the Singing Caged Bird is Free

finding tranquility in the circle of life, when the baton is passed from a legend

Source: the Singing Caged Bird is Free

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The Difference in Boys

I’ve talked at great length about my girls, their tats and other things, but surprisingly said little about my boys.

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At the Strawberry Festival in Glenwood Springs

I was extremely more connected to my girls, I will admit that. I got to wondering why that was.

Perhaps it is the fact that boys are just different. As boys they of course have different needs, different from me and different from each other. As any parent can attest, all children are unique. I had mostly sisters and I was the eldest and always in charge. I never really understood my brothers much, plus the youngest two were young enough to be my children, the youngest is only 5 months older than my oldest daughter.  So I didn’t have a great deal of experience with boys.

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Party in the Park

Perhaps it was the fact too that I had the luxury of being a stay at home mom with my girls, whereas when the boys father and I divorced they were still young and I had to go to work. It’s not ideal, but that’s how it was.

I remember how much I’d struggled to support them. There was no child support because we had joint custody. His custodial obligation was to maintain insurances and pay for any medical. At least I didn’t have to worry about that.  We lived a block away from one another “for the kids” sake and my home was the one closest to the bus stop so they managed to be at my house more than their dads.

My eldest, Ry, was the most affected by the divorce. He was totally devastated and embarrassed. He had always been so proud that of all his classmates, we were one of only a couple of parents not divorced and he liked that. He was only seven then when he became aware of the difference and he would be nine or ten when we divorced. Even though it was I who left, he didn’t forgive his dad for not being man enough to keep me. We all lost.

It wasn’t until he joined the Marines that he learned to forgive and let me be a part of his life again. God Bless the Marines.

Oh, I did things with him, took him on camping trips, track meets, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing and school functions but it wasn’t enough. There was still this enormous emotional chasm. But I didn’t give up. I bulldozed myself into his life. I did all the things a dad should do with his boys because that’s how I am and his father didn’t.  That was the only leverage I had. Thank goodness I was such an outdoorsy person.  He was outgoing and popular but after a time, he separated himself from his closest friends.

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Track meet

 

Now Ian is a total opposite.

He is not sporty or terribly coordinated. He was also very shy. So shy, he couldn’t even talk on the phone! Terrified if anyone spoke to him.  I know, you’d never guess that by the above pictures.  He spent most of his time hiding behind my “skirt”, afraid of his own shadow. He’s also ADD and fortunately not ADHD. Bright but inattentive or so it would appear. I don’t think a complete diagnosis was ever made clear, but he was delayed developmentally. Today I’m inclined to think it may have been a form Asperger’s.

Ry had a fourth grade teacher that I thought should have retired long ago. She didn’t make over him like all his previous teachers had, so he liked her the least.  Ian was to get her the following year. We dreaded it.

It was she that identified he had a problem. I knew about dyslexia and other learning disabilities and had been around children with ADHD but this was different.  She suggested we have him tested.  She said he couldn’t sit still for a minute, homework was a chore and half the time it appeared he wasn’t paying attention, yet he was learning.  He tested grade 15 in reading, spelling and comprehension but double entendre’s escaped him. He was unable to get jokes yet was extremely intuitive. Science tested out at about grade 8. He was at grade 4 in math which was at grade level and grade 2 in physical abilities. In second grade, his teacher said his delayed motor skills were affecting his learning, but we didn’t know what to do about it. His father was not into any sport other than cycling which he did rarely and that was only because his dad’s business was bicycles. This new teacher loved him though and he bonded with her and at years end they both cried the last day of school. I’m guessing he challenged her and made teaching interesting rather than mundane. That’s the teacher you want for your special needs child.

After that, we kept getting pressure to medicate, which I was totally against. Ritalin was relatively new on the market and I didn’t want my son to be a guinea pig. As it is, they did find years later many young people succumbed to it’s negative effects including drug addiction*. “the government classifies the psychoactive drug (Ritalin) with cocaine and morphine because it is highly addictive.”**

Ian and I bonded more for the same reason his teacher had, his needs demanded more. I was also closer to Ian in many other ways as well. He was extremely affectionate and we liked the same things. Both boys have amazing voices but only Ian seemed to like singing. I like singing. We connected further when I told my acting coach how shy he was and she suggested letting her help.

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With acting Hollywood coach Molli Benson
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Climbing a mountain near Ouray

She started out running lines with him in the back of the room. Eventually they worked their way to the front.  Not all at once of course, but a little at a time.  He was 12. Eventually, he got so good that after playing a scene from Moonstruck where he was Nicholas Cage, she yelled at the rest of the men in her class and said,

“That is how it’s done! This kid at 14 convinced me he wanted to take me to bed and, I know he didn’t mean it.”  Everyone was silent. But, that’s acting and he was darn good at it.

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On the left playing opposite him is Nick Wechsler from the show “Revenge” when both were just kids. Nick is about four years older.

Both boys could be quite funny. Ry more than Ian but it was rare they were funny together.

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A photo I told them was a do over
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so, they hammed it up

Once Ian was singled out as “different”, Ry pulled away from his brother and even became his arch enemy adding insult to injury by parroting his peers, which only brought Ian and I even closer together.  This he regretted later.   Kids called Ian “dummy” even though he was smarter than they were and  the popular kids especially picked on him. To make their life easier we sent them to different schools. Ry could do his sports in public school and Ian would go to a private school for awhile. There he actually fit in and found friends. He could do his artsy things and not have to worry about being compared to his brother. It took a load off Ry as well. I don’t think he meant to be mean, he didn’t know or understand his brother’s special needs, but then neither did we. Today they are fine.

To be fair Ry had begun to have his own issues to contend with. His deciduous teeth had not fallen out on their own and his adult teeth were crowding in on top. Some refer to it as “popcorn teeth”. It was one more nail on the coffin for him. By ten he began the process of tooth extractions and years of orthodontia and the once gorgeous, confident kid felt like a freak. Add the physical pain that went with it and his inability to eat comfortably, he withdrew from his friends and hooked up with a neighbor kid from the wrong side of the tracks. His home life was a revolving door for drinking, drugs and who knows what else, so the company his mom kept left much to be desired.  But, his friend liked to fish, so they went fishing all the time.

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Fishing on the Mesa

I felt like I never saw him, but it kept him busy and it gave him so much joy plus he was good at it. The “kid” was basically a good kid and he was always polite, so I figured maybe being around us could help him but I still sensed trouble, not right away but eventually. Because of that I kept my mom radar up and was always on alert. As signs were realized, my greatest fear was affirmed. Drugs. Mostly, but not just pot. For all my intent, it was a friend of ours who actually spotted it first.

We then put him on notice. No more friend. Drug tests would be at random intervals and he wouldn’t know when.  At first he balked and angrily fought me on it and yes I hit him well, slapped him. I was in a rage, frustrated and devastated but not certain at what or at whom. I had always vowed I would never do anything out of anger, yet anger did get the best of me. When I saw Nick’c mom from “Fear The Walking Dead” go after her druggy son, I understood. The emotions are complex, I felt helpless but mostly I felt so guilty. I’d let him down with the divorce and I felt guilty about Ian. I think too that out of all that his parents suddenly unite against him. He eventually acquiesced. In truth, I think he was actually relieved. I felt so sorry for him. So many things had gone wrong – his teeth, the friends he no longer had, a brother he didn’t understand, his broken family and he’s lost and perhaps afraid. Everything that could be wrong in his life, was and he was overwhelmed.

Finally and I believe it was God’s intervention, but he met a classmate at school that brought it all together. They started lifting weights and Ry started going to church with the boys family.  All Ry ever talked about was how this couple had married young and were still married and what an amazing family they were. More guilt. We didn’t exist for him. I remained guarded and I was jealous but I would swallow my pride because at least he wasn’t on drugs.

My heart couldn’t have been more broken. I wanted him to feel that way about us. I wanted us to be a family.

I knew he wanted to go to college but I couldn’t afford to send him to school and his dad said he couldn’t afford it either. Rys grades were good, but not good enough for scholarships although they might have been had he not gotten waylay-ed. His friend, the young fishing friend joined the army and Ry races home one day and announces he’d joined the Marines.

Interestingly, I believe all that history made Ry a better Marine. He wanted to do something that was punishing yet redeeming. At least that was how I saw it. When he completed his training, he came out forgiving and loving his family more than I could have hoped for. He said, the Marines taught him that family comes first. He still loves his surrogate family but he now included us in his world.

Ry was not a big guy so he had to fight to get and stay in. His DI’s told me at his graduation that they had not expected him to make it, but he did where others had failed. They said he had inspired them and everyone else in his platoon. I could not have been more proud. I remembered his track coach saying the same thing. “Not the best but certainly the most enduring.” His drill instructors bestowed upon him their own globe and anchor, the highest honor a recruit could receive from his superior officers. He was applauded for his tenacity and determination.

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D.C.

Because he had scored so high on the aptitude tests, they singled him out for embassy duty. In the meantime the Iraqi war had begun and we thought he’d have to go. For sure they would send him to Iraq. Surprisingly they didn’t.

At one point he said he was unsure he’d make the cut because of the drug incident.  After several interviews and psychiatric evals they asked the big D question. His saving grace was that he didn’t lie.  We all worried and waited. Finally, he got word. They told him normally that would have prevented him from being accepted as a candidate but they appreciated more than anything his honesty. They had conferred with his DI’s and other superior officers he’d worked with and came back with his acceptance. Next step was off to Quantico for the CIA training all MSG’s must pass.  His training was grueling but he made it. They outfitted them all with variations of the same wardrobe, looking pretty much like clones. Boy did he look handsome though. They ran more background checks  but now of the entire family before his selection was complete.

Ironically, my brother, who also works on high security clearance projects was due for his series of background checks. So our family and friends were hit with simultaneous  scrutiny. Our closest neighbor approached us one day and teasingly asked us, “What in the hell have you all been into?!” This is one occasion where they do check. No worries, we’re good.  We cleared them all. He would later get pulled from his post in Kiev to secure the grounds and guard the president for the NATO summit. What an honor!

Ry is now out of the military. With the GI bill, he was able to graduate college and is now a father of three, two of his own and a foster child they will be adopting. He also has a child recently diagnosed with mild autism, smart like Ian but with learning issues.  He is three and Ry loves him to death. Fortunately, he married to a young lady who is a teacher that just happens to specialize in children with special needs. I think now too, Ry not only because he is older and wiser and remembering his own shortcomings dealing with his brother,  he will no doubt redeem himself with his son. Until the adoption is formalized, I cannot include a family picture as foster children are protected by HIPPA.

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Ian as Joseph

Over the years Ian has bounced around living with various family members.  His dad, sister and us and for a brief time attempted to live on his own but failed at it miserably. When he came to live with us for awhile, he and I did dramas at church. Our church loved hearing him sing so he was frequently asked to perform and occasionally we’d sing duets together. Despite his trepidation, he always came through magnificently.   At 33, he is now finally on his own for the first time in his life.  He is attending Full Sail University off and on and still has difficulty staying on task but he’s doing better.  He was studying gaming and digital animation but may reevaluate his major in that. It’s the learning that challenges him the most. He has an on and off again girl friend who seems to be extremely patient with him and seems to be motivating him to find his niche. His mind still wanders but he’s exploring art and finding he does it well. Even so, he’s an awesome young man. They both are and I love them immensely.

Ryan doing the Lewa Marathon while stationed in Nairobi, competing with barefoot Kenyans. The group picture is Ry with a Peace Corp group he met and with fellow Marines that also love to run. He also got to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro while stationed there which is 19,340 feet high. He says it was grueling and at times wasn’t sure he’d get to the top, but he did. Of course.

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High School Graduation

Ian and I at High School graduation and a before and after moving out on his own and getting fit. The last being Ian today.

*http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/ritalin/the-vicious-effects-of-prescription-stimulants.htm

**http://ritalinsideeffects.net/

 

 

Partiality and Color

Why do we do it?

Why do we tend to segregate ourselves despite our aversion to do so?

Are we no different than pack animals limiting ourselves to our own kind? I had chickens once. I had black Cochins and white Silkies. Both were Bantams. For some reason, they would segregate, the blacks on one side, the whites in another cluster. It was quite peculiar because I do know other breeds do mix. Yet, its parallel in people.

Blue Cochin Bantam Hen | Flickr - Photo Sharing!Silkie Bantam pictures, video, information and chicks.

This is something I have noticed being commonly done, being partial to ones of our own ethnicity.

When I worked at the health department in Alabama, I noticed it with my coworkers.  The blacks seldom wanted to have lunch with whites.  They’d always go off and do their own thing and never invite us and often refused our invitations (doing so kindly) to have lunch together or do some other activity outside of work. Yet, some were quick to take offense at assumed or unintended slights, reading more into them than there was.Yes, there were intended ones as well and from both sides. Defenses were up, no doubt.

Penguins

In the eight years I worked there, I was only invited out once by a black coworker, she retired shortly thereafter.  We had a great time. One young lady joined our staff just before I left and when she could, as her schedule permitted, she would join us and we’d have fun, we became room mates of sorts later. She was highly educated and I think having had a white roommate in college, it helped her become more relaxed. Few do and that can be both ways.

Do we look at ourselves as if we are different, singled out or put upon somehow? What I think is at work here is fear. Fear of not belonging. We have been brainwashed for so long and our differences emphasized that that is where our heads are at.

It is no wonder I seldom felt I belonged. I was half white, half Hispanic. I grew up in California and found that white girls didn’t like my “Spanish” blood and Hispanic girls despised my “whiteness”.  I thought white, not Mexican, so that didn’t help either.  In truth, I knew little of my Mexican culture so you can imagine how lost I felt. Surprisingly, or so you would think, but it was in Alabama that I found acceptance for me being just me. It was there I found some of my dearest friends. No one cared about my color except those who were of color. It was a conundrum. They thought I should be sensitive to it, but I wasn’t.

Of course I have to admit that for so many years the hostility in the south was so great that it’s no wonder it continues to be an issue.  The whites I knew would go out of their way to be kind, but few had black friends. We had one black woman married to a white man in our church. One friend said of her, “she doesn’t know she’s black” .  I had to think about that awhile. Many races see themselves as race first, people second. Her mindset was people period.

She and her husband had been married over forty years.  Think about that.  They were a couple just shortly after segregation was banned.  Do you think it was hard for them?  You betcha. She and I had a long conversations about that and it took some doing but she did it .and she did it almost single handedly. Everyone in the congregation loved her and her children.

Blacks feel a need to support other blacks. Hispanics, Hispanics and so forth.

Perhaps that is why  we see so many pocket communities.  In L.A. for example you drive through and even  looking at the map, sections are called. “Chinatown”, Tokyotown, and Koreatown.” There is the Watts area for blacks and Pomona or east LA and other regions where you find primarily Hispanics. They feel “safe” in their respective areas.

It used to have a chip on my shoulder for the elitist class or those who I thought were. When I was a girl, from my perspective, blondes always did have more fun. They all seemed to come from more affluent families and gifted new cars their senior year. Guys always seemed to like blondes better, but I was dark.  Seldom did I know of or see Hispanics who were affluent.

I understand why people rally behind someone of their ethnicity when for so long they were seldom granted the privilege of a higher education or other advantages. Not unlike women in the workforce, but that has changed and in some cases is an advantage.

In truth I could sight an inordinate litany of injustices I personally experienced but I don’t allow myself to stay there, because I find it counter productive.

I would like to see us reach a point to where color or region is of lesser importance.

When I got a promotion at work, a woman and regular customer of mine asked where I’d been. When I told her I’d gotten a promotion, she rejoiced saying, “I always love to hear when one of “our kind” succeeds”. I was taken aback at the remark. I never thought of myself as being a “kind” of anything. I then became sad and very disappointed she felt that way, and finally angry. Why must it be that way? It has always been my assumption we are all created equal. I didn’t see myself as different.

Why should I make it on anything else but my own merit? Shouldn’t we be willing to go the extra mile for all?

Why are we, as humans, so compelled? God is not partial. Why are we?

I know that today many who embrace the idea that leveling the playing field economically will equalize societal norms, but I’m afraid they are mislead. That basic instinct just can’t be so easily erased. In fact there’s a good chance that the inequalities of 100 years ago may resurface.

Why is there this innate need to bring others down to raise ourselves up? As everyone struggles to rise to the top they become like the frog in a tub of cream, squishing everyone else down.

I recall dating this guy from La Jolla. His parents were very affluent and yet I’m sure thought themselves quite progressive. After meeting me he called to break it off. His parents didn’t like me. Two reasons. One, I was Hispanic, the other, I did not come from money. It broke my heart.  I didn’t really care about him so much, but more that my biggest insecurity had been reaffirmed. I’m not good enough. I was more hurt that they never gave me a chance because I AM GOOD ENOUGH! I knew it in my heart, but sometimes the brain didn’t get the message.

CLASS REUNION –

I recently attended my 50th class reunion. I was amazed at how many guys, now men who came up to me with my husband and told me how intimidated they had been because I was so “hot”.  They were afraid to even approach me!! Sometimes, what I perceived as alienation because of a previous bad experience or supposed opinion had nothing to do with reality.

Once I was married to a man with money and I had few friends. Only two to be exact because they were the only ones not intimidated by it. After we divorced I chose not to attach or claim any of “our” money (that was a mistake) but in any case, I was now “poor” and it was amazing the comments I got.  “You are so much nicer now” was the big one.  I responded with “I’m the same person I ever was”. Their reality was that rich people are snobs.

LESSONS LEARNED –

I had a neighbor tell me when he found me crying one day, “not to worry”  people were “just jealous” because not only was I attractive, I was well manicured and well off. My own prejudgements came to bite me in the butt. Granted, I still wasn’t blonde, but isn’t that what I used to think? Silly.

I found out later that on an occasion when I invited a few needy people from church to the house once, they never forgot. One wife of an elder told others she thought I was “showing off”, trying to make them feel bad for what they didn’t have. I even kept it simple in order to not come across like that. That hurt worse than a thousand daggers.

I held onto my two friends and cherished them for not being petty.  I sucked it up and learned another valuable lesson about friends and money.

Partiality is all encompassing.

When I read about bringing down big business, I think of my own limited experience.

It makes no sense at all.

Is it jealousy?  Do people want to bring others down to level the playing field so they don’t feel so bad about having less? Why?

I’m thinking about businesses here. There’s been a cry to penalize them and tying their hands to restrict profits thinking it can help the little guy. Is there anyone out there that truly believes that?  They’ll just take their business elsewhere and many have.  I see it as inviting a criminal element, because it’s like guns. The bad guys will always get them. Then there’s the matter of when they make their product elsewhere, the only ones who suffer are those that lose their jobs as a result.

I’m not anti actor, but some of the biggest proponents of bringing down big business are actors who get an enormous amount of money for what they do. Shall we drop their wage accordingly, so that there is one flat fee for everyone? Why should one person make more money than another for doing the same thing?  “Share the wealth”, they say. I’m sorry, but if you take a little from a whole lot, it’s no big deal, but if you take a little from a little, it’s a lot. They don’t seem to get that.

It’s great they have the luxury to indulge their sense of self worth by philanthropic activities but not every one can do that. I, however do not want to take away from what they can do and instead applaud them. At least they are doing something.

It’s easy to call the shots when you aren’t the one hurting, or struggling to make ends meet. It’s easy to sway and convince the person who is set on believing that “the rich get all the breaks”, “the rich get richer”, “life’s not fair” and it’s always “someone else’s fault” they haven’t succeeded to gang up and hurt someone or something else as a solution to their problem.

If you destroy all incentives, all the reasons to try, then what’s the point?  That mentality breaks the spirit. A broken spirit ceases to try.

We have become a society of entitlement minded people. Well, I hate to break this to anyone, but we are not entitled to anything we haven’t worked for.

As Maya Angelou’s mother always told her, “each person was expected to “paddle his own canoe, stand on his own feet, put his shoulder to the wheel, and work like hell’ “.

I’ve done many jobs in my life and I know how easy it is to see someone sailing smoothly along through life thinking their job/life is easy. I’ve tried those jobs or known people who’ve done them. Well, it’s never as easy as it looks.  Everything in life takes effort. Everything in life worth having takes effort. Be it a job, a career, a business, a marriage, a relationship. EVERYTHING.

The rich guy is rich because he or someone  connected to  him busted his butt to get their regardless of the route taken.  Stop and think about it.  The cartel or mafioso has ill gains, but he worked his ass off, broken a few heads or taken a few lives to do so, but… it still took work.

I saw people on welfare working all the angles trying to get something for nothing and yet, it was a full time job for them to do so, all the while grousing about the “rich” guy.  They spent hours in our facility and other places constantly getting all this “free” stuff.  If they put that much effort into a regular job they’d be way ahead.  (At least some of them would.) Some, like crooks, were better at working all the angles than others and that will always be the case.

If all of us put forth as much effort in changing what we do and how we think or what we say rather than belly-aching about the past which cannot be changed, we may actually affect a noticeable and positive transformation. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?HP_6