Friday, November 30, 2007

The Last Day of November

It's been a LONG month!

Now I can get back to a more sedate pace of blog reading where I can open my Google reader and my eyes won't bleed!

I think you all know what I'm talking about, and for anyone who doesn't - consider yourself very fortunate.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Holiday Challenge!

Thanksgiving traveling, and two sick kids have meant very little computer time and no blogging for me lately.

Miss E is back at school, Baby J is fast asleep, and I have the luxury of peace and quiet at the computer for a couple of hours. One luxury amid many for which I am extremely grateful.

We live in a modest house. We don't have an extravagant lifestyle. I stay at home, and we go without certain things so that we can live on one income. For now, we are happy and healthy, and life is good. Yes there are things that I am anxious about, but these are not life threatening issues. We could save more and need to do better in this regard, but we are doing alright.

I don't have to worry about where we will sleep tonight. Nor do I have to panic that I can't buy food to feed my children. If I were to find myself pregnant with another child, it wouldn't send me into fear or despair about how we could afford it. I don't have to worry that my husband would raise his hand to me, or our children. I don't have to deal with mental or physical abuse of any kind that would send me running towards anyone who could help me.

Ever since I wrote this post, I have been ruminating over what it is I can do to help those people who face all of these fears and challenges, and more. Reading some of Jen's posts at One Plus Two has had me in tears many times. I have cried with sadness at the circumstances that leave people seeking shelter where she works, and I have cried in shame at my own awkwardness when presented with the issue of homelessness in the form of panhandlers. For some reason I can't link to individual posts at Jen's site - so you'll have to dig through her archives to see what I mean - I promise it's worth it!

We find ourselves once again in full blown holiday madness. I am getting to the point where I don't even want tv on in the house because all channels during the day are full of toy commercials that have Miss E dancing around the house shouting 'Can I get that? Can I? Can I?. I try to explain as best I can to her young self about how we will look forward to receiving some gifts at Christmas, but it certainly won't be everything she sees - she looks at me like I'm the worst mother ever to deny her the latest set of plastic rubbish she's seen and I feel so sad. I will not let her grow up obsessed with the latest material 'in thing'. I want her to enjoy the magic of childhood of course, but I also want her to grow up socially responsible and considerate of others less fortunate than she is. I will work on finding a way to teach her these things, in a way she can understand. We have started to talk about things she has outgrown, toys and clothes, and how other little girls younger than her would love to have these things because they don't have any toys. She is warming up to the idea of letting some things go, but I can tell this will be an ongoing lesson since I'm not sure she's 100% there, yet.

I'm not in a position to make grand financial gestures, but I can make small contributions - financial and in terms of donated goods. I'm not going to go into the specifics of what I'm doing as that is not the point of the post - it's not about me or how great I am for helping. I will quietly do what I can, when I can and I want to invite each of you to do the same.

The last few weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. I have found myself feeling ashamed of my envy of material things, or financial freedom that other people have. We don't know what goes on in other people's lives so I need not concern myself with any of these superficial things. My conscience has been well and truly pricked. While I may find myself anxious towards the end of the month wondering how the heck we managed to go right through a paycheck without saving any of it - I am very grateful that there is a paycheck, and another one coming. Many people aren't so lucky. Yes, some people find themselves destitute through their own actions and addictions. Others have lost everything through a series of unhappy circumstances, beyond their control. My compassion for either group is the same. They are all people - individuals, couples, families. They are all some mother's child. They have hearts and souls just like you and me, and they-need-help!

I don't want this post to get preachy - but I do want each of you reading this to really think hard about how you can help. Even the smallest gesture may help just one person for just one day - think about it.

Think about it while you're at the Mall stocking up on Christmas, or other Holiday gifts. Think about it when you're talking to your children. Think about it when you're planning your holiday menus, baking your holiday cookies.

Actually - don't just think about it, reach out, and DO something. Do something now in this holiday season, and make it your New Year's Resolution to keep on doing something - I know I will.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Today is my Grandfather's Anniversary. He died 16 years ago today, at the age of 92. He certainly lived to a 'ripe old age', as they say.

We never called him 'Granda', or 'Grandpa' or any other affectionate grandfatherly term. He claimed it made him sound old. All of his grandchildren called him by his name 'Charlie'.

I wish I had a photo to show you - but they're all in Ireland, and certainly not in digital format. He was a strapping and handsome man with a mane of pure white hair, brushed straight back from his face. Born not in the last century, but in the one before that, he started work at a young age for what was to become the biggest Bank in Northern Ireland. He worked his way up from errand boy, to Chief Inspector. He retired and was called out of retirement twice to lead projects, such was the Bank's respect for him and their acknowledgment of his experience and knowledge. Chief Inspector is a fairly high rank in the Bank, but his rise beyond this was no doubt capped by the fact that he was a Catholic in an environment where all directorships were held by Protestants. This was a product of the political atmosphere, that thankfully (although painfully), has changed to a large extent in Northern Ireland.

He worked for the Bank in a time when a job there was a job for life and for him it certainly was. He retired completely, I believe, well into his seventies. I worked for the same Bank, and although the times had certainly changed and it was no longer a 'work your way up from the bottom' kind of place, it gave me great pride to have been his Grand-daughter working there, and representing the third generation of my family to work for this company. As my own career advanced, I often found myself wondering 'what would Charlie think of me now?' Would he be proud that I had moved up in a relatively short space of time, or would he be shocked that I had done so since he left at a time when women had to leave when they got married, and when they rarely if ever worked on the counter in the branches? I like to think it would have been both, and hopefully a little more of the former than the latter.

But Charlie the Bank man isn't the man I remember. I remember him fondly as the man with the white hair, two pairs of black glasses, one for reading and one for television. The man who sat in a comfortable armchair in front of the fire, often in a zip up cardigan. With a steel comb in his pocket that he would give to us to 'fix his hair'. The man who would patiently let us comb his hair over and over, probably scraping his scalp raw in the process, and never saying a word.

He was very generous and our new Christmas and Easter outfits would come courtesy of him and our Nana. He would lavishly heap praise on us as we paraded our new threads in front of him, fashion show style. He also remembered for many years the praise I gave him for how dapper he looked at my Aunt's wedding, when I was ten years old.

He was an adventurous man and in his eighties flew to the USA with my Uncle and visited both coasts. We have film footage of him touring high above Alcatraz in a helicopter - thrilling for him to have done, and still thrilling for us to watch.

I've read a lot of blog posts recently about people who talk about their Grandparents whom they still see, or sadly whom they've only just lost and I feel happy for them that they have, or have had their Grandparents in their lives for so long. My husband's maternal Grandparents are still alive and very well at the ages of only 78 and 80. However, I feel completely jealous, too. I would love to talk to Charlie now, to Nana his wife, whom we lost 6 years before him. I'd love to know what they think of me living all the way over here in America! What they think of my children?

I still miss them, a lot. My Nana died before her time, from cancer and my mother was only two years older than I am now when that happened. Charlie in his declining years was 'doting' a little and was forgetful. He literally just wound down and passed away peacefully in his sleep, and for that I am very grateful.

I wipe away a few tears now and replace them instead with a broad smile in memory of a great, grandfather.

I love you, Charlie!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Professional Preschooler

Miss E has a whole two mornings of Preschool under her belt. She has taken to it like a duck to water, like she's been doing it every day of her life.

She waltzed into her classroom without a backward glance, leaving her Daddy and I in her dust. We each had to go in after her and ask her for a goodbye kiss and hug.

When I picked her up both days, she was upset. "I don't want to go home!" came her cry. So, this either means she's having a blast at Preschool, or that days at home with me are so pathetic for her, anything has to be better! I'll convince myself it's the former.

I asked the hubs as we were heading back to the carpark after dropping her off that first morning "Well, how does it feel leaving your big girl at Preschool?", he just drew in a big breath and said " That was hard". Who knew he was such a softie?

I'm delighted that all seems to be going well so far. On Monday I didn't know what to do with myself while she was in school. I took Baby J to the grocery store for some errands and it was very weird having only one in the cart, or at least not having to constantly berate Miss E for wandering off.

I get to see everything in action at the School tomorrow, as it will be my one morning this month to help out. I am delighted to be doing this so soon, as I'll see what the schedule is like and will be able to picture her day more accurately once I see how it all works.

Once we get into the swing of things I'm hoping that Baby J will enjoy some more quality time with me all to himself, and that I can get more blogging , housework done!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Miss E's First Day at Preschool

For other Wordless Wednesday participants, click here.