In Memoriam

The doctor is not in. He is no longer accepting new patients. He is gone. There will be no referrals. You’re on your own. It’s just as well. No one could fill his shoes anyway. His title was honorary. He wasn’t really a doctor. He was a pipe-fitter, master mechanic, automotive hobbyist. He was known as Dad, Uncle Tracy, Mr. Tracy, and Honey. (His grandkids call him Honey.) To me, he will always be Dr. Tracy – the brain surgeon who earned his title teaching his teenage daughter how to drive a 3-on-the-tree manual transmission pick up truck as I sat between them. “If this truck is in first gear, then I’m a brain surgeon!”

When Dr. Tracy called me back in January to let me know that he was terminal, I was at the high school doing volunteer work. He seemed matter of fact and could just as easily have been telling me that he’d sprained an ankle.  Being the walking Kleenex commercial that I am, I sat down and started to cry.  He got upset that he’d upset me. I guess that’s always the way with any terminal disease, isn’t it? The person who is doing the dying always spends his last days consoling those who aren’t.  He said, “Now see? I shouldn’t have told you. I knew you were at the school, and I’ve gone and upset you. I didn’t call to make you cry or beg sympathy.” Well, then the tears were replaced by anger. (Yeah, I’m an emotional funnel cloud some days.)

“Look here, Old Man!” I told him (without shouting because he is still my elder.) “I love you almost as much as I love my own daddy. So, you’ll allow me the privilege of crying for you.” Aside from my dad, husband, and brother, there is no other man I’ve loved more.

It took a few weeks to arrange things here in Texas before I could get down to see him. While my five children are mostly grown, there are still 4 in high school, one of whom is “special needs.”  My siblings took turns heading from here to Mobile to visit with him. And then it was my turn. And I think for each of us it was similar. We arrived at the house and had something to eat at the kitchen table with him. Then we held down that kitchen chair talking to him, laughing with him, reminiscing with him until it was time for us to head back to Texas. Our cousins from Alabama, Mississippi, and even New York, traveled down to Mobile to sit on that chair and love on him these past few months.

Aunt Ginger and Wendy have both told me how “tickled he was” that we took the time to come visit with him. And I think that I speak for all of us when I say that we wished we could have done more. You see, Uncle Tracy was not our “blood relative.” He married our Aunt Ginger more than 54 years ago and he seemed to think that he was an “in-law” to all of us. He seemed genuinely surprised by the number of his nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews whose lives had been touched by him. Most of us had known him as long as we’d been alive and had gotten advice from him about various mechanical issues, or home repair issues, or just chewing the fat. He’s family. However it was that he joined it, by birth or by marital bond: He’d been part of it longer than any of us.

Our family is short by one tall member today. And while we mourn our loss of him, we rejoice that he is no longer suffering the pain that he endured for these last months. The good doctor will always be with us in spirit and in memory. And every time I start to drive after accidentally putting my car in third gear rather than first, I know that there is a brain surgeon smiling down from Heaven at me.

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Judging Books by Covers

The following was written by my friend, Joli Crow. (It’s shared with her permission.) And it speaks volumes as to the body-shaming and judging and the ridiculous lack of manners that seems to be rampant any more. I read this this morning on her Facebook status and the more I read, the more my heart broke for her. I honestly don’t know what I would have done were I to have been in her place. I would like to say that I’d have called him out on it out loud. I’ve done this in defending my daughter during her autistic meltdowns and people are staring or making rude remarks. But I don’t know that I would if I were the target of mean comments and bug-eyed glares.

Joli, you are an amazing woman; a survivor. Keep strong. ~N

****

Dear Mr. Chiseled Jaw,

I heard you this morning. Standing behind me, on your phone. I heard you tell the person on the other end that you can’t stand fat people. I heard you tell them you thought something was wrong with me, because you can see the scars on my arms and chest. I heard you tell them that “a little hard work and some plastic surgery and she MIGHT be a 5 someday.” And the comments about my hair. And the laughing.

A few years, a few months, hell, even a few weeks ago, I would have broken and faltered under your harsh words and judging gaze. I would have gone home, curled up under my blanket, and cried myself to sleep. I would have started comfort eating, or hide myself in a book, or done ANYTHING I could to pretend I never heard you.

But I’m going to tell you something. Are you listening? Probably not, but I’ll tell you anyway. This “fat” body? Carried life inside it. It protected a tiny human, one who now could pick your ass up and toss you aside without a second thought.
This “fat” body? You act like it is unlovable. Yet not only do I have an amazing partner who loves it and all its curves, but I have two children who love to cuddle it; who think my softness is a source of comfort. It’s a body people are not afraid to touch, to hug. It’s a body that has lived.
My scars? The ones you said made me look like a junkie or an AIDS victim? I never chose them. They chose me. Each scar was carefully applied with hate, malice, and savagery. Each BATTLE SCAR is a reminder of each day I have survived; each war I have won. Each scar is a reminder of the victories, both large and small, that I have earned in my life.
I may not be YOUR perfect 10. But I know my worth. I know who I am. I know and love each of my demons. I have survived and I have won!

Today, you could have hurt me. You could have undone all the hard work I have put myself through to love myself more. But you’re not worth it. You are no one to me and I don’t have to answer to you or your opinions of me. Because at the end of the day, are you the one putting food on my table, clothing my children, paying my bills, loving me and each of my scars and every pound of me? Are you the one jumping to my side when I need a friend? Are you the one I turn to for comfort?

NO.

So, have a nice day. Enjoy your life and learn to be a little less of an asshole.

K? Thanks, bye!

From,

The Woman who no longer gives a damn what you think.

PS. I will admit a certain satisfaction when you were refused service because of your statements. Gotta love small towns!

Kroger Plus Card Swipes for Starry Night Prom

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Are you one of those people who truly LOVES inspirational stories and programs and organizations that want to help all of the people with all of the things but you just don’t want to buy anymore cookie dough or wrapping paper or write anymore checks?! Yeah. I’m one of those, too.
So how can you help support STARRY NIGHT PROM and stay true to your Introverted tendencies? It’s easy. Go grocery shopping.

WHAT?!?

Yes. You read that right. GO GROCERY SHOPPING. But not just anywhere. Go to KROGER.

Here are the exact directions as outlined in the email we received from Kroger:

Kroger Community Rewards – Customer Instructions

A Digital Account is needed in order to participate in Kroger Community Rewards. If you already have a Digital Account, then please skip to the section named ‘Selecting an Organization’.
 
How to Register a Digital Account
Creating a digital account is as simple as 1,2,3! Simply visit www.kroger.com or download the Kroger mobile application from the appropriate app store for your device and follow these directions.
1.      Select the ‘Register’ button.
2.      Enter your information.
3.      Select ‘Create Account’.
Please make sure that you add your card number or create a virtual card number while registering your Digital Account. This is required for the Community Rewards program so that your transactions apply towards the program.
 
Selecting an Organization
Selecting the organization that you wish to support is as simple updating the Community Rewards selection on your Digital Account.
·        Sign into your Digital Account (if you haven’t already).
·        Select ‘My Account’.
·        Scroll down to the ‘Community Rewards’ section of your account page.
·        Select ‘Enroll Now’ or ‘Edit’.
·        Enter the name or NPO number of the organization that you wish to support.
***STARRY NIGHT PROM’S NPO number is 75547****
·        Select the appropriate organization from the list and click on ‘Save’.
Your selected organization will now display in the Community Rewards section of your account page.
Any transactions moving forward using the card number associated with your digital account will be applied to the program.
It takes approximately 10 days for the Community Rewards total to begin displaying on your receipt.
 
Again, Starry Night Prom’s NPO number is 75547.

Please help support Starry Night Prom and select STARRY NIGHT PROM (NPO number 75547) from the Community Rewards section at Kroger.com today. Thank you.

**Only valid in Kroger stores in Texas and Louisiana.
***Photograph credit: Amber Inman Photography. Property of Starry Night Prom, Inc, Used with Permission

Gearing Up for Starry Night Prom 2017

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See these bright smiles and happy faces in this photograph? They belong to some of the participants in the Starry Night Prom 2016. Starry Night Prom is a registered Non-Profit 501 (C) (3) organization that annually holds an all expense paid prom for Arlington ISD High School students with significant disabilities. Starry Night Prom is heading into its tenth year of hosting proms for these amazing kids and we want Starry Night Prom 2017 to be better than ever.

Throwing a prom at no cost for the students and their required chaperone requires donations, both money and in-kind. So the Starry Night Prom Vice-President of Donations has decided to start early this year. And our first fundraising event is already set up! With the help of the amazing, tasteful, and trendy: Charming Charlie (located in the Arlington Highlands.)

Charming Charlie is already having an awesome sale this entire Labor Day weekend. Why not do your shopping the first night of their sale to take advantage of their discount prices, fabulous selection, AND help a worthy cause? Think of the great Christmas gifts you can score ahead of the crowds! And don’t you think it’s time you got a new purse for yourself? Charming Charlie has bling, accessories, clothes, shoes, handbags, scarves and more.

How does your shopping help Starry Night Prom? It’s easy. If you show up this Friday, September 2, 2016 between 5:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and shop, then you mention, “I want to support Starry Night Prom,” to the associate at check out. The associate will key in our special Starry Night Prom Chic Charity Event code into the register and then Charming Charlie will donate 10% of your total purchase price to Starry Night Prom. That’s it.

So, when and where and how is this again?

WHEN:          Friday, September 2, 2016
TIME:             From 5:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.
WHERE:        Charming Charlie located at 3901 Arlington Highlands Blvd,

                         Suite 101

                        Arlington, TX 76018

HOW:            Just go to Charming Charlie at the address above. Buy from their entire selection of amazing products and mention STARRY NIGHT PROM to the associate at check out. PLEASE be sure to mention STARRY NIGHT PROM at the beginning of your check out process to ensure that they code the transaction properly so that STARRY NIGHT PROM will receive a donation in the amount of 10% of your total sale.

We at Starry Night Prom thank you in advance for coming out to support our worthy cause. Helping to give an Arlington ISD high school student with significant disabilities the opportunity to enjoy the Prom experience that they might not have been able to have is definitely a reason to smile. Don’t believe it? The proof is in those smiles in the photo above.

 

 

 

 

 

Did I Do Too Much for Them?

As mothers, we second guess ourselves and the choices we make all of the time. Since these children don’t come with owner’s manuals or anything remotely close to that, we sort of “wing it” and combine our gut instincts with the way that we were brought up and what we admired from parental examples we admired from TV and movies, and that long list of stuff we swore we’d “NEVER do when I have kids of my own!” And for the most part, that tends to work really well for most of us. We do the best with what we have and what we know and we try to do what is best for our kids and hope and pray that that is enough.

I used the great ways that my mom had to interact with us when we were little. She was awesome at distraction tactics when we would fight. There were four of us and sometimes it would get pretty loud. I remember many times that she would just come in the room while we were fighting and just sit down on the floor. She’d pull all of our building blocks and Matchbox cars, Fisher-Price people and Weebles out of the box and start making entire towns right there in the middle of the rug. She’d completely ignore us while doing this. Soon we were sort of staring at all the fun she was having and no longer interested in who broke what, or whose turn it was to whatever. We’d watch and eventually sit down and ask if we could play with her. She always said, “Yes.” And we’d join in and start having fun, too. Then she’d slowly work her way out of the game and leave the room and we were none the wiser, yet peaceful.

I also decided that I liked the way that she kept open lines of communication with us. I employed this, too, with my own kids. But I allowed more expression (like limited cussing when they were at that stage where nothing else would seemingly help them “get it out.”) I never lied to them.  (Okay, I did have them convinced for years that I knew the Minister of Birthdays and Aging and that if they did something really horrible that I could call and have that year’s birthday postponed for another. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds when your kids are younger and are certain that they haven’t earned that year older until they’ve actually blown out their candles on their cake. Truth be told, I did NOT tell them the whole candles thing. That was their own understanding. I just didn’t contradict it until the oldest was about 12 and had figured it out on his own. DON’T JUDGE!)

I would watch some of my in-laws and neighbors and friends who would tell their kids things like, “stop crying and I’ll buy you sweets” or “don’t be scared. The needle won’t hurt at all.” To adults, these seem like little lies to assuage fears and calm kids. But for kids, they are actually HUGE lies that, once told and are proven to be untrue, take away from our credibility and teach our kids not to trust us. I never told my kids untruths about our ability or inability to afford something that they wanted. I would tell them, “No. That is something that is not in our budget” if they were asking for their own mobile phone or wanting to go to the amusement park or join a sports club.

I did not/will not give my kids an allowance. I hated this rule growing up but my dad had it and I’m actually quite grateful for it now. He always said, “I buy you every-damn-thing you need. If there is something you want, come talk to me about it and we’ll decide if it’s something we can do.” So when I wanted a Mickey Mouse watch at 5 years old like my neighbor had, Dad said no. He said it was ridiculous that Michael Murphy had a watch at 5 when the “big dummy can’t tell time.” (I was born in the late 60’s and digital watches were still about 10+ years away.) So, of course, I was heartbroken. But Dad told me that if I learned how to tell time that he would buy me a watch. I accepted his challenge. I learned how to tell time in one week. (And oh, yes, I rubbed that in Michael Murphy’s face big time.) And Dad bought me my first watch at the PX  (Post Exchange for you non-military types.) It was dark blue Timex with silver numbers and hands and had a dark blue band. It was a ladies watch…for grown ups. It was so fancy. He taught me how to wind it and take care not to get it wet. I had that watch for 11 years before it finally broke. I’d earned the right to wear it. And Dad promised it and fulfilled that promise. Trust was built over something little.

When my kids wanted pocket money, I made them work for it. They always had to help around the house and I didn’t pay for that. But if they wanted something extra, I made them work a little extra. My sister-in-law thought I was mean and horrible for making Ismail make all of the beds in the house (a total of 5) after their naps one day and I only paid him 25 piasters. She thought that that was a lot of work for a 6 yr old and that he deserved more than just 5 piasters per bed. I asked what she thought was fair wages. She said 1 pound. I told her she was nuts. I explained that her own sister worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week in a factory making purses and backpacks and she only brought home 250 pounds per month. That averages out to about 1.15 pounds per hour. “He needs to learn that life in Egypt is hard and that people work hard for very little money. Then he will appreciate what he has and will take care of it and learn to work hard himself.” That was ten or twelve years ago. Now she tells me that she wishes that she had done like I did as her kids think that it’s their right to demand large amounts of money to go shopping, buy fast food and go to the movies whenever they like.

I instilled a good work ethic in them. BUT there are other things that I didn’t do right. I still haven’t let them do the other stuff. I handled their confrontations, argued with store owners who wronged them, all the typical advocating for my kids. But they didn’t learn how to do those things on their own. None of them knows how to fill out a job application on their own, their own medical history, how to drive. And I’m not preventing them from doing any of that or still doing it all for them. They’ve sort of just fallen into the habit of asking me to do it and I do it. I fear that I’ve not encouraged them enough to try stuff on their own. I’m afraid to push them out of the nest to test their wings. I know that failure is part of learning and that I have to be a good enough parent to allow them to fail. But it sucks when your job all these years has been to catch them when they fall.

My best friend and I cried together over this earlier this week. She and I have a mess of kids and our oldest are about the same age. She told me that her daughter called from her university on the other side of the state wanting her to put on her “momager” hat and call the school and handle some situation for her. My friend started to do that but then caught herself.

We women are able to have entire lengthy arguments and weigh outcomes of choices all in our minds in split seconds. Men don’t realize this, I think. But we are able to go through every option available, predict results and decide the best course of action to take all within about 3 eye blinks. We’re bionic like that.

So my friend told her daughter, “You know what? This is something you can handle. You need to call and tell them that you don’t want to change dorms again and give your reasons why. I believe in you. You can do this.” Her daughter was pouty but accepted my friend’s advice. Of course, she cried her eyes out after hanging up because she felt she was a “bad mom” for telling her NO. But this is how we have to do it. And it’s hard. And it sucks. But it’s the being there to pick up the pieces if they fall and break during their test flights outside our nests that make us good moms. And while both of us know this intellectually, it doesn’t make it any less heavy on our hearts when our kids want us to do something and we force them to do it themselves.

Have I done too much? Maybe. But we do what we can the best way we know how and trust that we’ve done it right. Excuse me. I’m going to go cry now.

 

 

 

Our Summer Vacation to Athens

So, this week has been a major ass-kicker for me…mostly in a good way. Sunday we took advantage of the fact that my son and daughter both quit their summer jobs and that my husband finally replaced the compressor in the van giving us air-conditioning. YAY. So we finally got on the road about 2 pm and headed off to Athens. (That’s Athens, Texas, y’all.)
Of course, due to the late start and having to deal with a major autistic meltdown with a pit stop at Dairy Queen to calm nerves all around, we managed to get to this po-dunk town after everything that we wanted to see had closed. So we headed back to the main drag and pulled into the East Texas Arboretum and did a little hiking in 104 degree heat. It was an impressive patch of woods with lots of lovely gardens and fountains and a one-room school house and a bat house. We spent a whopping hour there before piling back into the van and driving home. I think the highlights for me were the photos of my kids and husband playing “slow-mo Ninja” in the gazebo and the fact that I didn’t have to cook. (We bought pizza that night.) My husband was excited about the fact that I had enough fuel points to only have to pay 86 cents per gallon when we filled up the van.

We’ve traveled quite a bit all over the US, Europe, Middle East and North Africa. But since moving to the US and making our home in Texas, we’ve decided to spend some time seeing all of the major European cities within Texas state lines. We have now gone to Paris, Dublin, and Athens. Not bad for day trips, huh?

Fam in Athens

Now That I Can Breathe Without Tears

This was my post on Facebook the day following the tragic and brutal assassination of five police officers just 20 miles east of me in Dallas. I thought I would share it here and then expand:

“I spent the better part of last night with my ear glued to the radio. I feel like a giant rock is on my chest, I am so heartbroken that this happened here. And I am bracing myself to hear what weak attempt to link this cowardly and brutal assassination of our police officers to either the “open carry” side or the “stricter gun restrictions” side of the argument.
Our police force is NOT a means to anyone’s political end. These were good people who were hunted by a sniper’s rifle while they protected peaceful demonstrators who were exercising their 1st Amendment rights to express their solidarity with people of the other communities who lost young black men in violent deaths at the hands of a few bad cops.
That said, I also firmly believe that every one of those black men who were killed by police officers throughout this country were also good men whose lives were taken out of the fear, prejudice, bad judgment, overzealousness, incompetence, or power-drunken arrogance of a select group of police officers. Just as black criminals do not represent the entire black population, those bad cops do not represent law enforcement as a whole.
My heart hurts today and I just do not want to deal with Trump or Clinton or anyone else’s politically motivated soundbites to further their own campaigns on the backs of Blue or Black coffins.
‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬
‪#‎BackTheBlue‬
‪#‎UnitedWeStand‬

I am still “in the feels” about all of this. I have been since Trayvon Martin was shot four years ago. I’ve watched from the sidelines and spoken my peace in support of my fellow citizens from within the African-American community. I cannot ever understand how they must feel, having to worry every time their young men step outside the safety of their own homes.

I can only imagine that it is similar to how I feel every September 11th; how I go about my day with my butt cheeks clenched and acid burning a hole in my stomach as I wait for all my children and my husband to return home at the end of that day. How every time there is a shooting, hostage situation, or explosion within our borders the first thing that pops into my mind is, “Dear God. Please don’t let it be a Muslim that is committing this terrible act.” Only this anxiety for my black friends is one that they must endure in the backs of their minds EVERY day and not just annually or during some heinous event.

I want to cry out for them and I want to hug them and I want to scream. I want to be the one who organizes some sort of training program to run through all of the law enforcement academies from coast to coast and make sure that our police officers can learn to see our human sides and not affiliate skin color with criminal capability that crosses all racial lines. How do we turn off that hate? Is there an app for THAT?

I am the person who sees the good in others. I am excited that at my children’s high school on the lower socio-economic side of town, there is a police academy training program where the local community college and police academy choose from our predominately minority population to eventually protect and serve our community. This is affecting positive change in our city. I want this for all the cities. I want to see communities working together to improve the economy; opening and supporting small businesses within the poorer neighborhoods so that money is put back into the community and helping to cut unemployment rates, increase local spending, create pride.

I am not Pollyanna. I know that these things will not solve prejudicial views of all or fear due to racial misunderstandings by law enforcement agents. I know that there is no magic wand to “fix it” in the short term. But I know that what I would like to see happen would definitely contribute to a long-term fix of what’s broke in our country. I will continue to push for education opportunities within my own community. I will continue to teach my own kids empathy, fairness, and to stand on the side of right. I know that the genuinely good people of the United States will continue to do the same. And we can support our brothers and sisters of all skin colors, backgrounds, religions, cultures, and still support our law enforcement officials. I’m going to keep doing my part.

Look At Me…Adulting and Stuff

So the kids finished their final exams the day before yesterday. And since none of them is graduating this year, I’ve immediately reached “Summer Break” mentality. This makes life complicated sometimes as I cannot remember what day of the week it is, what time it is, and/or where I need to be.

However, today I am on top of things. I actually sat down and paid all the bills today. AND wrote calendar reminders on my (debatably) smartphone for medical appointments for me and the kids. I got my employed son to his job on time. I opted to skip nagging the unemployed son about getting a job. And I paid the daughter who cannot seem to find work to do the dishes.

I made a lunch date with my cousin for tomorrow following my doctor’s appointment. In a restaurant. In the city, even. WOW. I’m actually adulting here, y’all. Look at me.

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Fifty

He turned 50 yesterday. He was working out of town and didn’t get home until really late. The children were all asleep as they had final exams today and needed the rest. I sat with him for a little while, fighting to keep my eyelids open. Five o’clock in the morning comes so fast. I wished him a happy birthday and went to bed.

And I left to take care of paperwork in the counselor’s office at the school this morning, just after he poured his first cup of coffee. The kids got out early after exams, so the girls and I talked it over and decided that we’d have a surprise party for him tonight when he got home. The boys all agreed it was a good idea. The kids blew up over 60 balloons and hung a banner and we got him a cake. And a card. And a 5 and 0 candles so that we didn’t have to disconnect the smoke alarm before singing “Happy Birthday” to him.

And I looked at the 5 and the 0 candles and thought, “50? That’s half a century! Where did the time go?” And I looked at my “children” ages 15-20 and see exactly where the time went and how much fun it has been along the way. And I asked myself if I’ll ever willingly admit that he’s only two years older than I am and that I will soon be half a century old…..Nah.

And then I smiled. His AARP membership card should arrive any day now and just think of the discounts we’ll be eligible for not that he turned 50 yesterday!

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I’m Here in the Volunteer Recovery Room

Hi. It’s me. You know that crazy mother of five who uses her blog as a way to work through her issues because Groupon has yet to come out with a free therapy coupon. Yeah. I didn’t fall off the planet. I’ve just been recovering from all of the exhaustion that running around like a chicken entails.

Starry Night Prom came off without a hitch. I am still waiting for the photos from the photographers so that I can share with all of you how beautiful and amazing our event was. A fantastic time was had by students and chaperones and sponsors. Again, thank you to all who donated, sponsored, and helped spread the word of our Starry Night Prom. I promise that I will be getting the donations/fundraising events going far earlier for 2017.

I will post the photos as soon as I receive them.