In Her Words
The Paper Mitten Family
Being on the receiving end of holiday charity
We are thrilled to introduce our new columnist, Kim Stagliano. Read more about her here.
On November 7, I was busy working on my computer when my husband came upstairs from his office with his phone to his ear. I knew he was on his weekly corporate conference call. He caught my attention and made the “slit the throat” sign.
“You lost your job?!” I whispered, as he nodded yes, turned around and went back downstairs. My last gulp of Starbucks turned to acid in my throat.
I dropped to my knees and screamed, “NOOOO!”
That might seem like an overly dramatic response. If you knew me (and I hope you’ll feel like you do soon) you’d know I am anything but hysterical. If I were, I’d be writing this from a padded room at Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, trust me.
This might be a good time to mention that Mark and I have three daughters with autism. And this was the third job loss in 5 years, including just last February. The retail biz isn’t what it used to be! Stress is part of our daily diet.
Perhaps you or your spouse has lost a job this year? If so, I’m sorry. It’s the pits, isn’t it? I promise that you can survive the trauma and upheaval that comes with being let go, or from worrying about losing your job. Even during the holidays.
There’s a certain strength and sense of control that comes from accepting the challenges of a change in your economic situation. I learned this during our “Paper Mitten” holiday.
Back in 2004, someone (I still don’t know who) told our church that we were having a rough time of it. Mark had been out of work for over a year. I got a call from the head of the holiday giving tree telling me I was to show up at church on a designated Saturday to pick up my charitable goodies. Yes, the Staglianos had been assigned a number on a paper mitten and were officially a “family in need” at our church.
Pick up day arrived.
I did not go to the church.
My phone rang and it was Kelly S., the woman in charge of the giving tree program.
“WHERE ARE YOU KIM?” she barked at me.
“I’m not coming. Give the stuff to another family.”
“I’ll drive straight to your house, Kim. Get over here.”
With a leaden heart, I trudged into the foyer where just the previous year I’d dropped off several wrapped boxes to put under the tree. I GIVE to the charity tree, I don’t GET from it, right?
I thanked everyone, smiled and loaded my minivan to the brim. As I left the parking lot, I started to cry. But not out of humiliation. I looked in my rear view mirror and was overwhelmed with gratitude. There was a wreath, food, household supplies, wrapped gifts, gift certificates and the one thing that made Mark and me laugh like heck. 36 bars of Zest soap. Do well off people think not-so-well-off- people don’t bathe? It took us two years to use up the soap!
That was four years ago. Today we’re in the same boat. No job. But we’re OK! In fact, we’re better than OK. Because we’ve learned that simple gifts really do mean more than Uggs and iPods.
I’ll see you in January.
Kim Stagliano is a writer, blogger and mother to three daughters with autism. Mia is 14, Gianna is 12 and Bella is 8. Kim feels 105! She and her husband Mark live in Fairfield County, CT. Kim has a sense of humor and “chat over the fence” writing style that makes her presentation of the ups and downs of parenting special needs kids and the day to day challenges of life in general both informative and entertaining.
In addition to joining Betty Confidential, she writes for The Huffington Post, is Managing Editor of Age of Autism www.ageofautism.com, the nation’s first daily web newspaper of the autism epidemic, and has own blog called Kim Stagliano . Kim also has multiple projects in progress with her literary agent in New York.