Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dedicated to my friends who are committed to the future

cool end of the year books the teaching staff made of Taj
Could not believed they made such an inspiring book at the very end of the school year
 So our children have been out of school for about a week now in Syracuse. And all I have to say is ......TEACHERS ARE AWESOME !
When they do things like this , parents get to see what our child's year looked like

You may be wondering how did I go from vacation to exclamation . Let me tell you . My son is a handful.  No , a cupful . Nahhhh more like a jarful of pure unadulterated energy. Sometimes potential, sometimes  kinetic.  Those that can help him shift between the two are golden in my eyes , and for some reason teachers seem to be the best at it . I am his mom , I love him to death.  But this past week , I wondered - Oh my goodness , does he act like this in school?  What do they do when they get frustrated , because if he says 'Fine , ok !!!!!!!!" on more time ... I swear!!!! So , I then realized that they  have him , plus 20 or more (make that 25 or more in some schools) other children to deal with , and it makes you want to ring a bell for them or something so that they can get their angel wings.

Alas , teachers have gotten a bad rap this year.  We've had numerous stories of monstrous people berating and belittling children , particularly those with special needs, and rightfully so have called them out for their heinous behavior.  And while I wont get into the conversation about our ability to remove those teachers, I dare say other teachers should not be painted with the same color brush.  I have experienced teacher who didn't give a damn , wasn't from my community and did not care about the children who were in front of them . But there were also those who went above and beyond , made sure we were giving it our all , maintained a level of excellence in teaching and learning and cared about the children's lives who were in front of them,.

These teachers are rarely in the news.  My second grade teacher didn't make the cover of the New York Times even though she checked on me no mater what grade I was in in Elementary , to make sure I was "wearing my spectacles" to satisfy my mother's request when I was 7.  My son has had some excellent teachers and therapists since early intervention, particularly when we moved to Syracuse. This year , his teacher was courageous enough to tell us how he was having a hard time understanding Tajee and hoped we could help him think of ways to facilitate easing the communication barrier...along with his speech therapists. I say courageous because how often do we admit to "not knowing something .  His goal was having Taj learn , not whether or not he could save face . Awesome .

As a nation , we tell our kids  - Education is so important . A mind is terrible thing to waste. Or my grandmother's favorite, "education is the great equalizer".  However , we don't support the people who are responsible for giving our children the very education we literally hang their future's on.   I am sorry , but in a country where we are so quick to support private companies and their profits of billions of dollars because they EARNED it , how can we be ok with the fact that the average starting salary for teachers are less then 40,000 dollars a year but they need master degrees and certifications in order to do their job?  What happened to the notion of "EARNED" there.  The supports such as computers , smart boards ., whiteboards , markers, art projects , musical instruments, BOOKS- for god sakes, have found their way OUT of the classroom or in only one or two specialized classrooms .  How are we expecting folks to teach , when buildings are dilapidated or too old to properly maintain a wifi connection - but still want teachers to teach?  But guess what teachers want to know ... if their students are LEARNING . And THAT my friends , will always be the sign of a good teacher .  And I am sorry .  Way more teachers understand that they are doing their best to foster learning in very mediocre conditions and yet we are coming down on them like a sledgehammer , further lowering morale.  That's not copacetic in the least.

Our teachers need our support .  Our principals and administrators need our support. And by that I mean more than an appreciation luncheon. ( Even though folks love those - especially when you get the good cooks to bring a dish LOL ) . No , seriously . I am talking about you, your friends sending a letter , email , postcard whatever of support . Not only recognizing the amazing work teachers do , but also letting policymakers know that teachers need the appropriate tools in order for children to learn.  So while I am sure that our children's educators , appreciated the magnets, cards , and baked goods we gave them at the end of the year , I challenge you to give them one more gift and that is - the gift of solidarity . Send your stories to your Superintendents ( you should be able to find their email and addresses on the school districts website ) , Governors ( if you are in NY ,  you can go here )
and  Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education ( Contact info is here:

Tell them your stories of great teachers and principals in public education , tell them what your classrooms look like and what they need in order for our teachers to continue to do their best work.  Let me know if you did !!!!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Birthday is coming .

SO , My birthday is next weekend .  I have been thinking about what I want and it came to me while watching a PBS documentary on Louis "Satchmo" Armstorng .  I want a record player !!!!! I want to go to the store and buy vinyl records.  Although I am not "old"  per se (Lord knows that's relative ! ) , I am feeling very nostalgic and I want to hear the crackle and pop of a record in a song while it plays. I want to hear that sound when the needle first touches the album and you are waiting for the song to come on .This sound  !! I want to hear sounds that were specifically arranged to be captured on record , not remastered.

Thus I am currently in search of one , and much to my surprise , they are not obsolete.  The internet continues to be a resource and Amazon online had tons of options including ones that will allow me to convert to MP3 files.

You may be thinking to yourself , didn't I just read two "fight the powers that be " posts from you the other day , why the switch up ?  They say music soothes , yes?  Thus , after I get worked up like that , there is a high probability that you are going to get a music post . The explanation for that is in my discussion of the naming of my blog in  My symphony of a life .

Roy Ayers - Ubiquity
Herbie Hancock - Empyrean Isles
I was asked by my sister in law to share my top ten albums that I would want to initially acquire , and they are as follows (in no particular order )  :
Loose Ends - Zargora

Duke Ellington  Live at Newport 1956
John Coltrane - Live at the Village Vanguard 1961

The Roots - Illadelph Halflife

Having a really hard time finding the vinyl , even online 
Love Jones - Original Soundtrack
A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders

De La Soul - Buhloone Mind State
A Tribe Called Quest _ Peoples Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythms

What do you think ?  Any suggestions?  Do you know where a great vendor that would have Jazz , Hip Hop , RnB vinyls ? Please share, as I need to quiet my spirit.

As always , thank you for reading .


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Its good to be different.

When my son came home from school yesterday, he was starving as usual. When I told him he couldn't have cookies but could have an apple the look of defeat swelled in his eyes. These massive tears started to flow and he reached out to hug me , looking for solace in his collapsed world of cookiedom. Of course , I hugged him and told him that he couldn't have cookies ALL the time , and that today we were going to have fruit. He repeated "fruit " in this very sad voice. I told him the apple was sweet like a cookie. He perked up a little and repeated "cookie". I said " No baby , you can't have a cookie but you can have an apple" . "Ok", again the sad voice is there but not as sad this time as he reaches up to hug and kiss me and almost console me as much as I was him. We go and get the apple and he is so dang happy to show me that he is eating it like I asked him too.

In that moment, I realized something. In all of my son's identity , I try to shift his diagnosis of Down syndrome to the back of my mind. Not because I am ashamed, more so because as a family, we reject the idea that a persons disability tells you ALL that you need to know about them. However, that moment connected me and him with Down syndrome. I saw the slant of his eyes and the way his mouth gently opens when his face is relaxed. I heard him repeat the last words of what I said to him , knowing that he is understanding most of it but not always sure of how much, and being ok with that because who knows what everyone is thinking. I know for every stubborn bone in his body, that there is the intense eagerness to please. I held him tighter at the last thought... knowing that while that is such an amazing trait to have , this world is way to cruel for it, as well. A few tears fell from my eyes, more connected to the cruelty , then his disability. But I quickly went back to just adoring him for the moment.

We sat and smiled at each other as we ate our apple slices. He told me I did a "Good Job,mom". I told him he did one too, which made him quite proud of himself. He was really tired after his long day from school. So he and I turned on an episode of Martin (I'll have to do a blog post of the enormous savior that is the Martin show) and laughed together. Although, I was actually laughing at the fact that he knows every line and expression of his favorite comedian. His capacity for learning and loving are both so immense. It is the beauty of children, really. That extra chromosome adds a distinctiveness in that beauty. One that I will be sure to recognize more often then I have been.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day !!!!!

While yes , the campaign by the NDSC is "We are more Alike, then Different" - I don't want to forget the beauty in diversity . It makes us who we are .

Monday, June 4, 2012

Until you find a chromosome for assholes , leave my child and those like him alone .

You know, everyone gets to be frustrated by something ... and speak out on it if they want. However when you start talking about not using the word "retard " or describing something as "retarded", folks start waving the " I am not PC " banner . Well that's fine neither am I ... SO HERE WE GO!

The prenatal debate is not about abortion rights. YEP, I said it. So don't go there with me. Prenatal testing is seen by the medical community, as well as expecting families, as the ability to gather information about your child. While not all doctors are guilty of this, there are still no shortages of anecdotes about the extremely negative information one is given whenever one tests positive for the possibility of their child having a diagnosis of Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). Other chromosome abnormalities and genetic disorders can also be detected (i.e. Cystic Fibrosis, Spina Bifida, etc.). Now should parents have this knowledge and the information that comes along with it? YES. The reason the book, "What to Expect when you’re Expecting” is the go to handbook for pregnant women,is because we are looking for information. But could you imagine if that information read something like this "These children have heart issues, hearing issues, vision issues, are mentally retarded and don't have a long life span"...and then you look up from the book and someone was standing there and said "So , what are you going to do?" I'm sorry, but I cannot say for certain what I would have done. The fact remains that I was 24 years old, all my prenatal testing came back normal and I didn't receive the diagnosis of Trisomy 21 for my son until I was in bed in the hospital post natal , while getting a blood transfusion while hearing this exact list. And I had not held my child for more than 10 mins. was also asked what am I going to do ? *screwface *

Why would people tell us such a negative things, only. The reason there are so many YouTube videos with really nice songs playing behind beautiful children with trisomy 21 is because the parents are screaming to a world that sees their children as a laundry list of the worst things ever, that HEY , my child is ok -- Look they are beautiful, smart, kind, funny , sweet stubborn ... JUST LIKE YOUR CHILDREN . Don’t get me started on why it's the end of world when someone says one has a disability , but we live in a world where abnormal doesn’t just mean not normal , but it means "less than" normal, which is a whole other' thing. I digress. But the point is when parents only get this side of the story, you wonder if there is an effort to make sure children with these differences are no longer born. Please don’t look in horror, we are the country who had a very profound eugenics programs in the early 1900’s. We still do unethical medical testing and in the '80's if you don't know the story of Baby Doe, please read it. When it comes to people with disabilities, the ethics of the medical community and governmental agencies, leaves much to be desired.

But back to the rest of my post.
Here is the thing. Just because you know my son will have an extra 21rst chromosome, and everything on that list may or may not apply ... is his life any less valuable, then those who will not have those issues. What is the difference between his outcomes and the outcome of a child who is considered typically developing? We just started educating children with disabilities, a little  over 35 freaking years ago. People were locked away in institutions, some still are. When we closed institutions in certain states, we did not fund the supports necessary for them to live in the community ... If your child does not have a disability; tell me did they need your support in school. Did they need help with their homework? Did they look to have friends, and felt isolated when they didn’t? Was their goal always college? Are they still living with you? What would they do, if you weren't here tomorrow? All of these questions and more are relevant to all children and speaks to the fact that we live in communities in which we need to support each other.

Please understand, that I am not saying having a child with a disability is easy. I don't think raising children is an easy task. And I should probably let you know right now, I am not going to give you, "I mourn the loss of a perfect child" because I don't believe in perfection. I do recognize this sentiment however and understand every family has their own journey. No judgement here.

I do know this though. I know that there are a lot of people who are in the world today, who are real assholes, mean spirited, jaded individuals, who I would never put on a they don't deserve to live list... but some would say the world would be a better place without them (My social worker spirit makes it hard for me to say this because I DO believe everyone has a story and has value.) But apparently they didn’t link asshole with a specific chromosome, when they mapped out the human genome. So we just have to deal with them. But because, you can find my son's difference, his triplicated chromosome ... do not assume you know his story. A diagnosis gives you some information, but it doesn’t give you all the information. I never knew love like the love my son gives me. I am thankful to him for showing me. I didn't know I was capable of loving someone the way that I love him. I am no saint , and he is no angel. But we do thank god for each other and his dad - can't leave out the other super important person in this trifecta of awesomeness.

But I guess we have to start valuing the people with disabilities who are here ,first, before we can really tackle that issue at hand. In the meantime, kudos to all the parents, national groups, and doctors who take the time out to give expecting parents the information they need to make an informed choice. A truly informed choice.
So, until then …leave our children alone.

* See folks , everything is not hunky dory , but if you choose to have a child with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) , with love and support in many different ways , it is ok .  That kiss, that smile , hearing him say his name ..makes everything worth it *  !

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Post Mother's Day

This mother's day was a bit different for me . It was a beautiful day , weather wise , and my husband and son were really sweet to me.

However, I was a bit solemn . I haven't spent Mother's day with my mom in many years. Sometimes it is not enough to send a card , an email or text .

Sometimes you really just want to be there reflecting in her spirit. I missed that immensely. Over the past few weeks a number of family and friends have lost their mothers, fathers, and siblings. I feel very blessed to have many members of my extended family alive and well, but death was so close to me, I couldn't help but think about if my mom wasn't here . And I COULD NOT do it . Sheer mental block . I don't even know what that world would look like or feel like ... and I never want to know .

My mom and I talk almost everyday , about everything. We don't always see eye to eye and thats ok . But she has taught me, through her actions , what a good mother is. And it is nice to have that example set for me. In all my decisions that I make as a mom , I consider what my mom would do and it has guided me right every time.

This is dedicated to my mom: one of my favorite intros to a song ever !

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My symphony of a life.

I love music.

I love the way it translates emotions, thoughts and feelings, connecting with them with so effortlessly. The name of my blog is a reference to two songs that I listen to almost weekly . The first reference "Drawing Roses" is a metaphor for the things that make me happy, which is what I hope to share with you on this blog. It is from a line in the hip hop song "Roses" by Mos Def feat. Georgia Ann Muldrow off of his album "The Ecstatic "

She opens with this line :
"When I am down/I just draw some roses/on a pretty piece of paper/ With my recipe long pencil
Halfway through/I feel so much better/(FRESH) /I imagine happiness/(Wide awake in my dreams) /and it runs right through me / Such amazing beauty

My goodness , how awesome are those lines .. that song. When I listen to that song , I feel inspired , blessed ,re-energized to find the beauty in things . In what I have chosen to do in my life , be a purveyor of change , I find myself needing to draw lots of roses because there are some days when I do not even believe in the suns' warmth because the world feels so cold. And then something happens . I play this song, knowing that feeling jaded does not feel good to me. My son will come in and sing his heart out with me, although he does not know the words, and what I do and why I do it feels very real to me again and at once my spirit heals and I can continue on.

"Afro Blue " is very near and dear to my heart. I was looking for something that would show my pride in my heritage but not be as obvious as "blackness ". Even though if you know me , you know you can only go so long without hearing my talk about brown and black folks and the way we connect to our sisters and brothers of other skin colors. Race matters - but it doesn't have to be in a negative space . It can be a celebration of difference as well recognizing the ties that bind .

But back to the music . I first heard John Coltrane's Afro Blue , in the early 90's as a member of my junior high school band. Our band teacher Ms. Hockaday put us on to such great music . She literally shifted my life in her gift of music to us . While I do not play an instrument, I am the ultimate artist "in my head " ( as Wendy Williams would say LOL ) For the record , I wanted to be an alto sax player, but with the whole asthma thing , breathing is apparently required for playing a wind instrument , who knew ?

So I was going to put Coltrane's version of Afro Blue up , but instead I will introduce you to this fabulous brother Robert Glasper and his trio who covers this song , with vocals by the incomparable Erykah Badu . To know this song is to know me . Seriously , it paints a picture of how I see myself in my head . I don't know if I am conveying this clearly , but hear is the song please enjoy .

My favorite lyrics: Dream of a land /my soul is from/ I hear a hand/stroke on a drum
Elegant boy/ Beautiful girl/ Dancing for joy/Elegant whirl
Shades of delight/ Cocoa hue/ Rich as the night /Afro blue

How rich and powerful. Music is just that for me . Yes , I am drawing roses in afro blue. I am finding the positive in negative spaces and I am celebrating the richness of diversity. All while dope tracks play in my symphony of a life.

Oh yes , please support these artists by buying their actual albums . My intent was not to pass the videos or song as my own , instead it was to take you on a musical journey - thus giving you a chance to hear the music . BUY THE MUSIC!!!!!!