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Justifying the Means…

A few weeks ago I got suckered.  I read this amazing post about a person who had been fat-shamed publicly online while minding her own business at a baseball game.  A trainer had called her out on his Facebook page and, having caught wind of the post, the victim hit back and wrote a wonderful piece about how she was on a journey of weightloss; working toward a more healthful lifestyle, but remembering to enjoy the present.  It was a wonderful message, reminding all of us that we don’t know where someone is on their journey in life.  I posted it on my Facebook page because I found it inspiring.

A day or two later, I found out that it was all a fraud.  A blogger, know to many as the anti-Jared, had seen the trainer’s post and decided that since he knew someone who had experienced something similar, HE would take on the persona of the victim, whom he did not know.  I felt icky, used, misled.  I was told that he does this from time to time and that anyone who follows his blog knows this.  I, along with millions of others, do NOT know or follow his blog.  I, along with millions of others was duped into believing an inspirational story that turned out to be nothing more than a ploy to go viral – which is why I will NOT link to it.

He later offered a non-apology to those who felt they were misled…kind of a “I’m sorry that you misunderstood, but…” kind of apology.  I hate that kind of crap.  It passes blame to the very people who deserve an apology and exonerates the person who perpetrated the misdeed…

In the end, his tactics only hurt the cause.  His post could have been just as powerful had he opened with a disclaimer.

To the anti-Jared, the ends justified the means…

The ends should NEVER justify the means.

***

As I was contemplating this post, I saw two anti-vax memes.  Now, as many of you are aware, I am a proponent of vaccines.  I hear the arguments of those who are adamantly against vaccines and those who advocate a choice and I still feel like the best course is the one we are on.  But this post is not about the debate whether one is for or against vaccines; it’s to ask, do the ends justify the means?  The posts I saw were from a heartless, dark souled woman who goes by the name Tenpenny.  In one meme she compared getting vaccinated to getting raped.  She had posted it several times because, she said, that whether we agreed with the message or not, it was promoting discussion.  To her, it didn’t matter that she was belittling the experience of millions of woman who have been brutally violated.

Let me be clear – you and I may or may not agree on vaccines.  Some of us want them; some of us don’t.  Nobody wants to be raped.

Her second meme asked, if the rise in autism  was a result of better diagnoses, where were all of the nonverbal autistic adults walking around in diapers and helmets.  I stared at the screen waiting for what I saw to change into something, anything else.  Forget the fact that she has a distorted view of pre-verbal autistic individuals – to her it doesn’t matter that she insults and belittles an entire portion of the population, making massive assumptions.

To her, the ends justify the means.  To get her message across, she doesn’t care who she hurts.

The ends should NEVER justify the means.

I thought about posting the two memes here so you could see just how awful and repugnant they were, but upon further consideration, I thought better.

***

I am sure that along the way, I have been guilty of some questionable posts.  I hope I have never done anything as egregious as the anti-Jared or Dr. Tenpenny.  If I have (or do in the future), call me on it, please.  Unless I am able to justify the means on their own, independent from the ends, I will take down the post and apologize profusely.  I expect no such apology from the soulless, attention seeking types like the anti-Jared or Dr. Tenpenny.

In the last two day, while debating with some about the tactics the Food Babe and her army use, I’ve been told that I am the r-word or that my questions are r-word-ed.

For the adults out there who can’t seem to get it, here is the definitive list of when it’s okay to use the r-word when trying to insult somebody or make a point:

 

1. Never

 

I hope that clears things up for the many of you who still think it’s okay to use that language.

English is a rich, full language, with countless ways to describe, make points, even insult without using the r-word.  When you do use that word, you hurt people, intentionally or not, because you make it just a little more okay to make fun of people or insult people at the expense of those who may be intellectually challenged.  Stooping to that level, even in anger or frustration, reveals something about yourself, your empathy, your lack of creativity, your lack of humanity.

I Went to Church Today…

As my feet hit the pavement for the first time in so long, Selena Gomez sang in my ear…

When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na
When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na

The song is at the beginning of my playlist for my Boot Camp in part because it’s a great song to ease into activity.  The slow, steady beat keeps you from starting too fast, but the throbbing, eastern feel gives you a sense of anticipation of what is coming after your body warms up…

…but today, the song felt different to me.  You see, I normally don’t listen to music for the lyrics.  Unlike Jess, whose love of country music stems from the stories country singers tell in their songs, my pleasure from music comes from the weaving of beats, sounds, harmonies, points and counterpoints.  It can be years later that I realize I still don’t know the lyrics to a favorite song, in part because I don’t care about what the artist is saying…I care about what the artist is saying

…but today, the song felt different to me.  As Selena Gomez’s voice sang to me…

When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na
When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na

…it was almost as if the road was singing as well…

You ain’t gotta worry, it’s an open invitation
I’ll be sittin’ right here, real patient
All day, all night, I’ll be waitin’ standby…

…and here I was.  I have not run regularly in over a year.  My last marathon was NYCM ’13, but even before then my mileage had dropped precipitously.  Though I still considered (consider) myself a runner, my heart and mind were not cooperating.

…but the road knew…

This love ain’t finished yet
So baby whenever you’re ready
When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na

As the road sang to me, I got more excited for the slow, 6-miler I had planned.

Some of you may know that way back in the Fall I began talking with a local advocacy group about running 100 miles for them as a way to possibly raise money and awareness of their wonderful work.  Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) is an incredible organization that offers free legal advice to families in need and works tirelessly on capital hill to protect the most vulnerable of society.  By the end of the Fall, we had settled on a Father’s Day run – a crazy dad running not just for his children, but for all children in Massachusetts.  The run will take me from Amherst to Boston Commons (an 89 mile route).

Then we got hit with the worst winter Boston has ever (EVAH) seen.  Between work and the snow, I ran a total of 0 miles in preparation for my run in June…that’s right: 0.

As my thoughts wandered during my run today, I inevitably began thinking of this monstrous task ahead of me.  It is, to say the least overwhelming and scary.  The long distance and short training time is not something I would ever prescribe or recommend for a client.  As I wrestled with my thoughts, Aloe Blacc began to sing to me…

Stand up now and face the sun
Won’t hide my tail or turn and run
It’s time to do what must be done
Be a king when kingdom comesWell you can tell everybody
Yeah you can tell everybody
Go ahead and tell everybody
I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man

…that was quickly followed up by Angélique Kidjo’s rendition of Voodoo Child…

Well I stand up next to a mountain
Chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well I stand up next to a mountain
Chop it down with the edge of my hand
Pick up the pieces and make an island
Might even raise a little sand

…and I knew, barring injury, I was going to do this 100 miles run.

Kidjo continued to sing…

‘Cause I’m a voodoo child
Lord knows I’m a voodoo child

I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
Make it back to you one of these days
I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
Make it back to you one of these days  

…and I was brought back full circle.

Throughout my run, feeling the flow with each beat, I dance and sang and laughed with the music – I can only imagine what it looked like to other runners and pedestrians.

It was a celebration of sorts.

Toward the end of my run (my planned 6 had turned into 10 for no reason other than I was having fun), I passed a Church.  People flooded out of Easter services, all dressed in their Sunday best.  It hit me – I was dressed in my Sunday best and attending a Church I had not been to in a long, long time.

Now, despite being baptized presbyterian, I am not a religious man by any stretch, but how appropriate would it be were I to resurrect my passion for running on a day many believe to be a day of renewed life?

I went to Church today…and it was good.

Happy Easter and Good Pesach everyone.  I hope your Sunday morning was as glorious as mine.

The Promise of Tomorrow

I’m standing in the entrance of Brooke’s school.  It’s an hour after the end of school and kids are now trickling out from their after school activities.  As I stand on one side of the entryway, looking for my baby, I hear a group of kids behind me chattering away at 100 miles per hour.  It’s always tough for me to listen to Brooke’s schoolmates because they all speak with a fluidity and spontaneity that has eluded her from the very beginning.  I always end up doing exactly what I should not…comparing.

This day is no different.

Then I hear it.  Someone says, “he’s so retarded!”

I tense up.  The hair on my neck rises.  I prepare myself to be “that parent”; to turn around and say something…anything.  Despite being an adult, I am in unfamiliar territory.  This is not the school Katie goes to; where a majority of the kids know who I am.  I have a high profile in Katie’s middle school.  My profile at Brooke’s middle school is hardly a blip.  I take a deep breath and turn to make sure the moment doesn’t pass unchallenged.

Then it happens.

“Hey! Don’t use that word!”
“Yeah!  That’s offensive.”
“Not cool!”

These are not words coming out of my mouth.  They are coming out of the other kids that are behind me.  I let out a sigh.  I resist the urge to turn around because these kids don’t need me to say anything.  They get it.  They are 12, 13, 14 years old and for the most part, they get it.

Which brings me to Steve Harvey.

This morning, on his radio show, his alter ego, Sister Odell, went off on a fictional person at church.  Sister Odell went on a rant, making fun of “a 34 year old with the mind of a 3 year old”.  He goes on to make fun of this fictional character for “blowing bubbles in church” and wanting to wear a cheerleading outfit on Easter.  Although the character is a work of fiction, the mean-spiritedness is not.

His bit led one woman to post this on YouTube:

I went to Steve Harvey’s Facebook page to see if he had even acknowledged his insensitivity.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 6.12.03 PM

That has got to be the most half-assed apology ever.

“my intent was not directed at any other real person. And most certainly was not directed at any one you know.”  Really, Steve?  You’re right.  It wasn’t. It was directed at EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO MAY BE INTELLECTUALLY CHALLENGED!  So guess what Steve?  Yes, it was directed at many people I know.

“The problem with comedy is ALL subjects can offend someone.”  True.  I can’t argue with that.  I would hope though that Steve could see why attacking the intellectually challenged might be little more offensive than attacking someone who is Italian.  Middle school aged kids get it, Steve.

What might be even harder to take however, are the comments on Harvey’s post:

Omg..someone cant handle..comedy? Smh

This is ridiculous! They say they don’t want to be treated differently and regular ppl get dog walked daily… That’s equality! This woman in the video is butt hurt over her own misconceptions about disabilities n a real drama queen. If u let every little thing bother you, your life will be a living hell!

Comedians have been doing this for years. If they stop for one group then they have to stop for another and so on and so on. People need to stop being so sensitive. If it’s not about you, then it’s not about you..

 I cant believe anyone is offended, really wow. Its all in fun!!!!

People get over it. If your that sheltered & don’t realize Sister Odell is a fictional character then so be it. Stop taking every damn thing ti heart. Steve don’t apologize for this.

You mean to tell me someone could really take the time to sit and complain about something that has no affect on their life

Love the show. Keep it coming. Really ppl. Steve keep up the good work. Obviously this person is having a bad day

All adults.  All willfully ignorant.  Perhaps they need to go back to middle school, because the kids at Brooke’s school get it.

There’s nothing wrong with teasing. There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun at the expense of others. BUT here’s the thing, those you make fun of, should be able to give it right back to you.  I want to assume that Steve Harvey’s skit was born out of ignorance, because you can fix ignorance with education.  Unfortunately, his apology make me think that he is just another Asshat.

I’m glad that Brooke will grow up in a world where her schoolmates will have a say in how all challenged people are treated.  Those kids are the promise of tomorrow.

I Wonder…

I sit here in my office tonight watching Brooke run back and forth on the runner, simultaneously running through every one of her scripts.

Both Jess and Katie are out tonight. I ask Brooke if there is anything she wants to do.

Would you like to watch a movie?

I don’t know.

Would you like to play a game?

I don’t know.

Would you like me to read you a story?

I don’t know.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, Brooke sometimes uses I don’t know as a polite way to say No.

And so we script and script and script.

After a while she takes a break to watch some of her favorite YouTube videos.

And I wonder.

***

I try to eat fairly well – lots of veggies, meat, full fat dairy, maybe less starchy food than I used to.

I don’t run nearly as much as I used to.  Truth is, the last year has seen very little running; but I do try to stay active – I kind of have to considering the business I am in.  No one wants to hire an out of shape trainer. 

Bottom line is I’m taking pretty good care of myself.

Why? 

As parents, we talk about wanting to see our children graduate from High School, then College.  We look forward to celebrating our child’s wedding to whomever they choose.  We anticipate a day when we will relive the miracle of parenthood by becoming grandparents.  Our child’s first adult job? His or her first promotion? The first apartment? The purchase of a home? All of these things we see years, decades before they actually happen.  

As parents, we are hopefully doing what we can to be there for those things.  A balanced diet and regular exercise, along with quality sleep, are our tools for getting there to be there.

But I wonder.

***

This morning, on our way to school, Brooke told me that she hopes to get married some day. 

You do?

She then went into a script about marrying someone you love but that isn’t your family!

And I wondered.

This afternoon I stumbled on to Brooke’s report card for this past term.  She is getting A’s,  B’s and C’s, but I’m not sure what that means in a sub-separate class.  

And I wondered.

This evening, as she runs back and forth on the runner, squealing and scripting, there is a part of me that wonders…

Will there be a high school graduation?

Will college even be an option?

What happens when she turns 22?

Will she be able to handle a steady job?

Will she be able to live independently?

Will she be able to pursue her dreams?

Love? Marriage? Motherhood? Are they in the cards she has been dealt?

I know things change over the course of time. Brooke has come a long, long way over the course 8 years.  A lot can happen over the next 6.

But right now, today, I know I can’t afford to not take care of myself…at least not for the foreseeable future.

I originally started to write this post as a call to arms to get those of you who might not be carving out the time to eat a little better and move a little better to do so.  I do think it’s important.  If we let ourselves go to pieces, who will take care of our little ones?  

But writing this evening has led me down a weird path.  Jess likes to call it the Rabbit Hole, where one thought leads to another and you end up overthinking things and getting lost.

Have I been staying healthy for things that may not come? Do I need to double down on staying healthy because those thing may never come?

Perhaps right now, I just need to put down my  mobile device, climb out of the rabbit hole and go snuggle with Brooke.

Dear Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen,

I am writing to you in response to a story I recently read regarding a principal in your district.  I am sure that at this point you have read or heard about the Raw Story piece on Kimberly Taylor.  I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special needs child, were horrified by the audio tape of Ms. Taylor embarrassing a child in front of the school and saying, “This is a retard.”  I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special need child, were horrified by Ms. Taylor’s use of profane language, of the anger and hate in her voice, of her abusive and demeaning language.  I am sure that you, just like me and every other parent of a special needs child, were horrified to the point of knowing that Ms. Taylor does not belong in a classroom or Principal’s office.

Obviously something happened along the way though.  I can only imagine the political tightrope you as administrators must walk.  At some point, someone, a misguided friend of Ms. Taylor’s perhaps, brought enough political capital to a meeting with you and your boss and bought Ms. Taylor an insignificant one week suspension.

Here’s the thing  though – a one week suspension, for what is clearly heard on those audio tapes, is not even a slap on the wrist.  Her punishment was essentially a one week vacation – one that she obviously needed.  Her punishment sends a clear message to the parents of Hilltop School – that you see their children as “retards” and “animals”; that you are okay with putting their children in the care of someone who has no qualms about using not only abusive language but abusive tactics; that it’s okay if their children have to go to school every day afraid.

That is horrifying.

But here is the even more horrifying thing you and your colleagues have done – you have sent a message, not just to the parents of Hilltop School, but to every parent of every Special Needs child everywhere.  In this age of Social Media and the Internet, information travels at the speed of thought.  You do not live in a bubble and the policies you set forth regarding your Special Needs population, as vile as they are, let other administrators and principals know that, at the very least, you can get away with this kind of behavior with nothing more than a one week suspension.

Is that how you want to be remembered?  Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen believe that a child’s dignity, a child’s humanity, a child’s innocence is worth one week.  We present the Albers/Larsen Policy.

Truth is, I don’t think the administrators in my district would tolerate this kind of behavior, but I know that I am lucky to live where I live.  I hear constant horror stories from parents in other towns of administrators and principals who stonewall families; denying services for as long as they can.  YOU, Dr. Albers and Ms. Larsen, have given them new ammunition; at the very least you’ve given them permission to take their frustrations out on the very kids they are supposed to nurture.

There is but one way for you two make this right – you must fire Kimberly Taylor; completely – no alternate job with Haverstraw; you must cut ties with her and never, ever allow her into a classroom again under any circumstances.  Additionally, you need to hold accountable the person or people who chose to give Ms. Taylor a measly one week suspension instead of firing her in the first place.  If those people were you, then resign, but only after firing Ms. Taylor.

There is nothing wrong with a principal who uses a firm hand and tough love.  Abusive behavior is neither of those.

Make this right.

Sincerely,

Luau

Kimberly Taylor is the principal of Hilltop School and can be heard in an audio recording saying the following to students in her charge: 

“It’s important you’re on your best behavior.  If someone falls in dance, don’t laugh because I will rip your [expletive] out of there. It’s important not to embarrass yourself. Your family take pride in yourself. I will embarrass you, you all know me, if you don’t give a [expletive], neither do I.”

“‘Cause guess what; everyone knows this school is for kids that have behavior problems, so it will be a normal thing if we drag you down and pull you out.”

 “This is a retard. How embarrassing, a disgusting embarrassment, get him the hell out of my sight.”

Amy Albers, Ed. D is the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services in West Nyack, New York.

Julie Larsen is the Assistant Director of Student Services in West Nyack, New York.

Oomah

I was a fairly young man when I lost the last of my four biological grandparents.  In fact, it was 17 years ago today that my Grandpa Wilson passed away, leaving me without a grandparent…

…or so I thought.

Each of my parents’ parents were unique in their own way, and I would like to think that I carry with me and channel a little bit of them on a daily basis.

My Grandma Hattori was a small, gentle woman who had the amazing ability to taste something once and then go home and duplicate it perfectly.  Though technically untrained, she was probably the best cook I ever knew.  I would like to think that a small part of her lives every day in my kitchen…

My Grandpa Hattori was was proud man, who, fortunately for me, kept nearly all of his hair until the very end.  By the time I really got to know him as an older teenager, he had grown his hair out to shoulder length…a stark contrast to the buzzcut he had sported through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  As a Japanese man who lived through World War II, he very easily could have looked at his half-gaijin grandson and wanted nothing to do with him.  Instead, through me, he saw a world coming together, a future of peace.  I laugh every time I think of him because back in 1988, he said to me in, “you represent two worlds coming together as one.  You will be President of America someday.” Though my behavior in college has pretty much made that an impossibility, I do like to think that he inspired me to carry with me a more worldly perspective – one that looked beyond one’s own house, town, state, country or ethnicity.

My Grandma Wilson was, for so long, the glue that held the Wilson Clan together.  She was glamorous, elegant and sophisticated and always brought a touch of class to every occasion, but I think it was her athleticism I was lucky enough to inherit.  Living in South Florida, she would start every day with 50 laps in the pool.  That dedication to health and fitness still guide me today.

My Grandpa Wilson was the last of my grandparents to leave us.  A somewhat fiery man in his youth, he had mellowed quite a bit by the time I got to know him.  I remember him falling asleep in front of the TV, telling his off color jokes and making the best hamburgers you will ever taste (I’d like to think my hamburgers are pretty close facsimiles).  Of the four grandparents, it’s Grandpa Wilson’s voice that I can still distinctly hear.  Not only can I close my eyes and hear his voice, I hear it when I tell really dumb dad jokes to Katie (to which she rolls her eyes). Every time I hear or use a pun I can’t help but think of him (one of his favorites: “What’s two-thirds of a pun?  P-U!” cue the groans).

On January 7th, 1998, I thought I had been left grandparent-less; that I was now the second, not third generation of my family.  At that point, I had been dating Jess for a year. We would get engaged the following September and wed in June of 1999.

Even before our wedding, I can’t tell you exactly when, I knew I had gained a new lease on being a grandchild.  Jess’ grandma June, better known to all of us as Oomah, embraced me as one of her own almost immediately.  The first time I met her, was in Tampa Bay, Florida.  Jess and I had flown down to escape the cold weather of New York City.  At the time she lived in a community that had a pool that Jess and I spent almost all of our time at.  On that first night I was introduced to Oomah’s Cucumber Salad.  Upon my first bite, I looked up and insisted that she give me the recipe.  She simply smiled and said, “we’ll see.”

She needed to make sure this young man her granddaughter had brought to visit was worthy.  On the last day of our visit, she gave me the recipe.  It is, by far, one of my favorite dishes of all time.

She would eventually move north to live with her daughter in Western MA, for which I am very grateful.  It meant that not only would Katie and Brooke get a real chance to know their great-grandmother, but that I too would get to spend some regular quality time with my grandma.  Over the last 17 or so years, through countless occasions, we would always find time to sit, just the two of us, and talk.

We would often talk about the kids, or Jess, or my job or Jess’ job, but I always savored the moments when she would talk about her own personal history.  Oomah was a fighter, a pioneer.  She did not lead a typical life.  As a young woman, at a time when such actions were unheard of, she left a bad marriage, taking her kids with her.  She had a quiet strength, but your knew that if she needed to, she could bring a storm down upon you.  She also had a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor.  Oomah’s singing voice, well, let’s just say it left something to be desired, but she knew that.  She would say that when she sang to the babies, they would fall asleep as a method of self-defense.  She passed that strength, sense of humor and individualism on to both of her children, who then passed them on to their own kids.  Each of Oomah’s four grandchildren are unique, strong, funny individuals, all of whom I admire very much.

I would like to believe that not only through my hours of conversation with Oomah, but also through the relationship I have with my father-in-law, Jess and her three cousins, that I too carry a bit of Oomah with me on a daily basis.  I hope I can emulate her strength and humor throughout the rest of the time I have on this planet.

Oomah passed away Monday night/Tuesday morning, almost 17 years to the day I lost my Grandpa Wilson.  Even though her health had been in decline and we had prepared ourselves for this, it still hurts.  The finality of when our loved ones pass through that doorway is heavy.  I take solace in knowing that some of Oomah’s spirit lives on here in this plane of existence, through her two children and their spouses, four grandchildren and their spouses, eight great-grandchildren, and I am sure many, countless others who were touched by her gentle strength and grace, and hopefully through me.

I already miss youOomah.  Thank you for seeing me, accepting me, and loving me as a grandson.  I am forever grateful.

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Oomah on our wedding day – 1999

 

 

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Thanksgiving with Oomah and the girls – 2013

 

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