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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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.

Choosing My Happy

“Happiness is a choice.”

That’s what the sign says on my sister’s kitchen counter.  My eyes are drawn to it every time I climb up on one of her tall kitchen bar stools when I visit.  It’s placement is perfect.  It’s right next to the coffee pot, just seemingly taunting me and asking me if I’ve made the right choice today.  Well, duh.  Of course, I have.  I see the sign in my sister’s kitchen next to the coffee pot.  Obviously, I chose to come see her AND have a cup of coffee; two things that really get my happy on.

But there are days when I don’t.  There are days– okay, EVERY day– when my neighbor opens her front door to let her dog “walk” himself down to poop in front of my mailbox that I really want to choose rage and cursing.  And this is usually the same day that I find an empty fast food drink cup that my son’s best friend tossed out of his car window the night before in front of my house while he was waiting to pick him up.  And this is after I realize that the kids have drunk up the last of the coffee before I have a second cup.  And all I see is red.

And I remember to breathe in and out.  And I imagine that sign in my sister’s kitchen.  And I remember that it speaks truth.  “Happiness is a choice.”  And I breathe in and out again.  And I relax my throwing arm and put my favorite coffee cup in the sink.  I put on my hijab and grab my purse and car keys and head out to put my things in my car.  I walk down to the curb in front of my house and pick up the empty cup from the gutter. I walk over to the mailbox and scoop up the neighbor’s misplaced dog poop and walk two doors up and return it to its rightful place:  In front of HER mailbox.  Then I toss the empty cup over the fence to my backyard for proper disposal later.  And I realize that I AM happy.  I have chosen my happy.  I reach into my glove box and pull out my hand sanitizer and clean any garbage/fecal germs from my hands.  Then I start my car and head happily to the supermarket to buy more coffee.

 

 

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

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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.

Starry Night Prom 2018 Fundraiser Kickoff!

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Starry Night Prom is about to kick off its 2018 Fundraising efforts by participating in the #GivingTuesday fundraiser.  We have updated our own fundraiser on the YouCaring website and we’ve set up our #GivingTuesday fundraiser on Facebook. And guess what!  Once again, Facebook is waiving their usual fees for all donations made from 12:00am EST on November 28, 2017 to 11:59pm HST on November 28, 2017.  Isn’t that awesome?  But wait!  That’s not all!

On #GivingTuesday, Facebook and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be matching up to $2 million of funds raised on Facebook for US nonprofits.  For more information about the matching, please click RIGHT HERE TO THE GivingTuesday Information on Facebook.   

Please donate to this magical cause and level the social playing field for some of Arlington’s most amazing students.  Support the Starry Night Prom! Thank you.