Creativity Magazine

Sharpening My Pencils

Posted on the 16 December 2015 by Rarasaur @rarasaur

If we were having coffee, you might ask- What can I do to help?

I think that's a normal response from a kind heart when faced with another person in need. Sitting on a dog beach with Goldy, I joked, telling her that sometimes I wish I could give a task- any task- just so that kind-hearted souls could feel resolved in some way.

What I really need, I want to say, is 500 pencils, sharpened down to their rubbery paws. I will erase my burdens.

A blue-green rock, buried in a jar in cinnamon.
18 pictures of cats wearing top hats.
A ferret.

Because I know how it feels to want to help and not be able to.

Unfortunately, in my case, the only thing that helps (outside of good people simply continuing to exist well) is money. I'm careful here to say "in my case" because money isn't always the answer for someone going through a big life transition. It's just a vehicle, not a destination.

Even in my case, though I have destinations in mind, I am working towards them, and money is such a vague thing.

Instead I want to ask for an heirloom recipe that uses rhubarb.
A square foot of astroturf.
A greeting card with 80 signatures on it.

Something good.
Something do-able.

I want to ask, because I know what it is to want to do something.

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."
- Arthur Ashe

Dave and I were devoted to doing, even if it was restricted to what we little we had, and tamed by how far away we started.

Much of our income and time went to charitable events because we believed in an action method of giving for good, to good, because of good. And though my resources, both fiscal and otherwise, have shrunk to the size of a dustmite, I still #GiveGood because I know even a tiny spark can light a path.

"It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

It's a gift to be handed a candle when lost in darkness.
When I walked out the prison gates- it was to nearly $5000 collected from friends, family, bosses, bloggers, and people who fit in several of those categories. It gave me a direction. I just followed the light until my spark sputtered back into a form of living.

"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
- Albert Schweitzer

I was grateful.
I am grateful.

It's been 5 months.

I started working before the end of my first month out.

Getting my car in order, plus fixing it after it broke down on my birthday and around Thanksgiving, cost about $2000. Rent has been about $4000. Buying hygiene products and clothing I needed in order to work was about $250. Gas money, to get to work and food, and life events- about $1500. Doing all the legal stuff, including the gas to drive around to the remote areas I've been sent, and all the legal refiling fees, has been about $750. Work and blog expenses- the computer power cord that had to be replaced because my own was lost in the chaos of death, the renewal of my domain that had to happen so I could reclaim ownership, my postal box which allows me to keep in touch, and many more little things- another $250. Then there's pesky little needs like food and cellphones that I'll put at another $1500.

I'm doing alright.
I don't know how another woman could have done it, without a safety net, and without a family. I moved into a house of people who agreed to house a felon unseen, and then allowed her to bring in her cats when she wouldn't stop crying about them. For the same amount of rent. I came back to a job that waited. I came back to bloggers and co-workers and friends who drove me to work when I had no means.

I'm lucky. I'm grateful.

And, of course, there's still a lot I want to do, even though none of it is necessary or time imperative.

There are things of Dave's that he'd want his friends and family to have, but I just don't have the funds to ship them.

There are pictures of us that I would love to print. I would like a scrapbook of my life with my husband, and my life going forward.

I would like to restart my business, so I can start actively rebuilding. I want to finish my books, print them, and send copies of them- or gifts- to everyone who gave and sent love or money before. I owe many debts of gratitude.

I'll eventually need a new computer. My own is destroyed and I'm hobbling along on Dave's. A printer would be helpful during this era of book-writing and legal paperworking.

I'd like to do another fun project, like sending mail out to my readers- with Valentine's Day cards or friendship bracelets, or maybe stickers.

I'd like to order postcards of my own making so I can stay in touch with people, in the way that has become so familiar to me after a whole year of stamps and pens. I want to do my hair, just so the last haircut I received didn't happen in prison. I want a pass to one of the museums close to my new home, to make it feel like a home- to give me a place to go when I just need to go.

My best friend is giving birth next month. Probation prevents my attendance, but I want to send her something fabulous anyway.

Also, there's a man in Santa Ana, outside the jail. He stands watch for the girls when they're released at 2am in the morning, wearing whatever it is that police officers arrested them in. If the cops didn't turn off your cellphone when entering it into evidence, then you don't have a charged phone. You're standing on a street in the worst area of our county, dressed in your nightgown, with no money to get home and no way to call anyone. He's there, with sweaters and cellphone chargers, a list of shelters, and a warm place to stand for a minute. I'd like to resupply him.

Eventually the cats will need their yearly care, and the car will need brakes. I'll probably need to see a health care provider, too.

The first obstacle in all of these dreams is money, but it's only slowing me down, not stopping me.

In time, it will all work out.

In my moments of zooming, I want to rush through it. I thought about running a funding campaign for the business, or a pre-order sale for the book, or lots of different things- but I think I'm just going to take it slowly. I'm going to work, take on small projects when I can, and cut through the list one at a time. I'll finish the book when I can. I am just doing what I always do- starting where I am, using what I have, doing what I can.

All of this is a ramble to say:
I might put up a donation button.

It feels ungrateful, from someone who has received so much already, but I understand what it feels like to have the means to give and no way to do it. So if you want to- and can- buy me a coffee, I'd love that. I'll buy yours one day, too.

If you want to give to a certain dream- to get Dave's work where it needs to go, to fund Rarasaur community projects, or to giving good- just tell me and I'll use it in that way. You have my solemn possum.

What I don't want is you to give because it's a desperate need and my situation is so very sad. I don't want you to give because Dave died, or because I went to jail, or because I'm so inept in my new life that I did my first load of laundry in state prison.

"In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there's something stronger - something better, pushing right back."
― Albert Camus

There are sadder stories and more desperate situations and bigger causes, if you feel so inclined. I can point you in those directions.

If you give here, I want it to be because you're part of the invincible summer within me, and you can give without causing hardship to yourself, and because you think I might be able to do something good with it.

Then it's not just money or a cup of coffee. It's a salute to the dreams we can build from goodness.

And on that note, I'd like to see a donate button on your blog or website too- because one day, I'm going to be able to buy you a cup of coffee or tea, and we're going to have one of these long rambling conversations in person.

It's not a lot, but it's something.
Something do-able.

Something good.

And even a little light goes such a very long, long way in the dark. Just look how far I've come, thanks to your generosity of spirit, prayer, gift, and dollar.

It saw me to the end of a year I couldn't dream I'd survive. It saw me to the doorway of a thousand blossoming dreams.

I am grateful, and one day- I will pay it all back to the world, in some way, and we'll do something great with it. Or better yet...

Something good.


There were a few AMA questions about money. The one that started this whole idea was - Bloggers were raising funds for you, how far did it take you?

Does talking about money make your skin itch, too? Have you ever raised funds for yourself? Does my new donate button bother you even though it's so pretty? (I haven't made it yet, but I bet it'll be darling.)

Do you have any ideas on how I can pay everyone back for letters and money and fundraising and whatnot? I don't even know who half of those who gave are...

[ This Weekend Coffee Share, inspired by the brainchild of my favorite Part Time Monster. Check out all the others, too. Also, obviously this was written on a weekend, several weekends ago. I kept pushing it out because I kept changing my mind on posting it at all, and then somehow it became the 16th of December. Like magic. Accidental magic.]

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