Tag Archives: helping

Look for the Helpers, They’re Overworked and Bleary-eyed

Me wearing a Cub Scout leader uniform

“Good God, what have I done?”

What do the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Baymax from Big Hero 6, and a panda have in common? They’re all overstuffed with cuteness! Want to know what’s not overstuffed with cuteness? My calendar. It is a bloated beast of an overachieving obsessive compulsive need to be needed.

Need me to watch your kids for a couple of hours? Sure! Need me to volunteer for your slot at church? Not a problem! Need me to organize, lead, and recruit for the Cub Scout pack? Why not? I’m already not sleeping much because I’m up at 4 am stressing out about all the crap I have to do.

Before I had kids, I would read “O Magazine” and marvel at article after article encouraging women to just say no to the endless requests to volunteer and host some event or another. What could be so hard about saying no?

Now my Google calendar is packed with the typical swim lessons, martial arts classes, Cub Scout meetings, Girl Scout meetings, and volunteering at school. In addition, the unwritten calendar in my head is swimming with “help kids do their homework,” “practice Zach’s speech therapy,” “get Kaylee to practice sight words and phonics,” feed the dogs, walk the dogs, do laundry, buy groceries, etc. and etc. So naturally, when I read there was an upcoming Girl Scouts ice-skating event, I jumped at the chance to squeeze in one more activity!

Thank God the troop leader told me the event was already full. We do so much for Zach because he’s older and started many of his activities before Kaylee could walk that I feel like I owe it to her to do stuff that’s just for her. She’s oblivious of course. She just wants me to play with her and do pretty much whatever she tells me to.

I realize there’s a certain egotism to constantly volunteering and offering to help other people. Look at me, I’m Mrs. Dependable and selfless as a saint! I still have the email where my friend called me a “rock star” on Facebook for watching one of her kids in the morning then the other kid in the afternoon. It does feel really good sometimes to be helpful. Or to accomplish a ridiculous number of errands in a short span of time. It’s also exhausting and depleting.

Sometimes I overcompensate by playing a word search video game (yes, I’m a word nerd) for an hour or two past my bedtime. It’s like a big (Mike Myers’ Scottish-accented) “Fuck yer!” to the universe. “Ha ha, I am accomplishing absolutely nothing right now! What I’m doing is totally useless and self-sabotaging!” Go, me!

The thing is, other people really do need help. Schools, churches, Scouts, family, and friends often need warm bodies, photocopies, food, or a shoulder to cry on. I’ve volunteered at events before and felt what I imagine is like “being in the trenches,” where you know you’re accomplishing with a handful of people what really ought to take dozens more to do. You know if you leave early it falls on the shoulders of even fewer people to do the rest.

So, what should you do to not overstuff your calendar the way I do? “Fifik.” That’s my friend’s acronym for “fuck if I know.” Just kidding. No, not really. So far, procrastinating helps. Letting email fall farther and farther down the queue to where you forget you ever received it works. Being consistently and reliably incompetent probably works too, but I’m so afraid of failure I can’t bring myself to try it. My friend did give me a good phrase to use whenever someone asks for volunteers, “Sorry, I’m already overcommitted.”

I’ve structured my life so that I’m needed by a lot of people and a few animals. I guess what I have to remember is that I need me too. I need me to go to bed on time. I need me to go to the gym and work out for an hour three times per week. I need me to use my sociopathic charm to recruit more helpers and delegate some of the workload. I need to remember that just because I can provide so many enrichment opportunities for my kids doesn’t mean I have to provide every single one. Sure, they’ll miss out on a fun event here and there, but they already have rich, full lives. Because I’m their mom, and I am overstuffed with awesomeness. Hmm, maybe that’s why these pants feel kinda tight.

How do you keep yourself from scheduling too many things?

Save Lives: Give Blood (or money/time/publicity)

I remember the first time I heard about donating blood. It was in my government class in junior year of high school. My teacher promised extra credit to students who could beat his donation time, i.e., the time it took to donate a pint of blood. I wasn’t eligible at that time, but it was my first exposure that I was carrying something around every day that could save lives.

I stopped while I was pregnant both times and while I was nursing, but now that my body is more or less mine again, I donate blood every eight weeks.

I donate in honor of:

  • My friend’s wife, who had breast cancer and leukemia, who received blood products for a year
  • My mother-in-law, who got a blood transfusion after having stomach surgery
  • My friend, who got a blood transfusion when she hemorrhaged after giving birth to her daughter

There is a great need for voluntary blood donors:

  • 1 pint (one donation) can save up to three lives
  • Every 2 seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood

If you are interested in donating blood, but don’t know where to go, click to find local Red Cross.

I understand that some people may be concerned that donating blood hurts. To me, it feels like a hard pinch, considerably less painful than giving birth, being head-butted by my daughter, or stubbing my toe.

There’s usually free water, juice, and cookies. In the past I’ve also gotten a free AMC movie ticket, coupons to local restaurants and stores, and free T-shirts.

If you aren’t eligible to donate, or would prefer to help in other ways, there are many opportunities. You can:

  • Donate money or volunteer your time at a center
  • Organize a blood drive with your church group, book club, mommy group, etc.
  • Wear some swag to encourage people to donate (I have a license plate frame from my local blood bank)
  • Tweet or post reminders on Facebook for your followers and friends to donate (Anne Wheaton invited her Twitter followers to honor her birthday by donating blood.)

I will be turning 40 years old in a few months. I would be honored if people would donate blood (or money, or time, or publicity for a blood bank). There are over 16 weeks until the end of the year, which means those willing could donate blood twice in that time.

Would you be willing to donate in some way to a blood center by the end of this year?