If Hang Tough gets the most votes, they win a $500 grant from the Community Foundation of North Florida and $500 toward a direct mail fundraising campaign from Target Print & Mail.
********* Vote for me here all day on 11/28/17 only! ********
BONUS: Giving Tuesday 11/28/17 is my birthday and this is the only gift I want!
It’s also a Llamatastic day for Heifer!
Look for my llama and me on social media!
In addition to Hang Tough, I’m supporting Heifer International today! The gift of an animal (LIKE A LLAMA) from Heifer increases access to education, empowerment, and dignity. It’s an easy way to give gifts that really matter. When you give today (11/28) all gifts are doubled! 2x the help for 2x the families.
(Note – Yes I’m wearing a Team in Training shirt. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is ANOTHER fave of mine because so many friends are dealing with blood cancers.)
My Awesome Friend Nicolette
My friend Nicolette is running for Orange County Commission District 4.
I am positive Nicolette is going to make a positive difference in her community so, although this isn’t strictly a Giving Tuesday request, I encourage you to support a candidate who is running for all the right reasons (for a non-partisan seat).
If you find yourself stressed out today (after voting for Hang Tough in the #UNSelfie context, because HOW COULD THAT BE STRESSFUL LOL?), remember there are 364 other days on which you can make a difference. My thoughts on that here.
Why does it matter to say “thank you” in this small way to caregivers?
Caregiving is Expensive
The costs of home, community, and facility care of elder family members has increased over the past year. According to Genworth Financial, the national median daily rate of Adult Day Health Care (providing social and support services in a community-based, protective setting) is $70, a 2.94% change since 2016 and a five-year annual growth rate of $2.79%.
Caregiving is Messy
I have grown to hate (or at least to try to tune out) most advertising around the caregiving options for elderly family members. The sweet grandma reading a story to an attentive grandchild, the sentimental music playing in the background as families gaze lovingly upon one another, the clean, seemingly chaos-free homes.
That wasn’t the case for us, and I doubt many caregiving families could relate to a situation that doesn’t involve bodily fluids, mystery smells, and stains of undetermined origin. This post lists several reasons elderly people lose momentum in the hygiene department, including depression, control (definitely a factor for us), and the fact that their senses have dimmed so much that they may not see or smell their deteriorating physical state.
(That’s why I always include hand sanitizer in the appreciation tokens — we should own stock we went through so much of it.)
Caregiving is Important, Minimally Rewarded Work
According to GoodTherapy.org, “Thirty-five percent of caregivers find it difficult to make time for themselves, while 29% have trouble managing stress, and another 29% report difficulty balancing work and family issues.”
One small token of appreciation can’t reverse the challenges created by caregiving, BUT it can remind the people doing this important work that they are not forgotten, and that their needs are recognized.
And since I like keeping it real, let’s throw in one more toilet reference. When I was looking for a great quote with which to end this post, I found (ta-da!) a rising toilet seat. It is not only elevated (we had that) BUT it has little (okay, maybe not so little — they say they handle up to 450 pounds) “lifters” that help the elderly person get up from the toilet without a human caregiver helping them. It’s one “uplifting” item in their world that quite literally DOES lift them up.
Giving these Thanksgiving tokens is a little bit like that — a small lift that lightens one small fragment of a caregiver’s day.
If You Want to Help
I got a late start this year (and I don’t have caregiving to blame!), so I am still finalizing a few details regarding how many caregivers there will be this year, but I’m working from an assumption of “50” and I’ll come in and update as things get refined.
Here’s what I hope to include:
A Sharpie (the participants at adult day stay mark their belongings with Sharpie).
Hand sanitizer (remember the “messy” paragraph above?)
A candy bar (everyone deserves a treat!)
If you’re local and can help, let me know. If you’re not local, and want to contribute, feel free to send donations via Paypal to opuswsk @ aol.com with the notation “Thanksgiving 2017.”
I invite you to help me be part of the “little cheering section” for a deserving group of caregivers.
I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I *may* not be able to resist spell-checking!)
(Since it’s a little hard to read, here’s the info about Peninnah from Kenya: “Peninnah was orphaned at a young age and couldn’t afford to continue with her education. To support herself, she got married and later had a child—but she was determined to return to school. After qualifying for a scholarship from the Forum for African Women Educationalists, Peninnah returned to the classroom. Your count is a stand for every girl who defies obstacles to education.”)
Today’s prompt: Write
Yesterday was the International Day of the Girl. Late last night, I finally read an email I had received earlier in the day asking me to participate in the One Campaign’s Count, in which participants each take a number of the millions of girls who don’t have access to education and try to give them a voice. I wasn’t made up and my hair was a mess, but I threw a cap on and did it.
I remembered doing the same thing last year when I was in Washington, D.C. with friends and fellow advocates from Shot at Life. (That was a lot of fun for a variety of reasons — we may have been a bit silly in how we helped each other get the courage up to do this on no notice.)
But mainly, as I wrote down number 16,419 and prepared to speak, I thought about the power of education for girls and young women.
To help them have better opportunities to earn a livable wage.
To help them avoid early marriage, early pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases.
To help them be everything they can possibly be, without someone else telling them what to do, how to do it, or where to exist.
I am hoping to write myself out of the current financial challenges our family is dealing with, having two kids in college and a variety of other issues to overcome.
Whatever the case, just like learning to write will give these girls and women power, I know it is putting me back in touch with my own power to solve the problems in my life I’ve contributed to.
This year, I am reading from I Am Jazz. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 323 book challenges in 2016. Of the top ten, this book was number four. The ALA says, “This children’s picture book memoir was challenged and removed because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints.”
Here’s my readout:
I ordered I Am Jazz on September 7, because I had decided to use it for my read out, but events here in Tallahassee that occurred between the time I placed the order and now brought the topic of how people want to be addressed (i.e., what pronoun is used) front and center.
A local fifth-grade teacher, Chloe Bressack, wrote an introductory message to parents and students in which Chloe requested to be addressed by the pronouns “they,” “them,” and “their,” in addition to “Mx.” (pronounced “mix”).
The teacher explained in an introductory letter that they prefer the use of gender neutral pronouns when being addressed.
Source: The Tallahassee Democrat via Leon County Schools
Although the teacher did not tell students what to do (the teacher stated that the teacher uses gender neutral pronouns) and said, “We’re not going for perfection, just making an effort!” …. the internet mob had other interpretations.
“Teaching children gender neutrality or gender fluidity or whatever the term is these days amounts to psychological and/or emotional child abuse.” (Tallahassee Democrat comment)
“I would try my best to get my kid away from this teacher. Would she fail or demerit those that did not follow her instruction? This is absolutely wrong. Our language does not change at the whim of one teacher.” (Fox News comment thread)
And then there are the teachers in students’ “crouches” (yes, I do advocate upright posture, actually).
The Evolution of Pronouns
Chloe Bressack asked to be addressed with gender-neutral pronouns. I can’t imagine this is the first time in the history of education that a teacher’s form of address has been questioned/criticized.
Bressack is not the first teacher to face criticism for being different from the majority of teachers
“teachers whose beliefs were being investigated by political committees during the “Red scare” hysteria following WWI.”
“female teachers [who] found themselves faced with “contracts which still stipulated that an employed teacher must wear skirts of certain lengths, keep her galoshes buckled, not receive gentleman callers more than three times a week and teach a Sunday School class”
The AFT also took a stand early on in civil rights issues: they moved their 1938 convention venue because the original venue forced black people to ride in the freight elevators.
I have to believe these teachers, in one way or another, faced parents who thought they would not be the ideal teachers for their students … and said so (although without the fuel of social media).
What must the 70s have been like?
I was a public school student (roughly 2nd grade through 9th) in the 70s but I don’t recall any kerfuffle over teachers wanting to be called “Ms.” instead of “Mrs.” or “Miss,” but this seems like another one of those types of situations that could have created consternation.
About the singular “they” and other gender neutral pronouns
Many of the comments about the Bressack situation were some iteration or another of “it isn’t even correct grammar to address an individual person as ‘they'”! I made several comments as recently as five days ago that, as a grammar “purist,” it was hard for me to stomach such an awkward construction, but a little research prompted me to reframe.
There have always been people who didn’t conform to an expected gender expression, or who seemed to be neither male nor female. But we’ve struggled to find the right language to describe these people—and in particular, the right pronouns. In the 17th century, English laws concerning inheritance sometimes referred to people who didn’t fit a gender binary using the pronoun it, which, while
dehumanizing, was conceived of as being the most grammatically fit answer to gendered pronouns around then. Adopting the already-singular they is vastly preferable. It’s not quite as newfangled as it seems: we have evidence in our files of the nonbinary they dating back to 1950, and it’s likely that there are earlier uses of the nonbinary pronoun they out there.
Also in 2015, The American Dialect Society defined “the singular they” as its word of the year, noting “While many novel gender-neutral pronouns have been proposed, they has the advantage of already being part of the language.”
Enough about language lessons, what about our kids?
I really can’t overstate how much this situation has weighed on my heart and mind this week. I wrote about it on September 21, when the Five Minute Friday prompt was “accept.”
I wrote about how appalled I am that the responses to Bressack’s choice are so hateful and ugly. One thing I wrote, though, is slightly misrepresentative of how I actually feel, but in the spirit of Five Minute Friday, I did not edit it. It is this passage:
“…I am frightened of a world where people, frankly, show such un-Christian behavior toward an educator, a fellow human being, a person who reiterated that they intend to address students by their chosen pronouns (I am sure at that school that means 100% “he” and “she”).”
It was inaccurate for me to assume, since the school is relatively high in socioeconomic standards, that “100% of the kids there prefer ‘he’ and ‘she’.” Life experience has taught me that even among fifth graders, typically 9 and 10 years old, their chosen pronouns may not be so rigidly defined, especially in their own psyches.
Childhood is hard enough, but the challenges grow for transgender children, who have “a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex” (definition: Wikipedia).
Nearly half (46.5 percent) of young transgender adults have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, a recent survey of over 2,000 people found. Nearly half. For comparison, the attempted suicide rate among the general U.S. population is estimated to be about 4.6 percent.
What’s more, a 2015 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that transgender youth are two to three times as likely as their peers to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, or to attempt suicide or harm themselves.
Although many commenters have said “9 or 10 years old” is too young to have to deal with gender pronouns that depart from traditional masculine and feminine references, the more I learn, the more I realize that people who are transgender or non-gender conforming start coming to terms with it as they begin to develop their gender identities (and deal with societal gender expectations) … which is far earlier than nine in many cases.
I think of my friends who face critical reactions when they give their little boys the princess parties they want. I think of my friend who, when he came out as gay in a small town where he taught art, had numerous students express gratitude that there was someone else who was publicly out.
I hope Mx. Bressack and the fifth graders in their class have an incredible school year. And I hope there aren’t any parents (or any people among the multitudes who have seen their introductory letter) who are offended by giraffes (noted by Mx. Bressack as a favorite), who have been known to stick their necks out for what they need..
Mx. Bressack already stuck their neck out for something that matters.
(Editor’s Note 9/26/17 Mx. Bressack was, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, transferred to the Adult Education department, which is housed at a different campus. This is Superintendent Hanna’s statement:
“This afternoon I had an open conversation with Teacher Bressack. Given the complexity of the issue, we both agreed a different environment would be best for Teacher Bressack’s educational career and for the young students at Canopy Oaks,” Superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a statement.
I supported Superintendent Hanna in the recent election, I consider him a friend (and still will), but I am tremendously disappointed in this decision, and whatever extent our School Board failed to support this educator.)
When The Problem Is Bigger than Difficulty Getting Into the Container
For children in Tanzania, having access to milk itself is the challenge, no matter what the container.
A Heifer International program in Tanzania that began in 2008 helps dairy farmers increase milk production. They are now broadening that focus through the school milk feeding program, which has a goal of creating viable and diverse markets for the farmers. Government agencies and school districts are part of the initiative to encourage a generation of milk-drinkers and increase the well-being and nutrition of eager students.
(And good news – the milk comes in packets rather than those blasted cartons!).
Photo Credit: Heifer International
More about the School Milk Feeding Program
The School Milk Feeding Program officially began in July 2017. Besides the fact that it gives children in Tanzania access to milk and the ability to learn better, I love the way the program integrates communities by bringing the “cow to the classroom.”
During my trips to Central America, and as a fan/supporter of Linda Freeman, who has worked with communities in Cambodia to develop goat banks, I have gained a deeper appreciation of the link between animals and community self-support. This chicken in Guatemala, for example, is a key element of the family’s survival strategy.
Here’s more about the “cows to classrooms” concept, which brings Heifer’s community efforts full circle.
Where the Milk Goes Now (and Where It Will Go in the Future)
The July launch of the program put 200 ml packets of milk, providing 25% of the daily share of calcium, in the hands of 1742 pupils in the Njombe region; they’ll keep getting milk Monday through Friday for the rest of the school year.
Heifer wants to expand the program so that 9,000 pupils ages 9 and under in the Njombe, Iringa, Mbeya, and Songwe regions get a packet of free fresh milk every day Monday – Friday during the school year.
Besides the obvious health/learning benefits for the children involved, the cow to classroom program also creates a reliable market for producers and increases the farmers’ incomes.
What Will The Expansion Take?
I am excited to partner with Heifer to let you know how we can help this project reach its goal of providing milk every school day to 9000 children in Tanzania!
Donations of any size are appreciated. Even $2.00 would cover a week! It would be the perfect way to observe World School Milk Day on September 27.
If you can’t donate right now, please consider sharing this post; the more people who are aware, the better (just click here to send a tweet now!). Women Online will donate $1 for each Facebook share or Twitter Retweet (up to $2000 total) to Heifer’s School Milk Feeding Program!
Before we get to the answer, wouldn’t we all agree that “art works”? Not all art “works,” of course, and not all art works for every person every time, but the process of making and watching art works. In this East Bay Times article, Kay Kleinerman was quoted as saying, “Theater calls on us to engage with our brains, our bodies, our imaginations and our voices. From what could we learn more?”
Why Art Needs Us
As this United Arts Council statement notes, “Funding strategies are critical to local arts agencies, especially in the face of greatly changing private sector support.” This is why I was happy to do a very small part and write a letter of support for Theatre Tallahassee.
I wrote a letter of support because a) Executive Director Theresa Davis asked me to (and I was happy to comply!) and b) I believe there are many ways we can contribute meaningfully to places we love, such as through letters. I encourage you to do the same for an organization you care about.
No actor makes it to the stage without intense effort on the parts of many who don’t get to share the limelight.
Similarly, we don’t always immediately see the benefits a long-term, quality arts program brings to a community.
Theatre Tallahassee delivers tangible and intangible assets to our region, by helping the economy while simultaneously engaging a diverse array of citizens through the joy of creating.
Numbers talk. Americans for the Arts found that local nonprofit arts attendees spend an average $17.42 per person (excluding admission costs) in ways that help the local economy (eating out, for example) while non-local attendees spend an average of $39.96 per person (adding other travel expenditures like hotels). Theatre Tallahassee helps our local economy grow.
Numbers talk but, equally important, art matters. Has every show Theatre Tallahassee (previously Tallahassee Little Theatre) produced since Boy Meets Girl in 1949 been a consensus success? Absolutely not. But I would argue that there has been a disproportionately loud amount of applause versus dissatisfaction. Also, the best art is sometimes judged by how you feel about it months later rather than your immediate reaction.
In an East Bay Times article, Kay Kleinerman was quoted as saying, “It’s not about how engaging in theater can boost test scores for students … It’s bigger and more important than that. Plainly and simply, theater is a lens through which to see and understand the world and understand ourselves in the world. It is a way of knowing, perhaps one of the most complete ways of knowing. Theater calls on us to engage with our brains, our bodies, our imaginations and our voices. From what could we learn more?”
Finally, transcending economic numbers and the value of art, Theatre Tallahassee’s power in my life has been personal. I saw my daughter thrive there as an actor. I have shared countless performances as an audience member, many of them with my blind mother-in-law, who held season tickets for years and appreciated the dynamic of live art even if she couldn’t physically see it. I have volunteered at will-call, worked the concession stand, helped at fund-raisers. Each of these things engaged me, in the fulfilling ways Kay Kleinerman summarized in the East Bay Times.
Theatre Tallahassee matters to our community economically and artistically, and to me in ways no other organization could.
I lend the organization my unqualified support.
And That Time I Was a Grailfinder
I have to admit one of my happiest moments at Theatre Tallahassee was when I was the “Grailfinder for the Night” during Spamalot!
Who’s Motto is “Art Works” Anyway?
The organization that said, “In its comparatively short existence in the life of civilizations, the U.S. has produced an enduring legacy of cultural achievements, and leaders are fast recognizing the centrality of artistic expression and creativity to a health society, is the National Endowment for the Arts.
It’s one organization’s motto but applies universally.
When we prepared Wayne’s dad’s obituary, we designated Big Bend Hospice for donations. BBH definitely deserved this prominent place, and has earned any and all donations people choose to give.
However, another cause that merits attention is Alzheimers Disease. Although Dad didn’t technically have Alzheimers, his short-term memory and cognition were sufficiently impaired that he qualified for the services of our local (and awesome!) Alzheimers Project here in Tallahassee.
Because Dad had experienced several mini-strokes in 2012, his short-term memory was affected. (Note: This dry sentence doesn’t really begin to address what that meant in reality, as it played out in our day-to-day lives.)
This is a bit of a layperson explanation, but he had difficulty remembering events or details that had just transpired, while it was often easier to recall long-term memories. He would ask, for example, if something we were watching (that was obviously (to us anyway) a film) was occurring live. He asked my husband Wayne if he was married (sigh….).
Things changed about the way he processed the world. He didn’t care about personal hygiene. His laugh wasn’t a humorous laugh — it was a haunting expression that always unnerved me — and I could never just put it in some category of “that’s because of his condition.” I am sorry to say that almost to the very end I was sniping back “that’s not funny” and slamming doors (often over the all-too-frequent cat escapes that he facilitated).
Most importantly (and this is a mixed bag), his memory deficits prevented him (I think) from really comprehending how sick he was. Melanie, our incredible social worker, said “that’s probably a blessing” and she was right, to a degree, but I always felt it must be scary as he** for him to see all of us buzzing around, acquiring equipment, administering medication, transforming his room with a hospital bed, for reasons he couldn’t figure out.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are different for everyone, but the challenges are numerous and share common threads, both for the patient who doesn’t fully comprehend the path their life has taken and for the caregiver trying to be compassionate without losing their own mind.
The Alzheimers Project has many services (free), including support groups, respite services, counseling and more. I tell everyone to go to support groups (although (cough cough) I never made it to one. But we did get so much benefit out of the respite care, where an Americorps volunteer comes to the home to care for the patient for a few hours each week. Thanks to respite care, I was able to work, nap, and run errands (and Dad was able to interact with someone new). They were godsends. Here is Alex, who was with us almost until he passed away.
(Note, to read more about the role of Fordham Afghan pictured here in our lives, please click this link.)
Ways To Support Alzheimers Efforts
Like I said in the beginning of this post, it is important to me that the world know how much benefit we received from our local Alzheimer’s Project, and how much we want other families with Alzheimers (and similar issues) to receive support, along with our hope that research will eliminate this terrible disease. If you are a family dealing with Alzheimers, call their hotline 24/7 at 1.800.272.3900 or visit their website by clicking here.
If you aren’t currently personally dealing with Alzheimers, but still want to help
Rivet Revolution notes these facts among the reasons why they feel so strongly about ending Alzheimers (besides the fact that each of the three founders has a personal connection to the disease).
One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia
Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women
Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease
More than 44 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s
Do Charity Miles for the Alzheimers Association
Did you know you can walk, run or bike and help the Alzheimers Association earn funding just by using the Charity Miles app?
Here’s a memory from some Charity Miles I did last year (which seems like a lifetime ago for many reasons).
If You’re in Tallahassee, PARTY!
Seriously, if you’ve never been to Parrothead Phrenzy (it’s coming up on August 26!) or Purple Craze (This year’s has already happened but I imagine there will be a 2018 event), you’re missing out! These events help the Alzheimers Project and show you a great time while you’re at it!
There’s always the option of straightforward donations! To donate to the Tallahassee Alzheimers Project, click here (a donation as small as $2.50 can provide a replacement band for a Project Lifesaver bracelet). On a more national level, you can donate to the Alzheimers Association here.
Think About Your Words
Although I have my definite (and many, and very strongly held) opinions about our current president, it unnerves me to hear people diagnosing him on the basis of his tweets and behaviors. To me, it dilutes the specificity with which we need to address Alzheimers and related dementia conditions. Let’s be deliberate with the words we use; actual patients are paying a price every day for something that didn’t get diagnosed by strangers second-guessing.
Lastly, a word from Maria Shriver…
Note: I was provided a complimentary Rivet Revolution bracelet.All opinions, though are my own and I will be at the absolute front of the line to do be a part of eradicating Alzheimer’s.
This post is made possible by support from Reward Volunteers. All opinions are my own.
During our family’s recent journey with my father-in-law through the hospice process and his eventual passing away from terminal throat cancer, the life season demanded a focus almost exclusively on him: his medical needs and his emotional navigation of death and dying as our house started to look like a durable medical equipment supply store.
Not that I approached it from a “what about me?” perspective but I was taken aback, heartened, and SHOCKED on the rare occasions when someone would say “What about you? How are you doing?” One steadfast hospice volunteer, who came to sit with Dad weekly, always said, “You know I am here for you as much as for him” (at which point I would immediately escape to the bedroom for a nap).
Similar to the way our family members’ less immediate needs got overlooked during Dad’s illness, siblings of kids dealing with life-threatening illnesses and intensive special needs often inadvertently get pushed to the back burner of life. As a family tries to cope logistically and emotionally with keeping the ill child alive, moments small and big (a third-grade holiday play, a need to say, “Mom, Lindsey was mean to me today on the playground”) get lost in the cacophony.
These kids are as heroic as their siblings who are fighting a more visible battle.
What did approximately a thousand peanut butter and jelly sandwich squares have to do with a filling the gaps in the lives of sibling superheroes?
The morning of February 5, 2017, dawned chilly and clear, exactly the kind of weather marathon runners crave.
But I wasn’t there to run (and technically arrived long before the sun). I was there to help fortify the runners of the Tallahassee Marathon and Half Marathon.
Reflecting on my food-prep team’s work that day, making more peanut butter and jelly quarters than we could possibly count, I am reminded that race-day volunteers may not cover 26.2 physical miles and there aren’t any medals, but it still is an accomplishment of its own kind. Like the participants in all the various projects represented over at Reward Volunteers, we are able to share in dividends like these:
We get to support others who are working toward their goals.
Marathoners train for months leading up to the race, battling self-doubt and pushing their bodies to do things they aren’t sure they can do. When you’re one of the first people they see after crossing that finish line, and you’re able to help them refill their physical tanks after using up all their inner stores, it’s an important role.
We get to meet new people.
I had a crackerjack team of fellow sandwich-makers that morning, many of whom I had never met before and wouldn’t have met had we not found ourselves elbow deep in peanut butter on a frigid Sunday morning. It was a way to establish some new bonds with fellow Tallahassee community members.
We get to be part of a community.
This one is a bit hard for me. I was already a member of the running community, because I was a runner for years. But a cardiac issue has curtailed my running; this is disappointing since most of my social network was composed of runners and Saturdays usually were kicked off by a joint run followed up with brunch. Making these sandwiches, supporting other runners, was a way to still be a part of it all.
Some details in life are critical yet unheralded. Runners who don’t have access to nutrition right after a race have a physical problem (because they desperately need to replace burned calories). If no one secured the food donations, planned out the post-race celebration area, opened the bread, spread the peanut butter and jelly, cut the sandwiches, and made them easy to access, the post-race celebration would be dampened as hangry runners tried to cope.
Proceeds from this marathon supported the Hang Tough Foundation, which has a mission of helping siblings of sick kids enjoy the freedom of childhood at a time when their parents’ attention is diverted.
With every peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made, I knew eventually a kid would be shown by Hang Tough “this is for you too.”
More About the Reward Volunteers Program
In case the Reward Volunteers Program is new to you, here are some of the basics:
It’s a site that allows you to log your volunteer hours and keep a record of all the good you’re putting into the world.
By logging your hours, you (or your organization) can win prizes.
Reward Volunteers also provides information about volunteering opportunities in your area.
Organizations also benefit when they register to be a Reward Volunteers organization and their volunteers log their hours.
For more information, click here (or let me know your questions and I’ll get you some answers!).
Have you gotten in on the rock painting crafts craze? It is big here in Tallahassee, as this article attests. Even the #TLHTwitterMayor created and hid a rock.
I’m doing my first painting/hiding project this weekend. Bella is helping me check out my rocks.
As I read through various sets of instructions about how to paint rocks, it occurred to me that rock painting, like many projects we tackle, has more steps and deeper meaning than seems obvious at first.
If you’re like me, you don’t have beach pebbles lying around. I had to plan ahead in order to have rocks to paint. I read about what other people had used, then figured out how to get my own beach pebbles even though it’s difficult to get time away from home due to caregiving demands. (Thanks, Amazon gift card + prime shipping! In other news, my UPS guy may not be speaking to me for a while.)
Although spontaneous messages are sometimes effective, thinking through your goals increases your chance to say what you mean to say.
Many sets of instructions I read suggested to use a base coat of acrylic paint or mod podge before painting designs.
Before sharing a message important to you, touch base with your fundamental values and know the foundation supporting what you are going to share.
Painting the Designs!
While painting the designs, we have to think about what it is we want to express. If you’re like me, you have to overcome that horrible “but I’m not an artist” feeling. You may even want to practice first (rocks are bumpy canvasses).
Having a sense of adventure and courageously unleashing your creativity are key to expressing what is uniquely “you.”
Sealing Your Rocks
You need to use a clear acrylic or some other type of sealant to make sure your message stays clear.
The best messaging in the world won’t matter if friction, the elements, and opposition make it disappear. Putting a clear coat on to protect the message helps it get to as many people as possible.
Hiding Your Rocks
You have to find a place where your hiding activities will comply with the community’s rules, honor businesses’ wishes to be involved or not, stay safe, and find the balance between concealing and revealing that will lure a searcher in but still present a challenge.
Designing a great message doesn’t matter if it still sits in your hands. Take it out into the world and send it on its way.
MY FIRST DESIGNS
I have a few organizations, people, and places on my mind, so I’m channeling those thoughts into my debut rock artwork (yes, I use the term “art” lightly!).
EQL, pronounced “equal,” is an organization I’ve recently learned about. EQL has the ambitious goal of promoting acceptance, respect and rights for all. EQL’s strategy is to make equality “a quiet march that happens every day, everywhere” by replicating what major brands do: encouraging positive emotions and enlisting brand advocates.
EQL sells gear with its logo here and donates 35% of the proceeds to causes such as the ACLU, according to their website.
Learn more here or here and look for the hashtag #WeMarchEveryDay to find fellow fans of EQL.
Honoring Savannah’s Courage
Savannah’s statement in front of her congregation moved me. She is a 12-year-old Mormon girl who proclaimed in front of her congregation, “I know I am not a horrible sinner for being who I am” (more here). She was cut off by a leader before she had finished her speech, but the rest can be read here.
Stepping Up My Support of #BlackLivesMatter
I am not sure how to approach this, but I recently agreed to do a guest post about how people can find common ground related to the topic of #BlackLivesMatter so I’d better get to thinking!
As a white person, I am declaring my overt support of #BlackLivesMatter. The disproportionate mistreatment of people of color, the institutional racism that influences some (not all) law enforcement agencies, the divisiveness among our nation’s citizens, won’t be resolved until we “get” why #BlackLivesMatter is a thing.
One rock will honor my daughter, Tenley, on her 21st birthday (June 26) and another will honor my son, Wayne, for his 18th birthday (July 1). Two big milestones!
A GREEN PEN
Sounds easy to draw but we’ll see. I love encouraging people to #WriteOptimistically, so I’ll give it a whirl.
I saw a cute idea for creating a cat out of two symmetrical rocks. I can’t find it now (sigh) but may give a cat rock a whirl, for no other reason than the fact that cats are fun!
Have you painted/hidden rocks before? I’d love to hear about your experience!
Editor’s Note: I am still working on my painted rocks. I’ll drop a picture in when I’m done, before they are hidden!
Editor’s Note #2 (8/14/17): Well, THAT was optimistic (editor’s note #1!). The rocks I did finish, I often forgot to photograph before I hid. I’ll track down a picture or two and drop them in … eventually!
Editor’s Note #3 (9/8/17): These are not all the rocks I did …. and they don’t represent everything I said I would do in this post (but I did complete them all) …. but here are the ones I took pictures of!
Here is what the rocks represent, clockwise from the top left: 1) My team, KR Endurance 2) The You Matter Marathon 3) My tagline: #WriteOptimistically 4) A tribute to Piet Meerburg (I did this one at a Holocaust Education Resource Council workshop) 5) One relating to Charlottesville 6) A Proverbs rock 7) The one honoring Savannah (referred to in this post) 8) One honoring my daughter’s birthday and 9) MEOW.
It is time to say goodbye to Silvia, the first person our family sponsored through Unbound. Although I knew her time in the program would end, it was still a sobering moment when I received the notification, even though her departure is due to her success.
The Farewell Notification
Unbound sent us a letter notifying us that Silvia had graduated, along with a farewell letter written by Silvia’s cousin (and translated by Unbound), explaining Silvia was unable to write due to her job. Here’s an excerpt:
…Silvia is in good health thanks to God along with her family. We thank you for the support you have given her since it has benefited her with healthcare, education, food supplies, shoes, clothing and much more.
She has gotten other significant benefits such as cinder block, sheets of tin, cookware, bed and others which got better her home. I also tell you that Silvia leaves Unbound program since she graduated from high school and she got the art and sciences diploma, she has gotten a job actually and she works selling clothing, now she is able to support her family.
Our History With Silvia and Her Family
I don’t recall the precise date Silvia became a part of our family when my in-laws chose to sponsor her through Unbound (I think it was around 2002); they picked her partially because she was close in age to Tenley and my nieces, thinking shared gender and age would help the connection feel more “real.”
Over the years, I felt increasingly led to meet Silvia in person. Pictures and letters can only convey so much. I wrote about the goal here and here.
In 2011, th goal became reality! Tenley and I traveled to Guatemala as part of an Unbound Mission Awareness Trip and met Silvia and her mom (also named Silvia). I shared our experiences here and here.
What I Have Learned
Documenting what we have learned over the time we have sponsored Silvia, especially through the trip to meet her in 2011, is a challenging task which largely defies words. A few observations, though.
Sponsorship is not a one-way street. Yes, our monthly contributions provided her and her family with support they would not otherwise have had and enabled her to get an education (not something to be underestimated in Central America) and her family to have better housing. Hopefully the letters and packages (back when we were allowed to send packages) sent by my in-laws and us (technically my in-laws were Silvia’s sponsors) inspired, amused, and affirmed her and her family. But as cliche’ as I know it sounds, we got as much or more out of the experience than they did.
This experience pointed up our sheer humanity and imperfection, which is why God’s grace is so central to our lives. My fellow parishioners at Holy Comforter made a beautiful quilt for Silvia. Each parishioner crocheted or knitted a square, then they were sewn together and blessed at church before being taken to Silvia. It was truly a lovely gift. I have to say, though, in retrospect, Guatemala is a very hot place. I am sure Silvia and her family treasure the gift but as practical gifts go, I could possibly have made a more useful choice! I also underestimated the fact that she was (at the time of our visit) a typical teenage girl. After meeting her and seeing her sense of style, I thought of other things we could have given her that may have been a bit more to her liking!
Spending time in a developing country is far superior to reading about a developing country. I know we can’t all go to countries about which we are curious due to financial, time, or health constraints, but do it if you can. I will never, ever, ever forget visiting one family’s humble home with a homemade welcome sign on the door. The home was so primitive, and the owner apologized for the home’s small size as I entered. But the sentiment on the door and the genuine love shown by the people we visited trumped every standard-of-living consideration. That said, we have it so good here, y’all (speaking to my friends in the US, Canada, and other countries where we have everything we need even if sometimes we perceive we don’t have what we want). We need to let that ease of living fuel our generosity to help others who aren’t so fortunate have the tools they need to support themselves.
Having to wait things out is a blessing.Our first 24-48 hours in Guatemala did not go smoothly. It was an adjustment to remember to throw the toilet paper away rather than flush it, to take the Pepto Bismol every four hours to fend off gastrointestinal distress, to remember not to drink the water. I am not exaggerating one bit to say Tenley was miserable and I am pretty sure I recall her emailing her dad (when we had a moment of internet connectivity at Unbound’s center) to tell him she wanted to go home NOW. Thank goodness that wasn’t a possibility, because she had done an emotional 360 by the end of the week. We have all gotten used to instantaneous everything, including rapidly ditching situations that no longer please us. I am so grateful that wasn’t an option for us.
What We Hope For Silvia
One of the biggest challenges of the end of an Unbound sponsorship is the fact that it truly is a final “goodbye.” For a variety of reasons that make perfect sense from a practical and security standpoint, we are not allowed to share addresses or attempt to continue contact.
Tenley said to simply “tell her we love her and to never lose faith in Christ.”
Maybe it’s as basic as that. We want her to always know how loved she was (and is) and to keep up her faith. I would add, though, that as a female in her early 20s in a country like Guatemala, I pray that she use the education she received to control the reins of her life, that she is immune from being controlled by a man who does not want the best for her, from being restricted by a government that does not value her equally with males, that she is as free as possible from self-doubt.
How to Help Other “Silvias”
Unbound gave us the option to roll my father-in-law’s monthly contribution to another sponsored individual, but due to his terminal illness, we declined. (Our family still sponsors Estela in Guatemala and Stanley in El Salvador.)
If you are seeking a way to make a difference for a child, individual with special needs, or aging person, I strongly encourage you to consider sponsoring through Unbound via a $36 per month contribution.
Because it is more difficult for adults to find sponsors, I have chosen to feature Leonel Oscar:
According to Leonel Oscar’s profile on the Unbound website, he Leonel likes praying for the people in his community, so they can live with a better quality of life. He has a mental disability which makes it difficult for him to pronounce some words. Speech therapy would help him improve his ability to communicate with others. Leonel lives with his sister in a concrete-block dwelling. It’s far from the urban area, so they go by bus to the market. Leonel and his sister grow watercress and herbs to sell there.
Unbound’s site shares information about everyone needing sponsors on their site; you can sort by birthday, first name (I had hoped to find another “Silvia” to share with you!), and other criteria. Click here to start your sponsorship journey. (If you have an interest in Leonel Oscar specifically and can’t find him, I will be happy to try to help you.)