A Deed A Day: Not much Action

cookie

So. It appears that I have been taking a month-long break from good deeds. Not that I haven’t done anything nice for anyone, but I have been off on holidays, which means I have been mostly managing my husband and son whilst feeding myself ice-cream.

During this hiatus from deed-doing I have had many more lovely deeds done for me than by me. People have made me meals, paid for dinners, looked after my kid, and generally been nice. The deed of the Chicago Chocolate Chip Cookie Lady stands out.

On our way to aforementioned holidays, my family had a brief stop in Chicago which turned into a manic sprint through O’Hare to make it to the next gate in time for our connection. Arriving there, we realized the flight wasn’t even boarding yet, so I had a few minutes to scavenge some food for the boys. Bean requested a chocolate chip cookie. He asked for it like the world would end if he didn’t get one. He was cranky and tired and didn’t care what happened as long as he got that cookie.

It was a make-or-break kind of cookie.

I found a sandwich place and quickly ordered some sandwiches. They had some wrapped chocolate chunk cookies. The ingredient list revealed high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Two things very high on my list of Foods Not to Feed my Child. I can do better than this, I thought. I grabbed my sandwiches and began speed-walking through the terminal on a cookie mission. I had a few minutes to get back to the gate.

I got in line at a bakery-type place and saw that they had cookies. Yay! They had one chocolate chip cookie left. Yay! Then the lady in front of me ordered it. Boo.

When she did so, I actually gasped and said “Oh no!” out loud. She sort of turned around and gave me a weird look, so I said,

“Oh, it’s just that there’s only one chocolate chip cookie left and my son asked for one. It’s okay, though, don’t worry.”

But I think my EYES said:

My son is 5 and he’s a cancer survivor who doesn’t deal with disappointment well due to brain damage sustained in surgery. We are embarking on a 20-hour journey to Australia with a cranky child who only wants one thing right now. This cookie is seriously important to me.

Because then, the woman said, “Oh, you should have it then. I’ll order something else.”

What?! Really? Thank you Chicago Chocolate Chip Cookie Lady!

I thanked her profusely. I returned to the gate in triumph and gave my kid the cookie. Then they called us to board.

All was right with the world.

A Deed a Day: #2 Team Bean

I didn’t manage to do a good deed yesterday, although as my friend pointed out, if I made a meal for someone else, that’s a good deed. And yes, I did make dinner for my husband and son, so will give myself a pass.

The reason I wasn’t good-deeding yesterday is that I had to go to the dentist. To have a cavity filled. For the first time in eons. And I forgot how truly awful it is to have your face frozen for the afternoon, and then how truly awful it is to have your face unfrozen and realize how much it hurts. So I spent a large part of yesterday moping, and then slept from 7 to 7.

Back to today’s deed.

I signed up for the annual Sporting Life 10K run in Toronto. This race is an annual fund-raiser for Camp Oochigeas. Camp Ooch is a camp for cancer patients and survivors. Ooch on the 8th is the program at Sick Kids run by Ooch staff, who bring the spirit and fun of camp to what is surely one of the saddest places on Earth – the pediatric oncology ward.

I have run this race twice before, with last year being the first-time that I tried my hand at fund-raising for them, and succeeded in raising $1,780, which is enough to send a child to camp for one week.

That was amazing… but this year I want to aim higher. Not only did I sign up for the race but created Team Bean. There’s no one else on the team yet – but would LOVE any and all of you to join me! If you are not a runner – never fear, neither am I really, we can speed-walk it together. 10K isn’t as far as you think, and the whole thing is practically down-hill.

The race is 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 11th 2014. That is also mother’s day – wouldn’t your mum like a good deed done in her name instead of a bouquet of crappy flowers??

This year I am setting the fund-raising goal at $3,500, I welcome all runners and donations. If you want to run with me, you have to register for the race, follow this link to do so:

http://www.sportinglife10k.ca/register/

If you want to make a donation, please follow this link:

http://www.ooch.org/teambean

Sending so much love and thanks for your help!!

 

Being Good

Let me ask you a question, and please mull this over for a minute. Do you consider yourself to be a good person? I mean, I know you probably aren’t a conniving super-villain, petting your white fluffy cat in a black armchair somewhere, but are you good?

What is it that makes a person “good”? Are these some adjectives that spring to mind? Kind, generous, helpful, honest, selfless, ethical, thoughtful, lovely, or virtuous? And be honest, would you pick any of those to describe yourself?

I guess we all range on the goodness scale somewhere between Gandhi and Hitler. Definitely not saintly, but not certifiably evil either. If I had to put myself under the microscope, I would give “me” a pretty middling score on the scale. I am definitely not bad, but I am also not as good as I could be.

Okay, I’m kind – in that I’m mostly nice, with a few moments of cringe-worthy meanness thrown in. I am honest, mostly because I’m terrible at lying – but there are more layers to being truthful than I care to go into here. The mix that makes up me could use a good dash of generosity and thoughtfulness. For most of my life, it’s not that I’ve meant actively to be not nice to other people, I was just quite self-absorbed, as many of us really are. Being self-absorbed isn’t about being highly conceited or mean-spirited, it just means consistently thinking of how things affect you and not how they affect others. Getting ourselves out of that me, me, me habit is what makes us better people all around, but it can be a struggle.

Becoming a mother knocked a lot of that self-absorption out of me. It’s kind of impossible to continue thinking only of yourself when the most important person in your life is no longer you. My son’s cancer diagnosis quietly removed most of the selfishness that remained. (Note, I didn’t say all.)

The road through treatment revealed to me the innate goodness of so many people I know – the beauty of whom just put me to shame, with my small, self-involved life. Friends and family members both rose brilliantly to the occasion, giving of their time, their thoughts, their attention and their love. And their food. And their Tupperware. Which I’ve never returned. Apologies!

I started thinking about this the other day as I was stuck in hospital with my son, again. (Don’t worry, all is well.) My dear friend, S., came to visit us. S. the Self-Less and Lovely. More than any other friend, she makes it her mission to just help me. She sends me texts and messages – she comes by to visit, she brings coffee and treats. Her own life is busy and far from easy, she and her family have faced down many, many hard times together. She is a wife and mom to two gorgeous kids, she works as a Special-Ed teacher (saintly, yes?), she is a whirlwind of energetic busy-ness. She is the epitome of thoughtful. Last week, I got teary-eyed hearing the story of the latest challenges she has faced with her family. And later on, I thought, What’s my excuse?

We’ve all got our reasons why we can’t do the things we say we would like to. I’m busy, I can’t afford it, I don’t have time, I’ll do it later.

In these first weeks of January, we are making and breaking resolutions of some sort – but most of them have to do with self-improvement. Or what we perceive as self-improvement – dieting and exercise, anyone? It’s occurred to me that maybe I need to expand my horizons a bit.

Maybe my resolutions have to be not about what I can do for myself but about what I can do for others. Maybe I can do good.

That’s why I’m starting A Deed a Day. Today. I want to do something every day (or almost every, come on, nobody’s perfect) that is good. I define good deeds as things I can do to help others, things I can do to help the Earth, and things I can do to be a better person. (Not a better-looking person)

I’d love for you to join me. Let me know your good deeds. Give me some ideas for mine! Let’s see if we can be as good as we could.

A Deed a Day: #1 TerraCycle

So here is Deed #1. This one is a bit of a cheat since I’ve actually already done it – but I want to support this amazing company and I figure spreading the word about them is a thing worth doing.

They are called TerraCycle. They are an American company that has recently branched out into Canada. (and other countries!) What they do, essentially, is try to eliminate waste by recycling or re-purposing garbage that cannot be traditionally recycled.

All you have to do is sign up with the company, join a “brigade” and get ready to send them your household waste. I am a member of the coffee bag and cereal bag brigades – so I collect these things until I have a boxful, print off a free shipping label from their website, and then send them the materials.  They then make these things into other things like park benches and tote bags. The best part is that you can collect points for each shipment you send, and you can use these points to buy various charity gifts – like a Teach a Teen to Cook program for impacted youth, or One Water Container for a vulnerable family.

It is an all around win, win, win. I get to be a do-gooder, the company gets materials to make its products, and people in need receive thoughtful donations. And we stop all that packaging from going to landfill. Love it!

The Battle of the Mums Continues

If you had asked me if I wanted kids, at the age of 19, the answer would have been a big hell no. By 25, it had morphed to a yes, but in the far future. By 30, I was as mentally prepared as I’d ever be, and by 33 I’d given birth to my only child. (Who is quite unbelievably now 5.)

At NO time during any of those years would I have said that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum. A SAHM. Ugh. Bad job title, no interest, no thank you. And yet, here I am, tapping away at my “mom blog”, folding little pants whilst stirring a bubbling pot on the stove. Sometimes the train of your life’s plans gets pretty thoroughly derailed, or at least shunted off onto a siding for a good long while. So no, I didn’t set out to be doing this with my days, but I accept and embrace with all the grace I can muster that this is where I am.

In my neck of the woods, we SAHMs or SAHDs (Stay-at-home-dads? That’s an acronym-fail) are a bit of a rare breed. I live in a neighbourhood where there are a lot of mums on mat-leave pushing strollers and a lot of caregivers ferrying little ones to school. Of my circle of friends, only a few don’t work “outside of the home”, the majority are employed full-time, with the remainder working either part-time or self-employed and working from home. There is a huge range in what these people have chosen to do for childcare: nannies, daycare, Montessori, part-time caregivers, family members stepping in for school pick-ups and drop-offs, and the list goes on.

Is it possible to choose one of these solutions and say, “This is, without doubt, the best possible situation for all young children.”? Obviously not. Seems to me that the important thing is that we all make the best choices that we can for ourselves and our individual families, and try not to be overly judgmental of the choices of others. Ah, you say, but we are humanswe LOVE being judgmental of the choices of others!

In the battle of the SAHMs vs. working mums, I hear – or see coming across my news-feed – a lot of polarized opinions. The working mums faction opines, “I do what you do and hold down a full-time job.” And the SAHMs lash back with the passive-aggressive guilt, “Well, as long as you’re happy to let someone else raise your child, you can selfishly go to work whilst I toil at home.” Unbelievable, yet true.

A friend posted this article today, whose author tells stay-at-home moms to “stop pretending you’re better” and slates a SAHM for writing about her conflicted emotions in responding to the dreaded what-do-you-do-all-day question. When I read the first article, yeah, I felt riled. Stop pretending you’re better! How terribly blunt and insulting. I am insulted on behalf of stay-at-home mums everywhere!

Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself of two things. First, this woman’s job is to write snappy copy for the country’s biggest newspaper, it isn’t about being all squishy with her feelings. Second, despite that, the article is coming from an emotional place – and that place is hurt. The author felt judged and criticized by some SAHMs she knows who fired some unthinking questions her way, and by one in particular who actually said this, “You always arrive so late for the group violin lesson, you make the rest of us moms look good!”

Feeling judged isn’t a comfy place to be – even if the judgment is completely unintentional. I’ve been on the receiving end of a fair few well-meaning but kinda hurtful comments like, “Oh, you’re a stay-at-home mum, fun!” (Belittling) “So what are you doing with all your free time these days?” (Guilt-inducing) and my personal favourite, “You’re so lucky that you are able to do that.”

Lucky. Such an overused word that indicates that all that happens to us is a matter of random chance. As it happens, random chance has been on my side. In fact, I’m one of the luckiest people I know.

I live in a great house in a great neighbourhood in a great city (crack-smoking mayor aside) in a great country.

I have a loving family and wonderful friends.

I don’t know hunger.

I turn on the tap and drink clean, potable water.

I’m in good health – cancer hasn’t caught me yet – and my son is alive and thriving.

I am spared the truly thankless drudgery that is the lot of the majority of women in the world.

I’m a lucky, lucky middle-class North American woman who owns the supreme privilege of even entering into this ridiculous mom on mom debate.

But when these people tell me that I’m lucky, they’re not referring to all of these things that make me really fortunate. They’re referring to our household income, and probably think we’re rolling in it. We do fine. We don’t buy a lot of stuff. We get a lot of support from both sets of our parents.

A lot of families I know could survive on one income, if they chose to do so. It just hasn’t been their choice, and I don’t judge them for that, as I hope they don’t judge me for mine.

Our choice is the one we made for our family, and it came out of a place of desperate need. My son needed me, probably more than any child will ever need a parent, his very survival depended on my presence. And although that is in the past, all of his ongoing health stuff means that I spend whole weeks at home with him, caring for him. LITERALLY a stay-at-home-mum.

Yesterday at Bean’s school the heat had been turned off all night, and his classroom was 4 degrees in the morning. His teacher recommended taking the kids home for the morning, if possible. So he and I returned to the house together.

We spent the morning playing Uno and making paper snowflakes. I think we can all agree, both jobbed and job-less moms, that it was a pretty lucky place to be.