Monday, October 24, 2011

Our daughter, 18 & A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!

  (Lorens, Jen & Me.  Jen's senior prom, June, 2011)

On Wednesday, October 19th, we were invited to an awards ceremony at 4:30pm in downtown Chicago.  Jen had entered a writing competition and won 3rd place.  Jen said "Forget it, its not important, we don't have to go."   I told her parents wait all their lives for nights like this.  Nothing was going to stop us from getting there.   I was determined for Jennifer to see that its not just her old teachers & parents thinking she has amazing talent, it was the world.  Jennifer has amazing talent in everything she does, she just needs to show the world.  She's one of those people who uses both sides of her brain.  She's one of those kids that gets straight A's and is also the lead actress, stars in the Improv Troupe, etc.

(Jen freezing at the train station last winter)

I heard on the news that there would be almost tropical storm force winds and cold ass rain this afternoon in Chicago.  Of course!  Because Bev/Lucy Ricardo needs to travel by foot downtown today.

So, we waited for the train in the cold wind and rain, but the train wasn't coming.  The automated voice on the intercom at the train station kept saying there were mechanical issues.  When we got on board, the guy taking our money told us actually there was a bomb threat earlier and so that's why our train was 40 minutes late.  Just my luck!

When our train finally arrived downtown, it was almost 4:30pm.  We had to run 7 blocks in the pouring rain with 40+ MPH winds to get there on time.

It was on Jackson so we had to run past the Occupy Chicago movement and protesters near the Chicago Board of Trade and banks.  They were beating on drums, shouting, "We are the 99%!"  I wanted to join in but I had more important things on my mind.

This was Jennifer's night.

We ran inside their beautiful building with a marble staircase leading us to the ceremony upstairs.  At the top of the stairs, there was a check in station.  They had a name tag for Jen printed out already with "Competition Winner" printed under her name.  Lorens & I filled out name tags for ourselves.

We were soaking wet, hungry and out of breath, but I didn't care.  My daughter was about to be recognized for the amazing writer that she already is at 18.  As we caught our breath and walked in, I was trying to wipe the rain off my face and hair, stand straight and not embarrass Jen.  It was hard, my mouth was practically hanging open when I looked around.  To my left, there was someone playing a grand piano.  In the main area there were tables and couches with a buffet dinner near the back.  It smelled heavenly.  To my right there was an open bar.  We had some dinner then I told one of the guys asking us if we would like a drink I'd like a glass of Caberet wa wa wa (some fancy name of the wine they were offering).  Lorens got a Heineken.  Jen got a Pepsi and we held up our glasses and said "Cheers to Jennifer!"  We were laughing, and of course, I was also crying.  This was already an incredible night.

Then, award winning teachers and best selling authors were coming up to us and telling Jen they loved her story.

It was hosted by the Union League Civic & Arts Foundation.  She was one of the 12 winners of their writing competition, winning 3rd place in her category.  After dinner, she got to read an except from her story, won a $200 cash prize and best of all, her story was published in their 2011 Anthology!

The stories and poems are judged in a two-part blind process.  Award winning teachers pick 25 finalists and then, Best Selling Authors judge them and select the 12 winners. The stories are then published in their 2011 Anthology which is sold everywhere.  They told us to take some copies for our family and friends (I took 10 copies and had Jen sign them all).  She was asked to sign several books by people that attended as well.

Part of the Preface in the book, titled C&AF Review, 2011, reads, "We at Civic & Arts believe that, because of the large number of applicants and the rigorous judging process, we present in this anthology some of the best writing by young writers in the Chicago area."

She was glowing, I was crying.

It was one of my proudest moments 
and one of the best nights of my life.

 She's only 18 and now 

(Jen & Me (crying again).  Jen's high school graduation, June, 2011)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pay it forward lesson #1/good deed #1

Well, its 5:00pm and this is what I've accomplished in my new adventure, helping others since I saw the movie Pay It Forward for the first time last night:  

I babysat until 1pm thinking about what I would do after the baby got picked up.

I decided that first I would drive to the homeless guy that regularly stands, dirty and sad looking, at the traffic light outside my local WalMart.  Its the same young guy day after day.  Every time I go to WalMart to buy some groceries, I give him a dollar or two, no matter how broke I am. He holds a sign saying, "HOMELESS, PLEASE HELP, GOD BLESS YOU".
I always have felt good helping him,  knowing what he must be going through, however small my donation.  I decided to do more this time.  I decided I would pack a few bags of things I would want if I was homeless in Chicago in October.

So I packed a big leather/insulated bag with 2 of everything, socks, underwear, shirts, sweatshirts and jeans.  I thought he could probably use some toiletries as well but didn't think I had much of my own to give.

I was surprised when I found so many things I though he could use that I didn't even realize I had.  Small bars of soap from hotels, a brand new toothbrush, razor, a first aid kit, toilet paper, body wash, matches, deodorant, etc.  I felt like there might be a bigger force at work here.  Where did all this stuff come from?  I didn't remember having most of it.  

Then I put another bag inside the leather bag that had a new container of peanut butter, jelly and a 1/2 loaf of bread.  Then I put a sleeping bag in a big plastic bag and took that with me as well.  

When my husband saw me about to leave, he was upset.  He told me I was making a big mistake.  He said the guy is a scam artist and probably had more than us.  I ignored him.  I didn't even know I had this stuff, what harm would it do to try and help someone out?  Here I was on good deed #1 and he was trying to block me already.  He told me our car was on empty, he didn't want me to use the last of the gas.  I told him there was enough to get me to WalMart and back (2 miles each way).  
So I left the house with my big leather bag and the bag with the sleeping bag in it before he could flat out put his foot down and tell me no.  I was so close to helping this poor kid, or so I thought.

So I drove to the street outside of WalMart where he stands EVERYDAY.  When he sees me he usually waves, knowing I'll give him whatever I can every time.  He's the only homeless guy that is ever there, I've never seen anyone else.

Imagine my surprise when I pulled up and there was a new homeless man there, much older, much skinnier.  I was feeling disappointed that "my" homeless guy wasn't in his usual spot and would miss out on this great gift I was trying to bestow.  I made a u-turn so that I would be able to pull over to get out and talk to the older guy.

Just then, I see the young guy riding past on a bike, he was much cleaner than usual, even clean shaven.  I waved him over.  He looked happy to see me, recognizing me.  When he got to the car I said, "I'm sorry, I don't have any money this time, but I have this bag with clothes and.....".  That's when he cut me off and said, "I have plenty of clothes lady, I don't need any of that kind of stuff".  So I continued, thinking maybe he doesn't realize there's more.  I said, "Well there's also a bag with toiletries and a sleeping bag.....", he laughed, interrupted me again and said he doesn't need any of that stuff, just money.  He said "maybe that old guy at the corner can use it, he's homeless".  I told him, "sorry, I'm broke this week and I thought you were homeless." and he just rode away on his shiny new bike. 

I was crushed.  
My husband was right.  
This guy was a fake!!!  

I had been trying to help him for months, giving my last dollar to him more than once, he had never been in clean clothes, clean shaven, or had a bike.  I felt like a fool.  I don't think he's homeless at all now.  He laughed at my gift bags and wanted no part of them.  

I was hoping the older guy wouldn't react the same way, I would be the laughing stock at my house if I returned with my gifts, unwanted.

I waved the older man over, he looked very excited and jogged over to me and my car.  I figured he probably thinks I have money and his smile will fade like the young guy when he realizes all I have is care packages.  I said to him, "I'm sorry, I don't have any money but I have a bag with some clothes, some toiletries and some food, if you want them", expecting him to brush me off like my regular guy.  He said, "Oh thank you!!!  That is so kind of you, you don't know what this means to me!"  I was shocked and excited again.  I said, "Well I also have a sleeping bag in this bag if you want it".  He said, "A SLEEPING BAG?!!! REALLY?   I CAN'T THANK YOU ENOUGH!!! ITS GETTING MIGHTY COLD OUT HERE.  GOD BLESS YOU!!!"  I told him I know how he feels and I just want 1 thing from him, for him to pass a kindness to 3 others.  He promised me he would.

My faith in humanity had been restored. 

AND ISN'T IT FUNNY?  I didn't know I had all of that stuff to give.  I found it here and there, from vacations past, on shelves I normally don't look on in the closets.  Then I realized, IT WAS ALL OF MY MOTHERS STUFF!!!  After she died, I inherited the contents of her home.  These were HER things from HER vacations past, that's why I didn't realize I had them.  She always wanted to help the homeless.  My brother, sister & I were upset when our mom announced, a few years ago, after our father died, that she wanted to invite a homeless person to come live with her.  She knew how scared we were for her and so she never did it.  Now here it is, a year and a half after she's passed away and I guess she got to help a homeless guy after all.  I THINK MY MOM IS THE COSMIC FORCE AT WORK HERE.

And in all the months I've been going to WalMart, this guy was never there before.  I had never seen him before.  That young guy has been the "WalMart Homeless Guy" to me and my friends/family for months now.  But here was this brand new older homeless guy, for the first time, when I needed him to restore my faith that this good deed was not worthless, and he needed me and my gift.  
Maybe God didn't want me to get discouraged on my first good deed attempt.  At least I won't waste my money on the fake homeless young guy any more.  At least someone was truly grateful for my gift.  At least I got to feel that I helped someone, that my good deed wasn't prepared for nothing.  At least my mom got to help a homeless man, just like she wanted to, more than a year after she passed away.

When I was leaving the parking lot,  my niece called me and said she needed a ride home from work.  If I had been at home I would have said no.  But now, I was all the way at WalMart, just a few blocks from where she worked.  So I said yes.  And to my surprise, when she got out of the car at her house she gave me money for gas.  So its like my gas for bringing the homeless man that stuff was paid for!  I was in a better place all around, in my heart and in my car, than I had been in when I left.

I received more than I gave today.  Lesson 1 complete.  I've got to start dinner now, so I think I'm done for the day, but who knows?  When you spend your time, hoping to run into someone in need so you can somehow help out, something good is bound to happen, to you, to them and maybe even to the world.

I found the meaning of Pay it Forward.... 11 years later.

The sun isn't even up yet, but I have a story to tell. 

I was sitting there last night, flipping through the channels, hoping to find something good to watch.  I saw a movie was just about to start called:
Pay it forward.  
That sounded so familiar.  I've heard Oprah say that phrase a hundred times, something about doing good deeds for others.  So I looked at the movies description.  It was a movie made in 2000,  based on a book, starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt and that kid from Secondhand Lions. 
I started thinking, Oprah did a show about this movie too so it must be good.   I had never seen the movie and so I only have a vague memory of the Oprah show from that day.  But what I remembered was stories of  people that were given money by Oprah to give to strangers.  The people they gave the money to were told to pass on the good deed/pay it forward to 3 other people.  That's about all I knew.  

I was hooked into this movie right from the beginning.  It tugged at my heartstrings.  I just never felt I had much to give others.  I was so intrigued that during a commercial, I went on my computer and looked up "Oprah, pay it forward", and sure enough, she HAD done a show about this movie, in October, 2006.

Ah haaa!!!  

That's why I probably only 1/2 ass watched it.  2006 was the worst year of my life.   I probably saw people even less fortunate than me, people more deserving than me, get what I had hoped for, an angel like Oprah coming to save the day.  I was probably a little jealous and only saw myself as why couldn't we be one of the recipients?  I never thought I could be one of the givers, those people had money from Oprah to give away.
Well, the commercial was over, so I went back to watching the movie.  The kid helped a homeless junkie.  Brought him right into his home.  But that's not what got to me.  It was what the homeless guy did that got to me.  He used his car fixing skills to help the kids mom.  Then he told her all about her sons idea, to help 3 people, pay the good deed forward.  I realized, hey, I could do something good for others, who says I need money?  If this guy can do it, surely I can.  Same with the drunk lady in the movie that played Helen Hunt's mom.  She gave a guy a ride when he needed it most.  I thought, I have a car, I could do that.  Maybe not help a criminal escape, but I could give someone a ride.

Commercial time again.  I went back on the computer and typed in Pay It Forward.  I left out the word Oprah this time because I wanted to read about the book during this commercial, find out if it was a true story.  What came up shocked me.  I saw links to the Pay It Forward FOUNDATION.  The Pay It Forward NATIONAL MOVEMENT, etc.
I found out that this book, written by Catherine Ryan Hyde, wasn't based on a true story, yet the story was so inspiring, how we can change the world, make it a better place, one person at a time, that it had become a friggin national movement!  Where had I been?  Oh yeah, WALLOWING.
Then, at the end of the movie, the kid who started it all gets stabbed and dies.  That sucked.  I cried my eyes out.  My husband and kids have never seen the movie and didn't understand why I was upstairs crying.  I told them this was another life changing movie I had just seen.  They rolled their eyes at me.  I had recently watched Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts for the first time and announced that if my husband ever leaves me that's what I'm going to do, go explore the world for a year, go to India & Nepal.  Maybe meet with the Dali Lama.

Then this movie came on TV tonight and I had a new realization:

I don't need to go anywhere. 
I can help change the world from the suburbs of Chicago.  
I can find my fulfillment by helping others.  

The people in this movie were doing kindness for others through their own individual abilities.  I have abilities, though limited.  I can make people laugh, smile.  I might be able to talk someone off a bridge like that homeless guy in the movie, or at least give them encouragement.  I could forgive someone I never thought I could.  I can give of myself.  

After watching this movie,  instead of saying, why me, I'm saying WHY NOT ME?  Why can't I be one of the do good-ers?  That would be better than being a recipient.  Being a giver.  Just like the bible says, its better to give than to receive. 

And here's another thought I had, why do I need to stop at 3 people?  I don't.  I give a dollar here and there to homeless people all the time.  Maybe next time, I'll stop and talk to them, ask them what they need.  Maybe it's something I can help with.  Maybe I'll bring them a plate of something homemade I've cooked, or offer them some of my clothes so they can find a job.  I can cook, I have extra clothes.  Who knows?  The possibilities are endless!  I feel inspired.

My friend Tina called and I told her about this new adventure.  She said, "Bev, what are you talking about?  I've known you for 30 years and you have always tried to give to everyone you meet, in some way.  You're one of the most generous, kindest people I know.  What do you mean NOW you're going to start giving?"  That was so sweet of her!  I haven't even started and my heart feels warm from her words, because of all of this, just the mere idea of it all.  I guess what I mean is that now I'm going to try to do this on a conscious level everyday.  I'm going to try and follow the rules of Pay It Forward:
I didn't sleep well last night, I couldn't wait to get started on this next part of my life, this next adventure.  I've stopped wondering why I couldn't be one of the recipients, and I'm joining the world of givers.

I don't need to go to India to find my new purpose, I think an 11 year old movie, about an 11 year old boy, based on a fiction, just helped me to do that.

The sun is up now.  
Time to get started.
Hopefully stories of good deeds done will follow.