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.




Planning Everyone’s Freedom in Spite of the Hand You Were Dealt.

I remember talking to a fellow “autism mom” a while ago.  We were discussing our ideas or more likely our hope that our children would live independently (with assistance) away from us.  Many parents like us often resign ourselves to the notion that our children will have to live with us forever but when Adam was diagnosed, I made it my mission for him to become as independent as possible because, according to this mom I was speaking with, we didn’t sign up for this. We had babies who seemed okay, who by the time they were 2 had shown enough signs to warrant the diagnosis of autism.

Call me mean, call me cold, call me whatever you want but don’t forget to call me honest. My words are based on my family’s experience with my child because each child with autism, like every child on the planet is different.  My kid is not noise sensitive, does not adhere to rigid patterns or schedules, he can be touched, does not rock back and forth and he eats a variety of food – not just chicken nuggets or couches like so many autistic persons do. In fact, if you just saw him out and about without really scrutinizing him, he would appear to be another lanky, energetic teenager. Adam does a shit load of things and functions in situations that no one(except for me and his father) ever expected him to. We put in the love, the work and the time as did he and he has found his niches in this life and looking from the outside in and the inside out, he has a great life because we always believed if we challenged him in good ways, if we taught him to cope with the world, if we helped him cope with his environment, he would be able to live as full and as independent a life as possible. We never let the strange habits, odd reactions and sensitivities he occasionally displayed prevent us from teaching Adam how to cope with this world and function in it. We learned to work through things together. Taught him not to be afraid or wary of certain noises or things while taking into consideration the extra time he needed to learn to handle the things that were overwhelming to him. I suppose looking back I could say Tom and I took whatever the autism threw at our son and at us and we molded it into something that was manageable.

Two jobs, two elite level competitive sports, and an aptitude for the arts later, we have a well rounded young man in spite of the challenges of autism.  The problem with what we have done to make him as capable and independent as he is, is reflected in the type of person he has evolved into. I suppose we could have chosen to take all the sensitivities and oddities and choose to let them overwhelm him and we could have made the decision to sound proof his room, put headphones on his head, not attempt amusement parks, not put him in competitive sports and let him exist in his solo world, spinning the wheels of toy cars while lying on his side. Maybe if we did that he might be a happy little lump content in his own world. But I did not want him living in some facility, not in touch with the world and not in touch with us.  So I picked him up off his side, sat him on his bottom and showed him an alternative to playing with toy cars and changed his life for what I still believe is for the better.  I reached in, found his little hand and held on to it tightly because I was not losing my child to autism. But maybe wanting him in our lives also bit us in the ass. There is no way to sugar coat this (but I suppose I can be polite) – our son is a jerk. Adam has many normal teenage qualities which I accept. Like most teens, his father and I (mostly I ) are major irritants in his life. He doesn’t like being with us anymore, does not want to do anything with us anymore except if he thinks its fun and he is moody with us 24/7. He hates listening to what we have to say. One minute we were loving and holding this gorgeous, curly haired cherub. We were teaching and helping him and cheering him on as he slowly but surely became capable of so much and now that he treats us like shit, it’s quite the slap in the face. Teenage years are not easy  –  how can they be when you have one foot in childhood and the other in adulthood and you drift in between the two worlds every 15 seconds?  Add a big scoop of autism to that and you have puberty stink, puberty ugly, puberty jerk…whatever you want to call it.

The hard part for us is not so much that he is as teenage as it gets (there are two teens in the house and we get the vibe of the stage of life they are in), it’s Adam’s wretched personality. He seems to have a penchant for deliberately getting under our skin. He has certain things he will do that he knows will be disruptive or annoying to us and try as you might you can never truly ignore him. He won’t let you. There are things you can do, medication you can use that improve focus, reduce anxiety, etc. etc.  but you cannot medicate the asshole-ed-ness out of a person. If our son was not autistic, he would still have the personality he has. He seeks negative attention and pretty much only with us.  I hear his support workers and teachers talk about how even though he has occasional moments that are difficult, he shows great empathy. I hear details of the conversations he is able to have now and how helpful and motivated he is and at first I didn’t believe them but these people don’t know each other so why would 10 different people who don’t know each other, lie? I have also seen video footage of him doing all these great things and showing how nice and well adjusted he is and the minute we come home he often goes right to button pushing. It’s almost like some sick, twisted way of drawing pleasure at our expense.

Our relationship with Adam now is nothing like it used to be and I don’t know if it will ever be warm or close again. I think when he lives semi-independently with like room mates and he will really get a sense of his independence from us he may have a greater appreciation for any time he spends with us. It has been very hard trying to love someone who does not like you or perhaps may not love you. I don’t know how he feels about us and I am not going to assume because he lives with us or that we are his parents that he loves us.That would be naive and even a little arrogant. His condition is based on an inability to understand or display emotion in a usual way. His condition results in a constant social struggle and while we accept these things, it is clear that what he likes to do to bother us is intentional and reserved for us.

We have worked hard to help him become (as did he) the whole person that he is today. Adam is very successful and while he completely rejects us, it is not the rejection that is the difficult part – it’s the pleasure he seeks by trying to make us upset. It is the disrespect and the shitty thing is, in spite of the struggle of recognizing emotions etc., Adam knows when he and others are being disrespectful. His teachers can testify to that. It has put a bitter taste in our mouths when it comes to dealing with him. There are some days when we go through the motions to get to the end of the day with him and we are so counting down the days to when he takes over living in our current home and we move out.

Before you pass judgement note that we are going to have to buy a new place for us to live without having the luxury of selling our current home in order to have a down payment for a new one. We are letting our son continue his life in the home he had since he was 7 because it makes his living situation easier for him. He will be close to transportation, his work and the places where he practices for his sports.  It is in close proximity to grocery stores, the mall, our church, the movies and restaurants and everyone in the neighbourhood knows him.  We have taught him how to walk to and from many of the places he needs to be and we have done all we could to do what ever parent of any child hopes to do which is simply to raise happy, respectful, kind and independent children. We are not perfect parents by any means but we did the best with the hand we were dealt because he was brought into this world out of love and was raised cloaked in love and as hard as it is for us to warm to him lately, he is very much loved and cared for. But puberty was not kind to him and certainly not kind to the family and most days we just want to scrape him off of our skin because as much as every day is a new day and a new opportunity and a new day to hope – this child, at least one time in every day intentionally does something disruptive (and he will tell you it is his intent to be disruptive and disrespectful) and we are tired of that. Yes, he is special, he has in many ways been a blessing and he has taught us a lot about ourselves, himself and our capabilities and strengths as people and as a family but man oh man, has he ever tested our patience and love. I understand he has many things he struggles with or copes with to get through a day. We have made our home and the places we go and the things we do as easy and as tolerable for him as possible. We have observed him, listened to him and respected his needs and we are very proud of him but we just don’t like living with him. We are good people.  We are not to blame for his autism although as a mother somewhere deep inside of me I will carry unjustified guilt about this child’s autism right to my grave.  We didn’t sign up for this and we don’t deserve to parent him right through to our death either. I cannot wait for the day we part ways because he will finally get what he wants – to be free of us and we will finally have part of the life sentence dropped. The life sentence of being the parents of a child with autism whose “thing” is to seek negative attention every day. We plan to go on a long vacation the day we leave our son in our home with room mates and support. He will adjust to his new life the same way he adjusted to travelling with his Special Olympics teams without us and his Co-Op at school and getting about with his support workers without Mummy and Daddy.

I suppose I could say I should have been careful about what I wished for – I got an independent kid who is capable of handling his life but his father and I also ended up with a kid who realizes this about himself and who now sees us as irritants and obstacles whom he dislikes yet in some bizarre way he likes it a lot when he succeeds in making us mad. He says he is sorry but he never is as in the very next breath he sets out to push buttons over and over again.  We do a lot of ignoring, re-directing and walking away in order to squash his attempt at pissing us off. He walks away defeated most times when we are able to see our plan through but in spite of the love his father, brother and I carry for him in our hearts, we look forward to the day we walk away because just maybe that will be the avenue we can use to re-build our relationship with Adam.

Like I said before, I don’t care if anyone passes judgement on me or my family because we know the life we have lived.  We know the sacrifices the three of us have made because we love Adam. We also know we did it on our own mostly with the help of strangers we had to trust. Strangers, we have come to know and love, all the way from Alberta to Ontario. Strangers who also helped Adam achieved all that he has. I cannot speak of other persons with special needs, but living with Adam’s autism, for all the goals and milestones he’s reached, for all the pride it has filled us with, for all the good, I fear there have been more difficult times – times where we have been sad, times where we have struggled, times when we felt utter despair.  We have never been able to just put him in the car and go anywhere with him…to this day, there always has to be a plan and a plan B and C. In the midst of the autism, we managed to raise another little boy as normally as we could – giving him the attention he needed and the guidance and time he deserved while having to ask him to understand that he had to learn to wait… a lot.  Our second son could have rebelled, could have resented us and he could have gone astray but instead, he waited, learned to be quite self-sufficient at too young an age and still found time to help us out with his brother. He has been the best support worker Adam has ever had and he has helped him fit into this world in a way we could not teach him. Logan taught Adam how to be a kid, how to act “cool”  and how to, as he ever so sweetly puts it “blend in” and he has stood up for his brother in ways no younger brother should have known how to do.  He taught Adam how to bike to their favourite restaurants and taught him how to use his bike lock and how to work the combination. He taught him how to use money and how to use a cell phone just as well as any teenager. He took over escorting him to the bathroom and showing him how to go in, do what he had to do in the washroom and getting out. When he is with me and Adam he is the one who takes on what Tom would ordinarily do in the public washroom with Adam. Logan is the one who reminds him to keep his stims at bay and not draw attention to himself which can make him vulnerable.  He took over doing that at age 9 because he knew Adam was too tall to come into the ladies room with me at 11. I remember the day he told me,”I can do this Momma. I’ll do it because you don’t have boy parts”.  Logan didn’t sign up for this either but he has such love, acceptance, patience and respect for his older brother and wants to help Tom and me with him any time that he can. That kid put up wit all that Adam threw at him and still, he continues to persevere through the best and worst of what is thrown his way. Logan needs space from Adam as well. He has to go off and find and be his own Logan because, you see, he was given a life sentence too and he deserves to not have to worry about or look out for Adam the way that he does on his own volition.

This past September marked 15 years since Adam’s diagnosis of autism.  He will be 18 in January.  The worst years were between ages 3 and 4 years and between age 14 and now. There were 9 years where things were decent, maybe I could say more in control, happier, manageable perhaps is another word I could use … but it was never easy or simple and I know life is not simple or easy but I feel with autism, if you don’t look for your breaks, take your breaks and work towards breaking away from your child …this frigging puzzling condition will break your entire family.  I’ll be damned if I let that happen. I love my son but I love my other son and my husband too and I love myself and I will not let myself be sorry for Adam because he has autism. I am not going to try and blame his personality on his autism either because we all have a personality and at the end of the day we are who we are. The love in this family is what has kept us whole and it is with the strength of this love I will let Adam and the rest of us be free knowing we have done a fantastic job in getting him to adulthood by recognizing what needed to be done for his well being in the long run.  We could have given up and thrown our hands in the air when things were hard. We could have felt  sorry for ourselves. We could have wallowed in helplessness – but we didn’t. When people said he couldn’t we helped Adam become a person who could and while he is a whole lot better in the way he behaves at home, the things he says and does to intentionally irk the 3 of us … the way he treats us is unfair and that is why more than ever the plan is in motion to set him free and give him the space he wants and the space we need.

I hope for other parents with kids with autism, my honesty will set you free as well. Some people can smile and find everything their autistic child does is beautiful and wonderful and they when they talk they have such empathy for their child when the “raw autism” days take place. They live in an autism central atmosphere and the autism defines them.  My family is different.  We will not pretend that we are okay with what Adam does sometimes, especially since we have learned to separate asshole behavior from autistic behavior. We will not pretend that living the way we have had to was easy or cool. We will not sob on your shoulder but know our shoulders are broad and we have managed our lives without disrupting anyone else’s. I hope my honesty will let parents know that it is okay to feel anger, sadness, resentment etc because they are very normal and real feelings and reactions and if you feel them and not smother them, if you talk about them, you can move on with a clear head and heart the next day. No one signs up for this. No one deserves the life you have when you have to deal with the issues of these children/ teens/ adults. I think if you feel pissed off, get it off your chest with a therapist or a friend or in a group and to hell with the people who may judge you.  I’d like to see them live 20 minutes of the lives we have.  It’s okay to feel however you feel but do have an outlet so that you can keep it together when your child has a day that can push you over the edge. It’s okay to leave your child with a sitter and go out for 3 hours, 10 hours or for a day or 2 and not call every hour to check in. If something goes wrong, someone will let you know but most importantly, it is imperative to have an adult living plan for your child because he is not going to be a child forever and like any other child he may damn well want his independence from you.  If that is crystal clear to you as it has been to us…let him or her go.

I have done a lot to enhance my son – I remember running alongside his bike bent at my waist while pushing his feet onto the pedals for weeks until he figured out what his body was supposed to do on a bike. The day he did he happily and proudly rode off on his own.

I remember pre-ordering our food for months at a restaurant when he was little and sensitive to everything outside of our house. After 7 months he was able to go to a restaurant and wait to be served and could tolerate the ambiance. My husband taught him to skate in hockey skates instead of the double bladed skates everyone thought would be easier for him.  Today, Adam is a highly decorated speed skater, skating on long sharp blades at high speed. His father figured running would be an outlet for him to use up all that excessive energy he constantly has.  Adam has trouble keeping still so Tom taught him to run in marathons so well that he left his bather behind in his dust and today he is a decorated track athlete. We have done our best to make him successful  – not because he wins events but because all these things have made him happy.  Adam skates and runs and drums and sings with a big smile on his face. He is done with us now. We get that.  Have no fear son, you will be living your dream very soon and we will, God willing be living ours because none of us, especially you, ever signed up for this.

The Meaning of the Word “Special” in the Special Olympic Games

“The genesis of Special Olympics was a summer day camp that Sargent and Eunice Shriver started in the backyard of their Maryland home. In July 1968, the world witnessed the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago.” (Special Olympics Website)

red-ftr-logo special o logo

When my son’s speed skating coach put our son in his first Special Olympics event he was just 8 years old.  She told me she saw that he was capable of learning how to race and in time he could become a great competitor.  What I heard was that he was good enough to compete with people with special needs and that he would race in an easier category of games.  Dealing with Adam’s diagnosis was the biggest blow to my husband and me as parents, hearing that he was good enough to compete in the Special Olympics was not as heavy a blow but it was confirmation that he was different and that there was a place for different.  I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother us a little. What I couldn’t see at the time was that having a place for different was very good thing. What I did learn, was that different, over time, could learn to perfect a skill and that natural talent could be turned into something fulfilling, something to be proud of and something remarkable that amazes us every time. Thankfully, in spite of ourselves and those initial unfounded feelings  we decided to take a shot at having him join the Special Olympic Program and compete in the games.

His first race day came and we suited him up, explained over and over again what was going to happen and what he had to do.  We told him that his grandparents and little brother and we were there to cheer him on and all he had to do was skate.  He started to fuss and cry and instantly my husband, being the caring and protective father that he has always been was ready to pull him out and take him home.

first race

“He’s not ready, ” he said.

“He has to get ready sometime.  We have to at least try one race,”  I urged.  My husband shrugged and unwillingly joined his parents and our younger boy in the stands.

“Adam, are you scared?  Are you a little nervous?” I asked him.  He stopped fussing and looked at me with his glassy, big, brown eyes and gave me a slight nod.

“How about you wear your bike helmet instead of the racing helmet they gave you?  Would that feel better?”  Another slight nod.

I swapped the helmets and kissed him on the cheek.  “Now listen.  You are fine.  This is the ice you skate on every week. Just skate and keep going until someone tells you to stop, ok?”

He didn’t nod or say anything but I could tell he was more comfortable.  I remember that first race like it was yesterday and it still makes me smile.  It was the birth of the chants “Go Adam Go!”  “Keep going buddy!” and “Skate hard, skate fast Ad!”  Our little autistic boy skated right to the finish line and crossed in first place in his first race.  His coach ran up to us beaming and said “He did it! And he’s only 8!”  Race after race that day, Adam crossed the finish line in the top three and got the taste for competition and fun.  It was on that day that our family learned the meaning of the word special in Special Olympics and the warm feeling it created inside me and it was a feeling that has stayed with me for 9 years and will stay with me forever.

“Emanating from the mission, the ultimate goal of Special Olympics is to help persons with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs.  The Founding Principles support this goal by emphasizing that people with intellectual disabilities can enjoy, learn and benefit from participation in individual and team sports, underpinned by consistent training and by competition opportunities for all levels of ability.    According to the Principles, Special Olympics must transcend all boundaries of race, gender, religion, national origin, geography, and political philosophy.  They also state that every person with an intellectual disability should have the opportunity to participate and be challenged to achieve their full potential, with the focus at community level to reach the greatest number of athletes, strengthen their families and create an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.” (Special Olympics Website)

The Special Olympics events are not about competing with a disability or a challenge.  It is about competing in spite of them.  It’s not about competing at an easier level but about competing at your highest level and over the years I have seen athletes in division 4 persist and find themselves competing at a division 3 level the following season, each season inching closer to a more challenging division because when athletes with challenges are encouraged to achieve their personal best, the sky is their limit. The Special Olympics Program is about inclusion, expectations, goals and the freedom to participate at one’s best in a sport (or sports) one loves.  It is about achievement, pride, sportsmanship, freedom and most importantly it is about fun.  The Special Olympics is about teaching anyone willing to learn that given enough patience and time, everyone can achieve greatness and everything is possible when an opportunity is given, when words of encouragement are spoken and when there is enough support. It reminds parents and coaches and volunteers that there is so much good and so much talent and joy in each of these athletes and it makes us dig deeper within ourselves to do right by them by finding the energy  and time and love to give them the training and support they crave.

Our son Adam found his freedom in sport.  It is a release valve for him from all the pressure he must feel when he has to cope with the daily goings-on in his world. It has allowed him to be a part of not only the Special Olympics team but a part of his speed skating club and high school track team. The inclusion and sense of purpose Adam gets from his sports have given him so many positives to draw on in his life. Before he joined the Special Olympics program, I did not know if Adam would find his niche in the world. We never thought he would find his passion and because he plunged into a deeply private, puzzling and exclusive world his father and I didn’t think we would be able to find a life line strong enough to draw him back to us.  Now here we are, proudly watching a young man who used to be such a lost little boy cross numerous finish lines, with incredible times and speed, breaking records and standing on podiums proudly wearing his hard earned medals. What a long, winding road it has been! What a great journey that is going to keep going way past our lifetime as parents.

The Special Olympics has given him the opportunity to make friends, to travel independently of us and the opportunity to perform at his very best.


Our boy is FAST and now that he is older, his ability means something to him and I believe he is very proud of himself.  He is okay if he doesn’t win (well, sometimes he’s a little frustrated with himself when he loses) but he certainly understands and appreciates participation as much as he appreciates being on the podium. Adam has represented his club, region, and province in speed skating and for the first time he represented his province in track and field.

These games are a pleasure to watch.  They are as competitive, fast and exciting as any competitive games that exist and the athletes are well trained and possess the physical attributes to compete.  It is fulfilling to watch people of all ages, sizes, shapes and challenges come together in the spirit of friendship and competition.  There are smiles before, during and after each event as they race before their friends and families who cheer loudly and proudly.  Expectations are high and every effort is applauded.  I have never been to an event more encouraging than a Special Olympics event. I am so grateful for these games for what it has given to my son, his fellow athletes and families like ours. Adam is going to compete for years to come and he is going to experience that joy and accomplishment every time in both the summer and winter games.


blog 10     provincials with dad

To me, the word “special” in Special Olympics does not mean disadvantaged in any way.  It is more of a description of the feeling you get when you attend these games.  There is a warmth and feeling of goodness at the venue and there is an aura of happiness because win or lose, these athletes know they have worked hard, have overcome many challenges and have given their best effort to get to the games and their sense of pride and confidence is so high it creates an infectious feeling of goodness.  I encourage everyone to visit the games when they are in your area and see for yourself why it is so important to keep these games alive year after year. See what the games can do for you.

Go watch. Go cheer.  Go be amazed at the Special Olympics.

I’m not the only parent that feels this way. Read more about the effect the Special Olympics has had on the lives of athletes and families worldwide.

See what the games can do for athletes with Intellectual challenges all over the world.

As parents and care givers we have fear.  Can a person we know with an intellectual challenge learn a sport?  Will they have difficult behaviors borne out of frustration during the learning process? Are they coach-able?  There can be so many questions and technically they all originate in fear – our fear.   Then there are parents and caregivers who have given up and honestly, that is understandable. Raising and caring for someone with special needs is exhausting and complicated but wouldn’t it be better for everyone concerned if the person with the challenges has an outlet…has something to look forward to…has something new to learn with goals to set and achieve?  Wouldn’t it be great if they were able to leave the house and travel with their team for a few days?  Wouldn’t it be rewarding for everyone involved to see the person soar?  The answer to all those questions is YES.

Don’t be afraid. Here’s how to get someone with intellectual challenges involved in the Special Olympics.

Thank you Sargent and Eunice Shriver.  You have changed the lives of countless intellectually challenged persons and their families for the better over the years and for years to come. As Adam’s mother, I am thankful you did.

ribbons2adam recentribbons










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 Fifty: The Fun and Importance of Keeping Conversation, Kissing, Friendship and Love Alive in Marriage.

Last Sunday, we woke up to snow.  The first true day of winter came just  4 days earlier after an unseasonably warm November and December. There were high winds, blowing snow and it was damn cold.  But on Sunday, the snow was steady, coming down like heavy rain one minute, changing to a slow and gentle flow of snowflakes from the gloomy grey sky the next.   Albeit not my favorite season, I love winter days when it snows endlessly, especially if I have nowhere to go and nothing important to do.  It’s a nice alternative to the usual winter days when you have to be out in the bitter cold, shoveling your driveway and sidewalk, scraping your car and generally sitting upright and hyper alert while driving about town.  After being born and raised for twenty years in a tropical climate, I have seen twenty seven winters now; twenty nine if you count the two I spent at Syracuse University, and though I have lived abroad longer than I have in the land of my birth, I am, as calypsonian David Rudder puts it, “Trini to the bone”. I suppose you could say I have been able to embrace my adopted home and embrace it’s wintry climate by actually learning to do the fun things in winter mostly due to joining my kids and husband in snowball fights,  tobogganing , skiing, snowboarding, skating and hockey and realizing that when you make an effort to enjoy it, winter can sometimes go by before you know it.


It’s easy to stay in bed a little longer on a snowy morning, jumping out just long enough to brush your teeth so that kissing is pleasant and enjoyable.  Let’s face it, they only kiss first thing in the morning in movies.  It was one of those Sunday mornings that we have referred to as “Lazy Day” chez nous and it is how we “take Sunday back”.  Mornings like these usually start with me rolling over, bidding Tom good morning and asking him a single question that would lead to an all out, in depth discussion which would continue into our walk with our dog and a drive to our favorite coffee shop for our Sunday morning treat.  The question that morning was  “Tom, what scares you?”  to which he replied in his uber deep morning voice with the slightly oh-here-she-goes-this-is-going-to-be-a-long-one tone of voice, “Spiders and heights”.

Staring out the window at the snow, his long arm wrapped around me, we talked about why, in spite of his fear of heights he rode crazy roller coasters and parachuted out of a perfectly good airplane and how I don’t understand why a man who stands 6 feet 2 and 195 needs reams of paper towel to kill a spider the size of his index finger print.  He had no cool or concrete answer for the spider thing but as it turns out, the parachuting and crazy rides were some of the ways he faced his fears.  We chatted and segued from one topic to the next.   Unknowingly, fingers interlaced, my chin on his shoulder, we talked about the Hadron Collider, our theories about inoculation,  antibiotics and the constant evolution of the human species. Before we knew it, legs were no longer woven and we were out of the comfort of our bed, dressed and outside walking hand in hand in the snow up to the trail where we would throw the ball for the dog, pausing for a moment to take a look at and chuckle at her red toss toy that was still stuck up in the pine tree in spite of that windy Wednesday.  We chatted about how incredibly brilliant Adam is and how hard it must be for him to have to do some of the things he does because we live in a society that is filled with people mostly comfortable thinking and living inside the proverbial box. It was then we vowed again to give him the happiest life we possibly could and to make him as independent as possible without squashing who he is.  We then turned our attention to Logan and voiced how pleased were at his maturity, astute and insightful nature, in spite of his bouts of  male goofiness and periodic brain lapses that make us shake our heads.  We spoke of cave men, the first true scientists and inventors and that perhaps the development and utilization of verbal language and body language is why we have the emotion of love.  We talked about God, the abuse of religion and the irony of religious wars and how disappointing it was to occasionally discover how many people who were the pillars of their churches were actually the most corrupt human beings around.  Climbing in to the car, the conversation became about the balance of science and religion in our lives;  he, a non-worshiper continuing to maintain an open-mindedness about the possibility of the existence of a being or force such as God because there were still some things science could not explain and an existence of God, in his opinion could not be disproved.  And then there was me, someone born and raised at home and at school in the church, with a personal evolved opinion about the way I view my religion, God, science and fact.  I talked about the struggles I face navigating our life in light of what I had been taught about God, my occasional skepticism and the disappointment I feel when I come out of mass having been subjected to a “catholight” version of a sermon that often leaves me with nothing to draw from and apply to my life (I have been waiting to be moved by a sermon for about 4 years).   Yet though tried, tested and challenged in life like everyone else, I cannot and will not let go of my religion even in the times when I seem to have stronger hope than I do faith.  A sharp left turn of the wheel, I lean into him and kiss him on the cheek like I always do and he smiles as he does every time, patting me on the thigh saying “Elephant shoes” – this phrase when mimed looks like you are saying “I love you”.  That kind of moment to me. is still as wonderful as it was the first time we faced each other and said it at the end of the aisle on our wedding day, long past everyone’s view and it was silly and it was ours.

Our conversation came to a natural end when he descended into the basement to sit in front of his computer and  I headed to the kitchen table so I could stare at the snow through the glass sliding door while I jotted my thoughts on all this.  It snowed and snowed that day, stopping late at night.  It was cold  but we were toasty in our house, resting in our beds, waiting for sleep to overcome our minds and shut our bodies down before we had to welcome a new day and week.  It was a wonderful snowy Sunday and I was glad we decided to “take it back”.  To me, there is nothing more wonderful than chatting with someone you not only love to be with, but someone you actually connect with and can engage in intriguing and interesting conversations with and never grow bored of their company or what they have to say.

My marriage is not perfect; no marriage is but we are happily married (yes, I checked in with him before I typed this).  Marriage is hard work and requires a lot of time, patience, understanding, respect and devotion from both partners. It’s recognizing when you have hurt the other and apologizing and trying not to do it again.  It’s complimenting the other person randomly, lifting their spirits whether they need you to or not, holding hands, massaging shoulders, kissing, touching, making love to them and of course simply telling them you love them.  I didn’t get married to be unhappy.  I love spending time with my husband.  I love that he still reaches for and holds my hand and that we kiss… a lot.  My mother told me once that my grandmother told her in a few quite subtle words that keeping the love alive in bed is also a main ingredient when making a successful marriage and I certainly think my grandmother had given some sage advice.  There is nothing stale or outdated or wrong about honoring the body of the person you love.  Sure we all get older, change shape and size but that doesn’t mean we stop making love.  Think of all those healthy, positive endorphins!  Sex is certainly not just for the young or the promiscuous, or the unfaithful…I’m just saying…don’t let love making die.  Life is too short to ignore it and it is also too short to not say “I love you” as much as you can.

I mentioned before, I asked Tom what scared him, the snowy, conversation laden Sunday morning.  I told him I had many fears but my biggest fear which I have no real control over is, not growing old with him and not being able to do all that we would love to share together.  I want us to be here to see our sons find their niche but based on the foundation we have laid, they will (even headstrong Mr. Adam).  Beyond our children, I want to continue to grow the relationship I have with their father; to see the way we change as time goes on.  Right now, and I try to live mostly in the now, it is a wonderful privilege to have someone to listen to and who listens to me.  It’s a pleasure to take care of and be cared for by the person who promised to do so 19 years ago and it is an honour to continue that walk down the aisle hand in hand along what has become an unsteady and winding aisle of life, just as we promised we would in front of 22 of our family members and friends.

I am no expert on marriage.  I’ve gotten it wrong many times over the years.  I have frustrated him as much as he has frustrated me and of course we would.  We are two very different people from two very different families and backgrounds who have chosen to live under the same room AND raise children together.  Are there days when we both wonder if we chose not to marry? Are there days when we want to rip each other’s heads off or run around screaming in sheer frustration at the other person? Hell, yeah!  I remember this foolish couple who sat in my living room years ago among other friends who declared that they never, ever ever, EVER fought.  That they were such good friends there were never any raised voices, differences of opinion, sharp tones or words because they were buddies!  Buddies, Buddies BUDDIES! Best, best friends who never got on each other’s nerves.   Well, ran into them a few years later, a couple of kids later and it turned out that Mr. and Mrs “buddies”  were divorced and not as civil and they could be.  She was all about the kids and he drifted into a corner and disappeared and then got distracted and well … you can put the pieces together from all this.  I know I have a rather colourful personality and disposition. Passionate and impatient are a couple words that describe me.  Tom is patient and sometimes almost too patient.  He is quiet with a temper that one sees maybe once a year but it’s there.  He is strong where I am forceful and we boost and rein in each other as needed and over the years the relationship has been molded to suit each stage of our evolution as husband and wife; father and mother.  We are all aware that  some male humans have that basic animal instinct to spread as much seed as possible and some female humans have that other basic instinct that dictates the “okay I got my babies, thank you very much – off you go- to hell with you” thing going on sometimes, but we have to remember we are more evolved than that and that we certainly rise above cheating or neglecting the other partner’s need for attention and love.

I once had a conversation with another woman about being married and I told her if ever my husband and I have one of those “stinger” fights, one of the ways we mend is to remember why we got together in the first place and see if that plus all that we have built together is worth losing over whatever it is we lock horns over.  She told me (and I have heard this before from other women and men) when she got married, it was what everyone she knew was doing and so she did.  Based on this statement, do we conclude that some people are just insecure?  Are some people lemmings? ( Oh look, my friends are jumping over a cliff, so I may as well ).  Why would you marry someone you have nagging questions about in your head?  Of course you can never truly say without a doubt, this is the perfect person for me.  No one is perfect but if you don’t feel love for and from a person, why would you make such a commitment that will make you live a life trapped in misery living with a man who has become a roommate or a marriage that will only end in divorce?  Mind you, if the damn thing is dead, set each other free and end it already!  No one is doing anyone any favors  (especially the kids) by putting up with a marriage.  As a woman raising men, I say it is the responsibility of parents to raise the most respectful and honorable men we could but parents of girls must do the same.  We must raise our children to not settle or succumb to the pressure of what other people are doing.  Guys, even trophy wives loose their shine and get dusty and ladies, please don’t bring children into this world hoping to use them to make better husbands of your men.  If you are with someone you really don’t want to be with adding kids to the mix is like adding oil to fire.

With almost one year to 50, 24 years of being together and 19 years of marriage all I can say is that I get it now.  I get it when I look at my mother and listen to her now that is has been almost 10 years since my father passed away.  She did not have a perfect marriage but she had a solid one filled with happiness, support and love and respect.  I watched them put  a lot of work into it, always remembering to put my sister and me aside from time to time to care for each other.  Mom has done well considering her husband died and left her behind.  I like to think that outside of what we can do for her and give her as daughters and grandchildren, it is the love she had with Dad that keeps her going. Watching her and Dad throughout their marriage has made me realize that I have to treasure my time with Tom. I think marriage should not be something we do.  It is not just some next step.  I have no intention of encouraging my children to marry or have children.  They have to do what is right for them and they have to sort that out on their own.  If they do marry, I hope what we are showing them is a good example as my parents’ marriage was for me.  Our life has been very busy since our children were born like everyone’s but we have made it a point to make time for each other no matter how brief or to some perhaps dull and boring.  I love our long conversations, our walks and our marathon TV days and nights.  I love when we have a meal together, spend time over a coffee and when we occasionally go to the movies.  Ever the optimist, he always says “the best is yet to come” and while I am sometimes afraid of “what if one of us misses it?” I am more fired up with anticipation because I believe he’s right.  As long as we are fortunate enough to be healthy, keep the conversations alive, keep loving and  caring for each other, I think and I hope my marriage won’t end in divorce or won’t end with us living trapped in a marriage that eventually will fizzle out.  I hope (a very long time from now), like my parents, only death will do us part.

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.