ue I'm More Than Just a Mom...I Think: August 2004u

Sunday, August 29, 2004

What Cathy Believes, Part One

As I said once before, I'm a flip-flopper. I will often change my opinion on something if I see a strong argument for the other side of things. One topic I've switched my opinion on is the death penalty. This could get long.

For years, I used to believe that murders and child molesters should be executed. No middle of the road - the bastards deserve to die. However, in the last few years, I've become a staunch anti-death penalty advocate. Advocate may not be the right word because I don't rally or protest or anything (when the kids are older maybe), but anti-death penalty "person" didn't sound as good. Yes, I believe that murders, child molesters, and the like should suffer severe punishment, but we, as a society, do not have the right to kill other people. I'm not sure that some people really stop to think when they say "fry him!". If it not ok for Joe Blow to murder Jane Doe, why is it then acceptable for us to murder Joe Blow? It's been proven that the death penalty is not a deterrent for violent criminals. They still do it. It's more expensive to have an inmate on death row (think appeals processes) than to house a prisoner for life without parole. Here is a great link with a lot of money stats on it. (If you feel inclined, the rest of the site has all kinds of information on the death penalty). http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?Did=108&scid=7 Everyone is always bitching about where the taxpayers' dollars are going - I sure as hell don't want my money going to kill people.

I hear a lot that violent criminals will go to hell and "why not help them get there faster?" Well, A) I don't believe in hell and B) if, going by what most of these people believe, a person repents, is forgiven by God and absolved of their sins, won't they then go to heaven? Why on earth would you want someone who committed such a horrible crime to go to heaven sooner rather than later? I understand that God forgives all sinners. Ok, then God forgives the man who raped and murdered a little girl, the state kills him (quite humanely I might add) and then this man is up in heaven. I don't consider that a good punishment. Of course, I don't believe in heaven either, but I'm playing devil's advocate here.

Life without parole, to me, is a much more severe punishment than the death penalty. Prison is not a nice place, no matter if prisoners have cable TV and internet access or not (and that's a whole different issue right there). Prisoners are abused and mistreated by other prisoners. I'm not saying I think that's right, but it's a fact. "What if someone killed your child?" people have asked me, "how would you feel?" I'd want to kill that person. I'd want to torture them and make them feel tremendous pain. I wouldn't, though. But given the choice between having him (I'm going to use him here for convenience, I'm not saying that only men kill people) spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of ever getting out, or being strapped comfortably to a table, given a sedative, and sweetly put to sleep forever, I chose the former. The latter is getting off easy, in my opinion. Some violent criminals want to die - why would you want to give that prisoner the satisfaction of getting what he/she wants?

A good example to me of this is Timothy McVeigh. He was executed in 2001, 6 years after his crime. He was not repentant. He did not feel remorse for his crimes. He wasn't given the chance to really let it sink in what he had done. It might have taken 10, 20, 30 years for it to happen, but I do honestly believe it would have eventually. Perhaps it would have taken the birth of a niece or a nephew for him to realize what he'd taken away from so many people. For the 6 years he was incarcerated, he focused on his appeals. After they were finished, they did a swift job of executing him. He didn't have time to be miserable. He said he wanted to be a martyr and die for what he believed in.

And we gave that to him. It makes me sick, honestly.

Check out that link I posted before - look and see how many death row convictions are over-turned because of new evidence (most of it DNA). The fact of the matter is, there HAVE been innocent people murdered by our judicial system. There will be more if the death penalty is permitted to continue. There is no way to be 100% certain that every person executed is guilty. One innocent person who is executed proves that our system is flawed. One, just one, innocent person being executed is unacceptable to me.

We, do not have the right to kill other humans. I don't care what they have done - it is not our right to kill people.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Karma vs. God

I believe in Karma. I think that if you do horrible things, it will come back to bite you in the ass one day and horrible things will happen to you. In the alternative, if you do good things, good things will happen to you in return. This is not always the case, there are always exceptions to the rule. Also, it's not just horrible things that will turn around on you, smaller things will as well. Such as, I think if someone is really judgemental, it's likely that something will happen to them later to make them "see the light" so to speak. I'm one of those people for sure.

I don't, however, believe in God. I want to. I've sometimes been near tears because I just don't believe in God. No matter how hard I try, my scientific mind takes over. Adam & Eve - genetically impossible. We would all be inbreds with deformities. Noah's Ark - same thing. Parting of the sea? Seriously? Come on. Obviously, I don't believe that someone can die and be ressurected a few days later. I wish I did. I wish I had the blind faith that some of my friends have. I don't think badly of them for having this faith, in fact, I'm jealous. This is certainly tied to my phobia of death, I'm sure.

So how can I believe in Karma and not in God? Not sure. I just do. I'm a flip-flopper by nature. I often change my opinion on things, because I obtain new information and sometimes it's enough to sway me to the other side. I've been to church, even as an adult, but still, I haven't found anything to change my mind about this.

I've pondered reincarnation too. The only thing about that, aside from the scientific impossibility of course, is the idea of reincarnation doesn't comfort me about dying either. Because, even if I were reincarnated, I wouldn't have any memory of my life now. The idea of dying and never seeing my children again depresses me. Never knowing what happened to them, whether they were happy and satisfied in their lives, is enough to make me tear up.

Kinda like now. Sigh. I really wish I could believe in something. Those of you who do, you are lucky, you really are.

Back on the Wagon

I've gained back a lot of weight. It wouldn't be so bad if my jeans weren't getting too tight now. Oh, who am I kidding? One pair doesn't even fit anymore and I can't even pretend that they do. The other pair are painful to sit in. So, it's back on the dieting wagon for me. It's time. I've already lost 4 pounds and can feel it in the way my jeans fit, so that's some motivation right there.

Why does food have to have this terrible side-effect? It's like a medication that makes the symptoms of problem A go away, but causes problem B. And which is worse? I say problem B, so then the medication has to stop. It's really not fair. The medication is so comforting and familiar. Like an old friend, or a too-worn sweater that's in tatters but you still wear it.

I'm disappointed in myself, but I'm not surprised at the results of my binging. Did I really think that I could sit around eating ice cream and other assorted crap and NOT gain weight back? No, but I didn't think it would come back THIS fast!! Oh well, back on the wagon for me!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I Take it all Back!!!!!!!!

I've always been one to say "I'm happier if I'm busy." Boredeom is no fun, however, I take it back, I'm not happier when I'm busier. More stressed? Yes. More frantic? Yup. More borderline insane? You got it! This last week has felt like a whirlwind of constant errands, chores, and noise. If I'm not running around with errands, there are chores to be done. If the toddler boy is quiet, the teenager and her friends are working my last nerve. If the teenager's quiet and by some miracle, so is the toddler boy, the middle child is driving me to the brink of insanity. It's a never-ending cycle around this house.

But, the last few days have just been unreal. Trips to the airport, a Wiggles concert, PTA meeting, notary renewal (which included a trip to the WRONG Courthouse, thank you very much), and grocery delivery. Grocery delivery, how could that be stressful? Well, waiting for him to deliver the groceries and having an 8 year old who needs to go to karate while the babysitting-age teenager is nowhere to be found gets trying. I found him a ride though - knock off 10 stress points. Oh, and since teenager is nowhere to be found, that means a reduction in noise! Knock off 5 stress points.

After cleaning the kitchen and paying the bills today, I've decided to take the rest of the day off. I'm taking tomorrow off too (not from work, but from "home" work). Knock off 25 stress points, pass "Go" and get $200 in fake money. At some point, I've got to get the PTA budget worked out, but I can probably push that until the weekend. Knock off 5 stress points.

Of course, the groceries aren't going to put themselves away, now are they? Add 2 stress points.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Friendship is What You Make of it...

I have met a lot of people in person that I had initially "met" on the Internet. I'm used to the weird looks, the glances, the flat-out rudeness of some people who just don't understand how I can call people that I talk to on a computer "friends". I have a friend whose mom actually told her that I could be a murderer coming out to kill her. Yeah, cuz paying for 2 plane tickets, in my name, and bringing my baby with me are sure signs of a serial killer. It's no wonder they never caught the Zodiac killer - they weren't looking for the right type of person. Female, 30's, married with kids - makes sense, doesn't it?

In all seriousness, I have a close-knit group of Internet friends. When something good happens to me, I want to share it with them first (after David, of course). If something bad happens, I run to them for support. It's easier to talk to them than my parents or IRL friends a lot of times. And why is that? Probably because typing is easier emotionally than saying the words. There are certain words that I don't like to leave my lips, but my fingers can get them out with ease. However, does that make my relationship with these friends any less real or satisfying? I say no.
I think our friendships are more solid than most of my IRL friendships that I've had (except for my closest of friends). I've logged hours/months/years of time talking to these women. I know so much about them and they, in turn, know some of my deepest thoughts and feelings. I don't have to worry about impressing them, whether I have the 'right' clothes, hair style, smell, etc. They love me for who I am. I'm not saying that my real-life friends don't, but there's so much less pressure with on-line friendships.

For instance, my friend Vanessa is here visiting. We've known each other for about 2 years now and our sons are the same age. When she showed up yesterday, at first it was a little strange, only because it was surreal to have this woman standing in front of me that I was used to typing to. And in about 2 minutes, I was totally at ease. Just as I knew I would be. We've been just relaxing, hanging out, talking, watching movies, and playing games. It's been wonderful!

So what makes a friend? Does it have to be someone that you have spent one-on-one time with in person? No, it doesn't. Are my bonds closer with the people that I have gotten a chance to meet with in person. I wouldn't say they are closer than the ones I haven't met, necessarily (some are), but it's more a case of my friendships with them have become closer because of meeting in person. Ultimately, I'd love to meet all of my online friends at some point - especially my ZF girls. That would be a blast!

So what is a friend? A friend is someone who listens to you, cares about you, and wants you to be happy. They love you no matter the things you have done. Whether it's someone you get to hug in person or have to use an emoticon to hug, it doesn't matter. Friends come in all shapes and sizes.

And all of my friends are X-Large because I need a lot of love and support (and I have a big ass to love and support) so they get a workout being my friend. But, they also get a fantastic friend in return. I'd do almost anything for a true friend.

And don't argue with me about that!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


I love coffee. I mean, really love coffee. Sure, people say "I love this" or "I love that" but they don't know what love of an inanimate object is all about. I dream about coffee sometimes. When I wake up every day, one of my first thoughts (after, oh please PLEASE let it be after 6am, as Zack yells "Mommy! I done sleepin'" from his room) is "woo hoo - coffee!". If it weren't so sticky, I'd probably try to bathe in it once, just to say I did. I should own stock in Starbucks, they've taken enough of my money. For my birthday this year, my ZF friends (that's the private birth board that I run for those who don't know) bought me a Starbucks gift card. Best present I've ever received, I might have even teared up when I saw it.

I even like bad coffee. It honestly doesn't matter, as long as it's brown and caffeinated, I'm a happy camper. That's not to say that I don't appreciate good coffee, because I do. I prefer good coffee, of course, I'm not stupid. I'm just saying that I'm not a coffee SNOB, I'll drink anything if I have to. Dare I say, airline coffee ain't half bad?

I like it hot. I like it iced. I like it room temperature. I do not like it black. No no no. I prefer milk, but will drink it with cream. I don't have a preference when it comes to sweeteners - sugar or substitute, it's all good. Luckily, I have a husband who likes coffee too. He bought a French Press - talk about GOOD coffee. I'm salivating now. There's a very painful time that I'd rather not talk about, which was the first trimester of my pregnancy. Can you imagine NO COFFEE? Well, decaf only, but come on - that's not coffee!!!!

When I'm not dieting, I prefer the fancy smancy concoctions from Starbucks. Frappuchinos, mochas, white mochas, caramel macchiatos, the stranger, the better. Nothing warms me up on a cold morning like a nice Grande Skim White Chocolate Mocha (no whip cream - it makes me ill - I don't even like it on sundaes. I know that's sacrilege, but it's the truth). I've got all the lingo down too. You should have seen me in there when I was pregnant, after I'd hit the "one cup of coffee is ok" mark. "Grande half-caf, mocha, skim, no whip". Yeah, I rock. For those of you who don't know - that meant a medium mocha (coffee with chocolate syrup), one shot regular, one shot decaf coffee, skim milk with no whip cream. I'm not of the school that you should shout your order to the attendant as fast as you can to look cool. I'd rather that my order was made correctly, thank you very much.

My wonderful husband is off getting the morning coffee now. He'd better hurry too - like a junkie who needs a fix, I'm starting to shake. Must...have...coffee :)

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Few of my Favorite Zack Things

"Mommy, I farted on you. With my butt."

Toddler somersaults.

The "Baby Jackass" moves that Zack pulls. He is the smallest daredevil alive, I'm convinced of it. He will jump off of anything - the higher, the better.

The fact that he can work the dvd player and vcr like a pro.

"Oh, dat's a good idea, mom"

The way he clings to me when he's sleepy.

How much he adores his brother and sister - they can do no wrong in his eyes.

The songs he sings.

"Could you help me, mommy, could you?" variations being "Could you get that for me, could you?" or "Could you help me find my gwamma (or daddy, whichever the case may be)"

The fact that even though he wakes me up before 7am sometimes, ok often lately, as soon as I see his face, I can't be mad at him, no matter what time it is.

How he holds me tight and says "it's ok, mommy, that noise won't hurt you" when HE is the one that is scared.

And best of all - my favorite thing - is that I have him at all.

A Draft Only.

I wasn't going to publish this entry. I had it all typed up and decided it was too personal to make public. Then I realized that writing doesn't help me if no one sees it. I don't expect to talk to people about this, in fact, I probably won't. But knowing that someone can see what I'm thinking is good sometimes, for me at least.

When I was a teenager, I used to cut myself. I had a conversation with a friend last night about it and for some reason, I feel like talking about it, after many years. I think perhaps David is one of the only people who knows about this. Unfortunately, it seems to be a fairly common occurrence with teenagers and young people these days. Cassie mentioned a friend that does this and that brought back a lot of memories and feelings.

I won't lie. There are several times in the last year that I've thought about doing it again, heck I've thought about it very recently. It's not something I'm proud of, it's honestly quite embarrassing. I've been through a lot in the past year and it was overwhelming at times. I used to take out my anger on myself by hurting myself physically. It made me feel better - it was almost like a release. With each twinge of pain, I was letting go of emotional pain. A catharsis of some kind.

I honestly can't remember the last time I hurt myself. The one thing that kept me from doing it in the last year is my children. I couldn't set an example like that, especially with Cassie. I didn't want to lie and say "oh the cat scratched me" or something lame like that. I don't want my children thinking that is something that is acceptable.

I wonder if writing about this is becoming detrimental? I have urges to do it again, perhaps more than I'd care to admit to anyone, including myself. It's a satisfying feeling. Have I felt satisfied lately? I think I have. Maybe I'm missing something. No, that's not it at all. It's a punishment. I think I still have serious issues about the things I've done and I think I still deserve pain for them. It doesn't matter that I've been in terrible pain in the last year - physical pain is different than emotional pain. Physical pain is easier to deal with than emotional pain. Physical pain fades quickly - emotional pain can linger for years. The idea of taking a knife or my razor and slowly tearing into my flesh actually sounds good. Like something I deserve.

Why do I feel that I deserve so much pain? Haven't I been through enough? Karen said that I have to forgive myself at some point. How can I do that? I don't think that's possible. I don't think that I can view myself as anything other than a horrible, disgusting person on the inside for what I've done. But in the overall scheme of things, in the great big picture of it all, how important is an indiscretion? Does it overtake our lives and make each day painful to live? No. At one point it did, when it was all fresh. But not now. It's something I think about every day, but often times not for very long. It certainly hasn't destroyed our lives. So why can't I forgive myself? I can forgive David - I already have and it didn't take very long. I've almost "easily" forgiven him for the same thing that I did, yet I can't forgive myself.

I'm beginning to sound crazy, I know this, but part of my writing is saying what I think and feel, whether it sounds crazy or not. I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Everyone's Problems are not MY Problems

If counseling has taught me anything, it's that. I am not responsible for making sure that everyone around me is happy. I've always felt like that was important. Make sure no one is unhappy - if they are, cure them. Sorry, but people are unhappy once in a while. I don't mean that I don't care if my friends and/or family members are sad. It doesn't mean that I won't go out of my way to help. Lend an ear, give a hug, you know what I'm saying. I used to let my friend's problems consume me and become part of me. That got me into a lot of trouble and almost lost me my marriage last year.

I can't let other people's problems become my problems and my worries. Perfect example - my boss. Used to be that if he was having personal problems, he would talk to me about them. Then, in turn, I would feel bad for him and I would worry about him. I would go home wondering if he was ok or feeling better or what have you. It wasn't a matter of (as with a friend or family member) wanting to make him feel better because I didn't want him hurting - it was more a matter of I don't want my life at work to be a living hell, so please God, let him feel better soon. It's all selfish, I know, but it's the truth. The problem is, it doesn't matter the motivation - it was still a problem. Work should stay at work, it shouldn't come home with you. My work situation is a little unique because, since it's just my boss and myself in our office, it's a very close knit work environment. We have to talk about some personal stuff from time to time out of necessity. I can't call him on the phone for a day off because of issues with David without saying "I'm having issues with Dave, I need the day off". I don't have to go into detail (nor does he ever ask) but there are times when he needs to know it's serious and not just that I'm not feeling well or something. I won't lie and say I'm sick if I'm not. If I need a mental health day off, if I'm honest with him and ask him for it, he will give it to me.

These days, I don't talk to my boss about his personal life (or mine for that matter). If he starts to talk about it, I tell him that I don't want to talk about it (nicely of course, I don't want to lose my job). He knows about what's happened with David and I and I told him shortly afterward that I wasn't comfortable talking about his personal life. And he's honored that. It's a much better way for me to live. Not getting emotionally involved in other people's lives. I'm a happier person for it.

However, we have a problem - my boss just broke up with his girlfriend. The only reason I know this is because he emailed me from the Bahamas to tell me he was coming home early and asked me to call his friend to see if he could pick up his dog. I don't even know how long they have been dating. I used to know all those kinds of details - I'm glad I don't now.

But of course, now I sit here tense. I have to go to work in a few minutes and I don't want to. My boss tends to take out his anger on me. This came to a head earlier this year and I ended up quitting. It was a horrible experience. I sat on the couch, crying, after I sent him my resignation letter because I didn't want to leave my job, but I couldn't keep being treated badly. He apologized and basically begged me to come back (boy, doesn't that feel good). I agreed and things have been very good since. But, he hasn't had a major crisis since then.

Today will be the big test and I'm desperately hoping he passes. I don't want to be on the receiving end of the "do you have a brain" speech again. If I am, I will leave early and go back Monday. I have my plan all worked out. Of course, I'm probably stressing out for nothing. He will probably just be quiet, sit in his office, and leave me alone.

Re-reading this, it sounds like I have no sympathy for anyone anymore. That's not the case at all. I'm always here for my friends. The difference now is that I don't have male friends for whom my feelings of sympathy/empathy can be twisted/manipulated into something they aren't. I've recognized my weaknesses and have adjusted my life accordingly.

Great, now I sound like a robot.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Baby Einstein - Godsend or Mind Control?

I really do wonder sometimes. These videos are amazing. Amazing in the fact that they can hold my kid's attention like nothing else. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of good qualities about these movies, but the way they freakishly control my child scares me.

We became followers of the Baby Einstein series when Zack was about 4 months old. The little girl who was at daycare with him (the same age) had one that her mom left with Jessica for the babies to watch. Jessica would put it on for feedings and things like that, to relax them. I thought they were cute, so I bought one.

Then another.

And another.

Oh, and some DVDs.

Toys, too!

There are some books around here.

2 CDs in the car for baby emergencies.

And a puppet, don't forget the puppet!

Grandma just bought him a new video a few days ago. It's MacDonald's farm. My son is obsessed. First thing he says when we wake up "I wanna watch da animows!". First thing he says when we get home from daycare "I wanna watch da animows!". But, back to infancy and babydom for a minute.

There were times when Zack was a baby that NOTHING would calm him down. We've all been there with the rocking, nursing, changing, tickling, whatever it takes to get the baby to calm down. And we've all been there when nothing works. Baby Einstein always worked. It was scary. He could be screaming his little head off, but if we popped in a video, he would quiet down. Sometimes, when he was sick, it was the only thing that would comfort him. Amazing these things, especially on day 4 of Roseola with the constant screaming of the sad, feverish baby.

Which brings us to the present day. Zack2.5 is still loving these videos. Every last one of them. Now, there's a new twist to them - he will interact with them. Anyone who has a child knows the amazement that's involved in watching your child learn new things and showing self-pride in being able to identify items. It's one of the greatest aspects of parenting for me.

But here's the thing - is the woman who created these videos a true genius or are there subliminal message on the tapes that make our children crave them? No, I'm not serious. Well, not completely. She's made videos that not only teach, entertain, and encourage our children, but they don't annoy the parents either! Yes, she's a genius.

My guess is that Zack will be watching these things until he's 5, so I'd better get used to it ;)

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Why do I do This to Myself?

I'm afraid of heights. Petrified, actually. I get sweaty, I have trouble breathing, the works. Yet, for some reason, I love roller coasters and thrill rides. Why is this, I wonder? I don't enjoy being scared, I really don't. There are times that I've come close to tears at the beginning of some rides. One in particular is the Drop Zone at Kings Dominion.

For those who don't know thrill rides, I'll explain this one to you. It's pretty simple - you get dropped 300+ feet. This ride scares the crap out of me. Yet, I love it. It's ironic. I figured out the secret of how not to be scared yesterday when I went on it again, but I'll get to that later. I LOVE the free-fall feeling. It's exhilirating, exciting, and amazing. Getting to that point is not. I sit down and strap myself into the harness. The harness makes me feel very secure. I know, in my heart of hearts and my brain of brains, that nothing bad is going to happen. These rides are constantly checked and rechecked for safety. The only people who have died on free-fall rides are ones who wiggled their way out of the harness. Not me, I'm staying put. My legs dangle from the seat and I swing them back and forth. While we're sitting on the ground, I'm fine. We start to go up. Now, obviously since the seats are attached to the tower in the back, I can't tell when we've reached the top. This bothers me a lot. I'm fine for the first 50 feet or so, then I start to remember that this thing is going to go WAY up. I have to close my eyes. If I look, my heart will explode. My husband on the other hand, loves the view. That's my secret - I have to keep my eyes closed and have Dave tell me when we're at the top (so I can brace for the fall).

Luckily, they don't hold you at the top too long before letting you fall. The fall is incredible. Once we were at the bottom, I wanted to do it all over again. The first time I rode this thing, I almost cried at the top. I was so scared - I hated it. But once we fell, I was in love. Strange how that happens.

I love rollercoasters, too. But the lift hills make me wanna pee myself. Millenium Force is the perfect example. This coaster is at Cedar Point in Ohio and, up until this year when Cedar Point opened up another new coaster, was the highest coaster in the country with a 310 foot initial drop. I honestly wanted to get off of this half way up the lift hill. I was petrified and I closed my eyes when we got to the top. I opened them when I thought we were at the bottom and we were only half way down! The rest of the ride was incredible. However, I haven't been able to conquer my fear of that lift hill again. We were back at Cedar Point about 2 years later and I couldn't bring myself to ride it again. I couldn't get past the fear of the lift hill. Pathetic, I know, because Dave happily rode it a couple more times.

Not me. I don't know if I'll ever get up the courage to ride it again. Just call me a wimp :)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


I got to talk to my brother last night. He's still in Germany, but he should be able to hop a flight home either tomorrow or Saturday. I can't believe I'm finally going to see him again after him being gone for almost a year.

I still can't fathom that my brother fought in a war. MY brother. The pacifist. One of the most genuinely kind, helpful people I've ever known. I'm so excited to see him again and so nervous at the same time. Will I say something wrong? I can't even begin to imagine what he's been through. Are there going to be certain things that if mentioned will make him upset, sad or scared? I want to talk politics with him - we've always thought about the same in that respect, but I wonder if his opinions have changed at all? Probably not, but you never know.

I think I will cry when I finally do see him again. I don't want him to get upset by this either, but I don't think I will be able to help it. I've missed him terribly and have worried about him every day that he's been gone. You'd think he was my LITTLE brother and not my older brother the way I talk about him sometimes ;)

I have an infinate amount of respect for him. He kept his sanity, did his job, and now he gets to come home and see his wonderful wife again! I sure hope she can go to Germany with him soon - it's not fair that they have be apart like this. I will miss her too, though - we've gotten to know her so much better in this last year.

I can't wait to see him!!!!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

With choice comes dignity

I learned a lot yesterday. David & I volunteered at the local soup kitchen in Baltimore, Our Daily Bread. We signed up for a 9am-1pm shift. Dave has volunteered before, but I'd never been. We took full advantage of Cassie's last day at home before camp to watch the boys for us.

I will admit that I was very nervous. I do not like the unknown. I like to know what places are going to look like, down to the color of the tile on the floor. I don't like to imagine and be disappointed because in my mind, things are always more grandeous than they end up being in real life. I did not know what to expect of this place - would it look like a restaurant? A mess hall? Would some people be rude? Would there be little babies - I didn't know if I could handle seeing little babies in need.

As per usual, I was worried for nothing. Our Daily Bread's dining area is a large, tiled room (Black & White checkered tiles, for those wondering), with 4 aisles of 4 large, round tables, each with 6 chairs. The tables are "grouped" in 4's with different colored placemats to identify each section. When we walked in, there were about 10 volunteers already seated and performing various tasks (folding napkins, cutting tissue paper for desserts, etc.). There was a quiet murmur as people chatted a little bit, but not much. There was a kind of seriousness in the air, yet everyone there was extremely friendly and welcoming.

I went to "orientation" while Dave continued the prep work, because I had never been before. Jennifer gave a short history of Our Daily Bread and how it came to be. She explained that all of the food is donated, mostly by churches and other organizations. Then she got to the "what to expect" portion of the introduction, along with a description of the jobs that we would be doing. First and foremost, the people coming for food are referred to as "guests" and nothing else. They are given the choice between a regular meal and a vegetarian meal. "With choice, comes dignity" she explains. And that makes sense. Who wouldn't want a choice - our toddlers and children live for choice. It makes them feel in control of the situation. The main aspect of the facility that really made me sit up and take notice was that it is run like a restaurant, not a mess hall. The guests come in, sit down, and give their ticket to the "server". They make their choice of veggie or regular meal and the server throws up his hands with fingers outstretched to indicate to his "runner" how many of each meal to bring to the table. Right hand is regular, left hand is veggie. The runner then brings the meals to the table and the server places the plates in front of the guests.

Many of the people who come to eat there are not homeless, which surprised me. They are low-income families, senior citizens, and other individuals who can't always make ends meet. Perhaps they just paid the bills and this is their only opportunity for a hot meal until next pay day. Some are wearing hard hats, some are dressed quite well and wouldn't fit into the typical "needy" picture that most of us have in our heads. No one WANTS to be there, but life is not always fair. Things do not work out the way that we want them to all the time. In other words, shit happens.

"Don't pick up the babies - they are cute, but if you drop them, we are in a lot of trouble" was the last of Jennifer's instructions to us newbies during the orientation. It was like she was speaking just to me cuz you know darn well, that's EXACTLY what I would want to do!

I was chosen to be a runner for the day and Dave chose to be a cleaner (after a guest was finished, Dave would wipe down the area with cleaner and place a new fork & napkin for the next guest). We got to work in the same section, which was nice. I worked with a great guy named Anthony, who was happy, friendly, and really chatted up the guests. He's obviously a seasoned veteran of the place. We made a good team and I'm proud to say had no mistakes in orders.

After the last of the guests ate and we closed down, there was clean up time and then we got to partake of the extra food. Good food too, I scarfed down quite a bit!

I left the building, holding hands with my husband, feeling very lucky to have what we have. We don't need to worry where the next meal is coming from. I left there feeling uplifted, rather than depressed as I thought I would. I thought it would be sad to see so many underpriviledged people coming in for food. It wasn't. It was inspiring to know that there are people who take time out of their lives to help these people. They cook casseroles, donate money to keep the facility going, donate their time like we did, any number of things. I had a feeling of accomplishment. No more sitting around saying "I wish I could help" because now I am helping. And it feels really good.

One day, I want to be a seasoned veteran there, just like Anthony.
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