Archives for category: fifty bucks

I’m not particularly interested in flower gardening. I’ll freely cop to the fact that one of my most significant faults is my truly excessive practicality and flower gardening is just…eh. What’s the point, right? I can’t eat them. I have limited gardening time and limited gardening space and extremely limited gardening talent, so why would I waste any of that on something that is not fundamentally useful?

Then a few weeks ago I was reading a bit about gardening and the author mentioned, in an offhand manner, the way that inter-planting flowers in your vegetable garden can help bring in pollinators and increase yield. And I thought, “I’m sorry, what?”  And this is such an obvious truth to gardening that I hesitate to write it here because it makes me look a bit, well, dim.  But I guess I am dim because I never fully thought about before. You mean something doesn’t necessarily need to be 100% needed to be useful? Well. That’s interesting.  It also explains a lot about my crappy gardens.

There I was a thing I was going to do last year that you may remember. I was going to give $50 away every month to a charitable cause just because. You may have thought I forgot about it. I didn’t, really. I spent the money for a bit, and then we had tight month for one reason or another. So I skipped that month. And then I skipped the next month, probably for the same one or another reason. And then I kept skipping months, even after cash flow improved, because I couldn’t stop overthinking where it could go, or what I should give to, and which was the best way to spend the cash. What if I gave the money to Organization A, when Person B was clearly in more distress? Or what if Person B was really not the neediest and I should really be worried about it Fundraiser C? And so on and so forth while my $50 did nothing for anyone.

But I didn’t forget about what I’d said I would do. The obligation was still there, in the back of my brain, squatting angrily next to all the other obligations I was ignoring.  It takes a lot of energy to ignore all of those things, all those bills to pay, things to clean, food to cook, exercise to do, and, yes, blog posts to write. No wonder I’m so tired all the time.  But when you ignore as many obligations as I do, you learn to silence the muttering from back there so that you can get on with the more important stuff, like building block towers with the children or watching Downton Abbey.

Then the other day a friend of mine posted a link to a friend of hers who was raising money to help offset costs of a stem cell transplant. And I didn’t wonder if the cause was legit, I didn’t do a background search on the recipients, I didn’t check with Michael, I didn’t wait to see if something better came along in the next week. I didn’t even stop to wonder if these folks were secretly planning a trip to Bora Bora. I just hit the “Contribute” button, typed in my payment information, and whispered, “Fly free, little fifty bucks.” Okay, I didn’t actually do that last part, but I kind of wish I did.

The obligation beast (well, that one anyway) immediately left the back of my brain to go get some lunch and that’s when I remembered: “Right. This is what I meant to do all along.”  Over the last year I’ve been feeling so badly about my inability to plant a vegetable garden, the most absolutely perfect, truly productive, absolutely-above-reproach vegetable garden, and I never realized that what I actually needed to do was to plant some flowers just for the fun of it. And, shockingly, those flowers might turn out to be useful, too.

I’m going to try to do better this year, both in gardening and in being charitable. And I wish those fine folk s a lovely trip to Bora Bora.

If you are interested, that family has reached their goal but they are still accepting donations because they will have costs above and beyond their goal. Link here:

The first time I saw him, I was walking towards the fancy-pants kitchen store to buy Christmas presents.  He was around twelve. He was the kind of boy that will someday grow into linebacker-sized muscle man, but for now is just a jovial, big-boned, baby-faced kid, all pudge and nervous energy.  He was with a woman that I guessed was his mother, though it hardly seemed possible.  She was tiny and slim, shorter than him already, and blonde where he was dark.  They looked nothing alike.  But they way they talked, joking with an underlayer of exasperation, was pure parent and child.

The three of us stood on the corner together, waiting for the light to change.  When it did, we crossed with caution.  That corner has a big problem with people turning right without looking for pedestrians. Sure enough, we had to skid out of the way of a car and the mother and I shared a polite, unifying complaint about it.  Then we went our separate ways.  I turned right across the bridge to go buy some specialty chocolates and they turned left towards the “Residents Only” door of the homeless shelter.

That’ll put a nice spin on your Christmas shopping.

A few weeks later, I was driving back into town after an evening meeting.  As I came down towards the light, that same light, I saw a large group of people walking towards me.  I recognized the kid immediately, his bulky but jaunty walk was pretty identifiable.  And there was his mother, right next to him again, walking with her arms wrapped around herself.  She was talking with a big man a few feet away.  As the group turned towards the shelter, the man reached out his hand.  He gently pushed the boy in the arm jokingly, then grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him in for a rough hug.  The boy wrapped his arm around his dad, and they walked in the shelter together.

That same kid. Twice in a month. That’s worth noticing, right?

I think it’s really easy to assume that people end up in shelters because of something they did.  Maybe they have an addiction problem, maybe they let debt spiral out of control, maybe they stopped taking their medications, maybe they made bad decision upon bad decision until they managed to lose everything.

I assume those things too.

But I’m hard-pressed to think about what a 12-year-old boy could do that would justify his presence in a homeless shelter.  I find it even harder to believe that any possible mistakes or bad decisions that his parents made were bad enough that they should be relegated to seeing their son through adolescence as transients.  If there were any mistakes or bad decisions.  These days, it seems, bad luck can be quite enough do people in.

Today I put my fifty bucks in an envelope with a note asking that it be forwarded to that family and I mailed it to the shelter.  I’m not kidding myself.  It’s not going to fix even one of their problems. But I hope they know I am cheering for them.  I hope it helps.

I hope I don’t see him again.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read here.

I have fifty bucks.

I did the budget, crunched the numbers, paid the piper, accounted for the accountable, and what I have left at the end of it is fifty bucks.

It’s fifty bucks that I told Michael I wanted.  Fifty bucks that I was hoping to find.  Fifty bucks that I don’t want to go to groceries, or day care, or the mortgage, or new socks.  Not to new toys or hair bows or the hospital for the birth of the kid who is almost two (yes, there’s a lien on Sam).  I want fifty bucks to give to someone else.

I’m tired, you see, of not having fifty bucks.  I’m tired of passing by opportunities to help a family, help the food pantry, help some woman across the sea with a starving child.  We give to nonprofits, but our giving is scheduled, planned for, considered, and frequently not cash.  I want to have the opportunity to just give as things come up.  To say, “Hey, that’s a really good idea.  Here’s fifty bucks.” Or maybe, “I’m really sorry this is happening to you. Here’s fifty bucks.”  Or possibly, if I’m feeling frisky, “Fifty bucks! Woohoooooo!”  But I live and die by our budget and our budget didn’t have fifty bucks.

I’m not, in general, much of a spontaneous person but there are some kinds of non-spontaneity that are rather soul-killing.  At least that’s what I’ve found.

So I figured it out. And now I have fifty bucks every single month.  If nothing comes up, I’ve got some favorite stand-by charities that can have the $50.  But it will be nice, for me and my soul, to be a little spontaneous about my fifty bucks once in a while.

I’ll let you know how it goes.