To my Mummy ❤️

It’s been 9 years since you left and my life has changed in ways I never imagined. When you died, I was a new inexperienced mummy fumbling around with everything related to child rearing, but completely focused on my career and driving it forward.

Fast forward 9 years, and I’m 6 years older, many years weirder. I’m Super Mama (but still fumbling), autism advocate, homeschooling mom, blogger and yoga instructor. There is no science or career and career-focused is one of the last phrases that I would ever use to describe myself.

I’ve learnt the value of family and loved ones, the significance of health over wealth. I’ve discovered the ability to find beauty in simplicity and recognized the importance of appreciating every single moment however fleeting it may be. I’ve realized how easy it can be to take those we love for granted, assuming that there will be another day to say sorry or I love you, but then finding out that extra day is gone and will never be back.

When I gave your eulogy, I said that regardless of how tiny the accomplishment, the person who always lauded praises the loudest, was you. Yet I’ve always wondered how you would’ve reacted to the complete 180 that my life has taken.

I hope I’ve made you proud.

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Back to School

Today represents almost 2 years of homeschooling! Some of the pros:

  • We can sleep late! 😁
  • Homeschooling is substantially more affordable!
  • We set our own schedule and go at our own pace. If we feel to skip a day and go to the movies, we sometimes do that!
  • We can pick exciting topics which may not necessarily be covered in a traditional school curriculum.
  • Our focus is learning, not preparing for exams.

But there is also a bittersweet perspective. For us, homeschooling was not a deliberate path. It was a decision made out of necessity. A choice because we had no choice! I saw my son struggling so much with his social anxiety and his dysgraphia that I feared allowing him to continue in his neurotypical school would be detrimental to his health and overall development. The unfortunate reality was the lack of alternatives: zero publicly funded special needs schools equipped to deal with his challenges and private schools which were beyond our finances.

On a day like today, I look at all the back to school photos, proud parents and smiling kids, and I’m reminded of what we don’t have. I’m grateful for the opportunity to homeschool, the flexibility in my work to allow me the time and the progress that has come with that decision. But I’m also sad for the opportunities that my son may be missing. I’m tired of the constant juggling of full-time work, special needs advocacy and single mama-hood. I’m always second guessing myself and wondering how I can approach things differently and how I can make this easier for both of us. So to those moms and dads, who get to count down the days until school re-opens, always know that this isn’t a luxury open to all parents. Be sure to enjoy 😉

I know in my heart that this was the right decision for us and will open up paths that we never imagined. But sometimes the journey is tough!

Gratitude and Opportunities

My last working day at my corporate job was February 12th 2016. When I made the decision to pursue self-employment, my vision was nothing more than teaching yoga classes and making enough money to ensure that I could feed my son, and occasionally myself. I knew that my environment was toxic and my wellbeing was more important. I also knew that embarking on your own statistically takes 5 years to become successful. In other words, I should not plan on anything more than breaking even and hopefully not eroding all of my savings. I made a conscious decision to ignore the five year statistic since I realistically couldn’t survive for more than three years.

For the first time in my life, ambition went out the window. I thought no further than the following month when I finalized what classes I was teaching. Despite that, my level of gratitude increased. I became more aware of my blessings which didn’t require finances or accumulation of materialistic wealth. And without expectations, I saw opportunities arise that I had never intended.

One year after leaving my job, I started to homeschool my son. Me who lacks any semblance of patience, who felt like pulling my hair out just from doing homework with him, decided to discard the few remaining marbles that I had and prove I was certifiably insane. Fifteen months later, we’re both still alive *bonus points* Has it been without struggles? Of course not! But has it been worth it? Most definitely. I have seen firsthand the changes in his emotional responses and his anxiety. In the past, I was always vocal about the negatives of our school system… the unnecessary pressures coupled with approaches that have been scientifically debunked as beneficial. Now I speak from experience.

While I continued to take yoga one month at a time, I saw huge improvements in our autism advocacy group. I saw our reach expanding almost daily. Our vision has always centered around empowering parents. We believe that parents are the best advocates for their children because who knows your child better than you? And as we have been able to reach more parents, we have also been able to educate a larger portion of the community. How else can you create greater awareness and acceptance if not without the support of those around you?

And then one night around midnight, I decided to start a blog. It seemed like a good idea at the time and five months later, I have over 1000 views and 700 visitors. But bigger than that was the opportunity to have two published articles through The Mighty.

The biggest success has been the growth of my yoga classes.  My yoga mama said to me last week “you’re growing a business. What’s your future plans? What’s your vision?” And my initial response was “What business? No I’m not. I’m simply teaching yoga classes”. I also thought “this is adulting again! Somebody save me!” But after the initial shock, I realized the legitimacy of her statements. Without even trying, I went from a single regular client and two inconsistent ones to six regulars and additional jobs emerging daily.

Did I write this as a boastful chronicle of my successes? Nope. It’s a truthful but abbreviated narrative of the last two years. March 2018 was the first month that I felt financially secure in my decision to give up an established career of over fifteen years and two degrees that took me seven years to complete. This is an account of how my life changed when I stripped away all the non-essentials and found gratitude in less… when I changed my perspective from planning the next ten years of my life to instead a recognition of living and appreciating the moment.

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My present list of achievements includes…

  1. Super Mommy (where is the flying cape emoji when you need it?)
  2. Yoga Lady 😉🕉
  3. Homeschooling Extraordinaire 🤓
  4. Autism Advocate 💙
  5. Social Media Butterfly with a Purpose📱
  6. Blogger 💻
  7. Writer 📝

We are guaranteed this moment and nothing more. Make sure you make the most of it 😉

My Final Blog Post for 2017

Finally

I shared my thoughts earlier on introspection and how this might help you to determine some of your goals for 2018. In my final blog post for 2017, I share some of my greatest accomplishments of this year. Several of these were goals that I attempted in previous years but finally happened in 2017.

2017 accomplishments

It’s always a work in progress. Many of these goals will continue and here’s my vision board for 2018. Be sure to stay tuned for updates on these goals… and maybe some added ones as I continue to reflect on my joys, challenges and experiences in 2017.

2018 vision board

Trying to effect change and getting stuck

November 20th was Universal Children’s Day 2017 and an opportunity for those in power to applaud and celebrate all they “do” to champion the brilliance of our children. So it wasn’t particularly surprising that our local Ministry of Education posted a message specifically highlighting the ministry’s intent “to continue to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” and applauding Trinidad and Tobago as “one of the few countries in the world that offers Universal Early Childhood Care and Education, Primary and Secondary Education to all children”.

Unfortunately, that message was far from the truth. When my son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum four years ago, I was categorically told that the only schools available were for more severe cases and that my best bet would be to look for a regular school that was willing to accept him. The ministry that is supposed to provide educational resources couldn’t even find a school for my son! Now, you might be thinking “well maybe things have changed? That was four years ago.” And you’re correct. It has changed… but not for the better. There are presently no publicly funded Government schools that are fully equipped to cater for special needs children. Parents are forced to explore one of the following options:

  1. Attempt to integrate their child into the regular school system, which is often ill-trained and ill-equipped to support them: physically, developmentally or emotionally.
  2. Consider private schooling which is usually out of the financial reach of most families.
  3. Keep their children at home and possibly homeschool if there is a parent capable of delivering the curriculum.

After three years of option #1, my son’s challenges had continued to increase despite a wonderfully supportive environment. We were fortunate that the regular school we found was filled with teachers who were willing to encourage us and create a solution that our Education Ministry could not. However, the increase in challenges led us to homeschooling. I was blessed enough to be able to create a work schedule around my son. But as the co-founder of an autism parent support group, I am challenged daily by parents who do not have the luxury that I do and I am stymied to provide an answer to the same question that I asked four years ago… where do I send my child to school?

But here’s the immediate challenge that has me stuck… thinking that greater awareness is needed, especially directed towards Joe Public who might believe the hype and think that everything is fine and dandy, a petition was created. The intent of the petition was to state the actual facts and request rectification of the original message. Imagining that there would be a flood of people who would be as outraged as I was to be misguided in such a disrespectful manner. Maybe the petition hasn’t reached those people as yet? 😔 Yes, there has been support. But painstakingly slow. And that’s the moment when I have to pull back and remind myself that this isn’t personal and that it is typical human nature to resist change even when there is a benefit to it. This is the moment when I have to remind myself that even though not every fight will be won, the war most definitely will be victorious.

Why do we need one more blog?

Most of my best ideas tend to happen around 2am. This one happened at midnight, but the same general concept. I can’t sleep so my mind goes into overdrive. Or maybe my mind is in overdrive, so I can’t sleep… the never-ending cycle of insomnia. But when the idea of a blog popped into my head, I didn’t automatically get excited. It felt like it could be a good idea. But I also thought about being tired and trying to commit to one more thing. I ran through everything else that consumes so much of my life and thought “how do I fit one more thing in?” But it was those thoughts that actually made me realise why this made sense.

My life is a constant juggle. Do I wish it was sometimes simpler? Yes, but then I don’t think my type A, Virgo, over-drive personality would accept it. I’ve always been most successful when I have multiple tasks as opposed to just one or two. And I’ve always liked writing… it’s the easiest way for me to get my thoughts out without sounding like a muddled mess. Annnndddd, because I have so much stuff going on in my life, I have a lot of things to write about. So ultimately, that’s why I think we need one more blog… because I have a lot of stuff to say – some incredibly important, some of it light and trivial. But hopefully, stuff that you can connect with on some level. I’m a mama to a 9-year-old high functioning autistic son, a yoga instructor who found my calling after 16 years of corporate life, an autism advocate running a parent support group, an incredibly impatient homeschooling mom, a concerned environmentalist, a science nerd and dweeby bookworm, a recently converted vegan, a Trini / British with a passion for the beach and life… and there are lots more I haven’t mentioned yet.

I hope you’ll stay tuned, share with your friends, leave me comments and most importantly, enjoy!