Walking with the moon

A creative living in the real world…

Charity begins at nursery. July 11, 2014

Filed under: Community,Elvie,Faith,Nursery,Operation Slow — hannahoakland @ 2:23 pm

Elvie has gone to nursery in football kit today. I say football kit. I mean shorts and a t-shirt.

Seriously. She’s three years old, and football kits are expensive. Not to mention that if the football’s ever on the telly, she settles down with a gleeful cry of “ooh, rugby!”

Nonetheless, the note from nursery said that the children needed to wear football kits today, for a kickabout with the Royals mascots. And that we should pay £1 for the privilege. Of not wearing uniform. Which the nursery children don’t wear anyway. It’s all a little farcical.

I do need to buy Elvie’s uniform. Ready for September. I’m considering only buying one outfit. Given the number of times she has to turn up wearing football kit / something spotty / a visual representation of her favourite haiku, I don’t think we’ll get much wear out of the little grey tunics.

Still, I mustn’t complain. Because they’re raising money. For charity. More specifically, on this occasion, “to help Africa.” That’s a direct quote from the nursery.

Brilliant. It’s always good to know exactly where your money’s going.

On closer investigation, it turns out that they’re aiming to build a school in Kenya. At least that’s what it said on the packets of the ‘football’ cakes the children baked on Wednesday. Which we paid 50p to take home.

I hope we see some pictures of this school. Otherwise I’ll be very suspicious when the dinnerlady gets a shiny new car.

Teaching children about charity is brilliant. In theory, I love it. In practice, if I’m honest, I find it really hard.

I’ve sponsored a girl in Kenya for the last twelve years, through Compassion, who are fantastic. But I’ve done it by default. The money comes out of my account on a direct debit and I never have to think about it. Easy. I’m great at that.

I’m not so good at the kind of giving that actually costs me something. Time, or thought, or money. Or the effort of remembering to take £1 to the school gate.

For a long time I’ve suffered from a scarcity complex. Living in a place of ‘not enough.’ Not enough time. Not enough energy. And definitely not enough money.

On one level, it’s true. I’m raising our little family of four on whatever Wes brings home. Which, as a self-employed craftsman, varies wildly from month to month. It’s easy to panic. To fret about the mortgage, or the water bill, or the cost of school uniform.

And when I fret, I go inwards. Every single time. Grabbing hold of every single penny I can hold in my hands. Squirreling away anything that’s spare. Stockpiling any freebies that I set my eyes on. Ignoring anyone else that might need help.

It’s not a good look.

The ironic thing is, all this grabbing and stockpiling and fixing my eyes on us, actually makes the feeling of scarcity worse. It makes me feel less secure and more as though we’re going to go under at any minute.

The reality is that we’ve always survived. We’re frugal and creative and fairly easily pleased. And we have a net around us. A support net of friends and family. Who tell us constantly that we’ll never go hungry. Or homeless. No matter how bad things get.

I’ve been trying, consciously, to change my mindset. I don’t think all this scarcity and insecurity is helping my depression, and it certainly sucks all the joy out of everyday life.

I’m taking small steps. Perhaps that’s a little generous. I’m taking baby steps.

When we had a clearout, I put all our unwanted things on Freecycle. Instead of trying to sell them, in the desperate hope that they’d make enough money to justify the effort I was making.

I’ve made endless, mostly enforced, contributions to the nursery charity collections. And not been too grumpy about it.

I’ve decided that I genuinely like getting rid of belongings. It makes me feel lighter, less encumbered. Like I can breathe more easily. And there’s less stuff to tidy up. Bonus.

I’m not so good at giving away money. That still hurts. We have a jar of loose change in our dining room, and I’ve often thought how good it would be to give that money away. I’ve never managed it.

Until this week.

Over dinner on Wednesday, we were discussing the Kenyan school, and why they needed help to build it. Elvie was fascinated by the idea of people who couldn’t afford to eat. Or put a roof over their heads. Of children without parents. Children just like her. Who happened to have been born somewhere else. And were suffering because of it.

My parents are in Tanzania at the moment, visiting a charity that they run. Providing care and education and sponsorship for orphans in remote villages. Children who have been abandoned by their communities. Children who need our help.

I explained this to Elvie. Told her where Grandma and Grandad are. What they’re doing. How those children are being looked after.

She’s a deep thinker, my Elvie. She listened, and listened, and then thought for a while. And this is what she said;

“Mummy, we could give them some of our money that we use for bus rides or food…what about all the money in the change jar? We could give them that. To help build their house.”

Needless to say, there were tears in my eyes. Tears of pride for my beautiful three year old. Who runs rings around us all for most of the time, and then shows her soft little heart, and her wonderful compassion. And a few tears of embarrassment. That it had taken this child to show me what I should have done weeks earlier.

I told her how proud I was of her. That we’d count the money and give it to her grandparents. That it would be used to build a house for the orphans.

That met with her approval. On the condition that she could draw pictures and send them to every single one of the children. To let them know that we love them.

With that, wise words over, she proceeded to wedge a baked bean between each toe on her foot, admire her handiwork, then take each one out. And eat them. That’s my girl.

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Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to collect the bean monster herself from nursery.

And take another 50p for a picture of her with the mascots.

I’ll try not to be grumpy about it. I promise.

 

Feasting and Famine. And everything in between. February 18, 2014

Filed under: Depression,Faith,Marriage,Parenting — hannahoakland @ 10:30 pm

I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. Which can be annoying.

It means that 10 minutes after watching ‘The Great British Sewing Bee,’ I’m wondering how best to find time in my busy schedule to hand-make my children’s wardrobes. Rather than actually just finishing Elvie’s curtains.

It means that I want to blog every day. Maybe three times a day. That I get frustrated when I only have the time and energy to do it once a week. If I’m lucky.

It means that I buy a new lipstick and then don’t wear it. Because I don’t have a new look, career and personality to go with it.

It’s an exhausting way to live. But I can cope. Provided that everything else in my life is on an even keel.

Ha.

Our family is not easily described as normal. 9-5 is not something we’re familiar with. Wes is self employed, so he goes where the work is, when it’s available. Often he’ll turn up at a venue with no idea what he’s going to be working on. Those are usually the days I get a call to let me know Emma Thompson is in the next room for a press conference. Or that he’s just built a stage for the Jersey Boys.

He loves his work. He’s brilliant at it. And it definitely has it’s advantages. I’m lucky to be married to someone who can make you a table in half an hour, or throw together a garden bench for a party. He’s just built the most beautiful cabin bed for Elvie’s room. We have piles of timber, paint and perfume just waiting to be used – all salvaged from various jobs.

There’s just one problem. For me at least. That even keel I was after. It’s not much good for that.

Turns out I’m not the only part of this family that’s all-or-nothing.

There can be months in the year when there is so much work that we pass like ships in the night. Usually the middle of the night. Clutching a vomiting baby, or a crying child, or a packet of paracetamol. Times when we’d forget the sound of each other’s voice if it weren’t for all the answerphone messages. Wondering where the remote went, or whether he made it to Birmingham, or why I still haven’t returned his call and is everything actually ok?

Those times are great for making money. And stressful in every other possible way.

And then there are the slow times. When there are weeks with no work. No money coming in. Water bills, and a mortgage to pay and hoping that more work comes in before the money from the busy times runs out.

Now is one of those times.

I would so dearly love to be reasonable about it all. To adopt the same approach Wes has. The approach that says we’ve been doing this for years and it always balances out, so let’s just calm down.

I find that really hard.

When times are busy, I’m stressed because I have the children by myself for weeks on end and I’m losing my mind and I just need a break and how come work is so much more important than me?

When times are quiet, I’m stressed because the money is going to run out and what if we never get any more work and maybe I should just set up my own business selling jam because that’s the only logical solution.

Awkward.

Normally, I can cope. Just about. In as much as I only melt down once a week. Maybe twice.

At the moment, it feels as though everything is all-or-nothing. I know. Ironic.

Elvie, who is normally so independent that you’re lucky to get a cuddle, has decided she can’t sleep unless she’s in our bed. All night.

Which is adorable, obviously. Except that I really need my childfree space. And I resent having to share a bed all night with a snoring, wriggling three year old. Who likes to kick the duvet halfway down the bed, and ninja-whack you in the face with her elbows. While you’re sleeping.

We’ve managed to start around a hundred home improvement projects in the last month. Elvie’s room is half-finished. Unsurprisingly, given the scale of the mural she requested.

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We’re halfway through creating the photo wall in the kitchen. The paints and curtain rail for our bedroom are loitering at the end of our bed. And the garden looks like a earthquake has ripped through the middle of a building site.

It’s no wonder that I have been obsessively tidying shelves. In a desperate attempt to have control over something. Anything. Even if it is just a few inanimate objects.

It all feels a bit like chaos. Which, as you may have gathered, is not something my brain enjoys. At all.

In the midst of all the soupy, swirling fogginess in my brain, one phrase has been going round and round and round. ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’ It’s from the Bible. Philippians 4:11 to be precise. Don’t be too impressed by my knowledge. I may have had assistance from Google.

It’s one of those phrases. The kind where I’m pretty sure that if I ever met the guy who said it, I’d want to punch him in the face. Along with whoever tried to convince the world that your ‘school days are the best days of your life’. Seriously. We can all be grateful that’s not true.

It’s always seemed a little smug. So, you’ve learned to be content whatever happens. Great. Good for you. Now not only is my brain suffering from it’s own private hurricane, but I can feel guilty for not having the answers.

Not that I make snap judgements. At all.

It’s only today that I wondered if it’s possible there was more to it. Whether I had, in fact, been a little harsh. Jumped up and bitten a little too early, to project all my own problems onto some poor writer who has been dead for a couple of thousand years and will never be able to fight back.

Today, I read the whole passage. Turns out Google really does know everything. It’s Philippians 4:11-13 and it goes like this:

…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.

I know. So far, so smug. But wait for it…

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

There it is. Right there.

Turns out he didn’t have all the answers. It’s possible he wasn’t even trying to be smug. Perhaps he was, genuinely, just trying to help.

I know, beyond a doubt, that finding contentment in every situation would change my life. Whether there’s work coming in or not. However many small children end up sleeping on my pillow. Whatever state the garden / kitchen wall / house is in.

I break my back trying to control everything.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to step back. Breathe a few deep breaths. Hand it over to someone bigger and wiser than me. Wait for him to give me strength. Instead of trying to find it myself through organising sock drawers and bookshelves.

I’m not sure how it works. But I need to try. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even finish those curtains.