Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Magnificent Maleficent

I am not one who take every story at face value. I know there is always two sides.  There are always more ways to look differently at the same situation. 

I sat in the theater, viewing the opening scenes Maleficent and for a moment I was disappointed. Why were there CGI fairies? CGI twinkles? CGI anything?

And then I let go.  I let go of my expectations.  I let go of my preconceived notions. I let myself enter the world of Maleficent and I wanted nothing but to hear and see her side of the "story.”

And Angelina Jolie presents her side of the story so well. So perfectly. I got chills when she walked into that first scene as the Maleficent we love to hate. CHILLS!


I went into the movie theater expecting to hate a villain.  Instead, I walked out aligning with Maleficent, empathizing with her, even seeing parts of her in me.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we like to find inside the stories we watch and read? Confirmation that we are not alone, that pain and loss happen to us all, affirmation of our “universal truth” on the silver screen?

Watching the last few minutes of the movie, I didn’t want the movie to end. I wanted another chapter, deeper insight into where Maleficent and her loved ones would end up, how they would interact with each other, how their worlds would grow because they had each other in it.

Highly recommend you go see this movie. I know I will be seeing it again!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of comics, I was super excited for the second installment of the Captain America series. 

Who can turn down a movie that brings together Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson?  

From the first scene, the pull of good and sorta bad between Cap and Black Widow moved the scene, the plot, and the tension in the relationship along. Black Widow even mentioned it herself, telling Cap that saving the hostages was his mission.... Not hers. 

That didn't keep me from cheering for their friendship. Natasha randomly attempts to set Cap up with good girls throughout the movie. Their friendship and playful teasing is pretty sweet and actually reminded me of a good friend of mine and my friendship with him. Who doesn't like seeing glimpses of their own life reflected back at them on the silver screen?

I loved Natasha Romanoff. Marvel really takes a stand for female empowerment and a woman's ability to carry an amazing fight scene- there are no "oh, no, Black Widow is struggling, Cap hurry up and go save her moments." 

Cap is the emotional and sensitive good guy. From his attempts to direct Natasha to walk the heroic straight and narrow, to his honest offer to simply let his neighbor use his washer and dryer, to his undying loyalty to his best friend Bucky Barnes, any girl would fall for Cap and any man would kill to have him as a friend. 

The fight scenes, the action, the storyline with HYDRA, all are compelling and worth the ticket to see the movie on the big screen. 

The movie is not a conclusion, but a continuation in a long storyline in te Marvel Universe. 

Based on how good the movie is, I am looking forward to that next installment. Shoot, I may even go back and see this installment yet again. 


Monday, February 10, 2014

Advocating with the fury of 1,000 fiery mama bears

My mama's boy has often struggled with school. Sometimes with the learning, mostly with HOW the learning takes place.

His recent diagnosis of ADHD has explained so much. I have worked on changing our diet at home, the organization of our house and his workspace, added more routine to our day...all to support his growth and development.

Of course, I was planning on the school coming and meeting me 1/2 way in the support of Mama's Boy.

But almost two months after his diagnosis...still, nothing.

I went to the school on Friday to pick up The Twins for their birthday treats for their Kindergarten class. Mama's Boy's case worker was there and intercepted me. She was so nonchalant about her approaching me it took me off guard. She asked if I was interested in getting FURTHER TESTING STARTED for Mama's Boy now that we had this diagnosis.

Um, WHAT???

Shouldn't that have gotten started months ago when I dropped off the medical diagnosis?

And why further testing? She CLEARLY stated in our last meeting that if I was able to the diagnosis there would be plenty more we could do for Mama's Boy but WE JUST NEED THE DIAGNOSIS.

I actually had to ask the twins to get in the car and roll up the window because I didn't want them to hear me give the lady a piece of my mind.

I called the superintendent to bring the situation to her attention. I wasn't going to call the principal AGAIN. I had called her two weeks prior, left a message and received no call back.

I returned to the school about 45 minutes later and there was paperwork there for me to sign to get testing started.

I signed. This case worker/psychologist was kind but was late to the game and received my story empathetically, but could do nothing to change where I was emotionally and mentally with this situation.

I received this email this morning from case worker #1:

"Thank you for expressing your concerns today. I have a few dates
available that Mrs. Taormina and I are able to meet with you. I have
CC’d Mrs. Stibbard as we have not had the chance to speak with her as to
her availability. The dates are:
Weds 2/12/14 at 1:50pm this is during Eddie’s PE time
Weds 2/26/14 at 3:35pm
Friday 2/28/14 at 8:30am

We hope that one of these times will work for you and Mrs. Stibbard.
Thank you for coming in to sign the assessment plan offered today.
Copies have been provided to our school psychologist and resource
specialist and they are aware that the timeframe has begun for assessing (Mama's Boy).

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Cody Ostadsharif, M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Cupertino Union School District
408-255-2848 x126"

The teacher stated she couldn't make it until the last time.

I replied I didn't want to meet until Mama's Boy's assessments were done.

The case worker replied to that with this email:

"Hi,

Just to clarify you no longer wish to have a meeting immediately as was stated on Friday at approximately 12:10 p.m.? Would you be in agreement with moving his annual IEP meeting from May to whatever day is proposed to review his assessment results?

The testing timeframe began on Friday when the documents were signed. As our psychologist and resource specialist begin to reach the end of the assessments we will propose times to you as we get closer to the end of the assessments. We will do what we can to expedite the time frame for you, however, please note that it will be within 60 days from Friday. Which means on or before 4/8/14. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Sincerely,

Cody Ostadsharif, M.A. CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist"

WHAT???? Oh, now you want to get SMART and QUOTE THE SPECIFIC MOMENT I MADE A REQUEST??? Don't get smart with me and expect me to cower in the corner or tuck my tail between my legs. I DONT RUN FROM A BATTLE, especially one that I'm fighting on my son's behalf!!!

They dropped the ball. Legally, a parent request is the start date, at which the Cupertino Union School District had 15 days to create an assessment plan, at which point I would have to approve/sign that plan.

THEN the clock starts for the test, being 50 days (I believe- maybe 60, the wording here is interesting in different pieces of legislation that I've read) and then a final IEP or 504 plan. AND MIND YOU, Mama's Boy ALREADY has an IEP!!!

Filled with rage, anger, lots of stabby feelings...I sat in front of my computer ready to type out all of my feels.

I followed her email with my reply. I think you can see my level of frustration from the tone and the word choice. But please tell me they didn't deserve this.

Sent to the caseworker, the teacher, the principal and added the superintendent of Cupertino Union School District.

"You’re right. Let’s clarify Friday.

I think what I actually stated was that you and your school staff have severely dropped the ball when it has come to Eddie and providing services within his needs assessments and that a meeting to provide additional services needs to happen now. If this meeting is not for his additional services, why are we meeting? So that I can continue to tell you and the school that you are failing my son? That I have done everything you have asked of me and that now when the table is turned and you have a legal obligation to provide further services-or at a minimum according to you, further tests- you have not?

On October 24th, Mrs. Stibbard, you, and I met to discuss Eddie’s achievement, concerns, and needs. I expressed my concerns for Eddie’s lack of organization, his lack of focus, and his development as a 5th grader preparing for middle school.

The three of us were in agreement, but you expressed we needed some other diagnosis to provide further services. I expressed my concerns that he had ADHD, and you stated that if I was to get the diagnosis, there were many more ways the school could support him, but that it couldn’t happen until I received the diagnosis. “Just get the diagnosis,” you told me.

On December 19th, after two doctor appointments, a teacher assessment, parent assessment and final medical assessment, I received the diagnosis that I was anticipating and immediately brought it to the school. I personally handed it to you and you stated that we would get the ball rolling and try to see how we could begin to support Eddie with this diagnosis.

I asked for clarification, to make sure, was there anything else I needed to do at that time to get further accommodations and you stated NO.

I foolishly believed you. I have since received a minimum of three emails from Mrs. Stibbard about Eddie’s lack of focus, missing work, and test performance. I requested from Mrs. Stibbard information about where we were with supporting Eddie with this new diagnosis.

I called the school approximately two weeks ago to ask Mrs. Taormina, left a voicemail and received no call back.

I refuse to wait any longer on the testing. The woman who handed me paperwork on Friday said she would personally make sure this would be fast tracked. And I insist that this be done.

Maybe you see this as something that can be waited on, but I am personally taking the reigns on this. Your school is failing my son. He has less than one half a year until middle school, where this performance will definitely be one that will continue to keep him behind.

As far as I am concerned, the testing time frame should have started on DECEMBER 19TH. However, you dropped the ball on that one. Own that. Be responsible for how you failed my son on that day- as we teach our children they will be held accountable, so should we as adults be held accountable.

If this is a problem and you cannot fast track this as the other case worker stated on Friday, I do want that meeting, and I will have to insist on a meeting with the superintendent as well. She has been cc’d on this email.

-Angel Geden
 Angel Geden, M.Ed."

Let me just say, I will advocate with the fury of 1,000 fiery mama bears. I am the lioness, queen of the jungle, something far more fierce than any other animal. I will fight for my cub until I have exhausted my last breath. This is a battle I refuse to lose because winning it is too important to the future of my son.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I can't help but be human

Sometimes, and I know it will be hard to believe, I suck as a mother.

I feel it right now.

My Mama's Boy, at just age 10, has been diagnosed with ADHD.

There has always been something different about him. A lot of it is super good.

  • He would give his brothers (especially his older brother The Cool One) the shirt off of his back. This often means that if someone is hungry and all of the food is gone and Mama's Boy has food left, he will give the food off of his plate. Even if HE is hungry also.
  • He feels others pains and misery very personally. I listened to Mama's Boy tell the story of his teacher's apartment flooding from the ceiling in her closet because her neighbor flooded his bathroom and how said flood destroyed her favorite Ugg boots. We bought her Ugg boots that year for Christmas as a Random Act of Kindness (also, I was a teacher and remember my paychecks).
  • Despite a speech impediment that would crush many a soul, he cares very little about how he pronounces over "ovah" and for many years (but no longer) rabbit "wabitt."
  • He is a very, very, extremely happy kid.
Some things I struggle with in how to parent and discipline.

  • He needs to hear instructions five, six, seven times.
  • He takes very little seriously.
  • He is distracted by ALL. OF. THE. THINGS.
  • He forgets everything. His books at school. His completed homework at home. What instructions he was just given by anyone.
  • He cannot sit still. 
  • He has a hard time concentrating on a single task.
  • He is the king of blurting things out. And then you ask him not to blurt. And he does again. Because of the hearing things five, six or seven times.
Many years ago, people (you know, THEY) said, "He is a boy. That's how boys are. He will grow out of it." I never truly believed that because he was SO different from The Cool One, but okay. I was willing to wait and see.

A couple of years ago, people (agin with the THEY) said, "He is just maturing slowly for his age. He will outgrow it. As school gets more difficult and he gets older, you'll forget all about this phase." Doubtful, I thought. This felt so excessive.

And this past year. The hardest year yet, as I struggle to be the best working single mom I can be to four children-- all of them in school. Getting FOUR children ready for school. Getting FOUR mouths fed in the morning. Getting FOUR book bags together, socks and shoes on, sets of teeth brushed. I depend on my older boys to take care of themselves and where possible, assist with The Littles.

But everyday it felt like ONE older boy and THREE of The Littles.

I didn't have triplets. And a ten year old sized body acting like a five year old is stressful and overwhelming and just a darn lot to handle.

I went to the school the day I got the diagnosis. That is how desperate I am for help. For direction, for more assistance in some of the things I have experienced and deal with in his struggles to make good choices. And I don't mean he does bad things. But he struggles to know what focus and productivity and quality decision making looks and feels like. And the school expects me to solve this but I don't see him in almost 50% of the experiences (those at school).

The school told me oh yes, this is so helpful. We will start to see if there is anything we need to do differently. That was before Christmas.  But nothing has changed. And in the last months I've gotten a minimum of three emails about missing homework, misplaced homework, and speeding through a test just to be able to be done with it because he was distracted.

I lost it. I cried in bed. I couldn't get up and out of it. What am I doing wrong? What have I done wrong?

When I got up, I confronted him. Asked him what was wrong with him? How many times would I need to ask him to do his homework? Why does he lie to me about finishing homework?

I just asked question after question after question that made no sense to ask. He is just a child. This is a struggle he endures worse than me, as it is his struggle.

I was a horrible mother in that moment. He was off to school and then I got back in bed and cried longer because I felt I was failing him. Had failed him. Failed. I cried because his lack of being better felt like my inability to be better and his struggle was a huge sign of my weakness.

I spoke with a friend and he insisted that I loved him. That I was a mama bear and I would get up and fight yet again for him as I had in the past for The Cool One. That I wasn't one to give up ever before and I wouldn't do it now. And this past weekend, I've spent time briefly tearing up with a bestie at a huge birthday party for the Mac and she hugged me so hard that I remembered I am lovable. And I spoke with a colleague who has asked for my mentoring and listened so eagerly that I remember that I am talented. And I spoke with a friend about my Paleo lifestyle and what it does for inflammation in the body and depression and I remembered I am knowledgeable. I worked on a friend's technology problem after they were given some somewhat wrong information and I resolved said problem and I remembered I am determined. Today, I took off in my car to Trader Joe's and filled up my car with gas and I realized it was too beautiful outside to continue with errands and chores, so I took my children to the park- actually, three of us rollerbladed and one rode his bike and we just played at the park and I remembered I am fun.

Sometimes, we need to connect to those who will help us remember. Yes, sometimes I am brought to my knees by the events of my life. At the end of the day I am still a superhero, and like many superheroes, I can't help but be human.

Monday, January 6, 2014

I challenge you to better health!

I wanted to share a way of eating that I have found much success with. I want to begin with why I am sharing this way of eating. 

Two months ago, the TMJ which I had been diagnosed with almost 15 years ago moved from just an annoying click in my jaw to a constant pain, always there, keeping me from eating any solid foods whatsoever. Chewing and even speaking became painful and there was a dull throbbing sensation that moved from my jaw to my ear if I even attempted to open my mouth. I saw a maxillo-facial doctor, who performed a pano of my jaw, and was diagnosed with severe arthritis. Not "bad" enough yet for surgery, which wouldn't be anything but a temporary fix anyway, she told me best case scenario I would be on anti-inflammatory meds minimum twice a day for the rest of my life, and worst case, I would require addictive pain killers and muscle relaxers. 

I started my paleo diet just days before this appointment. A mere week after her devastating diagnosis, I realized my pain was disappearing. I could chew again! I was on no meds and the inflammation of my arthritis was almost non-existent! Today, I have no popping AND no pain. I can chew all my favorite foods again. 

What did this? How could this be possible? I checked websites and information about the paleo lifestyle. THE FOODS I HAD ELIMINATED ARE WELL KNOWN INFLAMMATORY FOODS! This change in what I was I taking into my body improved my health on its own. My food is medicine. Let me not forget to mention I also feel more energy and mentally I feel happier and have more clarity of mind!

So how am I eating?

Paired with my DELICIOUS vi-shakes for breakfast and lunch, I have been eating paleo. The paleo way of eating involves a plan of eating nutrition that existed during the Paleolithic era which ended with the development of agriculture and the grain based diet. According to wiki, "Centered on commonly available modern foods, the contemporary "Paleolithic diet" consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils."

I cannot stop telling everyone how I am changing my life. On Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr. Why not share it with the my non-existent readers? Maybe introduce the paleo-life to someone who needs it but doesn't know about it yet? 

Better health, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

And this is how I feel.

Eta: this is NOT a post about searching for pity. This is about honesty and sharing feelings.  This is about my reality right now. And about my struggle to resolve issues with shame and humiliation. 

An interesting thing has happened to me over the last year.

I have tried. And I have failed.

I have been married. I thought...I believed...I trusted that I was making the right decision. I believed in the promises that were being made to me.

I was wrong. Again. Marriage number two- a huge failure. In more ways then one, as well. I have had more personal trials and tribulations as a results of my choices in this marriage, it has spilled into my professional life (how do you maintain "face" when all you feel, all you thought you were- your identity that you wrapped up in your marriage is false and painful?), it has spilled into the relationship with my children, it has cut me off from friends and I have lost relationships because of my choices.

Fail. Shame. Unworthy. Unlovable.

And again. I was assigned to a project. Maybe the project was too much for one person? Maybe the project was too large in scope for the time given to it? Or maybe it was just too much for me. And I don't know- no one has really said it, but I feel it. I have dropped the ball. I have failed this project and my team and myself.

Fail. Shame. Unworthy. Unlovable.

I look in the mirror. Sometimes what I see completely disgusts me. My face, my back, sometimes my arms and chest- breaking out. Like I am 16 again. My waist- what waist? My hips, my belly, too round, too big. My thighs- every run, rough and red because- imperfections. I think I have tried to lose weight and I've actually gained.

Fail. Shame. Unworthy. Unlovable.

I wake up and want to stay in bed most days. On better days, I wake up and manage to rise for my day, a pit in my stomach afraid for what I'll screw up that day. But it's worse when the pain happens at night. I go to bed alone, choked up, a pain in my throat from swallowing back tears, miserable left to my thoughts of who I could have been if years ago, I hadn't started making horrible decisions, decisions that led me to being this person I am today. A complete and utter failure.

I don't write this post out of pity. I write it out of honesty. Maybe if I get this crap out of my head, this poison out of my thoughts, I can save myself. Maybe I'm not alone.

I am trying to have it all and in the mean time I am doing nothing well. I am a single mom of four boys, I have degrees and a job but I am daily overwhelmed. I am afraid and alone and unsure of everything right now. I want to reject things right now before they reject me.

I want to find a way to fill my life with people who love and encourage, who are supportive while still being realistic. I want to be better, but I have no safe haven in which to screw up. I have driven myself to believe that the only acceptable output is perfection, while not acknowledging the unrealistic goal of perfection.

I am trying to dig myself out of this shame hole I have created for myself. I hermit away when I get this way.

In 2009, I started a journey that I called 365 days of happiness. It changed me. I changed me. From the inside out. I need a journey like this. I found a link, I think from project eve, that sent me to the author Brené Brown and quotes about shame and daring greatly.

Immediately, I knew, in my soul, that this is what I needed.

"Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you're feeling. To have the hard conversations."
And here is the beginning of my difficult conversations. I am a woman filled with shame. I feel unworthy and unlovable. I want more for myself. It can't be too late because I am still here and I am still standing.

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt knew this. That's the origination of "daring greatly." And so, I will feast on his words. I hope you will too.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 
― Theodore Roosevelt
I am showing up. Asking for what I need. And this is how I feel.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A boy, a son but so much more

My son Gabriel is 5. He is off to kindergarten this year.

He got to select a backpack.

This is the backpack he selected.

I could tell his brothers and dad were uncomfortable with his choice. He chose a girl backpack. He is a boy

Are you sure that's the one you want? Don't you want a boy one? were questions asked by each of them.

I told him, "Babe! If that's the one you want, you should get it."And then I got him the matching Rainbow Dash Pony Pop Vinyl figurine.

I struggle with this 100% acceptance of him because I know the world does not accept him 100%, not because I don't accept him. I do. I adore him, all of his tastes and choices. But the world? Will the world accept him? I mean, his brothers and father barely accept him.

But this is not going to end, as his dad once said it would, over four years ago, as my baby boy asked to put on my eye shadow and nail polish. 

It is not a "phase."

It's not a phase when you go shopping to the Disney Store and your 5 year old son begs for the Rapunzel dress. (Thank goodness my mom was in town so I could look at her as the silent stream of tears ran down my face...it's not that I am disappointed in my son! It's just that I am scared for him) I did not get him the dress. I explained it was $44 and I had offered to get both of the twins something between $10 and $12. He understood and I got him the Tinkerbell doll with moveable wings.

He is in kindergarten now. And on his first day of school his class made 'mirrors' with self-drawn images of themselves glued to foil. They got handed a piece of construction paper to make their mirror. His teacher's one comment from day one? Gabe was upset he didn't get a pink mirror. I've discovered I now wonder if his teacher wondered what that meant...

But I need to stop. I need to stop worrying and I need to keep loving. I want to just enjoy him for the precocious, funny, smart, engaging, talented, imaginative child that he is. What will come, will come. And my love is strong enough no matter what any of this means. Because he is Gabriel. He is sunshine and rainbows, and reading and writing and stopgogabe. He is princesses and balloons, and beautiful colors and favorite books and playing at the park. He is classical music and ballerinas and fairies and the beach and water and sand and sun. He is pretzels at the mall and homemade cookies before bed. He is one-fourth my heart. 

He is a boy, a son but so much more.