THIS IS ONLY A TEST!

Like most of the “popular vote,” our family mourned the election results on November 9, 2016. My 11 year old niece was in tears, asking my sister, “But how could HE be elected? He’s mean. How could America elect a bully to be our next President?” Indeed.

She wasn’t the only kid to react this way. I have friends in Florida, North Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Maryland, New York, Georgia, Arizona and everywhere in between who held their children on Wednesday morning, wiping away tears of confusion and disappointment that someone who bullies others in public and on television and LIVES the example of what they are NOT supposed to be, could be elected to lead our country.

I gave myself that Wednesday (and honestly, the following Thursday and Friday, too) to grieve Hillary Clinton’s loss of the election. And then I chose happy.

My sister has a sign in her kitchen that says: Happiness is a Choice. Of course, she keeps that sign on the counter right next to the knife block. So, I guess if you can’t choose happiness, you can always choose the butcher knife. Still, it’s a choice. I chose happy.

Am I happy that Donald Trump is our President-elect? Hell, no. But I am happy to have the next four years to find someone better to run against him in 2020. (Sidetrack: Wouldn’t that be an awesome campaign slogan? JOAQUIN CASTRO FOR PRESIDENT- Because hindsight is 20/20. I digress.)

Look, I am an American Muslim of Irish descent, married to a naturalized Egyptian. We have a disabled daughter and we live under the poverty level and we don’t have health insurance because it’s not offered at my husband’s job and we fall through the cracks of ACA because our dumbass state officials in Texas decided to “show them” and not expand Medicaid….EVEN THOUGH Texans are still federally taxed. So we’re paying for Medicaid in other states and not insuring the poor in our own. I had EVERYTHING to lose in this election. But I’m choosing happy.

My faith teaches me that I must be PATIENT. I can be patient for 4  years of a Trump administration. I can USE that patient 4 years to write letters, investigate and research better qualified Democrat candidates and help to promote them. If we move NOW and are patient through the next 4 years, we can help put forth far better qualified candidates to win in 202o. Hey, you third party voters. PLEASE, do the same. If you in the Green Party and in the Libertarian Party work hard at finding a better candidate NOW….start fund-raising NOW….to get better candidates than Stein and Johnson…..get the monies needed to build up a great campaign 4 years from now…..I’ll bet you have a shot. Hell, you guys come up with someone better than the Democrat nominee and I’ll vote for him or her. But
ALL of you, Democrats, Greenies, and Libertarians: Let’s start NOW. Let’s get out in front
of whatever is coming down the 2020 Republican turnpike and make some serious changes in our government. Start finding mid-term candidates for your congressional representatives now. Put some effort in early so that you can all make our Congress more honest; more representative of US, the voters. They work for us. Make them earn their pay.

This is a test. ONLY a test. Somebody wanted a big shake up and change to the status quo. They got their wish. Let’s take their wish for change a step further and use the next 4 years to work toward true greatness. We’ll have a lot of pieces to pick up. Maybe we can build something new instead of just putting it all back together again. It’s not over. It’s a bump in the road. We can do this.

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It’s NOT a Tantrum

Walking through a supermarket, the severely Autistic person wears gun-range headphones to help block excess noise to protect her highly sensitive hearing from the overwhelming barrage of clanking, banging, muzak, baby cries, squeaky buggy wheels and blips and bloops from cash registers. A woman getting over a cold coughs into her elbow, and the Autistic person’s face grows dark. Her mother notices the scowl and the wincing on her non-verbal daughter’s face. She puts the Cheerios back on the shelf and grabs her daughter’s hands and softly speaks into her face, “Poor lady. She’s sick. Sick people cannot help coughing, honey. It’s okay.”

The mom gently guides her daughter from the cereal aisle and the cussing begins followed by screaming and crying. “Ears hurt! STUPID WOMAN!” People begin to stare. Some people whisper and make angry faces. The screaming continues while the mom gives deep pressure hugs and wipes away tears, speaking gently about good choices and soft voices.

An angry woman walks by with her nearly full buggy with the squeaky wheel and stops to SHUSH! the girl. The mother spins around on her heel and tells the woman she is out of line. “You should shut her up! It’s incredibly rude to the other shoppers for her to be throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket! What is she? Retarded?”

“First, she’s got Autism and she is in distress, NOT that we owe you an explanation. A tantrum is a fit thrown in order to get what one wants. This is an Autistic Meltdown which is brought on by environmental situations. What makes them continue is rude judgmental people like you! Secondly, this is Kroger. If you want quiet, go to the fucking library!” The mother turns her back on the sputtering woman, who has now become just another bit of background noise. The girl continues to cry and loudly repeat the same line from her favorite movie, as though stuck on a loop.

The store manager walks up and smiles. He knows the woman and the daughter, as they are regular shoppers here. He asks if everything is all right. The woman nods that it is. The girl notices the manager’s very large mustache and points at his face. “It’s big whiskers!” she says, wiping away her tears. The man laughs and agrees that they are. The girl smiles and says, “Bye. Come on, Mommy. It’s Cheerios.” The mom grabs the hand of her 20-year old girl and mouths a quick thank you over her shoulder to the manager. She returns to the cereal aisle and adds the Cheerios to the buggy while the girl happily pushes beside her.

 

STAAR Testing as Seen by a Teenager

He sighs heavily and shoves the books and papers forward across the table as he drops his head in their place, arms outstretched. “I’m never going to pass this stupid test!”

His mother puts the lid back on the pot and wipes her hands on a tea towel. “Sure, you will,” she says encouragingly. “You’re going to go in there and take that test tomorrow and do the very best that you can. You’ll remember everything that your teacher taught you last year, everything the tutor taught you last month, everything that your big brother and I have helped you with. You’re going to be fine.” Inside her head she pushes back the fear that she shares with her son; the WHAT IF?

“But Mom,” he half-whispers with a look of panic on his face, “I don’t get most of these practice questions STILL and I’ve been working on this all summer. I’m not going to be able to do it. I should just focus on getting a job.” His mother runs her hand through his unruly curls and then sits down at the kitchen table next to him.

“Sounds like you already failed and you haven’t even arrived at the testing site yet,” she says. He rolls his eyes.

“You know what I mean. This is the fourth time I’ve taken this dumb test and I don’t want to take it. It just makes me feel stupid!”

“Honey,” his mother says in a serious tone. “This test does not define you. It is not a measuring stick for how smart you are or how talented you are. It’s not even a good measuring stick for seeing how much you learned over the course of a school year. I’ve had teachers tell me that only about 40-50% of the questions are even covered during the curriculum. It’s not really even a good indicator for what the state thinks it’s measuring.”

“What does the state think it’s measuring?” he asks. His mother explains how someone thought that these standardized tests would be a good way to evaluate the ability of teachers based on the number of correct answers chosen by students.
“But what if a student has been absent a lot? That’s not the fault of the teacher. And what about in my situation where I lived in another country my whole life and missed 2 years of school altogether between moves and English lessons once I got here?” The boy brings up valid points that are missed on most politicians.

“Exactly,” his mother agrees. “So, do you think that this test is something that determines how smart you are or how good a person you are or how far you are going to go in life?”

“No,” the boy replies with a look of understanding on his face. “It’s just another stepping stone on my way to graduation. And if I don’t pass it this time, you’ll help me find another way to learn this stuff and I’ll pass it the next time.” Mother hugs son and fusses for him to go back to studying so she can complete the cooking, and prays silently that this will be the time he passes.

Moms Are Not Robots

The clean underwear on your butts and in your drawers…
The groceries that are in the refrigerator and in the pantry…
The vacuumed rugs, the made beds, the filled gas tanks, the sorted mail, the clean
dishes and the paid up bills…

NONE OF THESE THINGS ARE ACCOMPLISHED BY MAGIC.

Nine times out of ten, these tasks are completed by your mom, either directly OR by
delegation of authority.

So how about you all remember that she NEVER gets a day off. Nope, not even when
the family goes on a vacation. In fact, vacations usually triple her laundry, driving and
sorting workload. And then walk up and just hug her, or say thank you…..or even just,
“Yes, ma’am” and then do whatever the hell she asks of you without argument, explanation
of why you think you shouldn’t have to, or any eye rolling.

Because you know what? Without your mom, you wouldn’t be here.