Monday, June 20, 2016

A Tale of Two Dads

My dad is courageous, kind and resourceful, and brought me to America where I have lived a most privileged life -- one not possible in Cuba. With his 5th grade education, he worked all kinds of jobs and always provided. Unlike many of his counterparts, he wasn't overbearing and instead let me choose my own style, including the length of my shorts, and supported most of my adventures. I still recall the drive to catch a ride to NYC which changed the course of my life. Only in his old age has he become sentimental, so I was surprised when the man of few words said he believed I could accomplish anything I set my mind to and held me as I cried and flew away from the nest. I am externally grateful for his unconditional love. and the matter-of-fact, common sense wisdom he freely offers. Feliz Dia de los Padres, Papi! 

When I was 19 and working at the University of Miami, I met who would come to be affectionately known as my Gringo Dad, Richard Urbano. Many people don't know that I actually knew Rick before I became friends with my BFF Jenni, his daughter. Rick and Terri did all kinds of things to help me get through college and to NYC, including providing shelter to me and my cats! Rick has always been a constant guiding source of wisdom, love and comic relief, especially in the face of major life challenges. Given their life-long dedication to the field of disabilities, since Lucas' birth, Rick and Terri provided a level of listening, understanding and compassion I don't have anywhere else -- it has been instrumental in shaping who I am as a parent and an advocate. Thank you for the many ways you continue to listen, care and support me through this wild journey. There aren't enough words to express my love and gratitude, but here's a start. Happy Father's Day!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Play Unified: Inclusion at Heart

"What is Unified Sports?" from the Special Olympics website:

"Dedicated to promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences, Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.

Our opponent is intolerance. Only shoulder-to-shoulder, as teammates together, can we defeat it."

When Lucas was born, I started navigating the world through an unfamiliar disability lens, which meant I had to evaluate and determine what programs I felt were in Lucas' best interest. The ultimate goal is not just creating a more just, accepting and inclusive world for him to live in, but one where he can rise to his full potential and become independent. That may be a tall order, but hey, I'm an optimist and there are and have been others who share the same philosophy.

From the get go, I never wanted Lucas segregated, but instead, for him to exist in the "real world" fending for himself among typical peers. At only 3 months, he joined an early intervention program with a blend of typical and special needs infants. When other babies were walking independently, Lucas shuffled from one piece of furniture to the next to simulate walking -- there was a look of determination in his eyes and a desire to keep up. I knew then that modeling was key to his development in every area and I was hooked on inclusion.

Up until now, I had the opinion that Special Olympics was "nice" but not the right place for Lucas because it was segregated. Nonetheless, I started inquiring about having him become an athlete because he's now old enough and has become a crazed soccer fan all on his own -- I'm an admittedly fair-weather Sounders fan, and enjoy the event as much for the game as for the socializing. 

This past week, there was a "Play Unified" training camp and I liked the sound of it, especially because it would feature a few Sounders alumni and thought Lucas would enjoy it. My mind was blown and my opinion of Special Olympics catapulted! I was so impressed and heartened to see the tremendous amount of effort and resources being poured into this concept of having people with intellectual disabilities and those without playing together in a fully inclusive setting. Now, we're talking! Equally, I was excited to see Microsoft backing the initiative. Watching Lucas play with pro athletes and a mix of typical and others with ID was truly a highlight of my year so far! I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. Here's to the beginning of Lucas' career as a Special Olympics athlete!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Bitch is Back...

After quite the hiatus, I've decided it's time to get back to one of my favorite outlets...writing about my life with my awesome son. So much has happened since my last post that it'll make my head spin (and yours too) if I get into too much of it. The last year though has been particularly trying as I decided to divorce my now ex-husband after a long and bumpy few years of trying to hold on. I wish it'd been a different ending, mostly for Lucas' sake as he already has a lot to contend with, but sadly, this is the way things needed to go down, and hopefully, we will all be better off on the other side with some love, understanding, (a lot of) patience and time. That's all I can muster for the moment, but I remember what a wonderfully cathartic space this was for me for many years of Lucas' life, and I expect that to be the same from now on.