Life On The B Side

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

One Week In – The Middle School Version September 12, 2017

He was the same person on September 5th (the first day of school) that he was one day earlier on September 4th which will henceforth be known as BMS (Before Middle School), yet things were totally different.

Yes, he is the same person but parenting him is different.

On day 1, I made a plan to go to work late so I could walk him to the bus stop.  It was his first time taking the bus after all.  As we turned the corner we saw the other children at the end of the block already waiting – with nary a parent in sight.    I had to stop walking and bid my boy goodbye before the other children noticed us.  As I watched him walk away, he got smaller and smaller.   He made his way to the curb where he would wait and I saw that it wasn’t all in my head.  He was at least a whole head shorter than all the other students.  It was hard turning my back and walking in the opposite direction.  I never had to do that BMS.

On day 2 the students were assigned their lockers and Ace was given a top locker but he’s not from a family loaded with tall genes so he couldn’t reach it and they had to swap him with another, taller, student.  He’s still not quite grown.  Yet, he was so excited about the freedom he now has to roam the hallways in between each class.  We talked about how it’s now his responsibility to get to all his classes on time and to collect, from his locker, whatever books he will need to bring home in order to complete homework.  None of this was an issue BMS.

3 days in, I was getting questioned on whether or not he can take a cell phone to school because he is apparently the ONLY one who does not have a phone.  He was asking if friends could come home on the bus with him after school.  (Ahm, no. Friends can’t come over when no adult is home and we need to get their parents contact info – Same as BMS.)  After just 3 days, he was asking that we not wake him up so early in the morning and he’s taking it upon himself to make his own dinner.  Mind you, it’s microwave mac and cheese but still.

 

I believe there’s an upcoming school dance, which I’m sure parents are not invited to.  I know they will have teacher chaperones but I don’t remember going to a “no parents allowed” school dance until I was in (the equivalent of) 9th grade.  He’s getting jokes now that he didn’t used to get and he’s more concerned with how his outfits look and his little brother is no longer allowed into the bathroom with him at any time.

 

All these developments make my brain go a little haywire.  I think about the time I went to a school dance and had promised to meet my Grandma in front of the school by 11pm but I was too busy on the dance floor to notice the time and the next thing I knew, my Grandma was there, in our auditorium, looking for me.  How embarrassing!!!

It’s a good memory (now), and I love getting those triggers, but it makes it very real to me that this time with my Ace is going to go by very quickly.  Looking back at it now, my teenage years FELT like the longest ever at the time, but they were over in a flash.

I think about the lyrics to a song from the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack where his mom sings to him:

 

And I knew there would be moments that I’d miss
And I knew there would be space I couldn’t fill
And I knew I’d come up short a billion different ways
And I did
And I do
And I will

 

He’s growing up and the truth is, even though it’s scary at times, I do love to watch it happen.    He’s the same person, but now that he’s in middle school, it’s calling for a different kind of parenting.  I will try to do it all right.  But I haven’t.  And I don’t.  And I won’t.  All I can do is my best and hopefully he will look back and say his memories are good ones.

 

*Note*  He’s one week in and he says it’s been great.  He swears that Middle School is better than Elementary School and much to his own amazement, he thinks he will enjoy History class.

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Phone Calls September 6, 2017

Last week Thursday I got a phone call.

It was not a call that I wanted to receive.

My Aunt had been hospitalized.

I was sad and worried – But mostly concerned about her and her comfort.

I spent the weekend either calling or anxiously waiting to receive a call to get updates.

Good news! – She was treated and released.

I am still worrying because I know she will not follow the doctors orders to relax.  It’s not who she is.

It’s hard being an immigrant and living in a different country from your loved ones and not having easy access to help them.

 

Last week Friday I got a phone call.

It was not a call that I anticipated.

The boys step mom was in the hospital – Getting ready to have her babies.

That call altered/canceled any plans we had.

We had to go pick my boys up late at night and prepare a bed for them.

I got to see them sooner than I expected which made my heart happy.

Good news! – Everyone is doing well and my sons now have twin sisters which they are very excited about.

The new mom is an immigrant and all her family live in another country.  I’m sure that’s not easy for her.  I hope she gets the support she will need; one way or the other.

 

Last Sunday I made a call that I did not want to make.  911.

Shaunies Grandma needed to be taken to the hospital.

We were scared and worried.

We had to cancel plans to attend an engagement party/bbq for good friends and instead spent the weekend making sure that she was as comfortable as possible.

Good news! – She was treated and released.

We still worry because she’s home alone quite often and is not good about letting someone know when she’s not feeling well.

If necessary we are only a 4 1/2 hour drive away.

“Only” is relative when it’s your Grandma who you love more than anything and she needs you.

 

Last Sunday was Ace’s birthday.

We made the best of it – Even though much of it was spent at a hospital – And we had to cancel plans for him to see Nanas.

Shaunie brought home a cake just as the kids were going to bed but they were allowed to stay up and have some.

We made a plan to take him to an amusement park.  His choice of an activity.

He received calls and messages from family and friends near and far.

He received more cash gifts than ever before and more gifts yet are on their way.

I expected him to hear from all the people who should love him – and he did hear from most – but there was one phone call that never came.  That message was received loud and clear.

I am disappointed but he’s fine.  He knows who his family is and that it often has nothing to do with blood.

 

Being Mothered August 28, 2017

As soon as I saw the title of the following post by Mary Tyler Mom, I knew I would love it.

(You can click the link to read her post) –>  i-miss-being-mothered 

 

Oh how I understand that feeling.  I’ve thought this many times over the years, as I’m sure other people have as well.  I just don’t recall ever seeing someone write about it.  Missing your mom, or in my case, your Grandma as a person, is different from missing being mothered.  As Mary says, “I have no shame in admitting I miss being on the receiving end of things I can only hope I am providing my boys.”

My mother is alive but she never mothered me.  That was my Grandma’s job and she passed away when I was 22 years old.  Prior to that I had already been living in a different country than her for about 5 years.  I wasn’t mothered for nearly long enough.

I missed everything about my Grandma during the years that I was living here in the USA and she was in Jamaica.  But during the long months away, I would look forward to seeing her again and having her answer my innumerable questions about life.  It was a treat when she cooked something just for me because she knew I loved it.  I would bring home clothes that needed mending and she would fix them for me; even though I was fully capable of doing it myself.

In one of our last conversations, I remember making a point of telling her how well I was doing and how happy I was.  I wanted her to know that I was ok.  I wanted her to go in peace and not to be worrying about me.  But I wasn’t ok and I needed her.

I never got to try on wedding dresses with her or ask her how she managed with 2 young boys.  I didn’t have her to call when I was feeling sad or overwhelmed or just needed to know that someone was in my corner.

I miss her holding me in the crook of my elbow as we cross the street, even though I know how to look left, right and then left again.  I miss her reminding me of all the things I need to remember.  I miss having someone who I can go to for a few extra dollars and someone who I can ask to draw the clothes design ideas that come into my head.  I miss having her be my alarm clock.  I hate the aggressive beep beep beep of an alarm and as long as she was around she never forced that on me.  Instead, she would come into my room and gently say my name and rub my shoulder until I woke.  She wrapped my school books and dug prickles out of my foot.  Now I have to dig my own damn prickles out.  (Maybe I should stop waking around bare-footed).  I miss her washing all my clothes before I leave Jamaica to come back to the States so that I don’t have to deal with a ton of dirty laundry fresh off a vacation.  (Although my Aunty J does that for me now).  I miss her brushing my hair as we watch TV.  I even miss her forcing me to do things I don’t want to do, but should do.  From graduations to promotions to receiving awards to finally finishing a craft project, no-one will ever be as proud of you as the one who mothers you.

She was just always there with a smile and a hug and a willing ear.  She was a back rubber and a hand holder and a forehead kisser.  She was a willing guinea pig if I baked something and a willing audience if I wrote a song and a willing partner if I wanted to play a board game.

 

It’s very lonely growing up without that.  There are so many things that mothers and daughters are suppose to share.  I see the comments on Facebook.  Moms liking and cheering on everything their kids post.  It makes me feel good to see it.  I hear the stories from my friends.

“My parents came by this weekend and my mom cleaned out my linen closet.”  

“I went shopping with my mom and she bought me 2 dresses.”

“Thanks for the compliment but I didn’t do that.  My mom planted those flowers.”

“My mom took the kids to the movies so I could get a mani/pedi.”  

“My daughter asked to have a ‘sleepover’ with me in my bed so when I woke up in the middle of the night I went and got her so she could wake up next to me.”

 

I think it’s lovely.

 

I get lots of other things.  I get Auntied.  I get friended and I get wifed.  This post would never end if I mentioned all the ways that people carry me through life and how grateful I am for all of it.

 

I do still wish I had had more time getting mothered though.  That’s not something that anyone can replace.

 

Get You Somebody Who: August 24, 2017

Filed under: Family,Marriage — The B Side @ 12:02 pm
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As much as I get on her case sometimes, I do love the USA.  I love travelling around her and taking in all the natural beauty and seeing the diverse cultures and eating new foods.  There is so much to do and to see.

Our newest USA adventures took us to Alabama and Tennessee.  2 states I’d never been to before.  That brings my total number of states I’ve visited to 20.  (21 if you count Texas although I never left the airport there.)

Anyway, I was scrolling through our pictures from the Alabama/Tennessee trip and while it chronicles the great time we had and all the cool things we saw, it also illustrated nicely that I’m in a really great relationship.

As I looked at the pictures, my thought was that everyone should be so lucky as to have someone who:

 

–          Truly is your best friend.  Someone who tells you stories about their day and wants to hear all about yours.  Even if it’s just that you saw a baby basically stalking someone who was not their parent in the airport.  (Yes, there are pictures to support that example because without pictures it didn’t really happen.  We all know that.)

 

–          Is happy when you are happy even when they are not with you.  When Shaunie was stuck in class, I went to the Huntsville Botanical Garden and walked around their beautiful grounds and enjoyed their butterfly garden and lay in a hammock under a canopy of trees and read my book.  It was AWESOME!  She was happy for me that I got that relaxation time.

 

–          Indulges your nonsense.  We went out to dinner and I ordered a sangria.  Peach to be exact.  Shaunie gave me a look that I can’t describe.  Part eye rolling, part amusement, part annoyance, part resignation.  Then she said: “You always do that. Order a drink and then you only have half of it. I’m not paying for it.”  I promised that I would finish this one.  I didn’t.  The next night that we went out she asked me if I’d like to order a drink.  (p.s.  There’s really no “I pay” or “she pays”.  We are a “we” on the bank account.)

 

–          Will go on and take you on crazy adventures.  We spent an unscripted day in Nashville roaming wherever our hearts took us.  We caught a free outdoor concert in a park and toured a Parthenon replica and browsed stores selling cowboy boots and heard live bands playing in bars as we walked down the street and saw drunk girls dancing on top of a bar.  We waved at groups of women on party buses having bachelorette weekends and stood on line for an hour and a half just to have the supposedly world famous Hot Chicken from Hattie B’s.  We went to a museum and struck up conversations with strangers and took the advice of Uber drivers on where to go and what to see.   We even attended a rodeo – A first for both of us.  (Another p.s. Let me just say, the rodeo was great.  We had so much fun.  If you get the chance to go, I recommend it.)

 

–          Appreciates the “real” you.  We spent a few hours at the Air and Space Museum and as I was looking through our pictures I noticed photo after photo of me.  Pictures that I was unaware that she was taking.  Mostly of my back or from the side.  Pictures of me looking at exhibits or of me laughing.  I loved that.  There were so many interesting things to learn about and to see, but she was looking at ME.  Not the carefully crafted, posing, me that I show to the rest of the world on Facebook.  #Swoon

 

–          Sends you memes throughout the day just to make you laugh.

 

–          Encourages your intellectual growth and is eager to expand their own minds.  In addition to museums and such, we also hung out in a book store.  That’s something we actually do fairly often.  Due to her recommendation, I am currently reading “Behold The Dreamers”.  It’s a really easy read, but I am enjoying it.  I’m interested to see how it ends.  Next up to bat is a Wilbur Smith thriller.

 

–          Can be silly.  We did corny poses for pictures (flying through the air in front of a space shuttle, matching the stance of a dog statue, photo bombing other tourists, greedily eating a cupcake).  We “sang back up to Ray Charles” and played instruments and climbed into tight spaces that were hard to then get out of due to our aging bones.

 

–          Can’t wait to come back home when they are away.

 

 

For my part, I have delayed watching our favourite TV show so that we can watch them together at home.  I am now 2 episodes behind and even though I have seen some spoilers online, and I’m itching to watch, it would not be fair to my girl.  That’s how I show my love.

 

Is August Over Yet? August 15, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — The B Side @ 5:18 pm
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This August has been rough.  And we’re barely half way through.

There have been a lot of things causing stress, not the least of which was the moving situation.  The thing is, even as we started packing and bought school supplies, we didn’t know where we were going to live.  Our current home owner decided to sell and that left us scrambling to find somewhere new.  Should we rent again?  We know the area now and have a good idea of what we like and where we would or would not want to be.  So then, should we buy?  But it felt rushed and we didn’t want to settle.  It was difficult to find somewhere that was in our price range and that was in decent condition and that kept the boys in their current school zone.  With each day passing that we didn’t have a new place, time was moving more quickly.  I got more and more stressed out.  I laid awake at night wondering if we’d be homeless and worrying that we’d have to move to a different town and uproot the boys all over again.  I don’t handle lack of sleep well.  I’ve always been a good sleeper and I’ve always needed 8 hours to feel my best.  9 are better.

We have now found a place, in our price range, and no changes need to be made regarding the boys schooling.  Whew!

 

While that was all going on, Shaunie was preparing for a business trip.  It was looking like a real possibility that she would leave before we secured a new place to live so I would be left to do it all alone.  Adding to the fun was that there were internal issues with her travel plans which were causing her a lot of stress.

I am still left to do most of the packing by myself.

 

Then there were things like the Charlottesville protests.  I have so much I want to say about it.  I’m hurt and angry and disappointed and disgusted and scared.  I’m disappointed in a handful of people for not checking in to see how or if we were affected by the protests since they know we live in Virginia.  I’m hurt by the people who say they love me and my family but won’t say anything about the Nazi salutes or the violence that was perpetrated by those a-holes.  They had a lot to say about the black lives matter riots and about Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the anthem and in defense of police though.

I’m angry that we are dealing with this crap at all.  I live in a country where the President lashes out at people ALL THE TIME over trivial things but then when things like what happened in Charlottesville happen, he keeps his mouth shut until he can’t stand the pressure anymore so he makes a weak statement (days later) blaming “both sides” and to add insult to injury he then says:  “When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts.”  As if that’s been his M.O. so far.  I just CANNOT with him or his supporters.

I’m disgusted with people who are not white, actually defending the white supremacists – claiming “freedom of speech needs to be awarded to everyone even if you disagree with them.”   Here’s the thing though, freedom of speech does not extend to speech that incites violence or to actions that lead to the extermination of entire groups of people.  That’s common sense to me, but it also legally defined and has already been decided by the supreme court.  Nazi flags and salutes are considered hateful and inciteful.  If you are endangering people with the things you say and the actions that you hope will come out of the things you say, that’s not covered by our beloved first amendment.  And to the ones who say that people who support “black lives matter” but not “white lives matter” are hypocrites, come close and listen up:

 

#ONLYwhitelivesmatter is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from #blacklivesmatterTOO

 

The words “only” and “too” may not be in the hashtags but they are very clearly there in meaning.

I’m scared for my sons because they are cute, sweet little boys now, but every day that goes by, they are one day closer to being adult men.  Black adult men.  These same fools who went to protest waving their confederate flags and holding their hands up in Nazi salutes with torches burning are the people my sons will have to deal with.  They are neighbours and teachers and police men and loan officers and landlords and bosses and jurors and the fathers of girlfriends.  My boys don’t deserve that.

They certainly don’t deserve the silence of the very people who they will expect to have their backs and who they will turn to for support.

 

 

Thankfully, there were other moments in August as well.  Moments filled with love and laughter.   Moments of dancing and celebrating a newly wed couple.  Moments of spending time with family who are visiting from The Cayman Islands.

 

Thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with someone who, 24 years ago, (and for nearly 10 years) was one of my closest friends.  I am very happy about that.

 

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll get to do more hanging out with loved ones.  I’ll spend a few days in a state I’ve never been to before which I always appreciate.  I have to finish up my packing and then there’s middle school open house and the actual move.  We will make the drive up to New Jersey for an engagement party and to pick up the kids.  Then it’ll be September and back to school and hopefully, back to some semblance of peace and normalcy.

 

And/Both August 10, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — The B Side @ 5:41 pm
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Newsflash – A person can feel 2 seemingly opposite things AT THE SAME TIME. 

I don’t know why we have set up this world to be so black and white.  (pun not intended) 

Everything now-a-days is this OR that.  Check one box.  

Do not believe this dichotomy.  It is not the truth.

The truth is that for a great many things you can do and feel BOTH, or more than 2 even.  The magic word is AND, and it’s real.  

 

You can miss your children till your heart hurts AND still be happy that they are getting to spend time away from you.

You can be personally pro-life AND be pro-choice for other people.

You can have problems AND not broadcast them online.

You can love the summer AND the winter. 

You can be a man AND be a feminist.  

You can want your own rights protected AND want those same rights extended to others.  

You can be mad that one lunatic is trying to start a war with another lunatic AND be entertained by Usher spreading herpes to Quantasia. 

You can disagree with a law AND carry out the duties of your job as described by the law AND try to get that law changed. 

You can support the police AND want them to treat everyone fairly and justly.

You can love someone AND know they are not good for you so you walk away.

You can have mixed race heritage AND recognize your privilege AND sympathize with the pain that half of your identity experiences.  

You can wish if your child/sister/uncle was straight AND support them and their marriage and their rights. 

You can want smaller government/less entitlements AND understand that there needs to be room for compassion.

You can love your Church AND want there to be separation between the Church and the State. 

You can not understand something AND understand that your lack of understanding doesn’t mean it is invalid. 

You can disagree with someone AND fight for their right to have that opinion. 

You can love and be a proud citizen of two different countries.  

You can enjoy gangster rap AND country AND pop AND jazz AND rock AND show tunes AND swing AND motown AND classical. 

You can want your loved one to keep fighting and to let nature takes its course AND understand them wanting to die with dignity at a time and place of their choosing. 

Your grief and worries and need for help can be totally valid AND you can be fully aware that there are people who have it worse than you. 

You can be a non-smoker AND actually like the smell of cigarettes.

You can love your country and its flag and its anthem and all the success it offers you AND harmlessly protest. 

You can be a good football player/actor/student/accountant/doctor/painter AND be socially conscious. 

You can love something or someone so deeply that it hurts you to see them not being their best AND so you try to change certain aspects of how they are.  

 

 

 

As far as I’m concerned … Here are some of the things you cannot do and get my backing:

 

Say you love your children but show no interest in anything they do.

Make broad negative claims about an entire group and then say “except you” to the one person you know who is a member of that group.

Want to lose weight but keep eating the same things you ate to get fat while not increasing your physical activity.

Say you are pro-“life” but show no regard for the lives once they are born.

Use words like “pacific” when you mean to say “specific” and not get laughed at.  

Abuse your power without expecting people to resist. 

Be transgender and want to be treated with respect but then go on Ellen’s show and say you don’t believe in marriage equality because you’re a traditionalist.  

Arrogantly tell parents they are wrong and that they should breast feed only or co-sleep or limit screen time or not vaccinate (etc) and expect them to listen to you – Especially if you have no children. 

Say you are not racist but forbid your daughter from dating a black man.  

Call yourself a good person if you are a provoking, racist, mean-spirited jerk online. 

Take food into a bathroom without it being gross.

Expect your children to do as you say and not as you do.  (They are watching and learning)

Blame other people for all your problems. 

Be a hairdresser but have a bad hair day everyday.

Take take take without giving. 

Treat people as though they are beneath you because you make more money than they do and still consider yourself a Christian.

Complain about being broke but everyday you’re at the mall shopping. 

Protect a child molester through your silence and carry no responsibility when he molests another.  

Excuse away rampant poor behavior with “that’s just how she is” or “he didn’t mean it that way” or “but you kind of brought it on yourself when you …”

Rehabilitate a pedophile/rapist/serial killer.

Be proud of your book smarts but be unwilling to learn something from someone with less letters behind their name than you.

Want me to suddenly become a morning person or to stop singing or to gain a green thumb. 

Tell your friends all the problems you have in your marriage then expect them not to hold it against your spouse.  

Think you have it all figured out. 

 

 

*Clearly this list is not exhaustive*

 

 

 

Missing My Boys – and – A 504 At Work August 7, 2017

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 1:04 pm
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On Friday, we stayed up until after 2 am catching up with friends – While their two sons slept in our two sons beds.  It was nice – But I miss my boys.

We spent our Saturday night hanging out with friends and family at a 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  We had a great time – But I miss my boys.

Now, it’s Monday – And I’m on my lunch break – And it’s raining  – So I’m at my desk – Eating peanut butter straight out of a jar – And the boys have been with their Dad for 2 weeks – And the kids being gone does make it easier to focus on things such as packing and moving – But I miss their laughter and the feel of their skin and their stories – So my brain wanders back to a time, 5 years ago, when ….

 

~*~

 

I’m sitting at my desk and my cell phone rings.  It’s not a number that I recognize but it has the same area code as where we live.

Hello.

Hi Mrs C.  This is Ace’s teacher calling to tell you that he’s having a very good day today.  I have you on speaker.  The entire class can hear you.

25, six year olds kids shout out … Hi Mrs C.  There is lots of giggling.

I laugh … Oh!  Wow.  Well, this is a great phone call to get.

I just wanted you to know that he’s been sitting quietly and paying attention and he and his partner have done a great job with their project we’ve been working on.

I say how proud I am of him and that I am very happy to get this news.

He sounds a little nervous as he chimes in to tell me that he is being good and to tell me about his project.

I don’t want to say anything too cheesy so I just say I love him and I am very proud of him and that he should keep it up.

The call ends with a chorus of goodbyes and I hang up – Smiling.

 

~*~

 

It was towards the end of first grade and Ace had fairly recently been diagnosed with ADHD.  His 504 plan was brand new and as a part of the plan, his teachers were supposed to give him positive reinforcement.  That phone call was them wasting no time in following the plan.  It was the first such phone call I had ever gotten.  I loved it.

In speaking with his teacher on the last day she told me that in that last month of school, she had gone on to make those phone calls to other parents as well.  She did it partly because she didn’t want the other kids to feel like Ace was getting special treatment and partly because it was just nice.

For us, it had been a rough journey getting to the point where my boy got a diagnosis and where a plan was implemented – But I was happy to know that other kids were benefiting from it as well in some small way.  It made me feel good to know that other parents got to share in the sweetness that was that phone call.   It can make all the difference when you are at work – On a Monday – And it’s raining – And your lunch is peanut butter straight out of a jar.