Tag Archives: theresa blackburn

Forgiveness is hard for me sometimes…

      I am a self-professed bleeding heart. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and I consider myself the queen of second chances. But I admit to having a hard time forgiving Wes McLean.

     This week the 31-year-old Victoria-Tobique MLA pleaded guilty to impaired driving.  He was fined $2,300 and was banned from operating any motor vehicle for a year.  He apologized to his family, friends and constituents and was remorseful in his acceptance of punishment.Image

     The charge stemmed from an incident last February. Police pulled McLean over in Edmunston. He was driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. This wasn’t just an extra beer. McLean was drunk. This is where my forgiveness gets a little fuzzy.

     Yes, he’s human. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he made a mistake and he’s really sorry.  But three times the legal limit isn’t a small lapse in judgment. To me, his decision to drive that day shows McLean has a huge character flaw – one that still astonishes me. At the age of 31, McLean is part of a generation (my generation) that has grown up in a time where drinking and driving was NEVER something deemed acceptable.He’s had a lifetime of MADD Canada ads, SAFE Grad events, and media bombardment of the serious dangers of drinking and driving.Image

     Yet, on a cold February day, after obviously having too many drinks, McLean, a member of our Legislative Assembly, a man who people in this region trusted and voted for, opened the door to his car, sat inside, put a key in the ignition and drove when he was in no shape to. McLean SHOULD have known better – and he didn’t. And that scares me.

     In my years as a reporter, I sat through multiple trials where THIS specific moment of stupidity and thoughtlessness has meant lives were irrevocably changed. People were killed, families were scarred, and those who caused this pain, while remorseful, were never truly able to make up for the life or lives they took.

     After hearing of McLean’s arrest I remember thinking “WHY BOTHER!!”  Seriously, think about it. If a young man like Wes McLean can make such an error in judgment – a man who, by all indications, follows media, knows the difference between right and wrong, has gained the trust of people, and had years of exposure to anti-drinking and driving campaigns – it makes me question where we’ve gone wrong?

     What have we not done that we should have?  What more should we do to convey the horrors – drinking and driving is serious – it kills – it is against the law – you should NEVER do this? It is when I try and answer these questions that I come to the conclusion that Wes McLean should not be forgiven easily.

     The fact is we HAVE done a lot – as a society we have educated our children, we’ve provided incentives through changes in court sentencing maximums to help deter people from getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.  I think MADD Canada, high school anti-drinking ‘PARTY’ programs; SAFE grad events, media campaigns and law enforcement spot checks have been SPOT ON. These initiatives are making a difference.

     This is why I believe Wes McLean’s decision to get behind the wheel is more than just a mistake and shouldn’t be forgiven easily.

     I hope the government continues to exclude him from his legislative duties until his driving prohibition is completed. I hope that McLean continues to have to work and work hard to regain the trust of his constituents. I pray that this isn’t just a small ‘bump’ in his road – that his journey to forgiveness is arduous path.

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Photo credit: pcnb.ca

     His arrest, his record, and his punishment must be used as an example. We can’t be quick to forgive just because he’s young. In this case I believe we must make him work hard to regain our trust BECAUSE he is young – because he should have known better- because he was educated, because he was exposed to media campaigns, and provided with ample information to understand the consequences and, despite all of this, he STILL chose to get behind the wheel of the car.

      I’m not saying I will never forgive Wes McLean, but it will take a while. I firmly believe that when these kinds of mistakes are made – serious errors in judgment by educated people in positions of trust – the road to redemption SHOULD be a rocky one.

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Political gloves are off….

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I told local party organizers I was in – willing to help with the next campaign. There I did it. I can’t believe after spending most of my life in the role of ‘non-partisan’ that I’ve openly chosen sides. Well, Mr. Harper, I can thank your track record for that life changing moment. All my life I’ve been objective to a fault, given people the benefit of the doubt – but no longer. Federally, I’m Liberal – provincially I don’t think I can pick because there is too much sameness to provincial politics. Federally, it’s day and night (and dusk).

Today I watched the Conservatives roll out their first attack ad. Less than 24 hours after Trudeau is elected leader of the party, it begins.

Well played, Mr. Harper …. well, not really – not for you – but well played for ‘us’.

You see, Canadians are tired of the negative crap – and that’s the nicest way I can say it – because that’s what it is – crap. I’m so very tired of feeling like I don’t mean anything to you, Mr. Harper. I teach my kids not to bully, yet what I see your party do on national television goes against all I teach them. Talk about leading by example. Why do you not realize, Mr. Harper, that in becoming the ‘parent’ to Canadians (dictating what we can and cannot do, telling us of your decisions without consulting), you have failed in one of the most important parenting jobs – being a role model.

So I did it – I joined the Federal Liberal Party. I voted for Justin Trudeau last week. I vowed I would no longer sit idly by.

I sat by long enough as a journalist, as a journalism instructor, as someone who needed to prove impartiality. With the journalism program winding down this June, and with the political landscape as messed up as it is, I really and truly can’t sit on the sidelines any longer.

When I saw the attack ad today I was floored. There’s also a website called ‘Justin is Way Over His Head’. Wow…wonder what the ads and the website cost the conservatives….aside from their credibility?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Trudeau isn’t perfect, but he’ll create a team and lead the country WITH A TEAM – unlike Mr. Harper, who leads by himself and lets his caucus know what’s going on AFTER he’s made up his mind. No, you are right, Mr. Harper: Trudeau cannot run a country on his own because YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO RUN A COUNTRY ON YOUR OWN.

You are supposed to build a team, create dialogue and lead WITH a group of people from across the country WHO HAVE BEEN ELECTED BY CANADIANS TO GOVERN ON THEIR BEHALF. That’s true leadership, and that’s what I want – check that – that’s what I NEED.

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My Big Fat Life: Tired of Saying Goodbye

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, June 18, 2012

I have wished many people well in my career, and have been wished well by many. At the CBC and here at NBCC, I’ve said hello and goodbye more times than I would like to count. People have said ‘so long’ when I’ve moved jobs or locations, and I’ve said ‘see you soon’ to many who have retired or changed jobs.

The difficult farewells happen when someone becomes more of a friend than a co-worker.

It will be hard to say goodbye to Andy Leblanc.

Two years ago Andy was hired to teach television journalism at NBCC Woodstock.

Andy is a powerhouse of knowledge and has an abundance of drive. He’s a lifelong journalist, honing his skills as a young ATV reporter in New Brunswick. Back then Andy was passionate about politics and had a head full of questions and hair. (Sorry Andy, I couldn’t resist!) He went on to manage locations for CTV, and came back to his native New Brunswick a few years ago to allow his wife to pursue her career dreams.

Goofing around in the television lab at NBCC Woodstock. Instructor Andy Leblanc is ready for his close up as journalism student Geoff Stairs captures a candid moment in class.

He was only with us two years, but what a two years it was.

We pushed students to strive for excellence and found more platforms for their work. Andy recreated our website. The students worked hard making www.jschoolnbcc.ca a place where local people came for breaking news they couldn’t get elsewhere. We operated like a newsroom; students created multimedia series, we took trips to Fredericton and Juniper, students produced weekly television shows, covered breaking news, mastered social media, and they shared the news they collected with regional papers and television and radio stations. We tried to mimic the industry as much as possible in our classrooms. I know we succeeded, and provided the best education possible for our young journalists.

Once a reporter, always a reporter – it’s a saying I’ve heard many times from colleagues who have left the business to pursue other avenues. Just because we’re standing in front of a classroom doesn’t mean we’re no longer journalists.

While I worked at starting a magazine, Andy continued to build his “ultra-local” concept. His vision would provide an avenue for small communities to share local news. On more than a few evenings Andy was doing what our students were doing – covering events in his community and publishing stories to his local website. Andy also became president of RTDNA, a national organization representing Canadian Broadcasters, while he was with us. I think we both related to our students better because we were still ‘doing it’ – still chasing, and writing, and working in journalism.

Andy will leave NBCC this month to become the news director for CTV Atlantic.

I will miss him more than he realizes.

We have the same ‘got-to-know’ character flaw that turned us on to reporting in the first place. We love our craft. We respectfully argued about politics and law, we discussed the latest news and current events, and we debated how stories were approached and covered. We both viewed the world differently but similar when it came to the public’s right to know.

We were good for each other – in the teaching sense. His constant drive and work ethic inspired me and made me push my students a little harder. I, in turn, was able to (sometimes) get him to slow things down a bit, getting him to see the need to give students a little more breathing room; reminding him that television was not the only medium they needed to master.

Many (all) students considered him tough (“a hard-ass”), but they also respected him. They understood his ultimate goal was to their advantage – he wanted to see them succeed beyond his classroom.

Working with Andy made me feel like my old, reporter-self again. I have beautiful co-workers at the college, but no one who loves news like I do. For the last few years there were few I could debate politics and news coverage with on the same level as I could with Andy.

Andy was a breath of fresh, overachieving, journalistic air.

In the end I am thankful for his new position at CTV. Our journalism program was cancelled last month and Andy’s lack of seniority would have probably meant a pink slip in June of 2013, just as the last NBCC journalism grads cross the stage.

I can’t talk about the loss of my program just yet. The feelings are still too raw. But I am glad that Andy’s talent will not be lost or misplaced. We can still debate news coverage over the phone, and I will continue to tease him about the hair he used to have via email and Twitter.

While it won’t be the same as having him in our NBCC newsroom, it will make the departure of my co-worker and dear friend a little easier to manage.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

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My Big Fat Life: Bullying Canada Needs to Practice What it Preaches

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, May 7, 2012

Bullying Canada needs to live up to its mandate in how it deals with organizations and institutions.

Bullying is indeed a serious matter, yes; we need more education and awareness. I am in no way trying to belittle the cause, but I am somewhat ashamed of the tactics Bullying Canada chooses to employ in furthering its cause.

I know about bullying intimately.  My son was bullied over a six-month period in Grade 7. The situation was solved, but it was a long process.  Repairing relationships doesn’t happen overnight. Repairing a school’s reputation doesn’t happen instantly, either. For the last three years, principal Pat Thorne, vice-principal Jen Pauley and their team of teachers and support staff at Woodstock Middle School have worked diligently in trying to turn the school around.

When I moved to the community of Woodstock in 2006, the school’s track record for dealing with bullies wasn’t the greatest. Over time that changed because of strong and loving leadership, a staff that understands the needs of the students, and a group of educators and support staff who work well as a team for the betterment of all students.  Does that mean bullying doesn’t happen at the school?  Of course not.  Bullying happens everywhere, and I am not sure there will ever be a time when it is eradicated completely.

Bullying comes from socio-economic differences, from a lack of empathy and understanding, from greed and pride and sometimes from a lack of education. Bullying also comes from being bullied. It is a multi-faceted problem that cannot be fixed with a phone call, a suspension or even the threat of media.

I know. It took months for my son to admit the seriousness of his own situation. It took days for the team at the school to talk to each of the students involved and to grasp a complete understanding of what was happening, and it took weeks to set up mediation meetings and begin to rectify the problem.

When it comes to dealing with bullies and those who have been bullied, quick fixes don’t work. Suspensions are temporary Band-Aids, moving kids to other classes’ only mask the situation. Bullying is further exacerbated by the fact that every situation is different and every person dealing with that situation is different.  No bullying incident is exactly the same as another, which means every solution ends up being unique.

And sometimes an issue can’t be resolved to the satisfaction of everyone involved. People are complex beings.

We live in an age where instant gratification is the name of the game. We want things and we want them now.  Bullying is no different. We all want it fixed and fixed yesterday, but as long as the bullying is taking place between human beings, that will never happen.  While many of us would love to snap our fingers and instantly deal successfully with a tough situation, myself included, that will never happen.  Bullying Canada doesn’t seem to understand this.

Last week the organization took a media swipe at the staff at Woodstock Middle School. They were trying to intervene on behalf of a parent.  Bullying Canada issued a news release stating: “We attempted to make contact with both Superintendent John Tingley and School Principal Patricia Thorne but our calls and emails were not returned.”

As a person concerned with bullying in the school system, I was shocked to read this and contacted Pat Thorne and John Tingley directly.  They said they checked with their staff and were told no phone messages were received from Bullying Canada, and at no time did either official receive a voicemail message from the organization.  They did, however, receive one email.

On Friday, April 27 at 8:22 a.m., Bullying Canada sent a note to both Tingley and Thorne. This was the only contact made, according to Tingley and Thorne. Later that morning, at 11:44 a.m., Bullying Canada issued a news release to the media complaining of inaction by the school and the district.  In a later media interview, Bullying Canada spokesperson Rob Frenette expressed his concern that the school was not returning his ‘calls’ and that he was also upset officials would not discuss the situation with him.

How fair is it to widely distribute a media release stating that numerous calls were made when no messages were left?  How irresponsible is it to issue a news release accusing someone of not returning calls after waiting only three hours for a response?  And how can an anti-bullying group expect such a multi-faceted situation to be fixed within a week?

On the day Bullying Canada issued its news release, the school had been dealing with and working toward resolving the issue for five days. My son’s complex situation took nearly six weeks to rectify.

This is not the first time the actions of Bullying Canada officials have worried me. I’ve watched the news reports where they complain about businesses, corporations and schools.  In some instances it seems that if the organization cannot get what it wants, it then threatens media action. It also seems that each time a call is not returned in what the organization feels is a ‘timely fashion,’ Bullying Canada issues a media release.

Rob Frenette issued another news release Saturday, saying it was the family’s decision to issue a media advisory on the fact their concerns were not being addressed. “At no time did anyone from Bullying Canada make the decision to issue the media release,” Frenette stated.

Yet that media advisory was issued under the name of Bullying Canada. How can the organization claim to represent and speak for a family in one breath, but then abdicate responsibility in the next?

Everyone who reads my column knows I am not a malicious person.  My family and friends and co-workers know I am as honest as the day is long. People understand my need to help others, that I truly hate bullying, that I love people who do what’s right and not what’s easy, and that I try to see the best in everyone.

I hope you see this column for what it is: Clarification, education and standing up for what I think is right. Organizations that take the moral high ground in their mandate need to take the moral high ground in the execution of that mandate. Bullying Canada needs to take that message to heart in how it deals with this sensitive issue.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and a New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock.  You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, join her Facebook group, My Big Fat Life, or follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE.

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My Big Fat Life RETURNS: Apologies, new ventures and the realization you can’t have it all

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, April 16, 2012

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I have missed this – this beautiful and direct line to so many readers each Monday. I have been away, but have tried on a few occasions to get back here.

For four weeks I took an official break, letting editors know I needed some time.

When my break was over, I did send along a few things. One column was too late, one was too long, and one couldn’t be printed. I got discouraged, and took another break. I tried to write again, but there were weeks I was just too tired to write; sometimes I couldn’t come up with a clear focus, and other weeks I was just too busy.

I think this is the longest I’ve been away from the paper in the five-and-a-half years I’ve penned a piece here.

I am not sure I am able to write here as regularly as I used to.

I have come to the realization I cannot do everything I want to do.

My mother was right.

Like most kids growing up, I had a long list of “I wannas.”

I clearly remember I wanted to do so much and be so many things. The list, especially in my pre-teen years, was endless.

I was one of the first generations to see my future as something I could choose. Society began to tell me I could do anything I wanted to do if I tried hard enough.

I’d verbalize my dreams to my parents and many times my mom would tell me that sometimes you can’t do everything you want to do. Sometimes I understood her thinking, but other times I reasoned with inexperienced kid logic, believing her explanations were about what she could not do because she was a parent. I saw her as a woman with responsibilities, which meant she couldn’t always sit back, and read a novel when she wanted, or have a night out with the girls if she felt like it, or serve us potato chips for supper.

I didn’t realize that her warnings were about making choices – sometimes-hard choices – about what you have to leave behind in pursuit of a dream.

I am beginning to worry that this column may be something I have to choose to leave behind.

Many of you know I’ve been working on a new venture – a magazine about the people, places and history of New Brunswick. (www.agelessnb.ca) agelessNB has consumed all of my free time lately. My Big Fat Life has always been big and full.

My plate used to include my regular home responsibilities with my husband and children, my job teaching journalism at the college, my role on Woodstock town council and my writing. Now my plate also has heaping spoonfuls of busy lunch hours filled with phone calls and planning, early mornings where I rise before everyone else so I can write, evenings where, after kids are in bed, invoices are filled out and paperwork is completed, and weekends where hockey, church and cadet activities are intertwined with interviews, advertiser meetings and more writing.

That plate has also been filled with a lot of wonderful feedback. People like what I’m trying to achieve, and I really believe agelessNB can make a difference.

Peggy Martin of Woodstock called me last week. She had been wondering where my column had gone and discussed my possible whereabouts with friends. A neighbour dropped by with a copy of the magazine over Easter and it was only then she understood why I wasn’t in the paper.

She loved the magazine and missed the column. She called me her “Monday morning friend.” I felt elated and saddened all at once. I was happy that she loved agelessNB, but sad that I missed out on being with her each Monday.

Another ball dropped. I took a hiatus from the column and failed to let readers know.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of example I’m setting for my kids.

What my children see lately is a mom consumed. Some evenings I’ve missed bedtime tuck-ins, I’ve been absent at more than a few supper hours leading up to the printing of each issue, and I’ve missed spending simple, basic downtime with their dad.

I try and remind them this will (God willing) get better. Once the magazine is established further, once we cultivate contacts, once the word gets out, the hard work of distribution, advertising, and getting freelancers will be something that happens with little effort.

I really believe the goal of connecting people, of telling important stories and sharing our journey is something that will become important to many – not just this crazy, stressed, tired mom. But until then, the dream of success in this venture is far-off.

My father always told me that things worth doing are things worth doing well. But doing some things well comes at a cost, I’m discovering. What costs I’m willing to pay are obvious.

My kids and husband are the most important parts of my quality-of-life equation. My students are a secondary part, with the community and the magazine coming a close third. What gets ‘dropped’ in the future to achieve the goals I feel are important for my personal happiness and fulfillment will need to come down to what I can afford to lose and what I can’t.

As I struggle to find balance this spring, I hope that My Big Fat Life gets to be a part of my quality-of-life equation. If it isn’t, I am thankful that many of you – my beautiful readers – will understand and support me.

Sadly, that won’t make it any easier if I have to say goodbye.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, My Big Fat Life, on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

 

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My Big Fat Life: Forget Gaga: Theresa’s thankful her kids are fans of REAL celebrities!

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, December 19, 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, I find myself again counting my blessings.

I am grateful for many things in my life. I am blessed a loving husband and wonderful children. I am thankful for a good job, good friends, and a warm and dry home to live in. I give thanks for having enough food to eat, a job that provides for my family, and for my continued health and the health of those I love.

I am grateful for the kind and intelligent students I am privileged to have in my classroom, I am grateful for the opportunity to write and connect with so many people, and I am especially grateful for the beautiful people I get to meet in this capacity.

I count myself lucky to call His Honour, Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas, and his wife, her honour, Beth, as friends.

I first met the lieutenant-governor at my church, shortly after he was sworn in. He came to a special mass at St. Gertrude’s in Woodstock, at the request of his friend, Father Bill Brennan. As he greeted some entering the church that day, I introduced myself.

“I know who you are,” he said, smiling, “my wife and I enjoy your articles in The Daily Gleaner every Monday.”

I remember turning red, and I remember feeling extremely humbled, and realizing I was a bit speechless in that moment.

I hope I said thank you in our exchange, but I can’t remember if I did.

After reading about the varied history of Graydon Nicholas when he was appointed our lieutenant-governor, I remember thinking how lucky our province is, having a man with such a strong background of caring.

I have covered court for many years in my career as a journalist, and I have also lived in aboriginal communities for nearly 15 years of that career. I have been blessed to know many a “Graydon” in that time span – men and women who fight for not only the rights of their people, but also work toward the understanding of their people by the non-aboriginal community. This constant drive for caring connection is beautiful to witness.

We chatted again at the Atlantic Journalism Awards luncheon, which he graciously hosted at Government House last year. Two of my student’s received awards, and after the luncheon he invited us upstairs to tour the art on display. My students, Graydon, Beth and I talked about wellness that afternoon, and my recent columns about suicide, bullying and mental health.

My nine-year-old daughter came home one day last fall announcing, “The Queen’s FRIEND was in school today!” She was referring to the lieutenant-governor.

And while her original interest was peaked because as lieutenant-governor, Graydon and his wife were able to meet Queen Elizabeth, her interest turned to really liking this man and his wife because of the role they’ve taken on in that capacity. We talked about the Nicholas’ most of that supper hour, and again before bed.

My family knows how much this couple means to me – how much I respect what they do and what they are trying to achieve. Like his mom, my 14-year-old son now follows what the Nicholas’ do – closely watching coverage in the newspaper, on television and on radio.

I knew James really wanted to meet the lieutenant-governor.

When I launched my magazine, agelessNB, we invited Graydon and his wife to the celebration. Earlier in the fall, the lieutenant-governor provided a story for our last page. He detailed the arrival of their ‘Christmas baby’ – his older son who came into the world on Dec. 23, 1969. Graydon really wanted to make the magazine kick-off, but had a prior commitment.

My son was disappointed but understood.

Then, a week ago today, we celebrated the National Aboriginal Day of Prayer at St. Gertrude’s in Woodstock. My daughter had hockey and my son had Army Cadet band practice. I went, but couldn’t tell James that Graydon would be present, knowing he would be disappointed again. Thankfully the mass went longer than expected, and my hopes increased. If the couple were going to stick around after mass, I could arrange a meeting. They were staying, and I dashed off. I was able to pick up James after band and bring him to the church for the reception.

When I told my son what we were doing, he was excited.

It was lovely. They chatted and my son beamed.

On our way home, James admitted this was a pretty special night – and it was.

James got to meet a man who has conviction; James believes the lieutenant-governor and his wife are special because of their beliefs. He likes them and follows what they do because they are trying to create something positive in everything they lend their talents to.

They are ‘celebrities’ to my children, but for all the right reasons.

So as this year comes to a close, I am also thankful that Lt.-Gov Graydon Nicholas and her honour Beth are my kid’s idols, and that this beautiful couple continues to care enough to use their ‘celebrity’ to make a real difference in our world.

I’ll take them over Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber any day!

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE.

 

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My Big Fat Life: The Attention My In-Attention Needs…

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, December 12, 2011

A long time ago my father asked me to ‘screw my head on tight and head in one direction’.

He was commenting on my constant changing of gears – whether I was trying to organize my house, do laundry, help my daughter with homework or engage in conversation, I could almost move in three hundred directions at once. Many times I would try and focus was on one thing, but would quickly be drawn to another.

I had a form of ADHD and didn’t know it.

I have been formally diagnosed as having ADHD–inattentive disorder.

My mother always knew I wasn’t quite as organized as most kids.  I remember in grade 8 or 9 when we went shopping for school supplies I always ended up with an agenda book in my bag. When I forgot something like studying for a test and made a bad mark I’d be reminded to use the day timer I was bought.

I had to be reminded about my agenda book and a lot of other things many times over the years.  Thankfully the ritual of always writing things down finally stuck.

Fast forward to college and I knew the only way I’d succeed is if I kept myself organized.   It was then that organization became an obsession.  I was the ‘paperwork, note taking, and organizational’ queen.  Anytime anyone missed a class they’d come asking for my notes.

I moved into a great career for someone with attention issues.  Journalism was a perfect fit.  I retained information surprisingly well.  I could spend a day or two on something and move on to the next thing.  With the organizational skills I had honed over the years, I became the keeper of the future file in many a workplace before the files went electronic.  Even then, I was the person who meticulously and religiously filled out all the information needed for archiving – ensuring we didn’t miss court dates or opportunities to do follow-up stories.

But I wasn’t perfect.  I missed the odd thing – or would forget a previous engagement if I was at a function and asked to do something on a specific date.  A few times I missed BIG things.  Without my day timer handy, I couldn’t recall a lot of things I had to do, or would wrongly recall what date I had to do them.  Sometimes when things got busy I would forget to refer to my day timer.  That caused serious problems sometimes.

On those days, I either got caught, or got saved.

Up until two years ago my husband was my crossing guard, my catcher’s mitt and my lifesaver.  I have, at times, called him my external brain.  When I really got myself in a bind he’d come running to my rescue – picking up kids, picking up items for pot lucks, covering my butt so I wouldn’t fall on my face, and consoling me when I felt defeated by my crazy, mixed up mind.

When my son was having difficulty at school we had him assessed.  I knew he had attention issues, but I never thought of myself as being like him.

He was really forgetful – losing backpacks and shoes, and hoodies and books.

“I’m not that bad…” I kept telling myself.

I was in denial.

I didn’t see how bad my situation was because I was only concentrating on his attention shortcomings.  I was catching his falls – my husband was catching mine.

When I read his assessment report, it was like I was reading about myself.

Everything, but his Dyslexia diagnosis, screamed my name.

I remember crying in my doctors office, I remember feeling horrible guilt that I put my husband through so much grief for nearly a quarter century, I remember feeling ashamed at how I treated my son in some cases.

Just like I couldn’t help my ‘forgetful mind’, neither could he, yet I would be at him to ‘remember’, when, in some instances, it was nearly impossible.

For years we tried everything to help our boy – agendas, organizational help with books and lockers, notes to teachers, emails flowing from both sides, positive reinforcement – you name it, we tried it.  For him, nothing worked – nothing stuck – and life got harder and harder for him at school.

The assessment told us to talk to our doctor about medication that may help him.  I remember the conversation with the psychologist well.

“I’ve spent years helping James develop the tools and the coping mechanisms to help him deal with his shortcomings.  I don’t want to drug my son… I’ve avoided this so far…”

“And how has that worked?” she asked me.

I remember being silent and then saying, “I don’t want my son to be a zombie.”

“The drugs are different now…” was how her response started.

She talked about the advances in medication, about the way his brain works and how certain chemicals, in some people, can help.

“It’s just another tool to try,” she explained.

“If it doesn’t work, you’ve tried something else, and you’ll move on to another tool.”

At first I felt defeated…. all these years of moving in one direction only to be sent back in the direction I most feared.

My doctor was reassuring.

“We’ll meet every two weeks while we try this out…”

If there were any issues I could call the office immediately and she’d squeeze us in.

We got his prescription, went through a few dosage changes, and something happened.

James was able to pay attention in school; James was able to remember some basic things like homework and writing notes in his agenda, James was feeling better about his schoolwork.

At the two-month mark his doctor asked him how he felt.

“Better.  I feel like I know what’s going on.”

When she asked him when was the first time he felt that way, his response made me cry.

He said he was in math class and his teacher was showing the class how to do something on the board and then got students to complete practice questions.  James said the bell rang, signaling the end of class, and he said remembered being amazed that he got the questions done and noticed he hadn’t looked out the window once that class.

It made me happy and heartbroken all at the same time.  I thought of all the years I spent  – my mind closed to even the suggestion that a drug could be considered a useful tool.  All this time I relied on the anecdotal observations of others – I wouldn’t even research the issue because of what I had been told.  All this time I thought I could provide enough support to enable my son to overcome his attention issues.  All these years I thought I was this open-minded person with liberal ideas and progressive thinking when really I was just a scared Mom who couldn’t look at things objectively because I loved my little boy so much.

I have a lot of guilt related to my decisions prior to his assessment and doctor’s help, but now I also have a lot of hope related to his progress to date.

I’m not saying drugs are the answer for everybody, but I am saying that drugs have made a difference in my son’s life.

Don’t get me wrong – they haven’t solved everything – he still forgets and he still needs to keep writing things down, but he has progressed in school because he’s now able to concentrate better.

James’ formal assessment and his new tool has not only helped him improve his marks, it has also helped his self-esteem.  Seeing him smile and feel good about himself and his schoolwork makes Mom smile and feel a little less guilty about her past decisions.

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