Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Heart Break Meets Heart Seek

Over the last few weeks, I've been blessed and cursed to learn about some serious issues that plague our community and most likely yours too. As most any human does, I have a weakness for children and animals. Not necessarily because they're cute and tiny, but mostly because they're defenseless. Both require care, protection, and the simple things that most of us take for granted like the inability to feed and provide for themselves at times. I want to protect both. I always will. I need to.

When told the story recently of a non-profit in town that provides a warm meal, mentoring, tutoring, and a fun and friendly break from the lives that their participants are subject to the other 18 hours of the day, I fought back tears. This group opens its doors every day from 3pm-8pm for anyone between the ages of 4-18 who has nowhere else to go. And I mean nowhere. Not just figuratively. And just like that, due to laws, they have to turn them out into the darkness at 8pm. Alone, just as they were at 2:59pm. Where do they go? I'm not really sure I'm ready to know the answer just yet.

These kids have either been abandoned by their parents/parent, their parent is incarcerated, etc... To not know where your parent is boggles my mind. These kids wander in from the streets for the 5 hours of somewhat normalcy all by themselves. Thanks to the 3 staff members and over 85 volunteers, they're treated to laughter, hugs, and a hot meal. During my childhood, those things weren't "treats", they simply came with the territory, whether I deserved them or not.

Each child is also given the basic needs such as a toothbrush, hygiene products, and chapstick. I'm not sure why but the chapstick makes me cry every time I think about it or even type it out here. Apparently because these kiddos spend the majority of their time outside, braving our Illinois winters, their lips are severely dry, cracking and bleeding. And now my heart bleeds for their sweet, little innocent lips who don't deserve to be out there alone in the cold.

As I relayed this story to my hubby, I began to cry all over again. When I hear things like this, I NEED to do something. And I want YOU to need to do something. I want everyone to slap their hand down on a table somewhere and scream "enough" through their tears. I want us all to run out buy boxes full of chapstick and mittens and parents who actually care for their kids.

How do I make this stop? How do I take this from heart break to heart seek?

It's honestly becoming more and more simple and clear. I somehow do for one what I wish I could do for all. Over the last year or two, the hubby and I have talked about adopting. We know we want to and I'm confident that we will. I'm not sure what that looks like yet. I'm not sure on what territory our child will come from, whether it's our own or a foreign land. Or both. Time and the Lord will provide those answers.

But I do know that it's on our hearts and on our lips, like chapstick. Precious chapstick.

And when we talk about it while driving down the road or sitting in our cozy home, my heart flutters wondering what that little face will look like. Will one lead to two? Will a little face open the door for an older one as well? Will adoption lead to foster or vice versa?

I don't know yet. We're still seeking. But we've been blessed with more than we deserve. Every. Single. Day. And I don't believe it's for us to store up and tuck away. It's for us to give and bless and grow.

It's our calling.

It's our duty.

It's a need. Much like chapstick.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Awkward Side To Giving

With my challenge in full swing, I'm constantly trying to come up with new, creative ways to give. And taking a nod from my momma, I decided to do a little drive-by giving. Or drive-thru giving to be exact.

My mom has been known to pick up the tab for the car behind her at the drive-thru every so often, so today I thought I'd give it a whirl. It was easy, painless, and awkward. Yep, I said awkward.

The minute I pulled into the drive-thru, I was already a little nervous that someone wasn't going to pull in behind me before my window of opportunity was up, so I was anxiously scouring the parking lot entrance in a slight and unnecessary creeper mode. Awkward moment numero uno. Much to my luck, a driver slips in behind me. And, again to my luck, she wasn't hauling around 18 of her closest friends. I'm trying to be generous here, not broke. Just being honest.

My only task was to ask to pay for my tab AND the car behind me. Easy and painless, plus the college kid manning the window was really nice and actually thanked me for what I was doing. Totally unnecessary again, but it made me feel at ease versus him thinking that I'm some weird creeper (yet again).

Here's where it gets awkward...so now I've paid for their meal, but I'm still waiting for mine to be handed to me so that I can make my getaway. My heart was pounding. Awkward moment numero dos. I'm not sure what makes it so awkward, but I'm guessing that it's because you want it to be a random act of kindness however the person is right behind you, staring at your car wondering "why did they do that?" and you're a sitting duck. Needless to say, I grabbed my lunch and bolted.

Lastly,I did what every creeper does, I called my momma. My mom assured me that she often feels the same rush of nerves and awkwardness as well when participating in a little drive-thru giving. We had a good laugh over it and then I ate my slightly cold fries. This act was a stretch of my comfort level, so I'll chalk it up to a success.

I'll definitely do it again in the future, but I think I'll throw on some sunglasses, a hat and a fake mustache next time. So the next time you're in a drive-thru in Rockford, keep an eye out for the incognito-creeper-gifter. I'll be the one awkwardly giggling behind my faux-stache!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's Not Just About The Turkey

I'm a sucker for Thanksgiving. I love everything about it. From the food to the family time, from the sights to the smells and then to the sounds, from the blessings to the gratefulness, it does my soul well.

I told my hubby this past weekend that this past Sunday felt like Christmas morning to me. Although I'm not exactly sure why, it just felt special and I think it had to do with this week being Thanksgiving week.

This week kicks of the official holiday season and I am ready! It's rare for me to not have to pack a suitcase, pay for a flight, and make the 1,000 mile trek home this year. Yet one more reason to be thankful. So this is how the other half lives?!

Why I'm always thankful for Thanksgiving:
  • Family time- I love seeing both sides of my family in one day.
  • Everyone is happy, even if only for 24 Hours- In a perfect world, every day would be Thanksgiving, however I'll gladly take this one special day where everyone stops and gives gratitude for what they do have and not what they don't. I think our priorities shift more to where they should be and it's always a welcome shift.
  • Amazing meals- I love that over the years, everyone in our family has perfected one side dish which we gladly prepare for the feast. The dishes and who'll prepare them are almost traditions in themselves. Me, I'm bringing my sweet potato casserole!
  • Games- My mom's side of the family is large, loud, and we love us some games. We play Spoons and Pit until it hurts. Literally, we will have scratches on our arms and at least a few new ones on the dining room table. Sorry, Aunt Michelle!
  • Car Rides- I've always treasured the rides home from our evening celebration. We laugh so hard it hurts, we replay the games and the bragging rights, and it's always just the perfect close to the day.
Cheers to all that we have to be thankful for this year, and cheers to a day designated for just that.

Good ole fashion gratitude; it does a soul well.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giving Isn't Just About Writing A Check

Throughout my first week of this challenge, I've found myself laughing and even crying as I've learned more about the people and the community that surrounds me. There is so much need everywhere you look. As a bleeding heart, sometimes to a fault, I want to do everything! I want every single injustice to stop right now. On my watch. It all seems so very unfair. But alas, this world isn't a fairy tale and I have no magic wand (although Christmas IS coming, Santa;).

Regardless of my lack of super powers to clothe everyone, feed everyone, make everyone happy and light and singing Christmas carols together (possible spoiler alert here), I am realizing that there are some pretty fantastic people around me who are already doing everything in their power to tip the not-so-fair scales in the other direction. And that makes me so very happy and light. All we have to do is find them, find a mission that resonates with our hearts, and join their forces.

With that being said, here is a small window into my last few days of giving:
  • Friday- the jail tour was great, and odd, and eye opening, and terrifying all at the same time, however it did not present itself with an opportunity to give other than committing to myself to never let anyone I care about end up there.
    • Funny side note-My hubby is frequently approached by a man asking for money outside of the courthouse, who may or may not be homeless, but is most definitely down on his luck and probably in need of rehab (the man, not my hubby, just to be clear). When the hubs shared with me that he's never given him money, I shared my views on why that hurt my heart (I told you I'm "to a fault"). Well, Friday morning when I grabbed my coffee that Tim always makes and leaves on the counter for me, I found a dollar bill with a note that stated the money was for that man, should I run into him downtown. I laughed and teared up at the same time. That right there, the fact that my hubby was leaving money for this man for the first time, was what this challenge is about. Love him (again, my hubs, not the man;)!
  • Friday, attempt #2- I went to the grand opening of the Rockford Rescue Mission's thrift store and shopped with a purpose. Their tags all read "spend a dollar...change a life." Although shopping may not sound like giving, when every dollar goes to the local rescue mission, AND when you agree to aptiently wait in the checkout line for 2 hours, while visiting with the folks stuck waiting in the same line with you, it sort of takes on a missions all of it's own. So glad I went! They raised a killing.
  • Saturday- this gift was extra special. With Tim's parents renewing their vows after 42 years of marriage, I had the pleasure of making a bouquet for his mom to carry. She had asked each other their children to bring something treasured from their own weddings as her something borrowed, so I ordered her a bouquet charm similar to the one I had and took a stab at my amateur floral skills. It was a sweet task for me, so I was thankful for the opportunity. Please excuse my nails in the 2nd pic, manicure anyone?!

  • Lastly, on Sunday, I made cupcakes to take in for my coworkers to kick off our Thanksgiving week. I've been grateful for their help as I've acclimated to this new position, so this very small gesture is a way to say thanks. And since Twinkies weren't an option... Sorry, had to.
Happy Thanksgiving week to all. Today and everyday, I'm thankful for YOU.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Giving Challenge, My First Few Days

Well, I'm only on day 2 of my challenge and just like I thought, it's beginning to seem like a lofty goal for me.

And just to be clear based on a comment that I received, I'm not announcing this challenge to the world because I think I'm cool for wanting to do something for others. I actually launched it publicly because I knew that sooner or later, this challenge would seem harder than it should be and I wanted accountability. All too often, I find myself making inner promises to work out, eat better, read more (although this one has stuck!), etc...and two days later, I find myself back in front of the TV versus at the gym.

As I've said before, I really want to stretch, so I knew I had to make a proclamation. Out loud. And it's not about who reads these posts. It's about commitment for me.

What I'm learning, practically instantaneously, is that giving is easy when you know where to give and when opportunities present themselves to you. The harder part is being creative and finding new ways to give. I don't want to just hand out money, considering they'd have to be teeny tiny amounts of money, but I don't want to just give out $$ every single day for 40 days.

So, here we go... So far I've:
  • Filled a grocery bag at the store with Tim for a food drive at church (Day 1).
  • Tonight I'm heading to Walmart to purchase a gift card for Rock House Kids, where a few members of my Leadership Rockford class are holding a Christmas gift drive. (Day 2)
  • Tomorrow I head to the Rockford County Jail for a tour and session with the Chief and Sheriff. I haven't planned anything out yet because I want to leave this window open for inspiration. I'll be in the heart of downtown Rockford, so I've been praying that my path will cross with someone special. We shall see!
Huge, life altering actions? I think not. Am I WAY more aware of my surroundings right now? Without a doubt! And for me, that's exactly what these next 38 days are about. And nothing else.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Little Halloween Fun

(Author note, please stay tuned for updates on my giving challenge over the next day or two.)

For anyone that's talked to us in the last 4 months, you know that our home has thrown us a few curve balls. However, we're finally back in the game and ahead of those of curves, at least for the time being.  Which in turn means that I get to really start whipping this place into shape via paint, decor, and (drum roll please..............) unpacking my earthly belongings!!!!!!

With Halloween being our first holiday in our new nest together, I got to have a little fun with the mantle decor.

Nothing says Halloween fun like a wedding photo. With bleeding eyes of course! 

I don't know what makes a human dressed up like a rabbit terrifying, but this dude gave me the willies. Which meant that I HAD to have him on my mantle. Duh.

Even Piggy got in the action. Want to weird people out, remove the eyes from your pet in your mantle photos.

Oh, ya know, just a little family photo. Of creepy people. That we've never met.
Happy Belated Halloween, my prettieeeesssssss!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My 40 Days of Giving Challenge

It's about to get real up in here for the next 40 days!

With today being National Philanthropy Day, and with the foundation of my career being constructed on the generosity of others, I've decided to challenge myself a bit over the next 40 days.  To geek out a little bit, philanthropy is defined in Websters as a "love of mankind; a benevolent act; a gift." So as I sit here and  celebrate this not so well known, national holiday, my wheels are a spinnin' on how I can make this day and the art of generosity a little deeper as I approach my tenth year in this field.

Although I stumbled somewhat awkwardly and not so gracefully into a career in fundraising and development (Seriously, my first interview in 2003 at The Citadel Foundation was awful. And I mean, how did I even get a 2nd interview awful??).  Luckily for me, I grew up in a home where giving and serving was lived out. My amazing parents are generous of their time and treasure, and I know that although this "stumble" was unplanned, the foundation my parents laid out for me in what giving looks like, would soon become a great fit.

Almost 10 years later, I realize just how truly blessed I am to get to come to work in a field that blesses others. Daily. I've done the whole for profit sector, and although there's nothing wrong bringing in those dolla dolla bills, it wasn't my cup of tea. I need to feel like I'm making a difference. I need to know that my time at the office is bettering someone else's world. Hence, my love for non-profits. And my unwavering love for philanthropy.

Starting tomorrow, Nov. 14th, through Christmas Eve on Dec. 24th, I'm committing to 40 days of giving. I'm not sure what this truly looks like for me, but I'm excited. I need to stretch. I personally need to rejuvenate my definition of philanthropy, and I think this will be a great start. Some acts may be small like a phone call to a friend that I haven't spoken with in awhile, and other acts may be larger, but the journey will be the same. Love my fellow mankind, act on compassion, and give what I can. And then do it all over again the next day. For 40 days.

If you'd like to join me in this, I'd love a partner for accountability. This blog will serve as accountability in itself, but giving is always more meaningful when it's shared. And you never know, we just might make a difference this holiday season.

Happy National Philanthropy Day. Let's do this thing!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Poodle is Cooler Than Your Poodle

Spoken like a true fur-mom! It's safe to say after 10 years with this pup, that he is the bomb.com, my best friend, the fur love of my life, my first born, and the heartbeat at my feet.

And to showcase my momma pride, take a look at our boy. Isn't he cccccuuuuttttteeeeee??!!

Mama's Pig

Soaking up the sun while everyone paints around his majesty.

Piggy LOVES when daddy comes home from work, especially when they survey the homestead for chipmunks and squirrels together. Look out, Chippies!!

I love sleeping on the job helping momma when she works on furniture in the garage.

My wing man while I was stuck at home all of last week with the flu. He's a better cure than chicken soup any day!

We've learned that if we stand around and look at something intently throughout our home repair phase, Piggy wants to see what all the fuss is about too. Inquisitive little man. Part poodle, part genius!

Brrrrrrrr. My boys try to stay warm in their hoodies when the new furnace wasn't working. 

Checking out his first real fire. Pig Roast!

 Blue Monkey is Wrigley's best pal. Ever. Period. Play together, nap together.