Stirring the pot, raising hell and rearing children in the Bay Area

Posts Tagged "Giving"

Giving Time

Posted on Aug 6, 2013 in Family and Friends, Giving |

Giving Time

“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” ~ Arthur Ashe

I started working in a nasty corner charity shop that was dark and grey and smelled like dead old people. It was for my community service hours as part of a national philanthropy organization, which shall remain nameless. Never, even once, did it feel like I was working for my community or making the world a better place. It felt like a lame, monthly obligation. And it was.

I grew up helping people at events designed to give kids “community service” hours. It was good for our high school applications, and great for college entrance brownie points. But, it missed the point. My Community Service didn’t feel remotely like I was part of a community, and even less, providing a service.

Going out on a limb here: I want my kids to want to give.

I suppose if we were part of a church, there would be built-in community service. If we were part of Boy Scouts, then we’d have charity work at-the-ready. But truth is, even that kind of giving is forced giving. It’s what you have to do, not what you yearn for.

So, a year ago, I plated the seed with my then twin 9-year-olds. I told them when they turned 10 in July 2013, they’d begin service to their community. They’d pick their own avenue of giving, be as creative as they wanted to be, but that there were two rules:

  1. Each child must give their age in hours monthly. (So at age 10, they’d do 10 hours per month).
  2. You have to stick with your choice, however difficult, boring, tedious, for a period of one year.

July came around and the kids set out to pick their organizations. There is power in choosing where you want to put your free time and they were excited. But that faded pretty quickly when we realized that our community is not used to kids giving just for the sake of it.

My son tried his first pick, the library. No go. No kids can volunteer until age 13. Then came his second pick, Sacred Heart Community Services. Nope, no youth volunteers. My daughter tried ASPCA. No way, too much liability. Her second try at The Thrift Box  — they don’t take kids, even with adult supervision.

Then the third, fourth and fifth tries came and went. No luck. No one wants 10-year old kids who want to give their time to help the community.

We’re stumped.  There has got to be a way for our younger kids to learn the feeling of giving, however small.

Got any ideas?





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Gas Station Stalking and Other Random Acts of Kindness

Posted on Dec 9, 2010 in Featured, Giving, Motherboard |

Gas Station Stalking and Other Random Acts of Kindness

We sat quietly in the corner of the parking lot — inconspicuous as we could be, staking out the Rotten Robbie gas station. We watched people come and go, and waited patiently to pounce. Who was the next target of the day going to be? We wanted unsuspecting citizens — unaware of our stealth plan.

Inside the car, the four of us whispered, sitting low in our seats and diverting our eyes from suspecting passersby. How we’d pull-off the job was thoroughly discussed. And then, our opportunity arrived: a white Ford Explorer, driven by a 50-something woman. As we gave the O-K sign, I crouched down low and ran from our car into the gas station and shoved $20 into the attendant’s hand:

“HER!,” I whispered, “We want to pay for her gas! Now! Pump 4! Go! Go!”

I put my cap down and walked unsuspectingly back to our car, quietly closed the door and started the car. Next it was time for LaGringa’s part of the job. The woman walked into the station to pay for her gas and we peeled out of the parking lot, whipping an illegal u-turn and zooming up to the woman’s car. La Gringa jumped out and put our calling card on her car door. Then we took off, finding shelter, parked stealthily across the street and waited.

The woman came out of the gas station looking around in both directions — she was clearly suspicious of our actions. She walked carefully to her car and picked up the card on her door looked at both sides of it before reading what it said:

You received this act as part of Yahoo!’s effort to spread joy around the world. We hope this inspires you to make the ripple grow by doing something good for someone else. That’s how good grows. Share it at

Our car exploded with excitement. We pulled-off the job! Slowly, we creeped our not-so-stealthy red SUV out of the parking lot in cheers.

Back at the lair, we surveyed our booty: we secretly had hit three gas stations paying fo gas for unsuspecting citizens, bought bagels for two senior citizens who’d just gone for a run, and given out Lottery tickets to strangers on the street throughout San Jose. We were high on the thrill of secret giving. The feeling of giving a random act of kindness was not only contagious, but addictive. We piled in the getaway car and headed south, casing out our next target.

As part of my role with the Yahoo! Motherboard, I was given $100 in cash to pass-on random acts of kindness during the holiday season. You can learn more at: How Good Grows, Start a ripple of kindness with one simple act.
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Call it a Sprain… Or Karma

Posted on Sep 15, 2010 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves, Featured |

Call it a Sprain… Or Karma

I’m not certain what you’d call my faith — faith of everything? The church of me smothered with a mix of various principles I believe in? Reformed Catholic with a smidgen of reformed Catholic rebellion? I have a wall in my bedroom that has little representations of many faiths and cultures around the world. There are about 20 little of these trinkets that surround a giant mirror in the middle. My bedroom wall encompasses what I believe at my core: faith is cool, especially when it’s anchored by an even more rad thing called myself. That’s all well and good until myself does stupid stuff. Then, I call on my overriding belief in Karma.

I’m not sure if Karma means a tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye type thing, or if it’s more that, in general, goodness rules over bad. So, if I steal a parking spot from someone I know had waited for it, I know that I’m likely to end up parking in whoop-whoop the next time I’m running late and desperate for a space. This is a sliding scale, of course. If I steal a parking spot from an old lady, well, then I’ll never find a parking spot and go around in circles searching  until I have to pee so badly that I have to give up and drive home. The punishment fits the crime.

Karma keeps me honest: Give the parking spot up to the old lady and someday someone will give up theirs for my walking-disabled mom. It’s not exactly a giving philosophy — it’s wildly self-serving. I like to think of it this way: I get out of life what I put into it, and if I can be as good a person as possible, I’m likely to reap that goodness from others. I also believe in the opposite. So, it was no surprise the other day when I suffered from a case of bad karma.

I was hiking with my best friend and talking trash about one of her other friends that I really don’t like. I think this woman is beneath her; worthless and, if I can remember correctly, even called her a “waste of good air.” Oh yeah, I had it coming. My friend mentioned to me that this woman had tripped over a tree stump hiking the other day and broken her arm — I told her it couldn’t happen to a better person.

And then, I fell over a tree stump.

I ended up in the ER with a giant bruiser on my ankle. Crutches, a splint, the whole bit. I didn’t have a single oh crap moment — I knew that I had paid a debt that I owed the House. What’s fair is fair, right?

My foot hurt is still swollen as all getout. It hurts. Again:  punishment fits the crime.

Hobbling around town on crutches last week, people asked me what happened to my foot.

I simply replied: “Karma.”

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Stop and Go

Posted on May 5, 2010 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves, Featured |

Stop and Go

All hell has been breaking loose for a few months now. As most of you know from my posts at SV Moms, I’m pretty open about most of my life and it’s awesomeness and even crappiness, at times, but not this. This is just personal and hard.

Every morning for four months, I wake up  wondering how, and if, my mom will wake up today.  My mom is really fucking sick. And, truth be told, she really is the only thing that matters to me minute-to-minute right now. My life is on automatic-pilot. I get done what I have to get done and go where I should and do what I should at the bare minimum I can do it. Everything is stopped.

My mom doesn’t have a disease you’ve ever heard of and there aren’t really any cool races you can do to donate money for a cure. There’s not a t-shirt or a fund, there isn’t a sparkly skirt to wear in her honor.  It’s not cancer where everyone knows someone who has it. It’s a lonely, mean, shithouse disease called Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating PolyNeuropathy,  an unpredictable disease that attacks the body at-will. One day you might walk, the next, you are bound to a wheelchair. For hell’s sake, she was *just* dancing at my brother’s wedding six months ago.

Everything in our world has come to a stopping point. That is, until last weekend.

Last weekend I joined a group of 12 mom bloggers for a 200-mile run from Napa Valley to Santa Cruz. We’re not talking diapers-and-cheerios-type moms, we’re talking serious female writers who are on the forefront of a leading influential industry. As exciting as the run sounded,  by the time I made it to the team dinner, I was convinced that I’d made a huge mistake. I truly didn’t feel it was wise to leave my family. It’s just not a good time.

We left for Napa in the wee hours of the morning, and by the time @la_gringa set off for the first leg of our two-day journey, I understood that it wasn’t only a good time to be doing this race, it was The Time to be doing this race. It hit me that the Universe had given me these specific women, during this specific weekend, for a specific reason: they were here to let me GO.

And Go, I did. I ran four legs totalling 17.2 miles in 30-something hours at a pace of about 9:50. Every time I’d hop back in the van, I wanted to hug every single team member. They didn’t know the immense gifts they were giving me by the moment. They teased me about my runner’s high — every tree, person, view from the third row of the GMC van was more beautiful than the next. But, it wasn’t the endorphins at all, it was the joy of being in-motion. I’ve done a lot of racing in my time, every po-dunk 5k, four marathons, a haphazard 31-miler and dozens of 1/2 marathons. Each race comes with something special, but this one was different, it wasn’t a race I ran, instead, it was a freedom to run when my mom cannot walk. A freedom to GO when my whole world is STOPPED.

I’ve been home from the race for two days. Mom was admitted to the hospital this morning. She’s not well. It’s not good. As I pack up to head over to the hospital for the umpteenth time this afternoon, I take with me new gifts of GO. From my Heather, the ability to laugh through this; from Marie the excitement of working things out; from Christine the ability to steadily put one foot in front of the other to get to tomorrow; from Linsey the wisdom to walk, not run the toughest of hills; from Jane the subtle ability to stay-the-course even on the windy road; from Van 2, that lying under the stars can inspire; and from my dear @la_gringa the reminder to put my shoulders back (or in, as the case might be) and keep GOing.

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A Good Guy for a Good Cause

Posted on Nov 27, 2009 in Giving, Holidays, School |

As many of you know, our annual Community Tree Lighting Ceremony  is Thursday, December 3 at 6:30 p.m. As more of you know, I nearly lost my skull worried over the actual *lighting* of the tree. It’s a bad economy, we all know it. But no lit tree in our town? Really, I need a scotch just thinking of it.

But the tree will be lit and the community will have it’s tradition. This year, we won’t be using a cherry picker or crane to hang our lights —instead, Straun Edwards, arborist and owner of Trees 360 Degrees will deck the tree by doing what he does best: climbing! Our angel wears spikes in his shoes and is a whopping  6-foot-8.

Tomorrow my tree lighting angel will hang the lights. You know where I live? Then come out to see Straun 45-feet sky-high in the neighborhood tree tomorrow at our local elementary school.  That’s right, Mr. Edwards’ donation is to *litearlly* climb the giant fir tree outside the school to hang the lights for the tree during the holidays.

We fly home tomorrow to watch Straun climb the tree (kids are freaking out, they think he is SpiderMan). I’m grateful to him beyond what he knows for a cause more important that he could ever guess.

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Pinching Pennies? Time to Give

Posted on Oct 13, 2009 in Family, Friends, Rants and Raves, Giving |

Somehow I’ve always believed that the more you give, the more you get. Of course, it’s not true, but I like the idea of it being true. It’s sort of like karma and justice mixed together — give and you’ll receive. Maybe I give so I can receive? I know that when I receive I think it must be in response to something I must have given and if I can’t think of how I’ve given, I try to make it up and give right away to make sure the scales are balanced. When we’re waiting for payday, I try to take leftover food with me in the car and find a homeless woman to give it to. Somtimes that backfires (one woman screamed at me that she didn’t want my sloppy seconds). Sometimes when I feel particularly fortunate, I make sure I give, however small, as a bargaining chip for my own desire to stay in the good graces of karma.

It seems that no matter where I turn, I hear of charities in desperate need since in economic times like we’re in now, people give less. Actually, correction, well-off people give less percentage to charity. Believe it or not, poorer people give more of their income during hard economic times.

Today is a good day to take a moment to give. No matter how small. Tip the karma scale today.

Some of my favorites:

The George Mark Children’s House — Hospice for Young, Dying Children here in the Bay Area is in deep jeopardy.

Sacred Heart Community Center – Offering clothes, food and shelter to families in need in Silicon Valley

and my personal, most dear charity: Pro Mujer — Microloans (as low as $5) to women in Latin American countries to benefit their health and families

What’s charity is close to your heart? How about giving just a few bucks today?

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