Times Have Changed

Do you remember what it was like before social media, smartphones, I-Touches, and other technological advances? If you are 18 or older, most likely the answer is yes.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I cherish how it has allowed me to reconnect with people. I have met others through Facebook groups and this blog and following other’s social media has led me to articles I may not have otherwise found.

In my opinion, one of the largest downsides of social media is the portrayal of the “perfect” image, family, job, or lifestyle. I know no one is perfect. In fact, perfection is a myth. I am an adult and recognize these truths but I still get sucked into this thought process, at times. How are children, teenagers, and young adults supposed to handle all the images thrown at them?

Little Miss had her birthday party this weekend and we witnessed firsthand how this generation is bombarded with social media and quite frankly addicted to it. There were eight girls including Little Miss. The party was at a local hotel. They ate dinner, swam in the hotel pool, had cake, showered, played a game, watched a movie, and hung out before going to sleep. Half of these girls brought along their I-Touches and were taking pictures, posting to social media sites, texting with each other, and messaging others not invited. At first, I thought it was cute they were taking pictures and video of themselves. I did not think about posting to social media. I guess I am very naive when it comes to fifth-grade girls. The technology use was so bad I finally had to ask them to put their devices away. Some did not listen and I had to ask again. I was shocked at this behavior. Both at their lack of cooperation and their lack of social graces.

To make things worse, one of the Moms returned to the party since she was taking two girls home because they had early games in the morning. Her daughter was one of the device users. I had an internal debate trying to decide if I should speak up or not. It is always awkward reprimanding someone’s child in front of the parent. Finally, I didn’t have a choice.

I started thinking back to Big and Middle Miss’ birthday parties at age 11 and 12 and realized we never had this issue. Some kids received phones during the middle school years, rarely elementary school, and they were only used to make phone calls. Does this occur at all the birthday parties now?

As we were driving home Saturday morning Little Miss shared how upset she was about what transpired. She was hurt her friends chose to be on their devices rather than play a game or watch the movie. My heart broke for her. I explained how sorry I was for not saying something earlier in the evening. I never thought this would be the biggest issue at her 11th birthday party.

In addition to the technology issues she also mentioned another problem I had not encountered before. A few of the girls questioned who she invited and who she didn’t invite. I was appalled. I don’t go to someone’s house and ask why they did or did not invite someone? I can only surmise these girls learned this behavior at home. Little Miss and I talked about it for a great while. This was not the first year this issue has cropped up either.

Times have definitely changed. These kids are growing up much quicker than the previous generations and I do not think it is a good thing. A conversation has taken a back seat to the latest Instagram post or Snapchat If this is how all social activities in the future will look like I am not sure I want to participate.

I have always been very careful about not posting anything regarding parties or other events that do not include everyone. I am sensitive of others who may feel excluded or left out. Of course, we can not invite everyone but that doesn’t mean we should showcase the event for everyone to see. Once we were home and putting away our things I realized some of the girls were most likely posting to their social media accounts. So much for sparing other’s feelings.

I have discussed the pros and cons of social media with my children since Big and Middle Miss had their own Facebook accounts. I believe they have acted maturely and only posted appropriate items. We wrote a contract for each of them regarding how the account should be used and monitored it. Big Miss had an incident of “hate” on Facebook when she was in middle school and immediately come to us for assistance. We helped her work through the steps of reporting it to her school as well as other authorities. It was a very rude awakening to the cruelty in this world. Many feel they can lash out when behind a screen when they wouldn’t think of doing it to a person’s face. What is this teaching our children?

The suicide rate among adolescents has skyrocketed over the past few years and experts have debated the whys. Some have noted the use of social media as one of the culprits. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/suicides-teen-girls-hit-40-year-high-n789351.The schools now encourage students to bring their own devices to school and use them for “school research”. We all know they are being used for more than research. I recently read an article detailing an app boys use to rate girls https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2019/03/26/teen-boys-rated-their-female-classmates-based-looks-girls-fought-back/?utm_term=.8668b782f8e7.
What has our world come to when girls are shamed due to their looks? No wonder so many has body image issues.

I have spoken to Little Miss about the dangers of social media and explained why she is too young to have an account. I know we will have to eventually get her a phone and she will want to join the social media accounts but I hope she will be mature enough to handle all the negativity and images coming at her 24 hours a day. I believe when she is mature enough she will be ok. She recognized these girls at her party were not acting appropriately and I tell her, “sometimes we learn what not to do or say by other’s mistakes.” I wish she didn’t have to experience this pain but I guess it is inevitable in today’s society and part of the process.


The Varsity Blues

It has been a few days since the scandal hit the airwaves. If you are shaking your head wondering, “which scandal is she referring to, there’s been so many”, I will explain.

The Varsity Blues https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/actors-designers-distillery-owners-here-are-some-of-those-charged-in-the-college-admissions-scheme/2019/03/12/3c2f5316-4500-11e9-8aab-95b8d80a1e4f_story.html?utm_term=.50470cd207a9 an undercover investigation involving a number of celebrities including Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin among others. The mastermind received payment to bribe elite colleges so their children were accepted into collegiate sports programs. The student would not play the sport while attending such school but that wasn’t the point.

Another scheme involved the college board exams such as the SAT and ACT. In these scenarios the student was evaluated by a doctor who verified extra time was required during the exam due to a learning disability. Once the accommodation was approved a “stand in” would complete the tesA “stand in” was able to complete the test since the accommodation included testing at a private location to limit distractions. Therefore, identification was not required as it usually is at testing centers.

Admission to college has become ultra competitive. At some schools an acceptance versus a wait list can be determined by a mere 2 point difference. It has always been known preference is given to those whose families donate to a school or have a history with the school, such as a legacy. Bribing athletic directors and paying others to take your entrance exams is an all time low.

The case is disturbing but the issue most troubling to me is faking learning disabilities to receive accommodations. We went through this process for Middle Miss. It is not an easy task. We had legitimate doctor reports indicating why she needed extra time and it was a two year process before receiving approval. I worry the process is going to be much harder for those applying in the future. This scheme took advantage, and essentially mocked, anyone with a learning disability.

I hope justice prevails in this case. Tough sanctions should be given but I hope the safeguards put into place following this scandal will not be insurmountable for the learning disabled community. They deserve accommodations in order to level the playing field. Do not take away their rights because others were greedy and cheated.

Emotional Day

Every year on the anniversary of our horrific accident Mike and I have tried to honor the local Rescue Squad who responded. These men and women are the true heroes. They are the ones who sometimes risk their lives to help others and were the ones who saved Middle Miss’ life on November 27, 2001.

How do you thank someone for saving your child’s life and who were the individuals involved at this moment? These are two questions we have asked ourselves over and over. We discovered the answer to the second question a few weeks ago.

Each year we go to the Rescue Squad and drop off a note of thanks and a few gifts. Once Middle Miss learned about the fateful day she wanted to write the note herself and made sure we went on the anniversary of the accident. Some years we had a difficult time because if no one was in the building we couldn’t leave anything outside so would continually return until staff was in the building. This year the anniversary fell on a Tuesday, Mike would be at work and Little Miss at school. Middle Miss and I set out to take care of the gift.

In all honesty, I had taken a step back from going. It is difficult. So many memories come flooding back. As with many things in life I knew I had to be brave for her so I forged ahead. Luckily, there were three emergency medical technicians in the building when we arrived. Middle Miss gave them her homemade card and I presented the gift baskets. The gentlemen were very welcoming and asked her some questions. I asked if I could take some pictures of all them with Middle Miss and they enthusiastically agreed. The Chief asked for an email in case he wrote something for their newsletter and I gave him mine.

We expressed our gratitude one more time and headed on our way to lunch and manicures. Over the past few years, I have tried to make this day more of a celebration rather than a day of mourning. Yes, it is still a sad day for me but I was trying to turn the intention around.

The following day I received an email that shocked me. It was from another Batallion Chief who saw the thank you note while at a meeting at the local Rescue Squad. He mentioned the story sounded familiar and wondered if it was the same call that haunted him all these years. I responded with more details and he confirmed he and his partner had been the first to arrive on the scene and they worked to save my girl.

We spoke a few days later and he told me the entire story of her rescue. He explained he originally thought she was sleeping when he approached the car but when he put his hand on her chest realized she wasn’t breathing. He couldn’t open the door so he pulled her out along with her car seat through the already broken window. She was brought to the ambulance where they tried to get her breathing while immediately transporting her to the local emergency room. The details he remembered were unbelievable. He told me the memory of some calls is forgotten for various reasons but this was one that he thought about often.

We arranged to meet him and his partner along with Mike and Middle Miss. I was a nervous wreck beforehand. I don’t know why but I wasn’t sure how to thank them. We had contacted a local newspaper to tell a “feel good” story. https://www.loudountimes.com/news/leesburg-family-reunites-with-life-saving-paramedics/article_bdba95a6-0538-11e9-9bf8-073b97959937.html.

A local radio station interviewed me and ran a story the following day.https://wtop.com/loudoun-county/2018/12/a-proper-thank-you-that-took-17-years-to-deliver/slide/1/

We were thrilled to finally meet these two heroes and tell them how grateful we are for all they have done for our family. As expected they were very humble. I still don’t feel we can ever thank them enough but how do you thank someone for saving a life.

Scans Don’t Lie, Or Do They?

The pain kept ebbing and flowing.  Somedays there wasn’t any and then it would come on with such intensity.  I tried stretching but the pain didn’t subside.

Mike and I despised the mattress we bought seven years ago and decided it was time to get a new one.  I expected to wake up renewed and refreshed after the first night but was severely disappointed.  I gave it a few more days and still, nothing helped.

I made an appointment with a physical therapist hoping a few visits would relieve the pain and I could go on my merry way. The therapist evaluated my symptoms and asked me to do a few simple movements.  She worked with me in her office and gave me exercises to do at home.  But the pain kept getting worse, not better.

Mike suggested I make an appointment with an orthopedist who would be able to pinpoint the problem.  He should know since he has probably seen every orthopedist in our area due to ongoing knee issues. The doctor ordered an in-office x-ray and conducted a brief exam. He concluded herniated discs from the delivery of Middle Miss were most likely causing pain.  He mentioned a few therapy techniques which would help strengthen the muscles surrounding the discs and ordered an MRI to get a better picture of the spine and discs.

The follow-up appointment concluded the discs were the cause of the discomfort and he went over the options.  He then showed me a different view of my spine and casually pointed out the radiologist indicated I had less than normal fatty tissue for someone my age.  The causes for this were listed as smoker, anemic, or myelodysplastic syndrome.

He suggested I see my primary care doctor and have a complete blood panel to determine if anemia was causing this issue.  Once home, I looked up myelodysplastic syndrome and my heart dropped into my stomach.  I read the definition over multiple times and looked up every source I could find.  I could not believe what I read.

I joined a facebook group for those suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome and was troubled by the posts and information.  Thoughts of my blood and bone marrow failing entered my daily thoughts and invaded my dreams.  I had trouble sleeping and could not muster the strength to eat much either.  I managed to hold it together for Middle and Little Misses but Mike saw the worst of my fears.  I told him we needed to increase my life insurance before I had an official diagnosis.  I was consumed with thoughts of how he would handle my diagnosis as well as care for a ten-year-old and 20-year old with special needs.  Mike is a terrific husband and father but it is a lot for one person to manage without any family living nearby.  It would also be a huge adjustment to my girls.  My stomach was in knots and I couldn’t think beyond a day.

A few days later I had my first appointment with a new physical therapist and told her my concerns. She read the report and acknowledged she would be concerned as well and suggested I see an oncologist.

Last week I had an appointment with a new general practitioner and an oncologist.  The general practitioner calmly told me she thought seeing an oncologist was a great choice, however, did not think I needed to worry.  She explained her office would run blood work to confirm I didn’t have anemia and check my red and white blood cell numbers.  She continued to explain radiologists report any issue in to cover themselves against medical malpractice.  She reassured me but I still didn’t feel one hundred percent cleared.

Surprisingly, I was able to go through the rest of my day without obsessively thinking about my following day’s appointment.  The next morning, while showering, it dawned on me I had to walk into an oncologist’s office and learn my fate.  I couldn’t eat breakfast that morning. I managed to take two spoonfuls of yogurt before feeling like I was going to vomit.

The office was located in a building I was very familiar with since my OB/GYN had his office here when I first started seeing him over 23 years ago.  I didn’t feel the same excitement walking in as I did before.  I approached the door very tentatively preparing myself for what I would witness.  There were three patients talking loudly about their chemotherapy and radiation treatments and I surmised they all had breast cancer.  I was struck at the age of one young woman and overheard her say she was going to turn thirty at the end of the month.  She is way too young for such a diagnosis.  I felt horrible for her.  It made me think at least I was in mid-life dealing with a possible diagnosis.

Two nurses escorted me back and took my vitals and brought me to the examination room.  One was not very friendly and it appeared she was training the other who was much friendlier.  I wondered if the staff had to remain distant in order to protect themselves in the case of a terminal diagnosis.  She asked me a few questions and looked over the pages of information I completed online.  She then startled me when she inquired f I completed The Advance Directive.  I responded that I had not completed it and she made it clear I needed to do it immediately.  She handed me a paper copy and I shoved it into my purse.  Now, I was really worried.

My stomach flipped as I waited for the doctor.  She entered and I immediately liked her. The doctor immediately told me she knew why I was there and reassured me.  She continued to tell me that my general practitioner had faxed my blood counts and there wasn’t any indication of myelodysplastic syndrome or anemia.  She explained she would do a brief exam, run some bloodwork, and ask a few questions.  When the questions and exam were done she reassured me, again, that she did not suspect anything and reiterated radiologists report any and all possibilities in the report.  She also went on to say that many times shadows mimic something that is not there.  In other words, MRI scans were not fully accurate all the time.

My bloodwork results were immediate (funny how some medical offices can complete them so quickly).  She brought me back to her office and confidently told me my numbers were excellent.  She advised me to have yearly labwork and if I ever suspected anything I should call her office.

A HUGE weight came off my shoulders.  The stress of the past two weeks slipped away and was replaced by adrenaline followed by exhaustion.  All the restless nights caught up with me.

Since Friday, I am trying to be more aware of all the blessings in my life.  I have also taken this experience as a reminder that I need to do more self-care for myself.  I followed it up with a sound bath meditation.

I hope all of you are taking care of yourselves as well.  We all need to practice more self-care.

Persistence: If At First You Don’t Succeed

Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence. –Colin Powell

Persistent would not have been a word to describe me. Since I became a mom 22 years ago (wow, that’s a long time ago) it has defined me.

Recently I learned that persistence can lead to success.

Last August Middle Miss started community college.  During her senior year of high school, we met with the Disability Sevices Office to write her Memorandum of Accommodations (MOA). The MOA is the college version of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

A major difference between the two is an IEP is a legal document and therefore has to be followed by all school personnel. An MOA is not a legal document but merely a ‘suggestion’. Most schools claim professors work with students to grant the accommodations but if there is an issue it is the student’s responsibility to alert Disability Services for assistance.

close up of apple on top of books

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We met with a Disability Counselor 6 months prior to the beginning of the Fall semester.  I was very impressed by the process; it was quick and efficient. We provided the required documentation illustrating how the TBI affects learning new information and accommodations that will assist her. We also presented the current IEP the local school system had in place. The counselor wrote her MOA and included all the accommodations requested with one exception. She did not approve extended time on homework explaining that the school did not permit this particular accommodation.  She did approve extra time on class projects, tests, quizzes, and in classroom work. I explained why this accommodation was needed but she still denied it.

We left the meeting pleased since the other accommodations were readily approved.  I spoke to Middle Miss and told her we would see how it goes and if this became an issue we would pursue it at that time.

The semester got off to a good start except for her one credit mandatory class.  The class was taught at a fast pace as it was only held eight weeks rather than sixteen.  Middle Miss began falling behind a few weeks in and she reached out to the professor explaining that due to her disability she needed extra time to complete her work.  The professor denied this request and suggested she speak with Disability Services.  Middle Miss sent an email, followed up with a phone call, and met with the Disability Services Counselor.  The Counselor denied her request for additional time and went on to tell her that she had more accommodations than any other students and asked if she was autistic.

Following this meeting, I became involved.  The school refused to speak with me unless they first heard Middle Miss’ verbal permission.  This development shocked me as we had Guardianship.  The Court determined we could speak on Olivia’s behalf but the school administration refused to honor this.

Our disagreement with the school pursued and we met with the Acting Director of Disability Services, the Dean of Students, and the Program Director.  They all refused to approve the accommodation AND would not explain the reason for the denial.  I appealed this decision all the way up the administration chain to the President of the school.  Again, another denial.

Soon after the President denial, I left a message for a local consumer advocacy group asking if they would do a story on this event.  A few months passed and the group contacted me stating they would not take this issue because they only represented consumer complaints.  I was a bit surprised by their refusal since I was under the impression that students were consumers.  The message suggested I contact the Governor’s Office since there was someone in his office assigned to deal with these complaints.

Concurrently, we had an appointment with Middle Miss’ neurologist and when the doctor asked how school was Middle Miss told her what happened.  The doctor was appalled and offered to write a letter in support of the accommodation.  I decided to go this route first.  The first letter submitted was denied, AGAIN. I sent an email (through Middle Miss’ account) asking why it was denied and what information was needed.

The Counselor responded and I forwarded it to the doctor’s assistant.  Another letter was submitted that took the information needed directly from the neuropsychological report we had provided fifteen months ago.  Guess what?  It was finally approved. The Disability Office had the information all this time if they had only bothered to read the full report.

There were many times during this battle I considered throwing in the towel.  I am so glad I didn’t give up and kept fighting for what

Middle Miss needed.  She is unable to fully advocate for herself and needs our assistance.

This, as well as many other previous instances, has taught me to fight for what I believe in. I will not always win but I can sleep well knowing I tried.





Higher Suicide Risk

A disturbing, yet not surprising, article was published in the Washington Post today.  Although short, the reporter detailed a Danish study conducted on young adults who either had a Traumatic Brain Injury or a mild injury sometimes classified as a concussion.  Unfortunately, the outcome was not a surprise at all.

For a few years, I have worried about this type of event happening in our family.  There has been a large increase in suicides especially among teenagers and young adults.  We have tried to be as proactive as possible.  Ignorance is not bliss.  I think our society has to do more.  Traumatic Brain Injury patients and others suffering from mental health issues need support and care.  The health insurance companies need to grant this care to those in need.

A brain injury, no matter how severe or minor, has a profound effect on cognition and the brain.  Survivors have remarked that they are more impulsive which can lead to devastating circumstances.  The brain can no longer keep them safe from harm or may overreact to an event.

We need to share our stories.  Not just the good ones.  The heartbreaking narratives have to be told and heard.  I believe we all have a story to share.  Sometimes the most heartbreaking ones have the most impact.

Back To School Preparation

On a whim, I wrote an article for Thrive Global.  The editors send prompts on a weekly basis.  I usually think about submitting a piece if the subject is relative but other things take precedence or I forget.

This week the prompt was anxiety and going back to school.  The subject could be parent’s anxiety, student’s anxiety, a transition to elementary school, middle school, high school, or beyond.

I immediately started writing since this is a subject I have dealt with for a long time with my children.  Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not an expert but we have had our share of the back to school jitters.  There is currently some of that anxiety in our home since our schools resume next week.

I put my thoughts down, edited, and submitted.  A day letter I received an email informing me that the piece had published.  Cue happy music.

If you want to read the piece head over here.