By now everyone knows that my son Michael is my most favorite person in the world. We have fun times together, go on adventures and are pretty open and candid about everything with each other. He’s 12 so I consider the fact that he likes to hang with me a major win. Michael started the 6th grade this year and honestly the transition to middle school has been tough. We have dealt with bullying and racism and he has had to sort through all of this while at the same time trying to figure out his identity. I often go to bed worried. Worried that his spirit will be broken, that he will lose his spark.
A couple of weeks ago I decided very last-minute to cheer him up and bought us tickets to go see The Harlem Globetrotters. They had been a favorite of mine growing up and with Michael being very interested in basketball I decided to show him the greatest team on earth. Up until then he had heard of them but had never seen them in person. So off we went, me hoping this would take his mind off of the issues at school and give him a little magic to look back on for those days that are particularly rough.
We arrive at the arena and Michael is excited, turns out my discount seats are better than we thought and we are 7 rows from the court with access to the tunnel that the players run through. The announcer comes on and Michael is on the edge of his seat. During the entire game hes yelling and clapping and cheering. I’ve never seen him light up so much! He turns to me and says “Mommy, I would like a headband or a jersey” My bank account is really low to be honest so i tell him, probably not today. I excuse myself later and sneak by and see that the headbands are just $10 so I buy him one. He immediately smiles big and puts it on his head. At the end of the show they do this cool thing where the kids can go down for autographs but we didn’t have anything to sign so we start to leave. As we are passing by the merchandise table he asks for a jersey. $60 Yikes! amazing quality but Yikes! I explain to him that I can’t afford it today and he remembers that he has been saving up his money in his bank account and he has enough for this jersey. I look at the account and he has exactly $70. He buys himself the jersey and carefully selects #33 BULL. He likes him the most right now because he jumps on the hoops. He puts it on and for the next two days does not take it off. Monday arrives and he’s so excited to wear it to school but when he comes home he tells me that the kids are making fun of him for it. That the jersey is too loud and annoying. He shrugs it off and says to me “‘ it’s ok, I made half court shot today in basketball” BAM. Day 2. Tuesday, he puts the jersey on again and wears it to school, when he comes home that day he tells me that even more kids are making fun of him and being mean. My heart breaks. He paid for this jersey himself. He loves it and these kids are being so mean! But then he amazes me.
“Mommy? can I wear the jersey again tomorrow? he asks
“Buddy, do you want to give it a breather? I can wash it and have it ready for Friday” I reply
“No. Mommy, I need to wear this again tomorrow. I have a point to prove. They need to know that they can’t break me. That they have other things to worry about besides my jersey. that what they say about Me won’t change who I am. I’m wearing the jersey”
Well dammit, I guess he’s wearing the jersey guys, because he’s got something to prove! So I wash it and have it ready for him. I ask him how long he’s going to wear the jersey and he says “As long as it takes”
So off he goes to bed. The mom heart in me panics and worries but im also proud. So I naturally turn to my friends and mom group on FB and ask everyone what they would do. Would they let their kid wear this jersey for days? maybe even weeks? The response is an overwhelming YES! People feel inspired by his courage to stand up for what he believes in. I decide then to write the Harlem Globetrotters a thank you letter. A thank you for inspiring a strength in my son that i didn’t realize he had. I wanted them to know that if they ever grew weary in the work that they did, that they had managed to change one boys life. So i wrote the following to them:
AND THEY ANSWER BACK THE NEXT MORNING!!! ❤
So of course im all excited and I get on FB and freak out! And friends are happy and cheering and whatnot because that’s what you do, you cheer each others children on! And then one friend from High school sends me a message that her and her husband are friends with Sweet Lou Dunbar
the coach for the Harlem Globtrotters and told him all about Michael. She then sent me a message asking if it was ok for Legend Curley Boo Johnson of the Harlem Globetrotters to call Michael and encourage him as well. Guys, this is a no brainer! So naturally, I make my son stay near me all night until the call comes through so I can record it for his memories! Because how often does this happen! Check out the call below! And then it just keeps getting better!!
After this call, my sweet boy is on cloud 9! I’m talking, flying!! He is amazed that someone who doesn’t even know him would call to talk to him about being true to himself. He is full of love and says to me “Mommy, I feel like the Harlem Globetrotters have my back” AND THEY DO!
Fast forward a couple of days and Michael is still wearing the jersey still catching slack. I get a message from the HG asking for my contact info and Michael’s school info. A few hours later we have a voicemail from a very surprised Principal saying that they received a call from the Globetrotters about Michael (we were at a doctor’s appointment) and we rushed back to the school. In utter disbelief we explain what has happened the past few days and then we are told that they have asked to come to the school to do an anti bullying assembly! I need you to picture Michael sliding out of his seat at this point. He looks at me wide-eyed and says “Whaaaaat did you do?” with the biggest smile on his face, I look him square in the eye and jokingly say “I came to win!” and then we high-five, because were dorky like that!
And then that brings us to the magic of today. Day 12 of wearing the jersey. Day 12 of holding firm in his beliefs, day 12 of being strong and staying true to himself. I was told that they were going to do an assembly at the school at 10 am. This morning before school we ran around making sure teeth were extra brushed, jersey was extra fresh and his afro was extra picked out. I went to work and promptly left at 9 to sit in the office and wait, I didn’t want to miss one second of it! Today was the day they showed up to the school. As I waited for them in the office i was able to meet
Howard Smith the president of the Harlem Globetrotters AND my buddy who had been emailing me the whole time. Please forgive me for forgetting your name, my heart says its Brian but i may be wrong, once I knew it was him i jumped up and gave him a bear hug while he was saying his name. I was busy memorizing his face and awesomeness and thanking him that now i cant remember and i feel like a schmuck! But you sir, if you see this, are the real MVP! ❤ and thanks to Ruby too! Mr. Smith listened to my story about Michael, he let me gush, he listened to how my dad always wanted to see the Globetrotters but never had and offered him tickets! Hey Dad….. time to tell the other kids that im your new favorite forever 😉
AND THEN Zeus walks in. He is going to give the assembly for the kids. He gives us a run down of what to expect and after this it is pure pandemonium! I have attached the link to the assembly, because he is on FIRE! And of course I have tears running down my face when he called Michael to the front! Enjoy it for yourself 🙂
( *apologies the video isnt the best, my phone rotated a couple of times, and i had to splice together clips but you get the jist. Writing i can do, video….not so much)
He also spoke to Michael afterwards and was so kind and sweet to him he gave him his headband! If you havent looked into his bio, please do, the fact that he is out here giving back to the community is so amazing and speak volumes about his character and the values of the Harlem Globetrotters
Today was the day my sweet boy got to see magic in the flesh. Today was the day he was rewarded for his action, bravery and compassion. Today was the day we learned that not all heroes wear capes, but in fact wear jerseys! Thank you so much to everyone involved, the Harlem Globetrotters have a lifelong fan in us and our future generations. We are forever in gratitude and love and if you are reading this, today, you showed us that in your Action you rewarded Bravery and showed not only love but Compassion to us. (The ABC’s of bullying by the way! You can learn more about the program here: ABCs of Bullying Harlem Globetrotters )
And yes, im going to shamelessly plug their website because guys if you havent been you should go. Kids from all ages 0-99 would love this and we can all use a little more magic in our lives. http://www.harlemglobetrotters.com/
Thanks for going on this most amazing journey with us!
❤ Go out and be awesome,
Denise & Michael
3/31/17: Bully update for those that asked: Day 13 😉 Michael said the 8th graders and basketball players were high fiving him and that he scored 15 points in basketball today, one of the shots being a half court shot. I picked him and his tuba up from school today so he didn’t ride the bus. As he was outside walking the dog, my windows are open, i hear 4 different “Michael!” And “Hey Michael” so i get up to look out the window. 2 boys come up and the one i know says “Michael will you please accept my apology” and then i can’t hear anything else. Michael comes back in to bring the dog back and i ask him if he accepted the boys apology. He says yes and now all 3 are outside playing basketball outside of the house. Kids are rarely outside and he doesn’t play with many neighborhood kids, so the fact that they walked from the neighborhood over to our house to apologize speaks volumes. It’s tough being 12 years old and I’m sure their parents would be proud that they apologized. Awesomeness all around. #heroesWearJerseys #MichaelStrong #HarlemGlobetrotters #BeTheGood
So I’m here at work, trying to pry my eyes open and make it through the day. I’ve only been here an hour. What did i do last night? Well it was Halloween Duh and in my house that means its bigger than Christmas. I left work 2 hours early just to prep, was dressed before my kid even made it home from school and then it was go time. We train for this night all year. Teaching ourselves to handle the sugary goodness by training and eating small amounts of candy leading up to the big day. Watching our steps on the FitBit to make sure we push a little harder because come this amazing night- its go time. This is not time for amateur hour at the Ruiz house. My son had about 22,000 steps on his last night. It’s enough to make a mother proud.
Keeping in tradition with our themed costumes, this year he chose WWE wrestlers for us. He wanted to go as Kane but with the outfit from 1999 Attitude Era days. Totally up for the challenge i scoured the internet and found articles of clothing worthy of such a feat and then spent an entire Sunday hand painting his costume. After he was all set and done, it was time for mine. I decided to pay homage to a childhood favorite fo mine and my brother Macho Man Randy Savage. I must say that im quite pleased with the outcome and all night – dads around my age kept shouting out their approval. Even though i was robbed in the neighborhood costume contest– it was clearly a popularity contest- i still feel like i left that night the victor.
Now my body hurts and i think i need coffee intravenously pumped through my veins as all the magic was poured into last night. It is the one thing i live for all year, and the reason why is this: Halloween is the one holiday where you can let go and pretend. You can be anything you want and no judgment is passed. You don’t have to spend money on presents or feel left out if someone didn’t get you anything. We are all brought together by the common bond of candy and fun. There are no political or racial differences behind the mask and for one night we all join in for fun and laughter.
And as if the Halloween gods nodded in approval this morning i was given a teeny tiny little high-five from the Universe- in the form of a tweet. I saw that The Mindy Project was following me on Twitter. Why is that a big deal? Well she’s only an amazing writer and comedian and bad ass woman which frankly we need to celebrate more. But that was pretty cool and for today, I fully intend on acting like im better than anyone else here at work, because after all, I’m kind of a big deal 😉
And for your enjoyment….a little impersonation of the Late great Macho Man. You made our childhood better ❤
So being a single mom, woman etc there are often times when opportunities arise and you have to do many things by yourself that normally you could buck off to a husband, boyfriend, father, brother etc. I bought my son and I my first home about 3 years ago- it was the steal of the century a 4 bedroom /3 bath foreclosure in a really awesome neighborhood. However awesome that was though it also came with the responsibilities of owning a home and me being the main person to tackle all these tasks. My family lives in Florida so i must admit i have had to rely on Skype sessions with my dad, Google University, YouTube tutorials and the kind people at Home Depot who walk me through my projects, I also cannot forget to mention the awesome friends who have come to my aide or listened to my tear induced phone calls and rage about how “If one more thing breaks, i swear to gawd i will burn the damn house down!”
The cool thing about becoming a DIY fixer upper person is that I have been able to show my son how to fix a few things and to also show him how much of a bad ass i am. Actually, i say it. Yes, i say to my son, see kid? Your mothers a bad ass- you remember that. Poor kid has had that mantra shoved into his brain forever, though now that i admit to it, i can say I’m probably saying it to myself more than I’m trying to convince him that i could rule the fricken world. I want him to be proud of me on some level, i want to be the Mom mentioned in the speeches when he collects his Nobel Peace Prize or something like that. Ill settle for nice stories to my future grand babies. I’m sure ill step in and say “When i was younger i hunted wild boars and built my house out of bamboo while making sure your father went to school and is the man he is today” My son will undoubtedly roll his beautiful, big brown eyes.
I write all this not as a high five to me, but more so to encourage you out there to go ahead and try it. If the lamp is broken try to figure out how to fix it, if you need to install a ceiling fan, go ahead and do it. We are lucky enough to be in a day and age where we can google and look up everything. I fixed my vacuum yesterday in fact. Most of these things that were once deemed stuff handymen do or men really aren’t that scary at all. And i promise you that when you do it, even if its not perfect you will totally feel like a bad ass and you can brag about it to people. I now look at stuff like- pssssht, i can totally do that, watch this. I do have to add a caveat. My own mother is a bad ass and my father is the Chuck Norris of bad-asses so they did teach me a thing or to about tools.
So here is what Ive done and you can too!
- Installed 3 ceiling fans – here is a link from the friendly folks at Home Depot that shows you how. Go ahead and upgrade your bedroom “Treat Yo Self!” http://www.homedepot.com/c/how_to_install_ceiling_fan_HT_PG_LF
- Fought a million gazillion wasps and infiltrated their kingdom. -just kidding i sprayed i screamed and ran really fast- but if you find a wasp nests in your yard, you can use this instead of spending $200 for pest control- Also if you get stung or die, or think you are gonna sue my broke ass – I’m not telling you to do this, I’m just telling you how i did it. Oh and this handy dandy can of Raid shoots a really strong stream. http://www.raidkillsbugs.com/en-us/products/raid-wasp-and-hornet-killer-33
- I also fought the Scorpion King and am ruler of their domain. OK not really, there was one on my bookshelf i panicked, sat frozen in place, got on FB asked for help and then used the above Raid Hornet killer to kill said scorpion. It worked!
- I painted my front door red. A task that may seem easy but I promise you red is not a beginner color. That almost drove me insane!
- I removed old dingy carpet from the basement and installed floating floors with the help of my best good friend- who happened to come with his own tools and expertise. http://www.homerepairtutor.com/how-to-remove-old-carpet/
- Installed, although crooked, my own screen door on the patio. That was really tricky as I’m only 5’4 and i cussed with the strength of Samuel L Jackson during that whole project
- Cleared a yard with a Bush Hog. This literally took two of us girls to push this machine, it weighed the same a 400 elephants no lying. OK maybe a little exaggeration. I particularly proud of this one because they were quoting me $300 to do this and my handy dandy people at Home Depot were telling me i could rent the machine for $54 and it only took me 30 minutes! BAM!
- Bribed my son and his buddies to blow, mow and rake my yard. Pizza and ice cream.
- Trained for a Zombie Apocalypse – after binge watching too much walking dead. I mean we have to be realistic here right? 😉
- Taught my son with the help of my Dad how to fix the really expensive treadmill that i begged for and hardly ever use because I’m a lazy ass.
So you see, mamas or women reading this or guys that haven’t been taught, its not that scary, all you need is a dollar and a dream 😉 and you too can be like Tim the tool man Taylor. I believe in you and in the words of Rob Schneider from one of my favorite movies :