Generosity

I recently read something very profound that beckoned this question:

Why doesn’t the generosity of people during the Christmas season spill out into their lives during other times of the year?

For many people it is the spirit of Christmas that puts them in the giving mood. Their generosity peaks from Thanksgiving until December 25. Maybe it’s the warm glow of twinkling Christmas lights or seeing the cherry red buckets and bell ringers outside the stores that does it. Others see the plight of the poor and volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters during the holidays. Others organize coat drives and clothing drops and Toys for Tots events for needy families and kids. Or maybe it’s helping out a military family where one of the parents is deployed in the Middle East during the holidays.

Neighbors bake for each other and drop off cookies and bring good cheer to each other during the Christmas holidays. There are carolers going from door to door, festivals and celebrations where people are more likely to reach into their pockets to help out. People are willing to take that spirit of Christmas and spread it around during December. It becomes contagious. One good deed grows a hundredfold and before you know it, you and your fellow man or womankind have made Christmas special for people who need it.

Aside from charitable organizations — Christmas is usually (and hopefully) the most wonderful time of the year for them  — generosity is something as simple as holding a door for someone in the store, letting someone go ahead of you in line, happily giving another person that prime parking spot at the mall without complaint.

It’s such a wonderful time to watch people. The world is not dark and scary and angry and rushed during Christmas. I even blogged about the fact that when I looked around, I saw Santa Claus everywhere.

But then Christmas is over and we take down the decorations and clean out under the tree. And something happens. We go back to living our lives the way we do for the other 11 months out of the year.

We sometimes forget how good it feels to spread a little Christmas spirit come January 1.

It’s back to our lives, making healthy resolutions, getting back to the grind at work, back to school, back to reality and our good deeds become something of the past.

Oh I know this is not true for everyone. There are so many giving and generous and caring people whose good tidings are 24-7-365. I know a lot here in my own town.

But take me and others like me. The feeling of good cheer, of going above and beyond to help out, of spreading good tidings –well, it is now, sadly, more than a month old. Ancient history.

It took that little blurb in a little book to get me thinking about it.

Why is it that I ramp up my generosity only at Christmas? It’s not like I don’t do anything nice at all the other 11 months. I am nice. (Usually). And I do give. But it is notably less than it was in December.

I guess for me it’s easy to remember to be generous during the holidays because of the sights and sounds like the Salvation Army bell ringers and bright red Toys for Tots bins or the many stores that ask if you want to donate $1 for a cause when you check out.

But in reality, the people who need people don’t go away in January. Maybe it’s just the voices on their behalf that I can’t hear quite as clearly.

So how hard is it really to continue to do something nice for someone when there are no bells ringing and pretty decorations around? Some little random acts of kindness to brighten up the dreary days of a New England winter? Continuing the Christmas cheer well into in Spring?

The answer is: not very hard at all.

It doesn’t have to be much. Maybe it could be just listening to someone instead of rushing off the phone. It could be making a dinner for my elderly neighbor or stopping to chat with her when I walk my dog. Making an extra batch of muffins to bring to a friend or cookies for my kids’ classrooms. Taking the time to make a special memory with my family.

It could be putting an extra few dollars in the weekly collection at church or taking the bags of old clothes and unused baby items to a local shelter. Or troll a BOGO sale and give one away to someone else. When I am at the grocery store, I can fill an extra brown bag with goods for the town’s food pantry. Instead of leaving my grocery cart, I can return it to the corral or intercept a shopper getting out of her car and offer it up.

No, not hard at all.

I think I am up for a challenge. I am going to attempt the WordPress challenge of a Post A Week in 2012. And along with that I will make my own personal challenge to keep the Christmas spirit alive and well all year.

Small or not so small random acts of non-holiday holiday cheer each week.

Who knows? Maybe it will catch on. Maybe a seed will grow.

How about you? Are you up for a challenge?

There Are Days…

Being a stay-at-home-mom, part-time writer, part-time blogger, house-frau and part-time everything else is a pretty cushy gig if I do say so myself.

It gives me time to be a good mom and wife to my family. It lends me the ability to sit down when I want to and write a story about some kids doing something outstanding in my community or overshare about life in the sticks as I do irregularly with this very blog.

The one area I stink at is the part-time house frau gig, I mean it. Believe me, the writing (or anything else at ALL) trumps any house chores I might have.

I am not a good housekeeper. There I said it.

I blame some of if on the fact that my vacuum sucks. Literally. It’s a sorry excuse for a household appliance. Not only does it weigh as much as a Sherman tank, but dirt rolls around on the floor never actually going up the tube part when this Kenmore comes a calling. It’s pathetic. Vacuums are so damn expensive. I’d hate to use hard-earned money on another one so soon after this one came into our lives.

And I can also blame my lack of good housecleaning skills on HCADD — household chore attention deficit disorder. I diagnosed myself and sadly I have not found a cure as of yet.I start a job — any old job around my humble abode, say cleaning toilets and then I get sidetracked. Completely.

An example, if I may.

My son has been asking about his favorite comfy jeans.

“They’re in the wash,” I explain to him, keeping the part about the fact they have been in the washing machine for three days now and I will have to re-wash them again, to myself.

I had good intentions about getting all the dirty laundry washed, but then I went on to something else. And then it was 8:30 p.m. and I didn’t feel like trudging down into that cold basement to put the clothes in the dryer. Do it in the morning, the little voice told me. And then, well I woke up late and plum forgot about the clothes. And then boom, I remember again, but now I am attempting to make a nice dinner complete with a rice pudding I wanted to try that took up way more time than the recipe said it would.

So there you have it. Wet clothes. Rewashed numerous times. Son without his favorite jeans.

In other areas of chores, I am a wee bit better.

Beds get made, only because I hate an unmade one. But lately I have been hightailing it upstairs five minutes before the kids get home from school to make them before they start asking what it is that mommy does all day.

I go from room to room making mental notes of what I need to do:  Pick up the crap still on the living room floor nearly one month after Christmas. Clean out the kitchen sink of breakfast dishes before it’s time to make dinner. Take the pile of laundry from daughter’s room to the basement and throw in the wash. After I rewash the load already in it. Dust off the wood and windowsills.

And lately I realize how dusty my house is. We took in a nice little black cat — a present for my daughter’s sixth birthday. The cat is sweet as pie and gets along with everyone very nicely. And Checkers, our 14-year-old Dalmatian has taken quite a liking to her as well. Who knew?

But “Kitty” picks up everything. She is a walking dust rag and if I wasn’t so embarrassed by just how much dust there is on her, I’d think it was funny.

So hopefully having the new cat around will help boost my house cleaning skills.

Or I can just tell people that Kitty is a black cat with tan spots that change daily depending on which part of my dirty house she’s been in.

I go through fits and starts, peaks and valleys, ups and downs when it comes to cleaning my house.

I waver between being empowered to do it myself because I am like how hard can this really be? To thinking damn, I’ll forgo tennis for a year to have someone come in here weekly and do it for me.

But then I always come back to the fact that I am a 44-year-old wife and stay-at-home mother of two living in average sized house and I should darn tooting be able to handle it.

OK. I am exaggerating about this. Just a tad. My house is respectable. Lived in if you will.

You can’t eat off the floors or anything. In fact I would recommend against that, though my kids won’t listen to me especially when it’s the last Oreo that fell on the floor. Five second rule. But ew. Yuck.

I just know I could spend A LOT more time on cleaning it if I wanted to. And there are times when I do want to.

Now is just not one of them.

In the meantime, I’ll write. A dirty house gives me fodder for my blog, so all is good right?

Erg.

Well, I am off to frost the, wait for it…. HOMEMADE CAKE I just baked for my husband’s birthday today. With real homemade buttercream frosting.

I may not be motivated by dust bunnies, as I am sure you gathered. But seriously, HOMEMADE CAKE people.

Enough said.

Happy Birthday to my very own sister as well. She lives on the left coast in LA. Sadly, she isn’t getting a homemade cake from me. She still owes me snickerdoodles from Christmas.

I think it’s neat that she and my husband share a birthday because they are way older than me.

I Heart Broccoli

This is the year of teaching an old dog new tricks.

The old dog is me and the new trick, well, there are many tricks I need to learn, but one that comes to mind first is eating healthy.

I just finished reading an article in Woman’s Day magazine — standing at the counter nibbling on an Oreo — that informed readers that about 90% of women out there have at least one risk factor for a heart attack.

So of the six risk factors listed, I actually had two. Yikes. Because my mom had a heart attack and I had pregnancy complications — gestational diabetes twice — I am now at a much higher risk than the average female.

Talk about a reality check. This one just hit me smack in the stomach.

I dropped my Oreo and looked over at my husband and said — “I am so completely oblivious about this it’s not even funny.”

Yes, I realize that I can’t actually know I am oblivious to something.

However, subconsciously (okay, consciously, too) I know I suck at eating. Maybe it’s a matter of knowing that some day down the road I will likely not be able to eat crap and therefore I am hoarding junk now like a squirrel does nuts in late fall.

Sure, I could actually use the holidays as my exception. Over-indulging during the month of December is not uncommon. For anyone. (That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for, right? )

I partook on all fronts there — too many cookies, too much red wine, too much red meat. Too much.

But for the other 11 months out of the year, well I really have no excuse for eating all the crap I do.

It’s laziness, maybe, but there are some days I find myself in the kitchen at 10:30 a.m. realizing I have not eaten breakfast. I meander around my fridge not finding anything to tickle my fancy  or not wanting to fuss, so it’s over to the pantry I go and grab a cookie. Or three. This is sadly the norm even when there are no Christmas sweets in my house any more.

Aside from sugar, butter and salt are two of my closest friends. I admit, I like the flavor of salted butter. It makes my broccoli taste better. The carrots seem prettier slathered in butter and sprinkled with salt and dill.

I know. I am my own worst enemy.

But wait, I can eat better. I really can.

When I was pregnant with my son 10 years ago, I thought I would come home from work and park my big ol’ pregnant butt on the couch with a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I was looking forward to that pickles and icecream and sending my husband out at 3 a.m. for fried whatever to satisfy my craving.

I had nary a clue that my blood glucose test would come back positive for gestational diabetes.

Out went the ice cream and in came the steamed spinach with garlic. Out went the sugar, salt and butter. In came Splenda or nothing.

And it was the healthiest I have ever eaten. I didn’t even have a single craving for some funky combination.

When I came home from work, I cooked up a healthy meal for my husband and myself from a cookbook for diabetics. And I got used to it pretty fast. My baby’s health depended on me keeping my sugar and carbs in check. I had to prick my finger three times a day and check my levels. Other than sore finger tips, it was not bad.

Sure, I caved here and there near the end of my pregnancy — a chocolate milk shake from a nearby dairy bar. But my husband and I (and my son) ate super healthy.

My second pregnancy was the same. I guess once you have gestational diabetes you are prone to getting it again. It also makes you prone to getting actual diabetes down the road.

And apparently, makes your heart attack risk go up.

Erg.

Well, since I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions — I never can keep them — I will try to use that article I read as the catalyst for a healthier me. And a healthier family.

Out with the white bread and white rice and processed foods and chips, dips and sweets.

Red meat, my fair friend, I will see you on a rare occasion and you will not be that fat juicy piece of steak. You’ll be a leaner you. I won’t smother your friend baked potato with sour cream and butter and I’ll skip the salt and use garlic or Mrs. Dash instead.

It will be chicken or turkey that I will choose and I will skip butter or cream sauce on any pasta I use. I will try the whole grain variety. More cous cous, more beans, more greens.

Goodbye cheese. Brie, it’s been wonderful. Cheesecake, even more so.

Ah, but sugar. I’ll try to keep a smaller you in my one cup of coffee along with your good friend whole milk. I need you to start my morning. If I have to, I will try raw sugar. Or agave syrup if I can bear it.

And veggies, I will invite more of you and your friends into my home. I promise not to disguise your taste with butter or salt. I’ll steam you and add spices and seasonings and olive or canola oil. And I will make my kids eat you too.

And when I go to Trader Joe’s (0h, this will be so hard) I will ignore all you sweet treats and delicious cookies. I’ll opt for more nuts and if I must, that bar of dark chocolate to nibble on when no one is looking.

Ugh.

And my long lost friend exercise. I will play tennis more than once a week, and try a higher impact variety than I am doing. I will have to dust off my new Adidas trail runners and get going. Walking. Not running, at least yet. I want to try zumba or pilates in the coming weeks.

As far as weather, I don’t have an excuse. The snow has not fallen here the East yet. It’s in Texas as we speak. Who knew? (I hope I didn’t jinx it, my friend Mother Nature. A few flakes are fine, but no repeats of January 2011, kay?)

I am confident.

I have a positive outlook and a plan.

I am woman hear me roar! Or at least hear me get out of the kitchen pantry.

By February, which is actually Heart Healthy Month, I do hope to be well  on my way to a better me.

I would love some fast and easy healthy family meals, so if you know of any or can steer me to a good recipe blog or site, bring it on.

A very smart person whose name escapes me right now said “You are what you eat.” I think I would much rather be that sexy stalk of asparagus than a big fat ooey gooey brownie caramel sundae.

You?