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So I Did a Thing….

A while back, I posted about my frustration with out Board of Education and the fact they redistricted our schools. One of the schools that took the biggest hits was the school my children attend. Without the desire or request of our parents, the board demagnetized our school, switched to neighborhood schools, and ripped almost all the existing students out save for a small percentage. They did all of this, upended all of our students, for a few bucks. The rage felt by many in the community was palpable. Our town is very diverse, but individual neighborhoods are not. In order to keep our schools diverse and racially balanced, kids from all different neighborhoods attended all the various schools. The redistricting, however, put us out of racial balance, and effectively segregated kids by socio- economics. Now I know when I was a kid, we all attended neighborhood schools, but the town I lived in wasn’t diverse at all, racially, or socioeconomically, which always bothered me. I always loved how diverse our current town was, and that families in our school helped each other out.

One of the problems of socioeconomic segregation is that the poorer side of town schools are struggling to fundraise and keep up with the other schools. This wasn’t a problem until this year. While we’d probably be referred to as middle class, our home falls in the school district where a lot of lower income families live. This means that we have a lot of full time working, single working parents who are struggling to make ends meet, or families REALLY struggling just to get by. There aren’t the same amount of stay at home parents around to do all the PTA projects and fundraising as we had before. We also have kids who are going without basics because their parents are struggling to get by. The government shutdown likely didn’t help folks either.

I knew it was difficult. I just didn’t know HOW bad some of these kids have it.

I was planning to go through my closets because one of the grades was doing a clothing drive to raise funds. I happened to be on the phone with someone at the school and said “I’m going through my coat closet, does any child, by chance, need a coat? I’ll see what I have.” Her response left me FLOORED.

“We have a LIST of children here at the school that need coats”.

“Like, a couple of kids?”

“No, we have a LOT of kids who do not have coats. We are trying to find a solution. We need to find coats in all sizes, both genders”.

It’s dipping down below -20 here this week, and there are little kids without COATS. I hung up the phone and cried.

After a quick cry, determination set in. Y’all, this is the one time my lack of organization when it comes to my house was the BEST. You see, my coat closet was filled with coats, some were my son’s from about 6 years ago that I never got rid of. I pulled out about 10 coats from both kids. I then put the word out to family and friends. My dad donated some money for me to go buy some items. I used some of my own as well, and purchased up about 10-15 hats and then got gloves to match. I used the money from my dad to buy coats in sizes I didn’t have. I was able to get full school uniforms in multiple sizes. Things started to fall into place! I took my lunch break to race to a friend’s house and picked up a bag of coats. Friends drove by and left coats in bags by my front door. In the middle of the night I was contacted by a woman who works at an organization locally that collects items for children and lets families “shop” for free for what the need. She had coats, she promised, as well as some other items we need for our students, and would drop them to me. The generosity of people was overwhelming. With 24 hours of that call, I had amassed about 40 coats and multiple hats, gloves, and school uniforms. 48 hours later, we have about 100 coats for the families of this town to select from.

The person I spoke to broke down when I showed up with my items in tow. Before long we were both welling up, discussing the needs of our community and how to meet them. She, as well as myself, another mom, and others, are going to work on creating a room where our students can get items they need for free, so that they can focus more on learning. This has been the highlight of 2019 for me. Creating happiness for others and working towards a goal that will help the kids of the community is exciting and one I am looking forward to.

Now I know there are those that will see this and say I shouldn’t have posted about it. But here’s the thing….

I didn’t know.

I live in an average house, in an average neighborhood. Money is tight sometimes, and some months, a bill gets skipped so I can cover something else. That being said, we have our necessities met, and we can afford a vacation or trip sometimes with some planning and hard work. I know there are families in my area struggling, but honestly I didn’t realize how deep that struggle is so close to home. The idea that there are families so close to me that are struggling to provide a coat for their children is one that left me broken and wondering just how much I don’t know. Call me naive, but it just didn’t click for some reason. If there are kids in my town in this situation, there may be kids in your town too. Sometimes folks who are struggling to make it work hide their troubles very, very well. It doesn’t mean that their burden shouldn’t be lifted. I didn’t know the need was there, but now I do, and I want to help. Even better, I am meeting and working with other folks who want to help as well. Strangers are reaching out asking “How can I help? What is the need?” and it’s AMAZING.

Maybe there are others like me, who didn’t know out there. I asked for help to make life a little easier for some kids in need, and people stepped up.In 48 hours, I feel like we made a difference to a lot of kids, just by asking, offering, giving, collecting and being kind. I believe there are others out there who may read this and say “hey, I can do that too” and they CAN and WILL.

We live in a world where we are often told poor people are the enemy. It’s ironic, really, because the rich hold the power but blame the poor for the problems. If you listen to the narrative out there, there is a common thread of everyone judging those they feel are “beneath them” in some way. Whether they look down on poor people, people of different colors or backgrounds than themselves, different genders….it’s as if people judge their self worth by trying to find someone, anyone that they are above. The rich folks love to point the finger at the poor and blame them for problems. No matter where you fall in the grand scheme of things, there is someone out there finding something about you to put you beneath them. It’s really sad.

Yet what if we all tried to raise each other up, with a helping hand, some compassion? What it we looked around and sought out those who might need a little help? What if we looked at the children in our community or those communities around us and set out with the goal to lift those children up and help them succeed? When we raise children up, we lift up our future and make it better.

I have always tried to teach my kids about helping others. I explain that making someone else smile, or making their day better makes everyone happier. It’s a ripple effect. Within 48 hours, I had collected over 100 coats, along with gloves, hats, scarves and uniforms! I delivered the last of them this morning. Hopefully those coats ease the worry just a little of some of the staff and teachers at the school. Kids will be warmer as they walk to school and go about their days. They will hopefully feel a bit happier and have a chance to focus more on school and less on being cold. The families of those kids will have one less thing to worry about. The community at large becomes a better place, because those who donated, and even those that saw others donate, often become inspired to help someone in whatever way they are able to. The children of the families who donate learn that their friends and classmates may be going through things at home and may need some kindness. Kindness circles back.

So I did a thing, to teach kindness to my kids, and to help the kids in my community. I’m writing about it to see if I can inspire someone else to do a little something kind for someone in their community. Even if it’s kind words, some gloves for a homeless person, or even a coat to a school for a child who might need one. Do a thing, and join me in a little kindness.

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Mission Possible, and Turd Minefields

I know, it’s been  ages since I wrote. Then all of a sudden you get 2 posts!  Life gets in the way, and with a husband, two kids, a full time job, kids activities, the holidays and all the PEOPLE-ING, this introvert is spent.  That being said,a few weeks ago was Christmas, which means more chaos, money, and stress than usual.  So, it’s been a little hectic, to say the least.  Especially because in true fashion, I gave myself extra jobs, one of which being to try to be less of an asshole, and to teach my kids how not to be assholes.

I THOUGHT I was ahead of the game this year.  I started shopping in November, got the kids’ main gifts ordered and ready, and was trucking along.  After all, I had shows or trips planned every weekend through December, so I knew I had to plan ahead.  I could not procrastinate.  (Yeah, right). Things were going seemingly on schedule.  Then about 3-4 days before Christmas I got a call from a young woman I had met last year.  When I met her last year, I met her through facebook.  She had posted on a local tag sale facebook page that she and her long term boyfriend had both lost their jobs right before Christmas.  She was struggling to put together a Christmas for her kids, and asked if anyone had any gently used toys they could donate.  I saw the post and my usually cold little heart cracked a little.  I rounded up some toys, got a gift card from a store so she could pick out an item or two, and took them to her.  A few days later, my husband and I picked up one of the kids’ big Santa wishes, and we were able to give her son a bike.  She was beyond grateful and thanked us profusely.  For me, seeing a picture of her kids opening their presents and knowing those parents had one less stress, if just for a moment? Well, that’s what made MY Christmas special.  We became facebook friends, and while I didn’t see her in person again, I did see that they both got jobs after the holiday.  The kids were growing up, they were getting back on their feet.  It made me happy.  Then, a few weeks ago, right before Christmas, I saw on facebook she was hospitalized for over a week.

When she messaged me a few days before Christmas this year, she did so to ask if I knew of any organizations who would still accept families in need of toys etc for Christmas.  I didn’t know any, but as a mom, her question pierced my heart.  I told her to leave it with me.  I would see what I could find out.  I also found out she and the kids were currently in a women’s shelter after losing their apartment.  That made my heart break more.  She had worked so hard, come so far, only to have it slip away.  I got to work.

In a couple of days, between friends, family, some strangers, and ourselves, we were able to provide toys and needed items for the kids, gift cards for the grocery store and walmart, and some cash.  I had jumped into coordination mode, and thanks to the generosity of others, we made some magic happen.  The relief on her face was so evident, that after we hugged and I left, I cried for quite a while.  I saw pics later of her Christmas morning,  The kids had smiling faces, but I think my smile may have been even bigger for knowing that perhaps I had lightened another mom’s load just a little bit.

They say giving is often better than receiving, and I was on a high from the above.  Mainly because I try hard to show the kids about doing kind acts.  This is what moms are supposed to do, right? So I jumped into my second round of kindness, only it didn’t go as planned.  In fact, it went completely the opposite way.

So, I love Facebook.  Let me rephrase, I love Facebook, yet I think Facebook is the killer of person to person socializing. Maybe it’s because I am an introvert, but I love being able to keep up with friends and family from anywhere.  Anywho, I was on Facebook one day, and saw a post on our town’s women’s page from a woman who had had a medical issue and been rushed to the hospital.  She was in her 60’s, and said she had no friends or family.  Now being the cynical person I am, I thought “nobody?  perhaps she is a tiny bit of an asshole”.  Now I know that sounds harsh.  It is.  But if you’re 90 and you have nobody, I assume everyone you had died off at some point.  But 60’s seems too young for that.  She mentioned she had 2 cats, and that she was worried about them.  Her neighbor was feeding them, but hated cats.  She also mentioned she was worried about the litter boxes, as she had been hospitalized for a couple of days and therefore the boxes must be in pretty bad shape.  There was talk that she may have a tumor.  Cancer was mentioned.

Part of me felt like….something about this makes me feel like maybe I shouldn’t get involved.   But Cancer.  Cancer will get me every time.  Every Time.  I figured I could go change a litter box.  It would ease her worry.  I could show kindness.  So I volunteered.

Off I go.  I get the key from the neighbor.  Before I go into the house, the neighbor asks me to call the woman.  She wants to tell me a few things.  So, I call.  I learn the boxes are in the basement and that there are boxes of latex gloves, liners, and litter there. I think, great. Annnndddd that’s when she tells me she is not so good with the boxes. She plans to get better at it.  She tells me she has physical limitations and that there is  YEARS WORTH OF USED KITTY LITTER IN GARBAGE BAGS IN THE BASEMENT.   She also tells me that if she hasn’t changed the boxes in a bit the cats will go on the floor, but that there is a broom and dustpans to clean it up.  If you could have seen my face.

horror

But I’m locked in.  I said I would do it, right?  So I tell her not to worry, and I hang up and enter the house.

The first thing I notice is that the basement light does not work.  Now, I went there the day after Christmas, and my husband had gotten me an Apple watch.  My phone was suffering from Apple’s battery issue, and as soon as I tried to turn on the flashlight, it died.  I find myself then going “hey siri, turn on a flashlight!” Nothing.  I am trying to get some sort of beacon of light to shine from this Apple watch and I have nothing.  I haven’t learned how to work it yet.  I glance into the basement darkness.  I feel like I am descending into murder.  Unsuccessful at finding any light source, I brave it down the stairs. I make it to the bottom, find another light that goes to an adjacent room, and flick the switch.

Behold, a turd minefield awaited.   Turds, everywhere.  The room had turd mines all over the floor.  The litter boxes had pee above the litter they were so soaked.  This wasn’t a case of the boxes not being cleaned for 5 days.  These boxes hadn’t been cleaned in a month and a half (as evidenced by the sticky note detailing the date I later noticed in the kitchen.)  Hork.

Part of me went “Oh hell NAW!”

And part of me said “you gave your word you would do it, now just do it”.

So I cleaned it all.  I cleaned the turds, I cleaned the floor.  I cleaned the boxes, and made everything nice.  I found one of the cats and coaxed it out of hiding and petted it for a while.  Then I went home and wanted to light myself on fire.

Now somehow, some way, and I’m not sure how, I got roped into daily cat duty.  There was a small group of women from town who banded together and worked magic.  I took over most of the cat duties, with another lady checking in once or twice to assist.  I shoveled her drive and deck in a snowstorm.  I got all the garbage bags of used listter removed from the house.  Another lady started a gofund me and raised enough money to fix the ill woman’s furnace and fill her oil tank (she had been living without heat for some time and it was BRUTALLY cold out.)  She had the furnace fixed and the house now had heat.  Another woman who has a cleaning agency came in and cleaned the house.  These women worked MAGIC, all while this woman was in the hospital. One lady started a meal train, where people in town would sign up to cook and bring meals to the woman (we’ll call her Sue) when she came home from hospital.  I was so happy.  My kids thought all this was so awesome and we were all warm and fuzzy from watching all the random acts of kindness!

And then, it turned.  Oh, did it turn.

A late night FB post by Sue, (the ill woman) about the meal train.  Saying she really ate fresh fish and veggies, all this fancy stuff, and that if people were going to cook meals they should cater specifically to her tastes otherwise it wasn’t really giving freely.  The post was so…..demanding and full of expectation.  I blinked.  I read it twice.  The line where she mentions she doesn’t eat a lot of pasta, I almost choked on.  Her garbage can was in her pantry and I had seen shelves of pasta in there where tossing out used paper towels etc.  I was shocked by the entitlement.  Was this due to her meds?  Nope, apparently it wasn’t.   This was her.  I found out later she is a bit of a “give an inch and she expects a mile” type of person.  People were furious at her posts.  The help dwindled and offers to help started to drop off immediately.  The meal train? Well, thanks to the recipient, it DERAILED.  I was still going to the house daily, often multiple times, looking after her cats.  The woman then messaged me saying “what a shame the cats aren’t up to date on their shots, or you could bring them to visit me in the hospital every day!  They also need their nails trimmed, here’s the name of my vet.”

side-eye-riri.png

I had to politely tell her no.  The cats were clearly frightened and while they would come out for me, would not appreciate being put in carriers and hoisted around town.  Not only that but I didn’t have the funds to pay her vet bill.

The issue I faced, however, was that my surgery was looming and I needed to find a replacement.  I had to leave the situation, and even though this woman was quickly alienating people, I didn’t want her cats to suffer. There was a small group of the women who were in a chat about the cats.  All were in rescue but me.  I told them we needed to find a replacement.  One posted on her rescue page looking for someone to volunteer, and two people did.  One seemed nice, although other people were iffy, and the other one seemed off to me.  There was a third person and the “off” woman went above and beyond to tell us all we should not pick the 3rd person as she was “too eager to get in the house” and too controlling.  The fact is, I needed someone, so I agreed to meet the two women at the house and show them in.  I showed them where the small group of us that had been in the house hid the key, I showed them the food donations, where the litter was, the cats’ favorite hiding spaces were.  The “off” one was rushing me saying she had to get home.  I left feeling even more uncomfortable about her.  I preferred the other woman.  Before they left, I told them women I would stop by over the weekend, to check the cats, say goodbye to them (I had grown very fond of the cats) and see if any shoveling needed to be done (a storm was coming). Everyone was fine with this.

Fast forward two days, and I messaged them I was planning to head over to the house at some point that day.  The off one replies that it’s fine, however I need to be “escorted” into the house now that they have taken over.  I was told by the other that they didn’t want a hassle if anyone were to “steal” anything.  They told me they had made copies of the key, took the original, and had removed it, so i would need an escort in the house to enter it.    Really?  Funny that I hadn’t needed an escort to go in and look after the cats for weeks.  Funny that I hadn’t needed an escort to clean boxes of piss and a minefield of turds (while wearing my favorite boots, may I add!) out of the basement.  I also hadn’t needed an escort to remove 15 -20 bags of used cat litter out of the house.  Yet suddenly, here we were.  I told them I was offended by the implication and that I suddenly needed an “escort” when I had looked after the house and cats for weeks. For me, it wasn’t about getting into the house, as honestly, I couldn’t care less.  It was about the principle of the matter and being treated like I was shady.  My response of being offended must have triggered her, because I got a long response that included phrases that she had taken over and “was in charge” now, and then it took a very accusatory turn where she indicated I might have ill intentions.  I was left pretty much like this:

MrRogers

Annnnd, I told her to eff off.  To which she responded she was “calling the police” on me.  Really?  It’s a sentiment, not a crime.   Sure, it’s not my prettiest of words, but to know me is to know I have a mouth like a sailor.  So after she sent me nasty messages back and then taunted me about going in for a hysterectomy, she blocked me.  Turns out, the next day, she posts on the town page acting like she has been doing all the work all along.  That’s when people who know me, who knew all the work I had done, completely under the radar, went ballistic.  (My friends are awesome, just sayin’)  I was getting screen shots (since she blocked me I couldn’t see the original post) but what I also got was some really awesome messages from women around town, who learned I had been helping under the radar and thought it was nice. I got to meet some new people, so that was pretty cool.

Turns out, the “off” woman ended up starting a bunch of trouble on the town page and getting blocked.  Apparently she has a bit of a dark side herself.   She is now Sue’s bestie, although if I’m honest I think she has an underlying motive in all of this.  I wish Sue all the best.  Yes, she can be demanding, entitled, and she’s a little different, but I worry about what this woman’s intentions to her may be.    I still hope she is ok and will be alright.  I miss her kitties. They were sweet and gentle.

When all this went down, I had to explain to the kids a bit of what happened and that I wouldn’t be going to the house.  They had come with me a few times and had coaxed the cats out of hiding and played with them.  The cats took to them right away and vice versa.  I am not sure the cats had seen children before.  They were bummed.  They knew the work I had done, and that my message to them was to do kind things for other, to help out other people if they could, and all those good mom messages.  Their end take of the experience?  “being kind isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be”.

So…….that didn’t work out quite as planned.