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.

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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.

 

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.

Mothers and Daughters

It’s been relatively quiet this Summer.  Mostly because the two youngest have been taking accelerated courses (Physics and Economics/US Govt) to get them out of the way for the Fall. The two older boys have been working and Randa and I have been sleeping in a lot and just hanging out.

But there are only two days left of Summer school and then Sam is off to visit her grandparents for a while.  And I’ll be lost without her.  The boys will either be working or sitting in front of their devices all day/night.  Randa will be here hanging with me like usual.  But our relationship is different than mine and Sam’s.  Randa’s is more physical with hugs or shouting, whichever she needs to do at the time.  I like Randa.  She likes me, most of the time.  But there’s that level of dependency and seemingly a boundary that isn’t crossed.  It’s not for a lack of wanting to be closer.  It’s just the dynamic of us.

Sam is actually more like a friend.  We have the mother-daughter relationship that is so close to friendship that we actually enjoy each other’s company.  It’s not just me wanting to hang out with her.  She actually enjoys being around me and has farted off friends to stay home with me.  I love that.  It’s the type of mother-daughter I longed for with my own mom but never really had.  I’m so happy that I have it with my daughter.

And I’m going to miss the crap out of her next week.

Welcome Home, Hero. Rest in Peace.

This was not the first military funeral I had attended.  It was the first time I’d been to any funeral that took place 76 years after the deceased had died.  This young man, a kid the same age as my third of five children, has finally made it home to be put to rest with his family in a hero’s ceremony.  Seaman First Class George Anderson Coke, Jr. came home to Arlington today for the first time since he left for boot camp back in 1941.

My friend, Leslie Dorn Barton, is George Coke’s second cousin once or twice removed.  I’m still unclear on all that genealogy stuff.  While I’d like to be able to trace back my family tree, I’m quite unorganized and tend to think circularly rather than in clear straight lines.  Besides, I’ve got aunts and cousins on both sides of my tree who really dig that sort of thing and they actually journal it all. Anyway, Leslie is one of the Special Education teachers who taught my daughter at Sam Houston High School. We became friends over the last couple of years. So naturally, when she mentioned that this funeral was happening today, I told her I’d come.

It’s been hotter than ever all week and I was so relieved when the thunderstorms hit our city last night and it rained until the wee hours this morning.  I donned my black abaya and a gray and black scarf and then headed over to the First United Methodist Church and tried to “blend in” with the Arlington locals.  I know.  I didn’t. The sole Muslim in a sea of mostly older, white, Christian faces.

I listened to the history of George Coke, Jr., son of George Coke, Sr., who was the Chief of Police in Arlington back in the 1920s.  I learned that of the 3,500 American casualties that day in Pearl Harbor, that Arlington lost 48 souls.  My mind wandered, as is the norm during funerals.  Everyone in some way or another is reminded of their own immortality at a funeral.  With military funerals, you are also reminded of all of your family members and friends who also served in the armed forces.  I felt a few tears escape today as I remembered friends who were killed in foreign wars.  I felt a few more tears escape as I offered prayers of thanks and gratitude for those family and friends who returned safely home.

I followed the funeral procession to Parkdale Cemetary. We were escorted by members of the United States Navy and a large number of the Arlington Police Department.  I watched as the sailors, now pallbearers, respectfully carried the remains of their comrade who fell in the line of duty more than half a century before any of them were born.  And the firing of the three volleys, though I knew they were coming, still caught me off guard and those tears of relief that most of my loved ones returned to me fell from my eyes as a silent salute to Seaman Coke and all of the thousands who didn’t.

My heart stirred as I watched the slow and deliberate movements of the sailors folding the flag and the hand off of that folded flag followed by the final salute from Seaman to Non-Commissioned Officer to Officer to Rear Admiral and finally to George Coke, Jr.’s family members.  The spent shell casings from the three volleys, symbolizing duty, honor, and country, were then placed into the hand of the young descendant of Seaman Coke.

A cool breeze gently blew across my face, air-drying the silent tears and leaving my cheeks a little bit sticky.  I hugged Leslie and shook hands with her son, aunt, and mother.  I looked back to see the final resting place of Seaman Coke, under the Live Oak and the Crepe Myrtle trees, beside his mother and father.  Welcome home, hero.  Rest in peace.

 

Prom Season is Upon Us

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I’m not going to lie to you. We NEED money. Hosting a prom each year is expensive. But STARRY NIGHT PROM is doing everything in its power to continue keeping this event cost-free for the Arlington ISD high school students with significant disabilities and their chaperone. It truly isn’t easy. But here’s how you can help.

Donate: If you could just provide us with as much as you are comfortable with donating, it could make all the difference in the world. Each and every donation, regardless of amount, is greatly appreciated. To reach our secure fundraising site, please click on this link———————————> RIGHT HERE!

Share:  Please share this post. Circulating this blog post among your friends via your social media outlets can assist us in reaching even more potential donors. This can make all the difference in the world. Please click on the Facebook, Twitter, or email links below to help our cause.

In-Kind Donations:  If you own a business or represent an organization that would like to sponsor STARRY NIGHT PROM by in-kind donations of logo-bearing promotional items (such as pens, pennants, t-shirts, hats, refrigerator magnets, keychains, lanyards, drink koozies, etc,) please email me here———————> starrynightprom@outlook.com.

We are also accepting gift basket items to be raffled off during the event, 29 April 2017. If you have a gift basket that you would like to donate for raffle, please contact me at the email address above.

ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE. STARRY NIGHT PROM IS A REGISTERED 501 (C)(3) NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION.

STARRY NIGHT PROM 2017

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This kid right here? He’s having a blast, dancing his heart out at the Starry Night Prom last year.

2017 will mark our TENTH ANNUAL STARRY NIGHT PROM! Can you believe we’ve been doing this for an entire decade? We decided to celebrate that fact by throwing an even better prom this year than we did last year. But in order to do that, we need your help. This prom is run entirely on donations. Yes, that’s right. The invitations, corsages and boutonnieres, decorations, food, DJ, desserts, photography, commemorative t-shirts, swag bags and everything in them: ALL donated or paid for with your donations. Even the people who provide service on this night- all volunteers.

And throwing an event like STARRY NIGHT PROM each year is not cheap. So we’re calling on you to help us out. Please donate to help us reach our $6000 goal and make this magical night a reality for these kids within the Arlington ISD. Just click on the highlighted link below and you’ll be directed to our crowd-sourcing fundraiser site.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO STARRY NIGHT PROM 2017!

If you own a business and would like to donate logo-bearing in-kind donation for swag bags, please contact our Vice-President of Donations by emailing her here: starrynightprom@outlook.com

If you have other in-kind donations that you’d like to donate, such as gently used prom dresses or tuxedoes, or if you’d like to purchase and donate food items or gift cards to local grocery or department stores, swagbag items, etc., also please contact our Vice-President of Donations via email: starrynightprom@outlook.com.

Remember EVERY donation is appreciated and we will provide  you with a tax-deductible receipt.

**STARRY NIGHT PROM is a registered 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization.

The Doctor is In

I’ve known him all my life. And after my dad, he’s the “adult male” that I would turn to for car maintenance advice, a kind word, a belly laugh in the form of some hilarious anecdote that had  happened that week. Uncle Tracy has been a comfortable constant in my life no matter where the Army sent us throughout my childhood.

My cousin, Wendy, was my best friend/pen pal during all that back and forth moving overseas to Texas to Alabama and back overseas, etc. I felt grounded reading her letters and a sense of normalcy writing back to tell her all about my softball season, how much I hated Algebra II, and which boy I had a crush on that week. I always sent love to her parents and she always sent it back to mine. And for us, there was never any awkwardness. Even though she wasn’t a military BRAT like me, we would pick up right where we left off three years before. We’d run out to play on the zip line that Uncle Tracy had built using the tallest trees in the backyard or play basketball or throw pine cones at each other or at night, jump out from behind a fat bush on the side of the road to scare the crap out of teenage drivers who were speeding up the street and then take off running as they slammed on brakes and cussed at us out the open windows.

When I spent a week with them during the Summer Wendy had gotten her learner’s permit, Uncle Tracy earned a new nickname. We were in his pick-up truck. Wendy was driving. We were in the left only turn bay and she was having trouble with the 3-on-the-tree. Uncle Tracy was patiently bellowing directions from the passenger seat. I was the quiet moron in the middle; head turning left then right then left again as the conversation continued across me. After about 4 light changes from red to green and back to red, Wendy was beyond frustrated as the engine choked and died again. Uncle Tracy stated loudly, for the tenth time, “Wendy, you’ve got to put the damn thing in first gear!”

“It IS in first gear!” she shouted back, red-faced.

“Wendy, if this damn truck was in first gear, we’d already be in the driveway by now. Put it in first gear.”

She violently pulled the shift bar from where it was to neutral and then back to where it was. “It IS in first gear, Daddy!” The light turned green again. She let up off the clutch again. The truck jerked forward and died again. The car behind us started honking again as he was too close to go around us like the cars behind him. The light turned red again.

“Wendy, you’re in third gear. Put the truck in first gear!!”

“Daddy, it IS IN FIRST GEAR!” she shouted back.

Uncle Tracy actually yelled this time, “IF THIS TRUCK IS IN FIRST GEAR THEN I’M A GODDAMN BRAIN SURGEON!”

The dumbass in the middle, sensing the tension and trying to show solidarity with her cousin waved and said, “Hiiiiiiiii, Doctor Tracy!”

They were too pissed off at each other to laugh. She finally found first gear and we went home. When we got  back to their house, I figured I should make myself scarce and then I heard my aunt laughing in the kitchen. I went to get a glass of tea and she handed me a tall cup to take to “the good doctor.” She and Wendy howled with laughter.

I handed him his tea and he just looked at me. Then he laughed and said it was in third. I  told him that out of all the pipefitters in the world, he made a fine brain surgeon. He’s been Dr. Tracy ever since.