Milestones

Tomorrow afternoon will mark a big fat milestone in our lives. Two more of our five kids will be crossing that stage at their high school graduation. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. So why am I so overwhelmed with the feels of it all?

Randa is 20. She’s our “special needs” kid and while eligible to stay at the school for one more year before she ages out of their Alternate Curriculum program, she is bored. She wants to graduate NOW. They told us going in that there was going to come a time when she is going to advance past what they are able to teach her. That time has come. Many would argue that she could mainstream into the general education population. That is just not a possibility with her issues. So we’re going to do more Mommy-Randa stuff starting next Fall. We’re going to visit museums and family members around the Metroplex and take some classes at the fabric store and learn to sew and join a water aerobics class. Randa is excited to start the next chapter after Sam Houston High.

Ismail is 18. He, like his older brother before him, seems to be struggling with the excitement of graduating versus the sadness and anxiety of leaving behind all he knows. I am guessing that boys are like this. (I wouldn’t know, having never been a boy.) He is suffering today as he paces around and asks questions to which he already knows the answers. He’s spent a lot of time on the front porch. Being outside calms his nerves. He is still not certain what he’s going to do. He wants to become an electrician and be a man and not have to answer to his parents and buy a car and get a job, and all of the swirling plans that all boys his age have.

But Ismail is still so tender-hearted in so many ways. And his family is all he’s ever known. No matter where we lived on the globe spanning three countries and several states, we’ve always had each other. The idea of moving away to another part of the state to go to school without his safety net is so intriguing and exciting and altogether scary. So he’s put off making firm plans as of yet. He wants to take a little time off and work. And that’s okay. Ismail has always been one who needs to chew on his idea before he spits out his final answer.

And tomorrow as I stand on that stage, holding Randa’s hand to help her to battle back the anxiety as she walks across toward the end of her high school tunnel, I’ll be watching Ismail, one place ahead of her in the alphabet, reaching his. I’m so proud to be their mother.

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.

 

 

Gearing Up for Starry Night Prom 2017

2016-05-23 16.58.40

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Precipitation-Induced Win

After having had such a busy summer where I felt as though I’d achieved only 10% of the tasks I’d given myself due to the unbearable heat, I feel like all of that has changed today. Why today? you ask. It’s been raining for the last 2 days and, as anyone who knows me can tell you, the rain is my jam.

It’s in the high 80’s now and I don’t feel like I’m trudging through hot mud. I have managed to wash 5 loads of laundry (complete with folding and putting away!) I have disinfected the kitchen sinks and counters after washing up all the “midnight snacks” dishes that TWO OF MY ROTTEN TEENAGERS LEFT FOR ME IN THE SINK! I have already started slow-cooking dinner, made my bed, had breakfast and figured out what my afternoon errand list looks like. Thank you, Rain.

I know that the rain of late has not been kind to our neighbors in Louisiana. Last I read, there were 8 or 9 parishes underwater. I do continue to pray for relief, safety, and a very long dry spell for them. But here in North Texas, I am grateful for the cold front that has brought rain our way.

And for those of you kind-hearted souls who would like to help out those people who have lost their homes, vehicles, pretty much all material possessions due to this flooding, please donate to the American Red Cross by CLICKING RIGHT HERE! Thank you for your kind generosity. 20160817_134925

 

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

Supposed To vs Actually

We’re supposed to go on a road trip today. We’re supposed to be stuffing the entire overbooked with practical shit summer into one day of family fun not too far from home. My kids are supposed to be up and packing picnics, getting softball equipment, and bags of ice ready and into the back of the van (the same van that my husband just had repaired so that we could make this trip WITH air conditioning as opposed to the usual sweat-logged journeys of the past.) I’m supposed to be gassing up said van and using up all my “fuel points” to get the cheapest gas around and jumping up and down like an idiot that’s one a $50 scratch ticket. (Thank you, Kroger Plus card.)

What’s actually happening is my husband is in the backyard painting the cement slab he laid for the kids to play basketball on, I’m checking email (and now blogging quickly as my jeans are still in the dryer,) and all 5 teens are still asleep.

I vote we ditch the kids and show them pictures of all the fun we had while they slept once we get back.

 

Overbooking and Aging

I’m not really old. But I’m no Spring chicken, either. And for those of us who have been in the “over achiever” category all our lives, this whole aging thing is just ass-kicking. No, not a little tiring. I mean, beat-down with a baseball bat, friggin’ leaving you taking 3-hour naps in the middle of the day, exhausting.

When I was 18, I lived in an apartment with my sister. We both worked several jobs in order to pay the rent, utilities, phone bill, gas/maintenance on our cars, and our part time college tuition and books. And by several jobs, I mean that we were like that overworked family from the West Indies whose members all had multiple jobs on “In Living Color.”  I remember at the time working 5 days a week for my office day job from 7:30 am – 4pm and then from 5- 9pm bagging groceries on Ft Meade 3 days a week, answering the switchboard at (the now closed) Laurel Toyota and Jaguar in Laurel, Maryland from 4-9pm twice a week and all day Saturday and loading boxes onto trucks for E.I.Kane Office Movers on Sundays and days off with the other jobs. I sometimes worked overtime at my day job watching over contractors to keep them out of the “off-limits” corridors or working for our own internal office movers.

The older I got, the more part-time jobs I held down after my day job. I worked as a cashier
for Rite Aid, Romano’s Restaurant, (the now closed) Rumblefish Nightclub, Damon’s Ribs (closed down within a year of my leaving allegedly due to the owner embezzling), and various babysitting jobs, tutoring jobs, and once as a free-lance maid.

Once I got married and had kids, part-time jobs were a thing of the past. I couldn’t juggle all the schedules of five children and work plus a second job. So I made up for the “not enough to do” feeling by over-achieving at housework and cooking. I learned to sew. I would scrub down the walls and shutters and windows every month. I would scrub area rugs and wipe down cupboards and appliances. I scrubbed floor tiles and hung my laundry out to dry on the line.

I’m in my 40’s now. Screw all that shit. I keep a tidy house…mostly. I still cook amazing foods…because we can’t afford to feed a family of seven at a restaurant frequently. I now over-achieve by volunteering all the time and this Summer, my kids decided to kill me slowly by signing up for Summer School to take accelerated Physics and Geometry. That would be fine ordinarily….except they signed up for different sessions. The two taking accelerated Physics took it in the first session. The one taking accelerated Geometry signed up for the second session. Ugh. Also, the two that took the first session now both have jobs so I feel like I’m constantly behind the wheel of a car. My rotator cuff is threatening to go on strike…permanently, due to all the gear changing and u-turns required in a car that does not have power steering.

I’m currently attempting to set up 3 different fundraisers for a non-profit organization and I’m running into brick walls while trying to meet the deadlines I set for myself thanks to all the driving. Today was supposed to be a “get the house CLEAN clean” while the kids were at work and school. I ended up losing in a battle of wills with my bed that kept taunting me. I took a 3 hour nap.

I think I’m just going to admit that I’m too old to take on all of the things like I used to do. The sooner that my family can just learn to applaud when I’m able to fold and put away a basket of towels AND get the dinner made, the better. And so what if I’m getting all this accomplished while still wearing pajamas? At least I remembered deodorant and I’m remembering to put actual pants on before going grocery shopping. What more do you people want?!

 

My Body is a Traitor

Rotator cuff is screaming at me and has been since January that it is being overused. I tried taking it to the doctor and all she prescribed was NSAIDs and ordered an x-ray which didn’t show any bone issues. I took it back in April and said, “Hey, this thing is worse.” She sent me to physical therapy. I did the prescribed exercises for a week regularly. Then for two weeks irregularly. And then I got busy. And now my rotator cuff is threatening to just go on strike or worse.

The plantar fascia in my left foot has been quiet lately. I’m pretty sure that it and the diminished cartilage in my big toe have been waiting for a surprise attack once ole rotator cuff chills out. Stupid arthritis has been just gnawing on that cartilage all this time without any problems thanks to your brain only being able to recognize one severe pain at a time while drowning out the sounds of the others.

Through all of this, my eyes and skin continue to dry out regardless of the copious amounts of water that I drink daily. And you’d think with all this stinkin’ sweat that is pouring out of me day and night, regardless of clothing, air-conditioning, or temperature outside, that I’d obviously have some sort of moisture in my body. (Aside from the urine that escapes with every step, sneeze, cough, laugh, or wrong move.) Yeah, not so. Menopause is just life’s way of backing that dump truck over a woman following mowing her down the first time during menstruation and childbirth.

I always heard that aging is not for the faint of heart. I can attest to this. But as good as I’ve been to my body over the years, I find this treasonous blitz the last two years to be a huge betrayal. After all of the exercise and good foods and even those cheesecake treats I’ve given it, that it could just turn on me and cause me constant agony makes me sad. But what does one do? Aging is NOT for the faint of heart. And I guess it beats the alternative.

 

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.