White Privilege

So, like most Americans, I watched the videos flying around social media that show the arrest of two African-American men in a Philadelphia Starbucks for waiting on a third friend to show up before ordering.  And I was pissed for them and for their family and friends.  I was pissed that they had to force themselves to be calm and submissive to the police officers who should not have even been called in the first place, because I would have been loud as hell.  I was pissed that they were taken down to the precinct and arrested and fingerprinted and held in a cell until 12:30 the following morning, when they were released as though nothing had happened and they should just be okay with it. And I was pissed that EVERY OTHER CUSTOMER IN THE STORE stood up and told these arresting officers that they had not done anything wrong (these were witnesses!) and still they were taken away and humiliated and had their fingerprints put into the automated fingerprint identification system.  Due to some itchy and probably subconscious bigotry of a random Starbucks manager and his inability to say, “Order or get out,” or even more humanly, to be patient and give these two men the same patience he would have given any other white customer, these two men will now have difficulty getting a security clearance, a job that requires a background check, work with or volunteer with children or elderly. And all for the simple fact that their fingerprints will pop up in the database. I thought that I was as pissed as I could be.  I was wrong.  Because this morning, I saw this tweet:

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I was sort of pissed because I thought, “Well, if no one had said anything, then they would be complicit in their silence.  And when we do stand up and say something, we’re still getting labeled with the word ‘privileged’ and damn. What do you want us to do?”

And then I realized Chris Evans’ point:  HE’S RIGHT.

It’s not about me.  He’s pointing out that this IS the privilege and, while I’ve always realized that I have it, I never asked for it. I never asked to be born white. He is condemning that one group of people has a privilege that the rest of the world doesn’t. Why should any of us have that privilege? It is less a criticism of my whiteness, than it is stating the obvious:  The white customers in the same Starbucks were ignored by the cops.  Had they been black and argued with the cops, they would have been arrested, too.

And that isn’t just an assumption on Chris Evans’ part.  This is something that we have all witnessed, either in real life or in video in the past.  In 2016, an African-American woman called the police in Fort Worth, Texas to report a white man for choking her son because he allegedly threw a piece of trash on the ground. The officer shows up, agrees that the boy shouldn’t have littered and did not even address the assault on the child. The mother argued with the cop and was clearly angry but not aggressive and he used the taser on her and her daughter who started to scream at the officer out of fear for her mother. The woman and her two daughters were arrested.

I thought about all of this and other filmed injustices that I have seen over the years.  I have come to the conclusion that I am not pissed at what Chris Evans tweeted out. I am pissed that it is true.

But I will continue to use my white privilege to stand up for the injustices of others. It and my voter registration card and my voice are really the only tools in my toolbox that I can use to help the situation.  I will continue to speak out.  I will continue to write letters.  I will continue to teach my kids that bigotry and ignorance and hate will only continue to hold them and everyone else back; that our differences are beautiful and something to be admired and cherished rather than hated or feared.  I will continue to be pissed about my fellow countrymen being treated unjustly, because the minute that I don’t, I will have become the oppressor via complacency.

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Conversations Inside My Head and Out

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Daughter:  I can’t believe that I’m going to graduate high school in only seventy-one days.

Me:  WHAT?!

InternalMe:  WHAT?! WHERE DID THE TIME GO?  I’VE LOOKED FORWARD TO THESE YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP AND SHOPPING AND HUGS AND COFFEE AND SHARED INTERESTS AND TV TOGETHER. HAS IT BEEN FOUR YEARS ALREADY?! 

Daughter:  Yeah, I can’t wait.  I mean, I kind of don’t want to graduate but then this big part of me cannot wait until I’m done.  But you know, I will miss it.

Me:  It’s going by too fast.  I’m not ready for this.

InternalMe:  NOOOO!  I WAS JUST BRAIDING YOUR HAIR AND IRONING YOUR SCHOOL UNIFORMS FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LAST WEEK.  I HAVEN’T HAD TIME TO SHARE ALL OF THIS AMAZING MATERNAL ADVICE THAT I HAD PLANNED TO GIVE YOU.  I NEED MORE TIME.  STOP IT!  STOP GROWING SO FAST.  WHY IS TIME MY ENEMY?  WHERE DID THE YEARS GO?  I DON’T WANT YOU TO LEAVE ME!

Daughter:  I’m not sure I’m ready for this, either.  I mean, I am but I’m not.  But I get excited thinking about college and stuff.  Are you…Mom?  Why are you crying?

Me:  I don’t feel like I’ve had you all to myself long enough.  I’m not ready to share you with the world yet.

InternalMe:  WHO’S GOING TO LAUGH WITH ME AND MAKE “MEAN GIRLS” MOVIE REFERENCES AND ACTUALLY ENJOY SHOPPING WITH ME?  YOU’RE LEAVING ME WITH A HOUSE FULL OF BOYS AND YOUR SISTER WHO HATES SHOPPING, COFFEE, LOUD NOISES, AND JOKES.  YOU’RE MY MINI-ME AND I NEED YOU HERE WITH ME.  DON’T LEAVE ME!

Daughter:  Aww, Mommy!  I’m not leaving you.  I’m just going to college and I decided to go to the one that’s only twenty minutes away.  I’ll still be living at home.  We’ll still hang out and stuff.  I love you.  I’m  not leaving you.

Me:  I know it.  But I can’t talk about it without turning into a walking Kleenex commercial anymore.  It’s like I blinked and you grew up without asking me for my permission first.

InternalMe:  YOU ARE THE MOST AMAZING, INTELLIGENT, WELL-ROUNDED, BEAUTIFUL, FUNNY, TALENTED, EXQUISITE THING THAT I HAVE EVER HAD A PART OF MAKING AND I AM IN AWE OF YOU.  I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW BLESSED I AM TO HAVE BEEN CHOSEN TO BE YOUR  MOTHER.  CLEARLY, ALLAH SEES SOMETHING TRULY SPECIAL IN ME TO HAVE ENTRUSTED YOU TO MY CARE. 

Daughter:  Do you want me to stop talking about graduation?

Me:  Yes, please.  Just for a few days until I can let my feelings catch up to the reality of it all.

InternalMe:  YES, YOU UNGRATEFUL CHILD!  QUIT GROWING UP AND LET ME BE SELFISH JUST A LITTLE WHILE LONGER SO THAT I CAN FEEL THAT YOU STILL NEED ME.

Daughter:  I’ll always need you, Mom.

Me:  Quit reading my mind.  Let’s go shopping.

My Secret to Survival

I would never intentionally harm anyone or destroy personal property. But I sometimes dream about it, in small day-dream bursts and then I pop back to my reality a few seconds later and laugh and deal with the shit in front of me like an adult instead of a cartoon character. But man. Wouldn’t that be awesome if we could handle some things like a cartoon character would?!

So, the next time at the mall someone parks so close to your car that you cannot even squeeze between the vehicles, much less open the door, you can reach into your clutch purse and pull out a ginormous can opener from the early 1950s and cut their car in half lengthwise and stack the passenger half on top of the driver’s half? That would be cool. But instead, you’ll enter from the passenger side of your car and awkwardly climb over the console in your SUV and probably knock the rear view mirror off of the windshield and curse the oblivious, selfish jackass who inconvenienced the crap out of you for the six mile drive home.

On those days when all of the kids want all of the things and talk all at one time and the phone is ringing and the teakettle is whistling and the neighbor’s dog has gotten out again and is barking  under your kitchen window, and your mind just jumps to throwing all of them- kids, teakettle, dog -into the back of your SUV (you know, the one with the rear view mirror that falls off every pothole because super glue really isn’t so super.) You drive as fast as you can and you, your kids, and the dog all have g-force face because you’re driving in cartoon-speeds. You slam on breaks and then peel all of them off of the windshield and back of the seats, use the ejector seats button on your cartoon dashboard, toss a bottle of water and a road map out of the sunroof and yell, “Meet you at home, Suckas!” and peel out with “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC blaring on the stereo. But in reality, of course, I just whistle loudly and yell, “SHUT UP!”

And that woman who takes up the whole shopping aisle with her buggy and won’t move left or right so that you can get past her, even when you say “excuse me” six times.  She’s the same person who sees you heading to the cashier with the shortest line and races you for the next spot in line, only you’re faster and get there first.  But she “accidentally” hits you in the ankle with her buggy overflowing with frozen dinners and snack items with 10-year expiration dates.  In my cartoon mind, I grab her around the throat and force feed her Twinkies and cheeze puffs until her eyes bulge out.  In reality, I shoot her a dirty look, followed by a condescending smile (since I beat her to the check out counter) and say, “I forgive you.”  That last part is really to live as an example to my teenagers and not because I really want to forgive her. I’m just doing my part to repopulate the planet with intelligent and polite functional adults. Clearly, HER mom missed that class.

At any rate, I think that this little peak into the “insanity that keeps me sane” may help other moms out there who worry that they are nuts because these little exercises tend to relax them. They certainly relax me for that brief nano-second that they flash through my mind.  That blip of bananas provides that little breath of respite that I need to make the RIGHT adult decisions. And it makes me laugh. Keep up the good work, y’all.

 

To the Strangers Who Stare and Comment: Get Bent.

I am the parent of a young adult with Autism.  I’m patient. She’s helped me build that patience. But if you are a parent of a young child with Autism and you leave me a comment giving me advice that basically would reinvent my wheel, so help me God, I will reply and make you cry.

I have been dealing with the explosive outbursts, Autistic meltdowns, sensory overload, overstimulation on low pressure days, tactile issues, noise issues, overpowering scents, obnoxious gestures and flight or fight reactions for well over 20 years. I got this. I’m not perfect. But I get HER. And as my friend, Cindy, says all the time, “When you know one person with Autism, you know ONE person with Autism.” Cindy would know. She’s been a teacher for about 13 years, 8 of those with Special Education.  She’s so right. If you intellectually know that every person WITHOUT Autism is a unique individual, then WHY can’t you get that about people WITH Autism?!

Do I seem shout-y and intolerant? I am. I am tired of the looks and the stares and the rude remarks and the presumptuous (albeit well-intended), unhelpful advice from people with ZERO experience with MY kid.

I am one of those parents who, until today, thought that Autism Speaks and other Autism awareness organizations do little to help those of us in the trenches of this nonverbal disability each day. I do not have a puzzle piece bumper sticker or a blue light bulb for the once a year “Blue Out” that some of my other friends put on their porch light. I didn’t “GET IT” until this morning.

While these organizations are working on research to help us understand causes and work on better interventions for Autism, they aren’t really a helpful “go to” resource for parents of older people with Autism who are still hoeing that row for those that follow us.  I’m not at all suggesting that my 21 year old daughter is a pioneer for the AU crowd around here. But I’m telling you that the reactions that she has are less accepted of her than they are for someone with similar disabilities who is 5 years old. And most of us with older kids/young adults are figuring it out as we go along…JUST LIKE ALL OF YOU WITH THE ALLEGEDLY NORMAL KIDS.

Here is the thing, “Normal Parent:”  YOUR kid will one day actually listen to your advice. He will get to do all the “normal” developmental stuff and “normal” school and break the “normal” rules, maybe even getting suspended once in high school for the “normal” prank or fight in the gym.  He’ll graduate from the “normal” or even AP classes and go to a “normal” university or college or trade school.  If I’m lucky, MY kid might work at Target bagging groceries and won’t get put in handcuffs by the cops when she’s fighting to run away from them after they’re called because she is screaming that the music is too loud.

But you know what?  “Normal is just a setting on the dryer!” (That’s another of Cindy’s catch phrases that she uses on me almost weekly, as she talks me off another emotional ledge.)  And the need for organizations like Autism Speaks, is to help the “normal” people, like you;  To assist you in understanding that not everyone is physically ABLE to understand your social cues and common courtesies that, when you think about it logically, really make very little sense at all.  Since when does “Excuse me,” translate to the rest of the world as “Step aside quickly. I want to push past you?” It is actually just a catch-all phrase that is  “said politely in various contexts, for example when attempting to get someone’s attention, asking someone to move so that one may pass, or interrupting or disagreeing with a speaker; or said when asking someone to repeat what they have just said.”  (**according to Bing’s definition.)

So when we are paying for our cup of hot chocolate at the 7-11 and take that entire extra 2.6 seconds to place 25 cents change inside a purse and zip it closed before attempting to leave the store, the words, “Excuse me,” have little meaning to my Autistic daughter.  The old hag who shoved past her while saying them meant, “I’m an impatient old bat in dire need of lottery tickets and another pack of cigarettes. Now move your ass!”

So, now that she has been pushed and hurried, she is holding her hot chocolate in one hand and my hand with the other.  As we attempt to exit the store, a young man grabbed the door handle and swung it open widely.  But instead of waiting for us to step through it, he pushed into me as he tried to squeeze past, causing me to bump into my daughter, which caused her to spill hot chocolate onto her hand. THEN he had the nerve to be upset when she screamed from the burn on her hand and turned around and shouted, “YOU FUCK!” at him. He started to argue but I said, “She has Autism….she doesn’t mean,” and then I stopped myself. You know what, old hag at the counter and boy who can’t wait for 1 second to enter a store before the doorway is cleared?  She’s right. You ARE fucks.

Autism awareness organizations are around because YOU “normal” people are too ignorant to recognize disabilities that are not glaring in your faces.  How many “normal” people walk around 7-11 wearing gun range headphones to cut down the noise around them?! OBVIOUSLY, there’s an issue there and this person doesn’t fall into your definition of “normal.”  Do you ordinarily push past the guy with the white cane because he’s taking an extra second to get through the door he can’t see?  What about the people who are speaking in sign language to one another?  Do you get pissy and shove past them when they don’t hear your lame “excuse me” at the check out lane?

Patience is something that everyone could use.  Do I sound impatient?  Well, I am. But this is due to YEARS of having complete strangers walk up and “shush” my kid who is screaming because the lights are too bright and some assistant manager decided to crank up the music playing on the PA system at the grocery store.  I will maintain my usual demeanor, most days, in public but I will no longer apologize to people for my daughter’s outbursts when 9 times out of 10 they contribute to them.  Just because she cannot verbalize what is bothering her does not mean that she is out of line for feeling bothered.  Attempting to understand why someone is upset is a sign of maturity.

I’m not expecting the world to bend over backwards and allow the AU crowd to do whatever they want whenever they want.  All I’m asking is that you take a second before reacting to their Tourette’s-like responses and decide whether that person is in crisis. Sometimes it’s truly just a disability.

Alternators, Emissions, and Rainstorms-OHMY!

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This is the view from my front porch today…or it WOULD BE if the Mazda weren’t at the mechanic’s garage right now.  We are currently a one-car family circus. This means that I am adding driving my husband to and from work to my usual chauffeur duties.  That’s not so bad, really.  I get to spend a little alone time with him on the way to work and he’ll hold my hand and sort of grunt in agreement as I chatter all the way.  He’s not a morning person.

The Mazda’s alternator is in need of repair. The van can’t seem to pass inspection due to an emissions issue and, as our regular type of luck runs, we’re still one year short of the emissions waiver. DAMMITMAN!  So, we’re working with what runs for now until the one that doesn’t is repaired and then we’ll switch vehicles for a whole new course of driving around in one vehicle while the other is repaired.

I am all about buying used cars and paying cash so that we don’t end up with car payments.  Some would say that considering the automotive repair issues we are facing now, that I should rethink my philosophy of used cars.  To them I say, “Au contraire, mon frère!”  We bought that Chevy van 3 years ago for $2000.  We’ve put about 30k miles on it and maybe $1000 under the hood.  Truthfully, that’s not bad for a 19 year old vehicle.  The Mazda was a gift from my brother, who heard that my little Metro’s transmission and clutch had bit the proverbial dust.  He drove it up here from Austin, signed the title over to me, took a 3-hour nap on my couch and then had me drop him off at the bus depot so he could make it home to work that night. What an awesome guy!  I’ve driven that thing at least 5k miles since February and this is the first time it’s needed to be repaired.

That’s the thing about vehicles, you know?  They eventually need to be repaired.  And many people would be more secure in driving a new car that is still under warranty, etc. But for us, justifying that car note also comes with justifying full coverage insurance which, with 2 teenage drivers, we just cannot afford.  So we’ll keep our secondhand cars and just ride the automotive repair waves this month.  It is what it is.  At least our second vehicle is not a bicycle.

 

Stress in My Pressure Cooker Head

I was planning on writing today about how my “to-do lists” have become so long and intense that my body has started to fall apart. But just looking at that title has given me the start of an anxiety attack and my chest hurts now and my joints are throbbing and I just realized that I’m already late to go pick up one of the kids from Summer school.

So, perhaps I’ll write about this later under some soothing, aromatherapy inspired title post so that I won’t freak out about how even AFTER school lets out I can’t catch a freaking break.

the end.

Milestones

Tomorrow afternoon will mark a big fat milestone in our lives. Two more of our five kids will be crossing that stage at their high school graduation. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. So why am I so overwhelmed with the feels of it all?

Randa is 20. She’s our “special needs” kid and while eligible to stay at the school for one more year before she ages out of their Alternate Curriculum program, she is bored. She wants to graduate NOW. They told us going in that there was going to come a time when she is going to advance past what they are able to teach her. That time has come. Many would argue that she could mainstream into the general education population. That is just not a possibility with her issues. So we’re going to do more Mommy-Randa stuff starting next Fall. We’re going to visit museums and family members around the Metroplex and take some classes at the fabric store and learn to sew and join a water aerobics class. Randa is excited to start the next chapter after Sam Houston High.

Ismail is 18. He, like his older brother before him, seems to be struggling with the excitement of graduating versus the sadness and anxiety of leaving behind all he knows. I am guessing that boys are like this. (I wouldn’t know, having never been a boy.) He is suffering today as he paces around and asks questions to which he already knows the answers. He’s spent a lot of time on the front porch. Being outside calms his nerves. He is still not certain what he’s going to do. He wants to become an electrician and be a man and not have to answer to his parents and buy a car and get a job, and all of the swirling plans that all boys his age have.

But Ismail is still so tender-hearted in so many ways. And his family is all he’s ever known. No matter where we lived on the globe spanning three countries and several states, we’ve always had each other. The idea of moving away to another part of the state to go to school without his safety net is so intriguing and exciting and altogether scary. So he’s put off making firm plans as of yet. He wants to take a little time off and work. And that’s okay. Ismail has always been one who needs to chew on his idea before he spits out his final answer.

And tomorrow as I stand on that stage, holding Randa’s hand to help her to battle back the anxiety as she walks across toward the end of her high school tunnel, I’ll be watching Ismail, one place ahead of her in the alphabet, reaching his. I’m so proud to be their mother.

I Did It Again!

Everyone has been guilty of it. At least, I hope I’m not alone in this. But I have this tendency to put important things in a “really safe place” and then when it comes time that I really need them, said “really safe place” has completely left my mind. Last time it was a social security card. Only took 5 days, but I found it. The application for health coverage took a little longer to find. Well, a lot longer. Like…6  months longer. But in my defense, someone rearranged all the paperwork in my stacked filing system. For crying out loud, would you people just STOP touching my desk!? But this one is a doozy.

I placed the tassels for Randa and Ismail’s graduation caps in a drawer so that no one would lose them. And I don’t remember which drawer. I’ve searched them all. And poof. They’re gone. And while I have until Sunday to find them, I really don’t. Because Randa has an awards ceremony for the seniors in the Special Education department and she is supposed to wear her cap and gown tomorrow. *sigh*

One of these days I’m going to find a “very special place” that is just a blatant out in the open place with a lock on it to keep nosy people and meddling hands away. Of course, you know what that means, right? I’ll just lose the damn key.

Welcome to the Club

My sister called me this morning and asked me to lie to her. I don’t like to lie. I’m not very good at it and I honestly find the truth to be much more incredible, hilarious, and easier to keep up with. But she begged. So I did.

I told her that my husband and I were living the dream in our home with five kids (ages 16, 17, 18, 20, and 21) decorated with hearts, butterflies, and rainbows and that all that stuff we’d heard about how difficult these years would be is just a big box of hot air bought and paid for by pharmaceutical companies pushing their Xanax dreams. I told her that her two lovely early teens would be mature, pleasant, helpful, drama-free, productive members of society all throughout their teen years, just like mine have been and continue to be. I offered her my Groupon savings for unicorn rides at the next Mother-of-the-Year Awards Gala event.

And then I told her that they may want to consider upgrading that wine cellar they have and I’d be her designated driver if she needed to restock. Or I could load all the 12-step program meeting locations into her iPhone next time she came by here.

The truth is Dr. David Walsh wasn’t even remotely exaggerating when he wrote about the whole “teenage brain” thing. They are incapable of making rational and mature decisions. They’re just not equipped to make them. And it requires a hella lot of patience to stand by and point out why the choices they’re making are dumb or not well-thought-out or insane or whatever adjective you want to stick in here.

So, when my sister called and asked me to lie to her about this inevitable phase in her childrearing life, I did. I laughed all the way through it. But I did it because she just needed a little 30-second break from reality. Before hanging up, she said for me to tell my husband hi. He didn’t miss a beat when he replied, “Hi back. And welcome to the club.”

 

THIS IS ONLY A TEST!

Like most of the “popular vote,” our family mourned the election results on November 9, 2016. My 11 year old niece was in tears, asking my sister, “But how could HE be elected? He’s mean. How could America elect a bully to be our next President?” Indeed.

She wasn’t the only kid to react this way. I have friends in Florida, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Arizona and everywhere in between who held their children on Wednesday morning, wiping away tears of confusion and disappointment that someone who bullies others in public and on television and LIVES the example of what they are NOT supposed to be, could be elected to lead our country.

I gave myself that Wednesday (and honestly, the following Thursday and Friday, too) to grieve Hillary Clinton’s loss of the election. And then I chose happy.

My sister has a sign in her kitchen that says: Happiness is a Choice. Of course, she keeps that sign on the counter right next to the knife block. So, I guess if you can’t choose happiness, you can always choose the butcher knife. Still, it’s a choice. I chose happy.

Am I happy that Donald Trump is our President-elect? Hell, no. But I am happy to have the next four years to find someone better to run against him in 2020. (Sidetrack: Wouldn’t that be an awesome campaign slogan? JOAQUIN CASTRO FOR PRESIDENT- Because hindsight is 20/20. I digress.)

Look, I am an American Muslim of Irish descent, married to a naturalized Egyptian. We have a disabled daughter and we live under the poverty level and we don’t have health insurance because it’s not offered at my husband’s job and we fall through the cracks of ACA because our dumbass state officials in Texas decided to “show them” and not expand Medicaid….EVEN THOUGH Texans are still federally taxed. So we’re paying for Medicaid in other states and not insuring the poor in our own. I had EVERYTHING to lose in this election. But I’m choosing happy.

My faith teaches me that I must be PATIENT. I can be patient for 4  years of a Trump administration. I can USE that patient 4 years to write letters, investigate and research better qualified Democrat candidates and help to promote them. If we move NOW and are patient through the next 4 years, we can help put forth far better qualified candidates to win in 202o. Hey, you third party voters. PLEASE, do the same. If you in the Green Party and in the Libertarian Party work hard at finding a better candidate NOW….start fund-raising NOW….to get better candidates than Stein and Johnson…..get the monies needed to build up a great campaign 4 years from now…..I’ll bet you have a shot. Hell, you guys come up with someone better than the Democrat nominee and I’ll vote for him or her. But
ALL of you, Democrats, Greenies, and Libertarians: Let’s start NOW. Let’s get out in front
of whatever is coming down the 2020 Republican turnpike and make some serious changes in our government. Start finding mid-term candidates for your congressional representatives now. Put some effort in early so that you can all make our Congress more honest; more representative of US, the voters. They work for us. Make them earn their pay.

This is a test. ONLY a test. Somebody wanted a big shake up and change to the status quo. They got their wish. Let’s take their wish for change a step further and use the next 4 years to work toward true greatness. We’ll have a lot of pieces to pick up. Maybe we can build something new instead of just putting it all back together again. It’s not over. It’s a bump in the road. We can do this.