Thursday, November 12, 2009

Breakfast by Grace

Today was another challenging day in my career of many hats. I couldn’t seem to find a way to keep up with the workload in the Attendance Office, I mostly missed the monthly staff birthday party due to a glitch with my time card, which was due last Tuesday, and I was over the top with my job as Career Advisor/Community Service Coordinator. I had to spend my own money to order President’s Community Service awards for students I barely know, begging the treasurer to reimburse me sooner than later. On top of all this, my daughter Grace was home with a low-grade fever and sore throat, and later the guy in HR gave me a very animated, terse lecture to remind me that I am a nobody at the district so I should be happy for whatever I get. It felt like the book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”

I arrived home a little early, hoping to wolf down a much-deserved 3:00 p.m. lunch before trekking across the Dunbarton Bridge for a 6:00 p.m. Southwest flight with my “almost” 18-year-old, Meredith, for a college visit. As I pulled into the driveway, I realized that the yard waste trash container was still sitting on the sidewalk a day after the truck came. The same weekly message played in my mind, “Can’t anyone else see that the other two cans have been brought in already, and it’s their turn, not mine?” And another small irritation after my hectic day, “The paper is still sitting on the driveway!” I had asked Grace to bring the Mercury News inside this morning so the neighbor who sometimes helps himself, assuming we’re out of town, would not see it. My insides began to churn as I reflected on the battles of the day: too much work to juggle, not enough pay to survive, giving until it hurts, teenagers who don’t always seem to understand.

When I walked into the house, I saw dirty dishes still on the counter from this morning, the frying pan left cold on the stove. “Grrrrr,” I seethed, “more messes for me to clean up, or to convince someone else around here that they need to pitch in.” That’s when it came to me, my good work observation for the day. Even though Grace wasn’t feeling well this morning, she knew I was running late. She had asked me to touch base with her friend Daisy’s mom to arrange a weekend sleepover while I’m away. When I responded that I was running out of time before the flight this evening, she offered to make breakfast for both of us. She could have poured me a bowl of cereal as I dashed out the door, or quickly plopped an egg into the pan and laid it on a plate; even a slice of bread would have done the trick. But, our family’s budding chef, who earned all A’s and A pluses in middle school cooking class, methodically toasted, fried, and sizzled until she had concocted for this hurried mom a succulent breakfast sandwich dripping with melted cheese.

As I remembered munching the sandwich made with love by “Chef Gracie,” while putting on makeup and tying shoelaces in between bites, I thought about my coworker Carolyn’s words later during lunchtime when all the kids were in the quad and we were still working. “Why am I doing this?” I said, venting about the guy at the district. She pointed out the window to the hundreds gathered on the lawn on a gently warm, November day. “Because of them!” And that’s exactly what it’s all about, the energy and promise of youth. Grace may need to be reminded about the trash cans, the paper, and that I only have so many hours in a day, but she has a heart of gold that shines brightest when she cooks.

This is my daughter's passion, and she shares it often, making our lives a little nicer with her special breakfast sandwiches, French toast, and occasional Swedish pancakes. I felt inspired today by her good works on my behalf, and energized to carry on in my effort to provide more opportunities for others at the high school to reach out. Teenagers have enriched my life, whether in my own home or in the community. When they find something they enjoy and use that drive to do kind acts of service large and small, the world becomes less daunting, less like a place from which I need to escape to Australia, and more like a place I call home.

Is your passion cooking and food?

Think about the ways you can make a difference:

  • Get your school club or friends together to prepare a meal for a local shelter. Remember to call the volunteer coordinator or facility manager about a month ahead of time to get specifics on number of people and types of foods requested.

  • Call a local food bank and arrange a time to sort food, remember to schedule about a month or two ahead, and take some friends to make it more fun! You can also arrange a collection drive by passing out flyers at your school or in your neighborhood, with a specific date when you will pick up the food. Remember to request canned soup and protein-rich foods.

  • Contact the nearest Ronald McDonald House to prepare a home-cooked meal for families with children staying in the hospital. See “30 Ways in 30 Days:”

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