Dear Audrey

Dear Audrey,

At this point in my life I would have been almost done. Mae is going to kindergarten in the fall and I would have made it. All that free time to teach and do things and watch Netflix all day if I wanted to, but then you came along and now freedom has been pushed back by two years.

And three and a half years ago, when I knew that was my new reality, I took pause.

Okay, I totally freaked out.

But it wasn’t you I was freaking out about it was me. Seriously. I didn’t even know how I had managed to birth and partially raise three kids, let alone throwing in a fourth.

But I did.

And here’s the thing: you were the easiest to add in.

Now, Luca still gets the prize of best baby ever because he didn’t peep, he slept, he snuggled, and he got teeth without making my life hell.

But adding him in was another story. Claire was miserable at first about it. She wanted him shipped back. And while it took about three months for her to get over the fact that he wasn’t going anywhere, the second we showed you to your big siblings, they all melted for you. Especially your big brother. You have been the most loved child ever. So while I was super upset in the beginning about the thought of another baby, knowing YOU and seeing YOU changed my whole life for the better.

Now you’re three. You proudly announced that to the hostess when we went out for lunch today. You were bouncing up and down holding up five fingers screaming, “I FREE!”

You have two volumes: loud and louder. You also have two settings: happy and go away. When you go into your sound making go away mode, dad calls you AB, because the sounds you make rival that of the characters from Angry Birds. But you look him square in the eye and say, “I’m not AB, daddy! I’m Aud-ee.”

Sorry it’s a hard name to pronounce. Not to mention the fact that we hardly call you that, rather, you’re mostly called Podge, Audgie, and AB. It’s okay if you end up with a little bit of an identity crisis because we’re already saving up for future therapy bills.

Kidding.

Mostly.

So in your short, yet very long three years, you have most definitely completed our family. Aside from possibly adding in new animals down the road, we’ve reached our limit. That’s not to say you’ve been awful, quite the contrary; why would we add in another when we ended on a high note?

And I’m okay with the fact that I have another two years before I can do some serious Netflix binges or whatever else I’ll be doing during the day, because we have a lot of adventures coming our way. You’re very lucky to be the last kid. I now see what life is like to have most of my kids away at school and I miss them, so we have to make sure to end your toddler years with a bang. I’m seeing hikes and day trips in our future complete with a single jogger so we can fly.

I never imagined in all my wildest dreams that I’d ever be a mother to four kids, but here we are. And we’ve got our stuff together. You are by and far the greatest surprise I have ever received. Even more than the Skip-It I got for Easter when I was 8. That thing was awesome.

If I could wish anything for you, it would be to continue to look up to your siblings. While you do in fact have large steps to follow, that’s not what I’m getting at. Let them teach you and show you and help you – But don’t let them do for you. You, at three years old, are already more capable than I had ever imagined. The world is yours, anything you want to be or do, you can. How do I know this? Because, dear daughter, you are half me and half your dad, and we work hard and have overcome some big stuff, so we know that there’s no stopping you.

Go out there and smile, and be brave, and be kind, because by just doing those things you could possibly change the world for someone. It may just be you.

Love,
Mama

Dear Mae

You said to me the other day that as soon as you turned 5, you didn’t need naps anymore. Just let you go being awake all day, and it’ll be just fine.

So we tried it out, and for two days you were the grumpiest, most tired little human. You weren’t very pleasant to be around, you know. So we instead came to the understanding that naps during the week days are good, weekend naps are optional. You seem okay with that.

Except when you’re not.

Now that you’re five, when you introduce yourself anywhere we go, it’s “Hi! I’m Maelie. I’m five! I’m going to kindergarten this year!” But before that, on the day you turned 5, you couldn’t understand why we were dropping you off at preschool.

“MOM. DAD. I’m FIVE now. Why am I still in preschool?”

Of course explaining it to you, that while you may be five now, you can’t just jump into the middle of the school year, you looked at me like I had ten heads, and seemed mildly irritated, but you shrugged your shoulders and marched off to school.

There are about a million things I want to tell you, but you already know them. From the moment you were born, you’ve been that child of mine that has a natural understanding of everything. And while, of course, I have to still stop and explain things to you, most times I’m halfway through explaining and you’re all, “Yup, mom, I’m good now, got it,” and run off while I’m standing there thinking, but do you? 

You probably do.

Despite the fact that I have to remind you at least 20 times a day to put the cat down, or brush your hair, or not to leave your shoes in the middle of the floor, or for god’s sake put the cat down, you know your stuff. It took you all of 5 minutes to figure out how to play Monkey Math and now I can ask you basic math questions and you fire them back as quickly as I ask them.

You also, have gained my awesome skills of memorization. However, remember that memorizing a word doesn’t mean you can read it. Seriously. Learn from me. I figured that out the hard way.

But I do love your ‘reading’ of Captain Underpants. Your animation and different voices for different characters is probably the best part.

You have also learned to be a very good big sister. One thing was for sure, well before Audrey, you never acted like the youngest. You needed someone to boss around. Now, Audrey really doesn’t like being bossed, so you have figured out how to get her to do things she otherwise wouldn’t want to do, simply by making it seem as though she came up with the brilliant plan. You especially stick to that story when I don’t think it’s a very brilliant plan and yell.

You’re always singing or dancing or ‘being fabulous.’ It’s rare that you’re ever in a bad mood. I mean, you can be, and when you are, watch out, but usually you’re all smiles and positivity.

I learn a lot about you just by watching what you do. You’re very social, but don’t mind playing alone. When someone says something mean to you, you typically shrug it off. Especially your brother. You don’t take much personally, you just smile and go about your day. There are times I wish I could be more like you. Your directness and your lack of caring what other people think. I mean, I know you’re only five, but at this point, most kids get upset when someone isn’t nice to them. Not you. You find someone else to play with instead. To heck with them, then.

I love you, Maelie. From the movement I met you, I have loved you. With your big eyes and even bigger personality, you have a way of naturally lighting up a room simply by being present.

Every year I say this, and every year I mean this:

You’re the sweetest, most incredible little five year old I know. Please don’t ever change. You can grow, but don’t change who you are. Because as I always say, Miss Mae, who you are is my very favorite thing.

Happy (belated) birthday.

Love,
Mom

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never be too busy to call your mom

In a time of loss, I’m often reminded of the finality of it all. There’s no take backs once you die. When it’s someone older than you, you suddenly realize that you’ve never known a day without that person in your life, no matter how close the relationship was. Fact is, once someone dies, the world continues on, and it’s the living that has to figure out how to continue on without them.

I have bear witness to that moment when the soul leaves the body, the time when patients have been so far gone they begin to mutter to things they see in their mind, past spouses and parents, saying they are coming home. I have been the one to call a family member saying they need to come soon. I have been the person to have that family member sign the authorization for release of the body form. I have bathed the bodies postmortem and prepared them for the morgue. I’m good at being that person. I find that death isn’t scary when the dying is ready for it. However, I’m also detached from the situation. I’m a professional. So in that aspect, death is all in a day’s work, no matter how hard the loss may be to the family. I fill out my forms, say all the necessary pleasantries, and clock out at the end of the day.

But still, as I stand there in the room where life was once present, I can’t help but wonder, where do we go?

Last month, Matt’s grandma passed. We knew it was coming, and everyone was able to see her once more before she went, but the family was still heartbroken.

It’s then, when someone dies, that you suddenly realize how much you really didn’t know about a person. You find the obituary to be incredibly informative. And then you wonder, should you have known more? Taken more time? Called more often?

I have known and seen loss many times in my life both professionally and personally. I know not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could talk to my friends just one more time, but the truth is, I don’t even know what I’d say.

Today, and every day, the world loses amazing people. Most of the time, we never see it coming. So I guess the point I’m trying to make is, talk to them now, while you can. Make a point to meet for a quick lunch. Even a stupid emoji text is enough to let someone know you love them, or at least that you care.

Today I am mourning for my sister’s loss. And if she happens to read this, I hope she knows that she was the best granddaughter a woman could have ever asked for. You always called and wrote and visited. You were exactly the woman your grandma hoped you would be. Don’t question if you didn’t do enough. You were perfect. She loved you the best.

My heart hurts

My heart hurts. Every day it hurts. When I think of the first graders murdered in their classrooms. When a video about children refugees doing what their parents tell them to, as they flee a war-torn country. When I read articles about students with lunch debts having their lunches tossed or getting cheese on bread as a meal. It hurts.

It hurts every day that I see someone posting a hate-driven article with mostly incorrect facts as law, without fact checking for themselves. That people call other people who are here illegally, “illegals” instead of human beings. That women are being called whores and murderers when they seek a safe abortion for reasons that are only their business.

It hurts when I see on the news about a dog being abused, choked, muzzle duct taped shut, or starved. When I read about a cat being used as a chew toy and having rocks thrown at it by children. When people spend thousands of dollars at a breeder when there are thousands of animals awaiting for homes for less than 200 dollars.

When I hear about kids being made fun of for what they wear, when they can’t help that their parents can’t afford something different. When the elementary school has to send out backpacks every Friday to some kids filled with food for the weekend, because that’s the only meal they’ll get until school is back in session on Monday. When a child is bullied because they read or write their words backwards. (I feel for you, kid.)

I get sad at the hypocrisy of it all. The couch warriors who retweet hateful things, repost a meme that spews anger and lies, and yet do nothing to make it better. Just bitch about it for the sake of bitching, and then feed off their friends who are also bitter about it, and further feed the cancer of hate. And the comment section on most any post about anything is just a mess. “Here’s a really extreme one case situation that makes my point for me, that’s probably false anyway,” pretty much sums it up, as my friend said to me.

It’s enough to make me want to swear off all of social media. But I don’t, and I won’t.

In my life I have chosen to surround myself with people who are doers. And even if they aren’t so much doers, they are listeners to all sides and fact checkers. People who make it their life’s mission to save animals, help the homeless, donate time to the less fortunate, or, at the very least, shut up when they need to. See something offensive or something that they don’t agree with? They keep scrolling. It’s not the end of the world.

I don’t know where I’m going with all of this. My head is swimming with all the things I’ve seen in my life, and I wonder if life has always been this way, and I’m just now noticing it, or if it’s really this polarized anymore. Why do people have so much hate in their hearts? Why do people care so much about what other people do in their lives? Why is it so necessary to tell the whole world, via a very hurtful meme, what you think? Would you say this to someone’s face? Would you look them in the eyes and say, “I think that you are a horrible person because you are ______ (gay, getting an abortion, trying to flee a war, are poor, need medical assistance, food stamps, rehab…)”

I often have my kids look people in the eye when they are talking. I remind them every day – especially when giving an apology. I don’t know how many times I have to say, “Look at your sibling. Do you see how sad they are? You need to see this, because it’s right in front of you.”

Now, people can text each other awful things and they don’t see the other person’s reaction; Someone posts something hateful on the internet and they don’t see how it personally affects someone else. I have stopped myself so many times recently by asking myself, “Would you say that to their face? Would you stand by your comment in person?”

I’m just frustrated.

But I’m thankful for my friends who save animals, help kids, are kind to strangers, help their neighbor, look out for each other, pull together in times of need, and post really cute cat videos. It helps take away some of the hurt.

 

rise to the challenge

Believing you can change is a hard thing. I’ve been doing the same workout routine for years, and I *hate* having my schedule disrupted. But I started noticing that I was kind of stuck on a plateau. I wasn’t getting weaker, but I wasn’t getting stronger. After having had five years and four pregnancies, I was used to seeing that dramatic change of weight loss or toning up. Now, done having kids, my body hasn’t really caught on to the fact that I’m not about to get pregnant again. It’s still hanging on.

My pants fit fine, the number on the scale is okay, but I was hoping for more. I’m not looking to be 0% body fat but getting rid of the baby pouch would be awesome. I know it can happen. I’ve seen friends who have had multiple children rid of it with their own exercise routines, so I know it’s doable. I just have to actually sort of care and not just go through the motions.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I started getting into running again. Not just a once and a while thing, but actually making it a plan in my day. I would often tell myself that I workout enough; why would I need to add more, and won’t I be tired?

Turns out, no. No I won’t be. In fact, I feel so much better. So on Thanksgiving, I started a challenge where you must run a mile or more, every day, until Christmas. And I have. Every day.

Funny thing is, it has actually made me a better athlete all around. How so? Well, when I run before I teach spin, I’m already warm, so I can put on a lot more resistance, therefore getting a better workout. I’ve noticed it in my teaching style, that when I’m working even harder than normal, the members in turn work harder. If I give a little extra, then it makes it easier for them to want to also give a little more.

When I run after I teach Pump, my legs are ready for me to go faster. I don’t have to go through that first mile of my muscles groaning with effort. It’s effortless.

I’ve done this challenge all completely on the treadmill so I could see definite progress. I wanted to have actual facts to back up my work. When I started, I would start out running at an average 9:30-10 minute pace, gradually increasing it until I got uncomfortable. Now, as of today, I start out at a 8-8:30 pace, and usually do my last mile or half mile in the sub 7 range.

What does that mean? It means progress.

On Wednesday and Fridays, I run after Pump and usually there’s this delightful senior named Carl, a retired school teacher, who is walking on the treadmill at the same time.

A few weeks ago, I was complaining that my legs were tired, so I jogged at an easy 9 minute pace for the 20 minutes that we typically are at the treadmills for and chatted about his wife’s upcoming surgery. Last week, I put it on my new regular speed, and Carl looked and said, “Well, you were looking for improvement. I think you found it!” And then we chatted about her recovery from surgery.

He’s definitely been a good cheerleader. Especially when he wasn’t there one day and instead of doing my usual 20 minutes, I cut it out when I hit the 2 mile mark at 16ish minutes. Could I have run for another 4 minutes? Probably. But my biggest downfall is my weak mind during physical activity.

I suppose, when looking at the big picture, that’s why I enjoy group fitness so much. I need the motivation of others to really pull me through a hard workout.

I find that I’m not alone in this. One of the biggest things I’ve seen when teaching is people not trusting themselves and being afraid to try a little bit more. Especially in spin. For anyone that has never done a spin class before, let me just say, of all the cardio I’ve ever done in my life (and I’ve done a lot) it’s the hardest. For me, it’s hard because I hate to fail, and so if my legs find muscle failure and I slow down, I feel as though I’ve failed the instructor or members. But in reality, to find that muscle failure or at least that burning fatigue, is a wonderful thing to achieve. I’m constantly preaching to anyone who will listen that it’s good to fail. It’s good to find that awful, uncomfortable, takes your breath away, muddies your brain and makes you want to yell feeling once and a while. For me, it reminds me that I’m alive and strong and capable of almost anything.

There’s a person who takes RPM with me every Monday night. She’s exactly the kind of person you want to have in your class; energetic, hard working, motivating. She works out front and center and watches my feet and speed like her life depends on it. And because she’s there, watching, working, I work twenty times harder. She’s been in the game a long time, and she knows when/if an instructor doesn’t have the proper resistance on. She knows if you’re slacking. She watches your form, she watches your speed, and she watches your face.

In the beginning I thought it was because I was being judged, but in reality, she and I are very much alike in that, we need someone to be honest and kicking ass to really find our own peak potential.

And maybe a little judgement. But whatever.

 

So basically, I found something in my life that was stale, I had to get a little uncomfortable, but here I am, a few weeks later looking out from the other side and I’m happy I suffered a little bit to get here. Nothing worth having is easy, I’ve noticed. Kids, marriage, dogs, health. But I suppose when I see the effort that I’ve put forward into all of those things, I appreciate it that much more.

Have a very Merry Christmas, everyone.

The caregivers who care and the mom who sort of does

I think the one thing I hear the most from people is: “Wow, you must be so organized. I don’t know how you do what you do.”

Usually I smile and say thanks, but sometimes I laugh, because if people really only knew what a typical day looked like for me, they wouldn’t be calling me organized in the least bit.

It is true, as the kids grow older, and potty trained, it becomes much easier to do things and get stuff done, but instead of me doing all the things, rather I yell at the kids to do the things, and sometimes if I’m lucky, it actually gets done.

To my kids’ credit, they’re busy a lot. Depending on the day, they get home from school, have a limited time to get their homework done before we’re off to a gym for me to work. Don’t get me wrong, they love it. I’m very fortunate that the people who watch them are awesome, patient humans who actually engage my kids in play. On Monday nights is a young girl who indulges the kids in basketball and tea parties, on Tuesdays, it’s another young girl who plays volleyball and dance parties with them, and on Thursdays it’s this very tall, good looking guy who isn’t afraid to fake spar with them and do your basic shenanigans. He’s also the guy, who when Mae first met, said he couldn’t be a ballerina, but he could be a male dancer if he wanted to be. True story.

On the nights that I don’t teach, we go to taekwondo or they get a much needed night of nothing.

I’ve preached up and down before about the merits of ATA Oakmont Martial Arts. They’re amazing. And over the years since we’ve joined, (FIVE years ago!) they’ve grown and created a very solid training environment. They are constantly thinking of ways to make martial arts fun, educational and for every person out there. They have given three of my kids confidence that you can’t learn elsewhere. Being taught discipline, kindness, compassion, friendship, self defense…the list is really endless.

So basically, it takes a village. While yes, my house is somewhat tidy most of the time, and I can’t leave crap on the floor, because Alfred the Roomba frowns upon that, I often leave laundry in the dryer for days and some days I forget to start the crockpot, so when we get home from the gym at 7, and there’s nothing to eat right then and there…

When we’re in the car on the way home from the gym, I will read the kids the riot act: When we get out of this car, you will put your shoes where they belong, HANG your coats up, put your homework back in your bag, get your jams on, wash your hands and sit at the table.

Of course, I will get into the house, there will be some shoes put away, not all, but they’re always happy to change into jams, and then, the next morning I end up driving their homework to school because it was left on the counter.

So basically, my life isn’t what it seems. I’ve spent the past hour either talking on the phone to my mother, watching clips from The Daily Show, writing this blog and buying last minute gifts. I’ve been totally underproductive, but my fitbit is charging, and if I move, that’s basically wasting steps. The kids will get off the bus in exactly 30 minutes, and the moment they step in the door it’ll be like I took a shot of espresso while I get them to do all their homework, change my clothes for work, (because why would I do that now?) get them their snacks, get the rest of dinner together in the crockpot and rush out the door, probably while yelling at them to move a little faster. But they smile, and laugh, and will probably in 20 years reminisce together about how crazy mom was.

Oh, and since Audrey has decided she’s only got a few more months left of being two, she may as well act the part. She’ll probably scream, flail and shout, “I DON’T YIKE YOU, MOM!”

So go ahead, people. Say I’m organized. Say I’m super mom. But let’s get real here. I’m just trying to keep it together so that I can have a robot vacuum my floors and make it look like I give a damn.

 

The Indestructible Maelie

Every family has one. That kid who, if you don’t say, “be careful,” they will inevitably get hurt.

Mae has always been my danger baby. She’s the one who is always doing something kind and then gets injured.

The day I got Lasik, Mae, having just emerged from the bathtub, went streaking into her bedroom, and when she jumped into bed, she went head first into her headboard and split open her eyebrow.

When I first looked at it, I figured I could probably have closed it with steri-strips, but this is my kid’s head. She already had her forehead glued shut once before, after taking a nose-dive onto the corner of a chair. She’s also had hot coffee spilled on her belly and had some nasty burns from it. Thankfully, she has not a single scar on her belly from that awful nightmare.

So Matt quickly got her dressed and off they went to Children’s.

Is it horrible to say that if I had to pick a kid to be injured, I’d prefer it to be Mae? She’s honestly the easiest going kid, even when in terrible pain.

That said, of course I’d rather none of my kids to be hurt or sick, but so goes life.

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She honestly gets excited about every little thing. Her preschool teacher said that her favorite thing about Maelie is that she finds the joy in all things.

So naturally, we FaceTimed, because I had just had eye surgery and was in no shape to leave the house. It killed me not to be there with her when she needed me, but to be quite honest, Matt’s better at this than me. Though he did break my cardinal rule of: No residents suture up my kid’s face.

A note to Matt. Learn this for next time.

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As Mae’s version of the story goes: I got this jelly on my face, but it wasn’t jelly that you put on a sandwich. It made my face stop hurting.

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Then they put stuff up my nose and when I woke up, it was morning time and I got breakfast. And my face had bandaids on it.

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What she didn’t know was that she was knocked out, sutured up and as Matt explains, had the hardest time carrying Mae’s dead weight out of the ER to the car.

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I, on the other hand, waited up to the best of my ability, still coming down from my Xanax high, and had Siri read text messages to me, because reading things made my eyes water. I therefore changed Siri’s voice to a male Australian that Mae has subsequently named Broccoli.

 

 

 

We did good.

Yesterday was the drop off day for the two families we helped out this year. It was a unique experience from the past two years, because for the first time ever, I got to actually have a conversation with the one mother.

In years past, I drop off the items, give my hugs, leave. This year, one of the moms was unexpectedly away when we went to deliver. When we called, she was at the hospital at her grandmother’s bedside. We offered to come pick her up, drop off the items, then take her back to the hospital, which she agreed to do.

But let me start at the beginning.

The first home we delivered to was the single mom with two boys. As we unloaded the items, her smile grew and she began to cry. Trip after trip, box after box, she kept saying, “Stop. Stop, seriously. This is for us?”

When we brought in the TV she said, “This isn’t real life.”

She lived in a part of town that I don’t often travel through. You can think that you’re used to ‘depressed’ neighborhoods when you drive through parts of East Liberty or Homewood and think – oh it’s not that bad. But to drive beyond that, and to go deeper into some neighborhoods, where the busses don’t run and everyone walks and the doors are rotting away – that’s a depressed neighborhood and that is exactly who needed help.

She was a very kind woman, and I think she hugged me approximately 20 times. Tears fell from her eyes when I showed her the wrapped gifts and told her what was inside them. When she heard she got the tablet for her autistic son, she hugged me like she’d never let me go and whispered “thank you,” into my ear. She tried on her coat, to find that it fit perfectly, and she raved about the boots, saying she hasn’t had a pair of winter boots in years. I handed her her envelope of gift cards and when she saw one was for a clothing store only she could benefit from (not her kids) she said, “I get to buy myself something?

It’s hard to explain to these families prior to us dropping off the items that they are going to be getting a bunch of things. For one, you don’t want to make promises you may not be able to keep and two, they don’t believe it until they see it, which I completely understand.

So when the second mom climbed into the back of the ambulance with myself and my friend Ron, she looked at the stuff packed in there, and casually asked, “Oh, do you have more places to go after me?” to which I responded, “No, this is all for you.”

The tears were instant, and she immediately said, “But I’m sure there are people out there who need this more than me.” Which, sure, it may be true, but I simply told her, “You are deserving of these things.”

There is always going to be someone worse off than yourself. Always. I explained to her that while she may not be the worst case out there, it doesn’t mean she deserves it any less. She’s in a rough patch financially and emotionally, and she told me that this is a lift to her spirits.

I then gave her my email address, because she would like to be able to pay it forward when we do this again next year.

I really wish that I could have gotten videos of the deliveries. I wish you all could share in that moment, because it is truly like no other. To see, first hand, the giving back and genuine smiles from both sides. To offer hope when one feels hopeless. Everyone standing a little bit taller.

Every day we are bombarded with the horrible things that happen around the world and in our backyard. I offer this as a small way to hopefully neutralize some of that.

Yesterday, we saw no politics, no race, no war. What we saw was happiness, kindness and equality. Yesterday, I stood next to people who, when I didn’t even ask for it, gave me something no one can ever take away from me: joy. And I thanked them for allowing me to help them.

When you feel enveloped with fear or sadness, remember: an act of kindness, in any size, can change someone’s life. Even your own.

Thank you again for allowing me to do this, because this means more to me than you will ever know.

What gives?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day regarding charity. With it being political season and all, there’s been quite the smattering of memes being posted all over Facebook. I’ve gotten very good at simply scrolling on, but the ones that have really been frustrating me lately are the posts about how people who work, pay for those who ‘refuse’ to work. Ironically, they’re typically followed with some sort of religious post about how God is good.

Pick a lane, people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, God is pretty neat. From what I’ve learned in my life about God and Jesus is that, well, Jesus was a nice guy who gave to those who needed it and didn’t judge.

Yet, all I read about is people judging, then hiding behind their God and their religion. But! But! I’m a good person! I go to church every week! I can quote scriptures!

That’s really nice and all, but really, what makes someone good?

I like to believe that I am good. While I don’t follow any one religion, and I couldn’t tell you a thing about what happened in the book of Luke, I can say that I give to those who are in need. I actively search out people, who have less than I do, and do what it takes to give them what they need and deserve. Because while, yes, they may even be on welfare (gasp!) they are human beings, and regardless of how they live their lives, they deserve kindness.

I often wonder where we fell apart. Where the old adage of, “Walk a mile in their shoes,” went.

I have zero issues with religion. Everyone should have their bit of happiness and peace. I find my happiness and peace in a really good run or yoga. Some find it at the bakery. Some find it in church. That is awesome. As long as the end game is happiness and peace, why does it matter how we find it? I spent years thinking there must be something wrong with me to not want to follow a religion. I had a long, tear-filled conversation with my mom asking her if I was a disappointment. I’ve gone through all the feelings and levels of denial. But here I am, with a clear head, and a plan for me – my life – and I’m happy.

Ironically, what I’ve found is that there’s no rhyme or reason as to who gives. I’ve noticed, however, in the past three years of doing my Christmas thing, is that those who give, a lot of them are people who don’t have a lot of extra to give. But they do anyhow. Because it makes them feel good.

I’ll never forget. The first year I held my spinathon for the fundraiser, a woman, who did all six hours of the spinathon, and therefore donated over 60 dollars, told me about when she was a young mother, and her ex-husband kicked her and her son out, literally into the cold. When she finally had a place to live, and it was a very sketchy place, she cried every night, worrying about how she was going to supply Christmas for her son. When she awoke Christmas morning, there was a bike with a bow on it outside her front door. Seems her neighbors heard her cries. Someone did, anyhow, and she said she would never forget that random act of kindness.

Even now, she doesn’t have a lot to give, but every time I host a fundraiser, she’s there, always. With whatever she can give.

I want to be that.

I don’t want to be the fear mongering, hate driving person who complains about where their taxes go. I don’t want to be the person who sits there on their pedestal and judges others. I certainly don’t want to be a person who cares so much about someone else’s life and what they do with it, that I stop living mine.

I want to be that person who donates 5 dollars to a GoFundMe about a kid that needs emergency surgery. I want to be the person who sits with their friend as they await news about their sick dog. I want to be the person who understands that there’s so much more out there than anger and pettiness.

On Monday, November 16th I’ll be delivering the items to the families. If you would like to help our cause, we could really use more diaper donations and the exersaucer. The mother specifically asked for those items. The social worker told me that the mother of the newborn, prior to having the baby, cried to her about how she didn’t even think she could afford diapers. That’s so horribly sad.

Posting a meme only looks proactive. I choose to be the change.

Do Good

Okay. Now that I’ve talked about me a lot the past few posts, let’s talk about something that makes me even happier than a renovated house: helping others.

Last night I was talking with a friend about how rude people can be when commenting on certain things, such as pregnancy. I remember when I was pregnant with Audrey, I’d get some nasty back handed compliments and after having endured them for three other pregnancies, I realized that I was done with that. So one time when someone had said something along the lines of, “Wow, you know you could have just adopted,” I simply said, “Do you realize that your words hurt? Was that your intention?”

Social media is wonderful and awful all at the same time. Now a days people think it’s quite alright to talk about how they don’t approve of abortions, welfare, death penalty, Chipotle, democrats, republicans, or sports. Fine, whatever. But I often wonder why people have such strong opinions on things that aren’t happy.

I don’t live in a bubble, even though it may seem that way. Instead, I understand a lot.

One thing I try not to do is judge other people. I try so hard. Some days I fail miserably, but most days, I do okay.

When I got the list from the families that I’ve taken on to help this winter, I saw that the new mom, after she listed all the things she needed for her son, wanted a massage. I immediately thought, “Well, I can’t tell people they’re raising money so she can go to the spa! What would they think?”

And then I thought, “Screw that, she deserves to treat herself, too.”

Guys, poor people aren’t criminals. They aren’t awful people. They are people who, simply put, are poor.

And I can fluff it up and say less fortunate or in hard times or currently low on the income, but let’s be real here. They have little to no money to spend on anything extra aside from food and rent, so yes, that constitutes as poor.

When I wrote the letters to the moms from last year’s group, I wrote, “I don’t want you to think I take pity on you or think that you can’t take care of yourself. You are having a hard time, and I would like to help to try to lift that burden, even if for a little bit. So that you can know that we are all in this together.”

Because I don’t take pity. I just want to help. It makes me happy to know that if even for just one day, their stresses were lessened.

I’d also like to think that if I was in need of help, someone would help me.

Words hurt, but we can take action to let them know that there are people who care. Every mother deserves to see their children outside in a warm winter coat and boots. Every person deserves to have a massage once and a while. Everyone deserves to know that they are loved, even when the world beats them down. Everyone.

So this year we have two families. Both single mothers. One has two children, a six year old boy with autism and a one year old boy. I don’t point out the autism as a defining thing about this boy, but I am mentioning it because it does add to the mother’s daily struggle. She gets absolutely zero help from his father and I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel.

The other mother is a mother of a newborn.

I’ve created the amazon.com wishlist and am hoping very much that if you would like to give someone a little bit of cheer this holiday season, buy something off the list. Just as it has for the past two years, everything you purchase comes directly to my house, where I stuff it into an ambulance (thanks Larry!) and hand deliver the items. Every single thing you purchase goes to them. I don’t sell them from the back of my Volvo on the black market, I assure you. Though that would be a fun sight.

Everything that is listed says who it is for and I list it by priority. There are some pricy things and there are some not so pricy things. Also, if anyone reading this that peruses the list finds something that they have themselves in good condition and would like to donate it, I’d be happy to take that as well.

Please also feel free to share the list. It takes more people than I know to make this thing happen.

Thank you for taking the time to consider helping and please know that you have my undying love and respect for continuing to support me. I wish I could hug all of you (and I don’t even like to hug, but lately I’ve been okay with it) and tell you to your face what it means to me. Honestly. Love you all.

Let’s do this.