Women I Admire

Today is International Women’s Day, where we honor women who have made amazing contributions to the world.  Of course, we have the usual honorees, such as Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie, Benazir Bhutto, Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hanan AshrawiRuth Bader Ginsburg, Mary McLeod Bethune, and so many, many, more.

But I want to talk about some of the women who inspire me on the daily.  They aren’t famous, but they contribute to my life and the lives of many others within their communities.  They are women who are involved in helping others and kindness and giving back and they don’t think that they are heroes.  But they are.  And so, I’d like to dedicate my post today to them.  Here is my list of admired women, in no particular order.

ROSLYN BURCH

roslyncute

Roslyn is the Family Engagement Liaison for Sam Houston High School in the Arlington ISD.  She serves over 3700 students, their parents, 254 teachers, community members, and local businesses.  She has held this position since 2006.  This woman is AMAZING.  She has  been the point of contact for marrying up parents and students and teachers with various resources over the years.  She began a monthly “Coffee with the Principal” where the principal meets with parents and community members each month and shares coffee and light snacks while discussing ongoing projects, events, and issues at the school.  This idea was picked up by many other FELs throughout the district and is a great way to keep communication open between school administrations and the parents of their students.  Roslyn continues to work with various local businesses such as Texas Trust Credit Union, Vive by Design, South Texas Dental, to name a few.  Roslyn is devoted to engaging parents in the Sam Houston High School family, not only because it is her job, but because she firmly believes that if these parents are able to access a walking club or aerobics lessons, classes in how to use a budget or apply for a credit union account, or find a good dentist locally, then the parents will know that this school is a trusted resource for them, as well as for their children.  Roslyn Burch has taken her role as Family Engagement Liaison to an entirely different level by engaging, not only the families, but the entire community.  She is a woman I admire because she is able to bring a variety of people and organizations together to work as a unit for the benefit of our students.  And that is not a small thing.  Roslyn Burch is also mother to two wonderful children, who remain her number one priority.

SARA MAYO

saramayo

Sara is a Special Education teacher at Sam Houston High School.  She used to teach my daughter, Randa, who has Autism.  This woman has not only enriched the lives of all of her students, but also came up with an idea that would allow high school students with significant disabilities attend their own prom, leveling the social playing field and providing accommodations for some of the usual roadblocks that prevent these kids from attending their school prom.  Her vision became an Eagle Scout project for Chase Christenson, in 2008 and has since turned into the Starry Night Prom, a registered 501 (c) 3 Non-Profit Organization of which she is President.  Starry Night Prom is currently preparing to host their 11th all expenses paid prom.  Sara Mayo is also very active in her church, the Arlington Elks Lodge, advocating for special needs students in the community, the Angel Tree project, and RSD awareness.  She is mother to two amazing kids.

VENETIA WILSON

venetiapretty

Venetia is one of those sensitive souls that will cry over any Kleenex commercial, but will fight fiercely for kids who have been dealt an injustice.  This woman amazes me.  She has six wonderful children, two grandchildren, and works a full-time job in the Arlington ISD, helps family members and friends in a moment’s notice, and advocates for the special needs community.  Venetia learned the rules of volleyball in order to support her daughters throughout their high school, select, and club volleyball careers.  She has been known to drive anywhere from three to seven hours to support her girls’ college teams.  She is currently using that same enthusiasm to support her youngest three children in their love for the fine arts, by researching music and singing to help them find the right  paths for honing their crafts.  Venetia Wilson is passionate in everything that she does, from helping other parents to shape their student’s IEP to insisting that Coca-Cola is a vegetable.  She’s an engaged member of our community and an awesome source of inspiration.

MONIKA WORSLEY

beep

Monika is a recovering attorney, mother of two amazing kids, chronic volunteer, and the craftiest person I’ve ever met.  She is where creativity, intelligence, beauty, and hilarity meet.  Her ability to juggle so many commitments to school, work, and family and still manage to remember to go home and feed the dog, makes her the poster child for Multi-Tasker of the Year.  I love that she keeps her law license current and chooses the cases that she wants to take.  Monika has inspired her children to consider their own impact on the world around them by encouraging them to be kind to others, participate in inclusive events such as the Women’s March, and to appreciate nature in all its forms of beauty.  She is the Co-Chair of Programs and Publicity for the Arts Board at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth.  She is a recurring donor for the Starry Night Prom in Arlington.  She is an amazing mom, aunt, and sister (mine!) and everything she does seems effortless, even though I know that it isn’t.  She inspires me to be a better me.

 

My list of women I admire is not, by any means, limited to these four women.  It is actually quite an extensive list of hundreds of women and I add more to it all the time.  I am merely shining a spotlight on these four today.  I am planning to highlight more in the coming weeks.  In the mean time, remember that we should all support one another in our endeavors.  Women are awesome by nature and we should encourage that awesomeness in each other as frequently as we can.  It keeps us all strong and promotes kindness and solidarity.

Happy International Women’s Day.

Advertisements

Conversations Inside My Head and Out

TreeHuggerCapNGown

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.

The Little Things

He wakes me gently to let me know he’s leaving for work, because he knows that I have a little panic attack when I wake up and he’s not there.  He covers me up with the crocheted afghan, because he knows that I get cold even though I insist on sleeping with one foot poking out from under the covers to regulate my body temperature.  He leaves my coffee cup on the counter next to the pot, because he knows that while I can function in the morning without coffee, that I do so with only one eye open and it sometimes scares the kids when their mother looks like Popeye.  He calls me around lunch time, because he wants to check in and see how my day is going.  He always laughs and says “too much” when I ask him how much he loves me on the phone, and I know it’s true.  And when I teased him last night at dinner about how lucky he is that his wife is such a fabulous cook and gorgeous to boot, he laughed and agreed.  And today I will go about my regular errands to the bank and the grocery store and I will drive to west Dallas to the junk yard to pull a seat belt fastener from a van like his and surprise him with it, because I know he needs one as his doesn’t work properly.  And I’ll probably make lentils tonight because I know how much he loves them.

It really is the little things that make us happy.  And that’s a big thing.

2017…Weirdly Wonderful; Sadly Joyful

This is the time that most writers (and you know, us wannabe-writers) sit back and reflect on the year as it winds down. So, in an effort to continue my aspiring writer efforts, I’ll do that today.  No, you don’t need to go get another coffee, sandwich or bottle of booze.  My life is pretty wrapped up  in what goes on in my house, so this won’t take long.  *Deep breath*  Here goes:

While 2017 ushered in the most inexperienced, narcissistic, and immature President in American history, it said goodbye to the best President and First Lady that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.  I guess the stand-up comics and late night television hosts are happy that their 8-year hiatus has ended and they once again have gainful employment.

I got to continue my participation in hosting the Starry Night Prom. 2017 was our Tenth Anniversary Prom and it was a smash hit!  I will always love this program, as it levels the social playing field for kids who tend to miss out on a lot of the high school experiences. We have already started fundraising for next year’s Starry Night Prom and are hoping to make it even better.

We lost several family members this year, including my favorite uncle and newborn nephew.  We mourned their leaving us and embraced our opportunities to practice the patience that God blessed us with during these difficult times. Their memories live on in our hearts.

My second and third children graduated from high school this year.  I cried doubly hard after I escorted my special needs daughter across the stage to receive her diploma.  Mostly, I cried tears of pride and joy.  But a few relief tears were flowing, that she didn’t cuss out the principal or yell at (too many) of those in the front row applauding.  She doesn’t like noise, so this was really hard for her.  My son, who walked across the stage just before his sister, was also grateful that she did well and didn’t embarrass him.

I lost my “eggplant”- my little 3-cylinder car.  But my sweet brother drove up from Austin and gave me a Mazda SUV.  What a guy! That car was the reliable transportation for nearly a year, in this family.   But with the number of errands/carpools I have to do with all of the kids in all of the places, I was beginning to sweat from spending more time at the gas station than in my kitchen.  Then my husband bought me a Hyundai.  The men in my life are (and always have been) such a blessing to me. From my dad and my brother, to my husband and my three amazing sons, I know that I am loved.

My younger daughter was accepted to several fantastic colleges, complete with dean’s scholarships.  She got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Texas Rangers baseball game in September and to meet Matthew McConaughey.  She also started a new job this year at a fast-food restaurant and her brother got a job at another restaurant.  My oldest son made some hard choices about his health this year and is hopefully on his way to becoming healthier.  My youngest son has come to some realizations about his future and is now considering more than just “gaming” as a career choice.

We have had some ups and downs, but we are grateful for all of them. Without one, we wouldn’t recognize the other.  We need them both to give us hope and to keep us grounded.  We’re overall happy.  And for all of it, I am grateful.  May your New Year be full of opportunities and good choices.

 

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

2016-05-23-16-58-401

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

18767855_1983858365184715_3164996626071615956_n

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

20171024_094626

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.

IMG-20171023-WA0000

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.

20171024_104210

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.