There is one questionably good thing about being an Aquarian, someone who dives into new projects with reckless abandon, immerses herself in the enterprise and then, suddenly, loses interest just as quickly as the interest started in the first place. The interest could last weeks, months, or years, but sooner or later burnout will set in and you never look back.
But the good thing about it is that during the course of the obsession, you learn a lot of really interesting things.
I was seven years with La Leche League and I still have all of the breastfeeding information and advice that I used to give firmly imbedded in my head. I'm sure new techniques have evolved, but heck, women have been breastfeeding babies for the entire history of human existence and other women have been offering advice for just as long. The basic advice doesn't change.
The new methods of scrapbooking really excited me, an inveterate scrapbooker, for decades. I went through a long burst of activity, stocked up on all sorts of supplies from paint to glues to stickers to fancy scissors to cut fancy edges, special paper, special books. Then one day it just all stopped. It stopped because Paul and David died and I couldn't bear designing pages with all those old happy photos any more, but I have tons of supplies just sitting here.
The Experiment in International Living years (10 of them) introduced us to 70 people from 14 different countries. We all learned a lot about those countries and just knowing someone from Japan, for example, makes you pay more attention to the news. We followed (for awhile) the rise and fall of Brasilian currency, tried to learn the rules of soccer. We know the national foods of several countries (and I can cook many of them). I even learned a lot about hang gliding at one point. And I once knew how to say "you stupid monkey, you're disgusting" in Portuguese. Surely an admirable accomplishment.
These are experiences and memories that you don't easily forget and it's surprising when they come back to you, and how much of a help they are when watching Jeopardy, for example.
I bought tons of stuff during the years I was decorating cakes. I don't decorate cakes any more, but I can still make you a frosting rose, if need be, or put a nice looking frosting edge on a cake. And I still have lots of supplies from those days. Another odd-ball talent that remains...along with knowing how to fold won ton and double coat meat for stir fried dishes to make them crisp, courtesy of my classes with Martin Yan.
Sponsoring Compassion kids was kind of like stepping back into The Experiment days, only without the spoiled rich kids we sometimes dealt with in The Experiment. Writing to these children has forced me to read up on their countries, to check out Google Earth to look at the topography in the area where they live, and to read information and watch videos about the poverty in those areas, something which is not always comfortable, but which is necessary for me to understand what conditions these children are living in and help me figure out how to best support them.
And then there is Soldiers Angels, the group of volunteers who adopt soldiers and agree to write at least one letter a week and send one care package a month. The whole idea is to help keep the spirits up, whether they are getting stuff from their families or not.
There was a time when this would not appeal to me at all. I don't come from a military background, I'm a pacifist, I oppose war, but I realize that this country's fighting forces aren't there for fun, they are there because they joined a branch of the service and are putting their lives on the line every day. They didn't start the war and, as the attack on the Navy helicopter last week shows, these guys are in constant danger, even though we don't have photo coverage of this endless war the way we did with Vietnam. It's no wonder PTSD is such a huge problem when they come home. I don't mind sending them a quick letter or putting together an occasional package that might be a fun distraction, even if only for a short time.
The Dollar Store is a great place to shop for things for the Compassion kids (you can only send them things made of paper, so you are quite limited--but even with those restrictions it's amazing how creative some people can get). And for the soldiers, it's a place where you can buy lots of food treats, cosmetic items, and just fun games for cheap.
I came home from the Dollar Store today with three huge bags of stuff, stuff for me (scissors, decorating tape for pen pal letters, and a cute note pad), things for the Compassion kids (mostly stickers, coloring books and a couple of religious books) and things for Amanda (fun food, a couple of water pistols [apparently a requested item], a 500+ piece puzzle and some other stuff).
But I have to admit that both the clerk checking me out and I myself had to giggle when two of the first things she rang up were "Bibles Stories" and a whoppie cushion!"Looks like you're going to appeal to everybody," the clerk said to me.