Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Recap of My Big Year

On July 15, 2013, I began a challenge to give something away every day for one year and blog about it. At that time I didn’t know that it would be such a gigantic commitment.

There were many trying life events that happened during the year. I comtemplated quitting several times, but there was always someone who lifted me up. Tim said time and again, “You’ve had a lot of reasons to give up over the last year, but this isn’t one of them.” Some of the events were:
  • Several friends and close family members died.
  • Receiving cards, letters and “likes” on Facebook that encouraged me when I was ready to quit.
  • Professional endeavors didn’t work out.
  • Teaching online was much more time intensive than I expected.
  • A fun college roommate reunion where I wanted to spend every minute reminiscing and not writing a blog.
  • Feeling like I had given away everything that I could possibly think of, but still had to think of something else.
  • One time I went to bed early after a really disappointing day. Tim woke me up at 10:30 p.m. to say that he had written my blog for me. He wrote a story that he had heard me tell and wanted me to be sure he got the facts accurate.
  • Attending a convention that was so intense that I didn’t have the brain power to think about a gift or write about it.
  • Going on adventures where I didn’t have internet access.
In spite of the highs and lows, I learned so much about myself and other people. Below are some of the highlights.

Most blessings:
The Gift Goes to the Giver
Enriching Lives
Recognizing Warning Signs

Most fun:
Cause to Paws
An Encouraging Word
You Might have Moved Too Many Times If . . .
One White, One Black
Laughing at Yourself
From the Kitchen of . . .
Secret Santa
Try Nt Prncg Yr Vwls
Texts Gone Bad
Hugging Instructions Not Included

Most likes on Facebook:
A Fun Contraption
Surprise Change
Family Giving
Human Goodness Wins
Speedy, the Not So Speedy Dog
A Gift of Sharing

Most views:
Free Rice for a Better Vocabulary
Family Giving

Felt the best:
Anonymous Love Letters
Smile, You’re On Candid Camera
Having Just Enough
Parking Space Karma
The New Normal

Most emotional:
If I Knew Then What I Know Now
Supporting Firefighters
An Angel Among Us
Blame Someone Else
A Gift of Sharing
Train of Memories
If I Were in Charge of the World
March Madness to March Gladness
Everybody’s Got a Story
Let Them Drink Coffee

Most comments:
Pantyhose Won
Free Ride

Real Life:
Distilling the Truth
Grumpy Gratitude
Don’t Let a Thief Steal Your Passion
The Job Candidate Said, What?!!!
Demon of Cancer

Most quizzical:
Human Goodness Wins
Watching a Movie in Person

Most Difficult: 

Biggest Surprise:
Comfort in Chaos

Help from Friends:
Girls Gone Wiles

This past week in my blog I quoted
eighty-seven year old Rose. She said, “In one year, I will be one year older whether I go to bed for a year or not.”
I chose to make this past year one that I will always remember.
Colin Powell said it best, “Giving back involves a certain amount of giving up.” Thank you all for coming on the journey with me.                                                                   

In Giving,

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Dalai Lama Laughs Because . . .

I have been confronted with many difficulties throughout the course of my life, and my country is going through a critical period. But I laugh often, and my laughter is contagious. When people ask me how I find the strength to laugh now, I reply that I am a professional laugher. [...]

The life of exile is an unfortunate life, but I have always tried to cultivate a happy state of mind, appreciating the opportunities this existence without a settled home, far from all protocol, has offered me. This way I have been able to preserve my inner peace.

If we are content just to think that compassion, rationality, and patience are good, that is not actually enough to develop these qualities. Difficulties provide the occasion to put them into practice. Who can make such occasions arise? Certainly not our friends, but rather our enemies, for they are the ones who pose the most problems. So that we truly want to progress on the path, we must regard our enemies as our best teachers.

For whoever holds love and compassion in high esteem, the practice of tolerance is essential, and it requires an enemy. We must be grateful to our enemies, then, because they help us best engender a serene mind! Anger and hatred are the real enemies that we must confront and defeat, not the “enemies” who appear from time to time in our lives.

Of course it is natural and right that we all want to have friends. I often say jokingly that a truly selfish person must be altruistic! You have to take care of others, of their well-being, by helping them and serving them, to have even more friends and make more smiles blossom. The result? When you yourself need help, you will find all you need! On the other hand, if you neglect others’ happiness, you will be the loser in the long run. Is friendship born of arguments, anger, jealousy, and unbridled competition? I don’t think so. Only affection produces authentic friends. […]

As for me, I always want more friends. I love smiles, and my wish is to see more smiles, real smiles, for there are many kinds—sarcastic, artificial, or diplomatic. Some smiles don’t arouse any satisfaction, and some even engender suspicion or fear. An authentic smile, though, arouses an authentic feeling of freshness, and I think the smile belongs only to human beings. If we want those smiles, we must create the reasons that make them appear.
The Dalai Lama, in an excerpt from his book "My Spiritual Journey.”

Today’s gift was to send a card to someone who helped me through a day when I doubted that my giving challenge was worth the effort. On that day I received a heartfelt card from her telling me how much she enjoyed reading it. That was the encouragement that I needed to keep going. Today is day number 365 and I have received numerous blessings. Thank you for being on this journey with me. Tomorrow I will recap my year of giving and share some of my feelings and insights that I gained.

In Giving on Day 365,

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to Take a Chance

In this video Jim Carrey said, “You can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Today’s gift was to give a friend encouragement to enter the speaking profession. I offered to help her write a proposal for an upcoming speech. I also shared names of prominent speakers who would be good role models. I want to live life by taking chances doing what I love. How about you?

In Giving,


Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Comeback, Not the Setback

Last year at the National Speakers Association convention I heard Robyn Benincasa talk about her trials and tribulations. She is a firefighter and a 10-time Ironman, but she hasn’t always been as fit as she is today.

Seven years ago, Robyn was running in an eco-challenge adventure race when her leg gave out. She collapsed and dragged herself to the finish line. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with stage-four osteoarthritis in both hips, and her doctor told her she would never run again.

"I was in shock, because my body had never betrayed me before," said Benincasa, 47. "I always found a way to get through whatever it was, so I pretended it wasn't happening for a little while. And then I was being rolled into surgery for my first hip replacement."

Benincasa has since had three more hip replacements, but she never let it stop her. After the first one, she was inspired by a friend to start scheduling herself in events for which she could train. She realized it could also be a way to help inspire other women in their recovery so she started the organization Project Athena to help women recovering from medical or traumatic setbacks achieve their athletic goals.

One of those women, Alli Morgan, lived for sports. She was a cyclist, a climber, and played on her high school's softball and field hockey teams. That all ended abruptly her sophomore year on the day Morgan tore a ligament in her right knee during a field hockey game. She underwent ACL surgery, expecting a quick recovery. Instead, it led to 45 more operations on her knee, months in the hospital and a diagnosis of a rare genetic disorder. Morgan faced a difficult decision: Continue to undergo more surgery or consider amputation. "I thought of what I wanted out of life. I was on crutches for six years. I had a leg that was basically dead weight," she said. Morgan opted to have her leg amputated above the knee. "This was not about a loss of a limb," she said. "It was about regaining my life." During that process, Morgan found hope in Project Athena.

"Being an Athena, you're not just a survivor, you're an adventurer," Benincasa said. "We give them a different label to put on themselves, and it's something they become on their way to the finish line."

It's not about the setback; it's about the comeback. This is a reminder to the athletes and those around them to always try to see “challenges” in life and not “roadblocks”.

Today’s gift was a donation to the Project Athena Foundation. It  inspires me to remember that it is not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it.

In Giving,

Friday, July 11, 2014

Avoid Catching Abibliophobia

Today’s gift was a donation to the Klamath County Library Legacy fund. This will keep people who live in Klamath Falls from catching abibliophobia.

In Giving,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Those Shoes have Soul

Several years ago on Bourbon Street in New Orleans a man was saying to people passing by, “For $5, I’ll tell you where you got ‘dem shoes.” Of course, there was no way he knew where people were from, much less where they got their shoes. When someone said, “Sure, I’ll give you $5 dollars to tell me.” He said, “’Dem shoes are right there on the sidewalk!” Then, he strutted off with a pocketful of money.

It is an interesting thought process to think about the places that my tennis shoes have been. The list may look something like this:

·      South Carolina
·      Pennsylvania
·      West Virginia
·      Oregon
·      Utah
·      Colorado
·      California
·      Nevada
·      New Jersey

In each of those states my shoes took hikes, walks, worked out in gyms, shopped and rode a bicycle. Sometimes they even went to a movie theatre or into a restaurant.

A Nike shoe advertisement says, “You gave your shoes a soul. Now give them another life.” Their recycle program takes old tennis shoes and creates a new material, which is used to make high-quality sports surfaces including courts, turf fields, tracks and more.

Today's gift was to take my tennis shoes, and the memories attached to them to the local running store. The soul of my shoes will now create new memories for those who put their soles on the sports surfaces.

In Giving,

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finding a Security Blanket

Most children find comfort in a favorite pacifier, doll or blanket. I really liked my pacifier. Other kids drag around a blanket like Linus in the Charlie the Brown comic strip. One woman, Karen Loucks, realized some children need something to help comfort them.

On Christmas Eve, 1995, she read an article titled “Joy to the World” that appeared in Parade Magazine. It was written by Pulitzer Prize winning photo-journalist, Eddie Adams. Part of the article featured a petite, downy haired child named Laura:

“Laura has unusual compassion for others,” Charlotte Barry-Williams of Oceanside, California, says of her daughter, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 1993. “I guess part of the reason is that she has experienced so much pain herself.”

A special “blankie” has helped Laura, 3, get through more than two years of intensive chemotherapy. She takes it to the hospital with her when she goes for treatment. When she was first diagnosed, 97 percent of her bone marrow contained cancerous cells. Although chemotherapy has helped eradicate the cancer, she has had to endure nausea, high fevers and the loss of her hair. An allergic reaction at one point caused her to lose vital signs.

“She doesn’t understand what cancer means,” her mother says. “She’s a very joyous and happy person, very curious.” Her mother hopes Laura can start preschool next spring.

After reading the article, Karen Loucks decided to provide homemade security blankets to Denver's Rocky Mountain Children's Cancer Center, and Project Linus was born. Currently there are 309 chapters in the United States and they have collected and distributed over 5 million blankets. The local Klamath Falls Chapter donated 1,041 blankets in 2013 and since they became a chapter, a total of 8,970 blankets.

Today’s gift was a donation to Klamath Falls Project Linus for materials to make blankets. The children who desperately need a security blanket will have one thanks to the wonderful volunteers who make them with love.

In Giving,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Don’t be a Sucker

Albert Einstein once said: “Nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish cooperation of many individuals." Alas, when it comes to joining together to conserve Earth's resources and protect our planet for future generations, we humans have proven to be a decidedly uncooperative lot.

"There has been a great deal of work on how people cooperate with those they see every day–-their colleagues or friends,"Dr. Martin Nowak, professor of mathematics and biology at Harvard University, said in a written statement. "But an open question is how people cooperate with future generations. How do you make altruistic decisions today that benefit people tomorrow?"

For those who worry that we'll never come together to protect our planet, a provocative new study involving game theory, conducted by Nowak and a colleague at Yale University, offers a glimmer of hope.

For the study, 480 men and women took turns playing a “public goods” game, in which five players at a time divided a pool of resources among themselves.
Each player was allowed to collect a maximum of 20 "units" of the resource, out of 100 units total. The players were told that if they collected all of the resources, none would be left for future people who played the game. They could only "harvest" up to half of the resources if they wanted to preserve the resources for future players.

How did the games play out? Players exhausted the resources in almost every game. In most cases, four of the players would cooperate and make decisions to preserve the resources, while one rogue player took a big share.
The researchers said this suggests that most people actually are cooperative, but they only want to cooperate if they are certain other people will do the same—essentially, no one wants to be the sucker.

"In some sense, this illustrates why the free market fails to solve problems like climate change," Nowak said in the statement. "Even if you want to cooperate with the future, you may not do so because you are afraid of being exploited by the present."

Then the researchers had 370 players play the game, but this time, vote on how much of the resource should be given to each player. They took the median of the votes and distributed that amount—and what they found next was pretty surprising.

"When we implemented this system, virtually every resource was saved," Nowak said in the statement. "The surprising observation is that while there is a minority of people who don't want to cooperate, the majority of people vote altruistically. They are not voting to maximize their own benefit, and that's what allows for cooperation with the future."

This version of the game also reassured cooperators that they would not become "the sucker," and it allowed cooperative players to keep the rogue player in check.
Reprinted from the Huffington Post

This experiment demonstrates that we, as a collective community, can work together to be good stewards of our natural resources. That’s why today’s gift was to designate Klamath Sustainable Communities as the beneficiary of a percentage of the dollars I spend at the local Fred Meyer grocery store. So, if we all aspire to be more cooperative and work together to create a better future, no one will have to worry about being a sucker.

Watch the video of the game being played:

In Giving,

Monday, July 7, 2014

Confessions of a Chocoholic

When I was seven years old I saw the movie The Sound of Music. I dreamed of traveling to Switzerland, singing with Julie Andrews and the vonTrapp kids in the fields of wildflowers surrounded by snow-covered mountaintops. I wanted to see the Matterhorn, ride a funicular on the steep train tracks up the side of a mountain and eat chocolate. Wait—did I mention that I wanted to eat chocolate? And lots of it!

My first trip to Europe was to Austria and Germany. I visited St. Peter’s Graveyard in Salzburg, which was the model for the cemetery in the Sound of Music. However, I still dreamed of the Swiss Alps.

The next year my friend, Kathy, invited me to go skiing in Switzerland but I told her that I was not able to go. Three days before she was to leave on her trip, the Today show was doing a feature called Where in the World is Matt Lauer—he was in Switzerland. I emailed Kathy and told her to watch it when she woke up.

She emailed back, “Come with me, come with me.” Again, I told her I couldn’t go. Kathy pleaded with me because her friend was not able to make the trip. Although a frequent flyer ticket at that late date seemed impossible, I told her I would try. To our surprise, I was on the plane three days later travelling to a place I had dreamed of for so long!

After 15 hours of travel, we stepped off of the train in Interlaken, Switzerland. Our first stop was the grocery store. I was in chocolate heaven. The aisles went as far as I could see with three levels of different kinds of chocolate candy. Kathy suggested the 10-pound bag. I said that was too much, but she reasoned that we could give it as gifts to people when we returned home.

Ten days later, as we are packing our suitcases, Kathy said we needed to buy chocolate to give as gifts. I said, “No, remember we bought plenty.” She replied, “Someone ate it!” And that was how our chocoholism was self-diagnosed.

Obviously, sweets and chocolate were an important part of my life. Unfortunately, my father had age onset diabetes. It is hereditary, which means I’m also susceptible.

Today’s gift was a donation to the American Diabetes Association that has a matching gift program until August 15th. When they find a cure, people like me will be able to enjoy their chocoholic binges without worrying about diabetes.

In Giving,

Sunday, July 6, 2014

No Regrets

Motivational speaker Dan Clark wrote this story in his book, Chicken Soup for the College Soul:

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned round to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?" I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.

"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked. She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids..."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age. "I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it! There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.”

“If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets." She concluded her speech by courageously singing The Rose.

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.
I love an encouraging story. A Facebook friend posted another inspiring story about a Southern Oregon filmmaker, Gary Lundgren, who is funding his newest movie. Today’s gift was a donation to the movie due out in 2015 called Black Road. You can see a preview here. Just like Rose, Gary will have no regrets because he pursued his dreams.
In Giving,

The Rose sung by Bette Midler. 

Words to the song The Rose:

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed.
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger,
An endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower,
And you its only seed.

It's the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
Who cannot seem to give,
And the soul afraid of dyin'
That never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long,
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong,
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun's love
In the spring becomes the rose.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stop That

Maxine, the comic strip character has a lot to say about life:

1.   “After a certain age, if you don’t wake up aching in every joint, you are probably dead.”
2.   “Take every birthday with a grain of salt. This works much better if the salt accompanies a large margarita”.
3.   “It’s scary when you start making the same noises as your coffeemaker.”
4.   “My memory’s not as sharp as it used to be. Also my memory’s not as sharp as it used to be”
5.   “To stay relaxed in today’s frantic, stressful world, you have to force yourself to stop & put your feet up. I put mine up just high enough to kick the butt of whoever’s annoying me.”
6.   “ I don’t see the glass as half-empty or half-full. I see it as a glass somebody else has already put their lousy germs on.”
7.   “Real women don’t have hot flashes, they have POWER SURGES!!”
8.   “I’ll carpool when I can find three people who don’t talk, sweat, whistle, or use cologne.”
9.     “I enjoy wallpapering, it gives me a chance to brush up on the swear words I haven’t used in a while.”
10.  “Caffeine is for people who feel they aren’t irritable enough on their own.”
11.  “Sometimes the days just fly by—except for the day when you have to wait for the cable guy.”
12.  “Found something at the swimsuit shop I was really comfortable in. The dressing room.”
13.  “I like to give advice to young parents: but “Muzzle that screamin’ brat!” isn’t very well received.”
14.  “If I had a nickel for every time I’ve misplaced my keys, there’d be a jarful of money that I’d also have to look for.”
15.  “Sometimes work can be stressful. Especially for people that work with me.”
16.  “Aging, like fine wine, means spending a lot of your time on your side, lying down.”

I don’t know if aging is like a fine wine, but people who open a bottle of wine need something to replace the cork to help preserve what is leftover. Today’s gift was to give our friend Mary Liz a hand painted wine stopper. Now, what would Maxine say about stopping that?

In Giving,