How was your Thanksgiving?
We had a “white” Thanksgiving and cold temperatures here in Kodiak. I cooked a lot of food, then ate a lot of food, and then slipped into a nice long turkey coma last night. This morning, I’m happy to have Wendy from Mama One to Three here to guest post for me as this weeks Feature Friday spotlight! Wendy found my blog not too long ago and has become a loyal reader. Which led me to her site to discover yet another fabulous site to add to my reader. I promise you guys will love her. She’s pretty fabulous.
Wendy writes about life with 2.5-year-old twins plus a four year old in New York City; this includes many references to wine and coffee. She tries to tell the whole truth about her life as a40-something mom and isn’t afraid to curse. (She then apologizes for cursing.) Wendy blogs at www.mamaonetothree.com, and she writes poetry and fiction as well. Wendy thinks she’s pretty damn lucky to also be writing about New York City life for the amazing blog, www.MommasGoneCity.com. Wendy has a BA from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. Her husband is funny and her kids mock her. Find Wendy using poor judgement on Twitter, @mamaonetothree.
Charitable Works and Ballet Flats
I resisted writing about this topic on the cusp of the holiday season because it’s so cliche. You see, I give myself a lot of undeserved credit for being original. While I was thinking about gratitude and helping others in the context of our family this year, a strange thing happened. Sometimes you begin to appreciate the profound truth behind a cliche. And sometimes a cliche just bites you on the ass.
Last week I sent my husband an e-mail at work. Unlike most of my e-mails during his workday (“Kids are awful. Please come home,” or “I am walking out the door in 5 minutes,” or “I may or may not jump out the window today”), this e-mail didn’t elicit an immediate phone call and/or visit from the authorities. The e-mail read: “I think that we should limit our spending on ourselves and the kids this year. Let’s spend more on people who have less. It will be a good example not only for our children, but for our families.”
Yes, I really said that. The irony is that while writing this e-mail, several windows were also open on my laptop: Zappos.com, J.crew.com, Diapers.com. I was shopping for a new car seat, new boots and a new pocketbook. I really suggested that I was more interested in giving to those less fortunate, I really implied that our families might need to learn a lesson about charity–while buying myself a suede bag at J.Crew.
This was going to be a post about how we are teaching our children to think of others this season. We regularly make gifts to charities such as UNICEF, Project Cuddle, St. Jude’s Hospital. We donate most of our outgrown household and children’s items to Little Sisters of the Assumption in Harlem. (I am telling you this because these are great organizations that you should consider giving to. And to impress you with how awesome we are.)
We are taking our children shopping this year for gifts that will go to less fortunate children. We bring canned goods in to their schools and church to help feed the hungry. My children are beginning to understand the concept of charity. M has explained to her brother and sister that their toys “are going to babies that don’t have toys.” It’s a little more than awesome to hear her say this.
And we mean all of this. My husband and I truly want to raise generous, compassionate, reasonable children who understand on a very deep level that most of the rest of the world does not have the same support, resources, and easy lifestyle that we have. We are typical New Yorkers, often worrying about affording to stay here–but our children will never be hungry or thirsty; they are vaccinated and educated and clothed, and they are not responsible for caring for themselves or their siblings. Will they ever understand how truly lucky they are? How can we make sense of our good fortune? We discuss this at night when the kids are in bed, while we eat dinner at the coffee table and watch coverage of famine and war and shattering unemployment.
Ahem. I also love new and shiny things. Cashmere sweaters and ballet flats call to me. Every day. I live in a city of excess, and I enthusiastically participate in the greed: the beautiful window displays around town; the gorgeous catalogs that arrive each day like invitations to fancy parties, to a fancier life. I was about four lines in to writing this post when I sent another e-mail to my husband: “My post just turned ugly.”
I made a promise to myself that I would be honest when I write. Or try to be. Really try to be. I do not think I am horrible, or that it is horrible to enjoy shopping for and enjoying and dreaming of the things we are taught to want and to covet. I wouldn’t give up my Kuerig for anything, and I am certain that a washer and dryer in my apartment would be equal in every way to the rewards of heaven.
It is the subtle hypocrisy of my own beliefs and actions that I had to pull into the light of this post. In this season of beautiful dinners with beloved friends and family, of glittering trees and gifts, overtired children, rich foods and flowing wine (thank you God for all the wine!), I want to let you know that I will be savoring all of that because of some strange or random design in the universe that I can’t explain. And I am grateful for this. And because of this beauty, and because I am blessed to be able to see it, I have to work that much harder at attempting to bring comfort to others.