Friday, December 30, 2011

15 Days of Giving :)

I was away a lot longer than I originally anticipated, and not only because the last 23 days have been a bit of a blur, but also because I wanted to avoid the tracking of giving once I lost track, and then re-tracked, which led to the realization I was off-track and then I did everything to avoid the thought of having to sit down and re-track everything.  Make sense?  If no, you must not have ADD.

Then, this morning I thought:  Why am I avoiding accountability on my blog as if it was my angry father or (insert immediate family member name here) looking at me as they shake their head, half laughing, half rolling their eyes (well, my mom usually always rolls her eyes) when I lose my keys for the nth time?

 Ever since I came to the realization that I suffer from ADD (about three years ago), my life started making sense.  To be clear, I don't classify my ADD as a severe disability, but more of an extreme annoyance because I've had to re-learn everything about learning how to lead an organized life with kids, a husband and dog.

I mostly love my spaz-factor.  Once of the sweetest things James said to me was after a night out with friends.  We had been in the getting-to-know-you phase with another couple and the husband was summing up his wife in a few sentences, mainly her strengths against his weaknesses.  We got in the car and James was quiet for a couple minutes, then out of nowhere said, "You know, I can't explain you in a couple sentences like he did his wife.  I just can't 'box you up' like that."

And it's true.  I'm a little bit of everywhere.  It's a strength and weakness.  I have a love-hate relationship with my ADD.

You see, us ADDers, we forget things a lot.  We lose things a helluva a lot.  And, when you don't have an informed family or support system to help you learn to deal with your different working brain early, it can be a disaster as you get older and are supposed to be learning how to be a responsible adult.

Let me explain "disaster".  It's a disaster because, obviously, no normal person can comprehend why we can't just write a note and quit forgetting homework assignments or appointments, and they definitely can't understand WHY WE CAN'T JUST PUT OUR KEYS (or phone) IN ONE BLOODY PLACE SO WE DON'T KEEP LOSING THEM!  We can't comprehend it either. 

After years of trying to track things and be better, and then failing, we sort of start feeling like failures and can't understand why we keep failing, so to stop feeling like a failure we just accept it and quit trying, generally falling into a temporary depression, which we cycle out of once we get re-motivated to really change and get better at things this time (generally in the form of over-committing to something or someone), then of course we forget about it or get overwhelmed by our commitment because we can rarely ever focus long enough to follow through, so we eventually fail and our family is like, why do you keep failing, and we're all, I DON'T KNOW! 

By we, I mean me.

However, now that I know that my brain just functions differently (ha ha, save the jokes, most brilliant writers and scientists are major ADD cases), I am finally able to better avoid forgetfulness, temper expectations of myself (because of the over-committing bug I get), and have learned to let the oh-you-lost-your-phone-again-I'm-soooo-shocked sarcastic comments roll off my back.  But more on that later.

And now that you know that, I can tell you that our family did give the full 20 days.  That I know.  I don't know what we gave or who we gave to now because I've lost track, but for the sake of accountability, I'll keep it at 15 days of giving because that's how far I got in the official blog-tracking process, and my heart and conscience are happy with that.

It did change us.  We're more aware of need and more willing to be aware of need.  It's not easy to ignore it once you see it.  I remember seeing people dig through the trash for food back home all the time and it rarely bothered me.  It grossed me out more than anything.  When I saw it happen not too long ago, I fought back tears.  To be so hungry, so desperate for food that you sit in McDonalds and stalk the trashcan for stranger's leftovers--their trash.  I don't think we could call ourselves true followers of Christ if we saw that and it didn't affect us. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 15

Monday, Monday.  Sometimes they're good, but most of the time I'd rather skip them altogether.

We moved down to Florida knowing James would work very long hours in a very intense, high-stress environment where egos run amuck.  He averages an 11-hour workday.  That means Mama sometimes has to have wine before 6pm to hold her over until Daddy gets home, or until the girls fall asleep.

I was very busy feeling overwhelmed by my case of the Mondays all day.  Isabella was giving me a hard time about school work and Paloma decided she wants to only nap once a day. 

Once the girls fell asleep I was busy rotting my brain on Facebook and saw my step-niece's status update, asking for donations for two families that lost everything, even their cars, in a fire.  One father ran back into his home to rescue the dog and neither him or the dog made it out alive.  Click here for an update on the story.

I clicked on the link.  Browsing the local news site for more information on how or where to donate, I saw an article about a little girl whose body was discovered in a dumpster.  No cause of death had been immediately available, but the article did note that the girl, 7-years-old, had been missing for a few days, had been severely beaten, and, been sexually assaulted.

James and I wrote a check to the families in Colorado and I prayed for the little girl's family, and was oddly moved to pray for her killer.  That was a first for me.  Usually I just hope they rot in hell and move on.

Child and animal neglect and abuse are the most sickening, gut-wrenching crimes to me.  It's something that's even difficult for me to read about or watch on the news.  However, reading the stories brought a sobering, humbling perspective to my self-centered, "woe is me!" frame of mind.

God's blessed us so much.  It's so easy to forget, especially when days are long, the kids aren't obeying my exact orders and poor Hannah just needs to go out once more to pee, right when I want to sit and take a breath. 

It's motherhood.  It's raising a family.  It's hard work.  If my ankle bitters, dog and husband all went away tomorrow, you'd have to spoon-feed me Prozac with a side of Adderall to have me even consider taking another breath without them by my side.  

Day 14

Today was another time day.  A long phone conversation with a friend in DC.

For someone with a such boisterous personality that never had any trouble making friends, it was really, really difficult for me to readjust to life in DC when I moved home from Knoxville, Tenn.  (The Tennessee thing will make more sense after you read this.)  I actually didn't want to move back home at all.  But the job market for someone looking for a career in political journalism isn't exactly happening in Knoxville, so it just wasn't realistic for me to stay there.

Once settled back home, I thought I would pick up where I left off and find a flurry of Christian friends at whatever church I ended up choosing.  I was so wrong.

I don't know what it is about Bible Belt Christians, but it's vastly different from the Christians I found at home.  Sad thing is, I've found I'm not alone in feeling what I can only describe as Christianity culture shock in churches and their communities outside the Bible Belt.  It's just different.

Even as a mom, surrounded by moms on Sundays as we dropped our kiddos off at daycare and Sunday school, I couldn't find or make friends.  I started to think something was wrong with me and fell into depression, in part, from feeling the spiritual isolationI didn't realize it was so difficult for women to make friends.  Let me clarify:  I didn't realize it was so difficult for Christian women to find and make Christian friends.

This post has a happy ending, though.  After what I thought was entirely too long, I finally had a breakthrough with two girls in my small group study of the life-altering, ridiculously phenomenal book, Boundaries.  Through the study, the three of us faced some ugly, ugly issues and insecurities, laughed and cried about them, and bonded.  Post-boundaries, we try our best to keep one another accountable, ensuring we apply what we learned in our lives so we don't go crazy.

But, we all slip up, and subsequently feel like we're going crazy.  Enter long phone conversations since my move to Florida.  We have had to be intentional about our phone dates.  It takes time and commitment, but it's worth it.  Sunday was a commitment night, and it was so worth it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day 13

What a day.

It started early for a Saturday, but no one else takes Hannah to the dog beach if I don't.

I'm not throwing a pity party for myself, in fact it's quite the contrary. Since the chaos of daily life has taken a toll on my diet, I'm no longer at a healthy weight (or can manage to keep myself hydrated enough) to run long distances, and I miss it terribly. I can't think of much that makes me as happy or peaceful as my long runs with Hannah.

When I see her rolling around in the sand on our trips to the dog beach, splashing and swimming in the water, running across green open space to fetch her ball, it's like I'm on the Mount Vernon trail again with her on a brisk morning run.

So, see, no pity party, just an early morning after two or three weeks sans dog beach, which let me sleep in some, which was nice.

Moving on...

I met one of my lifelong friends for dinner tonight. We were partners in crime when I was in high school, going out every night to dance salsa at one of the clubs in downtown DC. I was 17.

It's so nice to just sit and talk to an old friend. Someone who's seen so much of your ugly and insecure and loved you through it all. We'd lost touch throughout most of my 20s (I'm 29), but thankfully through the wonders of Facebook, we reconnected and now live about an hour from each other.

So, even though I had a great time and it wasn't painful, I'm counting that as my giving.

That's the thing, though. Why should giving be painful? Had I thought twice about the drive or having to pick something other than sweats to wear, I could have easily talked myself into staying home and watching the SEC Championship game with James.

Make and give time to good friends.

It's so easy, even for me who's always looking for alone time, to make excuses, push dates aside and say "next time".

We talked about God, boundaries, her crazy allergies to butter, egg and dairy, her little bun in the oven, and of course, our kids.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 12

Thankfully, an opportunity to give came early in the day. 

We met James for what's become our weekly Friday lunch dates at the downtown market.  They have great food (the Wicked Witches food truck sandwiches are to die for), and we always bring home some of Miss Pat's delicious double chocolate chip cookies. 

As we were eating our lunch two kids rolled by in their wheelchairs and asked if we wanted to shoot a basket from a wheelchair to help raise money for the Tampa Paralympics.  Neat little fundraising event, it's called Holiday Hoops for Hope.  For $5 you can see for yourself what it's like to shoot a basket from a wheelchair.  Isabella was thrilled at the opportunity.  Unfortunately, by the time we made it to the table to pay and line up to shoot a basket, they had a presentation of the money they raised or something like that.  I'm not too sure what was going on but we couldn't wait the 20 minutes for it to wrap up because Paloma hadn't taken her morning nap and was nearing a meltdown.  Instead we donated the money and headed home.

I wish Isabella would have gotten a chance to shoot, but at least we got to give.  And, it was also a teachable moment. 

After the kids stopped at our little table to hand us a flyer, I asked her, "We don't really think of it as a blessing that our legs work, huh?"

Silence.  I could see the wheels turning.  She shook her head.

In all honesty, it was a teachable moment for both of us.  It's so easy to get caught up in our own worlds, full of our own problems, mostly oblivious to everything we already have. This isn't to dismiss real problems and issues, it's just that at the very least, we were able to appreciate one of the more overlooked blessings in our lives and appreciate the determination and vigor of kids that go full speed despite facing tangible challenges everyday of their life.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day 11

Another long day today.  I'm going to have to start giving online before the evening rolls around if I don't get to something throughout the day, because I fell asleep reading a book with Isabella.

Days are full of errands, teaching, taking the dog out, exercising the kids, feeding the kids, prepping them for bath and bed, and the list goes on.  My breakfast was a very nutritious Diet Coke.  I had given James a hard time for buying so much soda at the grocery store (it was something like 24 cans for $6), but now I'm sort of glad he did since I didn't have a chance to brew coffee.

The nugget of wisdom today is this:  wake up before everyone else in the house.  It is life-altering.

When I wake up early, have my quiet time and just sit before the day starts, it's a lot easier to get through the day.

I had to go to the store for diapers and some minor groceries, and stop in at Michael's for our Christmas tree supplies.  But diapers, that was No. 1 on the agenda.

Diapers didn't make it into my shopping cart, but everything else did.  It wasn't until James was looking for one to change Paloma that it hit me.  So she has a swimming diaper on for now.  It works.

Keep calm and carry on.

Day 10

I'm not sure whether or not to classify today as a fail.  I feel like I gave a lot all day since Isabella and I picked up our schoolwork today.  That, and I spent more than an hour on the phone with a friend who teaches in an inner city school and had to comfort two of her students break down in class in tears because of problems at home, on top of already being emotionally overwhelmed.  She's an awesome teacher, which naturally makes it hard sometimes to separate emotionally from kids who come from broken homes, dealing with adult problems.

Since the day went by in the blink of an eye, I had planned to donate to a charity online, but I unwittingly  dozed off with Paloma when I put her down for the night. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day Nine

It sometimes freaks me out when God shows up within minutes of me asking Him something.

As the girls and I made our way to Five Guys for some lunch, I was thinking I would maybe take lunch to a homeless person or pay for the meal of the person behind me in line. They sounded like okay ideas, but nothing really struck me.

Waiting for our food, I glanced down at the gift cards and thought, maybe I'll buy a gift card and take it to someone instead of finding a stranger, going up to them and offering to buy them lunch.  That approach made me a little uncomfortable.

I felt like the opportunity was passing when I looked up and saw an older gentleman reading the menu posted on the wall inside the establishment. He was dirty, scruffy and painfully thin. I was nervous, but in my head I heard, "Here ya go, this guy could use something to eat".  So I walked up to him.

"Sir? Can I buy you something to eat?", I asked.

He had bright blue eyes and smelled really bad, but I loved everything about him. He looked a little taken back and confused, then said "sure" in a very low voice. We walked to the cashier and he ordered a cheeseburger with everything on it and a drink. I wished him well and walked out.

The girls and I sat outside to eat our lunch.  I was mostly quiet as I sat there in awe at how, just as I was getting frustrated with myself on how to give and who to give to today, God put the man right in front me.  He needed me and I needed him.  

I almost didn't write this because I liked the thought of keeping it between God, the Five Guys cashier, Isabella and me. But this is what the 20 day challenge is about.  This is why I started blogging again, to share the way this experience would change my heart.  I wanted to document the truth behind God's words in the Bible about giving to others, how it changes your perspective and heart when we're not so focused on ourselves.

I get bored, frustrated or overwhelmed and I shop. Everyday that I've given, I've been happy not to shop. Not just okay with it, happy with it. It's like a weight is lifted off my shoulders and I've found that I can focus on things I might be able to buy for other people.

I've always wanted to be more thoughtful in giving to my mom, sister and friends, but can never focus enough on what to get them, so I give up. Apparently it's a lot easier to shop for others when I'm not interrupting myself with thoughts of things I could buy myself. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day Eight

Toys for Tots had a drop-box inside the Build-a-Bear Workshop in the mall today. When we first went in, Isabella was doing what most 7-year-olds whose parents haven't instilled a great sense of charity in them naturally do, which is ask for everything in the store and make pouty-grumpy face when we say "not today". Mind you, this kid had her Christmas with grandma the day before.  Gifts included, but were definitely not limited to, an iPod Touch paired with a $50 gift card to Best Buy. Yeah.

Isabella jumped at the opportunity when I asked if she would like to instead build a bear for a kid in need.  She chose a very (very) colorful bear to stuff.  It was so sweet to see her so excited to pick out the coolest outfit she could find for the Bessie bear.


We filled out a birth certificate for Bessie on the computer and Isabella wrote, "I hope you feel better. Mery chrismis".  I think she wrote I hope you feel better because we had previously discussed buying thing for and visiting sick children at the hospital.  It was sweet.

 We paid, dropped the Bessie in the Toys for Tots box and were on our way without a complaint.

Once we left I asked her how she felt and she said, "Great! I've never done anything like that before!"

That's when a short bout of parenting guilt set in. She's 7 and has never done anything like this before.  Oops.  But, hey, better late than never! Seeing her joy in giving, without complaining about what she wasn't getting, put a smile on my heart.

Day Seven

On the way home from the grocery store there was a man on the corner selling cold water. His daughters were with him and there was a sign that read "Wife left us. Please help."

He was looking down when I stuck my hand out the window to give him the money. One of his daughters noticed me and said, "Dad!"

He took the money and gave me a water, but I declined it. His face was sunburned and his daughters looked bored. He looked tired.

Can you imagine what his daughters are living through? What if one of their classmates drove by and saw them in that situation?

The economy has wreaked havoc on a lot of people. I forget that a lot. We've been so blessed. I can't think of anyone I know who's lost a house or suffered significant financial setbacks. I lived in Washington, DC up until two months ago, where the job market didn't suffer as much as smaller towns and cities, and the housing market continues to thrive.

It was a quick give for day seven, but their faces will be with me for years to come.

Day Six

Today James and I gave to a close member of his family in need.  And when I say need, I mean need in the Jesus sense.  We gave money and time, and even though we left knowing we did what we could, I walked away with a heavy heart.  Addiction is a stubborn bitch.

It wasn't until I came to know Christ in a personal way that I understood what He and various others in the Bible meant when they talked of the poor.  There are poor people who are rich in spirit, just happy to have what little they have, grateful for everything God has already given them.  And then, there are the lost, the poor in spirit.  People who want so desperately to be better people, but don't know how.  They're so damaged from their past, or so ashamed of things they've done or are doing that they give up, or are overwhelmed at the thought of trying to straighten out.  They're lost.  They don't know what to do or where to go, so they just keep doing what they're doing.  I've been there.

One of the definitions of the word "lost" in is "bewildered as to place, direction, etc.", and it's a feeling I know all too well.  The tossing and turning, wondering what the heck the purpose of my life was, frustrated because nothing could quench the unrest in me.  I didn't know where to go, what to do or who to talk to.  I wasn't perfect so it never occurred to me that I would fit into a Christian church.  I have family members who are Christians and they are the stereotypical, judgmental, holier than thou snots that give so many of us a bad name.  I never felt welcome with them, but I did always feel judged and less of a person around them.

Day Five

Major fail. In my defense, it was Black Friday. Crap defense, I know, especially since I left the mall with some great finds for myself.

My mother-in-law picked me up at 1:30am to drive with her to the mall in Savannah, since all Vidalia has for shopping is Walmart and a small Belk. Before she picked me up she had at Walmart, since 8pm.

Teresa is hardcore on Black Friday. We drove the hour-plus to Savannah and didn't make it back home until noon. She, almost literally, shopped til she dropped. I drove home because she was too sleepy (after 16 hours of shopping) to drive.

So in the madness, helping Teresa pick out clothes, shoes and toys for our girls, getting sucked into shopping for myself, and tracking down an 8G iPod Touch for Isabella, I failed. I did help Teresa give our girls awesome gifts. Maybe somehow that counts. I'm guessing no.

The rest of the day I slept, ate, and slept again. At least I think so. It's all a blur now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Day Four

While there was good motivation to give this day, I wish there wasn't a need for the organization I gave to, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

We were all enjoying time with family at our usual Thanksgiving spot when a sweet dog approached a few of the kids. Well of course I was drawn to the cute thing and went up to pet her. I was heartbroken to see that she was riddled with big, fat ticks. My heart fell to my stomach.

I came out of the womb a dog lover. I wanted to start a dog rescue in Mexico because it killed me to see dogs getting kicked when they'd beg food vendors for food. As a first generation American, I spent my summers and Christmases vacationing there with my parents and their immediate family. Some of my best memories are there, except for when I think about all the homeless dogs I had to leave behind each time.

James pulling ticks of Sadie.
But back to Sadie (that's what I named her). My husband was nice enough to pick all the ticks off her. I say nice enough because he grew up in the country, where most dogs aren't even allowed in the house. To this city girl, that borders animal cruelty. Okay, I'm kidding. I donated to ASCPA not PETA.

I knocked on a door and asked about Sadie. The nice lady dropped her head as she shook it and told me Sadie probably belonged to her neglectful neighbors. Sadie's condition and super submissive demeanor pointed to that being an accurate description of them.

She went on to say that if there was a place she could call to report them for neglect she would, but that there wasn't anything like that in Wheeler County. My heart sank again. I think it was at my feet by that point.

My hands were tied. The car was full and there wasn't any room for Sadie to come with us so we could at least find her a shelter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Days 1-3

Since I am about at my wit's end with Blogpress deleting the saved drafts on my iPhone, this will be quick since I've already written it three times.

Day One
I gave my time when I wanted nothing more than a nap with the baby when my cousin called for our scheduled phone date. I literally can't find time for spurofthemoment calls when I'm usually always running around with the kids.

In the end, those almost two hours on the phone were so worth it. My sweet cousin is also a baby Christian and it wasn't until Monday that we were able to exchange stories about how we came to know Christ. As lifelong Roman Catholics up until that point, it was definitely interesting to hear the similarities in both trying to know God as Catholics, then having that burden lifted off our shoulders when we found Him.

Monday, November 21, 2011

20 Days of Giving

Just in time for the holidays we're studying The Genius of Generosity in Sunday school.  Yesterday we were challenged to do or give something to someone everyday for 20 days and note the progress.  So, after putting off this blog for entirely too long, I've decided this is the perfect opportunity to start writing again, even if it isn't what I thought I would be writing about.

As a matter of fact, I didn't know what to write about, which is why I hadn't blogged for so long.  Would I blog about motherhood, my new adventures in homeschooling our 7-year-old,  politics, life in general, or maybe about trying to be a Proverbs 31 wife.  I didn't want to be limited myself to one subject, but I also didn't want to have an aimless forum that could easily turn into mindless venting, which would inevitably leave me feeling frustrated and/or justified in feeling sorry for myself.  Me, me, me!   That's what I don't want this to be about.

While I'm not a wise old soul, I find it amazing that that is exactly who God wants us to become in our short lives on this earth.  He wants us so desperately to be full of His wisdom, to know how much we mean to Him, and to spread that love and knowledge to others.