Books for Kids this Holiday Season

Hi everybody!

Many holidays are closing in on us, and thanks to this pandemic, a lot of families are struggling to make ends meet, let alone provide gifts to their children. Here’s your chance to give the gift of literacy this holiday season!

While I’m generally loathe to ask for money on this blog, I think this is a good cause. I have started a GoFundMe account in an effort to bring this all about. Here’s the exact description on the page:

Families are struggling this holiday season. Many parents will not be able to give their children gifts like in better times.

I know that the families in my neighborhood really appreciate my little free library. It’s the Clark Lake Park Little Free Library #87847 in Kent, Washington. (Join us on Facebook!) I would like to encourage families to see these books in the library as potential gifts to give their children.

I plan, right after Thanksgiving, to stock my library full of brand new books, and provide non-denominational wrapping paper as well.

Benefits:
It promotes literacy.
It takes some financial pressure off parents. (I will also be providing adult books for children to give their parents, but I don’t need funding with this. I have plenty of those types of books.)

Problem:
Childrens books are so popular that I can’t keep them in stock. They fly off the shelves.
I would like these books to be brand new, and that costs money.

Your gift will help give a child a happy holiday. I’m hoping to get these funds by 11/14 so that I have time to make the book purchases. If I exceed my goal, I’ll buy even more books to give out throughout the year!

I also would appreciate any donations of children’s books, any time!

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

If you are willing and able to participate, check out the GoFundMe page here. And I would appreciate it if you share this post with your friends and family in any way that you can!

Thank you, and happy holidays to all!

-Barb

The Teddy Bear Boy

About a decade and a half ago, one of my coworkers, Don, asked me if I would be willing to rent a room to his 17-year-old son, Lee. He wanted to continue attending my neighborhood high school with his friends, and my coworker was moving to the neighboring county. I said yes, albeit reluctantly.

I don’t “do” kids. I have no children of my own, by choice. I didn’t even hang out with kids that much when I was one myself.

But this young man seemed nice enough. I was assured that he was pretty self-sufficient. He’d buy and prepare his own food, Don said. He was very quiet, and seemed a little sad.

I felt sorry for Lee. Don said that his mother had died when he was very young. He and his brother had been raised by a single parent who worked the graveyard shift for as long as I had known him, so I can’t imagine their lives were particularly conventional.

Little did I know.

Lee would often sleep with his bedroom door open. I’d see him hugging a teddy bear as I walked past at night on my way to work. I thought that was rather unusual for a boy his age, but to each his own.

My next intel about Lee was that his father treated him horribly. I could hear the man scream at him over the phone from the other side of the house. His other son could do no wrong.

I came to realize that Lee was gay, and I already knew that his father was a homophobe, so I thought that explained it all. It made me feel even more sorry for Lee, because it must be awful to be rejected by the only parent you have.

Then one night I had to rush Lee to the hospital with extreme stomach pains. It turned out that he had been existing for years on a basic diet of chocolate donuts and coca cola, and that hadn’t done his intestines much good. This broke my heart.

My heartbreak turned to fury, though, when I discovered that his father had let Lee’s health insurance lapse. Rather than thanking me for bringing his son to the hospital, Don was outraged, because now he’d be stuck with a medical bill. He viewed his son as a massive inconvenience.

Don was so angry that he decided to yank his son out of my house. Before he left, I learned many truths about Lee.

First of all, his mother wasn’t dead, as far as he knew. She had abandoned him and his brother at a rest stop when they were very little. The police had given them each a teddy bear, and he had kept his ever since.

It was doubtful that Don was even his father. Apparently his wife had been rather promiscuous. (I had thought he and his brother didn’t look very much alike.) Don had had to drive several hundred miles to pick the boys up, and he had resented Lee, in particular, from that day to this.

After Don entered my house in a rage and grabbed all his stuff and yanked a protesting, pleading Lee out the door, I never saw them again. Don quit working with me, pulled Lee out of school, and left no valid forwarding address.

I often wonder how Lee turned out. I tried looking for him on Facebook, but his name is way too common. I will forever wonder if I could have done more for that lonely, neglected 17-year-old boy who only had a stuffed animal for comfort for most of his life. It’s one of my biggest regrets.

I’m glad that at least once in his life, a kind stranger had the decency to give him a teddy bear to hug. I hope he was able to rise above his circumstances. He deserved much more from his childhood than he got.

I also hope that karma has rolled over his father like a crosstown bus.

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I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that? http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

A Maternal Instinct for Benign Neglect

I really have to hand it to my mother. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was exposed to the idea that parents were capable of disliking their children. Ma never gave me that impression, so the concept never occurred to me.

When I was in my early 20’s, my mother admitted to me that she had never really wanted kids. She wasn’t saying this to hurt me. The subject came up simply because I had told her that I never intended to have any of my own. (And, in fact, I never did.)

For my mother’s generation, the question was never if you would have children, but when. It was just what a woman was expected to do. And so that’s what she did.

Recently I read an article in the Atlantic from 2012 entitled, “Not Wanting Kids Is Entirely Normal” by Jessica Valenti. It even made this diehard child-free woman blink. (And very few things make me blink.)

It turns out that a lot of mothers, I mean, a LOT, say that if they had it to do over, they wouldn’t have had children. And yet that pervasive idea that we all have this maternal clock that’s tick, tick, ticking away is still expressed throughout the land. Most people seem to think that every woman’s primary desire is to have children.

I, personally, am relieved to be in my 50’s because finally, FINALLY there’s not this overwhelming societal pressure for me to procreate. If I had a dollar for every time someone smiled at me and said, “You’ll change your mind,” regarding motherhood, I’d be a millionaire. The truth is, I’m actually more the rule than the exception. As the article points out, “most women spend the majority of their lives trying not to get pregnant.” It went on to assert that half the pregnancies in the US are unintended, and the mothers of unintended children treat them much differently (as in, worse) than they treat planned children.

I’m quite certain I was not a planned child. My parents were divorced 3 months after I was born, and I never met my father. He also never paid a penny of child support.

Looking back, I’d have to say that my mother’s parenting style was one of benign neglect. Basically, she let me run wild. I never felt disliked. But I did feel as though she didn’t want to be bothered. She seemed to be in a constant state of depression. She set no boundaries for me, and I therefore never felt safe or confident.

She would bury herself in library books and so would I. She didn’t tell me she loved me until I was 12 years old and my older sister forced her to do so. I had food and shelter and clothing and health care and an education, but I also had the sense that if I pissed her off, she’d stop loving me. She looked the other way when I was experiencing abuse. That, too, is abuse. But I didn’t know any better.

My mother did what was expected of her. Society didn’t care if she liked it or not. And that’s where society got it wrong.

I’m grateful for all the sacrifices my mother made so I could go on to live the life I chose to live, the one that she never had a chance to live. But perhaps we should stop telling women that they’ll change their mind. Perhaps we should congratulate those women who know themselves well enough not to make a mistake that could have psychological repercussions for generations to come. Just sayin’.

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A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

My Halloween Tradition

It’s that day again. Time for me to turn out all the lights at the front of the house, refuse to come to the door, and pray earnestly that no one vandalizes my car. This has been my time-honored tradition for my entire adult life. Happy Halloween.

For starters, I don’t like kids. I avoid them the rest of the year, so why should I bribe them with sweets on this particular night? And in terms of self-care, keeping candy in the house has never been the best idea for me. Also, it’s really not the kindest thing to do for this generation of children, who have traded in their bicycles for computers and are struggling with obesity.

I also hate those adult parties where women feel obliged to dress up like sexy witches, dominatrices and French maids. No one puts that kind of pressure on men. I find these displays depressing.

And then there’s the fact that I used to know someone who worked with parole officers with caseloads of people on the sex offenders’ database. This time of year they’d have to do twice as many home visits, to make sure these people aren’t decorating their houses to draw the kiddies in. “Want some candy, little girl?” Sorry to break this to you, but Halloween is the high holy day for perverts.

I think my generation was the last to really trick or treat safely. If I were a parent, I certainly wouldn’t be allowing my children to knock on the doors of strangers in this day and age. You just don’t know who they’ll be coming face to face with.

Fortunately, more and more communities, churches, and malls are having public Halloween events. I think this is a marvelous idea. Let the little monsters and ghosts roam around in a well-supervised environment. Brilliant.

And at the risk of being one of those grumpy neighbors who shouts, “Get off my lawn, kids!” I really would prefer to be left in peace. But in case of emergency, I’ll be in the back of the house, in the dark, listening to ghost stories on Youtube.

Bwahahahahahaha…

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Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

Pop Tarts

There are some things I consider to be “kid food”. For example, I used to drink Hawaiian Punch by the 50 gallon drum when I was a child. I can’t stand it now. Many things fall into that category. Cheese Whiz. Tang. Cap’n Crunch.

Perhaps the most iconic food from my childhood is Pop Tarts. Not the frosted kind. That would have been gilding the lily. No, just good old strawberry Pop Tarts. Sometimes I’d even eat them raw. But toasted… Mmmmm. That warm crusty goodness with the melty strawberry filling. That couldn’t be beat.

So the other day I was grocery shopping, and I found myself putting a box of pop tarts into my cart. It was almost as if my hand had a mind of its own. Perhaps it was being directed by my inner child.

And then last night when I got home from a wet and blustery evening at work, I was too exhausted to cook, and there went my hand again, reaching for those pop tarts. I take no responsibility.

I have to say that eating them raw has lost its appeal, but toasted brought back a flood of comforting memories. I doubt I’ll be eating Pop Tarts daily, but it’s a delightful jaunt down memory lane on those days I can’t find the energy to cook like an adult.

[Image credit: seriouseats.com]
[Image credit: seriouseats.com]