Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Make out music and other memories

Music.. it just is such a huge part of my life.  I wake up every day and first thing I do is come downstairs and think of what song to start the day with. It could be the weather, mood, day of the week, or just because inspired. Sometimes the song is mediocre, the band way too commercial to be taken seriously by my many music purist friends, and yet there could be a beat or a lyric that just grabs me and speaks to me.

I grew up in a house with music.  My Dad was the master of collecting records, big fan of many kinds of music including good old fashioned rock and roll and jazz.  This was not as common as you would think in an Eastern bloc country who hated those Western imperialist ways.  I remember gatherings in our house from an early age with traditional Romanian ballads (there is one that makes my mother weep to this day called in traslation "why did I ever meet you"...talk about heart ache lyrics with music to make your remember that lover that just branded the heart and bid you goodbye) and music that was upbeat.  They were songs that often were from before their time but they spoke to my parents and their friends about a Romania that was no more.  Glasses were raised, songs were sung along with and they brought music to the darkness that Communism could not dull in them.  Romanians are by far a party loving people...often said to have a $1 in their pocket and spend $2 to have a good time.

In America the possibility for records was endless for my Dad.  The sound system was more than they could afford, the parties with their fellow Romanian ex-pats to same ballads as they had before, glasses still raised, voices singing along, happy and sad tears for the country they left behind, the people they left behind and a touch of bitterness in a lot of these songs for the government that made them leave. There were a selection of  American and lots of Italian, sprinkle of French, albums.  My second Mom, my mother's best friend who I adopted, a huge music afficinado who shared music with my father and who taught him mixed tapes like no DJ can touch (she and I still exchange CDs).  This is back in the day when I had to not talk when he was making a tape, before the system could record without background noise, the time when he inserted pauses on the tapes between songs.  I remember records spread all around as he made a tape with music that had balance between up beat and mellow music.  He was the hit of all parties, bringing these tapes with him and dancing with all the ladies until the morning light. There was music for us kids in the basement of my friend's house in New Jersey (and some nasty shampoo bottle bootleg booze that I brought in - gagged just remembering that) and in our rooms. For my mother who enjoyed this there was also opera... with it's stories and music that somehow she just got absorbed in, she also has a decent voice so I could hear her often singing along.

Music was what I woke up to, from AM to FM radio, what I came home to and what I so dramatically danced around the house too.  It was what my Dad and I did on many a weekend, walking around the corner to a small record store on Steinway Street and me buying my first 45s there because I only had enough for that for a while. Family road trips, whether to the beaches at Jones Beach or Florida, where full of music from the radio and his 8 track. 

There is very little much music I do not like. There are the love songs, that I sang about the boys I liked, that I danced with the boys I liked with to (ahh Adrian my 8th grade crush...if you only knew what a pleasure it was to take off those painful heels so that when we danced I didn't tower over you to "Reunited" at our prom).  The number of times I wore out a record  (Keep on Loving You may have been the first, Scorpions Still Loving You for sure in high school).  There were the mixed tapes boys gave me (ok I read into the order, the songs, the why you gave it to me...until a male friend explained that there was just a good chance the guy made it in random order).  There were the bad bands I pretended to love to just be close to a boy and the boys who became men who taught me to appreciate good music.  There was dancing days with music to prep to clubbing. 

There was make out music.  There has always been make out music and if you have no idea what I am talking about ...well you gotta try it.  I am still a sucker for a man who recites a song line to me, yes I understand from my male friends that he may not be placing same importance - sheesh male friends are a cold reality check.  There was music that makes me jump around the house, music that makes me shimmy, music that has to be LOUUUDDD (and the many times that my music loving parents asked me to turn down the music in my room.. big luxury I had a stereo with a record player in my room before high school).  There will always be make out music and music that makes you want to make out.  There is music that makes you dance upright to things you want to do horizontally.  There is music that takes your pain and puts it to notes and lyrics.  Before there were music videos many of us thought of moments in our lives to music, the video to some degree in our hearts and imaginations. 

My boys love music and we listen to their songs and I expose them to the vast variety I have. I think that music makes you see the world through  a different sense than your eyes.  Music has been exalted, banned, exploited, changed, varied, and censored.  This has not stopped the music because it is what we may not need to live but it is one of the things that makes life worth living.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The week after the Boston bombings..let the healing begin

It was a scene out of a bad movie, complete with explosive, bad guys and a chase that locked down a city.  It ended with one dead terrorist and one barely alive one.  The chatter I have heard makes me angry.  

I am an immigrant, proud to have chosen to live in the States even after I was an adult with choices and dual citizenship to not have to, proud of the strength of my Romanian heritage and people, both those who stayed, who eventually overthrew a brutal dictatorship, and those whose strength was in leaving all of that behind and building a better life elsewhere.  My parents had nothing when they came here and they worked hard... really hard.  They worked the jobs that immigrants usually get - long hours, physically exhausting and often leaving them looking at one another on how to make ends meet.  I loved my life as an immigrant, I hated my life as an immigrant. 

I was caught between 2 worlds - the values and traditions of my parents who though proudly learned English  and assimilated to their surrounding by embracing the US still held on to our native language, the ways they grew up (though it was bit dated) around raising their child, and overall never letting me forget my heritage and how it was adding to the fabric of this crazy quilt we call the States.  I was an American because I had the freedoms many in my homeland did not, I had my basic and frivolous needs met, and I had no doubt though it was hard, it was not impossible for me to get that education and "that life" that my parents sacrificed and left the homeland that would not give it to us for.  

So here are these 2 boys who in some ways are my story - gone wrong.  They had opportunities and better beginnings than my parents who came here to no one, by coming here to family who seems to have done well for themselves.  We both came very young and were aware of the the pain we left behind.  We both were exposed to other Americans, other nationalities, other everything than we had been born into.  Here is where they no longer can be my immigrant "brothers".  Here is where the immigrant children I grew up with will look with disgust upon them.  My friends and I took the opportunities, the sacrifice of being a stranger in a strange land that our parents put themselves through, the kindness of a country that with all it's flaws embraces multi-cultural-religious people.  They chose to spit on gifts and give them the  the finger. 

I have no sympathy for these fanatics.  I too know what it is like to look at the country of your birth and cry for what horrors are happening to it.  My parents too know what it is like to watch their people persecuted and make a home in a place that may not be able to point at your country on a map.  The immigrants of my family and my childhood friends know what it is like to sometimes feel like a foreigner both here and there.  Yet we choose to better the world.  We choose to make the US better where we can, to be thankful for the chance to start again, for the endless ways we have been able to help families back home.  We choose to befriend those we see on our trips back to our native home as much as we form bonds with those we have met here.

These brothers make me nauseous.  It is not that could not assimilate - they did not want to.  There is a picture that shows officers treating this criminal after they removed him from his boat, the humanity seen there is something these 2 did not have. You have to want to belong, to feel human compassion, to be able to understand that different is both good and difficult, to know that if you take the  second chance given to you by this country you may actually be able to do something good for the one you left behind.  They chose to inflict, on the city and the country that gave them this second chance, pain and horror and a sense that makes the small minded wonder if any immigrant deserves the chance.  They are not martyrs, nor are they political.  They are what every terrorist is -- stupid, mindless, inhuman people who only care about their final act of "notice" rather than building a life that gives hope.  They are not my immigrants, they are what my family and every other immigrant left behind  - fear, darkness and most of all sadism toward humanity.  They are not my immigrants who found pleasure, love and chances even when it was difficult and added to that quilt called the US.  They are not anything...but 2 boys who had nothing to offer and chose to take away the most precious of all gifts..life. 

We are a nation of immigrants made stronger by those very differences and the drives that brought us here.  We bring with us a determination and strength that makes the place we settled in stronger.  We are Americans - by choice or by birth and we must start our healing.  Immigrants are part of the skeletal system of this country and native born citizens are the other part...we all know you cannot move (neither forward or backward) should you lose your bones.  We are bound by difficulty and open to optimism.. we are Americans and many others would like to add to this number ... let the healing begin by embracing what we are and those who want to come here to better themselves and  the place we all call home now. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Tragedy

We do not become numb .. we should not become numb but I am bewildered.  I heard about the news about the Boston bombing while working.  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath because for a moment I felt like a child, you know how they close their eyes when they are trying to hide and if they cannot see you well then you do not exist, closing my eyes for a moment to pretend nothing happened. 

I started looking into it and the more I heard or read the more horrified I became.  How could anyone do this during what is a global event that brings people from all over together toward a common cause to run with excitement and cheer each other on?  Innocent people who came to see these amazing athletes, who sat next to someone exactly like them in look or their complete opposite and noticed neither way. 

As a New Yorker who survived 9/11 this brought about such a deep set of feelings in me.  The feeling of helplessness, sadness, fear, and a heavy heart.  Hard to keep my feelings in check, the tears back and the need to blame restrained.  I do blame though.  I blame whoever did this because you have no cause that justifies this.  Your family, tribe, country, whatever was wrong, wronged, fucked up -- it still gives you no reason to inflict this on other people.  You hate the government, our government, the US, the "man", war, religion that is different than yours, people who are diverse, people who run... your hatred is yours to carry not a justification.  Make your life and those of your people better rather than take it away from those you think have it already. 

I went home and on the train kept thinking how do I tell my super amazing, wonderful, all accepting children who say things like (they say the "n" word in the movie 42..I don't know what the "n" word is - 6 y/o and oh he's gay that just is  - 8 y/o) who embody all that has progressed and are seeing the world as defined by your character not your characteristics.  How do I tell them that the bad people that I explained were gone in 9/11 were actually not the only bad people in the world ? That the world had somehow let down their generation again.  All while keeping my own very deep feelings on this from spilling over and scaring them.  I went home and we said some bad people, who the police will get, forgot to love, forgot that life is made for laughter and for fun, forgot to appreciate others and instead chose to be angry, chose to be bad, chose to hurt those who enjoyed life.  They got it - sort of -- wish they did not have to. 

This act connects Boston to New York, two cities who love their sports teams with wild abandon as much as they hate each other's teams, two cities have always had a rivalry and a connection as being the cities that defined this nation.  This act reminds us that we are all vulnerable and that we are all strong, that your Red Sox archenemy is the cousin you protect from a bully, that we are joined by our common passions not defined by our common tragedies.  

Acts of terror - we will not let you win.  We owe all those hurt the choice to live in a world that condemns these cowardly acts. These are the marks of people who forgot or never understood that life is to be cherished, celebrated, laughed, loved and enjoyed.  They do not represent a religion, ethnicity, or beliefs but the lack of understanding of all that is good in all of those things.  

Tonight I told my children that they will make a better world with their friends.  Tonight I cried in private and said a public F U to this behavior.  Tonight will be a night of mourning and the time when I do what I do with emotions of this magnitude, I wrote.  Tomorrow will be where we do what we do best ..rebuild and respond with kindness to those affected. Tomorrow the city that defied an empire so many years ago with a tea party will defy the order to cower.  Tomorrow the bad people will not win.. they have never won tomorrow even when they destroyed something today. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring -- sprung - sprang

I get giddy as spring starts.  I do not like the cold weather and snow well I get over "how pretty it is" about 30 minutes into trying to shovel it off my car.  I do not ski, though I do ski lounge so well I could get a medal, and I do not skate. I mean really if I wanted to be hurdled down a mountain, after being suspend on a metal stick, in binding equipment I could just try a little s & m .... 

This year spring seems to have taken forever to come.  I personally have never felt a rodent popping out of it's hole and seeing or not seeing it's shadow was an accurate predictor of weather, I mean really what's next tossing chicken bones into a bonfire to predict the Dow Jones?, but this year that little Phil was so wrong he is lucky he did not become whack a mole material.  For any PETA people that was not a threat to said rodent.

Spring is pretty and from a fashion perspective perfect, like Fall, because if you like fashion you can still have enough choices to layer or not, cool outerwear and light covering to go crazy.  No more trying to make Nanuk of the North look good.  Time to delayer and start to enjoy the warmth on your face where you used to have a scarf to protect your cheeks from the blustery wind.

Spring is about love (and kissing in parks), blooming and wonderful smell of warmth as it creeps to summer.  For those of us who may not be fond of the gym, ok I may not actually be fond of exercising, this is the time that I actually can do activities that I don't mind (am not sure "will be thrilled by" will ever be what I say) to stay in shape - outdoor wog (walk-jog thanks Nancy for that term) and tennis.

As the flowers start to bloom and the days get longer it makes me smile more. It also means that summer is coming and I love summer... I can close my eyes and hear the waves lapping at the shore, the smell of the beach, the moments spent with books and lobster.

Time to also do some spring cleaning and purge... I love to get rid of stuff (though it somehow seems to sneak back in between the kids and the husband and the paper...where is our "paperless world"?) and open the windows to that smell from the outside.

Am going to go and enjoy the little warming up we have .. Happy Spring

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Special needs and Spectrums

It is Autism Awareness month in the States and it comes on the heels of a CDC study that shows that more and more kids are diagnosed on the spectrum.  Now it is easy to jump to conclusions on that but as the mother of a child who hovers over that spectrum, suspended just enough by his amazing ability to be social, I tell you I am not sure what it tells us.  

To me it means we still are listening to the flawed yet loud and powerful lobby who swears it is vaccines, regardless of how often this has been disputed, instead of looking at other potential causes with our time and money.   It may be a catalyst for some children but it is not for the majority.  It means we are no closer to understanding how our kids keep getting these disorders. It means that we are more vigilant and that spectrum now is more all encompassing (a host of developmental disorders are on it that used to be on their own).  It means many parents are still worried, still wringing their hands, still looking for answers in an industry that is run by quacks who promise much when promise is all these parents have.  It means so much and yet it means so little in terms of next steps. 

I am vocal about my son's special needs...a part of me hates that term.  He is special, both my boys are, for the smiles he has, for his sense of humor, for his kindness, his ability to make friends wherever he goes and his intelligence.  He is needy because he is a child, a child who I watch like a hawk to make sure that the world doesn't hurt or diminish the special due to his quirks.  

I remember when we first got him evaluated and the doctor told us that his flapping, the primary reason we saw a developmental doctor, would eventually morph to something else (it has).  I remember crying on the floor of my kitchen and with my friends, not because he had some fine motor skill issues but because I pictured the children who may hurt him for these things.  I remember standing by the milk in a supermarket flapping with him so he did not feel that people stared at him and the way he learned to control this in public. I close my eyes and my heart is back at the moment when my suspicions were confirmed... and how I had so wanted to be WRONG!!!!!! I cannot imagine how I would have gotten through without the generous open support of my friends who too had boys .. beautiful and unique boys who also had found themselves on this spectrum.  

So here we are 6 years from his initial diagnosis, well non-diagnosis in some ways since he is a non-specified spectrum disorder sensory integration child.  He no longer flaps, he has crap handwriting and uses his very smart brain to distract teachers and other kids when writing assignments come by.  In 6 years he has learned not to flap in public, to hold in that need to get his hands which are weak the stimulus they need, only at home because he knows the world is hard to deal with when you are not the same as all the others.  He excels in school and with friends and comes home and let's loose with things he holds in.

This month as we think about autism awareness we should think about the staggering numbers of children and even if the count did not go up it still reflects more children whose parents are sitting somewhere wondering how in this ever competitive world will their child fare.  It means that there are still people who consider themselves "experts" who offer simple syrup with a promise of miracle cure and scientist scratching their head.  There are those who now want to tell me that children only have these disorders in developed countries, with a dismissive nod of agreement to those who say that even children from Russia and the former Soviet bloc nations do not have these...how dare you ?  How dare you judge any of the parents who look for help for their children? How dare you dismiss the possibility that those children may, with a little help, learn to shine with their special needs and not be defined by them? It is not ignorant it is downright cruel and false!!! I do not know if medicine helps all but it helps some, if changing diets helps 1 or a million but who cares if you are that one, as long as the therapies (holistic can be deadly at times just as much as prescriptions) do no harm. 

My child is special ...just like yours is.  My child has needs to become successful ...just like yours does.  My child is on a spectrum and it does not define him. 

I do what I can to make sure my son knows that his differences do not make him less but like a rare orchid just make him unique. I write stories for both of my kids, where they are the stars along with their friends.  My son was thrilled when I wrote this poem for him... he smiled and said "I knew you understood"...I am grateful for everything he is. He and I talked about this blog and sharing the poem.., he said if it helps another kid's parents understand and help that kid well then he is ok with me sharing... now that is SPECIAL!!!