The question of “deserving.”

Something pretty monumental happened over the weekend: I got a “new” car.

IMG_0635

I know purchasing a 3-year-old SUV is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But it’s a huge deal in our family. For me, it’s largely a huge deal because now I’m living with GUILT.

Guilt because we doubled our car payment. Guilt because it’s a very luxurious model, with very few miles on it. Guilt because the SUV I was driving was perfectly reliable and met my basic needs. Guilt because we bought the new one from a reputable, big-name seller.

Really, what all that guilt boils down to is the question of “deserving.” It’s not a word I like; not a word I would ever assign to others. In general I think it’s rare that anyone actually gets what they “deserve.” I look at the people we serve here at the urban Community Assistance Center where I work – these folks deserve a good education, safety, health care, adequate food, dignity. But in our society they don’t get much, if any,  of that.

On the other hand, look at what our White House administration and congressional leaders have. Power, wealth, fame, comfort. I can’t honestly say a damn one of those people deserve it.

And then, too, what is wrong with us (largely us in the U.S., I suspect) that so much of our identity and self-esteem is tied up in what kind of vehicle we drive? It’s pretty disgusting, really.

I’ve only ever owned one new-ish car in my life, 30 years ago, post-wedding and pre-kids. Every other car I’ve ever had charge of was a risk to drive every day. I never knew when I might end up at the side of the road needing a tow. Until my last SUV, that is, which was ten years old but ran perfectly. In other words, this is the first time I’ve ever replaced a car that wasn’t a danger to myself and others. The first time I’ve ever bought a car simply because I wanted something nicer. Bottom line, I recognize my own privilege, which I’ve done nothing to deserve.

GUILT.

But…oh, that smooth ride. No symphony of rattles from every interior piece of plastic. The seat warmers. The remote start and power lift gate, the rear view camera and voice- activated bluetooth. Pure hedonism.

So…can I let go of the guilt and just enjoy my new ride? Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Make it what you want it to be.

IMG_0628

Tomorrow is a new holiday, and you may not have heard of it yet.  It’s “Darryl Appreciation Day.”

Here’s how this fledgling celebration day came about:

See, in my new place of work there’s some pretty ugly politics coupled with some severely bad leadership. Some of the crap that’s been pulled even in the short time I’ve been there created a strong bond between one colleague and myself, after an incident in which we stood up to the perpetrator of said evils. Kelly and I (she of my previous post, Like Chalk Drawings in a Rainstorm) in particular came out on the other side of that incident good friends. Afterward, we agreed that the best way to stick it out until that person retires later this year was to do everything we could to make the organization into the kind of place what we want it to be.

One of our co-workers, whom I especially appreciate, receives no respect from our organization’s “leader.” Darryl works in our warehouse, keeping the food pantry stocked, getting incoming shipments and donations stored properly, helping our senior clients out with their monthly commodity boxes. Darryl is also the guy I turn to several days out of every week to help me get large, heavy items in and out of the back of my SUV; donations I’ve picked up to save the donors a trip downtown, bins of sack lunches that groups have made for us to give away to neighbors; more bins of sack lunches we’re able to share with other local organizations for their own hungry neighbors. Darryl has saved me a lot of back pain over the last six months, and his sense of humor brightens my day every time I see him.

I mentioned to Kelly today that I wanted to do a little something for Darryl. I was thinking of baking him some cookies. But Kelly doesn’t do anything by halves. In no time, “Darryl Appreciation Day” was born.

Kelly’s an artist. She created a gorgeous invitation for Darryl to his special celebration: lunch in my office, cooked by the two of us. She’s making a banner to honor him, and my dear husband got into the act by supplying the the gifts: items from his stash of brand new tools he has on hand simply because they were too good a deal to turn down, and some of his own favorite snack foods. We’re calling it “Darryl’s commodity box.”

Kelly and I were texting about the event this evening, and we concocted a plan to create an “Appreciation Day” holiday for each of our coworkers over time.

In our current world, there’s nothing in the news besides jaw-dropping acts of cruelty and greed. The events of the last year have taken a toll on my emotional state, as I know they have to some of yours.

It’s good therapy to create love and healing where we can.

 

Like a chalk drawing in a rain storm.

mary poppins

Today a colleague and good friend got into the office a bit late. Kelly came straight to my office, sat on my little sofa, buried her head in her hands, and started sobbing.

Had she been in a wreck? Had an argument at home? Gotten some bad news?

I joined her on the sofa and patted her back, and quickly her story came out.

This morning the temperature here in Kansas City was below zero F, with a wind chill of -18. As my friend had come into the building, she brushed past a woman who was just leaving; she’d come in to ask for one of the sack lunches we give out to folks who need them to get through the day. This woman had nothing over her clothing but a thin bed sheet wrapped around her shoulders. No coat. No gloves. No hat.

Turned out, she didn’t speak English. Kelly managed to get the message across that she should stay put for a moment. She dashed to our warehouse, where we have a few coats left from our charity Christmas shop in December, at which low income families come to pick out gifts for everyone living in their household, free of charge. All she could find was a men’s coat, but she hurried back to the waiting room with it. The woman accepted the coat, with tears and many repetitions of “Gracias!”

It seems like a happy ending. So why was my friend so distraught? I knew without asking, but she said it anyway.

“What we do is just chalk drawings in a rain storm.”

She’s right.

Kelly and I have had this conversation before. One day in December she and I made Christmas gift deliveries to seven of our agency’s homebound clients. It was an afternoon of driving through neighborhoods we’d never dare visit after dark. So much need. So little hope. Poor schools. No grocery stores. Few jobs. Very effectively segregated, 60 years after the civil rights movement.

We wished we could feel good that afternoon, making Christmas a little brighter for seven individuals/families. Instead we finished the day emotionally exhausted and incredibly discouraged. How many hundreds of crumbling homes did we pass by that day, where that same help – and more – is needed?

The church-backed nonprofit organization Kelly and I are employed by does excellent work. It’s a well-respected force for good in our city. Even though there are significant down sides to my new job, I’m thankful to be there, doing work that I know is meaningful to the people we’re able to touch. And yet, no matter how much good we do, it’s only a tiny drop in a distressingly enormous bucket.

Charity is not enough. It will never, ever be enough in this greedy capitalist nation. It will never, ever be enough as long as our government officials follow the cruel philosophy of Ayn Rand (I’m looking at you, Paul Ryan) and Confederate heroes (I’m looking at you, Jefferson Beauregard  Sessions III). Nothing will be righted until every single child in many successive generations receives a top-notch education. Until every single person of every color, religion, sexual orientation, and gender expression has the same economic rights, the same voting rights, the same dignity.

Until that day comes, we watch the chalk drawings we hastily scribble on the sidewalk wash away with every rainstorm.

 

 

 

 

Still Mom.

When I first chose a title for this blog, it struck me that “Mom Goes On” worked in more than one way. At the time, I was trying to figure out what to do with myself as two of my three flew the nest. Then, too, I was discovering that the “mom life” does’t end just because the kids are turning into adults.

Here we are more than four years later, and I’m still finding it true: My “mom life” is still a bit part of what I do and who I am.

A bit of a family update (or news flash, if you’re a new reader finding your way here):

Oldest is nearing the completion of her doctorate. By the end of this year she’ll be taking her next step, probably post-doc work – we just don’t know where yet. But it’s looking more and more likely she’ll try to settle in the Chicago area, with her boyfriend (and soon to be fiance, we expect.) Happy, healthy, and successful. No small accomplishment for a young woman in science research, which is notoriously unfriendly to females. I’m thrilled to report that she and I still text daily. Sometimes because she actually needs her mama, and more often because we have something funny to share. There’s nothing like truly liking your own children.

The middle sister still lives at home, and I hope she never leaves. She’s an awesome housemate, and great fun to hang out with. After teaching in an urban middle school for over a year, she realized quite unexpectedly that she’d made a serious mistake in her career choice. And made the very brave decision to stop teaching. It’s no easy thing to work your ass off for a goal (she graduated summa cum laude with a double major of education and English), only to discover it’s entirely wrong for you. It was a traumatic time in our household when all that came down, I can tell you. Every mom skill I ever possessed came into play in order to talk her down from that metaphorical ledge and help her move on.

Youngest is at home, too, for his first year of teaching. Choral music conducting jobs were in short supply last spring, so he settled for another of his loves and is teaching high school physics for now. Bigger news: He became engaged over Christmas break, and is starting an apartment search – he and his fiancee will live together for a year or so before the wedding. It’s lovely, though a huge surprise that the youngest is the first to take that leap It’s funny how this kid operates. He’s a closed book most of the time, but then he’ll suddenly pose a serious question whose answer has major consequences, and want my opinion and advice. I’ve loved having him back with us for a short time before he leaves the nest entirely for a new life with his love. And that brings another one into the fold, a young woman who, IMHO, could use some supportive parenting.

I’ll never stop missing the days when they were all at home and we were one cohesive unit. But there are many joys to this stage of life; not the least of which is knowing that we all still care about and take care of each other.

The mom life is still good.

 

 

Cold+Snow+Ice=Binge Watching.

pexels-photo-355403.jpeg

It’s the first winter in quite a while that we’ve had seriously cold weather for any length of time here in the Midwest of the U.S. There are a lot of negatives to this type of winter; dead car batteries, icy sidewalks, the extra time and inconvenience of rounding up gloves, hats, and scarves and then trying to arrange them all properly so you don’t look like the abominable snowman.

But there’s one huge advantage to this arctic weather, especially for rabid introverts like me. It’s the perfect excuse to stay inside with a cup of tea, a blanket, a book, and some binge-watching.

Here’s what’s been on my screens in the last couple of months:

The Great British Bake-off  Multiple people had been urging me to watch, but it wasn’t until our oldest got hooked that I gave it a try. She had occasion to be home from the east coast for three separate visits in the space of a month, and with the younger sister we O.D’d on all four seasons that are available on Netflix. Mocking and disdaining Paul’s tool-y-ness. Enjoying Mary’s calm, coolness while abhorring every dessert challenge she sets the bakers. Seriously, those Genoise sponges and marangues are way too much work for a “treat” that appears, at the least, boring, and more likely quite nasty. Best of all, the camaraderie and kindness of the bakers. It’s pure escapism, something quite needed and healing in our current times.

Poldark   A few months ago I subscribed to our local PBS station and received a “Passport” membership, meaning we now have access to back episodes of many excellent series. You. Must. Do. This. Soooooo worth it. To be honest, we only tuned in to Poldark in order to salivate over Aiden Turner’s brooding and smoldering. For the first two series, that was almost all the show had going for it. Oddly, though, season 3 was immeasurably improved in writing and plotting. Still, eye candy is the main draw; not just Turner’s gorgeous eyes, but also the beauty of the windswept Cornish coast.

Turn  We’re only two episodes into the final season, and looking forward to seeing how the American Revolution turns out. This one is a masterpiece in every way; acting, writing, casting, music, and cinematography. I’m an early American history buff, and have read “Washington’s Spies,” from which the series is drawn. Oldest has a good friend who hales from Setawket, where much of the action of the spy ring took place, and she visited there last summer.

Once “Turn” is finished, we’ll be looking for our next binge – it looks like we’re in for plenty more winter. Suggestions welcome – what are you watching recently?

 

Glimmer of hope.

pexels-photo-311391.jpeg

I had a working coffee date yesterday afternoon that unexpectedly reminded me of one of the reasons I stepped away from blogging.

That sounds like a negative comment, but the meeting was anything but negative. Quick summary: The organization I work for offers financial education classes a couple of times a year to clients who are making real strides in moving toward stability. The kids belonging to these folks need a safe place to be for the two Saturdays their parents are in class, and one of my duties as Volunteer Coordinator is to find groups that will provide a day for the kids that includes supervision, activities, and lunch.

Finding volunteers to take on this type of task is where my 13 years in local ministry comes in handy. (DISCLAIMER for any new readers out there: my background is in leftist, progressive theology. For my own peace of mind I always make that fact clear.) I have a lot of relationships I can leverage, and I have enough street cred that I’m able to build a lot of new partnerships. In this instance I reached out to the youth director of a church I’ve worked with in the past.

Chris is…awesome. To look at him, you’d think he’s the stereotypical super-hip fundamentalist pastor-type. (If you have much background in church work, you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t, watch this hilarious but all-to-realistic parody.) In fact, that’s Chris’s history. But he had an epiphany somewhere in young adulthood, and is now among the most “woke” guys I know.

So Chris and I were discussing the plans for his group’s day of supervising 14 kids from rough neighborhoods and traumatic backgrounds. One concern I had was that he was bringing teens and adults from a super-affluent suburban church to manage this event, and these well-meaning folks might be a little…ummm…shocked by the challenges of hanging out for a day with the urban kids they were charged with.

Chris reminded me, though, of where he’s at and where his ministry is at. He’s heavy-duty involved with issues of racial justice, and he’s brought his youth group along with him on the journey. The work they do together involves examining their privilege and learning to respond with love and grace to injustice. It’s an uphill battle, as these teens’ parents are largely coming from the extremely opposite ideological stance.

Our talk about the day of the financial education class quickly moved on to how we’re coping with the brutal ugliness of the current U.S. president and the ass-kissers in the White House and Congress who let him get away with sickeningly unacceptable words and actions (it was the day after the “s**t-hole countries” comment). Chris described to me the night of November 8, 2016, when his kindergarten daughter went to bed thrilled that she’d helped her mama vote for “the girl,” and how proud she was going to be when she woke up to the first woman president. Choking back tears (yes, over a year later it still makes me cry) I shared my own traumatic memories of that night.

It was an emotional way to end the week. I made a conscious effort to take away with me, though, the glimmer of hope that comes from the work my friend Chris does with his teens to change attitudes; the work he’s doing to change the world.

To come full circle, how did all this remind me of one of the reasons I quit blogging? The problem is, I can’t not write about the despicable and deliberate damage being done to our nation by those in charge. By voters who could sweep race-baiting, sexual assault, and lying under the rug and still vote for the person who is now our 45th president.

It’s on my mind every moment of every day. I continue to go about the everyday life tasks of managing a full-time job, a house, and a family. But looming constantly in the background is a deep and abiding disgust and fear that can’t help but come out in my writing. And I figure readers probably don’t want to hear that in every post.

But here I am, at it again. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

 

Catching up

pexels-photo-783998.jpeg

 

So…how do you catch up on a year’s worth of life?

Maybe you don’t. But since jumping back into the old blog last night, I’ve been contemplating the question. Final decision: Just do it. (Thank you to whatever advertising genius came up with that line.)

And maybe I’ll just do a little catching up with each post. First detail: I’ve changed jobs/careers, and am now working at a place where I’m forced (really, that’s not too strong a word for it) to take an hour for lunch every day. Since it takes me about 15 minutes to eat, guess what I now have time to do between noon and one?

So, for friends who remember me, let’s pretend we’re sitting down over a cup of coffee and get started gabbing. Here’s the scoop: After working for 13 years for a large, affluent, white church in the suburbs, last August I took a job with a church-affiliated social service agency in the urban core of Kansas City. Not only had I had it up to HERE (picture the height of last year’s solar eclipse) with serving the white and privileged, but the leadership in our congregation had gotten so god-awful I simply couldn’t take it any more. My self-confidence had been so shattered by having every my idea shot down by the “man in charge” that I was almost surprised when the new place snapped me up within a week of my sending my resume.

And now, here I am downtown every day, Volunteer Coordinator for an organization that serves marginalized populations. Most of my work is a step removed from the actual service, but I contribute heavily to keeping the machine working. And just often enough I do get to personally serve the folks we exist here to serve. I’m learning new skills, too – have been trying my hand at grant writing, and have brought in over $50,000 to the organization in the 5 1/2 months I’ve been here.

It’s not perfect. I knew going into this new job that it was a risk. Lower pay, long commute, tons of weekend overtime, no flex time, and a new “man in charge” who’s just as bad at leadership as the old one. I’d worked with the organization enough in my old position that I knew what I was walking into. But there are many, many pluses. More about that down the line.

There. Post written, and fifteen minutes left of enforced lunch time – enough time to read a few friends’ writings.

It’s good to be back.

Testing, testing. 1-2-3

 

music-sound-communication-audio.jpgIt’s been a while since I’ve visited the blogging world. A long while. Like almost a year.

The blog life has been tapping on my shoulder for a couple of months now. A little whisper in my ear: “Hey, remember me, the blog you used to post on Every. Single. Day.? Remember all the friends you left behind? What about us?”

And today, on a whim, I listened. I clicked the little WordPress icon on my favorites bar. And discovered sparkling gems of writing from some of my favorite blog friends. (Hi, April! I’m back…I think!)

As much as I would love to spend hours and hours reading through the last year of posts from all those friends, I know I’ll never have time. I’ll try to catch up a little, and I’ll hope to renew some relationships.

Life looks a little different these days – the passage of time and the complete deterioration of our democracy has created a few more grey hairs; more wrinkles; more bruises; a lot of sleepless nights.

There’s so much to share and so much to hear.

Can’t wait.

 

Adventures in housecleaning.

Shopping basket with detergent bottles isolated on white

Confession: my own cleaning supplies are not this attractive and neatly arranged.

I am, by default, the main cleaner in our household.

The Husband doesn’t notice dirt OR clutter. When The Boy is home, he has the same blind eye (though, oddly, I’ve noticed he keeps his dorm bedroom and bathroom spotless. Hmmmm…) Middle regularly assists with everyday kitchen cleanup, but she’s so preoccupied by her first year of teaching that a clean, tidy environment isn’t at the top of her list.

I, on the other hand, am pathologically averse to clutter and go around tidying and putting things away every moment I’m home. Historically the actual cleaning bit has never been as important to me – until November 9, when our nation became so filthy and disgusting that I became compulsive about keeping my own, safe nest immaculate. Not joking.

So…today as I worked through my Saturday task list, I came across a couple of fascinating (?) details:

img_1963

It’s a complete mystery to me how “low” can be a lower setting than “bare,” which means, presumably, “bare floor.” Is this a setting for vacuuming in a trench? Who’s doing that?

No photo for this one, and you’ll thank me:

I’d like to hand it to whatever male in our household is capable of creating pee stains clear away from the toilet, next to the baseboard. And by “it” I mean a package of antibacterial surface wipes.

Thank goodness I’m done with my compulsive cleaning for the day.