Body Says No.

It’s been a busy…well, lifetime, really. I know, I jest (sort of) but the past several months have really kicked into full gear. I won’t bore you all with the details, as I have been honest about my chaotic, messy life in many posts, but there are days when I miss simply plopping on the couch to watch TV that isn’t Disney related. Other days, I miss feeling like I had all the time in the world to get chores done.

The reality is that I am constantly running from task to task, which seems odd because my very goal was to never be one of those moms. I never wanted to be that mom who scheduled her kids for tons of activities. I never wanted to be super scheduled. I swore I wouldn’t overschedule myself or race from place to place. I wanted to be the calm, laid back mom. The very concept of racing from sport to sport, activity to activity looked exhausting. I have friends that do it, and as they list off their schedules I cringe. While I have limited the kids’ activities to usually one thing a season (which still took up crazy amounts of time…football I’m talking to you!) which suited them perfectly, I still feel like I am always on the go. The little does gymnastics and horseback riding, and has done so for some time. Those take up relatively little amount of time, but she does really well at both and loves both as well. The boy child has taken time off from sports, and is practicing the whole teenager goal of hanging with friends, riding his bike, or skateboarding. This means that much of my time is spent driving kids places on the weekends, or working on the closet donations at night. The fact is, I’ve done well at not overscheduling the kids. The problem is that it’s me who feels overscheduled.

The other day someone asked me a question, and I pulled out my phone to check my calendar. Trying to coordinate things is becoming more and more difficult. I’m a full time working mom, working on a big project doing most of the physical work myself, and also trying to mom up. It’s a lot. Add on those unforseen life moments that are hard and stressful in and of themselves, and I wore myself too thin. When I refused to acknowledge that I was overextending myself, and that I had to pause to do right by myself, my body stepped in and brought things to a halt.

It was quite funny and quite disturbing, all at once.

I awoke Friday feeling stuffy and out of sorts. By Friday night, I had pins and needles throughout my left hand. Numbness set in. I believe it was last year (time just rolls on these days and I have to constantly check dates) I started losing feeling in my ring and pinkie finger on my left hand. I would awaken with numb fingers a few times a week. Then one day, the numbness didn’t go away. Several dr visits later, I was told my nerve was getting pinched in my elbow. The Dr’s recommendation? Keep my arm straight. Do you have any idea how awkward and unnatural it is to keep your arm straight all the time? I wore a brace to keep it straight, and we hoped the nerve would repair itself. Fortunately it did. Then last week is started creeping up again, only then the whole hand went numb. This unnerved me, but I assumed it may be combination of carpal tunnel plus the elbow issue. In other words, I am a hot boo boo mess.

Saturday, my bestie, who knows all of what’s going on in my life, invited me over to test out her new hot tub. I settled in and we talked for ages. I hadn’t paused myself like that to do something so luxurious in quite some time. All the jobs at home went undone, because I felt like perhaps I needed to pause life a bit and just try to relax. By Saturday night, my son arrived home and I mentioned how tired I felt, but I had to wait for my daughter to get home. He looked me in the eye and said “mom, I love you but you look like garbage. Go lay down and I’ll wait up for her”. I was so grateful. Just then my husband came home, and I was sent to rest.

Sunday, I was still stuffy and numb, but felt more rested. My knees decided they’d had enough as well, and both started to ache. Ahh the joys of getting older, eh? Today I worked, but tonight I’m resting again. To hell with the jobs around the house. I’m stuffy, numb, and limping. I’m afraid if I don’t listen to what my body is saying it’s going to take me out completely.

I knew I was struggling to quiet my mind when I was kept up the other night by the random thought of “what is the etymology of Orange?” “Who came up with the word orange, both as a color and as a fruit? Who said it first?”

When the brain is overworked, the body will crap out and put a stop to things. Mine has decided it needs an episode of Love Island Uk, some family chats with my cousins and an early night. I’m renaming myself BitchyMcNumbFingers for the time being.

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Watch Me.

Today I was hard on myself. A project I was doing at work had some technical glitches and didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped (although I got it done. My daughter was a bit upset by an interaction with a teacher in the car line when I picked her up. I had to race out to the orthodontist and stores after work. Dinner was late and I ended up having my son help me with it. I had a bunch of jobs to do like ordering school pictures, trying to gather items for the Closet project. I’m tired. Tired physically and tired of garbage humans who are just shitty people. I looked around at the chaos in my house and felt overwhelmed. I started getting frustrated with myself that I couldn’t get it all done and do more around the house.

Then I took a deep breath. And another. I sat back and watched a mental replay of what I had done all day.

I began to realize that I was too busy giving myself a hard time and wasn’t acknowledging the successes I had today. Some were small, but they were wins as far as I was concerned.

That project? Well, I got it done, and learned a whole new software in the process. I got another big project on my dreaded to do list accomplished as well.

I worked a full day and got a lot done.

I coordinated kids getting home.

I turned my car around in the car line and went to speak to the teacher who had upset my daughter. It was a misunderstanding, and I ended up really liking her and sorting it all out where everyone was happy.

My daughter, who has shed many a tear at the orthodontists, looked at me when I told her “you’re a big girl now and you can communicate what you feel needs correcting and you can rock this” and did just that. She handled it like a boss and walked out proud without a single tear being shed.

I got the items I needed from the store.

I ordered school pictures.

I was able to coordinate getting the shelving units I need for the Closet Project with the help of a friend, for free, donated by her neighbor. This is HUGE because currently everything is in random bags, boxes and bins making it near impossible to find what you need. I also found clothing racks for cheap and purchased a couple. I’m excited to now get it set up.

I coordinated a few more donations of clothing and toiletries.

I took a moment to ponder how grateful I am for the internet and the volume of things I can accomplish by using it.

I scrubbed the tub and toilet quick.

I delegated some jobs to my son, who was a rock star and cooked dinner.

I got a load of laundry done.

I did a load of dishes.

I fed all the pets.

I saw a woman say something vile and called her out as the asshole she was.

I saw a lurker lurking, sighed, and wrote this post anyway.

I did some good deeds.

I made calls I had to make and sent emails I needed to send.

I gave out some compliments. I laid out some truths.

I took out my esthetician’s equipment and helped my son with a breakout.

I gave goodnight hugs and kisses. I sent two happy kids to bed.

In other words, I did a LOT. I did some small things, and I did some big things. I did lots of things and I handled my business. So my house is messy. I work full time, run a major project to help kids, raise two kids, and manage a household often on my own since my husband works different hours. I kicked some ass today! I’m proud of myself and my kids told me they are proud of me too. I often find myself being so hard on me, never taking the time to just stop, breath, and recognize all the things I DID accomplish during the day. Sometimes I need to step outside of myself and watch all the things I have accomplished, and all the things I did get done.

Are you watching me? Because I’m watching me, and I kicked some ass today!

Enjoy the Silence

Last week I looked around and had to admit to myself and the people I trust the most that I’m overwhelmed. For the most part, I handle whatever life throws at me with a sense of humor and determination. I take life on and I’m willing to toot my own horn and say that while it sure isn’t always pretty, I get most things done and some extra as well. I balance as much as I can and keep the plates spinning so to speak. But with working full time, 2 kids who have very different needs, a husband who is working opposite hours, pets, my project to help kids in need, and the day to day grind, all it takes is one plate to get unbalanced and they all crash down on top of me.

The other week, I saw the plates wobbling. I knew that my mindset wasn’t quite where it should be, and I felt down and sad. My brain felt overwhelmed, with too much life noise coming at it every day. When you have so many things spinning at once, things start to get neglected. The house is a wreck. Jobs I need to do weren’t getting done. Impediments were stacking up and making things damned near impossible. Money issues felt more concerning. The yard was overgrown and an absolute disaster. Summer wasn’t feeling summery at all as the fun, lazy time I remembered as a kid. The heat was making me aggravated easily. I was antsy, but I was not sure about what. Suddenly all the little jobs I had been neglecting in order to get things done appeared insurmountable, and I froze not quite sure where to begin.

My bestie who had knee surgery was home, so I headed to her house one night for a chat. I laid out some of my worries to get her advice. That’s one of the best parts of having a blunt, brutally honest bestie who has known you your whole life…you can show up and vent your worries and they will give you their unadulterated opinion with no sugarcoating.

She gave me some ideas for resolving the money issue I had, told me I need to pick a starting place and chip away at each job one at a time, and had a very frank conversation about some of the people in my life and that I need to circle my wagons and just quietly watch their behaviors because actions don’t lie like words do. She also recommended I tell my husband I was overwhelmed. I left her house feeling determined to try some of her advice and seeing how it goes.

I admitted to my family how I was feeling. I spent my weekend tackling jobs that had been rather neglected with all my busyness, starting with the back yard. I mowed, I weeded, I pulled out gigantic patches of pricker bushes that had become overgrown and taken over a memorial stone I had received when my mom passed. Our back patio, which had been taken over by vines that were creeping up the house, was cleared and the vines all taken down. I dug, I sweated. Oh how I sweated. I think every fiber of my being was drenched in sweat and smeared with dirt by the time I was done. I felt utterly disgusting when I finished.

But I felt….happier.

My husband tackled a couple of jobs inside. The kids tackled cleaning up their rooms and my son laid down the new rug in my daughter’s room. To be honest, all the work we did is a drop in a bucket to all the jobs we want and need to do around the house, but I still felt like we had been productive. I felt a bit less overwhelmed. I felt inspired to keep going.

While I was weeding, pruning and clearing, I let my mind wander, and it brought me to some conclusions. I talk a lot. I listen sometimes to engage, rather than just listen. I need to work on that. Not only because I could do with being a better listener, but I could also stand to be a better observer. The more I mulled over the words of my best friend, the more I realized that while I had been listening and trusting words, I hadn’t been paying close enough attention to people’s actions. My willingness to always seek the best in everyone was clouding my judgement and causing me to not pay enough attention to actions vs words. People will show you their true selves before they will tell you about their true selves. As I worked, finally not distracted, I started realizing a few things, and I know now I need to make some adjustments. On one level it’s upsetting, but on another, it allows me some freedom without guilt, and I’m feeling it’s a good thing. Silence also allowed me to work determinedly, calmly, and to allow me to see the end goals more clearly. My brain needed the quiet to thrive.

I feel like there is light at then end of my tunnel, so to speak. It’s merely a case of putting one foot in front of the other, quieting my mind, and doing one task at a time. Not everything needs to be done at once. After so long of having attention on everyone else and everything else, I need to focus on me and mine, and make good choices going forward. I need to feel and work in the quiet so I can hear and see what is important. Will my house be spotless and everything be perfect? No, I don’t see that being the case. But I can see me getting through some tasks to creating a place I feel calmer in. I don’t need perfection. I need peace.

Wish me luck as I tackle the mountains that currently feel so insurmountable. One step at a time, I’m determined to scale them.

Oh yes, and I shall reward myself in a few weeks with a lazy, fun filled vacation with some of my beloved tribe. I can’t wait.

I’m Totally Not Ready

You know, there are moments in your life that seem to take forever to arrive, and then suddenly they are upon you and you think…”I’m totally not ready! How am I not ready? I had all the time to be ready!”. Yep, That’s pretty much where I am at on this cold, overcast day.

Last week I wrote about choosing joy, and doing things you WANT to do. As soon as I wrote it, I missed out on a party I wanted to go to because my back went out. The irony of it was that I had just told a friend how grateful I was that I’ve had very little back pain in a long time. It took me bending SLIGHTLY to get shampoo whilst in the shower, and next thing I know is searing pain up and down my back and hip. It hasn’t been quite right since. Now, I’d like to say that the reason that all the things has crept up on me this week is because I’ve been a little gimpy, but the fact is, I’ve been overtired, sore, but also pretty busy. Now my total procrastination is catching up to me.

Today was the last day of school. I picked up my little one from school only to have her jump in the car and burst into tears. I thought someone had hurt her, and I was ready to pounce. The truth was, she was sad to leave her teachers, school, and friends behind for the summer. This, coming from a child who in years past complained about how she disliked school. She always loved her teachers, but she never much enjoyed school. I think mostly because she found it a bit hard and challenging. This year, she moved forward quite a lot, and seemed to really enjoy herself. So much so that she was sad to leave. This made me happy. I’ve always felt education is key to more opportunities, and I had always hoped she would find her niche in school. Despite some hard changes this year, she did really well and I’m proud. The town recognized her efforts in helping me with the Closet project, which I thought was really awesome. I think it added to the positive feeling she felt about the year. We started the year with most of her old friends getting pulled out of school. She made some wonderful new friends. She also got bullied a couple of times. Surprisingly, she turned the situation around (despite hauling off and kicking one of the bullies) and even making good friends with them. I’m so proud of her, but I’m not ready for her to go up a grade. It feels like it’s going too fast.

Which leads to me to something off topic, but so be it. During the redistricting, I got into a debate with a gentleman who had an opposing view. We had a bit of a heated conversation. He wanted the redistricting, and I didn’t. So be it. He approached me at the end of year party to thank me for all I have done at the school. I told him that even though things didn’t swing as I had hoped, I wanted to make the very best of it for all of the kids. I also told him how impressed I had been by his and his wife’s frequent presence at the school. They had stepped up and stood by their word, and I admired it. We ended the year with a hug and a joined goal to continue to make the school the very best it could be. I wasn’t prepared for the sunshine and happiness moment, but I am sure am glad it happened. It ended the year on a really nice note. He’s even agreed to join in and help me next year, so that’s pretty awesome!

Aside from kids growing up (which I doubt I shall ever be quite prepared for), I’m also trying very hard to get used to continue my “free range” parenting idea. I am trying to loosen the reigns on the kids more and more. The boy child goes off with his friends more often than not, and he seems much happier. He has been great with checking in, being where he is supposed to be, and letting me know when he is going from place to place. I have a tracking app on his phone so I do periodically check it to make sure where he says he is. The better he does, the more freedom he gets. Even the little one is doing well. Both kids are enjoying added responsibility and freedom. They also know it can be taken away if they don’t follow the rules. It’s a work in progress. Compared to me hovering over them all the time, it’s been a positive experience to let them spread their wings. I notice they are much more street smart now as well. It’s not easy letting go and allowing them to go off on their own but as I remember from childhood, it’s SO important. I still remember when the little one went to her friend’s house and I thought I lost her. It was terrifying. Yet I remember the cops’ words to me “You are doing the right thing…you HAVE to let them roam and do things so they learn to be independent”, so that’s what I am trying to do. I’ve heard comments about it, sure, but I’m doing what’s best for us. As a child, I flew across the Atlantic by myself, navigated numerous airports, and never blinked an eye. I’m not at that point yet with the kids, but I remember the confidence and happiness that independence brought me as a kid. I felt so comfortable in my own skin knowing I could travel half way across the world and navigate the process by myself. I want that for my kids too.

Another thing I am not ready for, yet mentally so ready for? Vegas.

I have packed nothing. I have to do all the jobs around the house, prep father’s day gifts, mow the grass, and pack. Nothing has been done. I’m a slacker. I was going to come home from the year end beach party and do some jobs before heading out to another party, yet here I am, writing. I feel like I want to sleep for a week, yet I am gearing up for a week of very, very little sleep. I’m not ready for anything.

The nicest thing about the Vegas trip? Well, there’s a few things. The first is the daily countdown email I get from my friend each day. I haven’t told her, but it makes me laugh every day because I can FEEL her excitement about this trip, and I am just as excited. I will miss my husband and kids terribly. That being said, there is something so cool about being responsible for just myself for a few days. As a parent, I am constantly responsible for the health and well being of multiple people and animals in our household. To be able to just be responsible for myself temporarily is just a strange sort of luxury. I am excited for our planned events. These include, but are not limited to, a Cirque show, Riding dune buggies in the desert, ziplining, swimming through a shark tank, and one truly amazing fancy dinner. Doesn’t all of that sound amazing? I swear, I am so incredibly lucky to have such awesome friends. That being said, we are cramming tons of things into just a few days, and I’m struggling with the fact that I want to do ALL the things, but I am getting old and I love sleep. Look, 10pm you will usually find me laying in bed. I love bed. I love sleep. They are my favorites. You can’t go to Vegas and sleep it away though! I gotta be ready to hang. I did take the day after come back off work though. Wasn’t planning to, but I have the time and frankly, I am gonna need a recovery day.

I’ll fill y’all in on how things go, what I loved, what I liked a little less, and much more when I come back.

I think when I come back there will be some life changes going on. I’ve got that antsy feeling. Sometimes when that feeling hits, I make a small change or two, and sometimes it’s a huge change. Then again, I could spend a week away and come back feeling right as rain. I got the itch to shake things up.

I may get suddenly inspired to write before I go, but if not, see you all on the flip side.

Waving From the Chaos Whilst Finding Joy

June is one of those months where it seems like there is always a million birthdays, a million things going on, and no money with which to do all the things. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all the celebrations, parties, events, and end of school things, but I feel like I am in constant chaos all month. I find myself constantly checking the calendar to make sure I am not missing anything.

It’s funny, I was never a calendar person. I simply kept everything in my head, like a giant mental Roladex. Then I saw other moms who seemingly had it all together, and these women had CALENDARS. Big, paper calendars with millions of things color coded and organized. I wanted to be like them. They seemed relaxed, despite their crazy calendars that gave me anxiety. I thought perhaps it might be freeing to go ahead and try this whole “organized mom” thing. I started out with a paper planner, and wrote everything super important down. I then started using my phone, putting in my work schedule, kids’ schedules, birthdays, events, anniversaries. I now live by the calendar, but spend an awful lot of time panicking that I may have forgotten to put something on my calendar and it will bite me in the ass. All too often I grab an appointment card with best intention to get the info on my calendar, but life is chaos, and sometimes I forget. Businesses that do reminder calls? I salute you!

This weekend, I need to find time to mow the grass, start work on clearing my patio, go to a gymnastics show, celebrate 3 birthdays, one graduation, prep for the week, as well as do all the laundry that I got behind on. Oh yes, and pack for an upcoming trip, get necessary items from the store, and figure out what sunblock a British lass with ultra fair skin should wear in the desert so as not to spontaneously combust. Hell, I went outside in the Northeast of the US for an hour and ended up with a sunburn! Also, what does one wear on a dune buggy in the desert for multiple hours so I won’t get a melanoma, exfoliate all my skin off, burn, or overheat and die? Do you know how much time these thoughts and concerns have consumed me the past few days? Way more than they should. I surmise I am going to overpack and still not have all I need.

So if you’ve been reading a while, you know I love a good story where I make an utter ass of myself. If you can’t laugh at yourself, it’s a sad life, really. So in the midst of my chaos, I stopped off to pick up some paperwork this week. I walked in and notice that there were security cameras around, which most businesses have. I walk in and find where I need to go. I see there is a little bell to push for service, and I look down and ring it. As I looked down to press the bell, as I am pushing it, I see that I have a situation. The button on my pretty flowy shirt with buttons has decided to unbutton itself. It also appears my boobs have decided to look out to see what it is I am up to that fine day, glad to be freed from their cotton button down prison. Now, I’m wearing a bra (big boobed girls rarely have any choice in that matter) but still we have a clear situation at hand. I begin to frantically try to rebutton myself before someone comes to assist the bell ringer. I am anxious though, and fumbling about like I am having a medical situation. I get my shirt buttoned at JUST the last second before the woman comes to help me. Now I am laughing at myself and cackling away, while looking like I am touching my boobs as I try to button up. I then realize this is all on the security cameras. #NotWinning.

My mom has been on my mind a lot lately, and I remembered looking in a closet while she was ill and remarking that she had some wonderful lotion in there. She commented she was saving it “for best”. I think we all have things we save for a special occasion. The problem was, however, that after she died I found that same lotion, untouched, in her closet. There were multiple things I found like that. It got me thinking how much she would have enjoyed that lotion, as simple as it was, and how by saving it she never got to savor it. It made me so sad. It also made me think, this past few weeks, how easily we often let joy slip through our fingers because we deny ourselves simple little pleasures for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it’s because we were taught it wasn’t appropriate as kids, maybe it’s something we are saving for “best” like my mother did, or maybe it’s because we feel we have to be a “good person” and do things we don’t want to do because “we should”. Why? The other day I wanted ice cream, for breakfast. I know, I’m a savage, right? So you know what I did, despite being told my whole life that ice cream is not an acceptable breakfast? I had ice cream for breakfast, because I’m a grown woman who can do that if she chooses. It seems so silly, so minute, but it brought me joy. My new goal is to find joy in small things at least once every day, even if it means “breaking the rules”. I had multiple conversations with various people this week who got put in a position where they were doing things they really didn’t want to do. These weren’t things they HAD to do. I responded by saying “so don’t?”. I get we all try to fit into social norms, or make people happy, but at the end of the day, nobody gets a martyr award for doing things we don’t want to. Look, I am all for kindness and doing kind things. But do them because you want to, and because they bring you joy. Why? Because the joy flows through to the recipient. If I show up and hand you something you need with a smile and light in my eyes, it’s a much different experience than if I show up looking like you disrupted my day and you’re a burden.

A prime example of joyful giving is totally evident with two of my friends. I mentioned in an earlier post that my friend and I are going to Vegas. She is basically taking me for a girls’ trip. I am utterly beside myself with gratefulness and excitement about this trip. I NEED a vacation, and honestly, I need a few days where I don’t need to be responsible for anyone but myself. Being a mom is the very best thing I have ever done. That being said, being responsible for the well being and keeping two other human beings alive and well and raising them to be productive members of society is HARD. Hard in a good way, but still hard. I have trouble keeping plants alive, but here I am, keeping two humans alive, healthy and kind. Being able to take a few days to be responsible just for myself is a strange kind of freeing. That being said, I’ll probably get out there and be missing them like crazy. My husband is a top notch dad so I don’t fear anything happening. Anywho, back to joyful giving. My friend is treating me to a trip, yet she also emails me daily with an excited countdown of how many days we have before we go. She excitedly tells me about all the things she wants to show me. She makes me feel like my presence on this trip will make her trip better, and that is an amazing feeling.

This morning, my other friend messaged me to say she had dropped off some tickets to a show in my mailbox. She asked if I was awake and I said I had just woken up as I needed a lazy morning. She texted commenting it’s the perfect day to sit outside in the morning and enjoy a coffee. A few moments later, she showed up back at my house WITH COFFEE. I can tell you it was AMAZING and awesome and SO appreciated. We stood outside catching up for a few moments, and then I sat on my steps outside after she left to do all her errands and I SAVORED that coffee. It felt like it set the tone for the whole day and I felt absolutely joyous.

Yes, I have amazing friends.

Yes, I appreciate every single one.

Yes, my circle is small, brutally honest, full of kindness, feisty, and I could call on them for anything. How awesome is that?

What else is new? (Well, it’s been a few weeks so I am feeling quite chatty today, plus I am extra caffeinated).

Oh yes, my much beloved cousin, who is like a little brother to me, is off scaling the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales this week as part of an event to raise money for charity. Over 1000 miles of driving, 3 mountains to scale, and a ton of physical endurance. I’m amazed and proud and am cheering him on from 3000 miles away. I am also sitting here eating cheese puffs and chocolate, drinking my coveted coffee, and realizing why I am probably chubbier than most of my cousins. Ha! I miss my cousins terribly. They were the siblings I didn’t have as kids, and even as adults. I miss my UK family to bits and I think another trip is in order. That being said, this year so far is currently stacked with trips and things to do, but maybe next year. I asked my kids where they would like to go for a next big family vacation, and they both chose to go back to England to see their family. It made me so happy to see they love it there as much as I do, and that they had such a great time on our last trip. .

Well, I’d better get moving. I’ve done a load of procrastinating today and it’s time to get rocking and rolling.

I leave you with this…find the joy in the mundane, find time to laugh at yourself and the world around you, and know that tomorrow is always a new day. Treat yo’self. Use the expensive candles or lotion, dress up just because, and find the happiness in the little things.

Waving from the chaos!

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.

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.