The school year is coming to an end. My son is thriving. Something that seemed so difficult to do back in the fall, seems so easy to him these days. Homeschooling a child on the spectrum was by far one of the difficult things I have ever done. Not because my son isn’t bright, but more so because home is home and not school. Merging the two, home and school was too much for his brain to handle. And so we had our share of meltdowns, so many that recollection won’t even do them justice. So why even keep this? Because I see the possibilities and potential everyday. I see his light even as the school year slowly comes to an end.
It’s like a switch is flickering, deciding still if to stay full lit, but definitely hovering towards light. That’s what schooling my son feels like these days. Pure night and day. Pure joy and bliss. To watch him do work all on his own, without prompting, without cajoling, without pleading, without even bribing him, none of which worked on our tough days, is bliss. That this day has finally arrived even as the school year comes to an end is like the quote I shared previously about things being impossible. With kids on the spectrum, it will always feel and seem impossible, until they in their own unique way, defy expectations. I was simply fine with whatever we got out of him. But to see him pushing himself, without my help is the light I needed to see at the end of this pandemic school year tunnel. For kids like my son, ‘there is always light,’ like Amanda Gorman would say, ‘if only we are brave enough to see it.’ I see it everyday, and it truly fills my heart with joy. Keep this light for boys, and children like my son. They will defy expectations if only we are brave enough to see it, brave enough to them light up this world. And to see them in their light, to see and feel their potential is the very thing I needed as we begin to wrap this very strange school year up. It’s amazing how he continues to light my world.
We didn’t go to church last year. We didn’t celebrate with other mothers or listen to the special Mother’s Day prayers from our Jesuit Priest. We didn’t even get the flowers we normally receive at the end of mass, a symbol of our Church’s reverence for today. The pandemic with all its adversities was to blame. Today we are prepared to radiate in full bloom, in brilliant colors that highlights the beauty of the day. And there is something about Azaleas in full bloom at the entrance of my home, that gives me radical hope, one year later, as a mother, today.
For starters, azaleas are a a symbol of womanhood, of softness with their deep luscious purplish pink colors that are dependable as blue skies on a very sunny day. Azaleas beauty transforms any space becoming a dramatic focal point of any landscape, in the same way mothers transform life. Then there is the supercooling tendencies of Azaleas which makes these flower a symbol of hardiness. During the winter months, Azaleas hardy stems super cool to low temperature to avoid any freezing injury, enabling them to tolerate the presence of ice and survive. So too is motherhood. How we bear the pains of childbirth, particularly the illustrious ring of fire, the moment a baby makes its appearance, personifies the hardiness of Azaleas.
That one plant can personify both soft and hard, with grace and beauty, even in times of stress is the reason why azaleas give radical hope to motherhood, radical hope for my journey as a mother. By being both soft and hard, at its core Azaleas provide a sense of agency for change, a sense of agency for fight. Adversities will come, as with freezing cold temperatures of winter nights, and finding ways, supercooling ones, to fight through the ice, is crucial for survival. But in the Spring, there will be beauty, brilliant colors in full bloom, that radiates the moment you see Azaleas, the moment your eyes meet to greet these plants, such that the fight through the ice, is never futile, the fight through adversities is never futile. Azaleas commitment and courage to survive winter and achieve this flourishing vision for Spring, is the radical hope I keep for mothers today. The pandemic has been one great adversity. Testing our endurance and abilities to both juggle home and work at the same time. For some of us that meant, there were no separation. Work came home and home became work, not just for ourselves but with the children we homeschooled and the family members we nursed. The pandemic was like Azaleas during winter months. Yet we fought, through the ice, supercooled where we could, to survive this adversity of a life time.
But on this day, a year later, we celebrate you. On this Mother’s Day, may your beauty dazzle. Be as vibrant as you can be and wear those vivid colors that make you radiate like Azaleas. Become a dramatic focal point today and let every eye direct attention to you. This significant Mother’s Day, this one past the adversities of a pandemic, highlights the need to never forget our collective past (though still ongoing) of survival as we envision a collective future full of possibilities, where flourishing will always be at our core like Azaleas in Spring, as we embrace the meaning and purpose of motherhood. My prayer for you also is that you explode with colors so breathtaking that the memories of you beauty lingers on past the ongoing pandemic, throughout today and into forever. It’s what Azaleas do for themselves, a radical hope through life, a collective commitment to heal and transform the adversities of winter, to achieve new forms of flourishing in the Spring. I keep Azaleas here for you today and always.
There is something about motherhood that keeps me in awe every single time. It’s that journey between being pregnant and welcoming new life. My people call it a journey and they are quick to remind you to say nothing until you go on the journey and return safe and sound. I take this journey very seriously. Which is why you would hardly see pregnancy photos of myself plastered anywhere. Not everyone makes it through the journey. I get it and I value that too. So to go on the journey and come to the other side safe and sound, is the most awe inspiring moment ever.
Today, another great woman I know went on that journey and brought forth this little bundle of joy. There are no words. Seeing the picture above evoked memories of my experience. I remember the first nights vividly, of wondering how I would take care of the baby. They are so tiny in the beginning and so fragile that the idea of becoming my responsibility can be so daunting. But still, we persevere. To be a woman, to be a mother is no small feat. I am reminded about this everytime I hear another story of another successful journey of another woman. Those who never make the journey too, keep me alert. I know that fear all too. Every pregnant woman comes across it too and not make it makes me just as equally speechless. There is power in womanhood, in motherhood and it’s a gift I will always cherish. So when my family grew larger today, when we literally welcomed new life today, when we told another powerful woman I know that we thank God for the journey mercies, it dawned on me once more that there is power in being and becoming a mother. Something I will always celebrate and cherish for the privilege this aspect of my life entails. So in honor of our latest arrival, keep knowing the sterling power of mothers. We are awe inspiring every single time we bring new life to this earth. We are awe inspiring just as we are. It is by no means a easy task but you are still there and for that, I celebrate you mothers for all you do.
Yesterday my bright daughter was upset. Division was the cause. We are now in the phase of elementary school where failure with math is inevitable. For her, it has begun and it all thanks to long form division. Everything seems hard she said. She kept trying, and trying and still got everything wrong. She doesn’t like to fail and is doing her best but division is so hard. No one in class understood too until the teacher showed what they were all doing wrong. What made her so upset was how easy it actually was when her teacher explained it all. But why didn’t she see it? Why did she fail when she tried it herself? I listened intently as I understood well what was happening here.
I ask why is failing so bad? Her response-I don’t like to fail. I asked again, why don’t you like to fail? Because I keep trying my best but still I fail. So I asked again, why did you keep trying and still failed? Because it was making me so upset, she said. I still asked, why does failure make you so upset? Because there is nothing to learn from failure? Why can’t you learn from failure? I said? Because, wait, you can learn from failure? Breakthrough, I smiled, I replied of course you can. So what are we going to do now that we can learn from failure? I will try not to be too upset? Why will you not be upset even if you fail? Because I know I tried my best. Why will you keep trying even if you fail? Because I can learn from failing. Why is failing now good? Because it teaches me something about myself. I was curious and asked what did it teach? She said, never to give up even if you fail. Mission accomplished.
Teaching how to fail as well as learning from failure is a tall ask for little children. But my grantwriting hat helped me here. I fail all the time I told her. She said really. I said yes. Sometimes the papers I write are rejected and even all the hardwork I put on my grants too. But still I learn from every failure. It’s a teacher too. And like you, it teaches me never to give up. Division has helped me understand the significance of teaching children why failure it’s important. It’s a major keep I intend to continue to work on with my daughter. One that I hope you keep too.
My daughter once told me a story. Of her and her friends and their plans to save the world from goblins, or little monsters with green skins and two horns on their head. One friend was a wizard ninja, the other a pixie fairy and my daughter a purple fizzle, also known as bubble girl with a magic bubble wand and a skateboard. Together, they were unstoppable and will do whatever they could to protect the universe. She shared the picture below to illustrate this vividly.
In listening to my daughter recount this story, I became transfixed and transported into the realm of possibilities with stories. For my daughter and her imagination, there are no limits. Even a ninja with a staff can be a wizard. A pixie can be a fairy and fly around with her human friends. A bubble girl can not only possess a magic bubble wand that erupts magical bubbles, but she can also use her skateboard and run around a rainbow colored universe with her friends. Together they work to protect the universe from goblins and their their evil plans. Her story was not only engaging, but illuminating. My daughter took me on a journey to stories endless possibilities, one where openness is the destination for abilities that are limitless. Not only did she construct a narrative to describe how anyone can become anything, her narrative is also an illustration of an important lesson that she learned about own herself, something in fact expressed in the story itself. That she too can be anything she wanted to be. An endless possibility.
Stories like what my daughter shared, illustrate how they powerfully give meaning to one’s life. But authoring your own story for yourself, recounting ever act and action, every event and expression, is the greatest gift. One that takes you on a journey towards knowing and telling, reflecting and learning. Listening and learning about each character in my daughter’s story, how they feel and what they do, opened her eyes to their see their abilities, all full of endless possibilities. The reflection, inherent in the stories we tell, is the learning about ourselves that I gleaned from my daughter and her story. As her eyes opened to their possibilities, so to did her mind open to become aware of the power of her thoughts, her feelings, her actions, all infused in her story.
That to me is the power of stories, the power of authoring your thoughts and feeling as only you know how to do best. The power to resist and overcome all forms of oppression, the power of your voice with its gifts for suppression, repression, everything wanting to cause depression. With stories, the possibilities are endless. Stories are a function of our society, an opportunity to make and remake, to form and reform, to define and redefine, how we all become one. Powerful and liberating, stories help you author aspects of you that only you know best. Stories even those as unthinkable as a wizard ninja helps you claim authority over you. The world will try to define you. The world will speak ill of you to and use words meant to destroy rather than build you. But it’s in your story that you lay claim over how the world should see you. Not from the mouth of others, but from you, your acts, your actions, one after another. Such an authority over yourself is inspiring, divine, a sterling gift to oneself.
All of us, whether as young as my 8 year old daughter or as old her grandmother, have stories to tell, have point of views and values to share that many would be willing to hear. How we author our lives through stories is the thing I never knew I had in me, the thing I never knew I would also see in others until this keeplist began a little over 9 months ago. Finding stories, keeping and nurturing them, has opened my eyes to their power and freedom. They also helped me see the endless possibilities in all my life’s abilities. So for today and always, keep stories, even from a child’s lens. Find your story too. Author it. It will help you think, act, feel, the best in you that you may not even know exists. It has helped me find my way, through a life where nothing weighs me down. I am a master of my journey because stories showed all I needed. My daughter’s story by the way is called ‘The Rainbow Universe Society.’ Like I said with stories, the possibilities are endless.
DMX once shared the following, ‘if and when you ever fall down, get back up…and if you fall down eight times, get up nine.’ By now, you may know that this legendary man with a gift with words has transitioned from this world to the next. I spent most of my yesterday reminiscing about him, about his impact, about his gift. Here was a man truly talented in all sense of the word. That he used words to make sense of his world is profound to me. And of all I saw and read about him yesterday, his focus on getting up after a fall is sterling to me. He spoke also from experience. He lived a life that included falling down, but also getting up. ‘Get up, get up and try again’ was a constant message he shared to anyone who cared to listened. I did.
And the universe knew I was. While watching his videos, the very act of falling down but getting up was happening in my home via my baby. I have now captured all my children as they took their first steps. It’s one of those things that makes me smile. To see the first step forward, the first walk forward, for a life that is destined to include many first steps. Something about a baby’s first step keeps me hopeful, keeps me inspired and clearly personifies what X meant by ‘if and when you ever fall, get back up again.’That and the fact that all my babies, all of them fall down fast immediately after their first act of standing up straight, their first attempt to walk. The lesson of a step, a fall, but then get up and step and fall is profound to me. Invariably life will be full of steps and full of falls but what we do next is all that matters. From my babies, they keep stepping no matter how many times they fall. They keep walking forward, no matter how many times they still fall. They keep getting back up, no matter how many times they fall. I want to keep this lesson here today. They fact that a fall will be inevitable every time you take a first step. But keep stepping, keep walking forward, keep getting back up too no matter what causes you to fall. And if it includes ‘falling 8 times, get up the 9th’ as DMX would say. May his soul Rest In Peace. Amen.
Yesterday, we all went to church for Easter. This was my baby’s first Sunday mass. I knew that holding him close to myself at church would evoke the desire to breastfeed. It always does whenever he sees an opportunity. I struggled to figure out what to wear. Not only has the baby weight, refused to drop, but nothing in my closet fits. And it was Easter Sunday. Normally I wouldn’t care what I wear especially during a pandemic were no one sees your face but it’s Easter. So it mattered to me. I looked through my closet and settled on this pink flowery Ladymaker dress I got awhile back. The dress is part of their military collection. The fruitfulness and richness of the pink, gold, and brown illustrations on the dress serves all sorts of aesthetic purposes. At first I didn’t understand why the buttons were detachable because previous versions of the dress didn’t have detachable buttons. It didn’t also help that my boobs have grown so all the buttons kept popping out. But it was the closest thing to feeling part of the Easter celebration so I wore it to church.
At first baby didn’t seem to care for food. He was even mesmerized by the buttons. Then the homily period came. And as if on cue, crying and feeding time. He nudged his head towards his supply and I got up and went to a private corner at the back of church, popped open the buttons and started to feed baby. I was relieved and so was he. A chance encounter with a dress for women like myself helped me get through Easter service. A dress that thinks about women, what we feel, what we need, our experiences through life, even with breastfeeding is rare. I never planned to write about this dress but if you know how ferocious of an eater my son is, not from bottles but directly from the source, then you will understand why I praise this dress. The effect of such dresses, at its best can be immeasurable and I have a well-fed baby as the one and only judge. For mothers who are often forgotten or neglected, being remembered even via a beautiful dress, whether unintentionally or not, is like a miracle.
I am at this stage of my life where I’m beginning to rediscover what matters for me, dresses and people alike. Like this dress, I have no desire with keeping things that won’t be relevant to me and especially key moments in my life. This dress full of buttons illustrated why certain things matter and what will truly endure. In the end it’s only thing of relevance that remain. Only people that matter will speak for us. They stand for us. They become our living presence ever ready in times of need, every prepared to help us truly radiate. When you find your people, when you find the ones that matter, they can change the possibilities of your life, change the dimensions of your thoughts, change the power and beauty of your visions, even change the many depths of who you are irrevocably. That’s what my Easter dress did for me. It changed my outlook with life. And surrounded with my children, it’s true gift, like the key people that matter to me, radiates without end.
I had this grand idea to go to the Zoo with my children today. It was grand considering how one of my kids loves the Zoo. Not for the animals but for the train rides. We actually go to the Saint Louis Zoo just so we ride the train around the Zoo. We went two weeks ago and it was a hit. I made my appointment for today, got the kids ready, arrived on time, parked and hoped for a glorious day. All of that came to a halt the moment we went through the entrance and I asked for our train tickets. Trains were canceled for the day. My son had a massive meltdown. You mean no train? I said yes. But why? The weather maybe? But I see the train tracks? I know. Maybe we can actually look at animals since we are at the Zoo. We proceeded to try to see whatever animals we could find along the River’s Edge portion of the Zoo. I prayed for elephants or anything along the way through Africa or Asia. But the entire time we walked, my son cried. Not little sobs that you could maybe reason with, but loud meltdowns that are destined to make anyone think we have no control of him. He screamed, he shouted, pleaded for the train, apologized for his tears, all in between weird stares for strangers at the Zoo. Our trip lasted 10 minutes. Thank God for Zoo membership with their free parking. We turned around quickly for nothing along River’s edge could appease him. Not the black Rhino we managed to spot or the cute little warthogs along the way.
Every step we took back to the car, was full of meltdowns and pleading to stay, pleading for trains, pleading to want to stop crying. All of it not sinking into the brain. No amount of stating and restating that trains were canceled seemed to get through. We walked briskly to the car, got in, and drove past the Zoo, past the highway, all the way to the ice cream shop in hopes to calm the tears. It helped for awhile, chocolate sundae with sprinkles and no cherry on the top seemed to do the trick for awhile. The day was still young and so we tried to look for other things to do. Then I got the bright idea to be adventurous for the day. If we cannot get on the train, how about a boat. My other kids said sure, let’s go. My son still wanted his train. I tried anyways to give them an adventure. We got life vests, and a paddling boat for the Boathouse at Forest Park and proceeded to paddle all his tears away. At first, it seemed like the worst idea ever. Two adults in front to paddle and three kids at the back, one on the spectrum. We went around in circle. The kids loved it all. We managed to straighten the boat and went in deep, past the rocks, past the daffodils, past the tears, past the meltdowns.
Adventures with kids on the spectrum are a trip on their own. Though the day started with trains, we ended up with boats which seemed to do the trick for awhile until it was time to end the ride. Of course my son didn’t want us to stop. We tried to take in the moment for awhile, to bask in the beauty around us, to ease the fears, and please the brain’s love for noise. All of that helped. And slowly, we made our way back to the boathouse. To be a parent of an autistic child, is to be prepared all the time for life’s adventure. Of course they never go as expected and it can be tough when the brain wants its way. But I am learning to appreciate the brain’s love for duality. If you can’t give me train, then fine, boats will do. They did for us today and now we have a new desire to return tomorrow for another boat ride. And train if we can plus the Zoo of course. For him, we will try to keep life’s adventure going, wherever the journey takes us. The memories too are blissful. Keep adventures always, whether with Zoo, trains or boats.
Materials that absorb all light appear black to the eye. By definition, a black body is supposed to radiate light. Yet we failed these bodies with George Floyd, and the teenage girls, and everyone else that witnessed his killings. For them, and all black children, I fiercely want change. No young girl should have to witness another person die, someone that could have been her father, her brother, her uncle, someone that she still apologizes to, for not doing enough to save his life. For Darnella, and her bravery with recording an unthinkable act for eight minutes and 46 seconds, I desperately want change.
So I ask what would it take to bring change to our children? What if children, teenagers, black ones in particular, can come into bloom, like light, radiant with possibilities? What if their radiance can be transferred from one place to another, from one moment to another, from one child or teen to another? What if they decide how this transfer should occur, how to light the pathway so that all their brilliance can shine forth? What if there is an explicit focus on the role they can play in shaping the vision of their radiance? I imagine such a world is possible, if only we let children be light. I imagine such a transformation, a radical one, can come to fruition, if only children have a say in shaping their brilliance. I imagine that young people as creators or designers of innovations can lead to solutions that matter to them, if only we let them radiate all their possibilities. I imagine this world because it’s time for change. We have done deficit model work for too long. It has informed how we view our children, with black children, black girls in particular, seen as adults and not children before the age of 13. I am prepared to change that. I believe our children can have a future radiant with possibilities because we the adults stepped out of the way. They can and will design such a future if only we let them. I am dreaming here of course, but I believe that these dreams can be inspiration so I am leaving this here for the moment that I let my dreams become possibilities. We all have the capabilities to embrace a radiant future for our children, if only we let the light that is them, be them. By tapping into this radiance, I hope that I can join the chorus of people who truly mean what they say when they say enough is enough.
A collective love for children by children gives me hope. It’s my musing for today. My daughter shared a picture below with me the other day. It’s the way she looks everyday for school. Her deep red sweater was captured so vividly with her purple glasses brightly sitting on her face. The tie dye details of the mask she wears made me smile. Everything was sterling. This love through art is inspiring especially when the giver was one of her classmates. Being a new kid in a new school can be tough but this friend saw her long enough to make a drawing for her with details so accurate that it can only be love. A collective one. It is truly bold and I was elated. Kids can be light to each other if only they see each other. They can be love too if only they know it and be it. Her friend has been tremendously gracious of her time, her recess, even her art. To be this young and see the light in each other gives me hope that our’s children future will be bright if only they know so. Their future can be love, if only they remain so. I am compelled to do something about this love. Not because of my daughter but because I want more children to know love, to be it and to share it. I want more children to know that there are people rooting for them too in love. A collective love if you will. A collective love that knows no limits or boundaries. A collective love that overcomes all hurdles or despair. A collective love that shines forth like a light under a lamp that cannot be hidden. A collective love full of warmth, and support and unafraid to let children know that they are truly blessed and can leap anywhere. We are also hoping on them to pave the way for us in this world full of despair which they can only repair through the love they give to each other. Keep this collective love for children all around.