Archive for the ‘Conversation’ Category

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN (Led Zeppelin)
November 12, 2019

Twenty something years of being together and I’m realizing that my husband and I have some serious communication issues.  Instead of developing a shorthand, instinctual and deeper sense of understanding one another, as couples are apt to do after being together for so long, we seem to be doing the opposite and it’s causing hurt, frustration and distance.

He thinks I treat him disrespectfully, with responses that are mostly piss and vinegar.  I think he takes things too personally.  My being frustrated when I get home from a long day at work, spend three of those hours in stop and go traffic each day, needing just a few minutes of down time to transition to being home and taking a breath, is not a sign that I’m not happy to see him or that I see him as the cause of my angst.  I’m simply not always able to burst through the door, offering smiles and kisses the second I get out of the car.  It’s absolutely nothing personal.

I’m not always kind.  I know this of myself and I’m not proud of it.  I work hard to try to be better but I think the unfortunate nature of marriage or relationships is that we have a tendency to take things out on the people closest to us.  Part of that is simply proximity.  Part of it is a sense of trust – people we love can see us at our worst and still love us.  Part of that is a belief – however wrong it may be – that they know they’re not the root of the anger and frustration just the dumping ground.  I’ve come to understand that these theories are not actually true.  Particularly in the case of my relationship, the latter.

I’m not sure how one goes about changing patterns and habits that are well established from childhood.  I suppose the fact that I can admit to or have awareness of my behaviors is the first step, though I struggle to get past that one step.  I also feel like I can’t be the only one stepping.  I can take responsibility for my words and my actions but I cannot influence how they are heard or taken.  I can’t change someone’s expectation or anticipation of my presence.

The nature of our communication is stunted in some ways because we are almost never together without Cole present as well.  it’s hard to have adult conversation, or even complete conversations about anything without him being there and often not pleased about us talking to one another or the feeling that a particular conversation may not be best had in front of him (like discussing our concerns about his upcoming surgery or my husband’s travels or a night out).  It’s not natural and we rarely pick any of those conversations back up because we’re almost never alone, just the two of us in a room when we can have real conversations.

Anyone else have communication issues?  Any thoughts on how to improve things?

6B82C309-E1A2-4E56-A220-3CDB196920B8

I recently heard about a colleague’s attempt to do so by having a night a week where she and her husband turn off electronics and spend the evening playing a game and talking, be it cards, Yahtzee, or whatever.  She says it’s done wonders in terms of them appreciating one another more…A fun idea that sounds worth the try!

THREE LITTLE BIRDS (Bob Marley)
November 11, 2019

Several months ago a dear friend asked me to be part of one of the segments of a podcast she created.  It would be me, and another close friend, and her talking about the effect of having children with special needs on our lives.  The three of us know each other well so despite my nervousness, I agreed to do it.

I arrived at the designated address and was directed to a studio where there were big microphones (the furry ones that get placed right up near your face) and some chairs.  There were lots of audio crew people and producers and Amy, the host, our friend Dawn, and me.  We sat and started chatting under Amy’s topic direction.  The three of us each have a child with special needs.  Amy’s daughter is Cole’s age and we’ve been close for twelve or thirteen years now.  Cole and her daughter continue to be pals despite being at different high schools these past several years.  Dawn is someone Amy and I met a few years ago at a support group.  Her daughter is younger than our kiddos but she became a fast friend.  So the set up felt comfortable and the conversation somewhat familiar though we delved deeper than we might over cocktails at a mom’s night out.

After a point, the other people and equipment sort of melted away and the conversation flowed easily.  We recorded for an hour or more, shed a few tears, laughed a little and left our vulnerability on the floor.  I left feeling pleased about doing something new, getting out of my comfort zone and not allowing my nerves to completely defeat me.  Happy to have spent a little time sharing with two people I love and trust, and curious to know how it would all sound if and when it aired (is that what podcasts do? Air? Stream?).

Tomorrow, months since we recorded, our episode enters the world.  It’s available on whatever platform you listen to podcasts on like Apple.  The first five episodes of the podcast have all been released in the previous weeks and this is the final of this round.  I hope there will be more seasons or whatever podcast runs are called because it’s a really interesting, thoughtful and thought provoking premise.

It’s called The Challengers with Amy Brenneman.  It’s not a “I had a challenge and came through and everything is rosey” kind of look at challenges in life.  It’s more about how life challenges have us (collectively) stepping more into humanity because of or inspite of the challenges.  The guests she chose for the these first six are all fascinating and diverse.  I highly recommend listening to all of them.

37BCAAFB-84DA-4A89-B9ED-7D792194D957_1_201_a

Here’s a link to the podcast.   I hope you listen…

The Challengers

IT’S DIFFERENT FOR GIRLS (Joe Jackson)
September 28, 2018

I was not an innocent young thing when I was in high school.  I snuck out to go see bands play in Hollywood, went to parties as often as I could, and kissed a lot of boys.  I had a group of close girlfriends, what would now be called my squad, who I spent most of my free time with, sometimes including some of our guy friends in the mix, or meeting up with them wherever we would land.  We all experimented with drinking, some drug use and boys.  Not all of us left high school virgins, but some did. We weren’t wild or reckless.  We were actually considered “nice” girls.  We were pretty typical teens in the early 1980’s.

I met my first boyfriend when I was 15, and was 16.  I was in 10thgrade and he was in 11th.  We dated and hung out for quite a while before he became my first. I had it in my head that I should wait until I was 16 to have sex.  I don’t know where that notion came from but wait we did.  Despite having a caring relationship, we broke up when I cut my long blonde hair short as I got more into punk rock.  So much for young love!

Your first time is supposed to be the cherished memory you carry with you.  The general sweetness of the nerves and fumbling and genuine belief that you are in love and this is the next, natural expression of that young love. At the time, it was all of that…plus in all honesty, it was fun.

I didn’t have a boyfriend for a while after that first relationship.  I kissed a few boys at parties (kissing was probably one of my favorite activities – I know I’ve written about my love of kissing before) but I didn’t have my second boyfriend for quite a while.  However, my opinion of sex was forever changed not long after the breakup.

One Friday, we all found ourselves at a post football game house party. A fairly usual occurrence. To this day I remember what I was wearing (A black mock turtle next sweater that was my mom’s when she was in high school, a wool pencil skirt, fishnets and black pointy toe pumps) and I can picture the front entrance of the house, double doors, with the garage and driveway to the right, with a large BMW sedan parked in the driveway, close to the garage door. There were shrubs that lines the walkway to the right of the door that led to the driveway.  There wasn’t a light on the garage, but the porch light glowed brightly.

We arrived late.  The party was already in full swing.  Music was playing and kids were spilling through the sliding glass doors in the living room out into the lit up back yard. A guy I liked was there and though he didn’t often show me any attention or regard, he came up and started talking to me.  He gave me a beer and we continued to talk about bands we’d seen.  It was loud and he took my hand and led me out to the front yard.  No one was out there.

He kissed me and I kissed him back, thinking, wow he likes me.  He moved me over to the driveway, backing me up against the garage door, still sort of kissing me. Then he moved his hands to my shoulders and started sliding me down the door until I was on the cement driveway behind the car.  I felt uncomfortable and nervous and suggested we go back inside.  I started worrying about what was going to happen next and yet I couldn’t quite escape him.  He still had me pinned down and was sort of squatted over me.

He pulled my skirt up and reached down and ripped my fishnet stockings open as I squirmed and tried to get away.  Then he pushed inside me.  No fanfare, no utterances of care.  It was over quickly, though it felt like ages laying there in the dark, on a cement driveway, pinned between a garage door and BMW, while my friends and lots of other people were inside having fun.  All the while he acted like it was a normal thing.

No one worried that I wasn’t inside the party because my friends knew that I thought he was cute. They figured we were making out.  They were probably happy for me that he had shown interest in me.

He actually extended a hand to help me up after, though he smugly went back inside alone, while I attempted to pull myself together and get my clothes back in order.  Eventually I went back in, found a drink and shook.  I couldn’t understand why that had happened and I kept replaying it, wondering what I did to make him think that it was what I wanted or that it was okay.  I doubted myself.  I blamed myself.  I didn’t understand.

Date rape wasn’t defined for at least another decade after that experience.  Those kind of experiences were brushed off as boys getting carried away or girls leading them on.  You know, you can’t get a guy all lathered up and not let him get off.   Peers weren’t supportive and parents were fairly useless.  You were not believed, you were judged.  You learned to just live with it and carry on.  If you were lucky, you didn’t get pregnant (because this was early 1981 and AIDS was just emerging so condoms were not readily used). If you were lucky, no one found out and you weren’t branded a slut.  If you were lucky, this wouldn’t have happened to you.

Sadly, it seems that today, almost forty years later, it’s not that different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TALK TO ME (Chris Isaak)
September 15, 2018

Cole’s first junior year report card arrived yesterday.  Straight A’s. He’s fairly consistently receiving A’s and a very occasional B on his high school report cards and always with E’s, and is always proud of himself when the grades are revealed.  We are proud too, of course.  For Cole, the grades are both a mix of subjective grading, his effort, and his understanding of the given subject.  He has modified work and the benefit of one on one class time with his Special Ed (SpEd) teacher.  It doesn’t diminish the grades and is certainly reflective of the attention he puts forth in class.  He takes a fair amount of pride in maintaining his grades and in the attention he receives for doing so.

I just wish he put forth the same interest and effort in developing some of his communication skills and independence at home.  He would gain so much by engaging in conversation with people outside of school, including me and his dad.  He has friends who desperately want him to use his Tobii (eye gaze generated voice output device) to talk with them.  Teens, even understanding, kind hearted teems, don’t always welcome the parent invasion when they’re hanging out.  Having time with friends, independent of a parent or even of a support adult to help facilitate conversation, would be so incredible for him.  It’s such a valuable facet of friendship.

th-3

I’ve gone so far as to suggest to some friends that they tell him that they won’t chat with him until he starts chatting with them using his Tobii.  His friends are too sweet to listen to me and continue to talk to him despite his aversion to the Tobii.  He met a girl this summer who is very similar to him in diagnosis and also uses a Tobii, though she is happily reliant upon it and uses it well and often. I’m told she pressed him to use it during summer school and he was slightly more receptive, which makes me hopeful that he with the right motivation he’ll warm to it.

I understand part of his reluctance, or disdain, for the device.  Cole’s a people person.  He’s very keen on eye contact and adept at communicating some of his needs and reactions through small sounds and various facial expressions and smiles.  The Tobii obstructs his direct view of people he’s “talking” with.  It’s also taxing to use, both physically and mentally, so an element of laziness factors in too, especially if he’s asked to use Tobii with his dad and I.  We’ve developed a strong understanding of him, but even with us there’s so much left to our interpretation.  He’s often just not bothered enough to be frustrated or care. I really wish he were.

I just want him to use his voice…to express his thoughts, opinions, and needs.  I want him to deepen his friendships by opening them up through mutual communication and the intimacy that comes from friends sharing. I want him to engage new people in conversation or to initiate conversation. I want him to show interest in other people by asking questions or simply saying “Hello” aloud.  I want him to expand upon his education by using his voice to express his knowledge and understanding.  I want all of these things for him…

If only he did…

WONDERFUL WORLD, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
October 16, 2017

“Take a look at the world,
and the state that it’s in today,
I am sure you’ll agree,
We all could make it a better way.
With our love put together,
Ev’rybody learn to love each other,
Instead of fussing and fighting.”
Jimmy Cliff

There have been so many natural and human disasters around the world recently. It seems endless and it seems impossible to know what to do to help besides throwing whatever money one can afford to throw. But that doesn’t feel like it’s enough and it precludes any direct connection with the victims, and fall out.

After seeing the devastation in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the tragic aftermath of the senseless shootings in Las Vegas, or the massive loss of life in Somalia due to two car bombings, we look to one another for answers, comfort, and relief. We hold our loved ones tighter and make effort to let those we love, know we love them. We join campaigns and donate to organizations to provide assistance. We hope that our own cities won’t be the next struck by any kind of tragedy, natural or manmade. And we then we go about our lives feeling we’ve helped.

And we have. Being kind to one another is important and providing much needed funds to relief efforts is necessary. Going about our normal daily lives is also important both for our communities, our families, and us.

But there are some people who think outside the box and make effort to effect change and to impart a different kind of care, the care of action. I am blessed to know one such angel, and I want to share what she did in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy. She made a pilgrimage of kindness to Las Vegas; where she did fifty-eight acts of kindness, encouraging each recipient to pay it forward themselves, in honor of each of the fifty-eight victims.

The deeds ranged from surprising random diners in Flaming Fajitas with gift cards to cover their meals, to presenting flowers to a senior in an assisted living home, to paying for haircuts at a local Fantastic Sam’s, to bringing pizzas to the first responding police station, to providing her cab driver with a generous tip, that he then donated to a collection his company had going to provide aid to the victims, and so much more. Each deed was accompanied by a note with the name, hometown and age of the shooting victim she was honoring. Many of the recipients had stories of their own to share with her and ideas for paying her kindness forward on their own.

She touched an entire city. She connected with people on a whole different level. The local paper caught wind of her mission and wrote about her. She shared the journey on Facebook and had lots of supporters wanting to help facilitate her passion. She took the idea of helping a step further than most of us even conceive. I know her to be one of the kindest, most caring, friendly, enthusiastic people I’ve ever met and I’ve been inspired by her since she came into my life. I aim to think outside the box like she does. I hope you will find inspiration in her actions too.

58 Acts of Kindness

SOUND OF YOUR VOICE
September 26, 2016

A friend recently shared information about a service that can create a voice for people who do not speak and rely on the use of a voice output device to communicate. Vocal ID can create a voice that closely resembles what your actual voice likely sounds like by using both sound recordings of utterances if you can make them and accessing a voice bank they have to find your vocal match.

I love the sound of Cole’s voice when he uses it successful to speak, and especially when it rings with laughter. I can’t quite imagine how I’d feel hearing him speak and sound like him. The voice his Tobii device uses is a computer generated voice that is somewhat age appropriate, but a voice that is shared by countless others who are of similar age and sex and who use voice output devices. It’s not unique.

Our voices are one of the most unique things about each one of us. With closed eyes, I think I could correctly identify most people I know by their voice. Cole’s is a voice I never imagined hearing, save for the limited vocalizations he makes. To have conversations with him using his Tobii but sounding like Cole would be overwhelming and life changing. I feel like conversation becomes that much more intimate in knowing it would be his voice, unique to him.

I’m just starting to explore how to go about having his voice imprinted and put on his Tobii. I’ll share more as I myself learn more and begin the process. I signed up as a donor too, to bank my voice with the hope that it could be used to help shape someone else’s own voice.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

CRUEL TO BE KIND
January 11, 2016

I had a bit of a revelation this past weekend. Perhaps somewhat overdue revelation but I had it (finally) and it’s put me to shame.

A discussion about something Cole related with my husband turned, as it often does, into an argument. I took my frustration out on him and got nasty. It’s my M.O. – not one I’m proud of but it happens a lot when we get into these emotional conversations. I think a lot of people do the same, and it is a learned style of fight that got passed on to my by my mom and brother. Hurt the ones you love.

The revelation I came to, is that my frustration when discussing difficult things in my life, is that we’re discussing difficult things in both of our lives. Shared frustrations, concerns, fears, anxiety, and stresses. When I talked to friends about these things, I have an outside opinion to bounce things off and to bring in different views. When I discuss things with my husband, the frustration is that we’re both in a similar place and it doesn’t help to remove me from where I’m stuck.

I’m not sure if I’m expressing that properly but in my head it makes sense and it struck me that it’s the root of some of the anger I direct at him. He can help me resolve some things because he’s looking for the same resolution, and I can’t necessarily help him. Sometimes you need a trusted or knowledgeable outsider to provide perspective and insight.

While I know that my fighting style is cruel, and not appropriate, especially when aimed at my partner, someone I love, this recognition I had gave me cause to reflect on my misguided anger in a way that I haven’t before. It gave me a deeper awareness of my failing. When I’m hurt, worried, concerned, or even appropriately angry, it’s not useful or helpful to deflect it upon someone else, especially someone who is often sharing the same emotions and therefore doesn’t need the additional burden of my wrath.

We’re going to fight still, everyone does, but I’m really going to make a bigger effort to stop to better understand the whole of a situation and what might really help to resolve it before I lash out.

Maturing can be a real bitch sometimes, especially when the mirror reflection is of someone were not proud to see…

INNOCENT
December 15, 2015

Cole didn’t go to school today. Apparently there was a credible bomb threat in our school district, which caused LAUSD to cancel school for 640,000 students at 7:15 this morning. Insanity.

My instinct is that it was some sort of prank. A New York school district received the same threat during school hours and opted to keep the kids in school. I’m not sure if they have faster sources of verification in place following 911, or why they made the decision but all seems to be well on that end.

Nothing happened here in Los Angeles either. It was likely a distraction of sorts. The logistics of keeping 640,000 kids home are enough to cause some relative chaos in a community. That in itself is problematic, though certainly not life threatening.

Coming on the heels of the San Bernadino tragedy, I don’t think LAUSD had any other option but to pay heed to the threats. They pointed out that they receive daily threats, which are not acted upon, so something must have been more concerning with the threat today.

I can’t fathom who would target schools and children. It breaks all of the ethical rules of war, of humanity. I know terrorism is meant to do so but even terrorists are human, and as we learned from San Bernadino, they sometimes have children.

That level of belief that leads one to take lives in the name of whatever the motivation confounds me. Perhaps I’m naïve, but that means of action does little to earn support or change. In simplest terms, it provokes good to rise over evil. People being shot at a Planned Parenthood doesn’t make us turn and think “Oh, yes, that’s the way to express a point. Now I see what you’re trying to say.” No, that just doesn’t happen.

Having to explain to your child that school is closed because someone made bomb threats at schools is not a conversation 640,000 of us wanted to have today. Our children lost a little of their innocence today.

BALL OF CONFUSION
November 18, 2015

This morning Cole had a strange reaction to our discussing two upcoming parties we’ve been invited that somewhat conflict, more like overlap, and as he grew more and more upset, I was both struck by how ridiculous his reaction was and by how poorly my every attempt to calm him down. There’s nothing worse than starting the day off with tears and confusion.

It’s one of those times when I’m reminded of how hard it must be for him not to be able to express himself adequately, and how hard it is for my husband and I to always guess correctly. There’s so much assuming when dealing with Cole and his communication. In the instance this morning, I think he must have misheard, or jumped to a conclusion in what he heard, which upset him, and from that point he was fully committed to his reaction.

Honestly, I cannot imagine not having the ability to talk. I talk to myself. I talk to Cole incessantly – a habit I developed when he was young. I talk. As a kid, my parents joked that if we went on a long road trip, they could literally just sit back and I’d talk continuously throughout the whole journey, however long it may have been, often without noticing that no one else was joining in. My brother would immediately fall asleep, and I rambled.

It pains me to know that more often than I’d like to think, we’re missing the real point of what Cole is feeling, wanting, or trying to communicate. It also saddens me that he cannot always communicate a question to clarify something, or that we cannot adequately suppose that there is a misunderstanding or confusion. Even with the support of his communication device, it can be difficult for him to clarify his understanding or needs.

And of course, I constantly wonder what’s going on that beautiful brain of his. His inability to verbalize or vocalize his thoughts has no bearing on the thoughts running through his head. If I could have a super power, it would be to read minds, more specifically, to read his mind.

 

TUESDAY MORNING
May 26, 2015

Back to work following a lovely holiday weekend.   Starting the week on Tuesday often feels harder than on a usual Monday. Having the one extra day of a holiday weekend is just enough to sink one into total relaxation, making the Tuesday start of the week a wee bit jarring.

For half the weekend we were three and the other half just Cole and I. Saturday night we had a delightful date night with a dear friend at a local café doing their first ever “Paella Night”. Seated outside under the glow of the local business signage eating a delicious Spanish meal with yummy vino and great laughter filled conversation. Nothing better.

Sunday Cole just wanted to lounge about in his p.j.’s until close to lunch time. Then we headed off to the last baseball game of his fall season with his friend Charlotte in tow. The game was festive and fun, and Cole and his pal Joshua had quite a cheering section between family and friends, and even a few of the school para-professionals all there to support them. Cole and Char then hung out together for dinner and watched Pitch Perfect to prepare themselves for seeing Pitch Perfect 2 on Monday.

Monday we lazily got ourselves ready for a late morning screening of Pitch Perfect 2. We met up with a few (okay, fifteen or so) friends for movie and lunch and got ourselves home just before four pm. Long fun day with a gaggle of our favorite people.   Leaving us with just a bit of Monday left to have dinner, bath, neglect homework, and snuggle off to bed. Not a bad way to end a weekend.

So now I’m at work and our server is down so I’m unable to actually do any real work. Frightening how lost we are without our internet and server! My goal this week is to regain some consistency with my writing. Turns out it’s like exercise for me. If I get started and stay consistent I’m successful but fall off the routine for more than a couple of days and it’s all over. I really have to work on that with both writing and exercise!

Happy Tuesday…