Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bossy! Magazine June 2016 Issue 12

Bossy! Magazine June 2016 Issue 12

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Autism- The Unexpected Guest

You spend 9 months expecting a baby and you are pretty much aware of what comes with it. You read the baby books or in my case you rely on the experiences you gained from your previous children.

You are pretty much ready and resigned to all that is coming, Sleepless nights, sore breasts, exploding diapers, teething toddlers. These are phases, though. Tough times with a tangible end in sight. You can always say I can't wait until he can sleep through the night, feed himself, use the potty.

8 years ago when I gave birth to my last child, he wasn't the only new addition to our family. He brought an uninvited guest. His guest was unannounced and took very little time before making his presence known.

In the beginning, the guest was very loud and obnoxious, he always made his presence known. In his phobia of strangers. His crankiness in bright lights or loud noisy areas. His aversion to certain textures. His inability to be soothed. As a toddler, he grew with you into your obsessiveness with that empty ketchup bottle. His inability to hold conversations but amazing talent for repeating an entire episode of Blue Clues verbatim. His refusal to swallow certain food and so he'd store them in his cheeks. His sheer terror of preschool.

These weren't the phases I had prepared for. These weren't the baby and toddler hurdles, I'd easily jumped before with the help of the knowledge that, it's just a phase. It'll be over soon. I had no idea if and when these things would change. I cried a lot. I raged a lot. I worried all the time. I spent so much time organizing the world around him to try and meet a need before he knew he'd need it.

Things have changed dramatically but your guest is still with us. After years of tears (his and mine) in therapy so much has changed. He still does better in a calm environment, but noise and bright lights no longer terrify him. While still are uneasy with textures, he walks on sand and fingerpaints. He still memorizes tv shows and watches movies on repeat . But it's no longer his only form of communication. This year he ate eggs! For the first time and not only did he not gag, he loved them and asks for them all the time now. He's left his special school and is in a regular class and academically ahead of your grade. Who would have imagined this when he sat in that first day of preschool, face covered by a blanket and screamed for hours until they called me to come back.

And I feel like I should be able to exhale now. I should have shed the worry. He's passed all those the phases. Maybe his guest will go home.

But I'm not exhaling. I'm still holding my breath, I'm still worried. I'm still terrified.  Because Autism never goes home, or goes on vacation or even takes a coffee break.

There is still so much I don't know. So many ways his guest shows up dressed a little differently today than yesterday. But he's always there. Always with him. I still spend an inordinate amount of time trying to preempt tantrums, meltdowns and fears he might have. I analyze and reanalyze every quirk. The anxiety before and then relief, then anger after every parent-teacher conference when they say he's doing well DESPITE his autism. The stress of constant doctors therapist and the rest it never stops. being a constant advocate for  him. It exhausts. Every emotion, action and fear is calculated to find out if this is his guest or just a child's behavior. Being a constant advocate for Spike and his guest with teachers, doctors, friends and family is non-stop. And no, there is not tangible end in sight. This isn't a phase.

I was tired. and resentful, yes I'm not perfect. I can admit it. I wished he would go away and just leave my baby boy to me. Even after all this time, I have come to the realization that it's never going to happen.

In the last few months, I've come to realize, autism isn't a guest, it isn't a separate entity. It's part of you. I can no longer fight autism and embrace you. It's a part of you always, no matter how it is manifesting at the time. I have to let go of the thought that "this isn't him, it's the autism" It's all him ....and his Autism, And I'm okay with that. Finally, I'm okay with it.

Because everything Spikey is, is amazing, is wonderful, is magical...not despite his autism, not even because of it. But because he is Spike.... with autism. And maybe it was unexpected, but all of the parts of him..are welcome.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Who Protects our Children?

Yes, I know I haven't posted in many, many months, but we will deal with that later. There is something so pressing and so heavy on my heart and mind that I needed to address it here, in this space, where I am a Mommy first.

I know we have all seen the video of the Spring Valley student slammed to the ground and literally dragged like a rag doll out of her classroom. This blog isn't even about that. As disgusting and criminal (Yes I said criminal) as his actions were, he's not why I'm here to vent.

I am appalled NO horrified and disappointed and disgusted by how many responded to that video with, "But what did she do? or We can't see what she did before? Or well why didn't she just leave the class or give up the cell phone"" Black parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles all actively LOOKING for a reason to blame this child for this man's horrific violence and contempt towards her. As if there HAS to be another reason for a white police officer would behave that way towards a child. I find myself almost shaking in rage as some of you so VERY blind to the propaganda began a few days later to post a year old video of some students harassing and abusing another teacher in another school, with comments of "these children need their asses whipped, etc". You sir, mam, make it okay for that officer in Spring Valley to behave that way. And you are the problem. And I know exactly what it is.

Once several years ago when my oldest child was a toddler, as I sat in a pediatrician's office with my child I had what does Oprah call them??... " an a-ha moment" that changed the way I parent. My doctor's office is in an upper-middle-class neighborhood. The crowd in the waiting area was very racially mixed. There were many small children in the crowded waiting area so it got a little loud and rowdy. One little blond child was a bit rowdier than the others. He was climbing on the toy chairs, marching across, singing loudly...He was everywhere, touching everything..something 4-year-old boys do. He was funny and cute and so  I shared that little secret mom smile that you share with moms, as she nursed her smaller child.

As I looked around I noticed other black parents starting to give THAT look, you know that look, don't act like you don't! They exchanged glances and knowing looks, facial expression visibly tightening because the audacity of this child to act LIKE A CHILD.And how dare his mother not stop him and discipline him, "There were audible whispers among the black mothers of why she can't CONTROL her child. He wasn't malicious or out of control just a little wild, a little free like kids are supposed to be.  And then the inevitable happened, other children started to join his one-man parade. And one by one most (not all) of the black moms told their kids, to stop, sit down, be quiet. One older grandmother snatched the child of the chair, absently smacked her legs and told her to sit be quiet and stop making so much commotion. Soon after the mom took the blonde boy into his appointment and the other parents seemed to sigh with relief. At the time, I couldn't understand why I was so bothered by this scenario. After that, I noticed it everywhere, all the time, black moms, that looked like me telling their children who looked like mine, to be still, quiet, sit down, don't laugh so loud. Now I realized what the problem was with that little boy. He walked through that waiting room freely as though he belongs there. That little blonde boy was just running exploring this space, this world like he owns it. Do we as black parents tend to feel like ours do not? We have this overwhelming need to prove that our children are DISCIPLINED. Why are we so consumed with making sure our children are non-threatening, well-trained, unassuming. Shouldn't our children feel like they have the right to explore this world at will also? Shouldn't they feel like this world is theirs for the taking? How will they ever know it? Especially if at every attempt at freedom, they get it beat out of them?

I reject the idea that beating our children is black culture, it's SLAVE culture. Some scholars have argued that beating children in the black community serves as some sort of traumatic reenactment of the brutal violence experienced during slavery, a remnant of centuries-old barbarity. However, there are those in the black community who make a larger argument that the strict punishment of black children is necessary. Physical discipline at the hands of a loved one is preferable to the always-looming life-and-death threat of white supremacist violence. We are so afraid that someone else may hurt our children, so we hurt them first, to keep them in their place. Corporal punishment has been internalized from slavery practices meant to keep black children from crossing the slave master and incurring a harsher fate and is now used to prevent African-American children from angering police officers and incurring the same.(however, my news feed proves time and time again that this doesn't actually work, beating your child doesn't save them from violence elsewhere, especially from the police) The result is routinization of black-on-black violence.

It's time we wake up.

You can break the chain. YOU can make a difference.

Someone has to let our children know, that their bodies are precious. How can they respect themselves and each other when we don't. How will the world know it's not okay to hurt our children? Who will tell people like racist officer Ben Fields that black and brown bodies are not punching bags, when we routinely and PUBLICLY tell the world that the way to get our children to "Act Right" is too whoop them?

My children will know. They will know that violence against them is unacceptable. That they own their bodies and nobody has the right to hurt and abuse them in any way, even out of some misdirected sense of love or tradition.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 - Artist to Watch - Troy Simmons

It's that time of year. Art Basel will descend on Miami next month so get ready! With events jam-packed from December 2nd to the 7th, it's hard to know which are the hottest shows attend, Luckily my new publication BOSSY is to the rescue. BOSSY invites it's readers to check out Art Basel - One to Watch- Troys Simmons.

Local artist Troy Simmons has immersed himself in his latest artwork, exploring the
evolution of urbanism and nature’s persistence to coexist. A consistent theme, which echoes
true to his intense fascination with nature and modern Brutalist Architecture.

Under the direction of JanKossen Contemporary Art Gallery in Basel, Switzerland, Simmons will
showcase his new concrete work during a solo show at CONTEXT Miami Art Fair December
2nd-7th at booth #E75. He will also have several pieces on display at SCOPE Art Show Miami Beach.

His massive, large-scale concrete canvases are a mix of acrylic paints and raw materials. At first
glance, the magnitude of his work is clearly realized. Most of his pieces weight over 100
pounds. A rough and raw relationship often described as a cataclysmic illustration of urbanism.
Simmons calls his work a “re-incarnation of the Arte Povera genre” where the inclusion of
simple natural elements, such as wood and soil takes an integral part in the creation of the art.
His intended goal is to create a playful mix of the hard and soft, expressing the ideological
perceptions of binary relationships

Rochi Llaneza, Former Executive Director of Hardcore Contemporary Art, curated his first show
in Miami in 2009. She says, “Creating an algorithm of inspired imagery, Simmons’ connection to
his ecological charged pieces is clearly reflected in his use of re-purposed materials.”
The inspiration behind his latest collection evolved after a recent trip to Germany. He spent
time with his wife’s family exploring Baden-Württemberg in the southern part of the country.
The postwar architecture is a fragmentation of Germany’s traditional heritage mixed with
simple modern construction.

Simmons currently works as a full-time artist, but his educational background is in Architecture
and Environmental Science. He studied at Sam Houston State University and worked as an
Environmental Lab Technician in Houston, Texas. He later went on to Oklahoma State
University and earned a degree in Architectural Design.
Simmons is a Resident Artist at the Bakehouse Artist Complex in Miami’s Wynwood Art District.

Sample of his current work at www.TroySimmonsStudio.com. 

If you'd like to see Troy Simmons at CONTEXT Miami Art Fair with complimentary passes. leave a comment with why you love Art Basel and I'll pick the top five answers.