Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jessie Flips: About Living in L.A.--The Nicer Part!

We're still going over the videos that Jessie took in L.A., but one particular on-camera essay deserves a posting, particularly in these rough and uncertain financial times when a good place to live can be hard to come by.  According to Jessie, you can avoid the nastier parts, just let it go, and live in the nicer areas! Because living in the nicer areas (of course) is based only on one's desire to live in the nicer areas. Glad we got that straightened out. Now she just has to share this with Obama (and Harper). 

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Week of Greek: Chronos, Kairos, & Agapé, or Why I Haven’t Posted in a Long Time

When Dan and Jessie were away in L.A., I found myself bereft of my usual anchors and schedules—the things that tether but that also keep me grounded. I am rarely without my family in my own home for longer than two or so days at a time. I have left them to go on retreat or to canoe or kayak, but I am always with other people (even if those other people are silent!). But I had never had such an expanse of me—in my own home, in my own environment, with my own work and work routines—before.

While the trip to L.A. was Dan’s gift to Jessie, I think it was also intended to be a gift to me. An expanse of Nancy-ness for me to fill in whatever way I wanted. It was a strange expanse, because it was still bounded by certain daily and typical demands—the cat needed to be fed, the house vacuumed, freelance editing completed, food made, e-mails checked. But I also had a certain degree of choice about how I would spend my days that offered up freedom for either doing or being. I have to admit that when confronted by the doing list (more laundry, paint a room, patch a ceiling, deep wash a floor, declutter the family room), being seemed the more enticing (or needed?) of the two.

It was not so much a question of filling time—or, as the Greeks would have it, chronos, chronological or sequential time—as of opening myself up to time, kairos, or God’s time. Kairos, as I understand it, is kind of the time in between, a moment out of time when something special happens or is ripe for happening. You have to be fully present to experience kairos; you can’t use it (as you can chronos), rather, if you’re lucky, it uses you.

Now that I have adequately muddled you and demonstrated why I was not a classical scholar in university, I will continue with the Greek theme that haunted me the week they were away. Because having chosen NOT to use chronos to get chores done, but to open myself up to kairos (to see the limits of my un-doing), I was catapulted right smack into agapé. Yes, I hear you gasp in fear and trembling, agapé. A not-so-distant relative of chronos and kairos that lurks in the shadows waiting for dazed and confused parents of young adults to stumble around the corner before attacking them with the true and hence accusatorial meaning of LOVE.

Because, you see, in opening up to kairos I decided to delve back into Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journals and was reading the first in the sequence—A Circle of Quiet. In it she offers a definition of agapé (pp. 158–159) that brought me up short—with an unexpected snort of laughter and a sudden stab of revelation.

L’Engle writes, “[A]gapé means a profound concern for the welfare of another without any desire to control that other, to be thanked by that other, or to enjoy the process.”

There, in concise and precise detail, is the definition of the greatest challenge God has ever offered me—the challenge of parenting and loving a young adult through transition. Because, you see, I realized after reading this definition that I had this deep desire, this longing, this absurd need to control aspects of Jessie’s learning and life (Hooray! She remembered to sort her laundry AND wash it before drying it); to receive some appreciation from her for making my schedule her schedule (Thanks Mom, for sewing the costume and driving me to the performance on time when I only told you five minutes before I had to be there); and to experience some small measure of joy from the act of parenting (I really like this part where we argue and argue and argue and then we get to get up in the morning and do it all over again!).

And I was jealous. Jealous of all those other parents of teens in transition who profess deep and abiding love for their children because said children are learning and practicing new skills (that don’t involve lying or ingesting banned substances or breaking laws); and their children thank them (really, and not in that sarcastic way that I do get to hear daily: “Gee, thaaanks Mom.”); and they admit to really enjoying the process of parenting and learning from their teens. Like, whose children have they got and how did they get them?

But I am beginning to see that I shouldn’t be jealous, because they aren’t really being given the same chance as I am to learn about agapé now are they?

And that I should shift my focus from wanting a sort of ego pleasure in parenting to learning to lean into the hard parts so I can grow. In love, and maybe even in understanding what it is to love.

The final lesson perhaps, is to never let your family leave you alone for any extended period because you might be reduced to contemplation, which might change the warp and weft of your being and hence cause confusion in the family unit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Living the Dream in L.A.

I called Dan and Jessie in L.A. yesterday morning to see if they were surviving. The last time I spoke to Dan was a hurried call the morning they arrived (after flying across the country all night and not really sleeping) when he asked me if it was okay to give Jessie Pepto Bismol and if it was normal for Jessie to ask why she was vibrating. Huh? I just said yes, okay for Pepto-Bismol and anything is normal for Jessie on the road and then went back to my Lenten readings thinking L.A. is in the desert right? So Dan gets the wilderness, I get the honey, and I’m not going to ask any more questions!

When Jessie answered the phone, she exclaimed, “I’m living my dream!” I guess the Pepto Bismol worked!

It turns out that the day before they had walked along Hollywood Boulevard and when they got close to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (where all the stars' hand and other prints are) there were buskers in weird get-ups and loud music blaring. Jessie looked, listened, and then—decked out in her new bright pink sparkly Hollywood t-shirt and sunglasses—began to dance, doing her hip-hop choreography to some Rihanna tune. She refused to look at Dan, who was madly miming for her to stop, and just sucked up the attention as people stopped to watch and then looked around for a hat or some other receptacle in which to place money. When they saw Dan—who had by now surrendered and was filming it on the Flip (we try to chronicle all our daughter’s forays into madness)—they asked if he was her father, and then complimented him on her dancing.

According to Jessie, all their plans for the day were thrown to the wind and they were going back to Hollywood Boulevard. This time she was going to make Dan bring his baseball cap. They’ll either get rich, or arrested. Yup, she’s living her dream.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

LA for March Break

Jessie and Dan are getting ready to go to Los Angeles tomorrow for March Break—Jessie’s 21st birthday present from Dan and me. Part of the birthday present is me not going! As I am not the Hollywood fan and as Dan knows LA, we thought it might be much more fun (and economical) for just Dan and Jessie to go.

I, though, get to help pack and make lists, as I am a very good list maker. I say this with some pride, although I am not sure why, as my family seems to see my list making as an anal attempt at total control. While these lists are meant to keep me on track and allow Jessie to be fairly independent (the idea being that by following the list she can complete any one of myriad tasks independently), it never quite works that way. The lists that I make for myself seem to be accusatory compilations of what I have NOT gotten around to and the ones I make for Jessie serve as stimuli for sequential topics of contention (hmmmm, let’s see, there are 8 items on this list; I wonder if I can get Mom to argue about each one of them and how many I can get through before she has a melt-down?).

However, we have made lists for this trip:

Dan’s list looks like this:
* 2 pairs of pants, 5 shirts, 1 fleece/hoodie, socks, shoes, underwear
* Gaviscon for Jessie’s anxiety- and pizza-induced acid reflux, fuciden for skin infections because she forgets to wash her hands, lots of batteries for the iPod and the Flip, whatever else Nancy tells me to bring that I will pretend to bring but leave behind because she always over packs and doesn’t really know how to travel light

Jessie’s looks like this:
* iPod, iPod, iPod
* crocks
* notebook for writing lyrics so I can get discovered and lots of black pens for writing lyrics
* make-up to look good for when I am discovered or meet a star
* money to buy milkshakes at Millions of Milkshakes where I will drink my favorite drink and maybe get discovered or meet a star
* sparkle guitar t-shirt so I might get discovered or look like a star
* some clothes, but only those with sparkles, the other ones mom tells me to bring I will hide under my bed because she doesn’t really understand what Hollywood is all about and just doesn’t get my STYLE!

And after much careful consideration and editing, mine looks like this:
* Drive Dan and Jessie to the airport

I figure that way, we will all be very happy.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I was worried that it would take Jessie a while to get over her break up with Tall Thing. She can sometimes obsess about stressors, “rude” words, her health, and relationships. I guess that makes her pretty normal.

But I was reassured when yesterday, as she got into the car after drama, she announced that she was writing a new song.

“Oh?” said Dan, “What’s it called?”

“I’m Single and Ready to Mingle!”

Guess she’s over Tall Thing!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Exploring: Y's Owl Maclure

Transition Meeting
On Tuesday, we had a meeting at Storefront to talk about Jessie’s transition out of school and what she might do next year. While T&N (the teacher and the job coach at Storefront) say that we are ahead of some parents in exploring what the options are, we feel very far behind! It’s all one big mishmash out there of things that don’t quite fit Jessie. However, the one thing we are all agreed on (that’s Dan, Jessie, and I) is that we want her to keep learning and growing the way she has at Storefront. For example, she now wears her watch all day long and actually checks the time; she initiates and has conversations with her peers during lunch instead of always withdrawing to write in her notebook; she is able to sort, categorize, and place items in their proper places (organization and categorizing never her strong suit!); and instead of bursting into tears when faced with criticism or being told that something she had her heart set on is not possible right now (such as landing a role in the Jonas Bros. TV show), she removes herself from the room (to bust into tears—hey, baby steps!).

Time-Filler, Time-Killer
We don’t want to sign on to a program or make a plan that is just a time-filler—killing time while you are waiting for something more real to happen… like what would that be? But, on the other hand, we would be likely to pick a time killer, something that was half a step backwards (but not a full step backwards) if there was nothing else that would keep her growing and out in the community. Unless, of course, we won the lottery and we could hire someone to do all coaching and finding and networking required. We learned last summer that while I am a great resource person and connector and planner, I am not her best coach, nor her best teacher, and she still needs (and wants) both.

Because the reality is: she is still in the exploration stage, developing skills, honing her interests, finding out what she is good at, and (as well) what she just sucks at! And that’s okay. Actually, that’s more than okay, that’s great! The big question is how to best support that.

Inclusive Post Secondary Options Few and Far, I Mean Really Far
While an inclusive college or university program—such as those in British Columbia or Prince Edward Island—look like perfect fits for what Jessie says she wants, we don’t live there and aren’t really about to move. In addition, Jess is definitely not ready to live in any kind of residence situation, unless fully and appropriately supported, and the only programs like that exist in the U.S. and at exorbitant prices that we can’t afford. And this is where I restrain myself from beating myself up for not having the foresight or energy to create something like that here in Ottawa. (I am giving up self-flagellation for Lent and am preparing myself for the shock by practicing publically on this blog.)

Range of Options in Ottawa
And the range of options for exploration here in Ottawa is rather minimal, which means we will have to get creative. Sigh. But for the first time in a long time we met someone from an organization who has some ideas about getting creative and linking Jessie’s gifts, passions, and gaps to what is out there in the community. HOORAY! Many organizations say they know how to teach reading and writing or basic frontline retail or baking or gardening skills, but have no idea about what to do with someone who wants to be involved in the arts. So we’ve just used them for those skills (and great skills they are) and tried to sort out her great strengths on our own within the arts community.

Y's Owl Maclure
T&N invited Ms. Bright Smile (that’s what I’ll call her for now!) from Y’s Owl Maclure to Jessie’s meeting and she kindled a bit of hope in us for next year. Y’s Owl does have a program (called Follow Up) that provides continuing job coaching for students who leave school with a job (or a volunteer placement). The coaching can be at more than one placement. And while it is really just maintenance support, it means that many students can continue with their work or their work experience placements with a degree of support.

You are probably wondering why this excites me. As I write it, it doesn’t sound like hot $%^%$. But it allows Jessie to continue to volunteer with the Food Bank (a great and positive experience), while being involved in the community and exploring her interests (like taking a course in media studies at the local college, continuing with Propeller dance and pushing her dance by taking other classes, working on a drama certificate with Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, maybe even H’Art studios and voice lessons or a healthy eating class at the local health centre, or [because we never say never] preparing for college or university). The trick will be managing it, and I think we can figure out a way to do that with a little bit of help (hooray for Sophie and the planned PATH coming up in the spring).

Building a Foundation
The other reason it excites me is that Ms. Bright Smile had some ideas about how to hook into the arts community and to develop learning opportunities for Jess. She was also able to look at the big picture (of a life) and see it as a work in progress. Lots of bonus points.

And the final reason for our interest and excitement is that if Jessie is receiving support from them in the Follow Up program and we put her name on the list for their Foundations Program, they will already have a good sense of who she is and it might make it just that much easier for them to create a fit when an opening arises.

The Foundations program is for individuals between 21 and 28 and is “aimed at assisting young adults with developmental disabilities to make a successful transition from school to a wide range of community participation activities and work. . . . Staff work one-on-one with young adults to explore a variety of support and services in their community in order that they may make informed decisions to direct their own future.” The point being, I think, that it is person-centred and based on the individuals gifts, interests, gaps, and goals.

Life, the Universe, and . . . Nothing
Okay. I realize that this post is mostly a list of what we did. But in trying to chronicle these transition years, some days are just days where you list what you did or explored. They, perhaps, will set the context for some other more pithy or moving post that offers insights into life, the universe, and everything (apologies to Douglas Adams). Or they may not. I will end with one word (okay, number). 42.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jessie Flips: About the "R" Word

Jessie flips . . . a day early, because she wanted to encourage you to join the thousands of others pledging to end the use of the R word to promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.