The R Word

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“Are you retarded?” Or how about the ever popular, “You’re such a ‘Tard….” (Had to capitalize that – my computer kept correcting it to yard…) We’ve all heard these before – perhaps these days in the schoolyard, or searching back, in our childhoods.

So – when is it okay to call somebody retarded?

Recently, a FB friend posted a video by Elizabeth Plank, who asked this very question. She is a Senior Editor at Mic, a leading news and media company for young people. I’ve included the video – it’s a short watch. She interviews a young man who has Down’s Syndrome, and who also happens to be gay. She also interviews his Mom. He is a delightful, joyful, artistic, enthusiastic young man and I can’t imagine that he hasn’t brought anything but a great deal of joy and happiness to his family.

Out of curiosity, I googled “mental retardation.” The Wikipedia definition is as follows: “Mental Retardation, also known as intellectual disability, a disorder characterized by significantly impaired cognitive functioning and deficits in adaptive behaviours.” Okay – so that’s the technical definition. Down’s Syndrome is “typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability.”

If you have a child with special needs, and particularly, a child with developmental delays, you are definitely familiar with the DSM-5. This stands for the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. This is the go to manual for figuring out what your kid’s deal is; the Bible as it were (if you’re into that). Interestingly, there is no definition in this manual for mental retardation. First of all, to characterize someone as “retarded” is too non-specific (in a clinical sense). But I did look up Autistic. The definition is; “These disorders are characterized by social deficits (check) and communication difficulties (check), stereotyped or repetitive behaviours (check) and interests, sensory issues (double check!!), and in some cases, cognitive delays.” So – this last part is very important. If your child is autistic, there may or may not be cognitive delays. Hence – my concern regarding the whole “retarded” moniker. There are many ugly words out there – they can hurt so much more effectively than a quick jab to the chin.

When Henry was young, people would ask me what was “wrong” with him? Can you imagine doing that to a stranger? Imagine how I felt…. I would mumble something about a speech delay, while inside I was screaming… “I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S “WRONG”!!!! WE ARE HAVING HIM SEEN BY SPECIALISTS AND NOBODY CAN GIVE US A DEFINITIVE ANSWER!!! DON’T YOU THINK I’M TRYING AS HARD AS I CAN?! DON’T YOU THINK HE IS?!” And then I would continue on as quickly as possible – my mind a whirling dervish of thoughts.

When people casually and carelessly throw out words like “retarded”, they have no idea how hurtful they can be. I know how hard Brian and I have worked to try to get Henry to where he is today. And the amount of work that it takes for Henry to navigate his way through a world that is too often judgmental and conformist is staggering. I can only imagine it…

So – when is it okay to use the word “retarded”?

Never…

-PAXP-deijE

Letting Go – Part 3 – Cleaning House

The stuff - before it gets donated....

The stuff – before it gets donated….

This can conjure all sorts of images – but for me – it feels like new beginnings. And it’s a pretty powerful feeling saying goodbye to fat pants (and shirts, and shorts, and golf clothes that I never felt good in….) So – what makes the cut and what doesn’t? Well obviously – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Meaning – if it still looks good and makes me feel pretty – then it stays. But otherwise – be brutal!!! If it’s just okay – if you can’t bear to get rid of it because there’s nothing wrong with it (other than the fact that you never felt good in it, or it doesn’t look that great); then get rid of it!! There are others who will enjoy it.

When I was a kid, right before school began again in September, my mother made us all do a “spring” cleaning of our desks, bureaus and closets. My sister went in her room, closed the door, and immediately went to sleep. I, of course, being the diligent daughter, painstakingly went through everything. Could this be my OCD at work? Definitely another characteristic I share with my mother. It makes me feel GREAT to get rid of stuff – detritus – junk – crap. Whatever you call it – it feels good.

Now while I was going through this process, Left Brain was observing with some trepidation. He comes from stockpilers – he’s one of those people who have stacks everywhere in their office, but miraculously know where everything is. Or, at least, that’s what he tells me. He finally issued this statement…. “You can throw out all my s–t, as long as I can stay…” And his golf clubs of course. Can’t be messing with the equipment graveyard. There’s any one of 6 putters to choose from…

But I’ll give him credit – he wholeheartedly got into the act and got rid of a bunch of worn out, sad looking items in his wardrobe. He even went through his office and discarded some of the piles.

The golf clubs remain… Oh – and he’s still here too!!

Letting Go – Part 2! – The Kids

Again... not me!!

Again… not me!!

I seemed to really hit a chord with a few anxious Moms out there, who might (!) have a little trouble Letting Go. And I totally get it – obviously I write about stuff that either interests me or troubles me too! There’s probably a whole book in this subject, but for today, I have a few more thoughts. (To see the original post and poem, go to https://mypuzzledlife.com/2015/03/23/letting-go-part-1-the-kids/).

A friend of mine once said, it’s easier when your kids are little. Their problems are little too. If you have a typically developing child (this is PC talk, BTW…), who is also healthy of course, the above statement is generally true.

When your kid is nearing the end of high school, and they have miraculously gotten through said high school alive (Thank God – and I’m not being facetious… those experimental years were tough!!); the next big thing is where am I going to college/university and what am I going to study? Let’s think back to when we were 18 or 19… Did any of us envision how our life actually turned out? How the heck does an 18-year old know what they want to do for the rest of their life? And humans are living longer lives now – this is not just for the next 50 years or so – it’s probably going to be for the next 70 years at least!

When my older brother was going through this, he was “encouraged” by my parents to study business. What he really wanted to do was something in sports – he lived for sports. But he did as he was told – and then after graduation, slogged away at a sales job in the food services industry that he absolutely hated. Finally, just before his 30th birthday, he went back to school and teacher’s college to become a high school teacher and coach football. This was what he was meant to do – it was and is his passion – he loves it! This made quite an impression on me – especially when my boys were going through this process.

For Son #1, all I asked him was, “What do you like to do?” And as far as a choice of university, we told him he could go anywhere he wanted – we had no vested interest in his choice. It had to be right for him.

Henry was another story. Now remember – this is the kid that I wasn’t sure would ever graduate high school. I wasn’t ever sure that he would “get” math. He has a significant communication disability. But – is this kid ever creative!!! And with a quirky (read “out there”!) sense of humour! And as far as doing anything on the computer? He could do it in his sleep…. This is a piece that he produced where he was supposed to write a poem, using only 6 words….

6words

So… did he pick graphic arts? Or graphic design? Or comic development? Or anything to do with computers??? NO!!! Maybe as a result of being a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory (I mean – I get it – there are huge overlaps between Henry and Sheldon…), but maybe more due to the fact that his high school science teacher, “Z”, was hugely enthusiastic, fun, encouraging and a significant mentor to Henry – he wanted to study science – in particular, biology. So… I began a search for small colleges that were within a 2-hour drive. And we looked into residence. Although we live in the largest city in Canada, and there are a slew of excellent colleges and universities for us to choose from, Henry indicated that he had no intention of living at home for his collegiate experience. Well – good on him! And he’s doing well! But he’s picked a program that requires a combined average of over 70% for the maths and sciences. And he was not to be deterred! So – we are hopeful that he will gain entry into this program. And we will do everything that we can do to help him get through it. And if it doesn’t work out – we will go to Plan B (remember I said – always have a Plan B?).

So – it is tough to Let Go and let them make their own choices. But I far prefer that alternative to always hovering over them and making their decisions for them! And on that note, I have to go make a To Do List for the stuff that has to be accomplished before his summer semester begins! (For him, of course….)

Letting Go – Part 1 – The Kids

If you're wondering...  that is NOT me....

If you’re wondering… that is NOT me….

As part of the I’m Worth It Project (see https://mypuzzledlife.com/2014/11/25/im-worth-it/), I assembled a team. Recently, I was in to see my hypnotist, who is also a life coach. (Check her out at http://www.georginacannon.com) As I was speaking about various issues that are troubling me at the moment, she very quietly handed me this poem…

Letting Go

Letting go does not mean to stop caring
it means
I can’t do it for someone else
It is not to cut myself off
it means realizing I can’t control another
it means to admit I am powerless
so the outcome is in God’s hands – not mine.

To let go is not to enable
but to allow the other to learn from natural consequences
To let go is not to blame or change another,
it is to make the most of myself

To let go is not to care for, but care about
It is not to ‘fix’, but be supportive
It’s not to judge to ‘allow’ another human being
It’s not to be in the middle, arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their destiny

To let go is not to be protective but to let another face reality
It is not to deny, but to accept
To let go is not to nag, scold or argue
but to search out my own shortcomings and correct them
And it is not to adjust everything to my desires
but to take each day as it comes
and to cherish myself in it.

Author Unknown (with grateful thanks)

The last paragraph of the above is a killer – for any parent. Having children changes your life forever…There’s a great line from the movie, Carnage, uttered by the character played by John C. Reilly (and forgive me if I don’t get this absolutely perfect); “Kids suck the life out of you and leave you with nothing.” Now I don’t share his sense of doom when it comes to having children. I can’t imagine my life without them – they have brought me so much joy. But let’s face it – we’ve parented our children quite differently than our parents did. I don’t think my mother had much trouble Letting Go when it came to me and my siblings. But there’s definitely got to be a middle ground.

Even when your kids are out of the house, you still worry. But you have to let them live their own lives and make their own decisions – good or bad. That’s the only way they’re going to learn. But upon reading this poem for the first time, I thought to myself – how does a parent of a special needs child let go? I don’t think we can ever truly let go – especially when there’s been so much work and advocacy from Day One – that just doesn’t end. But there are degrees to which we can let go. Saying goodbye on the first day of school, walking behind him the first time he walked to school on his own and darting behind street signs (as if those poles hid me!) so he would think that he was, indeed, walking to school “by my own”; letting them go on a sleepover (where you keep your phone handy and don’t go out or drink anything because you might have to pick them up at a moment’s notice); waving to them as the bus for sleep-away camp pulls away (and then sobbing pitiably for 2 hours after – and of course, pre-posting cards and care packages so they’ll be there when they get to camp…); and the big and most recent Letting Go – moving him into residence at college.

And of course, there’s a trust issue when you’re Letting Go. You have to trust that you have laid a foundation that will enable your kids to find the correct, and more importantly, the right path, for them. Who knows how it will turn out? There will be more instances of me having to Let Go – but I will always, always be there in the background for both of them. And hopefully, they will not ask for my help.

The. Best. Kitchen. Gadget. EVER!!!!

Big talk you say… What could this gadget possibly be? Would it be the super awesome Nespresso machine, which makes creamy cappuccinos on demand? Could it be the Bullet, which smooshes and squishes a bunch of stuff into a superfood smoothie? Or perhaps a really good knife (which is indispensable – I have my favourite and routinely pass over it’s inferior cousins to the left and right in my knife drawer…) Well – without further ado – and before I lose your attention, it’s this….

It's super cool!!

It’s super cool!!

It’s called a Spiralizer!!! Just to remind everyone of what I’ve been doing lately – no wheat, sugar or dairy. Most people recoil in horror when I share this – but trust me – once you’ve started, it’s really not that hard to do. So – how do I live without pasta? I don’t – well kind of – but not really. Let me explain.

If I’m really craving something, we go to our favourite Italian restaurant at midday, and I order the Linguine Milano. I ALWAYS order the Linguine Milano. It has linguine (duh), chicken, snow peas in a cream sauce and I dump tons of fresh grated parmesan over it – and of course, they now have corn pasta, which at least, is gluten free. But for the day to day, and to continue my weight loss wellness journey, it’s verboten to have any grains at night. So what to do when you’re making something with a sauce that begs to be soaked up by rice, pasta or couscous?

Enter The Spiralizer!!! I’ve used it so far to make endless zucchini noodles and skinny sweet potato fries. Trust me on the zucchini noodles…. they are delicious. We ate them with a bolognese sauce, and they soaked up the sauce beautifully. We felt like we’d had a huge bowl of pasta, without that bloated, yucky feeling afterwards. I don’t eat them raw – I put them in a wok and stir fry with a bit of olive oil, before topping with the sauce. Yum… And the other night, topping them with shrimp curry…

Zucchini noodles topped with shrimp curry!

Zucchini noodles topped with shrimp curry!

This making you hungry? Give it a go!

A Bump In The Road

Watch Out!!

Watch Out!!

A couple of weeks ago, Henry was jazzed!  A friend of his from camp had been accepted to his college for next year.  They hatched a plan…  They would be roommates.  Great – I’m thinking – a known quantity….

Then of course, I started asking specific questions.  Has she even asked her parents if this is OK?  Doesn’t she want to live in residence for her first year?  What is her budget per month?  He tells me she’s flush!  She has a job – so no problem!  Of course, Henry’s idea of flush is $100….

We started some research into 2-bedroom apartments in the bustling metropolis of The Shwa.  Surprisingly (but maybe not – this seems to be a trend for college/university towns)…. a 2-bedroom apartment is quite expensive.  Then he said, OK – I’ve talked to my friend and we’ll get a 1-bedroom and take turns sleeping on the sofa!  Uh… no.  That would get old pretty darn fast. Then – the proverbial bump in the road…

Her parents don’t think she’s ready to live on her own (she is also on the spectrum).  And then I find out that she lives in a nearby town, so can bus to school.  Not surprisingly, Mom wants her to live at home in her first year at college.  So – what’s the big deal you say?

Well – kids on the spectrum don’t make friends easily.  In fact, upon gently quizzing Henry, I find out that he has not really made any friends.  Acquaintances and congenial classmates – yes.  But somebody that he would feel comfortable asking to be roommates with him?  No.  So – aren’t there housing campus services that would help him find a roommate?  Yes – there are.  But would you trust an unknown person, arranging for an unknown roommate for your kid with special needs?  No – I didn’t think so.

And this makes me feel very bad for Henry… and sad.  I have lots of friends that I can call on in times of need – but my son does not.  I don’t need things to be easy all the time – but do they always have to be so damn hard?

 

I’m Worth It – Part 3 – What I’ve Learned So Far

Hello Jaw Line - it's nice to meet you...  It's been a few years!!

Hello Jaw Line – it’s nice to meet you… It’s been a few years!!

OK – so not the best title… too long.  But I am 2 1/2 months into this process and thought that some of you out there might be interested in my progress.  I am down 25 lbs.!!  Wow!!  That’s a pretty big turkey!  Just to remind you – I’ve been off sugar, wheat and dairy.  Here is what I’ve learned so far.

  • You absolutely cannot undertake a process to overhaul yourself without the unwavering support and loyalty of your biggest fan (that would be Left Brain).  When I’ve been discouraged, he’s there to listen.  When I’m celebrating, he there’s applauding.  When I’m trying out new recipes that might be kind of yucky, he eats thankfully.  I don’t think I’ve gotten one negative vibe from him during this whole process.
  • Surround yourself with a good team.  Besides your partner (who is the most important person), find the right team.  My nutritionist Krissy is awesome – she is encouraging, down to earth, and provides me with lots of new inspiration and ideas when I visit her (find her at http://eatplaylivenutrition.ca.)   I have also been seeing a hypnotist; because I figured that there had to be subconscious reasons why I continued to lapse into the same old bad habits and I wanted to unlock that.
  • I like kale!  Who knew?!  But there are some tricks to kale…  My first kale salad was an exercise in mastication…  As I was building up my jaw muscles, I looked over at Left Brain and he was patiently chewing; and chewing; and chewing….  I read somewhere once that you’re supposed to chew every mouthful 25 times.  Have you ever tried it?  I did – once.  It’s gross…  Not doing it….  You need to chop up the pieces really small so that the vinaigrette can soak in…  And kale chips are great!  But don’t use baby kale – the leaves are too delicate to stand up to baking at 400…
  • Being over 50 is living in a new eco-system.  Things that you could get away with in your 30’s and 40’s just ain’t happening anymore.  So – have a moment of silence for your dearly departed tolerance for alcohol, or sugar, or wheat or whatever… and move on.  I can only surmise that this state of being will only get worse the older I get.  Something to look forward to!
  • Shopping is fun when you have a myriad of choices.  It’s also fun to fit back into stuff that you really liked at one time.  I have a whole collection of golf clothes from LoudMouth – really fun colours and patterns that I haven’t been able to wear in about 2 years.  We’re going to California in a couple of weeks to golf, and I’m looking forward to wearing my new “old” wardrobe!
  • Some people are seemingly threatened when you decide to improve yourself.  If you hear the words, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”, guaranteed – you’re not going to like what comes next!  Run!  Run away from these people – they are dealing with their own s–t – which has nothing to do with your s–t!
  • Like Cortez, who burned all of his ships after reaching the New World, I am getting rid of all of my “big lady” clothes.  In the same way that I have made this journey public, by ridding myself of the seeming security blanket of a bigger wardrobe that I can slip into, should I slip back into my old ways – I’m getting rid of the possibility.  I will concentrate on how great I feel!
  • If somebody tells you that they can eat or drink whatever they want with no consequences, you need to stop being friends with this person.  Because they suck….  Even if the above were true, they should have the bloody good sense to keep that little tidbit to themselves…  And it’s bulls–t…  Enough said.
  • I have become slightly OCD, with regard to eating on time.  I absolutely have to have my snacks, and if I don’t, I eat like a ravenous wolf at dinner, and beyond.  DON’T skip your snacks – it will bite you in the ass in the end.
  • Now this might horrify all oenophiles out there (better spell check that one…), but I got through the entire holiday season by imbibing…. red wine spritzers.  Now hold on – before you recoil in horror and immediately shut down this website… they’re actually pretty good.  Use lemon or grapefruit Perrier, and lots of limes.  They taste like a non-sweet sangria.  Why bother, you say?  Well – if you’re strong enough to just not drink at all – then good for you – and bugger off….  This was a good compromise.  And just as a general rule, no drinking during the week – unless there’s something going on….  I try to stick to the “No Drinking At Home” rule – which actually hasn’t been that hard.  Left Brain is not drinking wine anymore – he was over served about a year ago and that was that…  He drinks beer – which I hate – so no problem.
  • So – has this been hard?  YES!  At the beginning – but I’m Worth It!