Saying Goodbye to Silvia

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

Humanitarian Programs

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.”

Humanitarian Programs

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 Humanitarian Programsbeautiful 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 Humanitarian Programssentiment 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:

Humanitarian Programs

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.)
Humanitarian Programs

Inauguration Day and Beyond: #One20

It’s no secret at all that my candidate did not win the US Presidency. The election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency makes me sad, angry, and terrified for the impact his policy choices will have on my fellow Americans, on me, and on the world at large.

But he did win, he is being inaugurated on January 20, and I have a choice to make regarding how I respond.

I am inspired by One20: A Day for Doing Good, a call to do good in our communities on January 20, 2017 (Inauguration Day).

Although One20 is focusing on January 20 to begin with, I anticipate that start will create ripple effects long into the future. One20 has inspired the structure of this post: 20 things I, as ONE single person, can do and say in response to the establishment of the Trump Administration.

1. I am not using the #NotMyPresident hashtag.

The day after the election, my daughter and I were discussing the election’s outcome and the reactions of people around us. “Is it that bad?” was her question. While I do believe it is, indeed, that bad, I am choosing not to use the #NotMyPresident hashtag.

I am choosing not to use the #NotMyPresident hashtag because, like it or not, he is what I am getting. However, in the same way that I went to the Grads Made Good breakfast at Florida State year after year and refused to clap for Dr. Stephen Winters (RIP) who groped me in Dodd Hall when I was a freshman, the professor a higher-up administrator basically looked the other way about when I shared the information, I will not be applauding our new President.

2. An Addition to My White House Selfies

Every time I go to DC, I take the obligatory “here I am in front of the White House picture,” like this one from last September.

Political Activism

When I go to the Shot at Life Champions Summit next month, though, the picture may still have a green pen in it (I mean, that’s the norm now, right?) BUT I will also feature a safety pin prominently in the picture. I have seen so many individuals and groups deeply hurt by the reinvigorated spirit of hatred and divisiveness in our country, it is imperative to me that people know I, like @IBexWeBex, am a safe place.

3. I will participate in the Tallahassee Women’s March on January 21.

Organized by the Florida Planned Parenthood Alliance, the event is “a 100% inclusive event and all genders, races, ages, religions, sexual orientations – everyone! – is invited to participate.”

4. Involvement in local, state, and federal politics.

I will redouble my efforts to be personally familiar with the choices my local, state, and federal leaders are making, and to make my positions clear with them.

5. My Profile Picture on January 20

I am not changing my profile picture to one of President Obama on January 20, as many people I know are planning. This relates to the fact that I am not using the #notmypresident hashtag. I am beyond grateful to President Obama and his family. He has been a singularly outstanding President, and I am so excited about how he can apply his intellect and passions once he no longer has the constraints of the Presidency.

I really can’t explain why this choice doesn’t sit right for me. When Beyonce did an impromptu (and very well performed) rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to prove that she could, indeed, sing the song without a lip syncing, I hated the song being used as some sort of “revenge” song. Somehow using President Obama’s image feels the same way to me. (But I support everyone making that choice.)

6. Helping Homeless Women With Personal Hygiene Needs

In keeping with the idea that we can collectively make big impacts when many people do small things, I am adding feminine products to the non perishables I purchase for local food drives. For more on this topic, visit Bustle.

7. Making an Impact in Person, not just Online

I read a great post on Facebook about how we should attend to seeing how we can positively impact the people within five feet of us. I can’t find the initial post, but the concept is true. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our virtual communities that we forget what we can do for the people right next to us. Let’s do it.

8. Read, Dialogue, Read and Dialogue Some More

I am continuing to read books like Debby Irvings’s Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race and Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out in order to be better informed then finding a way to act on what I’ve learned and be a part of respectful dialogue in order to bring people closer to one another.

9. I am refusing to stay silent in the face of racist, anti-semitic, or other hate jokes.

When a national rental car company picked me up to take me to pick up a car right after the election, the driver, commenting on how safe my neighborhood appeared, went on to remark, “be glad you’re not in California where those Muslims are lying down in the streets.” When I responded that they had something to say, he went on to explain how we can never get along with “them,” and  how I would “figure that out someday.”

I doubt my attempt to defend Muslims registered with him AT ALL, but maybe, just maybe, he will think in the future before spouting his hatred. It mattered to try.

10. I am not moving to Costa Rica, Canada, or anywhere off of US soil.*

I am not going to let this President and his administration run me off. I love my country, think it is great already, and plan to stay put.

11. Voting Matters Now More Than Ever*

I will support efforts to get out the vote, to encourage people to register to vote, and to make it easy for my fellow citizens to vote.

12. Supporting Equity and Safety for Black Students

I am grateful to have met Kelly Wickham-Hurst, creator of Being Black at School. I have made a donation and will continue to support her work advocating for equity and safety for Black students.*

13. Kindness > Sarcasm

Inspired by Caitie Whelan’s Lightning Notes about The Kindness Impulse, I will strengthen my kindness impulse so it is stronger than my sarcasm impulse. For the record, it would probably be easier to move to Canada!

14. You’re Never Too Young to Learn to Make a Difference

I will believe in the capacity for our the youngest among us to embrace diversity, to make an impact, and to positively influence their peers. A great place to start is by sharing one of the books featured in this #MomsReading blog from Moms Rising.

15. None of Us Can Afford to Be Single Issue Voters

I will continue to educate myself about issues that affect my fellow women and Americans, even if they don’t directly affect me. It started with We Won’t Wait 2016 and will only grow in the face of closed-mindedness and hatred from our newly elected leaders.

16. I will support the LGBTQIA+ Community

I joined Equality Florida in order to stay informed about issues important to Florida’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (as well as Floridians at large) including Discrimination, Adoption, Family Recognition, Safe and Healthy Schools, Hate Crimes, Voter Mobilization, Marriage, Transaction, and Gun Violence Prevention.

17. I Will Advocate Tirelessly for Banned Books

I will continue to advocate passionately against censorship and other types of limitations to the freedom to read. Learn more about Banned Books Week.

18. Climate Change Is Bigger To Me Now

Although it has not been one of my “top” issues, I will redouble my efforts to track climate change issues and make a personal impact (ten good ideas in this article).

19. The World Beyond Our National Borders Deserves My Support

I will continue to be involved in international issues and in the lives of individuals in other countries for whom my access to freedom, resources, and security can be a help, such as the three children we sponsor in Guatemala and El Salvador through Unbound.

20. I Will Respect The Lessons of History

At the wise recommendation of Steve Schale, I read Rep. John Lewis’s letter of forgiveness to Governor George Wallace today. In one passage, he said, “Much of the bloodshed in Alabama occurred on Governor Wallace’s watch. Although he never pulled a trigger or threw a bomb, he created the climate of fear and intimidation in which those acts were deemed acceptable.” In the letter, Rep. Lewis forgave Governor Wallace, who in his view “grew to see that we as human beings are joined by a common bond.”

President Elect Trump will probably never pull a trigger or throw a bomb himself, but until he is proven otherwise, I stand ready to be one of the many Americans doing my part to mitigate the climate of fear and intimidation I see infiltrating the 2017 version of America which should know so much better by now.

As my friend Mary Schaefer quoted in a recent blog post:

We tell people who we are with every breath we breathe. (Source Unknown)

Mary’s unknown source is so right.

I can’t change who is going to be sworn in on January 20, but I can be a part of keeping America great …. for all Americans … until I run out of breath.

*Items with asterisks were inspired by “my commitments to protecting our democracy,” a reflection on President Obama’s farewell address by Leah Jones. Thank you, Leah, for helping me fill out my list of 20 actions/observations in such a substantive way.

More Ideas For How To Continue Advocacy Beyond 1/20/17

Political Activism

 

Hope for Jose

As I write this, we have had power back on for almost 8 hours. Yes, we did do a happy dance of celebration at 3 am when the whole house lit up after a hurricane-induced outage of more than 48 hours.

Our outage was a “hardship.” Our home was really hot; we had to cook our eggs in a cast iron pot on the grill before they spoiled. My son mastered backgammon by flashlight. I was the first to volunteer for ANY outing that would take me out of the house and into blessed air conditioning. It was sad and frustrating to deal with my father-in-law’s constant requests for TV (he has short term memory issues).

In the scheme of things, however, we had it good. Our home is solid. Legions of utility personnel flowed into town and worked day and night to get us back up and running.

For families served by Unbound in Guatemala, the set of challenges is different. Because homes are often constructed of less-than-solid materials and methods. Because families rely upon day-to-day agricultural or other “get it as you can” work, a natural disaster poses daunting problems.

As this 2010 blog documenting the Unbound response to natural disasters in Guatemala documents, issues can include perilous roads, mudslides, volcanoes, and theft of personal property because homes are not secured.

For children like Jose, sponsorship can make a difference through providing food, health care, education, and support of his family’s efforts to make a living for themselves (via owning animals like chickens that produce eggs or by instructing a mom in a skill like sewing). In addition, Unbound holds two quetzales per child specifically to be able to respond immediately in case of disaster.

Child Sponsorship

A home we visited in Guatemala — it always humbled me that the family put so much work into creating the welcome sign and the dad said “I am sorry my home is so small.” It was very large in hospitality.

Unbound does an incredible job of balancing its imperative to help families learn how to help themselves, with providing support at times when survival is at stake. That’s one of the many reasons we love Unbound and sponsor three children (a young adult woman in Guatemala, a young girl in Guatemala, and a little boy in El Salvador).

Meet Jose, age 7, from Guatemala, who is seeking sponsorship now:

Child Sponsorship

Unbound shares the following about Jose:

Jose has fun singing and playing with toy cars, alongside his two brothers. He’s diligent in his studies and loves physical education.

At home, Jose helps his grandmother feed the pigs and he helps make the beds.

He and his family have lived with his grandparents for some time now. Their block home has a sheet metal roof and cement floor. His mother tends to the household chores.

Jose’s father is a mason’s assistant, but the work is unsteady. To augment his income, he also has a part-time job at a local store.

To help Jose:

If you are interested in sponsoring Jose, please outreach (at) unbound.org or call Clair, the Outreach Coordinator, at 800.875.6564 ext. 7309. I would also be happy to facilitate putting you in touch with Unbound.

Sponsorship is $36 a month. In the scheme of things, it’s a small investment which yields enormous results both for Jose and his family, for the good of humankind in general, and in the relationship you’ll develop with Jose and his family via letters (and, when fate really smiles upon you, VISITS).

You can also learn more about Unbound at their website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

I am part of an Unbound effort to help secure sponsors for 100 children by Christmas. Since Jose turns 8 on December 10, I’m shooting for about 15 days earlier than that for him to hear those happy words “you have a new friend.”

Child Sponsorship

A neighborhood we visited in Guatemala. The families are VERY grateful to the sponsors and humbled us with such a grand welcome.

Child Sponsorship

thoughtful-thursdays4

 

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

As I compose this post, I am 26 tweets away from my 100,000th tweet.

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

Although Twitter says I have had an account since September 2008, apparently I didn’t tweet until April 2009. And boy howdy was it a profound one. The program “First Tweet” says my first tweet was this:

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

In the six years and eight months since April 2009, I have amassed almost 100,000 more tweets. Hopefully, on balance, some of them were more profound than “going to bed!” (although I am a BIG FAN of sleep, don’t get me wrong).

To do some rough math …

If each of 100,000 tweets were a full 140 characters, that would be 14 MILLION characters (if my words averaged six characters each that would be 2,333,333 words!).

I just timed myself composing a tweet, and it took 27 seconds. For ease of math, let’s say each one takes 25 seconds, that’s 694 HOURS (an average month has 730 hours).

All those characters and seconds add up!

In preparation for hitting 100,000, I am trying to manipulate things so that I can have control over that 100,000th tweet. It isn’t as easy as it sounds! I’ve stopped sharing from Triberr for a few days. I have deactivated my Revive Old Posts plugin. I’ve realized that tweeting has become a reflex for me and for the first time in years have found myself thinking, “do you really want to spend a tweet on that?” (perhaps it is not a bad thing to think before tweeting, honestly……). Keeping this post family friendly, I’ll just say it feels a little bit like foreplay, because I am having a lot of fun but want the big moment to be really special.

Ten Thoughts As the Big Tweet Approaches

WRITING

Ultimately, Twitter is just another way to write. Hence, as a lover of writing, I love Twitter.

GREAT PEOPLE

I have connected with incredible people on Twitter who I would not have met otherwise. They have entertained me, consoled me, informed me, inspired me. They (especially the running community) have shared my passions and given me a sense of community.

AWFUL PEOPLE

Fortunately, this is a much shorter list than the “Great People” list but there are some bad actors on Twitter. YUCK. Specifically, the guy whose bio says he is in the top 2000 of Twitter accounts. The guy who told me to “EFF OFF YOU C*NT” (this is a sanitized paraphrase). Yes, I do find it humorous, profane guy, that you blocked my main account but haven’t figured out I have a second Twitter account that you have not blocked. All I can say is meanspiritedness is never ever ever in style.

VENTING

There’s no place like Twitter for safely getting something off of your chest. When I say that, I mean things like “holy cow this traffic stinks.” I don’t mean being obnoxious to a business without giving them time to rectify the issue. After all, I wrote this and need to practice what I preach.

THE SWAG!

When you’re a frequent tweeter, you never know what goodies are going to show up on your doorstep. I think my favorite was the fact that I ended up in the Pretzel of the Month club for a year. All of a sudden, a huge variety box of pretzels showed up on my doorstep one day. The same thing happened the next month. And monthly for the following 10 months! Thanks, Snyders!

HELPING CAUSES

I love using social media to promote worthy causes. Twitter has changed the landscape for getting information out, fundraising, and catalyzing action! Favorite causes I have tweeted about include Shot at Life, Unbound, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Linda Freeman’s efforts to help children in Cambodia get The Shoe That Grows, all the Donate a Photo causes, and all the Charity Miles causes.

NO WORRIES ABOUT GETTING NAMES AND FACES WRONG

As a faceblind individual, every in person interaction carries with it the likelihood that I will fail to recognize someone I should recognize or, if I take the risk of using the name I think is correct, of making a social gaffe. Thanks, Twitter, for telling me exactly who I am dealing with and eliminating that whole social awkwardness potential!

TWITTER BRINGS OUT MY EXTROVERT

My extrovert/introvert tendencies are pretty much 50/50 but I know in my heart of hearts I am an introvert. Not on Twitter, though! I love connecting on Twitter. Maybe because I can disengage at any time and go recharge.

TWITTER IS NOT THE BEST FOR FAMILY RELATIONS

I’ve come a long way since social media was younger. Of course my children were younger when I first got involved with social media. Five years ago, I was hurt and floored when my daughter unfriended me on Facebook. Now I am glad we are Facebook friends but that connection doesn’t carry the same emotional weight for me. I sure as heck don’t follow her on Twitter anymore after the one tweet I saw where she was venting about my crappy parenting. (Guess that “it’s good to vent on Twitter” thing goes two ways, no?)

THE BIG GREEN PEN GETS AROUND

Nothing makes me happier than meeting a twitter acquaintance in real life for the first time and having them say, “oh YOU’RE the big green pen!” A handle that was born of my intense and meticulous editing has ended up allowing me to compose some fun life adventures, 140 characters at a time.

Those ten things in mind, I do know that Twitter is just one piece of the human relationship puzzle. Nothing replaces looking someone in the eye, and I do regret time I have lost interacting with my family because I was fixated on a screen, as well as the role my intrigue with social media had in the degree to which I lost interest in my previous job and failed to do the quality work I owed my employer.

In addition, all that tweeting undoubtedly led to the fact that I now get to tweet for a living as part of my responsibilities with Weaving Influence and Lead Change. I still love to tweet, and it is icing on the cake to get compensated for it.

I do have a specific tweet planned for number 100,000, if all my machinations to make it happen work. I will post it here after it tweets!

Ten Thoughts on 100,000 Tweets

UPDATE: I hit the big 100K mark just after midnight on Christmas Day 2015! With heartfelt gratitude to Lou Kellenberger for permission to use his image, here’s the tweet!

Official Tweet 100K

Currently Thinking About Josue

If you have read my blog for a while, you may know that my involvement with Unbound originated with my in-laws. More than a decade ago, they decided to sponsor Silvia, a young girl in Guatemala. They chose Silvia because she was around the same age as my daughter, Tenley, my niece, Elizabeth, and several other of their grandchildren. My mother-in-law, Barb, and I held many conversations over the years about Silvia, putting together birthday and Christmas packages, reading her letters, and preparing letters back to her. One of the high points of our sponsorship journey was Tenley’s and my meeting Silvia and her mother in 2011!

Josue’s Story

When Unbound asked me to share the story of a child on my blog as part of an effort to find him a sponsor, I felt like Barb, who passed away in 2013, was looking over my shoulder as I read this line about Josue’s father: “There’s a software JAWS (Job Access With Speech) that tells you what’s on the screen.” Jose, the father, who is blind, works in local radio for a small town. The software and access to a computer is essential for him to try to make a living for himself, Josue’s mother Daysi, Josue, and his two other children.

I’ve shared profiles of other children hoping for Unbound sponsorship before. Because I am intrigued with the “currently” prompt which I saw on Simply Elle, I’m going to try to blend a little creative writing with a LOT of factual data to share a profile of Josue’s family with you!

CURRENTLY: Jose and His Familia

Currently Thinking About Josue

READING

From Josue (he prefers to be called Toñito): I am 5 years old, so I am not reading yet. I like to draw and I like coloring books. My parents pray that I will get an education so that I can read and have more potential for work as I grow up.

EATING

From Daysi (Josue’s mom): Jose gives me four dollars a day to get food for the five people in our family. Because he is blind and his job options are limited, the income from his radio announcing in this small town is not consistent. Even four dollars a day is often difficult to come up with.

THINKING ABOUT

From Jose: I am thinking about my dreams for Toñito and my other children. I dream for them to be good people, but the situation here in El Salvador is difficult. As a parent, I do my best to educate them to be good people who will grow up to make good decisions. I would like for my children to get an education and go to college.

LOOKING FORWARD TO

From Jose: I am looking forward to my children growing up and having more options than I have. When Toñito was born, Daysi was only 27 weeks pregnant. He stayed in the hospital for three months as the doctors worked on his heart problem and repaired a hernia. Now that such a difficult start is behind him, I am looking forward to a healthy future.

LEARNING

From Jose: The more I can learn about computers, the better. Before I had access to a computer, I had to work under the hot sun, selling items in the market. I have also worked as a shoe maker, sold newspapers, made crafts for sale, and made furniture. I did anything I could to try to move forward.

LOVING

From Jose: My family. The joy I feel inside my heart. Trying to motivate others! My wife Daysi’s humility and fighting spirit.

WORKING ON

From Jose: I continue to learn all I can about computers, because that helps me have other wage-earning possibilities. JAWS (the software) tells you what is on the screen, but I only have a PC and keyboard, so that limits how much JAWS can help me.

LISTENING TO

From Jose and Daysi: In a household with three kids, there’s always noise! I hear the sounds of our town’s animals, and love it when the local musicians are playing.

LAUGHING AT

From the whole family: The local street dogs do funny antics!

WISHING

From Jose: As a parent, I feel like I am a drowning man anxiously holding an arm out of the water for someone to throw me a rope! This request for sponsorship is not for me: it is for my child. All three of my kids are growing up and they need to be prepared for a world threatened by climate change yet enhanced by advanced technology. Where we live, there are no job opportunities; if you don’t have an education it is almost impossible, and I am very worried for them.

If someone decides to sponsor my son, to say “Here I am, I’m next to you,” I will be endlessly grateful. I would send so many blessings to that person because, honestly, I would not have words to express how I would feel.

Notes from Paula

I hope this “currently” exercise gave you a glimpse into the life of Toñito and his family, and the reasons why sponsorship can make such a huge difference!

A little more about the family’s living situation: They live in a humble adobe home. Jose says, “I know there are many repairs that need to be made in my house, but my biggest concern is having money to buy food for my wife and children.” They do not have running water; they have a community well. They do have electricity, but it was very hard to obtain.

Although four of Jose’s clients pay monthly, most of them are seasonal, which leads to variability in income. He also teaches Braille four days a month to supplement the family income. The family net income is around $100 a month (remember they spend about $4 a day to eat, and last time I checked $100 minus $120 did not lead to a positive balance).

A contribution of $36 per month can help Toñito have his basic needs met so that he can grow, get an education, and thrive.

More About Unbound

Unbound’s website is accessible by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Facebook by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Twitter by clicking here.

Visit Unbound on Instagram by clicking here.

Read selections of my previous writing about Unbound here, here, here, here, and here.

Again, to sponsor Toñito, click here. If you are not in a position to sponsor now, please consider sharing this with someone who may be. Prayers are ALWAYS accepted and appreciated!

Currently Thinking About Josue

UPDATE: Josue has been sponsored! What a blessing! I am so grateful to my friend who decided to sponsor him!!! There are many more children, youth, and aging awaiting sponsorship in 22 countries around the world! For more information, please click here

 

unbound one

 

GRATEFUL CHALLENGE 2015

It’s year two of my taking the Grateful Challenge! (For last year’s post, click here.) Inspired by Spin Sucks, the goal is to set a timer for 10 minutes and try to list 99 things you’re grateful for.

GRATEFUL CHALLENGE 2015

This year’s installment:

  1. My parents
  2. A spouse who understands why it is so important to me that my spouse be my friend as well as my lover (Wayne)
  3. My daughter (Tenley)
  4. My son (Wayne Kevin)
  5. Our cat Alice Cooper
  6. Our cat Bella
  7. My father-in-law (also a Wayne!)
  8. The memory of my mother-in-law (Barb)
  9. A roof over my head
  10. A house with a great running route right outside
  11. Running
  12. Running friends
  13. Fitness
  14. My fitness friends
  15. My Fitfluential relationships
  16. Blogging
  17. My #ChevyPlayMiami experience
  18. Having my son with me in Miami Beach while I was doing #ChevyPlayMiami
  19. My NASA Social experience
  20. My Social Good Summit experience
  21. Being a Shot at Life Champion Leader
  22. Toastmasters
  23. That one special friend
  24. Lunch at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel with that one special friend while the crowds streamed in to see Pope Francis in Central Park
  25. My friend Mary Jane
  26. My friend Audrey
  27. My friends’ children
  28. Tenley’s oportunity to do the Disney College Program starting in January 2016
  29. Dairy Queen Blizzards
  30. Reading
  31. Audiobooks
  32. The perpetual influence of The Diary a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  33. Tallahassee
  34. New York City memories
  35. New York City memories to be made
  36. The play Wicked
  37. My son’s new (to him) car
  38. My son teaching me how to drive his new car
  39. A bus option in Florida that gets me from point A to point B affordably, with wi fi
  40. The Spin Sucks community
  41. My work with Weaving Influence
  42. The leaders I work with through the Lead Change Group, a division of Weaving Influence
  43. Chocolate
  44. A nice glass of wine at the end of each day
  45. My Coach, Kristie Cranford
  46. My KR Endurance team
  47. The child I run for via I Run for Michael, Gareth, and his family
  48. Friends who help with my father-in-law
  49. My sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law
  50. My nieces and nephews
  51. My goddaughters
  52. Being free to worship how I want to
  53. The Twitter community (except the jerks!)
  54. People who teach me about WordPress and help me climb other technical learning curves
  55. Patient people
  56. Smiles
  57. The beauty all around us
  58. Sunrises & Sunsets
  59. Learning about weather from people who are more than “forecasters”
  60. A great set of crepuscular rays in the sky
  61. My coworkers at Weaving Influence
  62. Being paid to do social media
  63. Scott Ginsberg (The Nametag Guy) who encouraged me to “make a date with the page”
  64. The potential of the Global Goals
  65. My role as a Florida Prepaid Blogger Believer
  66. Every opportunity I have had to get paid for blogging
  67. Other blogging opportunities which I did not get paid for or paid my own way for which which have paid off in other ways, most notably in the incredible people I’ve met
  68. The two people I have mentored in Toastmasters
  69. Being able to practice my Spanish
  70. The drivers/staff in Miami and Orlando who just start speaking Spanish to me and expect me to follow along
  71. My half brothers
  72. The trails in Tallahassee
  73. My electrophysiologist
  74. Being able to run still (so I guess thanks for beta blockers and that “running through mud feeling”!)
  75. That one friend who said “talks with you are my sanity”
  76. A sense of humor
  77. That my FIL’s cancer appears to have been obliterated
  78. Doing the zoo run in Tampa in August with my friend Diane
  79. Margaritas!
  80. The ability to read
  81. The ability to write
  82. The ability to speak
  83. The HAMP program
  84. Tenley’s employer, Chicken Salad Chick of Valdosta
  85. Everyone in Valdosta who has helped Tenley the last 1.5 years
  86. The teachers who give Wayne Kevin a chance
  87. The teachers who give Wayne Kevin more than worksheets
  88. The freedom of speech fo expres myself during the “Curious Incident” kerfuffle
  89. The ability to see Curious Incident on Broadway the month after the kerfuffle (which reinforced the fact that the kerfuffle was worth making a fuss about)
  90. Journalists here in Tally who have intelligent dialogues with readers
  91. TV journalists here in Tally who support me in giving voice to important issues like World Immunization Week
  92. My involvement with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
  93. My NYC Half Marathon in March 2015
  94. The Light the Night Walk last month
  95. Silvia, the first child we sponsored in Guatemala via Unbound
  96. Estela, the second child we sponsored in Guatemala via Unbound
  97. Stanley, the child we sponsor in  El Salvador via Unbound
  98. Coming home tonight to find the bah humbug spouse had put the lights on the Christmas tree
  99. My Faith

Want to Join?

It’s never too late to spend ten minutes focusing on gratitude! Let me know if you do the challenge!

Photo Credit: Gratisography

Eight Pairs of Shoes (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

As far back as I can remember, my daughter Tenley has loved shoes. She had a little pair of patent red shoes when she was a baby which were THE BOMB shoe-wise. As she grew and was able to choose her own shoes, it became clear that she was a shoe-lover. We jokingly called her Baby Imelda.

Tenley is almost out of her teen years, but I still have a distinct memory of those adorable red shoes. Thinking of them brings back happy memories of her babyhood.

I, on the other hand, can take or leave shoes (although I do appreciate a cool pair of shoes like these on MiamiStyleMom!). In response to Mama Kat’s “list eight things you are thankful for” prompt, I decided to see what I could do in relation to shoes:

(1) My Running Shoes

Shoes for Cambodian Children

My love for my running shoes knows no bounds. Everyone who knows me knows I would rather arrive at a business trip having forgotten my “work” shoes than my running shoes! I am thankful for the miles of therapy they take me on.

(2) My Indoor Cycling Sandals

Shoes for Cambodian Children

Although I haven’t had the opportunity to wear them too many times, these indoor cycling sandals by Nashbar with clips are so great! A) no socks needed B) every time I wear them I think about the first time I ever clipped in to anything: at SoulCycle in NYC and C) I am thankful that they make the experience of indoor cycling so much more efficient!

(3) The Tennis Shoes I Wore in El Salvador

Shoes for Cambodian Children

They’re just Payless tennis shoes, and the laces were so incredibly long that people were always commenting, “do you realize your shoes are untied?” BUT they are the shoes I bought to wear when I went to El Salvador as part of the first Unbound Blogging Trip, so they bring back great memories. I am thankful that I walked the ground of El Salvador in these shoes.

(4) My Favorite Black Shiny/Matte Shoes

Shoes for Cambodian Children

This is my most current pair of black dress shoes. I don’t recall exactly when I bought them, but it was either for an important meeting or a film school project. I love the matte/shiny effect. They’re close to being way too worn now but I am thankful that I have enjoyed them so much.

(5) My Brown Boots

Shoes for Cambodian Children

I bought these shoes last year when I was going to be having a high school reunion on a farm. Although I was going to be wearing jeans, I wanted something a little dressier than tennis shoes. These filled the bill, and I am thankful that they give me another option when I need to be a little bit more dressed “up” than “down.”

(6) My Blue Dress Shoes

Shoes for Cambodian Children

I *love* these shoes. I bought them for my friend Mary Jane’s wedding, which was in the spring of 1999. It was down to two pairs of shoes, and these cost a lot (for me), but they have been SO WORTH IT. I almost ruined them this past spring when I went to visit Senator Bill Nelson’s office here in Tallahassee and dealt with a deluge of rain as I was leaving. They *might* have survived. I am thankful that I treated myself to a pair of shoes that I have enjoyed for 16 years.

(7) My Utilitarian Black Boots

Shoes for Cambodian Children

When I went to the Shot at Life summit in DC in March of this year, the weather was horrible. Snow, ice, you name it. My DC friend Christina told me to get boots. I scurried over to Kohl’s and picked these up. They may not make a huge style statement but they probably literally saved me from twisting an ankle or something on sidewalks which were literally sheets of ice. I am thankful for friends who tell it like it is.

(8) The Shoes I Will Never See or Wear

Shoes for Cambodian Children

This pair of shoes is not on me (my feet aren’t that dainty!). I do not own them. I am never going own them. BUT my friend Linda has a goal of putting these shoes on the feet of 600 children in the Kratie province of Cambodia when she goes there on a mission trip next year. Lacking shoes, these children get ill from infections contracted by walking barefoot and they suffer injuries.

I have submitted a #mygivingstory which, if it wins, would result in Linda and her team getting $5,000 toward their goal of putting shoes on these 600 children (the total cost is $9,000). Read more about The Shoe that Grows here, more about Linda and the children here, and most importantly, please go to this link and simply click like. (The semifinalists will be chosen strictly on the basis of the number of likes.) I am thankful for all likes on this #mygivingstory!

Shoes for Cambodian Children

Why do I feel the way I do about these children and these shoes? I have never been able to get the picture out of my mind of a women who met with Tenley’s and my group when we went to Guatemala in 2011. Representing her village among the Unbound visitors was a bit of a privilege for her, and she arrived barefooted. I am sure she didn’t have shoes of her own. She carried herself with such dignity. I am sure she saw this meeting with us as a way to do something that would ultimately help her children.

These shoes for the children in Cambodia are designed to last five years and/or through five sizes. Through her previous work, Linda has already opened a school, provided medical care, and provided hundreds of children with the opportunity to lead much healthier lives.

With a simple click of a like button, we can be a part of the Light of Future too!

Shoes for Cambodian Children

Children Linda has served in Cambodia.

NOTE: If you would like to simply make a donation, click here.

workshop-button-1

Tequila and Tapas: A Social for Leukemia and Lymphoma!

“You aren’t going up for a blessing?”

I attended mass at Good Shepherd this morning with my good friend, Jacqui, who is visiting from New Hampshire.

When Jacqui returned from receiving Communion, she asked why I had not gone up for a blessing (I am not Catholic).

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In the space of a few seconds, I tried to explain how that really wasn’t so much of a “thing” at Blessed Sacrament, where I have attended numerous times over a span of years due to my in-laws being extremely active members of the parish, how I really do love getting a blessing, but that I was never exactly sure how much that was a custom at Good Shepherd. Eventually, I said “what do I have to lose?” and got in line for a blessing.

You know what?

THE SKY DID NOT FALL!

I received a lovely blessing from Father Foley, a priest I respect very much and who was integral in helping me find a sponsor for Carla back when I took on the responsibility of finding her a sponsor through Unbound.

There’s something else worth getting out of your seat for!

Tequila and Tapas for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)

Note: Tequila Servings at the Tapas and Tequila Social will be slightly smaller than this!

Ever since I found out that Madison Social will be hosting a Tequila and Tapas social for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) in advance of the November 19 Light the Night Walk, I have been hoping the event will be a success.

If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you might recall that a Tequila Social was the main fundraiser for my campaign to raise $2,500 for LLS so that I could participate in the New York City Half Marathon in March 2015. The event was so much fun (photo evidence here)! Madison Social was the perfect partner. However, I did not manage to sell the number of seats I committed to (or hoped for at least!), despite an effort to get the word out through multiple channels.

It occurs to me that some people out there who actually like tequila and tapas may be “staying in their seats” simply because no one has asked.

Therefore, just like my friend prompted me this morning, here I am asking you, “are you going to go?”

Here are the details!

  • What:      Tapas and Tequila!
  • Where     Madison Social (705 S. Woodward, Tallahassee)
  • When      Thursday, 10/29/15, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Why        To Benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Cost        $29 per ticket (a generous portion benefits LLS!)

This is going to be a Spanish style social gathering, which includes a sampling of different varieties of tequila and a table of tapas! There will be a table of smoky red pepper hummus (and if you haven’t had MadSo’s hummus, you don’t know what you’re missing!), short rib tacos, shrimp lettuce wraps and mussels. The tequila flight includes El Jimador Reposado, Avion Silver and Herradura Anejo.

Tickets are limited, so visit this link to get yours now!

My decision to get up out of my seat this morning resulted in a blessing; your choice to participate in Tapas and Tequila night will be a blessing to your taste buds, your social life, and the cause of LLS.

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If you can’t join us at the Tapas and Tequila Social, we would love for you to join us at Light the Night! It will be on Thursday, November 19, at FSU’s Langford Green. More info available via this link. If you would like to donate, my page is here. I am walking in honor of my awesome friend Mary Jane, a Multiple Myeloma survivor!

nyc finish with mj

Unbound And A Touch of Perspective

Last week. It had BIG highs, such as having my first Fitfluential Guest Post published and being featured by Spin Sucks in Friday’s Inquisition Seat.

I also had the opportunity to speak to the local Church Women United group about Unbound on their World Missions Day. Even though I feel that it was me benefiting from the morning rather than them benefiting from my presentation, I hope they were moved by the glimpse into Unbound’s work I gave them.

The purpose of the remainder of my post is two-fold.

Unbound Children Need Sponsors

I messed up. I requested information from Unbound to share with the Church Women United group, including folders of children needing sponsors. Because I requested it too late, I did not receive it until Friday afternoon (after my presentation, sighhhhh). Because I have these five folders, I feel led to share them in my blog. Please pray for these children seeking the support of Unbound, which I can attest will change their lives. If you know of a local Tallahassee (or regional/driving distance) alternative Christmas fair where I could possibly share these stories and how sponsorship ($30 a month) could help them, I’d love to know!

Unbound Edited Avo

Unbound Edited ValerieUnbound Edited OmarUnbound Wesley EditedUnbound Edited SugelyFor information on providing Unbound sponsorship for these children, please contact me at paulakiger (at) gmail (dot) com. For other children, youth, and aging seeking sponsors, please visit this link.

Now that I have shared these five children’s images and stories with you, I have a little more to say.

About Perspective, Helping Others, and Yoga

I started off this post noting three wonderful things that happened to me last week. Friday evening, I had one minor (in the big scheme of things) bit of news that brought with it major disappointment, far out of proportion to the importance of the news. For the rest of Friday evening, much of yesterday, and even part of today I have been really struggling to figure out how my usual recipe of 1) help someone else and 2) do yoga was going to help me through this emotional bump.

As Saturday dawned, I ran my second annual virtual 5K for PFC Matthew J England. He was killed in combat in Iraq in June 2008. Here is his Killed In Action Commemorative Flag, displayed on the route of the Missouri 5K yesterday. Thinking of Matthew’s sacrifice and his mother’s determination to honor his memory gives me perspective:

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Also what a great example of having a thick skin and a sense of humor is Ginger Zee? I don’t watch Good Morning America any longer but I still think she rocks. My thin skin and I can take some pointers from her perspective:

Ginger Zee

 (Side note: not every tv weather person is a meteorologist; there’s an academic and credentialing difference. Props to Ginger for everything in this screen shot (okay, maybe not the typo but we’ll blame autocorrect for that!)).

I also found this post helpful, especially the admonition “Be [Darn] Open to the Good” (admonition edited slightly for my audience but click through and read Reason Number 5 for the full effect!).

Right after I had finished the first draft of this post, a friend messaged me on Facebook. It turns out she and I were each feeling a little emotionally tender. When my phone rang, it was her and we had an opportunity to catch up. We did some processing of her issue and then we talked through mine. I cried the tears that needed to be shed, the ones from the deepest part of me that simply wants to belong and was feeling quite the opposite, the part of me that sometimes feels the “insecure” of 15 when I’d rather be embracing the hard-won confidence of almost-50.

As I head out to outdoors night yoga, I am grateful for the restorative power of helping others, for the fact that my emotions may very well become unbound while in bound angle pose, and for the grace of friendship that calms the disquieted heart.

edited sunrise

 

Helping Those in Poverty Blossom, An Advent Devotional

Each year, the parishioners of Holy Comforter create an advent reflections booklet composed of their own contributions. This is mine, used for December 18, 2013.

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalms 72: 12-14)

Bob Hentzen

Bob Hentzen

On October 8 of this year, Bob Hentzen passed away from natural causes. I had the blessing of spending a week with Bob when Tenley and I went to Guatemala as part of a Christian Foundation for Children and Aging Mission Awareness Trip in July 2011.

As I read the psalm for today’s reading, I couldn’t help reflecting on Bob’s approach to helping people who live in poverty.

Before our trip to Guatemala, I had possessed a vague idea of the ways in which CFCA helped the “lives of the needy.” Our extended family had given $30 a month for years to help our sponsored child, Silvia, and her family have access to education, food, health care, and shelter.

Although the trip involved the incredible highlight of meeting Silvia, it involved so much more. The most eye-opening parts were when we were able to visit the homes of families being helped by CFCA. I had never seen residences that appeared so vulnerable to weather, so rudimentary from the standpoint of plumbing and waste management, so different from our orderly neighborhoods here in the U.S.

“Electricity” meant one light bulb hanging from a cord. When a homeowner was asked why she did not have the light on, she explained “it’s too hot.” I don’t know if the real issue was that she was ultra conservative about the use of power, or if she truly felt it was “too hot.” No use of resources happened without deliberation.

In addition to the tours of homes, we watched presentations about various ways in which people were given help in learning to make a living. We met women who had learned a skill, gone on to use that skill to support their families, and completed the circle by teaching other women to do the same thing. To see a woman empowered with the ability to rely on herself in order to feed and educate her children was to see a “dawn” of a new and improved life for that woman.

Carolyn Zimmerman, of Topeka, Kansas, said this about Bob after his death: “His steps and his life took him throughout the world, where he connected families across the divides of distance, privilege and poverty.”

The people I met in Guatemala were often people who had “no helper” and needed support to cross the divides that Carolyn wrote of. They were people who had been affected by violence and oppression. Perhaps not personally, but culturally. Although Bob did not treat them with the “pity” mentioned in this psalm, he saw the precious potential in each one. And through him, God helped them blossom.

As you reflect, how can you help someone in poverty blossom?

A Guatemalan Mother Participates In A Reforestation Project

A Guatemalan Mother Participates In A Reforestation Project


Photo credits: Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (www.hopeforafamily.org)