, eating too much, eating too little, eating detergent pods, cyber crimes, terrorism… the worrisome list is far too long yet there was just enough room to squeeze in one more concern to me, which is my boys’ exposure to women in this world who will have no problem lying and hiding behind #metoo in order to hurt, shame and ruin them. Should this happen to them, even if they are proven to be innocent of false accusations, their good reputations will be tarnished and the damage could very well be irreparable and they would have to literally live life in the shadows.

We get a lot of compliments on our sons and how respectful and well-mannered they are. My boys are the ones who hold the door open for everyone. They will re-introduce opening a car door for a lady before getting into the car themselves.  They know how to dress appropriately and they stand when a woman arrives at or leaves a table and they take their grandmother by the arm to make sure she is sure-footed as she walks. In spite of all this, they are still wide open to malicious accusations of women who boldly and happily taint the whole premise of a movement that is significant to women as well as men worldwide – a movement that gave victimized women a voice and finally put inappropriate, twisted men in the eye of the law and behind bars for their despicable deeds. But these days there seems to be a witch hunt on ALL men and as a mother raising boys in the midst of a #metoo movement, I am frightened that anything they may say or do can be held against them and their good character.

I talk my head off. I talk every day, guiding, advising, teaching right from wrong. I have never talked more because I have teen sons and i have a limited amount of time to instill in them as much dignity, etiquette, accountability, respect, pride, self-worth and self-respect as I can. Their father and I parent them at lease 95% of the day and as exhausting as it is and as much as we would love to stop talking, it is our responsibility to them, to our family, our community, country and the world to raise them right. So for all you mothers of daughters who aren’t really paying close attention to what they are doing because you have to work, or you have problems or whatever your reason is for being unaware of their behavior and their whereabouts, I want to suggest you raise your daughters similarly to the way my mother raised me – you know the old school way all our mothers raised us before the smart phones.

It may be considered old-fashioned but not everything that is old is useless. I was raised to be strong, to have confidence in myself, to face my fears and learn from my mistakes. I was surrounded by love and I knew I was worth everything. My mother was instrumental in making be believe that I could do anything if I put my mind to it and while she never disallowed me to do something because I was a girl, she insisted I act like a lady.  Acting like a lady meant having respect for myself so that others would respect me and if they didn’t I was to say and do something about it because again, I was worth everything and I was loved. I was raised to know there was nothing I ever needed to hide from my parents and that led to me being comfortable enough and open enough to tell my mother (with whom I was quite close when I was a teenager) anything and very often it was her advice, her wise words that helped me get over many of the hurdles that accompany the roller coaster that was, is and always will be, teenage life.

My mother taught both me and my sister that we could be beautiful without feeling like we had to expose our bodies or try to come off as sexy all the time. Fortunately, I was never overly developed so pulling off sexy was really difficult for me and I actually felt sexiest (and still do) when I dressed for me – when I dressed to suit my mood and was comfortable with the way I looked and felt. I was never comfortable having the world see all of me all the time. My mother taught her daughters that less is more and that it was nice for people to see you without makeup and perfect hair from time to time because when the occasion did arise when we needed to dress up, our look would be different and refreshing. “Always surprise people,” she would say. “Never let them see you always dressed to the hilt. Let them see the different sides to you – the different moods and different styles. Never work hard to look perfect every day because if you are just yourself, your true inner beauty will shine through. She also told us to never to do anything to a boy that we would not want done to us. Never lead a person on if you are not interested in them beyond friendship and learn to take rejection. She would say, “Not everyone will be attracted to you and no one has to be your boyfriend because you want him to,” And one of the most important thing my mother gave to me and my sister is the ability to be alone. Being alone does not mean lonely, unwanted or unloved. It simply means that it is possible to be comfortable enough in one’s own skin to be single. Never rush into a relationship just to be in a relationship. Better to have no person in your life than the wrong person.

I have no idea what is being said to some of our young women today, but it isn’t right to slap a young man on his bottom and comment on said bottom, knowing that he can’t (or better not) say or do anything back to you. I know it has been said that a woman should be able to wear what she wants and no one has the right to look at her, or touch her or interpret her outfit as an invitation for sex, but if you squirm your way into too tight shorts that look more like panties than shorts, isn’t is true that you were aware of how it would look or feel. By choosing an outfit such as this aren’t you absolutely intending to reveal yourself so that others may look at you? Let me give you the answer – yes…yes you are. I was not a perfect teenager and of course I did things here and there for people to notice me but for the most part, I did not sell my butt cheeks on a daily basis. Now, I know you might be thinking, “well, you are a Trini and you have played Carnival just like everyone else, so how you could be a hypocrite so?” I have a response for that too. I played Minshall mas twice, (so you know I was clothed) and the other three times I played bikini mas with Harts and with a band that was called Poison. Trinidad’s and Brazil’s Carnival have been skin shows for many years now. My young cousins (20 somethings) play mas and they pay plenty money for their pretty but yes, brief costumes. Even so, they trend to the more clothed end of the bikini spectrum and they don’t behave like “Jamettes”*.  Mind you, no woman (or man) wearing anything revealing or tight has a right to be inappropriately touched or harassed. Absolutely not.  There is a time and place for carnival (Carnival costumes aren’t going to get any bigger anytime soon), there is nothing wrong with wearing your bathing suit on the beach or at a pool. It is perfectly normal to do something or wear something that makes you feel sexy and all women should embrace their bodies proudly. What I am talking about is my son and his friends seeing girls underwear everyday under too short kilts and because they change in the hallway and not in the ladies room. I am talking about groups of 8 to 10 girls hovering about boys at certain parties not moving until they all kiss all of them. I am talking about girls as young as grade 5 and 6 wearing the equivalent of volleyball shorts to school in the summer and painted on leggings in the winter while boys get in trouble for wearing muscle shirts. If they are not allowed to wear muscle shirts to school (and I wholeheartedly agree) then why do the schools turn a blind eye to the girls’ attire. I suppose if the teachers say anything they could be accused of looking at the girls or judging them and who wants to open any of the many can’s of worms surrounding our children based on political correctness. Good God, how frightening it must be to be a teacher, especially a male teacher these days.

I have cousins and friends with daughters who are lovely and I am not just talking about their face or their bodies. They are lovely because they are polite, they know that looking sexy is not for church, or school or the grocery store and they have boyfriends and friends who are boys who they respect and who respect them in return. They have no problem chatting with adults and they are mannerly and polite and they have a sense of humour and a sense of responsibility. I find these young ladies rare and refreshing and I hope when the time comes, my boys choose partners who have these qualities. My point is, it’s a two-way street. Let’s teach our boys to be gentlemen. Let’s encourage them to be multi-dimensional with many interests. Let’s teach our girls the same. Let’s teach our girls not to abuse #metoo. Teach them to not belittle what it stands for. #metoo is a very important message and if it is abused or tainted in any way, it will fade and what we (men and women) have worked so hard to bring to the light will be swept away into the darkness.

My friend’s 13-year-old son already knows a guy in his school who got into an argument with a girl who circulated revealing photos of herself and because he told her she was behaving like porn star, he got suspended and nothing was done about her or her risqué photos. That suspension will be on his school record forever all because a girl and her friends in spite of her behavior cried out harassment and #me too. My sons tell me they are not ready to date (I can’t say that I blame them). My one boy with autism, likes being around friends but so far has shown no interest in having a girlfriend. It is clear he likes girls and he has had a girl he was close friends with but we have drilled the privacy and hands to himself speeches into his head and so far so good. My other son is wary of dating because he is concerned that if he gets involved with the wrong girl, she can say or do anything to call out harassment and he could be in huge trouble. He’s chosen to be hyper focused on school because he is hyper focused on his sport and good grades are pre-requisites for continuing to play on his team. They also are both keen about making money to buy the stuff they want so they are also focused on their part-time jobs. I do hope if they choose to date, they end up with intelligent, funny, self-respecting and respectful girls who have big dreams and drive because my boys deserve good people because they are good people and anyone who ends up with them will be getting the kind of person the world desperately needs.

I promise as a mother of boys to do my best to raise them to treat your daughters with kindness and respect and will hold them to being decent and gentlemanly around your daughters so please if you haven’t already done so, mothers of girls, please discourage them from using the movements that strive to protect us as cheap weapons against good boys.