Saturday, November 27, 2010

'Tis better to give than to eat yourself into a stupor

Thanksgiving means many things.

Turkey! Stuffing! My mother's apple and pomegranate salad! Pumpkin pie!

But for my family, Thanksgiving means more than a big meal of delicious food.

For the past 12 years, we have all piled into the car and headed off to a local senior center, where we load the car with turkey dinners and all the trimmings.

We would then drive -- all of us, or as many as could fit -- around town, delivering these meals to homebound seniors.

We began this holiday tradition years ago -- after a terrible time in our lives -- when my kids were having a pity party about how cruelly life had treated them. Yes, we had had to sell our house and move to "lesser" digs. Yes, we had to count our pennies. But also yes, we had a roof over our heads and food on our table and the love of family to keep us warm.

At that time, I sought a project that would remind them how precious life is and how lucky they still were ... and are. A tradition was born.

Which brings us to this year, when I was regrettably late in answering the call at the senior center. So many people have jumped on the volunteer bandwagon that their roster of drivers was full. There was no room for us.

So I consulted the internet to find another appropriate give-and-you-shall-receive project to continue to remind my children that, whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, we have much to be grateful for.

And boy, did I find one.

Every year, this one organization collects food, clothing, toiletries, whatever they can get their hands on. They gather in a rather unsavory part of town, where they put together meals; ziplock bags of toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, toothpaste; and bags of shirts, jackets, pants, beanies, whatever else comes their way.

They then load it all into the cars of willing volunteers who drive around the area and offer all of the above to people living on the streets.

This was a memorable experience, let me tell you.

We started out intending to volunteer to pack meals in the assembly line and ended up in the line to receive a load of Thanksgiving meals in our trunk.

Yes, Wonderhubby, the Roo-girl, Z-man, Drummer and I spent several hours driving around in parts of town where I never ever go on purpose, looking for people on the street who might be hungry and in need.

It wasn't as easy as you might think, since there are armies of people setting up tables in parks and on city streets to deliver meals to the homeless. Many of the people we saw were already carrying styrofoam boxes filled with holiday food.

Also, as we drove around, we had to carefully assess who was truly homeless, as opposed to those who just might be truly weird.

"Oh," said Drummer, putting it all in perspective in his inimitable way, "so ... we're profiling."

We laughed out loud after he said that, but actually, we truly were profiling, in a way -- assessing the people we saw based on attire, hair, posture and whether they were pushing a grocery cart filled with "treasure."

The first time we found someone we knew would need what we had to offer, Wonderhubby pulled the car over, and we all looked at each other. No one moved.

"Pffffft," I said, opening my door and getting out of the car.

"Pffffft," said Roo, literally climbing over her brothers to get out of the back seat and out of the car.

The two of us together approached the man with food and toiletries in hand.

"Are you hungry," Roo asked the man. "Would you like some food for Thanksgiving?"

"Yes," the man said, as we reached forward and handed him our wares. "Thank you so much."

"You have a very good Thanksgiving, my friend," said my daughter to the bedraggled man.

"Thank God there are people like you in the world," said the man to my daughter.

Roo and I walked back to the car together and smiled at each other.

We delivered all of our meals. Roo and I did the heavy lifting, but the hours we spent in the car as a family driving around on our quest were as meaningful as the act of charity itself.

Later, we had our own Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. But our own full bellies were not nearly as important as the bellies we had filled that morning.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Give me a Y. Give me an A. Give me a Y!

The high school football season is over.

For us, anyway.

Praise the Lord and pass the pom-poms.

Actually, the truth is that I do enjoy my Friday nights with the cheerleaders. As the official team photographer, I have privileges that mere mortals don't have -- a field pass, which brings me up close and personal to my daughter and her teammates.

The past week -- the final game -- was a dismal display on the football field. But those of us on the sidelines enjoyed it thoroughly. Me probably more than most as the girls were funny and loose and more than willing to pose for the camera.

"Janet! Take my picture!"

"Janet! Take a picture of US!"

"Janet! Shoot us. Shoot a juniors-only picture!"

And my favorite ever:

"Mom! Take OUR picture!"

Yes, the Roo-girl was happy to have me there, with my camera clicking away, posing for photo after photo with her buddies.

The stupid smile on my face was legendary.

And then she said it.

"Mom, can you believe it? The next time I cheer at a football game, I'll be a SENIOR!"



Oh. My. Baby.

If you need me, I'll be over here, curled up in a ball, weeping quietly.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I now pronounce you ... an adult????

When you have children, you spend a lot of time trying to keep them safe.

Most of the time, that means trying to save them from themselves.

"The stove is HOT. Don't touch."

"Careful. You'll poke your eye out with that stick."

"Don't fight with your brother."

It can be taken to extremes, which is how the helicopter mom is born. The child is never allowed to make a decision or a move without the hovering parent.

I'm not that kind of parent. I firmly believe that children need to make mistakes and, therefore, learn from it. Sometimes, they actually have to touch the hot stove to figure it out.

Don't misunderstand me. I do fight battles for my kids. I am their champion and their biggest ally. But sometimes I have to look them right in the eye and say something along the lines of  "You made your bed; now lie in it."

My oldest son is ADHD and, as a youngster, always had a tendency to act without considering consequences. Not because he was malicious, but because he couldn't always generalize the rules. You could tell him not to eat the daisies, but that didn't mean he couldn't or wouldn't eat the roses.

And so I used these immortal words, over and over and over and over:

"Stop. Think. Choose."

He reminded me of this the other night at dinner. I was amused  at the memory.

I'm no longer amused.

Because in an amazing display of "Act like a moron and then put your head up your butt," my youngest son is at the intersection of "What were you thinking?" and "Are you freakin' kidding me?"

I'm not going to give details, but rest assured he had multiple opportunities to solve a small blunder and repeatedly --  REPEATEDLY -- failed to do so.

His abject stupidity stuns me, and  the results are that this small blunder has escalated into something that could destroy his world.

And while I will continue to offer counsel and some of the assistance necessary to attempt to resolve it,  it's time for Mr. "I'm 21 -- I'm an adult" to learn to navigate these troubled waters himself.

So today, I find that the best I have to offer is this:

"Wow. It sucks to be a grownup."
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