Society and it’s high expectations – aka: You’re not a bad parent.

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There’s a constant mental war going on inside my head.  I believe every mother (and father) deals with it at one point, but for me, it seems like it’s waging every day.  A rifle shot sounds as soon as I drop my daughter off at school, I mean come on, I must be a bad mother for working?  Especially when I made a promise to stay at home with her when I was pregnant.  On that note, another rifle shot sounds and I don’t know if a blended family is right for her.

Hot damn.  The enemy line is approaching, when I yelled at her yesterday for sassing me when I asked her to clean her room?  I must have wasted precious weekend time fighting with her.  Hell, when I made her go to school when she was upset that other morning… that surely was the wrong choice.  Explosion.  Telling her we’d play outside tomorrow when she wanted to ride bikes and I was exhausted from work.  More wasted time.

Yup.  That’s it right there.  That, is just a small portion of the mommy-guilt-war that wages inside my head.  Being a parent is tough sometimes, I know for me that I feel a lot of guilt for what we *don’t* do, despite all of the fun stuff we actually *do* do.  I think that no matter what we mothers do, how we act, or which decision we make, there is always the lurking thought when things settle down that maybe we could have done better.  Maybe we could have made our child(ren) happier, or maybe we could have handled a melt down a better way.  Parenting is not easy folks, at least not for me.

Growing up, my parents made it seem way easier than it is.  My mother cooked dinner more nights than not, and my Dad never seemed to complain about work.  Despite being booted out the door to go play as soon as we got annoying, I still held my parents’ .. well… parenting at top notch.  Being children, we don’t realize that our parents were struggling too.  Now that I’ve gotten older, and have heard some of the stories, chuckles, and tears about raising my sister and I, I realize that we just didn’t know.  However, that doesn’t mean that the parents I was lucky enough to grow up with didn’t set some impossibly high standard for my own life.

For example, society has brainwashed us that a happy, healthy family eats together every night.  That home-cooked meals create healthy, happy children.  I know I’m speaking for more than myself here, but I know after a 14 hour day when I finally get home, just glancing at the ingredients to make dinner makes my brain hurt.  So we’ll order something and eat something in our respective places.  Later on that evening, when I’m back to work at my own desk, that guilt kicks in.  I should have made dinner, we should have eaten at the table together.  Despite the fact that we do more often than not, I will feel guilty for taking the easy route.

Of course I don’t remember the nights when we were kids that we got Wendy’s for dinner (one had just opened up by our house) because my parents were too exhausted to cook.  Nope, I remember my mother’s home made chili going for hours and the corn bread from scratch.  Instead of realizing that it’s okay to be lazy once in a while, it’s okay to be tired, I hold myself to that latter standard.  My parents did it, with a lot more on their plate than myself, so why can’t I?

The end point of all of this, is that I, as well as too many other parents, might be being too hard on ourselves.  With social media, technology as a whole we have too much to compare ourselves too.  If that’s not enough, we have endless articles on what, who, how we are damaging our children.  So we go about our days, pushing ourselves to line, and if we don’t accomplish what society has set up for us, we beat ourselves up.  We double think what we are doing, and instead of enjoying the little moments, the happy moments, the good we *do* accomplish we are left feeling inadequate and lost.

No parent is perfect, and no childhood is perfect.  As long as our kids are happy (despite having to clean their rooms, eat their dinner, do their homework and not be little miniature assholes) and healthy (as can be), we’re doing a good job.  I’m not a bad mom for working my ass off or creating a blended family.  You’re not a bad mom for not buying the latest gadget, and you over there?  You’re not a bad dad for yelling at your kid for talking back.  Go ahead, take a break, just because your kids aren’t eating dinner 7 days a week at the kitchen table doesn’t mean you’ve ruined them.

Now if society and social media could just let parents know that once in a while, I think we’d all breathe a bit easier.

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“You’d rather whine and cry about your Crohns…”

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As pretty much anyone who reads this blog knows, I have Crohns Disease. I have been diagnosed for 6 years, sick for 7 (got sick the day after my daughter was born). There is a brief description of it, but if you do a quick google search for “Crohns Disease Forums” or “Crohns Disease Blogs”, you’ll find some more. Crohns Disease is one of many considered an “Invisible Illness”, part of the IBD family along side Ulcerative Colitis. A lot of the time, someone with Crohns looks pretty healthy, accompanied by “you’re so thin, you look great”! That’s because Crohns Disease is internal, you won’t see any gaping flesh wounds or casts around an apendage. It’s all our insides trying beat us up.

It’s thought to be an auto-immune disease. Frankly, our immune system decides that it hates our literal guts and starts attacking. The outcome is severe inflammation which leads to ulcers, fistulas, bleeding, malnutrition, severe pain and a host of numerous other symptoms, some are life threatening. There is no cure as of now, so those of us with IBD are stuck on long term medications, most of which have some very un-friendly side effects. The problem is, is that because there is no cure, the best we can hope for is “remission”. Remission doesn’t mean that the disease has gone away, but that there are no current symptoms. Some people are lucky and find a drug that works for decades, many of us aren’t so much. So that leaves us with chronic pain and symptoms that aren’t so easy to talk about.

I use my writing as a way to vent about what I have to deal with, it’s one of the only ways I can think of. I figure, if I open my mouth and tell people what I (and other people) deal with living with a life long disease, it’ll give someone who needs someone to relate to a hand. Maybe if I open my mouth and share my story, or tell people when I’m having a bad day, maybe it will give someone else the courage to stand up and say “Hey! I feel really sick! I need support!”.

It really is hard though, for many reasons. I know one of the biggest reasons is that I don’t want to sound like a complainer. 90% of the time, I’m in pain, and in the bare minimum, I’m uncomfortable, yet to most who ask me I’ll tell you I’m fine. If you feel like crap every day, and say so, who is really going to believe you? Who is going to want to listen to you complain day in and day out, regardless of whether or not that’s your daily life? So I shut my mouth. It took *years* for me to start telling people that I don’t feel good. Even now, 7 years after getting sick, I still only tell people I’m having a rough day if I’m feeling *really* bad. Even then it’s confined to the internet or to a close few friends or my coworkers. When you’re sick a lot of the time, your worst fear is becoming a burden on your family or stressing them out. I used to be terrified of that, I did. I still don’t tell my own Dad when I’m feeling really sick or yucky, just because I don’t want to worry him. I don’t want to inconvenience my family, so I keep my mouth shut and deal with it. The only times I’ve asked for help is with the handful of hospitalizations, where I had my Dad watch my daughter, so she wouldn’t have to stay with me. Even then I felt horrible, even though I know I shouldn’t and that my family (at least my parents anyway) will always be there for me.

The downfall? If we don’t open up to each other, to our friends and family, we isolate ourselves. We end up suffering in silence and alone. If we don’t say something, anything about how we’re feeling, no one will know what we’re going through. How can one gain support if we keep our mouths shut? It’s the most horrible thing to be in pain and feel like your left all alone to deal with it, day in and day out. No one should have to deal with it, regardless of the condition.

However, as I learned today during a fight with a family member, it really does backfire. Sometimes, even when you just tell your family, and only when you need to, when you post online, just to get some kind of feeling that someone cares… it still will bite you in the ass. (haha, pun intended)

So today, while fighting about something completely unrelated, my own family member told me all about “what I’m putting my family through” because of my Crohns. Mostly because I opted out of a major life changing surgery (on the advice of a surgeon I’ve seen). “You’d rather whine about your Crohns, about how hard your life is…. (insert insults about me never finishing college – accounting is not my thing – and working in the stone industry) … Stop whining about how hard your Crohns is when you don’t have the nerve to get the surgery that you need (or don’t need, but she never asked about that). You’d rather put your family through the stress of scrambling to take care of your daughter.”
So let me go on the defense here. While we’re fighting about life choices she *MADE*, I get shit thrown in my face about a disease I have no choice about? I get shit because I made an educated decision with the help of my SURGEON to not have surgery yet? Put my family through the stress of scrambling to take care of my daughter? Excuse me? I’ve been hospitalized 5 times in 7 years, not too bad. Once when I first got diagnosed, and the last time being for the new inflammation… which has absolutely nothing to do with the surgery I had discussed 2 years ago with my surgeon (again, she would know if she asked). Yes, I most likely inconvenienced my family, but you know what? That’s what family is there for. To take care of each other, especially when one is sick. This family member wouldn’t know about that, since she stepped in for a sleep over 3 times since I’ve been sick. That’s besides the point though.

That attempt to shame me for something I have no choice over is why we keep our mouths shut. I don’t say a whole lot about how I’m feeling, I’m most active online for awareness, and yet I’m still “whining” about how hard my Crohns is? I’m (not) sorry that I told someone about the multiple obstructions I’ve had, or the fistula I had, maybe I shouldn’t have (definitely should have) told someone that I’m in a lot of pain and not in the mood to go out the bar. I certainly should never (most definitely) have said “Hey family, I’m hospitalized because my disease has stopped responding to medication and I have to try a new drug.” I should have never said “Dad, I’m scared..” because obviously said family member thinks that’s whining.

THAT is exactly why I open my mouth. Why I post on my blog about my IBD, why I spread awareness in anyway I can! The shame that she attempted to pin on me for something completely out of my control and most definitely not my choice. No one with a Chronic Illness, whether it be IBD, Lupus, MS, Fibro or anything should have to feel alone, none of us should have to feel like we have to suffer in silence.

So you know what my fellow IBDers, my spoonies, and my friends. I’m going to go all high school on you for a second. FUCK the HATERS. Tell someone, tell someone you’re sick. Tell someone you hurt! Tell someone if you need support! You need it! You most definitely DESERVE IT. Anyone who ever tries to tell you that you complain too much, or whine, or are inconveniencing them, don’t deserve your time much less your love. No one has the right to shame you for how you feel or any medical decision you make regarding *your* disease. Stand up! SAY SOMETHING! No one will know unless we open our mouths.

We don’t have to suffer alone, and those who think we should, aren’t worth the breath they use to speak.  Like my 7 year old says “Mama, I love you no matter what, even if your sick or if your grumpy.”

 

Sidenote:  I wasn’t originally going to post direct quotes from the fight I had, but the more and more I thought about it, the more and more I wanted to write this blog.  What my family member said to me is the very embodiment of why many of us don’t complain when we feel bad or sick.  I want people out there to know that yes some people are shitty, but not everyone, and we all deserve support.  So please pass around, and more importantly, be there for each other.  We’ve got to be honest about our lives, and our pain, and in the meantime, in the face of people like I had to deal with earlier, we’ve got to be here to support each other.

Actions, not words

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People expect you to put a lot of stock into the words that come out of their mouths.  If you say it, I’m supposed to believe it with out a doubt… even if your actions prove otherwise? 

Let me just clarify that for the internet.

Nope.

I’ll listen to what you have to say, but ultimately?  I’m going to judge you by what you do, how you act and the pride you take in said actions. 

If you take the time to explain to me that I shouldn’t think you’re a douche, that your priorities are in good order and that you give a shit about your family… you should probably act like it. 

A bit more than a week ago, someone freaked out on me because I suggested that maybe they had handled themselves wrong in a situation.  (It involved drinking, fighting, calling parents drunk, getting mad and putting said parents through hell, then dropping a bomb on said parents and asking them to pay bills for them.  Then going on a tangent about what horrible parents they are when the reaction received wasn’t getting money thrown at them.)

I was informed that they were completely sober, weren’t scumbags, and how they were offended that I’d rather my daughter spend time with my neighbors than them. 

Sidenote: wasn’t true, is now.

Whatever.  My daughter’s birthday was coming up and as some of you know, I’m changing medications for my Crohns Disease as it is acting up.  I have a lot on my plate and dealing with that chaos is not on my to-do list. 

On Monday, my family came over for my kids birthday party.  This person told me she was coming, along with her boyfriend.  Let’s just say, thank god I had enough sense not to tell my daughter that they were going to be there.  Of course, for a child’s birthday party, a child that she told me she loves to death, she blows off, with out a call, text, birthday card, nothing.

So here we are, a week later, and I still haven’t heard anything.  My daughter thankfully hasn’t asked, but it’s quite telling that her scumbag bio dad sent a gift but a member of her own family completely blew her off. 

I’m very lucky that I have such a wonderful family, my life has gone through some tough times and I’ve needed support badly.  Each and every time my family has been there, except one… Only when it’s convenient for her.  I’m not even upset about that though, I’m used to it after a decade.  Apparently after dragging all of us through hell and back when things aren’t picture perfect in her life, I can’t even expect her to show up for my child’s birthday party, much less even call to say happy birthday. 

I guess the emotion I’m more or less feeling is disappointment.  I can ignore being treated badly, I can pretend it doesn’t bother me when someone doesn’t care about anyone but themselves.  However when it extends to my child from someone she loves, I have to put my foot down.  Thanks to my ex husband, my daughter understands that some people are just self absorbed, but that doesn’t mean I need to expose her to them.  Family is more than blood and she deserves love. 

So after a week of waiting for a phone call, I’m ok with walking away from that portion of my life.  I have been making great strides to give my daughter a happy and healthy home, and in order to do that, sometimes you have to cut out the negative.

Adios, you may think it’s okay to treat your family like something you stepped on walking the city streets, but that doesn’t mean I have to put up with it forever.

Not so little anymore.

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She LOVES painting birdhouses. Wonderful gift!

Today I have a 7 year old.  My little baby isn’t quite so little anymore.  Seems like just yesterday she was hauling diaper across my backyard after she figured out how to run, now she’s in her last week of 1st grade.  Not to mention the 5 inches she grew over winter.

She did have school today, but was thrilled she got to wear a birthday crown and the class sung to her.  It’s the last week of school, so they have nothing but fun stuff to do.  She was excited to go, where as I was kind of sad we didn’t get to spend the entire day together.  Story of being a parent I guess.

After school and work we had a birthday party for her.  My parents and step sister and brother came over for dinner.  Despite the rainy beginning to the afternoon, the weather was warm and sunny, nice enough that we were able to grill and eat outside.  My parents brought this adorable cake (pink inside in the shape of a 7) that Ashley really got a kick out of.  She got plenty of gifts from all of us, a lot of outside toys and sports equipment which is just what she wanted.  Grandpa and Grandma got her into painting birdhouses last year and surprised her with two new ones, paint and a paintbrush set.  I think she was most excited about those.  That or the pair of roller skates I got her that she refused to take off.  She was definitely a happy girl, which made my long day at work worth it. 

I think the cutest thing though was her garden.  Ry put up a little white picket fence around a corner of our yard and let her plant a ton of sunflowers.  We even made her a sign and hung her gardening tools on it.  Then they stayed up late around a fire talking, her request over the weekend.  Listening to them just melts my heart.  She loves him so much it’s adorable.  I’m glad she has such a great father figure in her life.

Speaking of fathers, or DNA donors.  Her biological father sent some cheap gift again.  The fool hasn’t talked to her in more than a year, hasn’t seen her in more than three years, and hasn’t paid child support but just once in 5 years and still has the gall to send a crappy $10 gift.  Not even a card this time, at least last year she got a card with some sob story about his phone being shut off (read: he was getting married and having another kid).  I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I had been giving her the gifts her sends but last year I found it in the trash shortly after.  She hasn’t even asked about him since her last birthday, and only mentioned him once when she asked if it was okay if Ry was her step daddy since she didn’t have a real one.  (Which yes, I explained that she did in fact have one, but that it was up to her who she considered her Daddy or step daddy, and just reiterated that family is about love, not just blood.)

I’ll have to think on it.  She’s a happy, well adjusted kid, and I hate to disrupt that.  Eh.  We all know I’ll fork it over, and keep my lips sealed about all the nasty things I want to say against her father.  The wonderful thing about children?  They remember who was there for them, who wiped their tears, kissed the owwies and who reads the bedtime stories.  She’ll come to her own conclusions (or rather reiterate them again and again as she gets older) and until then and beyond we’ll continue to be there to support her and love her to pieces.

I just hope Tim realizes that he’s doing her more harm than anything and just stops interrupting her life with cheap gifts.  She’s happy and deserves to stay that way.

Anyway, she had a lovely party, and I enjoyed seeing my family.  Noodle is all tucked in bed and it’s back to school tomorrow.  Here’s to another wonderful year with a wonderful little girl.

I love you Noodle!  Happy birthday my not so little one!

Something for me.

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One mistake I think that all of us make at some point in our existences is we forget about ourselves.  It’s all too easy, it really is.  I mean, we’re brought up to be careful of others, make sure we are good to our neighbors/coworkers/family/significant others/pretty much everyone on the planet.  So we have to focus on that and slowly but surely our own wants and needs fall to the background.  The ways a human is stretched is pretty ridiculous.  Excelling at your job is important, but so is leading your team!  Don’t forget your kids, they need to do go do something fun this weekend!  Oh and your boyfriend wants to go out with friends.  The house is cleaned, but we’re supposed to organize and oh geez, it’d be good for everyone to take a long walk!  Your parents could use a hand, and oh god, you forgot … insert A, B and C.

After getting out of the hospital this last time I’ve been feeling really… frazzled?  I felt like I was too busy but somehow I was always forgetting something or someone.  My daughter has a ton of requests regarding what she wants to do on the weekends, I now gave up on 2 separate sets of days off at work so my coworkers could take their days and I wouldn’t abandon anyone else in the office.  Dinner felt like a rush, it had to be healthy and before a certain time so my family could get enough sleep.  I really wanted a manicure, but you know, there was always something else to do.  I had wanted to do something romantic with the boyfriend, but we cancelled dinner twice because I needed to work late.

It seemed like I was being pulled in every-which-direction, and the frustration I felt, it was just ridiculous.  I think when I realized something was wrong, was when I sat down and thought about my vacation requests.  I had gone through outlook and plotted out vacation days, I almost always forget to use my time, and I had promised myself I’d take it this year.  I requested my daughters birthday off, and pulled that request when my co-worker wanted to go out of town for a week or so.  So I requested a long weekend next weekend… apparently my other coworker had requested that time off, and everyone forgot to tell me.  I had to sit down and explain to my kid that, no… I’m actually NOT taking time off.  “I know it’s Spring Break, but at least daycare is fun… yeah I know kid, I promised.”

I went home that day and honestly thought about everything.  I thought about how I felt, I thought about all the things I have planned/wanted to do, but didn’t so someone else could benefit.  I thought about spending my extra cash on something “responsible” instead of buying a silly nail polish.  I thought about the evenings I wasted working late when I should have finished what I had on my plate and ignored the rest.  I thought about the fights I had with my boyfriend because I was too stressed out to even be rational.  I thought about fighting with him because he felt my job was more important than everything else.  I thought about how I really wanted to go do something… just anything… and all the reasons I gave myself when I declined.

It’s an awful feeling to realize you don’t take care of your own happiness, your own wants and needs.  So I decided to say FUCK IT.  :)  when I got home on Friday night, I was going to try and finish up some work after dinner.  I was going to head back to the office and then go see my sister afterwards.  I was going to go out and yeah.  So I showed up to work, and no one was there.  There was supposed to be an entire shift of people there, but everyone was gone.  I immediately thought, well, I guess I can’t go visit my sister tonight, I’ll have to work in the morning.  It took me all of 5 minutes to realize that this was exactly what I had been thinking about.  Nope, Nope, Nope.  I went downtown anyway.  It was a lot of fun, hung out and chatted over drinks with my sister, and just generally had fun.  Came back in the morning, stopped and did what I absolutely had to do and went home.  I ate junk food on the way, and then spent the day in bed watching my nerdy-science shows.  Only to get up to go grocery shopping and get a chai that I was wanting.  Today?  I’m doing my nails and relaxing, maybe watching some of my shows that I have backlogged on my DVR.  Trying to figure out where to go for my birthday.  I asked both sides of the family to go out to dinner with me, and then to go out after.  I *want* to celebrate my birthday this year, and damn it to hell, I want to have fun.

I have got to take care of myself too, I have to stop neglecting my wants, and my families wants as well.  Work/Friends/Coworkers/House/Etc is all important, but there is no reason all of that should come first all of the time.  So my goal for this year, is to make more of my time.  To enjoy myself and my family instead of putting all that I look forward to on the backburner.  Wish me luck.

Back in the Hospital

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I am not a happy camper today, actually far from it.  I’m stressed out, anxious, and twitchy.  Thankfully though, the majority of my pain has been kept in check by my wonderful nurses.  I’ve been admitted to my (usual) hospital for a bowel obstruction, got here shortly after noon.  I did the big girl thing for once and came in before it was a full blown emergency and thankfully that has given me a teensy bit of control over the situation (No NG tube yet!! Yay!).  I can definitely say that I’m glad I came in, but it was really hard to make that call without it being an emergency.  Being someone who visits hospitals on the regular, I have a good sized aversion to them and all involved.  I’m proud I made the right decision and so far have handled everything quite well.

Blech.

Blech.

As always though, Crohns gives me a different perspective than what I expect.  Of course I’m already climbing the walls here, but it makes me grateful and appreciative of other people.  Of course for Ryan who has pledged to stay here tonight and for my kid for hanging out and giving me hugs.  To my sister for picking her up for the night and for my dad for the day after.  To the nurses and xray techs who make me laugh when I feel like crying.  It’s a good reminder, one that I need from time to time.  

So yeah, here I am, and here I shall remain.  I’ll update as I go.

Pay it Forward: More Than a Decade Overdue

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When I was a kid, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  Our family struggled and not just financially.  My dad was saddled with taking care of a sick wife and two daughters.  I remember a lot of stress and a lot of tears.  I remember being shuttled around and a lot of prayers.

The anniversary of my mother’s passing is tomorrow.  I was in 5th grade at the time, my sister in 3rd, and was too angry at the world to see things clearly.  All I knew is that my mom was sick, and then my mom was gone.  I spent years being angry, and admittedly still am sometimes.  Death is hard on anyone.

Now that I’ve gotten older and more than a handful of years has passed, the bitterness and anger have receded.  Of course I still have many painful memories from the last final months, but now I can see all the good too.

You can imagine trying to raise two daughters, take care of a sick wife, and then attempting to pay medical bills.  It wasn’t pretty.  Looking back I remember how many family’s invited us over to play, so my father could get some time to himself.  I remember how many times people brought over food and basics just to help out.  My mother’s friend even arranged a fundraiser for my mother’s treatment. The best memory I have?  Christmas.

It was my mother’s last Christmas.  I don’t know what my parents had planned, but I know the neighborhood had been up to something.  To this day, I don’t know who, or even how many families contributed.  Regardless, our neighborhood and my parents friends, gave us Christmas.  Santa showed up, just knocked on the door.  He gave us all presents, every one of us, and made Christmas more of a reality for my sister and I.  I remember opening presents, and looking up to see my mother crying.  I couldn’t figure out why, but I know now.

People I knew and people I didn’t know rallied around my family, they helped us through the hard times, and helped us continue on with life afterwards.  They fed us, watched us kids, and gave us a holiday I couldn’t even imagine.  So now, all these years later, I miss my mother, but I am reminded that there are very good people out there.  Good people who want to help out.

So for the past few months, I’ve been collecting clothing and other random goods.  I’ve been storing them and giving them away to people I know need them.  No big deal.  You know, the mom who takes care of her children but has nothing left for herself.  The friend who needs an extra hand up, but can’t ask.  That’s just how it worked out.

Then all of a sudden, a coworker of mine donated a ton of clothing, among other things.  It started piling up.  So I asked my daughters daycare to let me know if there’s a family that’s having a rough time.  Then another friend dropped off a bag, which is destined to be delivered to my old church for a family who lost their income.

I kept thinking about how to get these things to people who truly need them.  People who need a hand up for whatever reason.  God knows I can’t do it alone, not with my own body rebelling against me again.  So I asked around, and some people volunteered to help out.  Some people volunteered donations.  Some, talent.  So this is turning into something.  Something good.

I think what I want to see come out of this is cutting out the middle man.  I don’t want to charge people for help, I just want to help.  I don’t want to get anything out of it, but knowing that someones day is a bit easier.  I want to help make a better community, and in turn, push others to want to improve the world around them.  I want to see something come out of this.

There is a lot to be ironed out, but with my friend Kyle, and everyone else who is coming out of the woodwork, I think we can do something great.

We’re starting with clothes and canned goods.  Of course anything goes.  I’d like to work directly with people instead of through a company or what have you, keeping it small for now.  I’d eventually like to move outwards and help with repairs or just general work, but we’ll get to that in time.

So for now, I need ideas.  I need volunteers.  I need luck.

Here’s to starting something good, something that will improve the world around me!

Keep it real, keep it moving!