Monday, June 25, 2007

Spoken Over Dessert

First and foremost I am NOT trying to save the world.

Secondly, I DON'T KNOW IT ALL.

Thirdly, I'm NOT trying to fix my dysfunctional family.

I'm just trying to "fix" myself.

My entire life, lately, seems surrounded by judgements:

"She should keep a better eye on her 2 year old."

"She shouldn't let her boys watch cartoons."

"She's such a hectic person, she should just take her foot of the gas."

"She needs to stop being so nice-she's such a Polly pushover."

"Why isn't she enrolling her 2 year old in some sort of daycare in the fall? It's apparent he needs it."

"Why is she so strict with her 5 year old, she needs to let him just be."

"She needs to be at home with her boys, she shouldn't have a sitter taking her boys for a walk, that's her job as a mother."

"She needs to go back to work full time, she doesn't need to stay at home with the boys, people just don't "do" that anymore."

"She needs to be stricter with her boys."

"She needs to stop spending money on people other than herself and her husband and children."

"She really likes to eat, I mean, eat."

"She thinks she knows it all."

"If she thinks she's going to fix the family, she's wrong."

"She needs to be more careful in life, take her time, and just slow down."

"She drives too fast."

"She drives too slow."



I didn't ASK you to provide unsolicited advice about how I CHOSE to live my life.

Do you see me telling you how to live your life?
Are you that ignorant of a person to not realize that you have a great deal of things that needs correcting in your life?

We all have issues.

We all have challenges.

We all learn in different ways.

How I live my life, is my choice. I'm not hurting anyone by being me, so please stop making me out to be this person, this slowfasthecticstrictnotstrictknowitall of a person that I'm not.

I wish people would stop judging me................

At 5:00pm last night, Sunday night, I walked into a new opportunity-unknown and already refreshing inspite of the fact that I knew nothing about what I was about to come face to face with.

The stained glass windows and doors inviting me into a world I have never experienced before. 10 steps up filled with beautifully written scriptures.

Peacefulness and silence surrounding me, I was completely at ease.

I found the person I was looking for and after a brief tour, I made a beeline for the oversized hippodrome where I was to begin my first task.

Green rectangular looking mats roughly 3inches in width and 51/2 feet in length were being placed, in rows on the floor of this gym.

I began with making the beds: 2Mismatched sheets per "pad," one placed over the green gymnastic type mat, corners tucked underneath. The other, folded and tucked as nice as I could, to resemble a neatly made bed. One thin sheet covering the mat, the other acting as a cover up for the human body that would soon be choosing this spot, to rest their head.

At last count, I made 40beds. Another female helping out, "Jenny," finished up the other 20.

60 pillows covered up with more mismatched items-pillow cases. Laid out on the 60 pads.

60 blankets mismatched, torn, quite a few with holes, placed neatly, still folded at the foot of the pads.

We made up a divider of such-made up from extra sheets placed gingerly over line dividers, therefore roping off an area of the gym that held 12 pads.

After finishing the beds, I headed down to the kitchen to begin carrying up food that was brought in by extremely generous individuals. 95% of the food that we carried up, were homemade. There were homemade apple pies, rhubarb pies, strawberry cheesecake, regular cheesecake, banana cupcakes with what looked like a cream cheese frosting deliciously dolloped on top, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and oatmeal chocolate chip bars. Chicken, sloppy Joe's, lasagna, salad, deviled eggs, Cole slaw, potato salad, green bean salad, and homemade applesauce.

We packed up 60 sack lunches for Monday.

Brown paper sacks that contained baloney and cheese sandwiches, an apple, granola bar, a bag of chips and a juice box.

We set up the tables in the "dining hall" for our guests.

The tables were set with plastic silverware, one set of salt and pepper per table, and just enough napkins to go around.

We set up the food on buffet style tables. Desserts going down at the end, entrees and salads up front. I sliced up the pies and cheesecakes, and placed each one on it's own individual paper plate.

The coordinator of the evening arrived about 6:30pm, asking for two people to assist with registering back down near the "steps of scripture."

She picked me.

Just minutes before 7:00pm, we headed down the stairs towards the registration table that Barbara and I had set up earlier. "Courtney" giving us (myself and a young college student by the name of Aaron) a quick description of how to navigate the registration process. Our guests already lining up outside, peering in, anxious.

On a piece of paper, it was our job to record their name, gender, race, id #, and whether or not they'd be here for a meal only, overnight, special needs, sack lunch, and finally if they needed an early wake up call. At 7:00pm the count was at 50. Two of the 40 guests that I registered needed wake up "calls." A simple enough task that required filling out an extra sheet of paper with their name again, as well as their id#, and the time that they'd like to be woken. Meanwhile making certain to coordinate their name with the number written in permanent ink on little orange construction cones. After filling out their request, I'd hand them their cone, and graciously accepting it, they boarded the elevator that two middle school aged girls were manning.

After Aaron was finished registering 10 guests, and I 40, we were asked to join the rest of the group back up stairs to assist with serving our guests their dinner. Barbara impressed with my speed,professionalism and attitude put me "in charge" of the dessert table. Apparently the dessert table is the one area where our guests truly tend to flock towards- like birds do when they find an orange and black bird feeder. It was left up to me to make certain that everyone picked only one item from "my table." It was left up to me to turn away guests coming back for seconds, until everyone of the 50 people had their chance to pick something sweet. If there were extras, as long as everyone had something, they were more than welcome to come back for seconds.

I have never seen cleaner plates in my life. I have never seen more gracious and thankful people in my life. I have never seen more people needing someone to just talk to.

Maybe I have a huge sign above my head that blinks, "gravitate here, she's a sucker for conversation," but I must have spoken to at least 15 guests for more than 10minutes at a time.

And instead of them coming back for more dessert, they came back for more conversations.

Perhaps because I was the first face and voice that welcomed them when they were registering. Perhaps because I made eye contact with every single one of the 40guests that I registered, even if their own eyes shifted downwards as I smiled at them. Perhaps because I was a "newbie."Perhaps because I treated them the way I'd expect to be treated, I don't know what it was, but for whatever reason, they preferred to engage me with conversation.

This one fellow a classical joker, telling me clean jokes over and over again throughout his entire meal. He expressed to me that it's been "clinically proven" that if you don't laugh at least 15 times a day, you'll end up in a bad mood. He then went on to tell me that even when he was in solitary confinement for 18days, he laughed straight for 72 hours. He's bipolar and it bothers him that he can talk to God whenever he wants, by prayer, but the moment he mentions anything about God talking to him, people think he's crazy. He was thankful and appreciative of the fact that we were there helping them. He didn't make a single comment about the car that I drove, the fact that my nails were chipped with last weeks nail polish (okay, who am I kidding, last months nail polish) or even that I am "just too nice."

A met a man whom I'll call "Moses," because he looked just that. Covered hood to toes with a brown cloth like creation most likely to shield him from the temperatures. He was tall, towering tall, but concealing his emaciated frame was his cloak.His beard was long and gray with patches of salt and pepper sprayed throughout. Yet when he lifts his eyes to you, they were amazingly the one thing that didn't appear worn. His eyes were soft and shaded, with what seemed to be to be full of great knowledge. He wasn't afraid to look me in my eyes.

A female guest of last nights experience couldn't remain out in the sun for too long due to the fact that she gets "prickly" and passes out. She's on a diet because of weight issues, and she had her first interview for a position at the local arches, just this past Friday. She didn't hesitate to pick up one brownie, smiling with the upper portion of her teeth still in tact, the bottom, not so much. She couldn't wait until Tuesday to find out if she's had the opportunity for a 2ND interview with the arches. She had the kindest softest voice I've heard. Not tainted by tobacco, her voice could beckon anyone using only her quiet whispers.

Another woman, a young 20something woman approached me after overhearing a conversation I was having with a male whom I'll refer to as "Frasier Crane" due to his uncanny resemblance of Frasier himself, hair and all, with a whimsical approach on life. She too was a mom, a mom of two boys, ages 3years and 9months. She recently found out that she was expecting her third child, and that she was already 4months pregnant. Her husband was just given a new job and she was just completely overjoyed. As she put it, "now we'll have a steady income." We talked about children, how hard it is to raise them, how much time they take. She asked me how the shift was from two to three. I didn't lie to her, I told her it wasn't easy.

Then there's "Frasier" an interesting chap to say the least. This man could quote scripture better than the average pastor. He spoke in what seemed like foreign tongues at different moments of our conversation over the dessert table, yet I seemed to understand what he was saying. He spoke about how the bible doesn't discriminate, how women are held in high regard due to the seed that God bestows on us from the hand of the male to carry children into this world. He walked to his bed out in the gymnasium, and tucked underneath the sheets, he pulled out a sheet of paper that he had stuck there earlier. Walking back up to me he showed me his drawings and the tree of life that he spent three hours creating, explaining the way of God. He expressed that those that remain humbled, those that remain true to him will always be welcome into the gates of heaven. He spoke of how important it is to not lose site of your inner self. He then asked me a question that threw me for a loop,"Who, Crusty, (I had a name tag on) is the most hardworking one in your home?" Thinking about it for a few seconds, I said, my husband because not only does he work hard at work, but also his work carries into his home due to our children, and how involved he is with them." Frasier responded with "you're wrong. It's God that is the most hardworking in your home. He's there whether you accept him or not."

Interesting, don't you think?

Obviously in my world, in my life, in my beliefs, "Frasier" speaks the truth.

He speaks the truth, all the while holding up his head boldly, and beholden to the meal and shelter that has been provided to him.


7:00pm rolls around, they walk into register by presenting the two individuals behind the desk their PAD's identification card. After advising the volunteer whether they are here for a meal only, or meal, overnight, bag lunch and possibly a wake up call, they move towards the silver gleaming elevator doors to embark up to their home for the evening.

Walking into the large gymnasium they seek out their spot of rest. Laying whatever belongings they've brought with on their bed. If they had requested a wake up "call," they lay their little orange cone with a bright black number printed on it, to the left side of their bed.

They move rapaciously to the small room to wait for any announcements and to begin the lottery of who's served first. After a brief announcement, "Courtney" begins the lottery by calling out random tables to come up and grab their food.

Eventually their stomachs are full, and as Greg said to me as he walked up to the table,

"Crusty, I need a doctor."

"Are you not feeling well?" I say to him.

Greg replies with a slight chuckle, "No I'm not, I need a stomach pump to get rid of this food so I can make room for more." He gives me a wink, picks up a blue and white sprinkled cupcake, and returns to his table. But, not before he says, "thank you for your time tonight."

Sure they may be lacking Life skills, the skills required to help with the bare necessities of life,
Food, shelter, and work.

But, we all have some sort of issue that we're battling. Some are just more obvious than others.

They didn't judge me once. Not even once. They treated me as I treated them, as equals.

In their world of survival, not one of them that I encountered on Sunday evening judged me.

I wasn't under dressed. I wasn't overdressed. I didn't need concealer. I didn't need to remove makeup. I was just me. I haven't felt like "just me" in quite awhile, and I didn't realize that until after I left the shelter. The me that is just me. Without the judging, the opinions, the unsolicited advice. I just was Me.

Sometimes by just being that person that listens, you can learn an awful lot about yourself.

It's amazing what you can learn over dessert.

Welcome To Crustybeef~
I do plan on returning and offering much more of my time to PADS. They have already spoken with me about possibly taking over a coordinating role, working exclusively for PADS. All in due time, I told them, all in due time. Right now, I just feel like giving the gifts that I was given, without judgement.


Anonymous said...

You and your siblings were raised well. To quote the line from "Wizard of Oz" that your Dad and I get a kick out of quoting, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!".

It's probably more difficult for ladies to be this way than it is for us guys, but don't pay an excessive amount of attention to what others think. Sometimes you might be wrong but most of the time your instincts will be on target (<--there's that "Target" word again!).

Your head is good, your family is good, and best of all, your HEART is good.

Do what is right and leave the gossiping and second-guessing to lesser denizens.

The best by-product of this is you'll raise children who will be less likely to follow the direction the wind blows. They'll be better able to stand tall and lean into those ill winds, and also to resist the fads and peer pressure that are prevalent.


Anonymous said...

wow, I cant believe people are puttingthat much pressure on you. You are teaching your children very valuable lessons. That is very commendable. The people who are judging you are only doing it because they are jealous. Dont let them get to you. It is a truly wonderfull act of kindeness and it shows how much passion you have. Keep up the great work...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending me the link to this blog. I'm glad to be your partner in coping with irrational judgments. I also agree with anonymous remark #2 re "they are jealous". I thought of those judgmental mothers on The New Adventures of Old Christine from Christine's son's school when I read through your blog. Not that I think our lives are a TV sitcom (dare I unveil the influences of TV on my life???). Ha. But I believe there is truth in some storylines. I sat at an evening Pampered Chef party with about a dozen other mothers (all about my age, maybe between 3 and 5 years my senior), with their hair and makeup just so, with perfectly pressed pants and perfectly pressed t-shirts and just thought to myself "Who has the time for a Bree VanDeKamp life?" I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I glance at myself in the mirror and think "Ugh. No effort whatsoever, Kiki, and voila! Instant Yoko Ono impersonation (circa 1969)." Other days I feel like SuperModelSecretaryExtraordinaire. I'm glad you're keeping it together. Although it would be better if you laid off the nicotine. Yes, I've been paying attention. lol Take care, sweetheart!

~ Kiki

Anonymous said...

feeling like just ME.
I realized Sunday night that I hadn't had that experience I think since my children were born. I understand exactly what you feel. Feeling like yourself is something you should never have to give up. Keep doing whatever it takes to keep that feeling.

Portia said...

wonderful post! i can totally relate to feeling judged, not that i know the best way to handle it.

That gentleman "Frasier" spoke to you, and in turn spoke to me through this post. Thank you for sharing :)


Thank you, UD, Kiki and Portia for the wonderful comments.
To the anons I thank you as well.
Being judged is just about as nasty as a flu bug. We don't need to deal with that.
If only everyone thought the same way.

Anonymous said...

just remember that no one is perfect


anon-you know, you're absolutely correct in that statement..which is why I didn't list who said what, or judge them for saying it..If I focus on fixing myself, it will help me remember like you wrote, that no one is perfect. We all have our issues, our flaws...
Thanks for the simply put and quite too often forgotten statement:
"No one is perfect."

austere said...

This is so generous in so many ways, isnt it? I was taken aback thinking about that.

Thank you for sharing, that is pretty generous too.