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Happy Is As Happy Does

It’s funny, after weeks of not writing, I’m back with an awful lot to say, but don’t want to word vomit too many posts. I have a few posts in process (one is long, complicated and detailed) but while I’m working on the heavier posts, a little lightheartedness is in order. They say the key to happiness is someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. I suppose that explains my mood lately…I’m giddy. I’ve currently got all three.

I came into 2019 with an itch for change. A change in look, a change in the daily, and a change in scenery. So far, all three have been in process. I cut off over a foot of my hair, there have been super positive changes at work, the school project, and now I have some things lined up in the future I am looking forward to.

So, the Vegas trip? I. CANNOT. WAIT. I am unable to hide the excitement of a new experience for a few days with my bestie. We have a few thrill seeking activities in the works, and maybe a show or two. Honestly, I am looking forward to hitting the pool and wandering the strip. I was in need of a new swimsuit, and happened to find a new one (with tags) on Poshmark that I fell in love with, except it wasn’t my size and the style is discontinued. After a long, arduous search, I found the same one on Ebay, new with tags, in my size, cheap! Thrilled to pieces I bought it. It’s the little things sometimes that bring a huge smile. Hopefully I don’t look like a sausage when it arrives, but even if it looks bad, I have time to resell it and call it a day. I am realizing more and more how much I really do want to travel. I saw a meme on facebook the other day that talks about how people spend 10 bucks a day on lunch, not realizing that it works out to close to 900 bucks in 3 months. Those little extras add up, and if we cut out a few things, travel is in our reach! My goal is to take the family on a vacation somewhere every year, or maybe even two trips. There’s nothing like a fresh location to put things in perspective.

Also on the list to look forward to is a big family vacation. This one is super important because I think we could all use some downtime before the hectic season begins. This year we decided to team up with some other family members and go for a week of relaxation a little closer to home than our England jaunt. I won’t lie, I definitely want to get us all back to England (my kids haven’t stopped raving about that trip, even saying they preferred it over Disney) but I think a change in scenery is in order. Maybe next year we’ll head back. This year we’re headed for a week on a ranch near a lake. A little bit of land activity, a little bit of water sports, and something for every one of us. I’m looking forward to having downtime with the husband. He busts his ass daily and I know some relaxation would do him good. He often doesn’t get the credit he deserves for all he does, and he works insanely long hours. Time off does him good.

I managed to book a late fall trip to see a favorite drag performer of mine, and splurged a little to get a meet and greet. I always said if this particular person comes around, I’d want to do the M&G, so I stuck true to that. I’m going with one of my favorite people, and I know it will be a great time. I love a good comedy show, and I love drag queens. This is the perfect combination of both.

The combinations of trips and a show has me excited for this year. I’m excited about how well the school project has come together. I’ve got a great tribe of easygoing, no bullshit people in my life. My husband and kids bring me joy. What more could a girl ask for? Of course, life isn’t perfect, but I choose to be happy, and I always keep something on the horizon to look forward to on those tougher days.

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Viva Las Vegas!

The other day, I was chatting with my bestie of probably 30 years. We met in school and have been firm friends ever since, even buying a house together when we were younger and before we each got married. We’ve done many an adventure together over the years. She was the one that came down to make the drive with me once I moved up north. We got each other through bad dates, bad boys, good time, the best of times, and the worst of times. Through it all, we’ve rarely had falling outs, and the friendship is an easy one. While we’re both married, I have kids, and she doesn’t, but she loves my kids and understands that my first priority is being their mom. That sometimes makes getting time to go adulting a bit difficult.

She was asking about what I’m up to, which basically revolves around marriage, kids, the project with the Kindness Closet, and all the usual mom things. She was telling me she’s itching to go on a trip to Vegas (she loves gambling, and if I’m honest, I do too, I just don’t have the extra funds these days), and asked me if I want to go. After all, we’ve talked about going to Vegas together for probably 25 years now, but we’ve never managed to go. I told her that of course I would love to go, but I can’t swing it now. After all, we have a family trip coming up that I am saving for, as well as a ton of expenses for camp etc that were all hitting at once. There was just no way I could swing it. “Do you WANT to go?” she asked? “Of course!” I replied. “Is it just finances?” “Well, yes, and coordinating with the kids.” “Ok, you coordinate the kids, I’ll pick up the flights, hotels and excursions” she said.

I blinked. “WHAT?”

She explained that since she goes out there quite a bit, she has a ton of points that she can use for free items. Miles, points, and other offers that she can take advantage of. She then went on to explain how my parents had always helped her out when we were younger, that I was always there to help her out, make meals when she had surgery, color her hair for her, and other stuff, plus I always help people. She said this was a way to turn the tables and help me. I’m stunned, floored, and honored.

And so, a girls’ trip has been planned, just the two of us. She handed me a list of things to do and said to pick a couple. When I squealed and said “They have DUNE BUGGIES?” she squealed “you’d do that? I’ve always wanted to and nobody would go with me!” Needless to say, we’re dune buggying it up! For her, this is a way for her to showcase a city she loves, and for me, it’s a chance to decompress and relax, while having some bestie time and seeing new things. I am GIDDY.

The other day, I was in the orthodontist office with the little and while trying to make an appointment, I started having chest pains. I won’t lie, it frightened me. A LOT. I made jokes about it, and the staff looked clearly panicked. I asked for some Tums, assuming it was just severe heartburn. Turns out that’s likely what it was because it eventually disappeared. When I recounted this to my husband he pointed out that I need to find ways to relax because I am always stressed and with a million things on my plate. I told him he was silly, and he just looked at me and started doing something he knows I do when I get very stressed. Ok, point taken.

I told my friend that while she goes gambling, there is a good chance I may wander around and people watch, or even better, park out by the pool for a while. I think the downtime is going to be amazing, but am excited to see all I can and do a few crazy things. Honestly, I have the best friends a girl could ask for. I simply cannot wait!

If you’ve been to Vegas, let me know your favorite things to do and see!

Lost Dreams and Broken Mamas

The area around me has been in quite an uproar lately over some local teens getting caught and arrested for committing a series of crimes. As news of the crimes came to light, people surmised just who and what had happened. Some people thought the crime was committed by the homeless. Some folks surmised politicos had a hand in things, and some just shrugged, unsure what to believe. When the news broke that it was teens who had committed the crimes, I think most people were in a bit of shock. It just seemed so ODD that kids had done what these teens were being accused of.

Because some of the kids were 17, and therefor underage, their names were initially withheld from the public. People nearly lost their damned minds about it, demanding names, knowledge, and the harshest sentences possible. I admittedly was disgusted by what they had done, and I too said they needed harsh jail times…to be removed from society. I am a firm believer that some folks just don’t want to help society, they want to hurt it, and they should therefore be removed from it.

Yesterday Facebook was aglow with article after article, comment after comment about what had transpired. The news traveled far and wide. Names had been released. I clicked on an article and read what had transpired. The teens admitted they had gone out in the middle of the night, committed a crime, grabbed some food and gas, and headed home. They told a few people what they had done, and swore those people to secrecy. Silly teens don’t know that people love to talk, and one of their moms came across a snapchat message about the crime, and went to police. I get the impression from the article that she may not have initially known her son was involved. Days later, he was arrested, charged with class A felonies, and she watched helplessly as it became clear her son had just destroyed his own life. The news quoted her outside the courthouse, saying she was “devastated” and apologizing profusely for what her son had done.

I read that article a few times. I was so angry at what these teens had done, but her words bounced around in my head over and over. I put aside my anger for a bit and just let myself mull over this woman’s predicament.

After all, those of us who are parents…we’re winging it. We get no manual. They don’t teach us and give us a test before we have kids. We have a kid and we sort of make it up as we go along. There’s a lot of trial and error. Sometimes we pat ourselves on the back when we get it right, and we cringe when we realize we got something wrong. Parenting is no joke. At the end of the day, most of us do our very best. We try to raise kind, considerate, loving, happy children who will go on to be successful, happy adults. Sometimes it happens the way we plan, and we rejoice. And sometimes, we end up like this mom.

I’d like to think my kids are smart. My son in particular tests out in the top 98th percentile for his grade level for the country. And you know what? He does dumb shit like every other kid his age. Maybe I’m more surprised by it because I know how intellectually smart he is, he gets great grades, and has a superb vocabulary. He also does things that make me look at him and wonder wtf he is doing. It’s part of being a kid. Both kids have moments where I wonder what they are thinking, because they do stupid stuff sometimes. Then I laugh because I’m an adult and sometimes I do really dumb shit too (hello, did you read the post where I tried to jump a car and forgot the simple process of turning a key?). Sometimes, we all make a poor choice or two.

No doubt this mama did her best. There was mention her son was an honors student, had great grades, and had a career path planned out. Yet all those smarts, and he did one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. In the process, he threw his entire life away. Forget no prom, no graduation. This kid won’t have a life outside of a jail cell for a long time. He could get life in prison. And with that throwing away of his life, he also threw away every one of his mama’s hopes and dreams.

Every time my kids leave the house on their own or with friends or family, I am aware that a piece of my heart has left the house. Each one carries a part of my heart, and I can’t imagine losing them to prison or death. The thought alone gives me anxiety. The mama side of me wishes I knew the mama of that boy, because I’d be there giving her a hug. While folks call for the harshest sentences for her son, blame her for his actions, and worse, I am left just heartbroken. I am heartbroken for that mama. I am heartbroken for all her hopes and dreams for her baby boy that have been lost. After all, no matter how old they get, they are always our babies in our hearts. I am heartbroken for a life not really yet lived, for a person who hasn’t truly even figured out who they are yet to have made such a life devastating decision.

There is no good in any of it.

I pulled my kids aside and told them all the things. I told them they carry a piece of my heart with them wherever they go, and I need them to protect it by making good choices. I explained good friends sometimes make bad choices, and they need to stand strong and make good choices. I told them how one bad decisions can lead to a string of them, and that they need to break that chain. I explain that while I wish all my lessons I impart, and all the mama love I can give them will keep them safe and raise them properly, that they need to make good choices. A bad choice, especially one like the one this child make, can destroy not only that person’s life, but everyone else’s who loves that child.

I worry about that boy. I worry about his mama too. I’m not sure if his dad is around or not, because they only mentioned the mama. I can’t stop thinking about her pain, and it’s hitting me hard.

I’m a bit of a dolt

If you read my blog, you’ll know I love a good story where I fail at life. Look, I know I post stories about my “do good projects” but that doesn’t mean I don’t do dumb stuff or fail on the regular, because I DO. Woo Nelly, do I fail. Yesterday was such a moment.

I was in the car with my husband and SIL, and we were in the process of heading to dinner after a day of moving some furniture. As we are driving, I see a car with what looked like some older folks inside, hood raised, and jumper cables. No car nearby. I point and mention to my husband we should help. After all, I have my new car jumper box in my glove compartment! My friend has one and this little thing is sorcery at it’s finest. Clip the red and black handles to the battery, push a button, turn the key, and VROOM! After she helped me start my car one day, I mentioned it to my husband, who got me one for Christmas. I haven’t had a chance to use it, but faithfully charged it and put it in my car, ready to be of service to myself or others.

Fast forward to yesterday, and my husband decides to turn around so we can help. I hop out of the car and offer to help. The gentleman tells me his son will be there in a while, but his interest was certainly peaked when I mentioned the charger. I connected it up, pushed the button, and…..nothing. Tried it again. Nothing. Sheepishly I apologized and thought it must not be charged enough. After all, it had been a while. I lamented offering to help and not being able to. His son arrived a few moments later and as we drove off, I explained it probably hadn’t charged enough. My husband noted “did either of you turn the key? I didn’t see anyone try to turn the key.” My SIL burst out laughing, as did I.

I am a dolt.

I was so busy trying to use the machine, I forgot to have him turn the damn key.

Holy Fail, Batman!

Luckily, the man’s son was there to help him jump it, and hopefully HE was smart enough to remind his dad to turn the key. I, apparently, was not. My only solace in all of this, was that my husband pointed out the guy was just as excited about using the machine as I was and he too forgot to turn the key.

And I’m back.

And I’m back! Sorry for being MIA but I’ve been crazy busy and also running some tests in regards to the blog. It’s been a hot minute since I last wrote, so let me catch things up.

My daughter’s teeth have been a process. With two impacted canines sitting almost right below her nose, she stood the risk of losing her 4 front permanent teeth. It’s been pretty nerve wracking, uncomfortable, and at times distressing for her (and her parents and family as well!). It’s never easy to see a little one in pain, so it’s been a ride, to say the least. We started with two teeth being pulled, a palate expander, then braces, She then had to go for an “exposure”, which for those unfamiliar, means that an oral surgeon went in, cut open the gums to expose the impacted teeth, attach brackets, and gold chains which then connected to her braces. OUCH, right? She was scheduled for this almost a month ago, but came down with strep the weekend before, so we had to postpone it. The doctor is only there every other Thursday, and we had a”working vacation” planned the next available day, so we had to wait until this past Thursday.

Strangely, they don’t put you to sleep for this type of surgery. They give gas, or a sedative. We chose the sedative. She was flying high for quite a while there, and has no memory of the surgery. She came out sad, and I sat in the back seat cuddling with her all the way home. She handled it like a rock star. The day after surgery, she woke me up to take her to school. She was supposed to have the day off, but wanted to go in anyway. Since she made the call, I took her to school. Saturday she woke up scared, and it turns out the surgery caused major swelling in her face. Her little eyes were almost swollen shut. Ice packs later, the swelling dropped enough that she headed out to a hockey game with one of her besties.

I was so stinkin’ proud. She’s my warrior girl. When I started this blog, I referred to her as Tiny Diva. That no longer fits her at all. I’m not raising a princess, or a diva. I’m raising a warrior girl, who is fierce and loving and kind. She’s a tough cookie with a soft heart.

Speaking of kindness, our Kindness Closet at school has been going great. It’s turned into a second job for me, but it’s really a fulfilling one. There are kids getting items they need out of the closet every day. Today, I dropped off snacks for the kids who don’t have them, and saw kids coming in to get uniform items out of the closet. I’m putting together some game plans, and even got a pretty big donation to get us started. Using that donation, I was able to purchase a bunch of uniform items in bulk to help stock the closet. I’m a bit nervous on how it can be sustained long term. It’s hard to have to rely on the kindness of others, as I’m not good at asking for help. I’ll have to get better at it I suppose. I’m currently looking at companies who do donations of money or in kind items. If anyone has any ideas to help, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Outside of work, raising kids, the closet, and surgeries, I’m still busy. As much as this was going to be my year of learning to say “no” more often, I find it’s actually a year of jumping in where the need is.

A friend of mind ended up in a tough spot. This person is as tough as nails, never asks for help, but finally cracked and put it out there that they were struggling. Now, let me say, this is a person who people go to their house to party. People like to hang with this person when times are good. The response of offers to step and help when times were tough though? Almost non existent. I threw my hat in the ring, and jumped into the fray to help. I looked around and saw the people I knew would be there to help. It was a small group, but a group I felt happy to be around. These were real friends. These were the people you’d want in your tribe. While I’m not super close with those people, I have HUGE admiration for them, because these are people you know you can count on when the chips are down. Everyone needs those types of people.

It led me to begin thinking about folks in general. As I’ve gotten older, I have a much clearer view of who people are. I wish I had the same skills when I was younger, because it sure would have saved me a lot of time an energy. I tend to be a person who judges more on what I see than on other people’s opinions, but I have now learned whose opinions are legit, and whose mindset matches my own. I lean towards the eternally optimistic when it come to people. I always believe when I first meet people, that they are eternally good. I believe everyone has a story, and everyone means well. I’m learning that some people are just dicks. If I had listened to my husband years ago I would have saved myself a LOT of hassle. If I had listened to my best friend, I would have saved myself a TON of issues. It’s a learning curve.

It’s funny how we learn as we age. Suddenly, things just CLICK and you go…ah, I’ve got it now. Things I struggled with until somewhat recently somewhat fall into place and it feels like second nature. Oh, to be 17 again with the knowledge I have now. How interesting life would be.

Anywho, how to sum up the past few weeks?

My house is messy. I’m rarely home. My kiddo is doing great after surgery. I’m making leaps and bounds with the Kindness Closet, but I come home and cry after hearing what some of the kids are facing. I’ve learned to pick my tribe better. I have no time for false friends. I’m loving work. I’m loving putting myself out there to help people. I will no longer take shit. Like, for real. I have no time nor patience for it. I hate the calendar with all it’s endless appointments, but I am grateful for each day. Not everyone is granted that luxury. I need to do so many jobs around the house but I’m tired. I can’t do it all, and that’s ok. I just need to get my groove and things will fall into place.

I’m working on a blog post I’ve been talking about, but it’s gonna take me a while to assemble it all together and get the images I need. It’ll be forthcoming.

In the meantime, I have another one I’ll put up soon about what a flighty mess I am.

Good to be back!

When you need an “adultier adult”

I’m a firm believer that life gives you darkness to balance out the light. Sometimes, you have to create some levity and lightness to balance out the dark. I love “silver linings” and often try hard to find the humor in tough situations. Sometimes that humor is self deprecating, sometimes it’s wildly inappropriate, but humor carries us thought the tough moments and brings us forward.

A couple of days ago, the little was scheduled for surgery, but we had to cancel because she got strep. It just seemed like it was too close and I didn’t want her having to fight of the trails of a virus and a surgery. The surgery has been pushed out. Since she was cleared to go back to school, and I still had the day off, I spent much of the day doing nice things. Yes, I dropped off goodies to the school, but I also used some gift cards to get my nails done and grab a big, calorie indulgent Starbucks. I was in full “treat yo’self” mode, but had no funds to do so. I was however, armed with gift cards, so I was making my own fun. Being a mom, getting time to relax and have little luxuries are a big treat. As I sat in the parking lot, joyously luxuriating in the car with my Starbucks drink and protein box, perusing my phone while I munched happily away, something caught my eye. It was thin, and black, and it was sticking out of the gear shift. Upon a second glance, I saw more than one of these long, thin black things sticking out.

A spider, otherwise known by it’s fancy name, “ohshititsabigbastardofaspiderinmygearshiftandifitslegsarethatbighowbigisitsbodyohsweetbabyjesusgetmeoutofthecar”. A spider with the longest, thick black fluttery legs was hiding in my gear shift! Coffee, cucumbers, and other object launched as I screamed loudly and flailed about the car.

I’m not a big fan of spiders. I mean, they are ok, I suppose, but I don’t prefer they get up close and personal.

In my mid-flail and holler, I saw the shocked but bemused face of a woman in the car next to me. She was eyeing the chaos occurring in the car next to her, and honestly I can’t fault her. It must have been h.i.l.a.r.i.o.u.s.

So there I am, flailing frantically and squealing, because the legs on this spider are HUUUUGE. Suddenly, I peer closer, and I see many more legs. Is the spider upside down with just it’s legs out? What is happening? I fearfully look over, and realize there are more than 8 legs. Is it having relations upside down with another spider? Do I have spider kink in my car? Oh GOD what if it’s making babies in my car? I look closer. Now, as I’ve gotten older, my eyesight is less that stellar. I own it. I bend down, as close as I am comfortable with, and I realize exactly what it is I am witnessing.

It’s….it’s…..a fake eyelash. I sort of remember my husband driving us home after a party one night and me, after a few drinks, thinking how HEAVY those false eyelashes felt, so I peeled them off. I then forgot them in the car. It had moved it’s way over to the gear shift and stuck itself to it.

I looked at the woman in the car next to me, mouthed “it’s ok!! It’s ok!! It’s just an eyelash!” and waved the offending lash her way. She looked bemused, and I sheepishly drove off.

Yesterday, I picked up my little from school and passed the boy child walking home with his friend from the bus stop. After a while, he still wasn’t home, so I messaged him, and he responded asking me to come outside. Apparently, a bird had flown down, almost landing on him except he ducked a bit, and the bird landed on the ground next to him. The bird sat on the road, just looking around. My son was concerned a car might come, and was trying to sort of shoo the bird to the sidewalk. I walked over and my son explained the situation. “You ARE a handsome bird, aren’t you?” I bent down and said to the bird. The bird NODDED. In my own head, for just a moment, I felt like a character in Harry Potter. “Does this bird speak English?” I pondered for a moment, before realizing I was an idiot. I stood up in surprise at the bird’s seeming agreement to my question. I shuffled a tiny bit closer, and bent down again, thinking the bird would instinctively move over towards the sidewalk. It didn’t. It eventually moved a few inches, but appeared to limp a little bit. I send my daughter to grab my phone and a box so I could call a friend who does rescue to find out what to do. My son, his friend and I admired the bird, but you could tell we were all a bit worried. Suddenly, something changed. The bird started flailing, and the only way I can effectively describe it was it appeared to have a massive seizure. It might have had a stroke. I panicked, and wasn’t sure what to do. It then sort of tipped forward, it’s beak in a bit of snow. “Is it drinking?” my son asked. His friend and I looked at each other. My daughter appeared. Clearly, the bird had just passed away in front of us. We somehow all felt a connection to this bird, and nobody wanted to leave him in the road. I was concentrating on not crying.

Now, let me say that I am not great with death. For all the studying, the research, the talking about it…it still unsettles me. It’s even worse with animals for some reason. I didn’t really grow up around death, and my parents shielded me from it. I’ve always been bad with animals dying in particular. As a kid I would get overwhelmingly upset if an animal died. I also get very anxious touching dead things. I now had to find a way to pick up the dead bird and make some decisions. I immediately looked for an adult to help. I then realized…I was the adult.

Isn’t that THE WORST? The moment when you look frantically for an adult, and realize YOU are the adult, and you now have to man/woman up and handle something you have NO desire to be in charge of? I decided to look for a taller, adultier adult, who knew would to do with a poor little bird who had chosen a little boy to land right next to, seize and then die in front of. I was out of luck, until my son’s friend took the reigns. I was never so grateful for a 6 foot tall 12 year old to save the day. “I can see you look really sad. I can help pick the bird up if you get a shovel. I’ll get him in the box, and us kids can bury him”. And that’s what happened.

The kids proudly dug a grave and buried the little bird with love and dignity. They even gave him a name.

Albirdo.

When I heard that, I had to excuse myself and go to the bathroom…to laugh my ass off. I couldn’t have picked a better name. I was proud of them for looking after the little bird, and also for giving him such a great little name.

We came in the house, and I sent the little upstairs to go get ready for her gymnastics class and overnight with her aunties. I sat down to handle the flood of work I had to do after a day spent in meetings, when I suddenly heard a panicked scream. I raced upstairs and saw my little covered in blood. Blood on her naked torso, blood on her hands, and I almost passed out. While clearly there aren’t many things I am good with, spiders, death etc, I’m also not good with blood. After doing a quick scan to find the source, I saw it was her nose. She gets monsterous nosebleeds, so I set about starting to help her stop the bleeding and calm her down. Something about lots of blood makes my blood pressure go wonky, which often makes me get dizzy or lightheaded. I’m trying to stop the blood so I can hold myself together and do the mom thing I’m supposed to do. My daughter is upset, because it seems like it’s always her who has the maladies….teeth issues, tonsil issues, nosebleeds, strabismus, and a host of other things. I get it. I’m giving her a pep talk that I’m pretty proud of and suddenly realize she’s handing me wads of blood soaked tissues. I almost over. I finally get her nosebleed under control and pep talk her to a smile. I clean up all the blood and go lay in my room to do a silent scream of freaked outness. I also feel like this adulting business kind of sucks. Before I know it, I’m giggling at my own ridiculousness. I guess no matter how old I get, there are moments when I search for an adult, even though I myself am an adult. Maybe an adultier-adult who is in a better position to navigate things. I mentally pat myself on the back for not passing out, and not bursting into a flood of tears over the poor little bird with my kids standing in front of me. I also realize that I’m the same woman who thought my fake eyelash was a monster spider, and it’s clear, perhaps someone should assign an adultier adult to help me on the regular.

She’s Got Another Project

Every now and again, something touches my cold, dark little heart and warms it. Or, sometimes it digs in my eyes and makes them leak a little. When this happens, I am often pulled into one of my “projects” as they have come to be known in our house. As cynical, grumpy, and sarcastic as I am, I am almost an eternal optimist. After all, I am a mom. When you’re a parent, if you worth the honor of being called that, since so many deserving people aren’t, you have to have an optimistic view to a certain extent. We have to raise strong, kind, independent children to live in a world that frankly, is pretty messed up. Part of that optimism is living in one’s own bubble probably more than we should. After all, everyone has their own problems, their own responsibilities, and it’s easy to wrap oneself up in that little bubble because let’s be honest, you can only focus on so much at a time. Most of my projects and stepping out of my bubble happen when I probably don’t need it to.

Some of my attempts to help others have backfired horribly. So horribly, in fact, that it became a source of amusement for my family, sort of a shaking one’s head and chuckling at how bad things went. There was the time I stopped to help a blind person navigate a busy parking lot. I almost got hit by a car and ended up in a loud argument with the driver. I tried to feed a homeless woman, and then went to give her my gloves and hat out of my car since she didn’t have any and it was brutally cold. Stupid me locked myself out of my car and had to use the last moment of my cell battery to call someone to come get me. In the meantime, I was stuck in the snow with a homeless woman who turned out to be mentally ill, telling me stories about people getting cut up with an ax. Not my most comforting moment, for sure. Of course, she had my hat and gloves at this point, and I was super cold. That being said, we had a nice chat, despite the ax murder conversation, and I still think of her to this day (I didn’t see her around much after that afternoon). There was the time I helped the woman hospitalized with what turned out to be cancer by feeding her cats and looking after them. She had neglected to tell me she hadn’t changed their litter box in months, and I had to navigate and clean an entire floor of a turd minefield. I came home and wanted to light myself on fire. After getting everything cleaned, I looked after her cats and home, making sure to turn lights on and off, shoveling the snow, and a team of people helped get her furnace fixed and oil put in. When I headed in for surgery last year, the woman who took over was positively mental, and started harassing me. She ended up moving away after the state was called in and she was accused of elder abuse.

Last month, I found out kids at our school didn’t have coats, right before a polar vortex that slammed the country. I dove right in, collected over 150 coats in 4 days, as well as hats, gloves, scarves etc. This spiraled into a bigger project, where our kids in need can get items they need for free from our “kindness closet” which is currently being set up in the school. I am overjoyed by this and am so proud I got to help.

The other day, I got a call from my neighbor, who said her coworker had dropped off some supplies for the kindness closet. I went over and there were bags all over her porch filled with brand new huge boxes of ziplock bags (great for toiletries, and singling out new underwear or pairs of socks for if little kids have an accident), feminine products (some of the kids don’t have these at home, sadly, and the nurse has been buying them out of her own pocket). There were also some coats. Lastly, there were bags and bags of books. It appears the doner has kids and cleared out all their bookshelves, and by the looks of it, the family loves books. I wasn’t sure what to do with those, as they were out of the realm of my project. That being said, I was grateful to have them, as I was sure I could find a home for them.

I loaded up the car with stuff for the closet, including my cart. I have a little collapsible wagon that has been a godsend to me in my endeavors with the coats and closet. I load it up to the brim and head in the school easily (although navigating the multitude of security doors is no joke dragging a heavily filled wagon sometimes). After I dropped the items off, I wandered down to the library and met with the librarian. I asked if she would be at all willing to take used books as a donation. Her face lit up and she said she ABSOLUTELY WOULD. She asked why I was donating them and I explained I was “the coat lady” as a lot of the staff knew about the coats but didn’t know who I was, and that someone had generously donated books that I wanted to find a good home for. She and I had a chat about how exciting the closet was going to be for the students, and I headed home to get the books.

The books were in multiple bags on my neighbor’s porch. I now had to be a porch pirate and go grab them. I got really nervous someone would call the police because there has been so much package theft recently. I half expected to have the cops show up and knew it would be awkward explaining what I was doing. I shuffled back and forth with bags and bags of books, loading up my car. I then went upstairs and emptied my daughter’s bookshelves of all the books she had outgrown. There were a ridiculous amount of books. I’m a huge fan of reading and have always told my kids, “you may not always get a toy, but you may get a book”. I really try to encourage reading. I ended up making two trips to the school to drop off books.

When I showed up, the librarian had me go into a room with a counter. There were kids in the library and they came to help unload the books. They were chatting excitedly. “I can’t WAIT to read this!” “Look how beautiful this one is! Look at the pictures!” “I want to read this one FIRST! One girl was mesmerized by a pop-up book, opening and closing, her lips moving slightly as she read the words. She looked up and told me she loved that book. I was overjoyed. Seriously. These kids were just so happy and grateful. These books made them excited about reading. It was awesome!

The excitement on their faces must have warmed my cold heart again, because now that I’m not the “coat lady” I’m turning into the “book lady” for a while. I was out last night picking up and messaging people about donating books.

Now here’s the thing. Where is the bad part of such a project you ask?

The bad part is getting my bubble burst. When I was in the school, unloading books, the librarian and I got to chatting. She is clearly, like me, a lover of books. She also loves the kids. She confided how super excited she was to get the books, and kept picking up various ones to admire them all. She commented “I can’t believe this! This is so awesome! This book alone is $16 new!”. The reason for her excitement? Her annual budget to buy books with is VERY low. over 500 kids in the school and her budget is about $3k. Now, three grand sounds like a lot of money, but when you think of it, it really doesn’t stretch when you need to buy supplies and books for over 500 kids. She also lost some funds this year despite the BOE moving tons more kids into our school (I’ve talked about our redistricting in prior posts). She has to be so selective, so careful, to get as much as she can for those kids, but while staying in a tight budget. This issue was made more complex by the district moving a whole lower grade into our school, so much of the budget had to go to buying age appropriate books for those kids. I also learned, sadly, that some of the kids in the school, don’t even know their letters. This hurt my heart. Most of the kids came in from other schools, and I can’t fathom how the kids were pushed ahead from Kindergarten and first onward not knowing these basic skills. It’s as if they are being set up to fail.

I am a firm believer in the power of books. I can often tell a frequent reader from a non-reader by looking at how they express themselves. Frequent readers often pick up really good vocabulary skills, spelling and grammar. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t foolproof, as you can see by my blog. I make mistakes all the time! That being said, reading opens up new worlds and opportunities. You can learn to do just about anything by reading and researching it. Reading is a game changer. Seeing kids being passed from grade to grade without those basic skills is heartbreaking. It only gets harder for them, and frankly, the system is failing them. School will become a hardship, and those kids are more likely to struggle and dislike school. This may cause more to drop out early, or not go on to next level.

This has been bothering me to no end. I hope the kids being in our school will get the help they need that they may not have gotten before. I am hoping that some of the books taken in will be helpful to those that need them.

My son and I discussed this later in the evening, when I explained my sadness over the situation, and my frustration that our schools are struggling to get the supplies and books they need. He mulled it over and said he’s going to talk to his guidance counselor about setting up a school to school tutoring program between the middle and elementary school. They do this with another school in town (my son has been a part of the tutors) but he wants to extend it to his sister’s elementary school as well. Both children sorted their bookshelves and packed up bags and bags of books to donate.

I couldn’t be prouder.

At the end of the day, they are learning a valuable lesson here. They are learning they can make a difference. Even kids can make a difference. Small steps make huge changes. I think they are also seeing that while we don’t always have money for everything they want, they have what they need, and they are growing more aware that needs are what is important. They are seeing that others don’t always have what they need, and they are trying to find ways to help those people and make a difference in what ways they can. Sometimes, we don’t have the money or items to help, but others do, and they are willing to donate those items if you are willing to do the work. If you’re willing to coordinate, collect, and drop off, people will HELP you. If you ask the right questions, you will get the answers you need.

As for me, I learned a harsh lesson myself in all of this. Folks often hide that they are struggling. Sometimes you have to ask the right questions to find that out. I didn’t know our school was struggling because frankly, they are doing what they can and didn’t advertise that fact. They are so focused on doing what they can and I don’t think they normally ask parents for help in that way.

Our schools need help. I don’t think it’s just my school. I think MANY schools have needs that most of us don’t even consider. Unless you personally are deeply struggling, it may not even occur to you how deep the need is. I admit, I was blissfully unaware that some of the things I am now learning about were issues. I assumed things were fine. I assumed wrong.