“Don’t you forget about me…”

25 Jan

I drove my 16 yr old to school this morning. I don’t usually drive her as we’re close enough for walking, but sometimes she asks and I’ll grab my keys and we get in the car. It’s a few extra minutes with the rapidly-approaching-college age daughter. I’ll take what I can get.

As we drove to the high school, Simple Mind’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” came on, and I was allowed a surreal moment where I was driving to a high school with my high schooler singing a song I sang when I was in high school.

Yeah, it’s one of those weird moments in life. We both sang along to the very last “la la la la” and then she went off into her school.

I thought about the movie for a bit as I drove home via Starbuck’s – how it was five teens from different backgrounds, who end up finding their common ground and resisting being molded into compliant students. They refused to let the authoritarian break their spirits. Instead, they came together and realized they were more alike than not. They resisted and they found themselves in doing so.
 
And I wonder now, looking around at everyone – I was the teenager John Hughes was making this film for. My friends were those teens as well. We’re all adults now, skipping into middle age, and I wonder – when did we all give up and become so compliant? When did we realize it was easier to just blend? Is it because it’s just easier and we’re all tired?
 
I’m not saying rebelling and rejecting everything is cool. Bills still need to be paid, children fed, laundry washed. It’s more the little things, the things we feel make us “bad parents” or “trying to hard”.
Case in point – my hair.
I still have the ends colored. The teal has faded to more of a green. I get lots of compliments from women in their 20’s about my hair. But women closer to my age, when they do compliment it, do so almost wistfully, and add “But I could never do that.”
Why not? Well, I know why not. Because somehow, you’re credibility falters when you’re a 44 year old suburban mom with blue hair – not among those who matter, but those pre-disposed to judge you. It’s like we’ve all hit Labor Day and put away our white shoes.
I’m sure there are some who take it too far. The ones who put their dreams before their children’s needs. The ones who burn bridges and barns and everything else as they go along. I’m not saying be that.
But maybe…have you forgotten to be yourself? That person who loved bright lipstick, who loved to dance, who dreamed big? The one who saw something wrong and went “Hey, that’s wrong!”? Were you ever that person? Remember when growing up to be just like your parents seemed like the most tragic thing ever, and now you’re living in a house with all beige walls thinking that you’re too old for some things?
Is the teenager you once were saying “Don’t you forget about me?”
Would that teen recognize you now?
Will you walk on by all those things you feel you can’t do anymore?
…or will they call your name?

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Don’t be like Barb

23 Jan

Yes, I understand that this presidential election has been especially contentious. And yes, I also understand that we are very divided by our choices.

But when it comes to name calling, can we leave some things out of it?

See, yesterday, I was scrolling through Facebook when one of those “Your friend commented on a public page’s post” thing. The post was about Ashley Judd’s slam poetry performance at the Women’s March. I watched it before, it was interesting. Slam poetry isn’t really my thing, but this one held my interest.

It held a lot of people’s interest.

It was reposted by some Facebook page with some name that gave its political leanings. There were a lot of “OMG she’s trash” and “I will never watch her again!” type comments. People didn’t understand that it was slam poetry, so without that tidbit of info, I can get why they thought she was just randomly ranting.

Now, I don’t usually comment on such things, because as we all know, posting an opposing opinion on such a thread means you get 78 notifications about how you must be stupid, and are most definitely wrong.

But my friend posted, which put it in  my feed. And the comment she posted on caught my eye.

A woman named Barb (Not My Friend) posted this – She sounds like schizophrenics I’ve met doing service projects in locked mental wards.

And my face went like this

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My friend pointed out that it was slam poetry. Me? My hackles got up. And I said this – Maybe you should rethink doing service projects in mental wards if you’re going to use schizophrenia as an insult.

My friend backed me up – so much yaaaaas 

Not My Friend Barb tried to defend herself –  Schizophrenia is a medical condition. It is not an insult, that I’m aware of.

And I was like

pope ohnoz

Then I responded with – and yet the way you use it IS meant to be insulting.

A woman reading slam poetry that you disagree with is not the same as schizophrenia. Comparing one to the other is insulting and shows lack of compassion.

Barb deleted her comment. I know, because another cool friend of mine commented on it, and I was notified of it, but when I went to read it…poof…all gone.

But let me reiterate what I was saying to Barb –

When you use a medical condition in an insulting manner, it is STILL insulting.

We all know the famous one – calling someone “retarded” (and yes, you can still find the words “mental retardation” in medical files. Ask me how I know.)

But calling someone schizophrenic, bi-polar, autistic, etc, as a put down, it’s insulting. When you use it as a negative comparison, it’s insulting. Plain and simple.

And when someone says “Wow, what you said is insulting.”….do me a favor…don’t say “No it’s not.” Instead, put your listening ears on, and maybe ask “Why?”

Case in point –

Years ago, I was on a message forum for parents of children with special needs. The needs were varying, as were the parents. One day, one mom said something about “spazzing out”. Another mom stepped in and said “Please don’t use that term, it’s a derogatory term that comes from “spastic” and it’s insulting to my child, who is actually spastic.”

The first mom didn’t say “Well I didn’t meant it like THAT.” No, the first mom said “Oh my gosh! I’m sorry! I never thought of it that way. Thank you for letting me know!”

And the other mom was like “Okay, we cool. Thanks for listening.”

Because you know what? There are words and terms that were once, or still are, insults. I don’t claim to be perfect on them all either, but I’m willing to listen and try to do better next time.

I get it. These are trying times. We should all take the high road, but we don’t. We support our cause vehemently, and sometimes, without being thoughtful. Yet we need to sometimes take a step back and think before typing – or maybe decide not to type at all.

I don’t know if Barb got what I was saying. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t – she ended our conversation before I could find out.

What I do know is that Barb should probably find a new service project because she doesn’t seem to have enough compassion for the people she’s been working with to not use their diagnosis in an insulting manner.

Maybe she could clean toilets.You can do a lot of thinking while cleaning toilets.

 

 

 

Why I fight, why I protest, why I keep opening my big mouth

21 Jan

 

For this crazy lot.

I fight for them.

I protest so they don’t have to.

I open my big mouth when they can’t.

It’s not just about Maura and her disabilities – even if there’s more to fight for her than the other three kids. But when I fight to ensure Maura had a better life, I’m also fighting so that her siblings have a better life.

Someday, they will be her caregivers. I know that. They know that. They’ve known that for years.

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photo by Elisha Clarke

Collin, my oldest, has always watched over his littlest sister. He was aware of her lack of progress before most adults were. He keeps her safe. He looks out for her. He always has.

So I make sure that someday, when care giving is left to him, it’s as easy as possible. Which means I fight to ensure that Maura has the best education she can get, learns all the life skills she can. The more independence Maura gains, the more independence Collin will have someday.

I fight to give them both that.

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Sean and Maura 2011

Sean has always been the brother to play with Maura. He he’s been hefting her up since she was tiny. He still helps maneuver her when she can’t. He spent so much time following her on playgrounds, up climbing structures, letting her have freedom I couldn’t give her because of my anxiety. He was always willing to spot her on things, and let her expand her boundaries. He’s always ready to catch her when she falls.

I fight for Maura’s independence so Sean doesn’t always have to spot for her. Even though he always will.

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Mim and Maura after Mass – 2015

Miriam has always been the spectacular big sister. Even when I was worrying that Maura’s disabilities would keep them from having a close relationship, Miriam excelled in her role as big sister. She makes sure Maura gets to have all the fun she wants – and is by her side doing so. If Maura wants a tea party, Miriam will bake the cake for it. If Maura insists Miriam should put on a pink dress, Miriam puts on the pink dress. She is the best friend Maura has.

Someday, Miriam might be Maura’s primary caregiver. For now, I fight to ensure that Miriam gets to be just the sister.

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Maura and Mom – 2014

I open my big mouth for Maura, because she can’t always advocate for herself. She doesn’t have the words, so I speak as her representative. I fight for her rights. I fight for her future. So that she can have what she needs, what she deserves.

Maura deserves as much as her older three siblings. She deserves to have a fantastic life where she reaches her full potential, and is happy.

All my children deserve that.

So I fight for Maura. I fight so we all can win.

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