Saturday, October 29, 2011

kids have no respect for depression.

I was reading Allie Brosh's blog, "Hyperbole and a Half" today and surprise, surprise -- she also suffers from depression. I identified with everything she said. I remember how before I had kids, I too could sink into months and months of never-ending sadness. Before kids, I could just say "Screw it" and indulge in all the depression my little heart desired. But now that I have kids, I don't get to let myself hit rock bottom anymore. See, my kids, they have no damn respect for depression. Ingrates. With these little tikes depending on me, I don't get to wallow and I don't get to stay in bed all day. I think the only thing they might tolerate is if I didn't bathe, but even I have a two day limit before I fold and take a shower. Today, instead of laying on the couch and buying them $50 worth of iPad apps to keep them quiet while I watched all of the episodes of Criminal Minds I have recorded, I decided to shed my Zombie Mommy costume and take them to the park. I even brought my camera to document it (you know, proof). They had a good time. I got some fresh air (a good thing, no?). We all got worn out. Good thing some of my photos turned out.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

snooki inspires on 'america's next top model'.

The girls waste no time ganging up on Bianca now that Bre is gone. Bianca is pretty much screwed at this point, but instead of making nice, she informs Kayla that she is “unmemorable”. Kayla fires back telling Bianca that she’s "a bitch -- and bitches never win!”. Sing it, sista!

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

letting go of the shame of depression.

Most people I know are uncomfortable talking about depression (theirs or mine). With all of the teen suicides in the news as of late, I think that we need to get over ourselves and talk about the hard stuff. While bullying may have been the catalyst of what brought these teens to the breaking point, it was depression that actually caused them to take their own lives.

Admitting to being sad about something is one thing. But truly copping to suffering from depression is like laying every personal weakness out on a table for all to see and letting people stand and judge you. It’s even worse when you are someone who people think is really together, tough, and able to handle whatever comes her way. Once they get over the shock that you are depressed, people often feel duped. If they had the guts to say it out loud, they’d say “So, all of this time, you’ve been pretending to be happy, but you’re just a big liar”. And to that I would answer, it’s actually a little of a) and a little of b). I pretend to be happy in an attempt to make you more comfortable and to trick myself into not being depressed. It sort of works, up to a point.

Depression is an ugly disease. And because it is so misunderstood, those who suffer from it often feel tremendous shame. Depression makes me lazy and selfish, throws a grey blanket over my universe and warps everything good in my life into something I don’t deserve. That’s why it’s so important to talk about depression. If we would all just talk about it, let go of our shame, the tolerance and acceptance would be more effective than all of the medication in the world. Which is not to say we don’t need medication, but you catch my drift.

There are days when all I can think about is how badly I want to get back into bed and sleep. Not because I’m physically tired, but because the world is just too overwhelming. I typically try to hide this from those I don’t know well, but I have started being candid with the people I am closest with. Even though there is nothing they can do to “fix” me, at least they know that I’m struggling. They can give me a hug, squeeze my hand, or even just say, “I’m sorry you are feeling so sad. Let me know what I can do to help”. It’s also important to let people in on how you’re feeling because it’s easy for others to take you being down or sad personally, as if they have somehow caused it. By letting them know you are going through a rough patch, they can help you turn your day around, instead of worrying that they have done something to cause your sadness.

I say all of this not to make you feel sorry for me, but to help those who also suffer from depression. Reach out to those around you. Go to your doctor and ask for help. Talk to a professional. Feeling sad all of the time is not normal. You don’t have to live each day wishing for it to “just be over already”. Life is too short to spend it feeling bad. Let go of the shame.

Friday, October 21, 2011

rapid head growth may be an early sign of autism.

Big heads are common on my husband’s side of the family. My husband gave up on wearing hats years ago and my brother-in-law, who’s in the military, has to have his berets special-ordered. Knowing this, people made jokes before my son was born that with “that big head” I sure was “going to have to push hard to get him out!”

 I didn’t appreciate their humour then, and to this day I have remained sensitive of my son Max’s extra-large cranium. You see, Max has autism.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

coco rocha takes on the models in 'antm' week 6!

This week the girls go to Long Beach, California to play in a flag football charity challenge. As a fitting gesture, the girls who’ve been voted off in previous weeks have are brought back to fill out the teams. Also joining are NFL players Julian Edelman, Jahvid Best, Kareem Jackson, and Dante Hughes. Brittny Gastineau (whose claim to fame is she’s Kim Kardashian’s BFF) and bikini model Julie Henderson are there to provide additional eye candy.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

when your sibling has autism.

My daughter Cameron was born the same year that my son Max was diagnosed with autism. For her entire life she has been trucked around to parent training classes, specialist appointments, and therapy sessions, all because of her older brother. But she doesn't know any different – to her this is the norm.

She has learned that to make sure her needs are met, she has to speak up for herself and be demanding. Whether it's nature or nurture, she has been blessed with a personality that ensures she will never go ignored. Before we had Cameron, I had no idea what raising a "normal" kid was like. When she just knew how to play with toys instead of throwing them, and she waved goodbye unprompted, I figured I had a wee Einstein in my midst. She made strange with people she didn't know, called me "mama" by one year of age and grew attached to specific toys. Cameron showed me that Max wasn't unable to do certain things because I was a terrible mother. He couldn't do certain things because he just wasn't wired to do them.
This little girl is also one of the most loving and resilient souls I have ever encountered. Having a sibling with autism is hard. He doesn't know how to play like the other kids. He cries when she gets upset and can be rough and aggressive seemingly out of nowhere. But Max has also grown quite attached to Cameron. She often sleeps in his bed with him, loves to take bathes with him, and affectionately calls him "Buddy". When she doesn't want to play outside with him he gets really sad and calls out "Cammie! Cammie!" until she joins him. She often understands what he is saying while the rest of us are left scratching our heads. Best of all, she forces him to be social every waking moment so that even when he isn't at school or in therapy he has a pesky little sister nipping at his heels.
We do our best to make sure that Cameron gets her own share of special treatment. I often take her out with me, just the two of us. She is also a night owl (I suspect this is partly due to taking after her father and partly to get one on one time with us). And while it's less than ideal, most of the time she still sleeps with us. I figure that one day she'll be a sullen teenager that won't want to be seen with me and I'll think back fondly to when she used to take up the majority of our bed by sleeping sideways. Or maybe not. But my point, is that because she puts up with a lot, we are likely more flexible than we would be otherwise.

I'd say she is a bit spoiled, except for the fact that she has to deal with things that most kids don't. She accepts Max for all of his eccentricities, doesn't hold a grudge when he pulls out a handful of her hair (not for long anyway), and my happiest moments as a parent are when I see her and Max playing together. It will be interesting to see how their relationship develops as they get older. Next year Cameron will go to the same school as Max and I'm glad we'll have one of our own keeping an eye out for him.

She may be small, but she is mighty.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

ten minutes.

If you had to select ten minutes as the most important and influential slice of your life, what would it be? This question was posed to me by Jeff Pulver at lunch on Saturday, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I can’t narrow it down to a single ten minutes slice. It’s more like two separate five minute slices. The first would be the initial time I sat down to write a blog about my son Max, and his impending diagnosis of autism. It was a topic I had never broached in a public forum before. Writing about it would have made it real, far before I was ready to accept that my child had autism. I pushed it down for a long time, until denying what was happening became more work than acknowledging my fears of the unknown and accepting that everything was not okay.

My reason for writing about my son being diagnosed with autism wasn’t noble. It was simply my need to express the feelings that were churning inside me that I couldn’t say out loud for fear of breaking down. It was cheap therapy. It was a way to reach out for support without asking for it directly. When I look back at those initial posts, I feel the rough edges, the rawness of it all. Trying to be strong, figure out what the hell I was supposed to do, and overwhelmed by what the future held. And there was always the underlying, unspoken fear of my depression creeping in and swallowing me whole.

People I’ve never met have told me they think I’m inspiring for sharing our journey so candidly. They have no idea that I’m not inspiring in the least. I’m just a mother trying not to drown, doing the best I can to survive. If reading my posts helps even one person, that’s a bonus. It certainly wasn’t what I sought out to do when I started.

The second five minute period came 2.5 years later when I got laid off from my job. Laid off/canned/fired? Who even knows – I certainly don’t care. I had known that it was time to make a career change for a long time. My family needed someone who could catch all the fly balls that get pitched at us on a daily basis. I needed to be that person. I wanted to be that person. But I also needed to make a living and feed my creative spirit. I couldn’t do this from a 9 to 5 desk job. Trying to was killing me.

I remember walking out to my car after I got the old heave ho, feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off me. The universe was giving me yet another opportunity to learn, and this time I knew I would embrace it instead of turning a blind eye. Within a week I had an opportunity lined up that would allow me to work from home with flexible hours. Within a month I was also getting steady freelance writing work. It all fell into place very easily. I have never felt more fulfilled professionally. And now I don’t cringe when my son’s school phone number appears on my call display.

Without the first five minutes, there would be no second five minutes. It was my life being turned on its head, and deciding to find a way to make it all work – even make sense – that forced me to be honest and make changes. I know that if Max did not have autism, had I not been forced into the world of special needs parenting, that I would still be doing the same unfulfilling job today. I would have been unsatisfied and terribly unhappy. Certainly there would be less stress, but I would have no perspective about what truly matters. I would be a smaller person than I am today.

This brings me to an interesting crossroad. I know I can’t change Max. Fundamentally, he is an individual who has autism. I wish he didn’t have autism, I really do. But I am grateful to him for teaching me about what matters. I am grateful to him for showing me how strong I am. Most of all, I am grateful that because of Max, I discovered that being happy is a choice. I choose to live a full and happy life, whatever that looks like. If I never have an empty nest, if I am always broke, none of that matters. Every morning I am greeted by my children and reminded that I am incredibly blessed to have been afforded challenges that have taught me how to truly live. Not bad for ten minutes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

'america's next top model' week 5 - the kardashians and the jacksons unite!

This week, everyone’s favourite diva, Bianca, takes on the entire model household. The best two lines of the night come (a) from Bianca – she nicknames Shannon “The Cryin’ Christian” and (b) about Bianca from Lisa, “If she’s afraid of water, I’m the deep end. If she’s afraid of dogs, I’m a pit bull.” I just wish someone would muzzle both of them so we can all get some peace.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

is the new poverty-stricken 'sesame street' muppet a good way to teach kids about hunger?

Sesame Street is adding a new character to their cast: a seven-year-old girl muppet named Lily. She will make her debut in the October special “Growing Hope Against Hunger”. Lily comes from a family that struggles to have enough food, and she represents the millions of children in North America facing food insecurity. On the special, she talks to the muppets about what it is like to grow up in a family where there isn’t enough food, and she helps Elmo plan a food drive for the food bank where her family has received help.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

what i was doing when i wasn't here.

My friend Christine and I went to San Antonio last week to relax, recharge, and drink margaritas the size of baby's heads. It was a wonderful trip and I need to sit down and write about it...which I will, soon.

Otherwise, I've had a few other articles published that you might be interested in:

Abducted B.C. Toddler's Parents Give Suspect Forgiveness, Would You?

Study: Non-Hormonal Contraception Method Found More Effective Than Condoms

Take Out Turkey Dinner Places Across Canada

Thanksgiving Planner Countdown & Day of Timing

More articles tomorrow! Book it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

count your blessings instead of sheep.

It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I feel truly thankful. There have been plenty of days when I have asked myself "Why is my little boy the 1 in 70 who has autism? Why can't it be someone else's son?". I still wonder sometimes what Max would be like if he didn't have autism. But more and more I am accepting that Max is Max. He is wonderful and quirky, beautiful and odd, smart and complex, and most of all, he is my gift. He is my life's work.

Without Max, I would not be who I am today. I have learned more from this little boy in the past 5 years than I learned in the previous 31 combined. He has taught me that if you believe in someone, you can help them achieve amazing things. That dreaming big is powerful, the cup is half full, and positive thinking is contagious. He has shown me that when you are quiet, you can take in so much more than when you speak, and that if you take the time to notice, everything you need to know can be found in a person's eyes.

Thank you, universe, for Max. I am a better person because he is my son. I have no idea where our journey will take us, but I know that Max will continue to bring love and light into the lives of those who know him. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

antm episode 4: male models & medical jargon test the girls.

This week is off to a rocky start as Kayla is rushed to the hospital, causing the girls to go through her wardrobe and pick what they each want should she not make it (nice). Unfortunately for the models, Kayla returns later that night. She claims it was a mini-heart attack, but if that were true she probably would’ve at least been admitted for the night, right?

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

memories from childhood: the red suitcase.

It was bright red, the size of an albatross, and it weighed a ton. The surface was ever so slightly bumpy, and it had a few scuffs that bore witness to its escapades. I’m not referring to my Great Grandmother’s prize winning heritage tomato -- I’m talking about the prized Samsonite suitcase that accompanied us on every family trip from before I can remember to when I left for college.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

are running and marathons safe for kids? expert advice from sick kids.

As we are all aware, we live in a society of extremes. While the majority of parents are looking for ways to get their kids off the coach and onto the playground, the flip side of this equation is parents who are encouraging their children to participate in much more extreme events, such as marathons. Running 42 kilometres is a challenging distance for adults -- is this something that children can tackle safely?

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Monday, October 03, 2011

traveling with kids: how RODO makes it bearable.

Traveling with your children can go one of two ways: It can be an incredibly fulfilling experience for all, or it can be a special kind of hell. When planning trips, we all shoot for the moon where everyone is all smiles and gets along famously. The possibilities are endless, and we’re almost as excited as our kids counting down the days until the trip.

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fast, easy and cute DIY halloween costumes.

With Halloween coming up before you can say “Trick or Treat”, it’s time to start planning out your costume. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make the perfect costume either! Check out these creative do-it-yourself costumes for inspiration.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

a moment with max.

Max in October 2008

He looked skyward, turned his palms face up, and stated "It's raining". 

Such a simple observation, but an observation nonetheless. And it happened today, at 12:20pm in our driveway. We've been on this autism journey with Max for over 4 years now. First seeking out a diagnosis, and then a relentless course of treatment that continues to this day.

It's little peeks into Max's personality such as this that keep me going. Hearing from his therapists that he is blossoming in his social groups, seeing him giggle with his sister as she tickles him awake from a nap, and witnessing beautiful moments when he is fully aware and connected to his surroundings make my heart swell.

He has helped me in more ways than I have helped him. Without Max, I would have never found my true voice as a writer. In fact, I am beginning to think that my early pursuit of music was to give me the tools to understand how to best reach my unborn son. And most of all, he is a daily reminder of what truly matters in life -- it is about the journey and not the destination. Who even knows what the destination is anyway?

turkey 101: everything you need to know for your best thanksgiving yet.

Much to the dismay of the Turkey Farmers of Canada , I only prepare turkey twice a year. And every year, I scratch my head and think “How the heck do I do this again?”

Here’s the 411 on what you need to know. Don’t worry, we won’t be insulted if you promptly forget all of this information the day after Thanksgiving.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

7 things i already knew about bloggers and brands.

* If you aren't into social media, bloggers, talking about social media and/or bloggers, you should probably skip this post. 

I spent the last couple of days at the She's Connected conference in Toronto. For some strange reason, I am oddly attracted to these networking events (even though I am an introvert at heart and find these types of things completely exhausting). But, I figure if I am going to do this working for myself thing, I need to get over myself and use every opportunity I get to hustle my wares. Going into this I had no idea that the highlight of the conference would be meeting Raymi The Minx and tweeting inappropriate 140 character missives at her. But hey, that's why we play the game, right?
So, the point of this conference was for bloggers and brands to make nice, talk, get to know each other, and to come to some sort of understanding of where we/they are coming from. It was interesting to meet some of the people behind the twitter accounts of brands like Ford, Toshiba and the Canadian Mint (who knew they were so hip?). After two days of sitting and listening to what bloggers and brands had to say, I can't say I learned anything, but I rarely do at these conferences so that's not a surprise. I think the biggest let down was the brands that were there weren't ready to truly talk/do business. I got a pile of business cards and requests to email people after the conference, but it would have been great to really get down to brass tacks at the event.

My take aways from this event, while not new, were good reminders:


  • If you want to work with brands, be tactical and specific. Don't go sleeping around with everyone, build a relationship with brands that are in line with your vision and what you stand for. I only work with brands that value content and want to partner with me in a way that will provide me the opportunity to write about things I am passionate about. Examples of this are Autism SpeaksWonderBra, Sprite, Rogers, CVS Caremark, Disney and MSN
  • If you want to make money blogging, then don't settle for cereal as payment. Set your terms, but be reasonable when you are getting started. Get your foot in the door, and as you build your relationship with the brand, you can expand on that and make more money.
  • You aren't going to be able to make your living off of blog traffic. There will only ever be one Dooce, and you need to get over that. 
  • Be creative and try a whole lot of different things. That's what I love about Raymi. She is unapologetic about how and why she does what she does. She is making a living and is staying true to herself. It may not be what you would do, but before you go judging, at least acknowledge that she has clear goals, is forthright about what she wants and goes for it. I personally find that awesome and refreshing. And if she was in Playboy, I would totally buy it.
  • Brands have NO IDEA what is going to work with your audience. If you get pitched a stupid idea, go back to them with a better idea. They are new at this and need our help and if you want to work with a brand, then come to the table with something that makes sense for both of you.

Now for the Brands:

  • You need to think bigger. Don't offer me free chocolate to blog about your product. I don't want to do giveaways on my site either. I also don't want to go to your press conference. If you want to be relevant to me and my readers, be willing to invest in a longer term project that is in line with what I write about or something that I would actually do. Example: I don't drink beer, but if was throwing a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, I would love for a beer company to sponsor the party, provide all the beverages and food, and sponsor Team Maxwell for our annual walk. I'm not interested in test driving a car, but I'd love to partner with a car company that would sponsor Max's service dog and provide a vehicle that can transport his dog. Most of all, I don't want a coupon to buy last year's version of your expensive gadget at $100 off. I'd rather you just ship me your gadget and pay me to write a series of posts and reviews about how I use your gadget, if I like it, how it compares to a similar gadget on the market, etc. 
  • Be more creative with your swag or don't bother. I don't actually care about getting free stuff at these conferences (it's tiring to shlep it around). The best things I took home from this conference were a block of brie that Raymi stole for me and a cute smartphone case that another attendee gave me.
*Back to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow.