Life On The B Side

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

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*

 

 

 

Broadening Our Circles August 3, 2017

Truth be told I was kinda nervous about moving to Virginia.  Having lived in the shadow of New York City (diversity central) for such a long time, I had heard many people talk about how bad things were in “The South” where race relations or any sort of non-conformity is concerned.  We’re a pretty non-conforming family.

(black, gay, immigrant, differently abled.)

 

We haven’t had a negative experience.

 

On back to school night (last year), we went to Jays school and introduced ourselves.

Hi, I’m Jays Mom.

Hi, I’m Jays Mom too.  

His teacher quickly registered what we were saying and with a big smile, she shook our hands and introduced herself and instantly began telling us what she had already learned about Jay and asked if there was anything else we’d like to tell her that would make her more effective as his teacher.

The same was true of Ace’s school and every baby sitter we interviewed.

No-one has cared about the make up of our family.

 

We went to a Kids Fun Day thing and a bunch of teenagers, under the supervision of an older gentleman, were running an area where kids could practice shooting lollipop targets with a pellet gun.  They looked, stereotypically redneck.  (I don’t mean this to be offensive, I just don’t have a better word.  If there is one, I’m all ears.)

If I were to believe the hype, I’d have expected these kids to be less than cordial to our little rag tag crew.  They could not have been nicer, or more patient, or more helpful with their gun using lesson and they shared Ace’s excitement when he kept hitting target after target.  The older gentleman, with his heavy southern drawl, long white beard and suspenders came over to us and chit chatted about our prior gun experience and our shared love of coffee and was sympathetic to Jay who was complaining about being hot.  He then invited Ace to join his 4H group.

 

Our town is somewhat diverse.  There are a fair amount of minorities to be found and quite a bit of mixed families but we do not make up the highest percentage – As opposed to the NJ town we moved from.  When the kids started making friends in the neighbourhood I was a little anxious about how they would be treated once all our “otherness” was exposed.  One afternoon Ace came inside complaining that there had been some drama with the kids and he was done playing with them.  My initial reaction was to wonder if it had anything to do with him having 2 moms.  The boy who was apparently the ring leader in the drama is blond haired and blue eyed and instead of going to the local elementary school (which is excellent) he goes to a Catholic school.  I jumped to all kinds of conclusions about what kind of beliefs his family has.

Turns out it was nothing (normal kid arguments which were squashed the next day) and the little blond haired, blue eyed boy is actually Hispanic and his family couldn’t care any less about our marriage.  I’ve hung out with the mom at the pool while our boys played and she offered her nieces babysitting services and her husband works for a very inclusive company that supports all sorts of human rights campaigns.

 

At my job, there is less diversity than at home, but the acceptance of and respect for everyone is evident.  It’s preached and practiced.  Just like everyone else, I have pictures of my family displayed on my wall.  No-one has bat an eye.  Not even 45’s supporters, of which there are a few.

 

I am glad I didn’t allow my own preconceived ideas to hold us back.  From moving, from being open, from talking to people who are completely different from anyone I’d ever spoken with before.

 

My friend Unabi is Muslim and the sweetest, kindest, most community service minded guy ever.  My friend Robbo is a frat boy and the least likely to force a drunk girl into sex.  I know a former convict who now has a steady job and is raising his orphaned niece.  I know tattooed, pierced, bike riding, hard rocking sweethearts and I even have a coworker from West Virginia who is not married to his cousin and has all his teeth.  I am a mixed race country girl from Jamaica who spent time as a child learning how to make lace and who has never rolled a joint.

Everyone makes assumptions about other people.  Every one has biases.  They can be based on a variety of things – What people are wearing, or what religion they practice, or what job they have.  We base these assumptions on what we’ve heard from other people and from what we’ve seen in the media and experiences we’ve had.   We make sweeping decisions about a persons entire life or thought process based on one small thing we may know about them.

I don’t think we can help that.  It’s natural.  Human nature.  What we can do though is be cognizant of our biases and check ourselves.  We can actively choose, even though it’s hard, to give people a chance.  We can make the first step and offer the first olive branch.

(Not R. Kelly, I’m not giving him the benefit of the doubt with the latest claims.  I’m biased against him and I’m ok with that.  He’s guilty.)

 

Anyway, I don’t know why I felt the need to write this now.  I’m  just feeling like there is so much anger and hatred and hurt feelings in the world and if we just stopped for a minute and actually got to know each other, a lot of that would disintegrate.  Everyone has a story and none of us are on the same journey so we won’t reach the same places at the same times.

 

When we were in Jamaica earlier this year, my Aunt was telling us that after working in England for a few years, she was in her classroom one day and it hit her that … ‘all my students look the same‘.  She told us that she needed to get out of that environment and that’s what partly  prompted her to move back to Jamaica.

I know it’s not as easy as telling people to just move to a different town or country or just get a different job.

I do however, think we could all do a better job of broadening our circles in some way.  We can stop insulating ourselves and actually get to know people who have different beliefs than us and who grew up in a different place than us and who look different than us.  We can encourage our kids to include kids who have different abilities or interests than them.   We can share our own stories and hopefully it will help to change some of the ways our race/denomination/nationality/orientation are thought of.  It can be as simple as inviting someone out to dinner and choosing a cuisine you’ve not had before.  It’s opening your own (metaphorical) door and also saying “yes” when someone tries to let you in.

 

Don’t go opening your literal doors to a whole bunch of strangers – That’s just not smart.

Peace and blessings all!

 

High and Low – Ugh! April 12, 2017

The thing I didn’t say in my last post that I wanted to address but didn’t because it didn’t really fit in with the post even though it was inspired by the book plus the post was getting long anyway is this …

 

People love to put autistic people into categories.  Specifically, high or low functioning.  It’s a totally irresponsible thing to do.  It serves no purpose.  And most importantly, I think, is that it denies people their full human-ness.

In the book I reviewed yesterday, Christopher took advanced (*A level maths) at the age of 15 and Aced the test.  He was most surely headed for college to study math and science.  He had a remarkable memory and was able to understand the concept of money and chores and taking care of a pet.  He was verbal.  His parents were comfortable leaving him home alone and he wrote a novel.  He was able to develop relationships with people.  Sounds pretty high functioning to me.

Christopher also could not see past one lie his father had told him and recognize that that did not make his father a bad or dangerous person.  There was no reasoning with Christopher.  He wet himself sometimes for various reasons.  He had a crippling dislike for certain colours and he did not react appropriately to strangers who tried to speak to him or who touched him.  He went to a special needs school.  He did not have any friends and his sensory challenges restricted his life in a major way.  He was prone to wandering off.  Sounds kinda low functioning to me.

 

Jay is not a star student.  But he’s a really great artist.  He doesn’t have any sensory issues which is an astounding thing to say about an autistic person.  He’s flexible with his schedule and he enjoys going on vacation to new places.  He doesn’t understand money AT ALL – so far.  He does not respect other people’s time so there’s no use in trying to rush him.  He is not self-conscious but wants to be a part of whatever activity other kids are involved in.   He’s a sore loser.  He is in a general education class in a general education school with no aide and there are no concerns about him wandering off or engaging in self injurious behaviours.  He has friends.  He cannot ride a bike, swing himself or tie his shoe laces.  He is verbal and reads for fun and appears to understand stories but scores poorly on reading comprehension tests.  He can make his own grilled cheese sandwiches.

Is Jay high or low functioning?  The answer is … Yes.

 

The truth is that it’s not a fair question.  It’s too arbitrary and does a dis-service to everyone.

We would never use that kind of binary qualification to identity non-autistic people.  We wouldn’t say that a brain surgeon is high functioning but a plumber is low functioning.  Is an illiterate farmer high functioning but someone who writes computer codes low functioning, because, we all need to eat?  Stevie Wonder can’t drive, but he’s functioning at a higher musical level than anyone I know in real life.  Everyone has a different skill set or ability.  All are valid and necessary.

Someone who is non-verbal could very well have a brilliant academic mind.  Yet, they might spend their entire life with people calling them low functioning or assuming they are stupid.  How frustrating would that be?  How belittling and condescending.

Someone else who has no outward signs of a disability and who is able to function well in a controlled environment – who could “pass” as high functioning – may have no sense of danger and might frequently put themselves in situations they shouldn’t and therefore cannot be left unattended – ever.

 

I think we need to get rid of the terms high or low functioning.  I have friends who function at a much higher level than I do in a kitchen or in a garden or on a dance floor while I outshine them in a swimming pool or with an excel spreadsheet or with a sewing machine.

 

I know it’s an uphill battle trying to change peoples thinking.  I don’t know how to do it other than spreading the word.  Instead of taking one part of who someone is or what they can demonstrate and barricading them into a box, we need to look for peoples strengths (everyone has them) and nurture those and then we should also look for their challenges (everyone has them) and assist them with those.

 

 

 

I realize this is not a new concept; I just felt compelled to talk about it today.   Plus, I get to use some memes which said in less than 30 words combined, what I spent 1000 words saying.

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*A Levels are exams taken after graduating high school but before attending college in the United Kingdom and former British colonies.  It requires studying a subject over a 2 year period and sitting an exam at the end of each year.  Most students only study 3 or 4 subjects due to the intense nature of the work.  Most students are between the ages of 16 and 18 when they sit A levels.

 

Things On The Brain April 4, 2017

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 4:22 pm
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It is VERY HARD work to bend over, hold onto a seat and run behind a bicycle that is being “ridden” by a 60 lb boy.  My back is still stiff and I’m in pain from this past weekends 2 wheeler lessons.  I know he will get it when he’s ready, just as with everything else and I don’t usually force things – Potty training and shoe-lace tying come to mind – But right about now, I AM READY for him to catch bike riding.

 

Gynecological visits are different after 40.  The doctor asked questions and brought up topics that we’d never discussed before.  That’s all I’ll say about that.  Moving right along.

 

Fresh squeezed tangerine juice from Wegmans is awesome!  Even if a small bottle costs $5.  The green vegetable juice they have is just as bad as all green juices are that people try to convince you taste good even though everyone knows they don’t really.

Oh, and the cream filled coffee cake muffin from Wawa?  Also awesome!  And can I get a hip hip hooray for all the fruit that’s tasting sweet again now that we are out of winter.

 

I no longer suffer from Spring allergies apparently.  Woo hoo!!!

 

Despite my assumptions that my emotions around it would be temporary  – I get a pit in my stomach every single time I drive past the middle school sign that announces the date for incoming middle schoolers orientation.

 

I’m not really into the whole lighting it up blue thing but I know that friends and family who do it/promote it, are only doing so to show support so I appreciate that very much.  At Jays school the kids wore blue t-shirts and let off blue balloons but when I asked him why they did that he had no idea.  I kinda feel like if they are going to have an acknowledgment of the day and are going to include the kids, there should be some education around the ‘why’ of it.

 

It has taken me a lot of time and money to find products that I like for my hair.  I have thrown away LOTS of mostly full bottles of stuff that promised and then failed to moisturize and tame my curls.  I finally found a conditioner I loved and it was super affordable … NOW, it has been discontinued so I am back on the hunt.  Ugh!

 

My phone is dying and I am in no mood to replace it.  The latest thing it does?  Shuts off once it gets to 40% power.  No Bueno.

 

Knitting a blanket takes a LONG time.  I have one that my Grand Aunt made for me years ago and while I always loved and cherished it, I now have a whole new appreciation for the effort it took her to make it.  Oh, yeah … I have started learning how to knit.  Send yarn 🙂

 

Often I write about what is happening in our lives just to have a forever record of it.  Other times (like today), I write about random things to distract myself from other things that are pressing on my brain.  Money Stuff, Travel Stuff, Health Stuff, Not Enough Time Stuff, Job Stuff.  All the stuff we wish would just go smoothly and that we wish we never had to worry about so we could focus on more fun things – But all the stuff that actually keeps us up at night and that we wish we could share with people so that the load would be lighter.  Alas!  Instead of hearing about why I tossed and turned last night due to an overactive, worried, brain, you now know what kind of juice I like and that knitting is an awesome way to be productive while your son is reading you a story about Transformers and even though you don’t hear one word he says, he thinks you are listening which makes him happy so win-win.