Sunday, October 28, 2007

Handing Out Fliers for Help

Yesterday I spent three hours at an upscale, expensive organic store. I was not shopping, I was handing out fliers and collecting canned food for our City's Holiday Drive. My family handed fliers out to just about every person who entered the store. We added a little comment, "There's a box in cafe for a canned food donation if you can help today." Simple enough.

Just grab one extra can of food while you are in the store and drop it in the big box on the way out. If everyone entering the store participated, we really would have been well on our way to feeding the 725 families who can't afford Thanksgiving dinner.

During the last hour I sat at the box and we didn't get any donations. Now, I'm willing to admit that the City did not do the best job in laying out the flier, but the store manager was also making announcements. Some people might have felt that it was a gimmick by the store to sell more canned goods. This might be true, but we will collect food for these families and it needs to be purchased somewhere. All this said, it really was a pitiful amount of donations. I watched the people leaving with their expensive orders on their credit cards and really couldn't believe how few helped.

I'm involved with another food collection each year through the Boy Scouts. Usually I blame the lack of people participating with Food for Scouting on people not remembering to purchase the food, or forgetting to put the bag of food out, or not understanding what to do with the bag when they receive it.

After watching family after family walk past my box without a single can being donated, I've changed my mind about people and their altruistic tendencies. This setup was too convenient, too easy, right at their fingertips and they still didn't reach for an extra can. They didn't think they needed to help. They weren't moved to think of others. They just didn't seem to care.

I haven't given up, because a few people even bought store cards so we can buy turkeys and the people who did donate were so happy to help and felt so good. People who cared really cared. I feel sad for all the rest.

Friday, October 26, 2007

That's Where I Get It From?

My mom just left after a few days visiting. Whenever anyone says that their mother or mother-in-law is visiting, I always go into high observation mode to determine if it is a good thing or not. I'm always excited no matter who is visiting and dream of owning a bed and breakfast some day, but visits from family members always mean that some extra baggage may follow. Sometimes I fear the baggage and I wonder if others feel the same.

As the moment of my mother's arrival came closer, I found myself feeling more and more like the bratty, negative teenager I once was. Now, don't get me wrong, I never actually had the opportunity to be a bratty, negative teenager which is probably why I'm still one. When I should have been revolting against the 'rents they were too busy running out the door every night in a one upmanship of activity leading to their very hate-filled divorce. There was nobody in the house to act out against, just my brother and I doing our homework and watching t.v. every night.

So, mom's coming to visit, we have nothing in common, and I'm feeling like a brat. For years, I have firmly believed that I am nothing like my mom. My husband once asked how I turned out the way I did since I was so very different from my mom and grandmother. I always say that I'm just like my dad. He was a "can do" guy who would organize businesses to protest new township rules and work with troubled youths.

Imagine my surprise when I took my mom to hear my friend's band and she really enjoyed the rock music. She was tapping her foot, and had a great time. When the band finished she wanted to stay for the next band. There was no next band, but boy 'o boy is that exactly how I am. I always want them to keep bringing the bands on and I'll stay all night into the next morning without ever growing tired. My mom always either had Elvis or country music playing on the radio. I would sing along and dream of being a star. I can't remember my dad ever listening to music.

I pride myself on being able to pull back and analyze myself completely so this was astounding to me. My love of bands is one of my most defining characteristics and it comes from my mom. But that's not all.

While mom was here, she was with me everywhere I went. My life was happening and she was here. My friend was featured on Montel Williams. She's a friend who I help out when she needs me. The show was on domestic violence and she did an awesome job. Mom and her boyfriend, Donald, and I watched together. We also had been in the car the day before when a male friend called and we had a nice conversation and made plans which mom heard. I felt it necessary to explain that he was gay so it was okay to get together with him. Plus, I spent a great deal of time showing her pictures of my outreach efforts to families at my school where I have a wide assortment of friends.

I have a WIDE assortment of friends. Many of which need a helping hand and I'm there to give it to them. I used to HATE that my mom did this. She was friends with all these different people all the time. She still spends a great deal of time telling me how she helps this friend and that friend, and their situations, and what she does and...

Wait a minute, I get ths from her too? Honestly, I have never, ever thought of myself as being anything like my mom. We don't get along and we don't have anything in common. I can't believe it took me this long to discover these connections.

I'm thankful for the visit. I'll be spending a great deal of time thinking about the two of us and how we are not that different. Also, I'll be wondering about my sons in the future and how they might be like me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ignoring the Creeps

Truthfully, it's been a bad couple of weeks for me as a woman in my little town. First I met an old man who was a photographer and he kept letting his camera hit me inappropriately and apologizing with that look on his face. Second, I was out to see my friends' band and this guy sat between me and the band and kept turning around and outright staring at me. Then he took the empty seat next to me and kept "accidentially" hitting me with his leg about 15 times. Oh! "by accident". Right.

In one of my nonprofit jobs, I would buy townhouses for rental to lower-income families. Just before closing on a purchase, I had to confirm that all the final punch-out items had been completed by the builder. During the course of a few years, I visited 20 construction sites, dressed nicely for my office job. Although most of the men were professional, there were some who were not, and those smiles and comments and little quips always followed. The thing about it is that you never know what you are going to encounter.

I never get angry or say anything to these men. I grew up in a real working class area where you would be severly ridiculed if you complained and did not "play along". For the most part it doesn't bother me. In a way it is a compliment that the man finds me attractive although he lacks the social graces to keep it to himself. I certainly don't welcome it. I feel that the look I give the man and returning to the business at hand in a no nonsense way, brushes the whole incident aside.

I always wonder if I should be confrontational and angry and tell these men that it is not appropriate for them to make these little comments with that look on their face. I can't imagine being a man and acting the way they do.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Downfall of the Soccer Mom

My husband left all of my younger son's soccer equipment on a step for one of us to carry upstairs. Of course I didn't carry it up because it belongs in the bag by the door to the garage so that we can take it with us to practice.

As mom's do, I came down late last night to check just one thing after the lights were out. I forgot that the stuff was there and fell down half the flight of stairs. You always feel the full pain of an accident in twenty-four hours and this experience is no different. The pain is worse each minute.

I joked on Twitter that it was the "Downfall of the Soccer Mom" and then started to think about what the downfall would really be. I'm new to this jock mom stuff since my older son is not athletic in nature. I've made my mistakes. (Everyone, the socks go over the shin guards.) But I think my real downfall will be taking the game too seriously.

He's only six. Yesterday the ball hit his knee and made a goal for the opposite team. Inside I cringed. I imagined what it would be like if he did that in a few years and possibly lost the game for a very competitive team. In the future he might really take it to heart. He kept telling everyone that it hit his knee including his coach who high-fived him with gusto. It's okay now. It was funny. He redeemed himself by scoring a goal for his own team. Coach's son scored one too so we won 2-1. NO, we are not keeping score.

See, this will be my downfall, getting too carried away. Caring about the win. Yelling too loud. Being too competitive. I just hope to remember that I don't want another downfall for me, the soccer mom.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why "Daughter"? I Don't Have a Name

I cannot recall my mother ever calling me by my name. She calls me "Daughter" in a very New York accent, "Dawtah". She even writes "Dear Daughter" on all my cards. Lately, I've been wondering about it. She comes from a large family so I know it is not the way she was raised.

When I was five I was standing in my grandmother's kitchen when she and my mother said that I should learn to write my real name because I was going to school. "My real name?", I asked, "What's my real name?" Well, I went ballistic when they told me I had a different name than what they had been calling me. "HOW CAN YOU NOT TELL A PERSON THEIR OWN NAME." I didn't know my own name. The rug was pulled right out from under me.

Well, my dad wanted my official name to be formal for when I was a big businesswoman so the birth certificate read "Cynthia" but I was "Cindy". On the first day of kindergarten the teacher asked me what I wanted to be called. I looked up at my parents who turned to look down at me with obvious trepidation, and I said, "Cynthia, my name is Cynthia." I was always Cynthia throughout school and in most of my workplaces.

In high school a fellow student found out that my family called me Cindy and he couldn't believe it. Why would they call you that? You are the least likely Cindy I know. My seriousness and hard work to get a scholarship really showed. Everyone must have thought I was no nonsense hanging out with all the honor students.

My name problems only deepened as my wedding date grew near. I was a few months short of 30 and had real estate and stocks in my name. I didn't want to change my name. Truthfully though, I could not imagine having a different last name. My soon-to-be-husband was devasted. It was as if I was rejecting everything he stood for and after a few weeks I compromised. As long as I didn't have to legally use a hyphen, I would add his name on the end. As this didn't seem to appease him, I agreed to go by Cindy and his last name when we had kids.

So now no one knows my real name and I pause for a split second everytime someone calls me. Takes me a bit of time to realize they mean me. When I see it written by someone else, I think "Oh yeah, her." After ten years of not working, the name actually represents a certain frustration with not getting on with my life.

It didn't help when about a month ago, my husband made the comment that I had not taken his name. I wanted to defy him to name one person who actually knew my real name, but in a very uncharacteristic way, I kept my mouth shut. I'm beginning to really feel like I don't even want a name. The whole idea just irritates me and means absolutely nothing, which is probably why I started to use my initials.

I spoke with two friends and they said the same thing. They didn't want to change their names. They felt no affinity to their husbands' names and lately they had been thinking about their real names. Perhaps when the kids are older and you want to get on with your life, you want your real name back. It reminds you of what you once thought you could be.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Did You Just Call Me a Girl?

A few weeks ago, the "kindergarten dads" came over for a sampling of beverages. I didn't know either of them well, but had spoken with them during the school year.For some reason during the conversation, I mentioned that I was a tomboy. In unison they said, "No way!" "Yes!" I replied and then I started down a long, spur-of-the-moment list about how I always was a tomboy. They looked at me in silent disbelief for a long time, then one said, "Well, you bat for the other team now."

I couldn't believe it. Did he just call me a girl?For two weeks I was really bothered at being called a girl, then it started to bother me that I didn't want to be a girl. What frustrates me about being a girl anyway?

When my mother first explained what would happen when I was a women, I told her "No." Then she had to explain to me that I wasn't getting a choice. Maybe that's it, no choice. Looking back through history women definitely didn't get a choice in life for marriage, education, or job. The word "choice" is intimately wrapped up in the abortion issue too.I do place an extremely high emphasis on being able to do what I want, but I don't think it's a lack of choice.

It's more the thought of not keeping up with the guys. I just always considered myself equal with everyone. I could never let my brother do something without proving I could do it. "Oh, yeah! Well, I can drywall the basement too!" The problem is he can do everything and he's my little brother. In college I was the first woman radio station manager, when the vast majority of the d.j.s were guys. The executive board was composed of all guys, except for my roomate. Our advisor was a sociology professor who said to me, "I can't believe they let you be in charge; and I can't believe you are in complete control." I didn't know I was doing anything unusual. I was just being me.

Maybe I think you can't keep up with the guys if you're being a "girly" girl. Ask my kids what I say when I go to the mall, they'll tell you I chant "I hate the mall." If I need to buy something, I go to a store that sells it and get out as fast as I can. Newspaper articles always state that this is the way men shop. Perhaps I'm missing some shopping gene. I know I prefer doing other things instead. Things that guys like to do.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Same Story, Different Day

At the pool today, I spoke with the husband of a friend. He talked about how it was really getting her down to try and enter the workforce again after being home with the kids. I told him how I had started a second blog on this subject (I participate in a community blog for our city). He said we should get together as a support group. As I stood there in the water, I realized there really was a need for all of us to talk.

Even if we find a job, most likely it will be below our capabilities. A recent interview for a position below the one I left ten years ago included anxiety by the interviewer over my computer skills. Ten to one odds my computer skills were far superior to hers and I had her job when I left, so in my mind.... ah, forget it.

Take a job below our skills to get back working? Just do something that's fun even though it doesn't pay? Hold out for the same type of job you left?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Are We All in the Same Place?

I just left my friend's house and it's very late. As we sat around in the backyard, I realized all three of us women were thinking about what to do next. One had a law degree and left after both superiors quit and she didn't want their jobs, one tried to use that math masters degree but the girls came first, and I had been home with my boys for ten years. The sky was black because it was night and a storm was threatening. Did we have the same thoughts?

I spent four years getting a degree in philosophy because I thought that somehow it would all make sense, but it never has. For all time, we have tried to figure out what it all means and I'm not just referring to the challenge of raising a family and having kids. Do I think too much? Am I the only one that needs headsets and music to make it through the simplest of life's tasks?

In high school I spent a great deal of time wishing I could just be a waitress in a New Jersey diner and be done with my life choices. After all, both my parents had never finished high school and college was an extremely foreign land. I'm well past this now but I still wish it were easier.

What will really make us happy career-wise? Why do we keep asking this question and never seem to get an answer?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Feeling The Past

Oh boy, there's no camp for one of the kids this week. I'm having flashbacks to three years ago when there was no school and the kid was always home with me. Immediately, I'm thinking of food to pass the time. I was 50 pounds heavier then.

It's only four days now. What's so difficult? It was seven years the last time a kid was home with me. It's sweltering here and there's not much to do. The pool is getting old for everybody.

How much money and gas am I willing to throw at this problem? I did so well a month ago. Quality time for an entire week. Love all around, but I'm empty now. I'm feeling selfish or broken or stimied. There's still a few more weeks of summer.

My son announced at dinner that I was grouchy and I apologized because I knew he was correct. What's a girl to do?