Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Double the Power of Your Christmas Gifts

I suspect I'm not alone in that I always feel a bit torn at Christmas. Yes, I love buying shiny, expensive things for my children and grandchildren and watching them exclaim over them; yes, I love all the bright lights and sparkles of the season. And yet, it always feels a bit much, a bit greedy in light of what's going on all around us and far beyond our borders.

I love the idea of making charitable donations at Christmas, but they're hard to wrap and you can't hand them out around the tree, which typically means that I'm spending double the money every year, buying stuff for my loved ones and handing out cash to feed and clothe and otherwise support all those folks we should think about all year but often forget about until food drives and fundraisers put them back in our line of vision.

And that's okay; I'll probably do the same thing this year and feel good about it, too. I want my kids and grandkids to have shiny packages that make their eyes light up on Christmas morning. I want everyone else's kids to, too.

But this year, at least, I've found one option that covers all the bases. If you're a regular reader here, you've undoubtedly heard me mention Kwagala Project before. Kwagala (fka Purse of Hope) is an organization that provides aftercare to young victims of the commercial sex trade in Africa.

I first became involved with Kwagala because my former employer, Total Attorneys, funded a house in Gulu where these girls could live, learn, become a family and prepare for their new lives. In the intervening four years, I have been consistently amazed by the resilience and capacity for joy in these young women. Many of them were kidnapped, sold or forced by desperation into prostitution at an age when our girls are still playing with Polly Pockets and dressing up as princesses. But instead of holding on to bitterness and focusing on what they've been through, these dauntless young women work hard, play hard, laugh, sing and are endlessly grateful for the support they receive and the new lives ahead of them.

I don't think anything has made me cry quite so often as the hearts of these girls.

One of the first things the girls can do, while they're starting to transition, when they have little training or limited time, is to make jewelry. For many, this jewelry-making is the first paid work they've ever done outside of prostitution, and their first step toward saving money to build new lives for themselves.

Now, Kwagala is offering that jewelry for sale in time for Christmas. Please check it out, and check back over the next few days--we'll be adding many more items. Wouldn't you and the recipients of your gifts like to know that you're supporting a courageous young woman in her new life as you shop?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful for Just about Everything

It's official: Thanksgiving is once again my favorite holiday. Well, for the moment. We haven't had Christmas in our new place in Rochelle yet, so check back with me after that. It's hard to know how having the Whos' Christmas tree in my yard will impact that holiday season.

Today, in celebration of our first Thanksgiving "back home", Tori and I stayed put. We didn't go to anyone's house; we didn't have anyone over. We cooked a little turkey in our kitchen (in Rochelle) and Tori made an elaborate fruit salad and we ate dinner and watched A Christmas Carol and went for a long walk around our neighborhood to look at Christmas lights and played with the dog and played a game of Scrabble, and...well, you get the idea.

And when the song about how "this is how life should be" broke out, I couldn't have agreed more.

So here's the short list; there's definitely more, but a little Yorkie dog who's high on the list is waiting for a last walk before bed, so I'll try to keep it reasonable:

  • All of the friends who have, in different ways, ensured that I haven't been alone in the many years I've been a single mother. They are legion, but I am especially thankful for Margo, Jo Ann, Barb, Todd, Mike, Don, Judy and Andrew. I think about you guys every day.
  • My totally amazing daughter, who makes everything fun and inspirational.
  • The other children who still let me be their stepmother many years after the separation (and the next generation that came with them...have I told you all that my grandson is coming to stay with me next week?)
  • Little Yorkie in particular :)
  • Rochelle
  • Being in Rochelle
  • How happy Tori is to be in Rochelle
  • The people in Rochelle
  • The way downtown Rochelle could easily be mistaken for Bedford Falls
  • The big windows and sunlight and clean whiteness and light wood floors in our townhouse
  • The fact that we're solvent (so far) even though I'm unemployed
  • The fact that I have had so much flexibility in the way we build our lives and I get to balance being a parent and supporting my kid
  • The many amazing people I came to know in the job I recently left and what I learned from them
  • The opportunity to put my skills to work for the forces of good
Yeah, I'm not even close to done. But Jake is threatening to leave the list and become someone I have to clean up after if I don't cut this short, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Virtual Family

No, I don't mean a bright and smiling easier-to-manage set of kids in Second Life or a farm full of Facebook cows that I milk instead of walking my real-life talk: I'm talking about the joys of technology for the far-flung family--and not even especially NEW technology.

As tends to happen as we age in the modern world, my three kids are in three different cities in two different states. One still lives with me, but the others are each five hours away...and not even the same five hours. To make matters worse, one of those distant children keeps my grandchildren in her faraway home.

There just aren't many days like this anymore:

And though we make an effort to get together when we can, too often it's hectic holidays and planned events and big crowds and none of those ordinary days that broke out into a squirt gun war or a multi-city quest for Tiddly Winks.

Last night, though, my girls reminded me (by example) that those days aren't about the perfect situation but about taking everyday life as it comes. I hadn't been feeling well all day and had ordered a pizza for an early dinner so that I wouldn't have to cook. When the pizza arrived at the front door, Tori was nowhere to be found, but the open front door provided a clue. I couldn't see her, but I could hear her voice: she was walking the dog and talking to her sister on the telephone. I called out to her that the food was here and she came inside, but rather than hanging up the phone she put it on speaker and set it down in the living room.

While we ate pizza and chatted, Beth bathed her kids and got them ready for bed. Tori likened this, later, to standing in the bathroom doorway and talking to her sister while she bathed the kids. And it was...except that we were 200 miles apart.

Afterward she put the kids to bed and Tori and I both started crocheting, sitting on separate couches with the dog curled up on my feet and we talked...and talked...and talked. Somehow, as we talked about the kids and laughed about escapades gone by and books and movies and yes, a few other family members, more than three hours passed. And it was much more like those nights we'd make popcorn and play a game in the living room or hang out late in our hotel room when we visit than I might ever have imagined.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's Hard to Get a Sick Day When You're Unemployed

I think it was a week ago that I woke up dizzy, queasy, kind of shuddering all over and generally feeling too weak and achy to get out of bed and then got up anyway and discovered that there was a small river running through my back yard.

One of my first thoughts was that it was a great time to be unemployed. I could stay in bed. I could take time out to do what I needed to do with the flood. I could, in short, pull the blankets back over my head and...

Well, no. I did have a few freelance projects in the works, and the deadlines weren't going to change just because I was sick and flooded. In fact, it turned out to be more complicated than when I'd had a full-time job: if I was really too sick to work in my employee days, I could just call or email one person and let them know and then that was it for the day.

Not so much with this freelance thing. There were three or four different people at different companies involved. There were different deadlines, and it was tough to know which (if any) would be affected, since I didn't know how long I was going to be sick. No one cared what I was doing that day in particular, which meant that no one needed to know that I was sick or that there was a newly formed creek running behind my house.

But the work still needed to be done, the dog still needed to be walked (in the rain, around the flooding), Tori still needed a ride to choir (in the rain, around the flooding)...and six or so days later, I still haven't gotten a down day to rest and recover, and I'm still feeling like crap. And still pushing to get things done, even though they're fewer things, because I'm not all that diligent or efficient when I feel like crap.

I'm starting to think it might have been very helpful to have a job to stay home from.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Because I Totally Didn't Have Enough to Do...

Since I've been unemployed, my life has been pretty hectic. I thought that I'd have all kinds of time to catch up on some projects that have been sitting for a while, but of course it hasn't played out that way. I've had some freelance opportunities; I had some e-books to wrap up; Tori's schoolwork is at a point that requires more input from me than usual. And then, of course, there's the whole looking for a job thing, and the fact that there were quite a few boxes still stacked around my house from that move we never quite finished.

So today, I did the only sensible thing and started another blog.

That doesn't even surprise you, does it?