Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Enormity of Need

“I haven’t said this out loud before, but the enormity of his need actually frightens me,” she confessed.

While we waited for the curtain to come up, my girlfriend Elaina told me about a ten year old boy named Ty who is a friend to her son Graham.

“Ty lives in our city’s housing projects with his mother who is raising him on her own. She suffers from severe diabetes and is frequently hospitalized for extended periods of time with life threatening illnesses.”

“Graham and Ty have been close friends since kindergarten,” Elaina told me. “When Graham recently sprained his ankle playing basketball, Ty was the only one of his teammates who rushed over to see if Graham was all right. It was Ty and the coach that helped Graham limp off the court.”

She paused, but soon continued.

“I went to pick Ty up for a play date this morning and, in front of him, his mother told me she was worried because he was becoming such a fat pig. She actually used the words fat pig! And then she handed him a pop tart for breakfast.”

Elaina shook her head sadly.

“He’s a fabulous kid, really he is, but his needs are so enormous.”

“Every day when I pick Graham up from the after-school program, Ty asks to come home with us.”

“This is irrational,” she said, “but I worry that all the negative things that Ty’s been exposed to and forced to live with will somehow rub off on Graham.”

“None of Ty’s circumstances are his fault,” I offered. “He probably doesn’t like them any more than you do.”

“I know,” she sighed.

We were quiet for a moment.

“What do you think would it cost you and your family to become wide open to Ty, to commit to him? What is the worst thing that could happen?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I guess I’m afraid that his enormous need would completely consume our family life.”

There was another pause in the conversation.

“What would you like Graham to learn from the choices you make about Ty?” I asked.

The lights dimmed over the audience and the show we were waiting to see began.

We didn’t return to our conversation about Ty, but he stayed on my mind.

Elaina’s struggle seemed immensely important to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on why I felt so triggered by it.

Then, on the way to work this morning I discussed something I’ve been grappling with at work with my husband.

For most of my career I have worked for a volunteer organization, advocating for people to be active, engaged citizens.

Last week, I initiated an online conversation by asking “If you could direct the full force of the American volunteer spirit to effect change on a single social issue, what would you ask people to do?”

One respondent said that while he believed that volunteers alleviated suffering, he didn’t believe they were capable of making systemic change.

I told my husband that even after twenty years of this work, I found myself worrying about what he said, worrying about the possibility of him being right.

My husband smiled at me.

“I think individual action might be all there is,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Look at the IMF, it was set up to end poverty and has it succeeded? What really works?” he asked.

There was a pause.

“In the end, it boils down to individual, human relationships,” he said.

I nodded, finally understanding why my friend’s story seemed so urgent.

It’s possible that breaking the cycle of poverty boils down to the choice Elaina makes about Ty and the choices the rest of us make about the Tys we find in our lives.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Middle English Presidential Junque Mail

My husband is the kind of man who spends time actively ensuring that our address is removed from junk mail lists.

But today, he received a piece of direct mail advertising from the President.

[of these United States.]

He showed me the packet and he was clearly annoyed.

It had a cellophane window pane and the envelope was decorated with a full color photo of the white house and our smiling leader.

A certificate and a refrigerator magnet were enclosed.

[What? No pre-printed return address stickers?]

My husband shook his head sadly.

"It seems to cheapen the office. Is nothing sacred?"

He put the magnet down and examined the certificate.

"Know ye," it said, "that [love of my life] has been honored as an official member of The Presidential Kitchen Cabinet..."

[He is in the KITCHEN cabinet because he is the SPICIEST! RAWR!]

"Know ye?" my husband asked. "KNOW YE?"

He tore the certificate free from the rest of the page along the perforated line provided.

"Well," he said, "I didn't realize this was YE OLDE junk mail. I'll have to write back to the President."

He adopted a formal tone.

"Hail Sir President.

I hopeth thou doth fare well.

Anon, I must thank thee for the honor bestow'd upon my good name and for the magnet which clingeth verily unto my sword.

Fey, both shall enjoy a position of great height in our most humbled hamlet's earthen heap known throughout the land as Ye Olde Land Fill."

I feel like I should add clarification and say that while we are enthusiastic supporters of our nation's President, we are also routinely aggravated by the excess of junk mail that we receive.

Oh, the woeful mixing of the two!

In other news, click this and you shall receiveth my Grandma's Super Moist Lemon Cake Recipe and a chance to support Ovarian Cancer Research.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Oh, The Stimulating Work Place

I first met the new(ish) guy at the fancy, designer office coffee machine.

"Oh!" he said shaking his head, "I'm not so sure about that brand name."

He looked skeptically at the coffee maker.

"I know what you mean," I agreed.

"Flavia?" he questioned.

[Pronounced FLAY-VIA by our office mates.]

"It doesn't sound good," I said.

"No," he agreed, "It actually sounds kind of naughty."

"I've always thought so too," I admitted.

((((FLAYVIA, for your warm drinking PLEASURE.))))

((((Stimulating caffeination deep, deep, inside you.))))

There was much chuckling -- and I'm sure I also snorted.

It's bad enough that when the phone on my desk rings it makes this very low, sexy soul music sound that makes me think it must be Barry White calling for a booty call.

I actually blush when the phone on my desk starts ringing.

[Don't you DARE call me.]

I thought the workplace blushing was limited to caffeinated beverage preparation and telephony.

But no.

Late last week, new(ish) guy and I were in a meeting about an awards program.

I kept thinking I misheard our colleague because she seemed to be referring to the "Deep Hole" Awards.

I interrupted the meeting to say,

"I'm sorry. What did you say? The WHAT awards?"

She slowed down for me,

"Deep Hole," she said again.


I still couldn't believe it.

"Did you say, D-E-E-P H-O-L-E?" I asked again, spelling it out.

"No," she sighed. "D-POL - it's an acronym."

"Phew," I said, "I was wondering what someone would have to DO to win a Deep Hole Award!"

And this was the opportunity new(ish) guy had been waiting for because he leaned over, elbowed me and said,

"I'm TOTALLY nominating you for one."

Apparently they are awarded to those who drink too much of the Flavia.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Change and Other Things That Start With The Letter C

I stopped at Whole Paycheck Grocery on the way home from work tonight to look for Kashi Mighty Bites cereal for The Rooster.

The Rooster, also known as, “SHE WHO IS IMPOSSIBLE ABOUT BREAKFAST,” likes Mighty Bites.

She’ll actually eat them.

With milk.


[Miracle of miracles.]

I was denied victory as all evidence that Mighty Bites ever existed was erased from the shelves.

[Mighty Elusive Bites.]

I can hardly ever find them and am beginning to think there is an evil conspiracy…

… a breakfast cereal conspiracy…

…all organized to drive me INSANE! INSANE!!!

[Yo, cereal conspiracy people… it’s totally working.]

Despite the cereal procurement failure, I still bought things because that is the way it goes at Whole Paycheck Grocery.

If you enter the building, you will spend $27.50 on three items.

When I got home and unpacked my three items – two chocolate bars and a bottle of Chimay, I thought,

"Hmmm… THAT’S NUTRITION! Way to go, Champ!"

Then I had a little moment of PERSONAL REFLECTION.

[Because sometimes I get all new age, hippie-chick after I breathe in the Whole Paycheck Grocery air.]

In my moment of PERSONAL REFLECTION, I thought,

"What is going on for you Mrs. Magic Stressball that you are buying chocolate and beer at the Whole Paycheck?”

And the answer…

I went back to work full time on Monday.

I am excited about the position, but already drinking from the fire hose.

Balance is over rated?

Frenzied chaos is the new black?

Ah, well.

At least The Rooster can have a five dollar, organic, 70% cocoa chocolate bar for breakfast!