Life On The B Side

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

On Advocacy August 15, 2018

Just a little light bed time conversation at 8:20pm on a random Tuesday.

 

Me: How was your day honey?

 

Jay: I had pizza. The other kids had tacos but I don’t like tacos so I got pizza.

 

Me: How do you feel about that?  That you got to have pizza but the other kids had to have the tacos?

 

Jay: I feel lucky.

 

Me: Did any of the other kids say anything to you about it?

 

Jay: Well, Aiden asked me how come I got pizza and I told him it’s because I have a card that says if they are serving food I don’t like I can have something else.  I told him I got the card because my mom got it for me and maybe he should ask his mom to get him one.

 

Me: Do you know what it’s called when you ask for what you want because it’s something you deserve; not just something you’d like to have?

 

Jay:  No.

 

Me: Advocacy.  I advocated for you to get that card because I know that you are not just choosing to be difficult with the food.  You have a right to get other options.  Just like kids who are in wheelchairs have a right to have ramps installed.

 

Jay (rolling the word around his tongue): Avocacy.  Like, I can avodicacy for anything I want.

 

Me: Well, it’s best if you save it for something really meaningful and like I said, something that you are entitled to.  Not just something you WANT.  And you have to know that it’s not always as easy as me asking for a card for you.  Sometimes you’ll get what you ask for and sometimes you won’t and sometimes you’ll get denied at first and then you’ll have to try again and again before you get it.  It can be hard but it’s very important that we all learn how to advocate for ourselves so we can be safe and well taken care of and fully included.  And it’s also important that we learn how to advocate for other people who can’t do it for themselves and may need our help.  Do you understand?

 

Jay: Yes. I am going to tell Aiden to avo avo avocate for himself next summer so he can get pizza too.

 

 

 

*I don’t think he quite gets it – yet.  It’s all about the pizza right now.  That’s perfectly ok. But I want to plant the seeds early so he will grow up in the knowledge that his needs are worth fighting for and that it’s not wrong to advocate for your rights.

Advertisements
 

Sportsmanship August 14, 2018

Sunday was a beautiful day.  Warm and sunny.  Perfect for a trip to the pool with the kiddies.

Until it wasn’t.

We got there at about 3:30 pm and by 3:50 we were being ushered out of the water by the lifeguard due to thunder and lightning in the area.

We gathered our belongings and trekked it back across the parking lot to our house.  As we did so we discussed what we’d  do once we were showered and pajama’d.  We still wanted to have family time so we decided on a movie.  We’d spread a big blanket out on the living room floor and have snacks while we watched.

20 minutes later we lost power due to a serious storm that blew in.  I’m talking black skies, trees blown down and thunder and lightning loud and bright enough to even make me jump and I’m typically not bad at handling storms.

There was nothing left to do but play board games.  The last time we had played a game we went with Monopoly (Ace’s choice), so this time we opted for Jays favourite of Pictionary.

 

Games are tricky for Jay.  And by extension, they are tricky for anyone playing with him.

 

He LOVES playing.

He HATES losing.

 

He was in a great mood when we set up.  We chose our partners; Me and Jay vs. Ace and Shaunie.  I rolled the die and were off.  Jay was to draw “laughing gas”.  Truth be told he did a fabulous job of it, but I wasn’t able to get it.  I took all the blame,  lavished praise on him for what a good job he’d done and we handed the die to our opponents.  The first thing Shaunie had to draw was a raccoon.  Jay was toppling over in fits of laughter before she put pen to paper.  He’s awesome at drawing animals and from prior games that we’ve played, he knows she’s … ahm … not awesome.  🙂

And so we continued for a while, having a great time laughing at each others attempts at drawing things like “face lift” and “loud” and “spend” and “yacht”.

Shaunie and Ace began to pull away from us though and Jays mood began to shift.  He was not pleased that I couldn’t guess his “record” and instead of laughing at me for not being able to properly draw a “hospital”, he just got mad.  I did guess “picnic” correctly but that was an all play round and Ace’s “tree” helped push me to get the correct word.  Since it’s pretty much established that Jay is the artist of the family, he did not take kindly to that.

 

We all tried to be as patient with his mood and attitude as we could be and I said all the things I needed to say.  I tried to engage him in laughing at Shaunie and Ace’s failed attempts at drawing and guessing.   I told him that he couldn’t get upset just because we were losing and that the game wasn’t over yet so we still had a chance and that you win some and you lose some …………………… blah blah blah.

Jay kept saying yes he understood. But he was not pleased and there was no hiding it.

Ace looked like he wanted to roll his eyes.  Not at me.  At the situation.  He’s 12 years old.  He doesn’t always have tolerance for his brother ruining good things.  He’s had a lot of it in his life.

 

Jay is like that at school also.  He often comes home with stories of being bullied.  I want to take his tales at face value but I also know that what he interprets as bullying could easily be:

 

They’re playing a game of dodgeball and someone hits him.  He gets angry about being out so takes a stand and doesn’t leave the court.  The other kids start yelling at him that he’s out and needs to go sit on the sidelines.  He yells back telling them that they are being mean and accuses them of bullying.

They’re playing a game of musical chairs and he makes it to the final 2 but in the end the other kid gets the final chair.  Someone celebrates the other child by saying … “Yay, you’re the winner” and Jay gets mad because what he hears is that he’s the loser so then he starts yelling at the kid complaining that the kid is being mean to him and calling him names.

Not bullying.

 

I know there’s some sore loser in all (or most) kids.  Of course it feels better to be the winner.  But Jay takes it to the extreme.  Like so many other things in his life.  It’s all or nothing.

 

I don’t know how to help him manage these emotions.  I don’t want to threaten that we’ll stop playing with him.  I don’t think that’s the way.  Just like I didn’t think avoiding restaurants or museums was the way to go when he was a tantrumming toddler.  Now we don’t have any of those worries.

I also won’t just let him win.  That’s not fair to Ace or anyone else playing and it’s simply just not my style to do that.

I can see how playing with him can look less than appealing to other people though.  As much as it breaks my heart to say this, I wouldn’t blame other kids if they didn’t want to invite or include him.

 

Any tips/tricks you can offer would be appreciated.  In the mean time, I’ll just keep doing what I always do.

Stick with it.  Play games.  Stay calm as he gets more and more agitated.  Encourage him to keep trying.  Explain to him for the 4238437th time what it means to be a good sportsman and how he can’t/won’t always win so he just needs to understand that and not be a grouch about it.

 

In the end, we did eke out a win in the Pictionary game so, for that day at least, a Jay sized crisis was averted.

 

The Knowing – Part 2 August 10, 2018

< Read part 1 here >

 

One small thing at a time honey.”

 

That’s what I commented a few days ago on a friends Facebook post.  She was sharing that she felt drained and overwhelmed by how difficult life was at the moment.

 

One small thing at a time.  That’s what helps me.  Even though it doesn’t FEEL small when you get up to do it.

 

One day, I made the phone call I was supposed to have made days earlier.

I also made arrangements for the boys trip to New Jersey.

Whew.

I went home and went to bed early.  That’s what I needed that day after doing the difficult task of working all day AND making 2 phone calls.

The next day, as soon as I got home from work, I grabbed the hooks and put that picture right back on the wall where it belonged.

Something inside me exhaled a little.

The mountain still loomed large ahead of me but I’d taken that first couple of steps.

One small thing at a time.

 

I rescheduled the dentist appointment.  That one I just couldn’t do.  I know my mental limits.  I’ll try again next month.

I washed dishes and moved the vacuum cleaner from beside the dining room table to the “cleaning supplies/tools” nook.

 

As I crossed things off the list, my chest felt lighter.

Shaunie asked me what I was going to do next.  “Put clean sheets on the guest bed” I said.  She replied.  “I’ll do it“.

Upstairs, I put a couple shirts in a drawer and the handbags that were lounging beside the bed went back to their rightful position.

Exhale.

On my way out the door headed to work, I picked up the politicians flyer that had been thrown onto my lawn and used it to dust away cobwebs that had formed between the light and the spigot attached to the house.

Small things.  They help.

 

As of the publishing of this post, I am back to “normal”.  The kids are home from spending 2 weeks with their Grandma.  The house is pretty tidy although we haven’t done any unpacking from all our travels so there are 8(!) pieces of luggage packed into the den.  We haven’t done any of that laundry either.  I’m not worried about it at all though.  I’m glad it’s the weekend and we don’t have any set plans.  We will probably end up going to the movies or something equally chill.  I am really looking forward to next weekend since we will be hanging out with friends and family from all over.

 

~*~

 

I recognize that my anxiety is not as crippling as other peoples.

I do not take it for granted that I have the ability to recognize my emotions for what they are.  I know better than to make big decisions while I am in that state.

*Thankfully (and maybe because I know myself so well now) the moments of being down pass more quickly than they used to.*

I do not take it for granted that I am fairly good at dealing with my brain in a healthy way.  Never turning to drugs or other dangerous habits.

I do not take for granted that I am lucky to have a supportive and understanding partner.  She’s never dismissive or condescending.

I have gotten better at leaving a space open for love to seep in.

I know there was a line in part 1 where I said “How can I explain it to her?” … But she knows the full me.  Before I ever hit publish on Part 1, I sent it to Shaunie.  In the past, I would have held it all inside.  Progress.

Truth be told, I didn’t plan to or think I would ever hit publish on it.

But here we are.

I still wonder if I am being too open.

 

 

I hope that if nothing else, my writing helps others to know they are not alone.  I hope it makes people see that there’s no shame in doing what you need to do to keep your self sane.

I hope that people see that even though it’s scary to be vulnerable, it makes a huge difference when you let it be known that you need help and when you allow yourself to be helped.  Whether that help is in the form of talking to a professional therapist, or taking a daily prescription medication, or just letting a caring and concerned loved one know that you need a break so they cook you dinner and don’t give you a hard time about wasting time on frivolous TV.  Whatever you actually need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Knowing – Part 1 August 9, 2018

When things get hard, when they are complicated, I get quiet. I curl inward. That doesn’t mean my brain, soul and heart shut off. It means they are working overtime.

< Lori Duron – https://raisingmyrainbow.com/2018/08/06/one-mom/ >

 

 

Therapist:  So, what brings you here today?

Me:  I don’t know.  I just feel overwhelmed.  With my life.

 

That was how my very first therapy session started.  It was the spring of 2013.

At the time, I had a job that I wasn’t happy at.  Pretty much no money.  A 7 year old with not-yet-diagnosed ADHD who was struggling in school.  A 6 year old whose autism had a choke-hold on us.  The relationships with my husband, father, mother and grandfather varied from shitty to non-existent.  I had curled inward : away from my friends.  I felt very alone.

I couldn’t catch my breath.

I didn’t go to therapy thinking there was anything they could do or say to “fix” my life.  I mean really.  What could they do about any of the things I was anxious about or overwhelmed by?  But also, what other choice did I have?  I had to try something.  Giving up has never been an option for me.  I suppose that’s a good thing.

 

I ended up going to 5 sessions then.   Five weeks is how long it took me to realize life boiled down to 2 things.

  1. Sometimes things suck and you just have to get to a place where you accept that and stop looking for/hoping for/expecting different.  And move on.
  2. Some things – like your job and your marriage – can change. How much are YOU willing to accept before YOU make steps towards making that change?  And move on?

 

Knowing those 2 things doesn’t prevent anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed by what most people would consider minor issues, from stopping by uninvited.

 

 

Summer 2018.

Shaunie:  What’s wrong?  You got quiet.

Me:  I’m just in a funk.

 

How do I explain it to her?  She’s a “fixer”.  But there’s no easy fix when depression creeps in.  You know all the things.

You know it could be worse.

You know there are people who love you.

You know you have lots of reasons to be happy and grateful.

You know if you ask her to do something specific she will make it happen.

 

You also know she’s dealing with her own schtuff and the last thing she needs is you adding to her plate a bunch of “to-do’s” that will ease you to some extent but won’t magically “un-funk” you so there’s no point in putting her through that.

 

The problem isn’t in the knowing though.  It’s in the feeling.

I feel on the verge of tears often.

I feel exhausted just thinking about the things I need to do.

I feel resentful of people who have even one thing that I want. (Eg. A short commute.)

I feel badly about myself because I take these feelings out on the people who least deserve it.

 

Everything feels like a huge problem and like it will take energy I don’t have.  The house needs tidying up.  I feel fat.  I look old.  I have to renew my license.  The kids need new passports (we didn’t get it done 2 weeks ago like we were supposed to).  I need to catch up on over 200 work emails.  I have a phone call to a sick friend I’m supposed to make.  I need to make arrangements with the kids dad for him to see them again before the summer is out.  I got an email saying my credit score had dropped.  I don’t know why and I can’t bring myself to investigate.  Not today anyway.  Maybe tomorrow.  I always have another dentist appointment scheduled.   And I always know that the next one won’t be the last one.  I am SO OVER THE DENTIST.  And you mean, I need to stop at the gas station and fill up the car?  Ugh!

 

No, I don’t want tea or to laugh or to exercise.  I love her so much for seeing me.  For trying without being pushy or annoyed.  For wanting to be whatever I need in that moment.  But all I want is to curl up in bed.  It’s all I can manage.  That’s what feels easy.  Doable.

We cuddle and I fall asleep.

But I can’t live in bed.  I have to shower and go to work and make phone calls and wash dishes and hang back up that picture that fell off the wall.

 

Ace starts 7th grade in September.  I am not too worried about that.  It’s his second year of middle school and last year went pretty well.  He has a cell phone now, thanks to his Grandma, so I will have to figure out some rules around his use of it as well as install some parental controls.  But that, thankfully, is at least one thing I can put off for a little while.  They don’t come back home for a little while.

Jay.

My heart constricted a little when I typed his name.  For the last couple of years, I had not fretted about the start of the new school year.  But he’s going into 5th grade which will be his last year of elementary school.  I cannot handle the thought of him leaving that environment.  Elementary school felt safe for him.  His teachers, the mostly innocent and friendly and understanding kids, the easy routine.  Middle school will be different.  Totally different set of students as none of his current friends will attend the same middle school as him.  Different school staff who don’t know and love him yet.  Totally different daily routine.  Different expectations.  Different with Jay is scary.  Why am I already stressing about next year?  I don’t know.

 

Things will settle down soon enough.  I will get over these feelings eventually.  My thoughts will become rational again.  I KNOW this because I’ve been down this road before.  More than once.  The feelings will pass as smoothly as they came.  And in this case, the knowing is the force holding me together and the best of life jackets.

 

 

~ Don’t worry about me.  I’m fine.  Part 2 to follow soon ~

 

*Edited to add the link for part 2 —> Here

 

On Cuba – Mostly August 6, 2018

Today I started seeing “first day of school” posts online.

WHAT???  Already?

 

I do NOT want the summer to come to an end.  There are still so many things I want to do.  I haven’t even spent that much fun time with my boys.  Between them being in New Jersey for 2 weeks and me working and then them being in Florida for 2 weeks, our quality time has been limited.

The kids aren’t the only ones who’ve been traveling though.  We just came back from a fabulous trip.  One day in the Bahamas, two days in Cuba and then five days in the Dominican Republic.

 

Let’s see ……

The Bahamas – It was OK.  Nothing special.

 

Cuba – left me conflicted.  As a tourist, I could appreciate the fact that the architecture on many of the buildings is stunning.  Havana is alarmingly charming and whimsical.  It feels more like a movie set than the actual real world.  Very “old world”.  There is just something untainted and innocent about the city.  The streets are super clean and there is very little crime and the people are friendly and the coffee is magnificent.  The little yellow *taxi’s are so cute  and the plethora of 1950’s cars are super cool.  There is live music on many street corners and numerous places to unwind and just chill; whether that means sipping a mojito or just people watching.  It’s very laid back.  And of course, if smoking cigars is your thing, there’s no better place to be.  There is a vibrant art scene and artisan chocolates.  The narrow cobblestone streets lined with balcony’s full of flowers make for great photos.  Even the perfume shop is worth experiencing even if you don’t actually buy anything.

BUT – and this is a big but – All that goodness comes at a very steep price.  A price that most Cubans (and I) don’t think is worth paying.  That of their freedom.

Food is rationed.  Most modern technology is lacking.  There’s no access to TV stations or shows from other countries, there’s virtually no internet and they cannot make simple decisions about their day to day lives – To travel for vacation, to speak to friends and family in other countries, even something as small as to grow fruits or vegetables in their own back yards.  EVERYTHING IS REGULATED/CONTROLLED/OWNED by the government.

 

I know that no country is perfect.  In the USA, hundreds of families literally go bankrupt every year due to medical bills and there are levels of stress surrounding college debt or affording child care that Cubans cannot fathom.  We worry about our kids being shot in school and the traffic is enough to drive anyone insane.  People are expected to work way too hard and take way too little time off.

Knowing all that though, I still choose freedom.

 

For me, it was worth going and I would have liked to have about 2 more days there to explore/learn.  Ultimately, I will say that I loved it there.  But I do say that with a very guilty pit in my stomach.  Much of what I loved about it, is only possible because the people are so oppressed and I feel sad about that.

*p.s.  Shaunie had a slightly different take.  She’s glad we went and is happy for the experience since it was so different from anywhere either of us had ever been before, BUT she had a harder time putting the obvious poverty/struggles of the locals aside to fully enjoy the good parts of what Cuba had to offer and has no interest in going back.*  I totally understand that.

 

Now that I’ve spent all that time talking about Cuba, I’ll only give a quick couple of lines about the Dominican Republic.  We were there for 2 of our best friends wedding and the wedding was wonderful.  So beautiful and fun.  As for the rest of the country, it was fine.  We had a good time.  However, since I am Jamaican I wasn’t overwhelmed by anything that the DR had to offer.  I don’t mean that as an insult.  I just mean to say there is nothing there that Jamaica doesn’t also have (besides all the Spanish speakers 🙂 ).  All-inclusive hotels, pretty beaches, locals asking you to buy their souvenirs or to braid your hair, excursions that take you out on boats or to ride dune buggies.

I’ll say this though – It’s better than being at work that’s for sure.

 

I hope all of you have been having a good summer.  I’ll be back to write more another time.  Xoxo always.

 

 

Cuban taxi – Yeah – For real.

taxi

 

#tbt Jamaica Post July 19, 2018

On June 20th, I landed in Kingston Jamaica.  I meant to write about it a long time ago but never did.  Think of this as a #tbt post.  🙂

Of course, when I got back everyone asked how the trip was.  That’s tough to answer because I was there to support Shaunie at her Grandfathers funeral and to see my ailing Aunt.

I love going there though – No matter the reason.  At this point, I have lived in the US longer than I lived there but it will never not be home.

It’s the place where my Aunts car got brazenly stolen out of her driveway and it ended up taking about two months just for her to get the police report – so I had to ask a friend to come pick me up from the airport.

It’s the place where the friend was late to pick me up.  Even though I had told him an earlier time than I really needed because I knew he’d be late.  I say that with so much love.

 

But it’s also the place where the fruit is the juiciest and you can always find someone willing to help you if you just ask.

My pictures show me posed up at the brand new (and the only) Starbucks on the island; yummy frappuccino in hand.  They show me grinning next to long-time friends while the sun shines down on us, sipping on blended drinks beside a pool and leaned up against a coconut tree surrounded by gorgeous flowers.  There is even video of us enjoying a ride on a floaty device being pulled by a speed boat.

 

In the beautiful hills of St Ann, as a family, we went for walks and ate fish and cleaned ackee and argued over who ate the last of the mangoes – and worked hard getting the hall ready for the hundreds of people who would show up for the memorial service.

It was a long, but lovely service and it was abundantly clear just how loved Mr N was and how much he’d be missed.  In the front section that was marked off just for family, there were about 80 of us, representing 5 generations, from all over the world, and all wearing royal blue.

The following day we all went to the beach – to exhale.

Sun and sand and the ocean and boat rides and dolphin shows and drinks and the laughter of children are healing.

 

 

It’s unfortunate that it takes things like funerals to bring people together.  It was wonderful that we could all get together.

I hated to see my Aunty like that.  She looked so delicate.  Every time she got up to walk it gave me anxiety because I was so worried that she’d fall and hurt herself.  Again.

Any time with her is incredibly precious and it brings us both so much joy and comfort.  As hard as it was to leave, I was happier that I had seen her at all and filled her in on all our adventures and gone shopping with her and hugged her and laughed with her and scolded her for trying to do too much and enjoyed world cup matches with her and prayed with her.

 

I don’t know when I’ll go to Jamaica again.  There are no plans in the works.  Both the boys passports have expired though and I know that the next time I go, I’d like them to go also.  The paperwork is all filled out and we’re gonna go renew the passports this weekend – so they’ll be ready.

Plus, the in-laws are moving to the Virgin Islands so I’m sure we’ll want to go there soon.

The very next trip we take will be an actual vacation.  I can’t wait.  The boys are going to spend 2 1/2 weeks in Florida with my Mom and Shaunie and I are going on a cruise and then right to the Dominican Republic for a friends wedding.  So exciting!  It will be a nice respite from all the other craziness happening around us.  Stuff with this damn government and stuff with Jay and stuff with loved ones.  Nope.  Not gonna go there.  Let’s go back to thinking about my upcoming vacay.  Yup.  Much nicer.

Talk to you soon.

 

Have you ever? July 9, 2018

 

Have you ever had your son beg you to take him to iHOP because he loves their pancakes

So you wake up on Saturday morning and tell everyone to get ready because you’re all going to iHop

And then you get there and everyone places their order

But as the conversations flow

You realize you’ve been watching your older son who is sitting across from you

And you are keenly aware of how chiseled his face now is

And you keep thinking about how in no time at all, he’ll be a teenager and then an adult

But you brush those thoughts aside and just enjoy the quality, no electronics, family time

Then your son, who you were just willing to stay young and carefree and happy and innocent

Tells you that he’d like to get his ears pierced

And you are jolted out of your thoughts

So you take a moment before you respond that you are not comfortable with him getting his ears pierced just yet

Then you feel your eyes begin to fill with water

And you know you are being a bit dramatic

But you simply cannot help it

And since you know at this point there’s no stopping the tears

You put it on the table yourself by saying “Look at me, I’m gonna cry

And the other people at the table look at you in bewilderment because they don’t understand why talking about ear piercing is making you cry

But you know

And you decide you are not going to be embarrassed by it

So you grab a napkin and wipe your tears away

All while your wife and son are joking with each other about how weird you are

But your younger son, who is sitting beside you, puts his head in your lap

And you rub his head and revel in the sweetness of his gesture

As you try to finish your eggs, pancakes and toast

Which you eventually do

So then after paying the bill, you all walk out

And the older child puts his arm around you

Causing you to again get choked up as you hug him extra tight and kiss the top of his head

Realizing that soon he’ll be the same height as you

Even though you weren’t aware of any growth spurt that he’d had recently

And then he totally takes your breath away when he says, “It’ll be ok Mom, I will always be your baby

And you want to hold onto that moment forever

But you know you cannot

Because children were not made to be held hostage by their parents

They were made to fly

And as hard as it is

You know you will grease his wings for him when it’s time

And even though you may not know exactly how long it will take

You do know it’s a matter of time before you will either crack and give him permission to pierce his ears

Or he will get to a point where he’s old enough to do it without your permission

So you sit in the car and don your sunglasses

And in that moment it feels like they are the only thing protecting you from everything???

 

 

No?  That’s never happened to you?

Oh.

Well, that’s never happened to me either.