Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

A Birthday In Reviews March 12, 2018

It’s safe to say my person knows me pretty well.  As such, she knows exactly the kind of things I enjoy and what would make for a good birthday outing.

Two days ago we went to the Newseum in DC.  We followed that up with dinner and then closed out the night with a play.

I’m gonna talk about them in reverse order though cause the Newseum will take up most of the post so I might as well knock the other 2 out of the way.


The Show

We went to see Chasing Mehserle.  I do not recommend it.  I really wanted to love it but … oye … they made it impossible.  They bill it as a “new play for our times about a young man trying to come to terms with gentrification, injustice and violence in his community.”

Sounds deep and profound and like there is some lesson to be learned.  The truth though is that the actors were all reading their lines from note pads they held in their hands.  Yeah, seriously.  Also, the language was very stereotypically urban and I think the N word and other profanity was way overused.  I felt nothing.  Learned nothing.  Laughed at nothing.

We actually considered leaving at intermission.  For some unknown reason we stuck it out and it was as much a waste of our time as the first half had been.  Do yourself a favour, if you see this play advertised anywhere and feel any desire to see it rising up in your chest, chase that feeling away.


The Dinner

We went to eat at Floriana in DC’s Dupont Circle neighbourhood and it was da bomb.  Full disclosure:  I was really hungry when we went and you know that tends to make food taste better but …

The service from start to finish was good.  The pesto that they brought out with the bread was delish.  The calamari appetizer we got was delish.  The lamb and gnocchi that I got was delish.  I’d 100% go back there.  I don’t know if Shaunie would second that only because the smell of garlic was still on me the entire next day.


The Newseum

After 10 minutes of being there, I already felt like even if I didn’t see anything else, it had been worth the visit.  They describe themselves as “a dynamic, engaging and interactive museum of news that allows visitors to experience the stories of yesterday and today through the eyes of the media while celebrating the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment.”

The first exhibit we went to was “Pulitzer Winning Photographs”.  Wowza!  It was heavy.  There were SO MANY amazing photopraphs in the gallery but it quickly became clear that the vast majority of them were taken during awful tragedies.  War, famine, genocide, apartheid.  It was really hard to say “this is a beautiful shot” when the picture is of a starving child but the truth is that the photos were stunning and often highlighted in a way I had never fully appreciated before just how dangerous the job of journalist can be.  The picture that really hit that home for me was one that showed a journalist on the ground taking a picture of a rebel shooting a gun at his enemy.  The shooter was an arms length in front of the photographer.

We needed a little pick-me-up after that so we took a tour through the “Comics in Newspapers” section.  It brought back a lot of happy memories.  Who here is old enough to remember Beetle Bailey and Hagar The Horrible?  We posed for pictures in front of the Peanuts gang.

Next it was back to the serious – and perhaps the highlight of the museum for me.  They had a whole section of the actual Berlin wall.  When you walk up, the wall is full of colour due to brightly spray painted pictures and messages.  Then you walk to the other side and it takes your breath away.  It’s grey and depressing.  It’s kind of shocking to the system.  There is a giant guard tower and you immediately feel the oppression.  There were videos playing that show what was on the news at the time.  I vividly remember what a big deal it was when the wall fell.  In actuality, I think that wall coming down was 1 of the first big news stories that caught my attention and sparked my love of news that persists today.

We spent the next hour or so touring through the 911 gallery and “Inside The FBI” and  seeing the shoe that the shoe bomber used and the backpack from the Boston bomber and the vehicle used in the Times Square bomb attempt.  We saw a world map that outlined all the places where the press is free to work and the places where they are restricted.  They had a section of newspapers from around the US and the world.  Yes, I posed with the Jamaican Gleaner.  Lastly, I got to pretend to be a news anchor – complete with a video recording of my performance.

Even the gift shop was entertaining with the items they had.  I loved all the references to strong women and to the importance of correct grammar and to how important freedom of speech and freedom of the press is.


Overall, I would for sure recommend it.  The one downside is that unlike most of the other museums in the city, this one is NOT FREE.


Sometimes it’s hard but this is the good stuff March 9, 2018

It’s been a bit of a week.  I’m. So. Tired.


It all started last weekend when we left home at 9:15am on Saturday and didn’t return until almost 8pm on Sunday.


It was a weekend of tennis lessons for the kids and shopping for groom & grooms entourage suits and a fun game night at the besties house that lasted until the wee hours of the morning and more games and a long ass drive home due to a huge sign falling over on the highway.


Then it was Monday.

The work week meant, early morning wake ups and more tennis and my birthday celebrations and track and field activities for the big boy which required a last minute trip to the doctors office and coffee spilled all over the car and tests to study for and – I don’t even know what else.   Now that I’m writing, it honestly doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary or bad, so I really don’t know why I’m so exhausted.


By Thursday evening I wasn’t sure how I would make it to work on Friday- but I knew I had to.  Can we say depleted?

Ace was happy to have a little alone time with me so we could read his newest comic book together.

Jay came home really excited to tell me that he’d be having pancakes and pizza the next day.  Much more nonchalantly he was like, “Oh, yeah, I was named student of the month for being overall, very respectful.  What???  There is no way to be down, annoyed or overwhelmed when your kid gets rewarded for being respectful.  Especially when it’s THIS kid.  I cannot say it enough – We have come so far and he has accomplished so much.  It’s truly mind blowing.

Ace too had gotten a note from his teacher saying that he’d done a good deed and helped out a classmate who was sick.  *high five kiddo*

We took it easy on ourselves and threw some beef patties in the oven for dinner.  Jay was a little concerned about how many would be left after we all ate because they are his fave and he doesn’t really relish sharing them with the rest of us.

We teased each other about our feet and teeth and fat bellies.  (Don’t ask, just go with it).

It also turns out that some of us – ok I – have “thick thighs but dainty ankles“.  That thigh/ankle one was supposed to be a compliment – I think.

We laughed and hugged and did the things we do every night – take out clothes for the next day and brush teeth and sign school paperwork and answer questions about topics discussed in health class and then this morning everyone woke up healthy after a good nights sleep.

This is the normal, regular, every day stuff. This is the GOOD STUFF!


It’s Friday now.  Ace has more track and field activities this evening.  There’s tennis again tomorrow.  Shaunie and I are going to a show.  We lose an hour.  Laundry from 2 weeks ago needs to be folded and put away and we definitely need to go grocery shopping.  Looking ahead to next week; work will continue to be busy since my department is down one worker, there are dentist/doctor appointments that either need to be attended or rescheduled and Jay & I have a “Shake Your Shamrock” party to attend at his school.

The truth is though, I’m ready and looking forward to it all.  I recognize how fortunate I am to have this life I have.  Being tired just comes with the territory.

(Don’t call me on Sunday afternoon however, I’m gonna try to sneak in a nap.)


Finding Their Thing February 27, 2018

We’re still trying to find what the kids thing is.  That one extra curricular activity that they can excel at.  For some people it’s soccer, for some it’s an instrument for others it’s drama or art.


As a kid I did dance and brownies.  I took piano, I joined the Junior Red Cross, the 4H and the debate team.  I even spent time learning how to make lace by hand. *yawn*.  I was a cheer leader for like 2 days, I joined the track & field team because for some reason I thought I would be good at long jump.  NOT!  I still don’t have a thing.  I am more like the jack of all trades, master of none type and I wish it were different.  I wish I had one thing that I was good at.  A part of my issue is that the opportunities just weren’t there where I grew up.  I loved dance, but by 6th grade I had gotten to the point where if I wanted to learn more, my Grandparents would have had to drive me into Kingston (a one hour drive away) during the week after school and they weren’t willing to do that.  Another issue was that I am not musically inclined so while I had taken 8 years of piano, I was horrible.  The only thing I can play today is the C scale.  The sports that were easily accessed (track and netball) weren’t my strong suits.  I like to think my problem with netball was that I was kinda short; not that I lacked the athletic ability.  I think I would’ve enjoyed being on a swim team, but neither my school nor my home town had one of those.


So far, my boys have tried soccer and martial arts.  Both were a no-go.  We’ve checked out swim teams but the practice times don’t work for us.  The same with baseball.  Ace enjoyed being in the drama club and would love to audition for a role in the Spring play but it’s just not doable due to transportation issues.  He would need someone to pick him up at 4:30 and that’s not a commitment we can make.  Jay fortunately is able to be in his schools art club so that’s great for him.


Now we are trying tennis.  They meet on Saturday mornings at 9:30.  This we can handle.  I actually am a fan of tennis myself and make my way to a court whenever I can find a partner, (not that I’m very good but that has never stopped me before), so IF they like it and WHEN they get a little better at it, I would really enjoy playing with them.  So far, they’ve had one lesson and they both loved it.  It could be a really good event for them.  It takes a lot of energy and stamina – which they have.  It relies on individual effort, there’s little to no contact and they practice in small groups so they get some individual attention – which suits their personalities.  It doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment – which suits my pocket.


Wish us luck!


YP not MP February 22, 2018

Jay came home complaining about a fellow student.  They’d had a little tiff and the other student accused Jay of telling a lie.  The accusation hadn’t gotten Jay into any trouble but he really wanted to convince this kid that he was telling the truth. The kid wouldn’t budge and it really got to him.  Out of frustration, he began crying.  Then he felt embarrassed.

We had a talk about it.  I gave him some tips on how to handle a situation like that when it comes up again.   At first, he wasn’t sure that he had what it took to do what I was suggesting.  He is a sweet kid who thinks everyone should just be nice.

I talked to him about not letting other people have so much control of his emotions and about not letting people bully him or make him feel like his opinions matter less than theirs.


The next evening, after dinner, Shaunie asked him to clean up a mess that he had made.  He (jokingly) told her that he didn’t want to do it.  She reiterated that he needed to get it done.  His response:

That sounds like a YP, not an MP.”


She was shocked.  I keeled over laughing.

You see, I had told him that if someone doesn’t want to believe him even though he knows that he’s right, that’s their problem not his.  YP not MP = Your problem not my problem.


Clearly we needed to adjust his new found attitude a little and make sure that he understood that responses like that are only appropriate if he’s addressing his peers.  Still, I laughed about it the entire rest of the evening.


Yesterday, he came home and let me know that he’d had another back and forth with the same  kid and he felt like the kid was purposely trying to aggravate him.  Jay proudly told me that he didn’t get rattled.  He held his head up and just said, “You know what?  You don’t have any power over me” and walked away.


I may have created a little monster.  This little boy is really feeling himself now.  I couldn’t love it any more.


Representation Matters February 16, 2018

I remember sharing some of my stories with a friend several years ago – After she had poured out her heart to me about her father and his failings.


I haven’t spoken with my father in over 10 years.  At 10 and 11 years old, my children don’t know him.

The last time I saw my father I walked past him as he was standing in a line at the airport.  I said hi.  He said hi.  The end.  Later that same day, still at the airport, he went to the bathroom at the same time as my son – (I waited at the entrance since it was a male restroom) – They both exited at about the same time.  He went one way and my son and I went the other.  My son had no idea his grandfather had just been standing next to him at the urinal.

One year, back when we did have a relationship, he forgot my birthday and then called me to let me know that he had forgotten my birthday.  Thanks.

Years ago, I had stopped by his job one day to visit.  He introduced me to a coworker who was shocked to meet me.  The coworker had no idea that I existed.  At the time there was a picture of my 2 younger sisters sitting on my fathers desk.

The coworker: How many kids DO you have?

The father: Two.

The coworker: You mean three.

The father: Oh, you mean including this one?  Then yes, three.


I shared a few more with her, but you guys don’t need to hear them.  I’m not trying to put my father on blast here by sharing these things.  I am getting to a point.

My friend, upon hearing my stories responded with … “You wanna know something?  I never thought things like that happened in white families.  I always thought they lived perfect lives and didn’t have the same issues as black families.  The whole time I was growing up, I told myself that I either would never have children or I would only have children with a white man.”

Sorry to burst your bubble friend.


In her book, radio personality Danni Starr shares a story that includes the following passage:


I remember as a kid I would pretend I was invisible when black men were around me.  I would hold my breath, squeeze my eyes shut, and will myself invisible.  They scared me.  I wasn’t afraid of white men, and why would I be?  I saw them rescue people on Rescue 911, save lives on ER, report on the news …  The only times I ever saw black men were if they were wanted for committing a crime.  Representation matters!


There’s a reason that Davina Bennett became an international sensation when she was crowned Miss Jamaica Universe last year and then made it to the top 3 in the Miss Universe pageant.

Little black girls with tight curls had never seen someone like her being called the most beautiful woman in the world.  The goal for many of us has always been longer, straighter hair with fairer skin.  I was asked recently to send pictures of myself with my curls in full effect so that someone I know could show them to her daughter who was struggling with accepting her curly hair as being beautiful.  She’s 9 years old and already questioning her own gorgeousness.


I hear a lot of people saying things like … “Why do gay people have to be so open about their orientation; so public about their relationships?  No-one cares who you are sleeping with.

I know you’ve heard them.  “Just play your sport, perform in your show, manufacture our cell phones and be quiet.”

There are many reasons why those are flawed questions or statements.  But one of the main ones is that people DO care.  It’s still being argued whether or not gay people should be humans worthy of having all the same rights as straight people.  In many families, gay kids are still being kicked out onto the street.  Gay people face hurdles trying to get employment, adopt children, heck even trying to get a wedding cake that straight people do not have to face.  To young people, that matters.  If you spend your entire life hearing your family say how evil gayness is, or how hard of a life it is, that affects you and you begin to hate your very self.  This is not acceptable.  Self hate is a particularly cruel kind of hate because there is no escape from it.  It follows you everywhere in your mind, even in your dreams.

Just today, I read the blog post of a mom whose heart is breaking for her child – because his heart is broken.  As she says, “He’s not yet a sexual or romantic being”, yet she wrote a post titled “My 11 year old was just dumped by his best friend because he’s gay.”  It’s every bit as sad as you can imagine.  She’s not wrong to worry about him – And he is fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive family.


At times, C.J. was inconsolable. I watched him shivering on the couch and struggling to catch his breath between sobs. This is one of the reasons why some LGBTQ and gender expansive kids kill themselves. This is why some of them sink into depression, turn to drugs, drop out of school and participate in unsafe sexual situations. This is why some mothers with children like mine find their arms empty one day.

I worry that C.J. can’t take this kind of pain and rejection for years on end. He can’t have nights like this multiplied by seven more years of school and an infinite number of classmates who will hate him for who he loves and what he wears.


Seeing gay people just go about their normal lives is important.  It takes away the “scariness”.  Seeing happily married and monogamous same sex couples matters.  Seeing the Olympic figure skater, Adam Rippon be unapologetic about who he is, matters.  Seeing CEO’s be out and proud and still successful in their careers makes a difference and portraying gay TV characters in a way that is positive helps to shape young minds.  It  gives them permission to believe in themselves.  To believe that they too can one day can be something of value to their community.  They are not doomed to a life of drugs and prostitution and abuse.


I saw an interview recently in which Chadwick Boseman of the Black Panther movie was talking about the affect the movie was having on black children and how surprised he was by the reaction.  He choked up when he spoke about 2 little boys he met who had terminal cancer and who both said they just wanted to live long enough to watch the movie.

But it’s just a movie, he thought at first.  How could it possibly be that important to these kids and their families?  But then they told him it’s not just a movie.  It’s a movie, made by people who look like them, starring people who look like them, telling a story about people who look like them in a strong and powerful way.  The same was true of the importance of the movie Hidden Figures.  Seeing black girls overcome all the hatred that was thrown at them to still shine bright in their science and math fields changes the narrative in the minds of other young black girls about what’s possible for their own futures.


This weekend Black Panther opens up in the theaters and there’s been a lot of hype about it.  I have no reason to believe it does anything other than depict black people as being magnificent – No cussing, no naked women, no drug dealers or baby mommas.  You can bet I’ll be taking my boys to see it.  Because while you can find examples to support why a lot of the negative ideas about our community are true – It sure as hell is also true that we are smart and brave and good at science and articulate and those things need to be highlighted.

I don’t want my sons to ever have any self hate.  There will be enough of it coming from outside.  If one or both of them are gay, I don’t want them to ever feel badly about it or wonder if they are in fact evil or broken or worth less.  I don’t want them to have any doubts about their value as a friend or their ability to be valedictorian or a boss or an artist or an astronaut because of their brown skin.  I will expose them to as many different kinds of people as I can who are doing amazing things, so they can see that it’s what’s on the inside that counts the most.




On perfection and mistakes and luck February 13, 2018

I don’t actually hear from many people who I know in real life about anything having to do with my blog.  When I do though, it’s always them telling me how great of a mother I am and how proud they are of me.  It makes me feel good and I do think I am a good mother.  But I am not a perfect mother.  I think it’s important to say that.  And I don’t mean it in the “my laundry room is a mess” or “I fed my kids chocolate for dinner” kind of way.

I have written many times before about moments when I felt defeated or sad or angry or resentful.  Particularly in the early years of Jays autism diagnosis and then dealing with Ace’s ADHD right on the heels of Jays autism diagnosis.


There’s more though.

One time I took the kids to the park and Ace climbed a tree.  He got up easily but then was struggling to get back down.  I held my arms up and encouraged him to jump.  I promised him that I’d catch him.  My boy jumped from a branch that was about 7 feet off the ground and I missed him.  He fell right between my hands and hit the ground with a thud.  Thank God he was not seriously hurt.


There was the day that I got in my car and before driving off I looked in the back seat and my son was not there.  I was panicked.  I got out and ran around to the passenger side of the car only to see my baby, in his car seat, sitting on the curb where I had left him.  Can you imagine if I had actually driven off?


I have left my 3 month old with a sitter and then had too much to drink to comfortably drive him home.  Baby and I slept at the babysitters house that night.


One night, I got home only to find there were no parking spots close to our front door.  At the time we lived in an urban area with street parking only.  My sons are only one year apart and both were sleeping in their car seats.  It had been a long day, I was burnt out and my tank was just empty.  By the time I parked, I was running on fumes.  I did NOT want the kids to wake up, but I couldn’t carry them both, in their car seats, all the way inside at the same time.  In my desperation, I took Baby A, (leaving Baby B in the car by himself), walked down the street, left Baby A in the hallway of my building and then went back for Baby B.  I was moving as quickly as I could.  When Baby B and I got inside there was a young man standing there beside Baby A.  I was scared out of my mind.  Then he started yelling at me about how bad it was that I had left the baby there and that he had a mind to call the police and was asking me what kind of parent does that.  I didn’t have it in me to be reasonable with him.  I know he meant well.  I was glad that it was him, and not a kidnapper, who had come by, but, I just couldn’t deal.  I told him an expletive and brought both boys into our apartment and broke the hell down crying.


Being a parent is hard.  Being a parent by yourself is harder than you can imagine.  I have never and would never purposely put them in any danger, but I know that I’ve been just plain lucky that neither of my kids have been harmed.

None of us are guaranteed to always be right where we should be and no matter how hard we try, none of us will always get it exactly right.


Now that my boys are 10 and 11, we can have these kinds of talks.  I tell them all the time that mistakes are going to happen.  It’s not their job to be perfect.  It IS their job to always try their best and to do everything they can to not put themselves or anyone else in an unsafe position.  I tell them that it’s never bad or wrong to ask for help if you need it.  Whether that has to do with school work or something medical or whatever.  I tell them that no matter how much it may seem that other people have it all together, no-one has it all together all the time.  Not even the tall, charming, straight A’s, sporty, confident middle schooler with the stay at home mom who is always available for pick ups no matter what activity the kid wants to do and the sibling who is just as charming, smart and confident.

I tell them that we need to learn from our mistakes.  Also that some mistakes are easier to move past than others.  Some last a lifetime.  Anything you put online will last FOREVER.  AIDS is FOREVER.  And much like I did when I slept at the sitters house instead of driving my infant home, when possible, you have to recognize a mistake before it happens.  It is not weak to stop something before it’s too late, no matter how down to the wire you are.  I teach them to listen to their gut.  I teach them to apologize when they are wrong.  Most of all, I tell them that no matter what, they can always call on me.

When I think about it, it’s terrifying to even consider what mistakes my kids will make – and there will be some.  But I just hope that they are smart enough and just lucky enough to not make any mistakes that are beyond repair.


Passing The Baton February 12, 2018

The first Olympics I remember having any interest in was held in Calgary Canada.  It was 1988 and I was 11 years old.  It was a winter Olympics and of all countries, my little Jamaica was competing in Bobsled.  It was big news and very exciting stuff.

Still on the bobsled high, I spent that same summer watching the Olympics in Seoul South Korea.  For the 2 weeks (or so), every evening, my Grandad and I would sit and watch elite athletes compete in track and field events, in swimming, in cycling, in gymnastics.  You know.

4 years later, in 1992 we would watch both those Olympics together also.  Him in his big brown chair.  Ashtray on the side table to his right.  Whiskey glass on the side table to his left.  I would sit in the little yellow chair.  Feet up on the ottoman.  Strawberry milk in my Wee Willy Winky cup.


*Quick Note* Did you know that the winter and summer Olympics used to be held in the same years?  Yup.  The last time that happened was in 1992.  2 years later, they would have another winter Olympics and from then on, they would have the games on separate four-year cycles; alternating even-numbered years.


By the time the winter Olympics made its way to Lillehammer Norway in 1994 I was living in the US and I was on my own to watch it.  I missed my Grandad and his commentary.  I missed us getting excited for Jamaicas races and I missed us arguing over who to cheer for in all the disciplines that Jamaica was NOT participating in.  He was a sucker for a pretty girl.  I was a sucker for an under- dog.

I tucked into myself and watched though.  It was one experience from “home” that I could still have.  That was the year of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.  When we spoke about it, Grandad and I agreed that while Nancy had been thrown a wicked curve ball, Oksana Baiul was amazing and deserved her win.


Fast forward to 2018.  The winter Olympics are happening right now.  There’s tension between North and South Korea.  Our VP is twitter fighting with an American figure skater.  Jamaica again has a bobsled team – Women this time.  Not only that but we also have a guy in skeleton.  There are young people winning gold medals who are plenty young enough to be my kids.

My boys have been watching with me.  Ace at 11, watched most of the opening ceremony.  I sent him to bed after USA made their entrance.  The next day we spent a lot of time watching Luge and biathlon and speed skating and snow boarding.  These are all new sports to them.  I gave tid bits of information about rules or customized equipment or scoring.  For their part, my boys are Team USA all the way – Except for bobsled.  Kind of.  They are still Team USA but they would be happy if Jamaica did well also.

Last night, Jay and I were snuggling on the couch.  Olympics were on.  Then he said “Mom, I love watching the Olympics with you.”  Oh sweetheart, I love watching with you too.


Who knows, maybe in the summer of 2048, I’ll be 71 and I’ll be watching the games with my son and my 11 year old Grandchild.  Maybe my son will be the one saying “Oh that’s the flag of Norway” or explaining why Greece always parades out first or passing on the knowledge that Australia wears green and yellow in honour of their national flower instead of the red, white and blue of their flag.  Who knows?  It may never happen; But it’s a nice thought.