There is No Colour : Learning to Un-Learn


There Is No Perception of Colour in an Autistic Person’s World


Throughout his life, my autistic son who is brilliant has been perceived as being less so. The people that matter in his life, know the truth about him and I have never wasted any time trying to prove his worth to anyone not intelligent enough or anyone who is too self absorbed or frivolous to understand. Over the years of rejoicing through the great times and wading through the murky, thick mud of the heartbreaking times, I have come to know that the truth about both my children is beautiful.  In a time of chaos brewed by racism, terrorism and hatred I feel their father and I have managed to put a sliver of hope for better on this planet.

Two days ago sitting in a cloud of misery borne out of merely watching a half hour newscast, I heard Adam in the other room in full *echolalia going on happily about something that was happening in the Big Bang Theory which is the latest show he likes to binge watch.  His *scripting had something to do with the character Raj and I thought I would do a little test.  I called him into the living room and asked him what was going on in the episode he was watching and he proceeded to tell me how funny it was and that it was because Raj was saying silly things.  Feigning ignorance, I asked him which character was Raj.  He turned to go get his tablet in his room so that he could show me when I stopped him and asked him to describe Raj. What you have to understand is that Adam hates being pushed into descriptive language but it is something we are working on and I wanted to see what he would say.  He twisted his mouth, scrunched his nose and then he said,

“He is the tall one,”  to which I responded,

“So Leonard is …”

“Leonard is short. Raj is a guy,” he offered.

“A guy like Leonard and Sheldon and Howard?”

“Yes. Howard is short,” he replied.

“But I still can’t place Raj. Which one is he?” I pressed on.

Adam proceeded to say adjectives like tall, skinny, silly, funny, jokey…he never said that Raj was brown. Not that he does not know his colours –  I remember vividly when he was 5 and he was  learning colours he certainly realized that mummy was brown but that was it. It was an observation when he was 5 and to this day, Adam has never used colour to describe anyone because he has never associated a person with their colour – ever. I have however had to un-teach some of the derogatory words he has heard in school over the years. Words that sometimes were directed towards him when misinformed or rather poorly-informed kids saw that I was his mother. He would say the words completely out of context and I would have to spend weeks purging them from his vocabulary by teaching him in the most basic of terms that some words are just so very bad.  I hope I never have to un-teach him words such as those again but I shan’t be naive because this world is getting worse.

People who don’t know Adam or those who know him and have labelled him, will never see beneath the surface the way those who know him do.  He may have to struggle through some days sometimes because of his autism, he may have to do things differently to get by and he may have some days when having to adjust things to suit him or to keep him successful is a real pain in the ass for whomever has to make the adjustments but one thing is certain –  Adam sees people.  He sees their soul, he sees their personality and he sees their beauty because even with perfect vision my son cannot see their colour. There is a purity about him that I attribute to his autism that I wish every human had.  He knows what pretty is but he never calls anything ugly although he understand’s the meaning of the word. He does not place any emphasis on riches but he certainly understands that he has to help someone who may be poor. He is paid in self satisfaction, happiness and pride for every job he does and he works harder than most from beginning to end.  Hmm…autistic with a work ethic. Chew on that for a while.

I shake my head and laugh so many times when I think of the resolute therapists who incessantly repeated the importance of integrating Adam into the world by working on reducing or stopping his “inappropriate” behaviors and quirky actions so that in essence he could be more like other people in society.  I think it should be the other way around because I have seen what my boy sees.  I have laid beside him in that little playroom as I waited on him to meet me halfway; doing what he did, stretching out our hands to the light streaming through that tiny basement window, watching the little specs of dust dance between our fingers. I remember feeling a glorious release when we would roll down the hill at the playground near our house when he and his brother were little.  I remember the giggles and the all out raucous laughter, the smell of the grass and the feel of the dirt on my body. I’d forgotten the abandon of childhood and I am eternally grateful to my children for re-introducing me back then to just how much fun and how freeing life can be. I remember laying on our backs in that playroom staring at the ceiling, humming and becoming so relaxed that my body sank into the carpet as I was lulled to sleep by my little boy’s sweet voice.  We met each other halfway in that playroom – he, discovering the wonders of the world as I presented it to him; me, recognizing just how over stimulating and bombarding the world actually was. In that playroom where I taught my son everything he knows, I learned from him how to let the noise go, how to hear what was within me and how to tap into moments of peace.  Adam knows how to get back to his soul.  Even when it is most difficult for him he knows how to tap into that place of goodness, knows how to let go of all that has him tangled and twisted up emotionally in order to restore himself and dwell in a place of peace and love. Shouldn’t we all figure out how to do that? Think about how much less pain we all could cause if we are able to release anger and horrible, hateful or violent thoughts from our minds and hearts and return to a place of peace and love and restore ourselves and each other. Yeah, right…integrate my son into society as it is, my ass.  We should be so lucky to be more like him.



Learning to Unlearn


It is no secret that to me, my second son Logan, is one of the best people I know. My aunt Meiling would call someone like Logan “too mannish” because he is far too young to be this miniature man of integrity and depth.  He has a sensibility that I have not seen in anyone so young.  His ability to discern bullshit from truth is something I did not have mastered by the time I was a teenager and to quote my husband “Watch for our son because anyone who ends up involved with him will be beyond fortunate because of  the human he is,”

I have tried very hard to raise Logan to not see race, creed or colour.  It was easier with Adam being autistic but by the time Logan got to grade 2 he learned what colour was unfortunately.  Looking back on my own childhood, I would say I was lucky to have grown up in a multicultural, multiracial society and be raised by parents who had friends from all walks of life, all colours and religions but like Logan, when I was 5, even sweet T&T way back then had it’s structure and divisions that were somewhat subtle at times blatant at others.  I remember what living with that was like – bouncing in and out of acceptance, hearing derogatory racial slurs in conversations, in traffic, putting up with disgusting comments from idle limers as my mother and I walked by them. My childhood was a good one but there are things I learned about the world that I was determined to do something about.  I knew there was no way to protect my children from these lesser things but I could teach them to be better and also be better than me and those before them. It may be naive of me but I like to think if I could just put two decent and good humans on the planet, I could make significant change.

So with Logan, I also did a little test.  I was in the living room when his friend came to the door.  He had just come from work on the reserve and he made a crack about delivering watery gas to our door.  The boys bantered back and forth with little jabs about each other’s ethnicity and then went out to grab a couple lemonades from the store.  When he got back, Logan joined us to watch the unfolding of events in Charlottesville and he was, like we were, disappointed in what we were witnessing.  Pausing the broadcast, I told him that I had something I needed him to do for me moving forward in light of all the hate and racism in the world.  I asked him to stop the light jabs among his friends that had racist tendencies.  He assured me they were all best buddies and no one took anything personally but I counteracted his point by pointing to the television.

“It can start with simple jesting and it can evolve into this,” I told him. “We say stuff among our friends and no one is really offended so we accept it and then it gets a little more pronounced and we accept that too and then we have a difference of opinion and someone says something in anger and even though things may cool down and you are still buddies, it was blurted out and there is a dividing line in the friendship.  We cannot accept racism and lighthearted racist ribbing is not to be done anymore. It is not accepted and if you end it, it will end in your circle of friends.  The same way you do not tolerate the use of the word retarded to describe mentally challenged people, you must not participate in or tolerate racist jokes or jabs at all,”

My boy looked me in the eye and told me he understood and he would change it. Two days later when the friends were at the door, I was in the kitchen and one of them greeted the other with another native joke and my boy said,

“So, here’s the thing.  We can’t do that anymore, okay? My mom spoke to me about it and I agree with her.  She wasn’t mad or anything but she’s right. We are friends and we don’t want to get into talking like this so no more racist jabs. We cool?”

I heard the pseudo-manly voices echo in agreement and just like that they went down the street in front of one of their houses and started shooting hoops.  I didn’t tell him I heard them that night and in the car yesterday, Logan told me that he spoke to his buddies and they all agreed not to make anymore dumb jabs about race.  He said they actually agreed they didn’t really know why they were doing it.  They didn’t think it was funny and they didn’t really like it. I know Logan has struggled with the answer to the occasional question “So what are you? “from some idiot after they realize I am his mother.  Today he answers quite simply, “Human….a guy… a person,” and if they persist he suggests they “might want to do some travelling…read a book…get exposed, eh?”

There is so much going on now in the world. Our time is as filled with turmoil as it is with bliss – sometimes it is so overrun with turmoil that we have to do all we can to find bliss so that we can hang on to a shred of decency and sanity.  I am in the middle of my life and one day it will draw to an end but my children’s lives are just beginning and I can see that so many young people are trying hard to hold on what is real, to what is pure and what is true. It is an uphill battle and I understand why so many of our youth have difficulty coping with life as it is. They have so much more to deal with than we did and everyday they try to separate what is good about living in their time of technology from what is heinous and all I can do in my middle age is try and stay abreast of it all and not criticize them or compare their time to mine but truly support them however I can.

If there is one thing marriage and parenting have taught me is the importance of communication. In all my years of raising my boys I have never talked and listened more than I do now.  Every week there is something I learn that was not a part of my vocabulary.  Forget learning French, German, Cantonese, Spanish or what have you, I have had to master “youth speak” in ways I never imagined and as un-cool as I know I am, my husband and I are the first stop when my boys’ world come crashing down around them.  Their father and I won’t be there for them every time it happens and one day we will not be here at all and I hope their coping skills continue to be strong.  It’s like my husband says, “Parenting is 50/50. We can only hope that they hold on to that fifty percent of what we instilled in them the question mark is what they do with the other fifty and we can only hope they have the strength of character to navigate it in the right direction,”

In Logan’s lifetime he is going to learn and experience many things.  Some will be great and some will not and he will have to choose between doing the right thing or the easy thing, the right thing or the popular thing and the right thing or the wrong thing. He will soar and he will crash and he will soar again and his life will roller coster on just like any other life. My hope for his generation is that they can learn from the mistakes of past generations as well as their own and that they can release or un-learn some of the things we may have carelessly and mindlessly taught them. I hope they are better than we are and better than their grandparents.  I hope they put humanity first and that they operate from a place of love. I hope their generation sees an end to terror and most of all I hope they un-learn racism and bigotry and learn acceptance.  Who knows, maybe…just maybe theirs is the generation to turn the world around and propel us upward from the downward spiral we seem to be on.


*Echolalia is the repetition of words or phrases with sometimes no meaning or function attached to them. … Sometimes this behavior is termed “scripting” because the words and phrases the person is repeating comes from tv or movie scripts.


Don’t Look Me up and Down: Look Me in the Eye – a Fit Woman’s Opinion on Non-Verbal Body Shaming

For some time now, we have been witness to wonderful campaigns directed towards the acceptance of all body types, especially, if not solely, the various body types of women. The Dove campaign is to be applauded for giving every woman a chance to champion themselves and identify with an image much like their own on television, the internet, billboards and in magazines.  In a world where you have to look deep beyond the surface to find what is real, it is important for people to see a reflection of themselves in advertising.

On social media the acceptance of self was such a hit that there were even spin off topics borne by the politically correct righteous that made me hold my tongue until now.  Let me elaborate.  As a woman, I feel strongly that every person (men included) should feel good about themselves.  I believe that everyone must have as many (if not more) attributes that they love about themselves than ones they dislike.  I, and some who share my belief, feel that people must have a sense of self worth that allows them to veer away from behaving and or dressing inappropriately to prove to themselves and possibly others, that they are cool, young, sexy, hot, in control or whatever tier of esteem they are trying to attain.  There is something about showing less to ever so coolly reveal that there is so much more to who you are.  There is something to be said for elegance and grace and quiet confidence at every age, size and shape.  But whenever anyone implores others to really reach for something more substantial within themselves, they are criticized by the politically correct others who feel we are “shaming”.  These people like to say if a person (and let’s use women in this example), a woman in her 40’s feels to dress like her 14 year old daughter, who are we to judge her?  If she wants to let her butt cheeks hang out of her shorts or she wants to wear a tight crop-top with leggings, we should applaud her courage. What then do we say about a scantily clad  teen girl at a dance not walking away from a group of boys until each one of them upon her request, makes out with her and her friends?  Is this group of young teen women empowered? Are they controlling their sexuality?  Dictating to the opposite what they want done, when and how?  Is she empowered when she takes to social media and posts revealing photos of herself?  The “selfie” takes on new meaning then, doesn’t it?

Okay. Sure. Maybe I’m a prude. Maybe I am guilty of “shaming” other women but looking in from the outside, I can’t help but wonder what there is to gain when children disassociate themselves from their mother’s attire or demeanour in embarrassment?  What is there to gain when the persona that accompanies the outfit draws the people who want to be a part of the show for a moment, who then walk away speak insults under their breath?   Why do my sons have to be privy to your exposed self in a public place that is not a beach?  Congratulations, Mom for looking “hawt” and sexy at a Minor Level Sporting event.

In the spirit of championing oneself I am going to take my turn to lash back in defence of women like me – active women whose bodies are perfectly imperfect.  We have muscles and are generally strong and in good health.  We are the women who like our sports, our dance, our yoga and whatnot and we play because it’s fun and relaxing and we are okay with a little sweat and okay with our post partum bellies that could, in the right light look like a deflated beach ball.  We are the women who LOVE to eat but stop when we are full.  We eat junk sometimes only without the excuses and we own the consequences and do something about them. We never criticize anyone’s appearance yet so many people have no problem telling us how we are lucky we are to be skinny (when clearly we are not) and have no problem calling us names in jest (in jest my ass) because you are dissatisfied with yourself. We are the women who don’t dress to flaunt, don’t triple coat our faces with makeup yet look beautiful, comfortably wearing what we love and being who we are. So for those of you who talk to us but deep down dislike us, do us a favour – stop trying to shame us with your quick head to toe glances of jealousy.  I have been exposed to that since I was 6 years old.  I have noticed grown-ass adults  – family friends, 4 specific high school teachers of mine and worse, a couple relatives who would stand right in front of me, talking to me doing the head to toe scan sometimes even telling me what they did not like about me or what I was wearing in the poor guise of a joke. And again, I was a child at the time.  It was evident they were not listening to a word I was saying. I knew it at age 6 and I have always known it.  They did not hear one iota of the conversation because they were busy scrutinizing (or like we say in Trinidad, macoing) every aspect of my body , my face, my clothes, my shoes and my hair.  Hating ALL of what they saw because they truly LOVED what they saw and just could not have it, or develop it because it was MINE.

I remember telling my mother I noticed when some people had conversations with others, myself included, they tended to look not at the face when they spoke to you but did what seemed to be several critical, quick glances at a person’s clothing and body and did so quite frequently as they spoke. I asked her why this happened and my champion mother simply said, “Jealousy, baby”.

But, I was a child and I had nothing.  Nothing at all except my childhood, my imagination and myself.  I had what everyone had and in the case of adults, you could say I had even less so why would they be jealous?  Then my mother said to me ever so calmly, “I am sorry people look at you like that.  I know how it feels because I have had that happen to me too. – I think it is really rude.  Perhaps they don’t realize they are doing it, but I think deep down they do know.  I think they did it once, then twice and then it became a rude habit.  That is their problem, not yours.  In your whole life there will be many people who glance at you up and down repeatedly because their parents did it and they unfortunately learned to do it too. They may be smaller than you, bigger than you, older or younger or the same age, They may be wealthier, poorer or of the same income. They may be a different colour or religion than you; they may not. These  people may never look at you in your eyes when they talk to you.  It is an attempt maybe to make you feel self  conscious. In those moments I want you to feel self assured that you are perfectly fine. Just remember that is their jealousy, their lack of confidence and therefore their problem, not yours, ever. You must always draw confidence from those people and never let their glances get you down. Be your comfortable self.”

My mother may not have gone to a fancy university or held a position of power in the world but she has always been powerful to me.  My mother knew her role as a mother.  There was a friendliness about her without her trying to be our friend.  Lines were never crossed by her or us and she injected into us the power to be quietly confident and when we needed to, be boldly so.  Because of my mother, my sister and I have been able to give our children the confidence they need in what is a tougher, more bullied society and dare I say, I think the confidence she gave to us and indirectly to her grandchildren can be considered life saving.  We all hear the stories of the kids who tragically end their lives because they just couldn’t “shake it off” or “get over it” as some people like to say.  There are so many people who just love to dig and dig at you until you start to doubt yourself.  They are annoying and they make life uncomfortable and the best thing you can do is turn it right around and show them that you are not the problem. They are the problem.  They are the ones spending time trying to figure out how to bring you down and in reality it stems from their self dissatisfaction. They say things to make you feel insecure because they are insecure.  They reject your knowledge because they are ignorant. They scoff at your attempt to lead because they are born followers. They mock your talent because they wish they possessed a fraction of it.  They pick on those who have disabilities because the determination and accomplishments of the disabled scare the shit out of them because they have no courage.  They criticize your clothes because they dare not dress like you because they can’t buy your personal cool.  They like to bare it all when they should be covering it up because to wear something decent is to admit they have shortcomings, I suppose.

So while I agree we should all be happy with ourselves, our varied skin tones and shapes and sizes I do not for a moment think that people who have been made to feel shunned and bullied are not guilty of bullying.  They are often adults who have taken the bitterness of the pain they felt and instead of using it for something positive in their lives, they ever so subtly twist it into other people who have done nothing to them personally…except of course showed up looking healthy or tastefully dressed.   I had yet another one of those up and down glances happen to me today, way before I had my morning coffee. I decided right then and there that I was going to write about it once and for all.  I am going to champion myself because I don’t look anyone up and down and scrutinize them and I am tired of having it done to me.  In fact, I have spent many years teaching my boys, especially my autistic son, to look people in the face when they are speaking to them, yet so many people don’t do that to me.  I remember Adam telling me that looking into people’s eyes is too much. Too much information so he looks away so he can focus on what is being said to him yet he has learned to glance at a face in order to illustrate he is engaged with a person.  That is so much work for him, yet he tries so hard to do it because he has figured the value in it and he knows he needs to embrace some of these traits to function in this world.  Meanwhile, people with no sensory processing disorders, people who don’t have to organize anything at all in order to have a conversation give me the up and down scan when they are speaking with me?  To hell with you and your rudeness.  Here’s a news flash on behalf of women and all people who are fit and healthy who try to take care of themselves.  We have reaped what we have sown and if you don’t like it, or have that little zing of envy or hate when you see us because you feel we don’t understand what it is like to be you with your issues – too bad. Champion who you are and own it. This is called life and everybody’s got something…some shit that grabs us by the gut and we have to deal with it.  God knows I was dealt a hand and a frigging half in my life.  Would you up and down scanners preferred if I looked haggard and worn because my life has not been easy?  Would that have made you feel better?  Would you have looked me in the eye then? Perhaps you would have pitied me.  I have never needed pity thanks to my upbringing and I am glad my retaliation to adversity was strength and wellness – of mind, spirit, soul and body.

If you ever had a conversation with me and you’ve looked me up and down (and you damn well know if you do it because you have control of your eyes) please don’t talk to me again if you are going to do that. It’s rude and you are wasting my time and you are making me waste precious breaths and words. Don’t talk to me if you aren’t going to engage or listen.  I’m really okay with that. I’d rather sit quietly alone with my thoughts  for company because I am comfortable with myself. I was taught and I teach my children to look people in the face when speaking to them and I expect the same from others. So all you head to toe scanners out there, know this – the group of us you love to hate in your head because we chose to work at taking the steps to fell healthy and well – we make no apologies for the way we are so enough with looking us up and down and look us in the eye.  What you are doing is distracting, rude and disrespectful and when you do it to me, it only reveals how insecure and vulnerable you are.  Worry less about me and work more on you because you are just as bad as the cretin bully who spat out hurtful words to you.

Eight Months to Fifty: The Ballet Recital

pointe shoes

After seven months of rehearsal, today was my ballet recital.  Rewind now to the beginning of what I like to call “the gap” – the space that separates the you you were as a youth and the you you had to become as an adult once you started being responsible, organized and paying for things yourself.  This is a little piece about finding the time to fill in “the gap” before the chance escapes you.

Tom and I moved around a lot when he was getting his then career in radio going and we found ourselves at times living in some hokey places where, as the tag along, I had to find something to do with my spare time.  This was of course before children came along and there were many hours in the day.  In Brockville, for example, I took a sailing class and by the end of my 2 years there I had achieved my introductory level “White Sail”.  I also took a fitness instructors course and took it again in French when I moved to Montreal and I was known for teaching lively classes with a Caribbean flare. It was not easy moving from place to place but I always believed in making the most of whatever situation we found ourselves and now Tom and I have a repertoire of things we have dabbled in and hundreds of memories of each and every stop we made along our journey.

Now with 2 sons who have become busy young men,  we are fearful that we are going to lose ourselves or put ourselves on pause as we drive them around to their activities.  When you have been a participant all your life, it is really hard to be a spectator and as much as we love watching these highly competitive and talented athletes of ours, we started feeling that we needed to have something that belonged solely to us.  I found myself wanting something more than my Wednesday “Ladies Night” tennis or the extremely occasional 9 holes of golf.  I wanted something I could commit to – something that moved me.  I wanted something I could work hard at and be passionate about and so, after joining my sister in Toronto, on her birthday for an Adult Master Class at the National Ballet of Canada, I knew I had to wake up the sleeping ballerina inside me. I had tried other dance classes before and it seems, especially in smaller towns, every “Soccer Mom” wanting to dance whether for fun or exercise, always sign up for hip hop which is too bad for three reasons :-

1) mothers with no rhythm who think that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is porn are absolutely horrible at Hip Hop and any form of movement.  (It boggles my mind they were able to conceive children at all)

2)  if you have ever danced and are looking for a challenge for your mind and your body, being in class with these women make you think murderous thoughts


3) because these mothers want to be in something they can dabble in and be mediocre at, all anyone can find in the line of Adult dance classes  in a small town is Adult Hip Hop (it would be one thing if the classes were good but damn….they just aren’t)

So over the course of the years when I was desperately looking for a class I would readily find in a large city, I actually found it in Belleville (who knew?) and now I dance at the Quinte Ballet School of Canada and while it is not The National Ballet of Canada (which is an impossible commute for me), I have found something very close to what I had been seeking.


dance shoes

After months of learning choreography and perfecting the timing and the steps, it was time for the four Adult Ballet 2 students to perform in front of a bunch of people there to see their young sons and daughters. I was going to be dancing before the three most important men in my life who were thrilled for me from the day I told them I was thinking about performing.  This afternoon was an intimate thing between them and me as this was a moment where I was able to show them a piece of myself they had never seen before and a chance to get them to understand who I was and what moved me.  I had always felt I knew everything about the three of them but they had only ever seen pictures or heard me speak of the things I was passionate about and today they got to see the rest of what Mom is made of.

At 11:30 this morning,  I did my stage makeup, wound my hair tightly in a bun and made my way to the school.  I took two Advil (because that is where the wear and tear from all the sports has me now), warmed up at the barre, stretching my limbs as far as they could before putting on my costume and doing my final dress rehearsal.  When it was time for our performance, I was waiting in the wings and in those brief seconds, every moment I performed at Queens Hall, at Bishops Anestey High School Stage, the hall at Chinese Association and at Dance Works at Syracuse University came rushing back to me.  I felt that exhilaration over the pride and joy of being able to dance in front of an audience and just enjoy what I have always loved to do.  My leg does not go high enough to have my foot by my ear anymore and Christ Almighty, everything hurts but the four of us did that choreography without a hitch and hopefully it looked as good as it felt.  Ballet is a beautiful deception.  It is a commitment at any level and age and it is as gentle and serene as it is difficult and athletic, so you have to work hard to make your body do what your mind wants it to do and it can only come from a place of love for the art, otherwise you are just doing moves.  It isn’t for everyone, but if you have a sleeping ballerina inside you and you are able to find the right classes, go wake her up and get moving not just for your body but for your mind and your soul.  My ballerina is awake again and she is going to dance right to the end of her days.

Today, eight months before my 50th birthday, I had the first ballet recital I have had in what seems like a hundred years and it felt good and I felt alive!


Just Over a Year to 50 … In 2016 Happiness will be the Choice.

Christmas has just gone by and tomorrow a new year begins.  As usual I’m sitting here checking out what is going on with Ryan Seacrest at Time Square in New York, wishing I was there because it looks like quite the good time.  As I watch, I’m thinking about the year I have had; about what I have learned and what I would change and do differently. Perhaps I will try once again to make New Year’s resolutions and perhaps like every year since I was able to understand what a resolution was, they will fade away –  but like my body, my hair and my mind, the way I do things will change yielding both good and poor results and life will go on.  I will make many new mistakes but I think I shall not make old ones.  I will have to be forgiven, I will have to forgive but I will not forget and as usual, I will live and learn with eyes and mind wide open and hope that so too will my sons.

I have been blessed to have all that I have – the good, the bad, the painful, the stressful and the maddening as all of it is a component of who I am. Every emotion, every situation and experience is the fibre of my life and this journey that is the most intriguing story. If life was a book, it would be the most perfect book filled with great mystery with endless twists and turns and around every other corner, a surprise for the main character.  Whether the story be a long one or short, how fortunate we are each day to open our eyes with an opportunity to  see a new episode of “the show”…our show and even on the most mundane of days there is something miraculous that happens with every breath, every sight, every step…most of which we take for granted. But that’s okay because all of us have moments when we stop and realize just how good our life is …because we have all tasted the bitterness.  Yet, as sure as the sun will rise we also know the darkest days are always redeemed by days of light…we just have to pay close attention and we will all see that there is indeed good in everything.

With my 50th birthday just over a year away, I’ve  been settling into the next-phase-of- life Daniella and I love her more than I ever did  between the ages of 25 and 35.  The numbers vary from person to person but we all can recall those flying blind, confusing, career chasing, home building, family life balancing, ever so busy and ever so-tired-from-taking-care-of the-the-babies- you -could-just-puke years between ages of 25 and 35.  After all the growth and knowledge I gained during those years, I find the growth and knowledge that happens between the ages of 40 and 50 pleasant and comforting.  Thanks to my mother, when I was quite young, I learned the importance of being comfortable in my own skin and confident in my choices .  She always said, “If you can’t live with yourself, you can’t be happy living in this world,”.   Over the years, on the days where my confidence was shaken or a difficult decision had to be made, that one sentence of my mother’s sometimes was all I needed to move forward and in the last ten years, more specifically the last three, I made a concerted effort to discover and re-discover the things I wanted to do that filled my soul and simply made me feel good.  Absolutely, Tom and the children and all the things we did together and all the places we visited made me happy and satisfied but when you are juggling raising a family, working whenever you could, raising a kid like Adam, driving kids, encouraging kids, being that shoulder to lean on for your husband, keeping people properly fed and healthy, staying on top of what goes on at school, sports, tutoring, and therapies and funding, it is easy to lose a chunk of who you are and for me I put a part of myself on hold, mostly because when you are a wife and mother sometimes, it’s what one must do.  So for a while, I put that Daniella on hold – the girl who always had time to do the things that made her heart smile  … the girl with the imagination that ran wild with ideas and stories that stretched out the days and now that my boys are older and finding their paths and at work Tom and I are entering that fifth year of business that is a nice somewhat settled place to be, the opportunity to nudge that girl on hold and get her back in action again.


With age 50 approaching, I started looking at the way I did the “everyday ” things I thought were in order.  Stupid little things that were a part of my life that had become stale and un-enjoyable. So, I started to re-evaluate them and made changes that changed my life and brought that dormant part of Daniella back to life. It started with the silliest of things like quitting the gym three years ago, to play my sports and to take up yoga which I love and now crave.  But as I moved through the postures, I realized that something else was missing, something that yoga and my sports did not give me so I signed up for adult ballet classes and moved my body in ways it had not in what seemed like a hundred years.  And in spite of the agony of retraining my body to move in a balletic and graceful way, I smile from that first pique at the barre to the final courtesy and applause for the pianist and I am bursting with joy.

Re-vamping the simple things started me on a path of slowly learning to re-vamp other areas of my life.  On a friend’s suggestion, I started this blog.  She knew I always wanted to write novels and articles and  she knew even though I had a taste of being published  a few times, I loved it and hated it equally.  With our sons having autism she and I have a busy and unique lives compared to typical mothers and she understood why I always found it a struggle to find the time to write.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to get manuscripts in on time, always checking and re-checking publishing requirements, tweaking and re-tweaking formats and praying and crossing my fingers and toes that I wouldn’t get a rejection letter. But this blog allowed me to start writing when I could find the time.  With no deadlines or pressure, I could hit the keyboard and say what I had to say.  It was a neat way to write for myself in a format and style that was perfect for me while sharing my thoughts with readers around the world.  Taking her  advice was the best damned decision I made with regards to my writing.  While I feel that it is important to continue to learn how to write well, I  cherish the no pressure outlet that is my blog, the freedom it affords me and the endless and priceless joy it brings me. It is all mine. I don’t have to change my words or phrases to please anyone and for the first time in years, I feel and smell and breathe this  love of words once again.  Perhaps when my boys step out on their own in a few years, I will buckle down in front of the computer and write my novel(s) but until then I shall blog to my heart’s content.

2015 was also a turning point for me as a parent.  Raising a family today is quite different from when my parents raised our family and quite different from when Adam and Logan were children.  I had to learn and learn to change in order to be everything I need to be while I walk beside my boys’ two very different journeys through puberty on their way to manhood.  Raising young people is a fascinating privilege but it can be worrying and draining too.  You have to be firm enough, authoritative enough with the right amount of trust,  gentleness, support and understanding with a generous sense of humour and copious amounts of patience all wrapped up with reams and reams of love.  I have found it more important now to take the time to step away from dealing with them (especially Adam) than I did when they were little because there is a whole lot more to worry about now than when they were small.  Happily, Logan is on the right path so far and hopefully, Adam will find his way back to the peace he used to have before puberty.

Looking at the last 10 years of our life like a rollercoaster ride, our cars were filled with moving back to Ontario and establishing ourselves, raising little boys who are now teenage boys, my father’s illness and ultimate death, my mother’s life without him, new jobs, old jobs, Tom’s parents’ health, our growing businesses, perimenopause, school,religion, work relationships, friendships and Adam’s autism.  And as these very full and heavy cars approached the top of the track Tom and I worked very hard and hoped and prayed that on the long steep  decent that preceded all the twists and turns to come, we could keep everything and everyone securely and safely fastened in the cars.  But like any ride, not everyone survives all the twists, turns and loops and in 2015 some of our shit in the form of friendship, flew out of it’s car and blew away in the wind forever and though I did grieve that loss somewhat, I have come to realize it was for the better.  I’m too busy with my family and my life to waste my time on insignificant, vapid people who simply cannot grow up  and see beyond the superficial bubble they share with their equally defective peers.  This year was the first time I ever had to verbally end a friendship.  There was some sadness, some anger and bitterness over what I felt was a waste of my time and effort and then there was relief followed by gratitude; I was grateful to have had this experience because it re-affirmed what I knew in the first place…I had enough amazing friends not to mention an awesome family that includes my sister, my mom and my dozens of cousins no matter how near or far away they may be.  As this year comes to a close, I embrace the people and things that make me feel good, even closer and I abandon the trite, toxic and the ignorant to the past.

Barry Neil Kaufman wrote a book which he simply called “Happiness is a Choice”.  I remember reading it when I was trying to navigate Adam and our family through the initial stages of his autism.  Everyone chooses whether or not to be happy.  I am guilty of sometimes choosing the thing that can bring me down.  I’m not one for resolutions but in 2016 and beyond, I’m going to try and choose the things that lift me up. If it doesn’t feel good; if it’s inconvenient,  out it goes.   Life is wonderful but its hard and sometimes upsetting and frustrating and sad and it is also damn short so but I’m going to try and make those not so great moments as short lived as I possibly can.  Maybe I’m onto something by choosing to remind myself of all that I’d read in that short simple book by Kaufman.  I’m going to keep on with  finding the simple things that make my heart feel full.  I’m going to try and choose happiness over the nonsense and put myself and my feelings first in certain situations and see where it takes me.  I have a feeling it’s the right choice.  Here’s to choice in 2016 … choices that make you happy.

To Tom and Logan you are my pillars of strength and I love you to the ends of the universe and back. May 2016 bring us all everything we hope for and may the four of us be together, safe and happy for years to come.  And to Adam – all I can say is we love you.  You are talented and you make us proud but you are difficult to live with at times.  You did turn it around somewhat this year but there are still some important lessons you need to learn.   I hope in 2016 you can see the consequences of your actions.  I hope in 2016 you can understand that positive attention is better than negative attention and I hope in 2016 you can bring us all to a place of peace.  Happy New Year, my son.

Lastly, to my dear friends here in Canada and around the world, to my SJC sisters who tether me to who I really am, you mean so much to me… to my sister Reina and my mother and all my relatives wherever you may be, I love you and wish you peace, joy and a happy new year.