A Starry Night Setback

I was saddened just now to read on our Starry Night Prom fundraiser page the following message from #GivingTuesday:

” #GivingTuesday Match Report

On Nov 28, we raised $45 million for causes around the world. Unfortunately, your fundraiser didn’t receive a match this year, but from all of us at Facebook, thank you for being part of our fundraising community.”
We were really hoping that the matching would kick start our fundraising efforts to alleviate the usual last minute scramble that we do each year.  But that didn’t happen.
The good news is, I am an optimist.  This is part of the uniform we Vice-Presidents of Donations wear.  And so, I will polish my Donations Star, put it back on my chest, and continue to raise money for this truly amazing cause for an even more amazing group of kids.  Our silver lining is that we have raised $869, so far, toward the 2018 Starry Night Prom.  And that is $869 that we did not have on Cyber Monday.
That said, good donors and potential donors, we still have until December 5, 2017 to raise more money for this fundraiser.  Please give.  We truly appreciate your support.  Please share these posts, even if you have already donated or are not in a position to do so at this time.  Perhaps someone on your friends list will be able.  Thank you.

Set Your Alarms for 8 O’Clock Tuesday Morning, Y’all

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We are so excited! Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday.  We are so stoked to be participating in the fundraising again this year.  You know what is so cool about giving on the 28th of November, though?  Facebook AND the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be matching all nonprofits donations after 8 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 November 2017, up to $50,000 until 11:59 p.m.!  Yes, that’s right.  That means that if you donate $20 to us tomorrow, Starry Night Prom will receive $60.  Isn’t that the coolest?!

So, please, anytime after 8 a.m. EST tomorrow, please click on THIS SECURE FUNDRAISER LINK and donate whatever you feel comfortable giving to help our cause, and those funds will be matched.  We appreciate your help.  Your generous donations are how we are able to provide an all expenses paid prom for the Arlington ISD high school students with significant disabilities each year.

Starry Night Prom is a registered 501 (c)(3) Non-Profit Organization.

It Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Love You

When a woman decides to leave the business world to stay at home and take care of her family, it is a huge decision.  Sometimes men, and even some women, think that it is a choice that these women come to quite easily; that it is their “nature” to be in the home raising the children.  Perhaps for some, but most of us have usually reached this decision based on how exhausted we are from balancing both home and work fronts, how wasteful it is to spend 3/4 of our paychecks on daycare, and the amount of guilt we deal with by missing all of those “firsts” that our kids experience and the amount of crud they are ingesting because no one has properly swept under the kitchen table in months.

I left my career of seventeen years to stay at home with my five children because of all of those reasons.  And within two months of that income and health insurance loss, we sold everything we owned and bought plane tickets and moved to Greece. A month there was also a bust.  So we used a little of my 401(k) that we withdrew and bought more plane tickets and moved to Egypt.  We bought a little flat and a micro-bus and lived fairly well, for the next twelve years.  But then things changed and I was ready to come back to the United States.

My husband found work in the North Texas area and bought us a little house.  I packed up our stuff, sold all of our furniture and appliances and the flat, and headed for the airport with the kids and all the luggage we could strap onto the micro-bus.  And things were good and three of the five kids have graduated high school with two more cued up to receive diplomas and march on with their lives to “Pomp and Circumstance” as their soundtrack.

But they’re all still living at home and I’m not getting much accomplished anymore.  The list of things to do each day is getting longer for me.  And I still have this lovely linen fabric I bought to make curtains YEARS ago and still haven’t had time to make.  I have two novels and a book of essays that I started but cannot complete because I no longer  have free time to devote to them.  I want to go back to college, even if only online, but cannot justify the financial obligation when I cannot meet the time obligation it would require to get my degree.

I no longer feel fulfilled by completing all of the laundry, dishes, shopping, cleaning, dinner preparation, homework checking, bill-paying, and volunteer work.  I want more. And my husband feels hurt when I tell him that it’s not enough anymore; that I want to work outside the home.  He feels that he is not providing enough for us and that I must prop him up.  While we could definitely benefit from additional income, that’s not the main reason that I want to do it.  It’s about self-fulfillment.

I don’t understand why so many men take it as a slight when their wives want to return to the workforce when their children have grown out of the needy stages.  Perhaps I am too American or Western in my way of thinking, but I believe that this is a necessary step in their upbringing.

If teenagers and young adults are left to meet their own scheduled obligations, learn their own medical history, learn how to manage time and money and make meals for themselves and the family, then they benefit in real-life situations that they will be facing when they leave our home.  If the special needs young adult, who is at home and needs supervision, is looked after by her siblings for a few hours several days a week, the overworked and unpaid mom can get the required respite care she needs.  This can give her the energy to continue with her care giving without the resentment that she may end up feeling if she isn’t ever given any relief or assistance in her duties.

When the SAHM decides that she wants to reenter the workforce, or says that she no longer finds this work fulfilling, it doesn’t mean she won’t care for the family anymore.  Sometimes in our efforts to care for our families we lose our own identities and the lines between individual and the title of “wife” or “mother” become blurred.  It means that she’s been caring for the family for so long that she has not taken the time to care for herself.  Let her do that.  Support her.  It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.  It means she needs to love herself, too.

 

 

 

XX Year Anniversary of XXIX

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I woke up to that awesome “wall of guitars” this morning.  I was intrigued, yet slightly annoyed, that someone was in my bedroom playing a hauntingly echoing version of Metallica‘s “Enter Sandman” while I slept.  Then I remembered that I had changed my ringtone on my cellphone the other day.  So I pulled my phone out of the trash can by my bed where it had fallen last night when I tried to put it on the night table and attempted to say hello.  I heard my brother-in-law’s cheerful voice saying, “Happy birthday.”  I tried to say,  “Thanks.” It sounded more like a grunt, but he interpreted it as “Congratulations! You won the ‘I got to say Happy Birthday first’ game.”  His linguistic skills were spot on.

After he handed the phone of to my sister to claim her second-place finish, and I checked my text message from my brother who technically was first since he texted at 12:18 a.m., I reflected on some things.  Today  is the twentieth anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday. That’s a lot of 29s.  And I am nowhere close to the goals I’d set for myself when I was a young teenager.  But that’s good. At this point, my career as a “medical examiner who moonlights as a hot bathing suit model” would probably be washed up.  I’ve got a mom-body, complete with extra padding for warm, sincere hugs and my cooking skills are A+ since my food doesn’t taste like medical hand soap and formaldehyde.  I’m good.

Unlike me at the original 29 year mark, I have built my patience up to tolerate early morning phone calls with honest laughter.  I left my not-so lucrative career of seventeen years to become a broke, stay-at-home-mom who blogs and over-volunteers at the school and with a favorite non-profit organization.  On the “How Tidy is My Home” scale, I still only rank about a 6 on average, maybe a 7.5 if I have more than 15 minutes notice that someone is en route to see us.  But as long as we’re not wallowing in filth (read: I’ve mopped once this month but forced the kids to vacuum a few times) and we aren’t qualified to be featured on “Hoarders,” I’m okay with it.

And while I complain about the little things that annoy the crap out of me, like being the chauffeur of shame hauling young adults to and from work, college, high school, and various volunteer and social engagements, I know that I have a great life.  I genuinely LOVE my family and my friends.  (Thanks, Venetia, Sara, and Cindy, by the way.  The three of you have been my first truly best friends (who don’t share a mom with me) in many years and you have no idea how great that feels or how much I appreciate it.)  I have a home that is large enough to house us all comfortably.  My husband works a job where he is home every evening around the same time and no longer has to travel for extended periods.  And we sit down to dinner every single night together. Yes, we eat as a family every day. I have a great life. And I’m so grateful to Allah for providing this.

I have decided to carpe the crap out of this diem.  I’m going to make a B.A.B.B. (that’s Big Ass Birthday Brisket) for dinner and maybe let my daughter help me choose a birthday cake. (It’ll be chocolate so the masses will be happy. I may get myself a lime popsicle or something, so that I will be happy.)  And I will sit back and allow them to do all of the chores for my big, fat celebration of ME.

**The dirty little garden gnome? No. He has no real significance to this story. I just like him and decided he’d make a lovely thumbnail for this blog post.

 

The Secret of Us

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This past Sunday my mom texted me at 11:45 p.m. and told me, “Happy Anniversary!”  There was a meme attached with floating red hearts.  It was very sweet.  I know how she must have felt relieved that she got us the message before midnight…just under the deadline.  I got out of bed and walked down the hallway to the living room to find my husband lying across the love seat with his feet hanging over the arm, reading a text message; the same text message I had just read.  Apparently, I didn’t notice it was a group text sent to us both.

“We did it again, didn’t we?” I asked him.

“Yes, I just got the text. Happy anniversary?!” he replied.  We laughed. We had both forgotten our anniversary again.  Twenty-three years, five kids, three states, three countries and several cross-Atlantic moves together, and we’ve only lost one rocking chair and the ability to remember the date we got married on.  Not bad.

The next morning, while we were sitting on the back porch, drinking coffee and grunting at one another until the caffeine kicked in and I was able to form complete thoughts and sentences, I thought about what that says about us.  I think it just means that we are so committed to our familial life, that these things are not as important to us as they once were.  I’m not at all suggesting that our anniversary is unimportant, or that 23 years of marriage is not an accomplishment.  I actually believe both are hugely important.  However, it’s not THE important thing or even in the top five.

We celebrate our anniversaries and birthdays with our children.  We aren’t “party people” anymore.  (Who has the energy?)  And with five children, we sort of gave up on “date night” years ago.  It’s difficult to leave so many adolescent brains in the home alone together and not worry that someone was in a fight over whose turn it is to  hold the remote, use the computer, or clean up the mess after stacking all the mattress onto one twin bed and then jump-sliding across the top one only to break the window when the corner of the mattress hits the glass just right.

Anniversaries are really a celebration of one more year of marriage.  We just don’t get that wrapped up in the celebration of the day anymore.  We have sort of taken to just celebrating our marriage everyday.  He takes me to Home Depot with him on his days off and holds my hand and asks me which counter tops I prefer so that when he is ready to build me the much needed additional counter space in my kitchen, he picks the one that I like.  Our romantic meals usually tend to be from the drive-thru at McDonald’s and eaten as I drive us around to various second-hand stores where we can browse through the nicer pieces of furniture and see what we like.

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So, our missing our anniversary on Sunday wasn’t abnormal for us.  It was just one more reason to laugh. And then on Monday he celebrated his love for me by snaking the sewer lines in the yard.  And today I celebrated my love for him by standing in the kitchen and stirring a large pot of his favorite homemade rice pudding.  He set up the coffee pot last night so that all I had to do was push the ON switch this morning.  I placed his hands-free device for his phone on the “catch-all” table by the front door where he would find it on his way to work this morning.

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We’re not the flowers, cards, candy, and jewelry anniversary people.  We prefer to show each other the love and respect on the daily in little conveniences and caring signs rather than in the big, bouquet, gift-wrapped gestures once a year.  And I love this about us.  And I pray we have another 23 or more years together.

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.

 

Today Should be an International Holiday

So, the solar eclipse of 2017 here in North Texas sort of resembled a greenish-brown pre-tornado overcast sky.  I was not impressed. Of course, I would have been had I lived in Oregon.  But you know.  I don’t.  I live near Six Flags and Globe Life Park where the Texas Rangers play…oh, and that stupid-looking stadium that looks like the Dallas Cowboy’s Gargantuan White Nipple that can be seen on the horizon from 12-miles away.

The coolest thing about today has NOTHING to do with making solar glasses out of cereal boxes.  MY HIGH SCHOOLERS WENT BACK TO SCHOOL TODAY!!!  I’m enjoying the quiet of my 3 college-age kids and my husband.  I caught up on laundry, made my bed, downloaded some apps onto my computer and took care of some health care stuff online for several of us.  This is HUGE, y’all.  I was only interrupted once to help my husband trim his beard…and then he decided to just shave it all off so I was dismissed back to my solitude of peace, with no having to break up fights about whose turn it is to play on the laptop. WOOOOHOOOOO!

The first day of school should literally be an International Holiday.  And all mom’s who show up at any diner or coffee shop or convenience store with a stupid grin and looking slightly frazzled from getting those students off to school on that first day, should receive a big cup of coffee, tea, or whatever they want for free.

I’m going to live it up for the next hour before they lumber off the bus and raise the decibel levels up in here.  It’s party time.

July vs. November

Each November I pledge to myself that I am going to dedicate time to writing every single day with a goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month.  (That’s roughly 1,667 words per day.)  I always sprint out of the gate at the beginning and then by day five or so, I peter out and start skipping a day or two or nine and then write my fingers off for several days in a row, only to lose track of time and realize the month ended last week and I only have 10% written.

So this year, NaNoWriMo.com offered a Camp NaNoWriMo to kick off their fundraising event, by having a Summer version throughout July.  I decided that would be fabulous to participate in because after four years of trying, November is clearly NOT my month for writing.  So I started a “cabin” of my own, only none of my writer friends joined so the last week of June, I opened it up to anyone.  My cabin mates were mostly quiet. Two seemed to interact occasionally with me.  And we were all off and writing.

Two of my kids had to have their wisdom teeth extracted under full anesthesia within a week of each other and the dueling pain meds schedule and accommodation of soft foods combined with palatable textures for the one with Autism became my full-time job.  And before I knew it, it was August and I only had 8,376 words completed.

July is not my month either, apparently.