Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Starting My 2011 Holidays Project!

**Quick note: I went ahead and left this post up (I just feel weird about writing stuff and then deleting it - think it looks hinky), but I have actually canceled plans for both of my holiday projects. This isn't a sad thing, it's just that my family needs attention this holiday season and also there are two new young people added to our home, so it just wasn't feasible to add anything more to my plate. So, I have to take a year off of holiday projects, but it's for the best.

This year I'm starting a little early on my annual project for the holidays (well, I guess it's not really that early, but it is for a "queen of the last minute" like myself - lol). Last year we filled Christmas stockings for the homeless youth at the Tumbleweed Drop-In Center, the year before that I did a Christmas Day dinner, and before that the kids and I had done gift bags for the homeless. If you'd like to read about previous projects, just browse through my older posts here. ;)

If I can pull it off, I would actually like to do two projects this year. First of all, I'd like to do something on "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving, for those of you not familiar with the term). I was thinking about that day, and how when my kids were little I used to be out there every year in the wee hours of the morning with all the crowds, hunting down the toys and loving every minute of it. I've always loved how "Black Friday" kind of jump-starts the season. This year I would like to use that day to jump-start the season in a different kind of way. Instead of starting the season right off the bat in a commercialized, shopping-mall kind of mind set... Why not start the season right off in the spirit of giving and sharing? You know, reminding ourselves right from the beginning of what the holidays are really all about?

So for my first holiday project this year, I would like to throw a "Black Friday Party" that is not limited to homeless and at-risk youth, but rather open to anyone and everyone who is in need - whether that need is for food, tangible items, or just company and friendship. While we're all still basking in the glow of all that gratitude we expressed on Thanksgiving, let's keep in mind that the holiday season is not all about the mall. It's about people. Families, friends, communities. And this has been a rough, rough year for many people (myself and my family included), so let's start our holiday season off by remembering to stick together. Everyone has something to offer, whether it's a little extra food or a few kind and encouraging words.

For the "Black Friday Party" I will probably select a public park since we have the good fortune in Arizona of nice weather in the fall. I don't have my job at the church anymore, so I don't have the access I used to have to those facilities (bummer), but a park should work nicely. Of course I will serve food, but I'd also like to give away gift bags to those in need - bags filled with items like toiletries, socks for the cold weather season, first-aid items, useful stuff like duct tape and toilet paper, etc. I would like to set up and exchange table - if you received something you don't need, put it down and pick up something you do need. Share, swap, trade, talk, get to know people, spread some cheer and encouragement to each other... That's the whole idea here.

The second project I'd like to do this year is - again - Christmas stockings for the homeless youth. Exactly the same as we did last year, except this year I don't know if we will personalize them again or not (there were some complications with that, but I'm still thinking about it).

For both of these projects I'm going to need stuff, and I'm going to need volunteers to help out. If you'd like to contribute any items, we can use the following (I'll surely amend this list later):
  • Socks
  • Toothbrushes
  • Small-sized toiletry items (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.)
  • Rolls of toilet paper
  • Duct tape
  • Bunjee cords
  • Christmas stockings
  • Batteries
  • Chapsticks
  • Band-aids
  • Aspirin
  • Knit caps
  • Snack food items
  • Pens
  • Dental floss
  • Combs
  • Breath mints
  • Razors
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Shoestrings
  • Deodorant
  • Rubber bands
  • Gift cards
  • Wet wipes
  • Cough drops
  • Matches / lighters
  • Etc., etc., etc.
If you would like to contribute a dollar or five, you can do that here using PayPal: Holiday Projects Chip-In.

If you'd like to help out or if you have questions, drop me an email at salmagundigeneral@yahoo.com.

I will keep posting updates as these projects move along. If you'd like to be involved, feel free to jump in at any time! The more, the merrier! And let me be the first to say to you this year... HAPPY HOLIDAYS! :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Getting Back To "Normal". Maybe?

I know I've been pretty silent on here for a while. There's been a lot going on (I've had some health issues come up, been being bounced from doctor to doctor), yet at the same time it's felt kind of like there's been nothing going on. That's because since the dramatic and upsetting exit of my foster son a few months ago, my kids have not wanted any new additions to the family. As a matter of fact, they haven't even wanted anyone really coming around at all. They were hurt, and they didn't want to share their mom with any more people.

Thus, my once bustling and busy house became silent and dull, and I hated it. Two of my girls - my "strays" - who have been members of the family for years moved away, too. My Tiffany got married, had a baby and moved to North Carolina. My Kayla got engaged and left for California. So then the now-silent house became even more quiet, and it started to feel like a morgue around here to me. I could still do some volunteer work, take out clothes and food or reach out to kids in ways that didn't involve bringing them home (all as my health / pain level would permit), but coming back to the house was always a let-down. I didn't enjoy being here at home anymore. Especially since my kids are older now and very busy, which means that even though they didn't want to share me, they also weren't here at the house a lot. I found myself making dinners for no one, and eating alone most of the time. Eventually I gave up making dinners and went with frozen stuff, eaten by myself in a quiet house with a book. A far cry from what I've been accustomed to for decades. I was really bummed.

Then yesterday morning I went for a walk and I met Amber. Amber is 19 years old and homeless. Her father is in prison and her mother committed suicide when Amber was just twelve years old, and she doesn't have any real family. She told me that she did have her own apartment for a little while when she was of age to get one, but she lost her job and was soon on the streets again. She carries only a plastic grocery bag with her.

Amber was hungry, so we walked back to my house together and I cooked her breakfast (my kids were still asleep). Then she helped me pull some weeds and rake the yard while we chatted. The things I found most impressive about this young lady were her sweet demeanor and her amazingly positive attitude. While she had her own problems, I often found her looking for ways to encourage me. Really just a very kind and thoughtful person.

While we were in the yard, my son woke up to get ready for school. He saw Amber outside and said to me, "Hey, I've seen that girl around. She's always in the dumpsters." I told him how she'd come over for breakfast and he went outside to introduce himself. They talked for a while as I did the dishes and watched out the window. He did not seem annoyed that I'd brought someone home. My daughter got up next and commented, "She seems nice." So far, so good. It didn't seem like the kids were bothered.

I offered Amber a shower, which she was really happy about, and gave her some clean clothes (I keep teen-appropriate clothing around and fortunately had her size). After that she was on her way. She did leave me a phone number, but her phone is turned off right now. I haven't seen her again, but that was only a day ago.

I do hope Amber will be back. For now, though, I'm just encouraged that my own kids seem to be coming back around. Perhaps some healing has started.