Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Buying Hope

I listen to Radio 4 in the mornings as I pack my kids lunches and get breakfast. I always try to tune in to their "Thought for the Day" because it is a great source of inspiration and alternates between representatives from all different faiths (rabbis to islamic ministers to priests to agnostics). I was particularly annoyed by a speaker last week however who spent the precious minutes he had berating the Western world for demanding rocket lettuce year round and saying that obsession with food here was taking food from developing countries. When ever anyone tries to make me feel guilty it puts me in defensive mode and when they offer not suggestions but only shame it infuriates me. I remember as a very young university student I was representing Bread for the World and standing in front of my state's congressman in his office in Washington DC. His belligerent reply to my attempts at shaming him about world poverty was "What do you want me to do--send them my cheese curls from lunch?". He was a miserable man but he had a point. What did I want him to do? He was one bureaucrat buried in a sea of ineffective legislation. What are we to do?

I do know what we should not do. We should not feel shame for being born in the west nor feel guilty that we have food to feed our children. That is a good place to start. The Bible however does tell us that it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven maybe because it easy for a rich man to avoid seeing the need outside his gates and maybe because we have more to give up and that is hard. The bottom line seems to be the problem looks so big and complicated with corrupt governments, natural disasters and lack of opportunity.

I believe I have found part of my answer on " What to do" and it came from a nurse that I work with at my local hospital. She comes from Nigeria and has been working on my ward about 2 years. She held a clothing drive last year as British Airways had offered free shipping for a few containers to be flown back to Nigeria to her father who runs an orphanage for 12 or so street children who have no home. She works here in order to send her pay back home to support her father and the orphanage in Africa. She works almost everyday-as many hours overtime as she can. She works here providing good nursing care for NHS patients despite the fact that her children (the youngest was 11 when she left) live with a friend in Nigeria while she is away. She sees them once a year.

It occurs to me that is what I can offer as an individual living in the west. I have the opportunity to work and have an income. That is a blessing and one I can share. My giving will not solve world hunger but it just may make a difference to one or two people who get a fresh water well or tent from Oxfam or a goat from Cafod. I can take some of what I have an give to the poor. They need my family to be able share what we have and it is possible to do. We try to give little by little each month sometimes from our excess, sometimes from our need. It isn't much. It may be only 5% of what we earn each year but we hope it can make a difference. My daughter is 16 and questions that the money we send will get where it is needed. That is a valid point and the answer is no I can not guarantee that it will not be misused by those charities we entrust it to or be stolen by the corrupt governments that lie between our countries. But if some gets through to help even one family than I consider it worthwhile because the alternative is to give nothing and then there isn't even hope.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Are you going to work today?

My husband and kids often ask me in the morning, "Are you going to work today?". I am a nurse and work various shifts on a variety of days and my schedule is forever changing so this seems like a fair question. My reply is always the same however. "I work everyday." I tell them.

Today I am a housewife and mother. It is difficult to keep from feeling like an under achiever when I am in this role. Maybe it is because the work can not be measured in hours and the pay is not in currency. The only sincere way to evaluate my job is to look at a typical day and see if it was worthwhile. So here goes.

I get up somewhere between 6am and 6:30 whenever I can stop the urge to press that snooze alarm just one more time. I go down stairs turn on Radio 4 and find my childrens 5 lunch boxes usually located in the vicinity of their knap sacks and begin the day making custom lunches for them and my husband. Not too taxing and done in about 20-30 minutes. My 3 children in secondary school are up and looking for breakfast by this point. I make a coffee for me and a tea for my husband. Anyone eating cereal or toast is on their on but I do start eggs and French toast up for grabs. At 7:20 I announce it is the last call for shoes to be found before the 7:25 shuttle(that's me) to the tube station departs. I make sure my 6th form daughter and primary school daughter are now awake and depart with my 3 children and husband for the tube station stopping to pick up a friends children in route and get everyone to the station around 7:30 (I hope) . I also hope that I never get into an accident or have engine trouble as I do this in my sweat pants and usually with bed hair.

Arriving back home I check in with my two remaining daughters ensuring both are in the middle of their breakfasts. I let the dog who has wandered out of bed at this point out into the back garden. My eldest daughter heads out to catch her bus and if she is running late I drive her to the bus stop. My youngest daughter usually lines up a few things for me to do in my day --today it was completing her costume as the school has a fancy dress party is tonight. I manage to clean the kitchen and throw in a laundry and sometimes fit a shower in before walking her to school down the street. I appreciate this time with Shana as it does give me a picture f her world as we chat.

Returning home from the school run I open the door to my dog who leaps excitedly at my return expecting a walk/run mommentarily and no later. Off we walk for the next hour. If all goes well he comes home and thankfully collapses to sleep.

At this point I grab a second cup of coffee and survey the time and my day. I check my emails and update things. I realize I had better postpone the trip to the shops to get Aidan a jumper so I can start baking for Shanas holiday school party. I start folding clothes as the cookies bake. Six dozen frosted sugar cookies later I realize I have 30 minutes to blog before trying to finish Shanas costume and starting the school pick up runs.

At 3:30 I head down to pick up Shana and two friends from school. Getting home they have time for a quick snack (some of those cookies should do) and dress for their fancy dress party. Luckily my older children get out later today from school and I run Shana to the party before they call for a lift from the tube station. I pick up the 3 older children and get a started on a dinner for the 7 of us . My eldest daughter arrives home and gets ready to walk the dog with my oldest son. If she stayed late at school I would have headed out again with the dog. I drop them at the reserve(a open area great for dogs) since it is already getting dark. As they are out walking I pick up Shana from her party.

When everyone is home from dog walking and parties we have dinner followed by homeworks and the multiple signing of link books. My husband walks in about 8pm and I reheat his dinner. The younger kids relax in front of TV and my older set finish off their homework. I send my youngest up to bed at 8:30. I try to sort out the kitchen a bit (usually failing here) and get onto the computer to chat with my mom on aol chat line. We finish about 9:30 and I send the boys off to bed.

At this point I usually collapse on the couch and watch TV for about an hour before we go to bed. And before I know it the alarm is ringing at 6am and I hit the snooze button.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Halloween 2005

scary pumpkins
Originally uploaded by ailishsul.

Every year starting on October 1st I start my steady journey into Halloween mania. There is something that stirs my spirit about this holiday and I can't figure it out. I have a few theories but nothing that sits right. It is not that I like thrillers or slasher films. I abhor them. When watching creepy adventures like Alien and Sixth Sense I close my eyes through theintense parts. I don't even like roller coasters. So what is my fascination with the Hallowed eve.

When I was a kid I remember the fun of pulling out the costume box each October. I still remember the bits of costumes it held. A American Indian costume complete with a papoose and feather headress, a red velvet jypsy skirt with gold trim, an old prom dress, the full length grey pilgrim skirt and the white sheet for ghost or angel. I remember the last time my sister went trick or treating. She wore old clothes, a tweed cap and rubbed brown makeup on her cheeks to be a bum. After th
at year she helped follow me from door to door . Dad always had to inspect the sweets before I could eat them.When my children were young I remember carrying on the tradition of "inspecting" the sweets. About 50% would disappear so that they wouldn't get sick or maybe that was my share of the takings. With 5 children trick or treating it was quite a haul.

The night before Halloween my Dad would carve the pumpkin but it was my job to clean out the innards. We would roast the seeds after calling my sister Barbara yearly for the right oven temperature. I wish we lived closer to her as the yearly burning of the pumpkin seeds forgotton in my oven would make her smile. I remember one year Barbara was concerned that I would be lonely as the last trick or treater in the family. So she came and made donuts with me. We ate donuts and popcorn and set out all the mini chocolate bars in bowls waiting for trick or treaters. I remember the morning after Halloween being happy our house was not the one egged and glad our pumpkin was not the one smashed in the street. My parents always said that it was a good thing my teenage sisters new a large number of the neighbourhood teenagers so our house missed the tricking.

My Halloween celebrations are happy events with a twist of mayhem. Over the past 5 years with the hel
p of some friends that I've converted to Halloween we have run Trunk or Treating (trick or treating from one decorated car trunk to another) at one primary school and Halloween games for over 100 children 2 years running at another. Halloween Parties involving 100+ children are amazingly chaotic -hence we have moved to home parties with less than 15 .

At our teen Halloween party this year we arranged a murder mystery. We had punch in a witches cauldron complete with floating ice hand and served it in Halloween goblets. I found a ceramic skull candle holder at a charity shop to create atmosphere. Pumpkin man (see photo) greeted guests at the door, ghosts hung from our patio umbrella and the house was lit only by candles. We discovered Count Dracula did it in the end.

On Halloween itself we had a childrens party for my youngest daughter and my friends children. Following a lunch of severed fingers(hotdogs with ketchup), slug guts and brains(sphaghetti and meatballs), and pizza the kids dunked for apples,ate donuts off a string, had a dip in some gunge and played Halloween Bingo. I had an immense amount of fun.

And maybe that is why I love Halloween. It is a chance for me to have fun with my kids and a chance for me to continue to be a kid. Glad some things in life have simple answers and don't change like enjoying Halloween.