Welcome to my other blog. I started this one shortly after graduating from the C.I.A, to differentiate between my food and my other thoughts. It's a cozy little place with frequent weird but real, honest thoughts.

There's really not much more to say here, as anything mildly interesting is either down below or written in my Armadillo section above.
Hope you can relate to some of my thoughts and situations, even if they tend to be strange sometimes

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Simply Smiles

Yikes! I'm so late this month with my New Year's Resolution.

Last summer my mom and some members of our church joined an organization called "Simply Smiles" to volunteer at a reservation in South Dakota
Again, to save the trouble of trying to lamely explain what they do, here is an excerpt from their approach section on their website.(I am copying this with only the best of intentions and not in any way trying to pass this off as my own words)

"Our supporters, our donors, and our volunteers allow us to see the individual in need and support them in this same way – but on a scale of thousands of individuals and growing.
From the desolate prairies of an Indian reservation in South Dakota to the remote mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, this personal and holistic approach means we are providing food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, infrastructure, jobs, pride, dignity, hope, and solutions."

They are trying to make a real difference in these people's lives. They want to create sustainability, integrity and dignity for those they help. They don't want to just throw money at the problem. They really want to try and help them stand on their own feet.

In South Dakota, in the land they were given by the government (let's not get started on the American Government and Native Americans) is completely unsuitable for growing anything. The poverty, obesity, diabetes, drugs, alcohol and suicide rates are unfathomable.The unemployment rate is 90%. And Simply Smiles just wants to help fix that. In such a hopeless place, they try to bring a little light into it to secure a better future.
I like a lot of charities. I believe in dozens of great causes.  They are all worthy and good in their own way. I know this charity is currently "only" (which I use lightly) two different locations at the moment, but they are doing a lot of good and are trying to expand their work to other places. I think (and if I am incorrect, please correct me) it is Simply Smile's goal for them to not be needed in South Dakota anymore. I think their dream and aim is to do their work, get the Reservation put back together and settled in, and then leave and check up on them periodically. Then they can continue working with other places in need. 

As I said, my mother went for a week. It was a lot of work, outdoors in July. It sounded like an amazing experience and an exhausting one. I hope someday I can do similar things. Volunteering and getting firsthand insight on other ways of life, and being able to help others in need.

We attended the Fundraiser they had a week or so ago. My mother and I baked bar cookies for the event. I was interested to go to see their story and what they wanted to get accomplished this year. The young man who started this entire organization is energetic and incredible.
I was astonished at the amount of money people were donating to the event. Donating money in the thousands. The thousands. 5 grand here, 1 grand there. Beyond generous. Can you imagine? It is my dream (and I'm sure my husband's too) that one day we will be financially stable and can actually do that.

One day I hope I can donate hundreds or even thousands of dollars to a charity I believe in.  To be able to say "Yes! I believe in this cause! Take this money and make a difference in the world!" If I am able to achieve that in my life, my life will be very blessed and very worthwhile. To be rich enough to give it away would be a wonderful thing.

But for now, this is all we can do. Pick a good cause every month and donate what we can. And to tell you about what they do. Maybe one day I'll go from donating money to raising money to get myself to South Dakota to help Simply Smiles, or to Cambodia to help the Wat Opot Community. Or anywhere in the country for Habitat for Humanity. Or anything else that may come up.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Girl Scout Cookie Time!

Iiiit's that time again!  Girl Scout cookie season is upon us! I think I can safely say if we were never a Girl Scout we certainly knew someone who was. I put many years in pounding the pavement and parents' workplaces selling boxes of cookie goodness.

My cousin's daughter is a girl scout and I think this is her second or third year selling cookies. This year girls can sell their cookies online. I think it's a great idea! Now relatives and friends can support their favorite girl scout from miles away. I'm pleased the Association are enabling their scouts to use technology and other ways of doing business.

What I also really like about it is there's an option to donate boxes to an organization that sends the cookies to troops overseas. I love that! Giving Troops a little taste of home is so incredibly valuable. 

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this year. I started this resolution in the fall and now that we're fresh in 2015 I can't wait to share my favorite causes and charities with you. A whole year of good causes!

We're in Girl Scout Cookie season! Find out from your local troops who sends cookies overseas and get a few boxes for the soldiers! I know I'm trying very hard (and failing very hard) at "being" healthy this year. So you might wanna avoid the cookies. But that's no reason not to support your girl scout troop or your military overseas! They both are more than worthy of your love and support.

Here's my cousin's daughter's page, but if you have a scout of your own, mosey on over to their page and show them some love! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wat Opot Community

I'm going a little off the beaten path this month for my Pre-New Year's Resolution. Over the past few months I've typically donated and shared with you places that help a large amount of people. This month, I'm very glad to be able to share with you a small place in Cambodia.

I hope in sharing this with you I am not giving any misinformation. If I am mistaken in any of this, I am very sorry and will correct it accordingly. If I am unintentionally plagiarizing anything, I will correct that as well.

I recently finished a book, In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt

Briefly, it is about the time Gail spent in an Orphanage in Cambodia. But what made this Orphanage different was that children with HIV/AIDS lived there. They could live and receive an education, treatment and a loving atmosphere where they were once feared and abandoned.

To borrow from the website, "What is special about Wat Opot?  It is rare, and perhaps unique in Cambodia, for HIV-infected and non-infected children to live together as family, sharing homes and meals and playing together.  This sets an example for the community, and its effect on increasing tolerance and diminishing fear cannot be overstated.  Many orphanages are simply holding tanks, where fortunate children are either adopted out, or warehoused til they come of age.  Wayne sees Wat Opot as a loving extended family, a place where children will want to return to visit after they have left to live in the larger community.  It is open to everyone, the poorest of the poor, the most rejected and abandoned, regardless of religion or past experience, and to young and old.   Money is tight, but Wat Opot Project runs on the less quantifiable energies of love and kindness, service,  faith, and commitment" 

What really drew me to this community was one of its founders, Wayne. A Vietnam vet and the only survivor of an attack, Wayne wanted to be of service to others. He teamed up with a Buddhist, Vandine Sann, and created this community that would eventually be the Wat Opot.

What I really love about Wayne is his love and compassion. He gives himself fully into what he does every day.  I love his integrity and his deep faith. He is doing God's work. He is helping others and giving all the has to better the lives of others. He is truly a good man. I have so much respect and love for his work.  The people who volunteer with him are good people.

It got me really thinking about volunteering abroad. Living in Cambodia for a few months and doing what I could to help.
But I'd be lousy at it. I can easily follow the majority of the rules. I always dress modestly. I don't smoke/drink/do drugs.I would respect the culture and conduct myself in a way befitting of the community.I would throw myself into the community with love, enthusiasm, and respect.

The thing I would struggle with, is coddling the children. I would love and dote. I wouldn't be able to resit a sweet smile or a cute face. I would  be the one to buy 50 or more small pieces of candy for all the children. I wouldn't be able to restrain myself. I would become attached. Which would just be difficult for all of us once I left. I love kids. I tend to dote on the Regular's kids at work. I can't imagine how attached I could become to these children.

But Wat Opot really touched me. As amazing and life changing it would be to join a foundation that traveled to volunteer and help others; I don't think I'm ready for that in my life. Change like that is scary and wonderful. To quote a loved book, The Bean Trees "Some folks are heroes and take the risks, and other folks do what they can from behind the scenes." Until I get to that point of service in my life, I want to work behind the scenes.

 I encourage you to read the book. It is heartfelt and full of life. Getting to know Wayne, the volunteers and the children of the Wat Opot Community only furthers my resolve that one person can absolutely make a difference.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two Monks

On Sunday, my parents were having a dinner with a few family friends before a story telling event in town. My mom and her friend were in general discussing how at some point, we need to just let go of people. The friend then told a story about letting go. Here it is in full form.
Two monks were making a pilgrimage to venerate the relics of a great Saint. During the course of their journey, they came to a river where they met a beautiful young woman -- an apparently worldly creature, dressed in expensive finery and with her hair done up in the latest fashion. She was afraid of the current and afraid of ruining her lovely clothing, so asked the brothers if they might carry her across the river.

The younger and more exacting of the brothers was offended at the very idea and turned away with an attitude of disgust. The older brother didn't hesitate, and quickly picked the woman up on his shoulders, carried her across the river, and set her down on the other side. She thanked him and went on her way, and the brother waded back through the waters.

The monks resumed their walk, the older one in perfect equanimity and enjoying the beautiful countryside, while the younger one grew more and more brooding and distracted, so much so that he could keep his silence no longer and suddenly burst out, "Brother, we are taught to avoid contact with women, and there you were, not just touching a woman, but carrying her on your shoulders!"

The older monk looked at the younger with a loving, pitiful smile and said, "Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river; you are still carrying her." 


I'm not always "great" at releasing a grudge. There's a lingering bitterness over The Pie Shop Of Horrors that I hope will one day go away permanently.  But that probably wont happen until their inevitable demise of their business. Opps. There I go again. 

When do we get to let go of our past? When do we get to put down our past regrets, mistakes, downfalls and bitterness? 

No long post here. Just an opened ended question to reflect upon. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November Charity: Operation Christmas Child

Continuing on with my Early New Year's Resolution. I know it's November and my charity for this month is Christmas related, but I know these boxes are on a dead line.Operation Christmas Child is a charity through the Samaritans Purse. For $25, you can put together a box for a child of varying ages and it gets sent anywhere around the world with God's love. For my box, I chose a box for a Girl between 10-14, as I assumed that age group probably doesn't get much attention.

I heard a lot about it in the South. My sister-in-law's Church were assembling many, many boxes in South Carolina and in Virginia my Uncle and Aunt's Church were doing the same thing.  I had known about it before the trip, but hearing about it twice in two different states sealed the deal for me.

I try to stay out of religion topics. It's a touchy subject for most people. But to get a little Religious without getting too deep into it, I believe in God and that Jesus loves us. I believe in Jesus' work in helping others. We need to do our part to be more "Christ Like" Whether that be just being kinder and more patient, or donating time, things or money. There's always something we can do to be better people.  I know religion is much more complicated than that. But faith, love and compassion are essential to living a good life. 

If you don't want to dabble in religious organizations, there are plenty of other options for Christmas giving. The Red Kettles for the Salvation Army is my husband's and I most favored and most frequented Holiday time charity. Toys for Tots is also excellent. Of course, there are always food banks to donate to and warm clothes to give anywhere in your town.

Holidays really are a time of giving. Please consider donating this year in lieu of buying someone a gift. Because that $20 you spend on a sweater can go and change someone's life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Month 2- Cranio Care Bears

I plan on taking this monthly resolution very seriously.

Here are a few rules.

1. I will donate to a different charity every month
2. The only exception to this is food donations, which I tend to do bi-monthly, or the Salvation Army during the holiday season, where change is given to the red kettles at every opportunity.
3. It has to be something I am particularly passionate or compassionate about.

Just wanted to clear that up. I'll probably say it again throughout the experience.

I think "Awareness" is great. But only if it's something we were previous unaware or under educated about. Breast Cancer Awareness is UBIQUITOUS. ALL YEAR. But the very worst part is very little of the pink clothes, keychains, jewelry, pens, paper, shoes, dolls, hats, shoelaces, ETC, very rarely goes to anything. It's to "raise awareness" which means "You just paid 30.99 for a t-shirt. The profits will go to the manufacturer" It's a ruse. A clever game to guilt and bully you into buying crap.

Awareness is great but talk is cheap. Donate actual money to actual cancer that will help research, or take care of those in chemo, or support families of those who are affected. There is so much more you can do than buy a keyring or wear a hat.

 As I said before, "Awareness" is wonderful when you learn something new. I didn't know a lot about quite a lot of things before Awareness Days and Months came about.

I know there are endless amounts of things that can impact someone's life. Such as Bilateral Perisylvian Polymicrogyria, autism, cancers, Downs syndrome, NF,  Multiple sclerosis, countless birth defects, developmental and physical disabilities/limitations. All of them are equally deserving of help and awareness and attention.

This month, I'm going to be helping Cranio Bears.  
My cousin-in-law had a baby girl the summer of 2012. It was discovered she had craniosynostosis. Because I am completely uneducated and unfit to write a blurb about it, here is a quick overview from the Cranio Bear site.

I've seen and heard a lot about it since her daughter was born and I really want to help raise awareness. I feel like we need to stick together and support each other in our quest to be heard and understood.
The site I am donating to this month offers support and care packages for the (often very young) children undergoing the surgery. They are simple packages designed to give a little love and comfort throughout the process. Which I think is really nifty. And since my family in Ohio received such love through this foundation, I want to support it too.

 I think helping families and the people going through can be as important as researching cures and treatments. Providing care and support and comfort can change a child's or families' outlook and give them the extra love they need to walk through the difficult journey and recovery process.

I know not many people read this, but I am sending this out into the internet world. Trendy marketing campaigns and pink and ribbons and such can be nice. But without the proper research and educated donating, you really wont be helping those who need it most. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County

I decided to start local, and with a cause I find very important. Food banks! I like to give actual food to the donation bin at my grocery store each month, but I know dollars can help do more.

Food was -always- around at my house. I ate meals in-between my meals as a kid. Then ate dinner. Then dessert. Then possibly a bowl of cereal or toast before bed. I never had to worry about being hungry.

But as I grew more aware of my peers and as I grew up, I realized not everyone is that lucky. I love food so much, and it's heartbreaking to think someone doesn't have the access to food most people in the country do. Most of us are lucky; we don't give a second thought to what or where or when we'll eat. This country in general is lucky like that. What's that term? Hunger Anxiety? It's a thing where there isn't enough to eat and you don't know when you'll get food again. I know I'll think of it at 2 am and then wake up with no memory of it.

So after doing some research on Charity Navigator  I wanted to find a local food bank with a high rating. I'm still trying to understand the percentages and such. But the pie charts break down everything into a language I can understand. You want a charity that allocates A LOT of their donations to their cause.

You also want to be careful to donate directly to the intended site. When I clicked "Donate now" it lead me to a third party site. While the fee is 3%-5% to process the donation, it's still better to go directly to the source.

So, here we are at The Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.    .$0.97 out of every dollar is used to benefit the program. Which is actually quite a lot. It has a four star rating on charity navigator and since it is in my state, I'm starting here.

Holidays are approaching, but food is needed year round. Please consider donating food or funds to your own local food banks. It's one of those places were a little goes a very long way.