iamtheinvisiblehand

Archive for the ‘children’ Category

One year after she was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, and after months of unimaginable pain, my mother finally let go.

Upon her diagnosis, I would cry a lot, mostly because I was scared. After a few months, when the doctor finally told her there was nothing left to do, I would cry less frequently, but on the few occasions I did, the waterworks would last forever. I guess I believed that crying would make the whole thing more real. It meant accepting that there was no hope left. And now that all has been said and done, I find myself crying while I write these words.

I saw the cancer eat my mother – the strongest woman I’ve ever known – alive, and although it took a whole year to do so, when it was done there was nothing left but skin-wrapped bones and a severely swollen abdomen. Her mind, however, was untouched, which I think was even worse, because I can’t even begin to imagine what my mother must have felt when she saw herself in the mirror this last year.

And I still can’t believe that this happened to her. Or to me. This is the kind of story you hear about other people’s lives and sufferings, not your own. This is the kind of tragedy that happens to others. And yet it happened to me.

I know whoever is reading this must be thinking that I should be grateful that at least my mother stopped suffering and that in itself is a blessing. I know this is true. I saw her in pain almost every single day of this year and I am glad that this is all over. But still, I am selfish: I wish she was still here with me, nagging my ears off or constantly calling me about one thing or another, like she did while she still had the strength. I miss her more than I ever could have imagined. It’s so bad it hurts.

I find myself in her apartment expecting to hear her voice. Smell the lingering scent of her perfume. And yet I know that I’ll never get to hear her voice or smell her perfume ever again. I’ll just have to make do with whatever my memories can conjure up for me.

Why she held on for so long is a mystery to me. My sisters and I said our goodbyes many months ago and felt that she was in peace with all of us. And yet she hung on.

I guess that when you know you’re about to leave, you want to make sure that your life was worth something; that it made a difference, that you have left behind something worth remembering. Well, I am certain that my mother left an indelible impression on everyone she knew: I never knew or heard of anyone who disliked her.

Anyone who has suffered the loss of someone close knows that sometimes all you need is to say these things, get them out and sort of purge yourself of these thoughts and feelings, because they have a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. I know this too. About 10 years ago, my dear uncle was killed in a bombing. A few months later, I was at the supermarket and came face to face with a wide variety of blue cheese, my uncle’s favorite.   All of a sudden, I found myself crying and couldn’t stop the tears from falling. Gushing, actually. Other shoppers passing by me would suddenly swerve their carts away from me. I must have terrified them, poor people. My husband had been choosing some vegetables and was quite alarmed when he saw me. I was crying so hard I couldn’t tell him what happened. My dear husband is a good man and knows me well, so he just hugged me and waited until I was done. No questions asked. I did tell him later and he didn’t get it. Go figure.

I’ve come to realize that even when you know what’s coming, you’re never fully prepared for the blow. I knew how this story was going to end, and yet when it did, I felt like a helpless, abandoned child. Now that I think about it, I realize that at the young age of 38 I have become an orphan. Sigh. I know people will say that I should be grateful that I had her for such a long time, when there are so many who’ve lost their parents before they even got to know them. I know this is true. But again, I am selfish. This was not supposed to happen to me. At least not like this.

I am grateful that she was an important part of my 38 years of existence. I am grateful that she was my mother – I could’ve done so much worse. I am grateful that my 7 year old daughter had the chance to meet her and make the most of their time together. I am grateful that my mother was such a loving and caring grandmother to my daughter. But most of all, I am grateful that I had the chance to say goodbye. To tell her how much I loved her. To thank her for all the sacrifices she made to give all of us a good life.

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I’m behind the news as usual, but I was lucky enough (?)  to catch about 45 minutes of the interview Lance Armstrong gave Oprah a few weeks ago and even though it was just a tiny piece of the whole thing, I’m pretty sure I caught the gist of it.

Like everyone who has seen the news in recent years, I’d heard a lot about the accusations against Armstrong regarding the use of steroids that allowed him to win 7 Tour de France. I guess I was always a little suspicious, especially since he was a cancer survivor, and now that I’ve seen the toll cancer treatment takes on its victims,  for a while there I was truly impressed despite my doubts.

But after seeing his interview, if I had to say one thing is that although it was supposed to be some sort of act of contrition to come clean about his doping past, I have never seen more a more calculated and rehearsed speech in my life. And Oprah, with all her years of experience said that she had been surprised by his candour, or something like that. I may not be an expert journalist or have a degree in Psychology or in any field remotely related to human behavior. I am, however, a consummate introvert. I’m  the girl sitting in the corner quietly, paying attention to everyone else, observing their attempts to attract attention and be in the spotlight for a while. I may not have many personal or social skills, but I am definitely a good judge of character. And I can say, without any doubt, that Armstrong did a fine job at fooling everyone.

It was clear that he was mortified for getting caught, but not for what he’d done. That he’d lied over and over to everyone and that when anyone hinted at the possibility that he’d been doping himself he’d retaliate like a spoiled child who is denied the pretty shiny toy he wants and showed no mercy until he got his way, no matter what the cost might have been for others. And for that he showed no remorse, no regrets.

He mentioned his kids, and how he’d finally come clean because he saw that he could no longer have them defend him when all the accusations made against him were in fact true. And again, what I saw was that he was almost angry he’d had to tell them the truth, but not truly remorseful. And you know, now that I’m a mother, I’ve learned one thing that has guided me through a lot of situations, and it’s this: if you can’t tell your kid about it, or have to lie about it and risk them getting hurt as a result, it’s probably not a good idea. If we do something that we become ashamed of and can’t afford to let our kids know about it, then we’ve definitely done something wrong.

He also said it was impossible  to win the Tour de France without using steroids, or whatever it was he used to win. That was a hard slap in the face for all the others who have competed honestly and trained long and hard every year to win that competition. What would legendary cyclists like Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon think about that? For that matter, what about all the other cyclists who never had the chance to win the race while he was competing because he was on drugs and they were not? Furthermore, the other competitors still fought their way through the competition even though they knew they slim to no chances of winning while they had to race against Armstrong, and that is a tough psychological component to beat.

I’m not naive, and I’m sure doping has become more common in competitive sports than it used to be before. Nevertheless, Armstrong had no right to imply that everyone was doing it if he was not going to present proof to back his words. Actually, I’m kind of shocked no one from the race-cycling industry has come out yet to set the record straight, but I’m pretty sure they won’t – and can’t afford  to – stay quiet for much longer.

Anyway, after all has been said and done, I’ve concluded the many of us out there simply chose to believe that he was a hero, the kind of person everyone admires and wants to be like, because he is the ultimate survivor, living proof that if you put your mind to something you can accomplish anything. What’s really sad is that I’m sure that he would’ve been just as highly regarded and respected no matter what his ranking was at the end of these competitions, because he’d already accomplished su much and gone so far. It is definitely much easier to see a hero, even though we know deep down that there is nothing more than a liar there.

My mother was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma last week, after an endless month of tests, scans and appointments with the entire gamut of specialists.

For those who don’t know, cholangiocarcinoma is one of the most aggressive types of cancer. My mother’s is in the liver and metastasis was found in the peritoneum. It appears that the tumor that is in the liver is in the one place that makes it impossible to operate. Those in the peritoneum are rarely operated. So, chemotherapy it is. Starting today. The oncologist ordered 3 rounds of chemo and after that she’ll be tested again to check for improvement. If there is any, chemo will continue. If not, we’ll just have to let the cancer take over.

I know chemotherapy has come a long way and that nowadays, the treatment is a lot “milder” than it was a few years ago, but still, I can only imagine how she’s going to feel, being the person she is.

I’m not particularly attached to her, or my sisters for that matter, and I don’t feel that this has brought us closer, as many people in this same situation like to say.

My mother is as close as you can get to being Marie Barone (from Everybody Loves Raymond), so she enjoys feeling in control, having us all together at her disposal and being the center of attention. I don’t mean to sound nasty but it’s true. She has told every single relative, friend and acquaintance about her condition and although I can understand why she’s done it (besides being entitled to deal with this as she pleases), I truly wish she hadn’t, because now it means that she has made the cancer the main event of her life and has to rehash it every single time she’s with someone.

I’m not sure if she has come to terms with the fact that although this is a huge beast, half the task is becoming aware that she has the power to get rid of it by staying positive. Cancer survivors always say that a positive attitude can go a long way towards recovery. Of course, easier said than done, especially considering that my mother might be the most pessimistic person on the planet. It’s so bad that we’re always telling her to move her dark clouds away from us whenever she makes one of her ominous comments.

Our sisters and I have approached this from our unique perspectives and considering our own individual relation with our mother. My eldest sister feels quite dependent on her, so everything that has happened has affected her deeply. I can tell she’s truly scared. My other sister, the doctor, is approaching this like the doctor she is, meaning that she knows the facts better than we do, and she knows the outlook is grim, but she’s doing her part all the same. My youngest sister is probably the most affected, because she lives with my mother and is doing everything in her power to change my mother’s lifestyle into a healthier one, so if it doesn’t work I know she’ll be crushed. That, added to the fact that she is probably the closest to her.

Me? Hmmm. I haven’t really changed anything in my behavior or attitude. I’ve become weary of the manipulation, the phone calls every single day and the pleads for closeness, so although I hate that this is happening, I haven’t felt the need to come closer or reconcile or even mend our relationship.  I’ve come to terms with this.

I’ve been told repeatedly that I’ll regret this. But as I said, I came to terms with my relationship with my mother a long time ago. It’s far from perfect, but I’ve overcome the resentment, the anger and the disappointment I felt when I was younger and have settled for a cordial relationship. And I’m ok with it. She’s my mother and I love her and now that I’m a mother myself I know how hard it can be and I’m sure she did her best. But that is it.

Funny though, I never thought of myself as a selfish person, and yet all I can think about is how I’ll be affected if my mother dies. It kills me that my daughter won’t be able to enjoy her grandma for as long as she should have. It saddens me that my mother sacrificed so much for her own mother and that when she finally had the chance to do what she wanted she got diagnosed with cancer. That she had to put up with so much in her life already and not feel as appreciated as she thinks she should be.

I’m not a religious person, but I do have faith that my mother’s condition will improve. I refuse to believe that a person who has been deprived of living her own life for so long on account of others will now be deprived of it on account of cancer. Life’s not fair, I’m well aware of that, but that would be just plain horrific and would change our take on life radically. For the worse. Living with the knowledge that hope is useless would just make everyday a little more difficult.

All wake-up calls are harsh and abrupt, especially when they are received close to home. I’m taking this as a reminder not to let life get in the way of living it. To realize that it’s ok to strive for improvement while still appreciating the life I have. To leave my stuff in order so that no one will have to make any decision for me and my daughter will have everything she’ll ever need in my absence. To definitely take better care of myself and my family.

I read an article last week on a mother that was charged with child abuse for “smooshing” (I don’t really know what that means but that is how the article described it) the kid who had recently bullied her son.

It appears that she’d heard that her son had encountered some trouble with a bigger kid, so she escorted her son to take the bus in the morning. The bully showed up and started arguing with the boy before even boarding the bus. The mother took action, the teen retaliated (!!!), and then the mother followed the bully onto the bus and pulled his hair. All this was caught on video and all the mother had to say was that she didn’t really regret it. 

The bullying topic is permanently discussed on parenting sites and blogs and the consensus seems to be the same: even though schools have established policies regarding the topic, at some point someone else has to do something about it (either the parents or the child have to eventually take a stance) because the law constrains the authorities way too much to truly be able to take care of things.

My take is that there is something essentially wrong with the way the issue is being dealt with and with the lack of consequences (or enforcement actions) that somehow conveys the message that bullying is ok.

I mean, bullying isn’t new. It’s always been present and is a part of many kids’ daily routine. The thing is, nowadays, it’s just so much more difficult to straighten up your kids when everything is now set up to “protect” the children, even in the cases in which they are the bad guys. And I’m not even talking about spanking the kids, which is not allowed anymore, but about truly and unequivocally letting them know why and how this is unacceptable behavior and making sure they never abuse anyone in any situation again.

Would I have done what the mother in the news did? Probably not. And I’m the mother who shamelessly shouted at another toddler on the beach for throwing sand at my daughter’s face. But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have gone to the bully’s parents and the school to tell them all about their son’s cowardly actions.

People are always trying to explain bullying by stating that bullies have low self-esteem, are insecure, their parents usually pay no attention to them, and the list goes on and on forever. However, no one ever tries to analyze what happens with the bullied child, or what the long and short-term consequences are. The problem is always focused on the perpetrator and never on the victim. What does that say about us as a society?

In my opinion, there are two types of bullying: traditional bullying, which usually involves boys violently beating up other (smaller) boys. The other, is bullying among girls. This is a lot harder to spot, because it’s subtle. You’ll never see any bruises or scratches. And yet, bullying among girls is just as dangerous because it strips the bullied girls of any self-confidence they may have. It’s more if-you-don’t-bring-me-the-English-paper-by-tomorrow-I-wont-let-you-sit-at-our-lunch-table. Or in the case of smaller girls, if-you-don’t-come-to-school-with-a-ponytail-we-won’t-play-with-you. That is really dangerous, because if you aren’t truly alert, you’ll never see the signs until the damage is done and it’s probably too late.

The topic is way too broad and has so many takes that it’s impossible to condense it in a few lines. I will say, however, that I’m convinced that bad kids who aren’t taught that actions have consequences, turn into bad adults. Not being the religious type or a believer in divine retribution, there is, however, one thing I’ve instilled in my daughter and that is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. The good part is it’s easy enough to understand and I know she gets it because when other kids treat her or someone else badly she always asks them if they would like to be treated that way too and it usually stops the offender.

But then of course, she’s only 6 and at some point it will no longer be enough. That’s why I’ve also told her to defend herself or fight back if someone does anything to hurt her. It’s not ideal, and my daughter’s school strongly disapproves, but kids have to learn that it’s ok to stand up for themselves if they are being attacked, because the world isn’t an easy place and not all people are good. What’s the alternative, turn the other cheek? No thanks. But even though they have to learn to stay out of trouble, they must also learn that it’s ok to tell a teacher or an adult if someone else is being mistreated. We can’t allow our kids to be bystanders just for the sake of protecting them.

I heard from a friendly couple whose son attends my daughter’s school that last year there was a bully in his class. A full-blown bully who would beat up other kids in the bathroom or in the corridors on a daily basis. Mind you, this was happening in second grade, not junior high. Anyway, the problem was spotted early enough during the year and the bully’s parents were instructed to take the boy to therapy to deal with it. The school told those affected to be patient, that it was being handled, but it just went on and on and it wasn’t until the end of the school year that the kid was expelled.   

As a parent, to be informed that your child is a bully that is physically or psychologically hurting other kids must be a fatal blow. However, seeing it as the parent of a bully’s victim, how can you be told to “be patient” and expect your child to understand that it’s going to be ok, even though he gets slapped around every other day? How can you just stand aside and allow you kid to get hurt? I honestly don’t know how the victims’ parents handled it, but I know I would have pestered my daughter’s teachers and the school’s principal every single day until some effective action was taken. So the bully was expelled? Big deal, he was given a whole school year to inflict pain on so many of his classmates that I’m pretty sure the damage to those he bullied will last longer than the bully’s punishment (if any) or remorse (if any).

Anyway, regardless of the reasons why a child becomes a bully, I’m convinced that the parents are the only ones who can nip the problem in the bud. Sure, schools and the authorities may lend a hand, but if a child doesn’t get the message at home (loud and clear) that abusing others is wrong and unacceptable, there’s really nothing left for the others to do. 

I’m not biased or anything, but as a moviegoer – especially now that I’ve slashed my movie outings from once or twice every weekend to once a month – there are certain crowds I just wish I didn’t have to put up with while trying to enjoy a movie.

I’ve narrowed them down to these 4:

1. The giggly girls. They manage to giggle about every single thing, but they are especially annoying during suspense or horror movies. I remember vividly a couple of stupid girls sitting next to me during Shyamalan’s “Signs” who just couldn’t stop giggling even through the scariest parts. And don’t get me started on the fits they have when there’s some kind of skin exposure, or if the actor is cute, because sometimes it’s not even worth enduring the rest of the film.

2. The teen boys. Not only do they fail to pay attention, but because they get bored after a few minutes, they start talking to each other – LOUDLY – or throwing their popcorn at unsuspecting viewers behind or in front of their seats. As if that weren’t bad enough, they keep asking one another what is going on, because none of them seems to be able to grasp the essence of the movie. And I’m not talking about serious or complicated movies, like say, “Inception” in which if you don’t pay attention you can easily get lost, no. I’m talking about “Puss in Boots” or “Transformers”. I mean, how thick can you get?

3. The parents with the bored child. Sigh. You can spot them easily because the child is already showing signs of a meltdown even before the movie has started. At some point, the child will get uncomfortable, either by having to sit still for 2 hours or by the insanely loud audio theaters are using these days, and the tears will come shortly after. In the end, they just waste their money because they have to leave before the child has a full-blown tantrum. I feel bad for these parents, having suffered this myself, and in their defense, there is truly no way of knowing beforehand how a child is going to behave during the movie, no matter what their behavior was five minutes before entering.

4. And last but not least, the phone-addicts. I mean, not only is it spelled out in huge letters across the screen, cinemas usually get the star of the upcoming blockbuster to tell people to TURN OFF THEIR PHONES. And still, these people think that the world will come to an end if they turn they wretched thing off.  Even if, let’s say you need to be available for whatever reason (even though it’s hard to believe a person can’t be spared 2 hours of their precious time, but whatever, it happens) , you can silence the device and still enjoy the movie. If it does ring, at least it will be silent and you can swiftly leave the theater to take the call. These people, however, never do that. Not only is their phone left on, it is not even silenced. To make matters worse, the phone is more often than not stashed at the bottom of the purse (in the case of the ladies) or in some unreachable jacket pocket (in the case of the men), so it takes them about 4-5 rings before they can get to it. And then, they answer it. IN THE THEATER. LOUDLY. And no matter how many “shhhhhes” they get, it’s like they’re in their own little world where there is no one and nothing else but the phone and themselves.

I’ll just have to forget about Saturday night screenings and stick to Sunday morning screenings, as teenagers and phone-addicts don’t usually get up that early.

Men!  The only animal in the world to fear.  ~D.H. Lawrence

Last week, a terrible crime was committed against a very poor woman in the city where I live.

Not only was she assaulted and raped, but impaled as well. She agonized – while remaining conscious –  for a few hours at the place where she was dumped by her assailant. When the police finally found her, she was showing signs of hypothermia.

As if this weren’t enough, when they found her they asked her if she had medical insurance. She said no. She was then taken to a hospital about 20 minutes away from where she was, instead of taking her to another – private – hospital that was just a couple of blocks away.

The poor woman never stood a chance. She died later on due to cardiac arrest, after enduring several operations and all kinds of procedures to save her.

The worst part was the way the media treated the whole thing. It was pitiful and uninformative, to say the least.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to write this post and how to approach the broad array of issues that arise from such a hair-raising event, but in the end all I can say is that I’m sad. Sad and enraged.

Truly and deeply sad.

I’m sad because I feel like something inside of me died a little. Maybe it was hope. Because I always thought human beings were essentially good, but it seems to me that this theory has been proven wrong way too many times already for it to be true.

I’m sad because this was a monstrous crime committed against a helpless woman.

I’m sad because of the way she was treated for being poor and because no one should have to suffer what she suffered only to die part of a health-care system that wasn’t willing to help her.

I’m sad because this is not how things are supposed to be.

I’m sad because the justice system of the country I live in had already tried her attacker before for sexual assault and murder and had released him only 15 months after his conviction. Several arrest warrants are still outstanding for his involvement in other crimes of a similar nature, and yet he has just been released, again, after being apprehended this weekend due to “lack of evidence” or some sort of BS story concocted especially to let the perp walk.

I’m enraged because impunity is, in my opinion, the mother of all other crimes. I mean, why even bother making laws if they are only going to be stomped on by animals such as these and their lawyers, who are just as bad?

But what really infuriates me is that this sort of thing happens all around the world and no one seems to know. Or care.

And I’m not only referring to random violent crimes like this one. I’m talking about systemic, reiterative violence. Against women. Against children. Against other human beings.

People will only become aware of these things if the media informs them about it. But if the media hasn’t heard of it or decides it’s not newsworthy, then it’ll just be ignored and that is so unfair. And since this case had to do with a poor woman in some God-forsaken third-world country, no one will ever know.

Because I’m pretty sure the global media has ignored this: I googled the news in English and only found one reliable source that has not even been updated: http://www.ntn24.com/news/news/outrage-colombia-rape-and-impa-13948

So, I’ve decided to inform the few people who read my blog about it. As long as just one person reads it, I’ll feel like I’ve done my part by making that one person aware of what has happened to that woman nobody seemed to care about.

She is just one of the many who are killed, assaulted, raped or abused every single day across the planet. We can’t feel regret or remorse for things we aren’t aware of, but we should, every now and then, think of those who are not sufficiently important to be on the news, but who nonetheless suffer the unthinkable – some of them, every day -.

from topnews.in

I was doing my usual “tour of the news” this morning when I found the following headline on msn.com:

White births are now the minority in the U.S.

America has long known this moment was coming, and now it’s official. According to the Census Bureau, white births are now the minority in the United States. Data released today shows that white births represented 49.6 percent of all births between July 2010 and July 2011, with births of minorities tipping the scale at 50.4 percent. Overall, white Americans are still the overwhelming majority (63.4 percent), but, as the population ages, it’s expected their proportion will ebb rapidly
I know governments must keep track of what’s going on, even if only for the sake of statistics, but really?
I’ve always been part of the “minority” wherever I’ve been: as a child in the West Indies, I was part of the white minority. Later on, in South America, as a foreigner (even though I’m a citizen) mainly because of my name. As an adult in Europe, again, the immigrant minority. And even though the only place I ever truly had a hard time was in Europe when I was trying to get a job, I have to say I´ve never thought where a person came from or what their color of skin was should make any difference at all. We can’t control the place where we were born or the color of skin we inherit, so why should it be an advantage or a shortcoming, especially since it has nothing to do with the kind of person we are?
I’m not going to get dragged into the whole “immigrants steal jobs from citizens and don’t pay taxes” discussion because that is not the point here, even though I do have a lot to say on the issue, seeing as I’ve seen and lived enough of it to have an informed opinion. I will say, however, that even more disturbing than the way the headline was written, were the comments made by the people who read the article.
I can’t believe there are still people out there who think that belonging to a certain ethnic group makes them somehow better or superior.
A famous Argentinian comic book character named Mafalda once said: “it’s amazing how far humanity has come and how little intentions have changed”. She couldn’t have said it better.
The world is one big melting pot composed of several smaller ones in each country, there is no denying that. We are all a mix of foreigners blended with the indigenous populations of the places where they finally settled (except maybe the pioneers), so where exactly does “purity of the race” lie or that annoying sense of entitlement come from?
If we are still focusing on this, then as a people we deserve no better than our current fate. If we continue to disregard the lessons of past mistakes, then history will definitely repeat itself with a vengeance.


  • None
  • Carrie Rubin: I don't always remember names well, but I remember circumstances. I especially remembered yours because it's such a rare cancer, and you were the firs
  • iamtheinvisiblehand: Thank you for your kind words, but also thank you for remembering it was me....it's amazing that you'd remember this considering the endless stream of
  • Carrie Rubin: I am so sorry to hear about your mother. After you commented on my blog yesterday, I remembered that your mother was the one who had cholangiocarcinom

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