Proud Mama

In the midst of all the chaos, us mamas often question our choices. Kids don’t come with an instruction manual, and it’s often tough to determine if we’ve got this whole parent thing down. For all the work my husband and I do, it’s often tough to see if the lessons we are trying to teach are landing.

Yesterday I took the girl child to the orthodontist. The whole process has been incredibly stressful on all of us. While I know kids get braces all the time, she had to have surgery where they cut her gums open to create little “windows”, applied brackets, and gold chains. Those chains then get attached to her braces, and slowly the links are taken off to tighten the chain, thereby pulling down her impacted teeth. It’s scary for an 8 year old, and frankly, it’s scary for me. One side didn’t heal as well as the other, and it’s been a tough process for her. Yesterday I took her in and they did the first tightening. Tears ensued and I had to hold her hand and talk her through the discomfort. She cried, but in all honesty, she handled it pretty well.

Outside, we headed to the car, and she still had big fat tears that were slowly dropping down her cheeks. She didn’t say much other than “mama, that really hurt”. I promised her ice cream and we went to get into the car. A man passed me with a walker. I sensed something was off…maybe a stroke had happened, maybe an impairment, but it was slight. He asked me for bus fare, and I told him honestly I had just given my last $5 away to the school. I felt bad. Suddenly, my daughter pipes up that she has some money in her bag from her change for buying me a mother’s day gift at school, and she offered it to him. He immediately felt bad, and apologized, shuffling away saying “I can’t take her money”. She would hear nothing of it, and handed me her $2.50. I asked how much bus fare was, and he replied “$3.00”. So I scrounged in my car for the remaining fifty cents. I came up with it and handed it to him. He didn’t make eye contact, but thanked me. We hopped in the car and left.

Now, here was my dilemma…I was so proud of her for helping. After all, I have spent many hours trying hard to instill kindness and the spirit of helping into my kids. I’ve often blogged about my successes, but especially my fails, where I tried real hard but it bit me in the ass so to speak. I was so stinking happy to see it stuck, that she saw a way to help, felt able to, and made the effort. That being said, I also had to impart a little bit of realism and explain that bad people don’t look bad, and that she had to be careful of strangers. We discussed stranger danger. An incident this week that my daughter was witness to about a stranger had frightened her, and I had to tread lightly. After all, how do you teach a child to love and trust, when reality is that bad people DO exist, and some strangers ARE bad? I had to explain that when it comes to this type of situation, it’s probably best to let her dad and I make those decisions and do the talking. I did repeat, however, that I was so impressed and proud of her kindness.

She responded that she could tell the guy just wanted to the bus to get home, and he wasn’t walking so well, so the bus was a better choice. She then told me she saw he REALLY needed the bus, so she knew she had done the right thing. I paused, and asked for clarification. It turns out that when I looked away and went to hunt for change, my daughter saw the man pee his pants. A huge puddle had appeared at his feet. She said he probably needed the bus to get home to the bathroom and to clean himself up.

I looked at the sidewalk. Indeed, there was a big puddle, and a set of wet footprints walking away from it. “eh, it happens to the best of us, kiddo” I responded, and she agreed.

Not so long ago, she had wet her pants at school after a substitute wouldn’t let her leave class to use the bathroom. She had been really embarrassed. When I put the pieces of the story together, I was even more proud of her. I have always told her that even kids can make a difference, once step at a time. She saw an adult who was struggling, saw them REALLY struggle, and said not a word about the issue in public, but instead extended her heart, her hand, and her last $2.50 to make his day a bit easier.

If only more people were like her, what a better place this world would be.

I’m so incredibly lucky to be her mama.

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!

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.

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.

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.”

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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.

 

 

 

 

Good Deeds and One Decision

Every now and again, I try to do a kind deed.  Whether it be buying coffee for the person behind me at Dunkin Donuts, or doing a little surprise for a stranger.  Usually I do it when I am having a horrible day, not because because I feel I will get repaid in any sort of way, but because the thought of making someone smile a little brings a little spark to an otherwise crapfest of a day.  Usually I do things where I won’t see the person’s reaction, and I’d like to think it’s a happy one.  I feel like when the world seems like it’s in chaos, a little kindness feels grounding.  Mr Roger’s said his mom told him to “look for the helpers”.  I’d like to be a helper.  My husband is a helper.  He sometimes gives money to panhandlers and when I have asked him why he gives knowing they are often scammers, he gave me an answer that stuck with me.  He said it’s your intent when you give a hand, not their intent.  He gives freely, with no expectations, with no judgement. He grew up volunteering at a homeless shelter.  Giving is in his nature.

Yesterday I dropped the kids off to school, and promptly saw the gas light was on in the car.  I headed over to the gas station, only to see that they couldn’t accept cards, so I went to the one across the street (why the put identical businesses across the street is beyond me, but yesterday I was rather thankful for it.  I went in my bag to get my card out and a face appeared at my window.  I won’t lie, it unnerved me.  I sat there, unsure what to do.  I cracked the window and the man started telling me his story.  Said his car had broke down near the highway and he needed a new serpentine belt.  Said his AAA wasn’t paid up, and that he needed $16 dollars to get a new one (he had taken the max atm withdrawal out. but was short.  It was a scam.  I knew he was bullshitting me.  At first I was afraid he wanted a ride and I said I was sorry, but no way could I put a stranger in my car.  He laughed and said no way would he expect that. He was just trying to raise $16 dollars.  He told me about his job, handed me his passport, which looked dogeared.  The name he gave me matched the passport, and the picture matched his face.   Even though I knew I was likely being lied to, I gave him the money.  He handed me a piece of paper with his email, and he left.  I went to put gas in the car, and as I did so, I watched him run across to the other gas station, grab a backpack, and hope on a white bike.  I watched him ride off.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  Clearly, his story was bogus if he had a bike nearby.  I felt sad.  Not for the fact I had been scammed, because I had surmised it was a scam all along.  I felt sad because he had needed to do it.  Normal people don’t go around scamming people.

Later than day, I pulled out the paper with the email address.  It was a name@gmail type of email, so I looked up the name.  My friends nicknamed me Angela Lansbury a few years ago because I could “find” or “locate” people.  I found it a relaxing hobby, and was able to find some long lost relatives for friends of mine.  In the age of computers, it’s not all that hard to do.  I found his facebook profile.

What I saw was a bit shocking. I saw he had been arrested a few times for trespassing and possession. That fell in line with the scam.  Then I sawwe  grew up in the same town.  He was clearly at some point quite affluent, as there were pictures of him on his boat, at a yacht club, and info about his business.  I also saw that he was facebook friends with some of my friends.  Interestingly, he was friends with my old ex, who wasn’t on my facebook page, but who I saw on his friends list.  It was utterly bizarre.  Was his story real after all?  He appeared to be much more affluent than I was.   I messaged one of our mutual friends who had ended up dating my ex for some time after he and I split.

She responded to me this morning.  Her story was an interesting one.  Apparently this guy had lived with her and my ex for a while.  They were really good friends.  Then over time he started acting off and got into drugs.  He left and struggled with addiction.  He would pull himself out of it, and then fall back in.  He had cleaned up for a while, gotten married, and then his wife passed.  She told me that I had done a kind thing, but that he had likely sunk back into drugs.  It seemed odd because recent facebook posts had him seemingly on the ok track.

I’m left saddened.  The fact is, I may have met him in my younger years.  We clearly hung around the same people.  He was obviously doing quite well for himself, and now is left asking a check to check mom of two for money.  I feel a bit foolish for giving it.  I feel like I may have enabled him, which makes me feel like my good deed fell to a bad one.  Mostly, I feel just sad.

I have always told people “you are always just one small decision from a whole new life”.  I have told my children this, and I believe it.  One small decision can change one’s whole path in life, either for the better, or for the worse.  I tell my children this so that they will be mindful of consequences, but also so that they know that no matter how bad life gets, a small decision can set you on a new path to a happier life.  In other words, you can always change your life if you aren’t happy. I wonder how some choices ended him up in that gas station parking lot.

Part of me wants to email him and just let him know that I hope he’ll be ok in life.  Part of feels like I need to let it go.