Memorial Day Realization

American-flag-2The following piece made its way into my inbox this weekend. While there are many Memorial Day tributes floating around the Internet, I particularly liked these simple words. They remind us that, at the foundation of the many gifts we enjoy in this country, are the commitment and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? What would this country look like if we didn’t have people willing to protect these freedoms throughout our history?

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, who has given us the right to vote.

Let us join all the preachers, reporters, poets, campus organizers, lawyers, and politicians in giving thanks on this Memorial Day

Wrestling with Neighborhood Etiquette – Once Again!

swing-setSally’s baaaaaack!

You remember “Sally”? Sally and her husband “Bob” are the neighbors with the massive, aging tree that threatened to demolish our house with the next strong wind … until they removed it this fall after some neighborly back-and-forth.

Two weeks ago, I received this email from Sally:

Are you at all interested in selling your swing set?  We would love to take it off your hands and move it to our house.
If not no worries.  Just let me know.
Thanks ~ Sally
Background information: Our swing set is similar to the one pictured above. Sally’s kids wander over to our yard every now and then and play on said swing set, which we have invited. As our kids are older, the only other times the swing set is used is when our young nieces and nephews come over, which is just a few times a year. I also know that Sally previously approached another neighbor about selling their swing set a year or so ago and was rebuffed. Reportedly, Sally was not gracious in her reaction.
Knowing this was a family decision and we couldn’t get back to her right away, I sent a quick response:
Let me talk to Mike. We head out this morning for a road trip to look at colleges with Caitlin, so I’ll get back to you right after Easter. Enjoy spring break! ~ Elaine

To which she replied:

heart in stomach! Colleges? my did it go that fast? I keep thinking she is at XYZ Elementary School ; )

Ahhh, isn’t that nice … a little neighborly bonding over email. A few days after returning from our trip, I got back to Sally:

Sally ~ We did a family pow wow and every one’s on board with your moving the swing set to your yard. A couple of caveats/disclaimers …

(1) The swing set is due to be resanded and sealed. The wood’s getting a little brittle and splintery.
(2) There’s a wood panel missing from the rope ladder section.
(3) We had Creative Playthings (where we bought it) install it back in 2001. I’m not sure how you would move it over, but it is staked pretty deep into the ground to keep it stable. Something to consider in both your removing it and reinstalling it in your yard.
(4) Moving the swing set will probably leave holes in our yard. We’d just like you (or whoever moves it) to fill them in so the ground is flat and stable. We’ll throw grass seed on afterward.

If all of the above and the swing set’s “as is” condition is OK with you, have at it!  $100 sound fair? And, if you don’t want it after all, no worries.

College trip was fun and informative although it does feel like my kids should still be in elementary school! ~ Elaine

This last email was sent on Wednesday. On Friday we hear banging in the yard next door. A quick peek through the trees (No, that was not me craning my neck for a better look) revealed that Sally and Bob have gone out and bought their own swing set and are having someone assemble it.

Which is exactly what we would have done, if we were in their shoes!! The only sticky part is that Sally never got back to me to say “never mind.”  Now the exchange feels awkward and unfinished.

Is my reaction rooted in lingering bad karma from the tree incident? What’s your reaction? And, what (if anything) should be done to close the communication loop?

Agonizing Healthcare Maneuverings

push-rockDo you find yourself wincing these days? The final stretch of the healthcare debate is full of perilous twists and turns. Let me highlight two that have the potential to force the healthcare movement off the road and into a ditch.

(1) The House’s use of the “self-executing rule” to pass the healthcare legislation. If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) doesn’t think she has enough votes to pass the full healthcare bill, she can use a procedural move that allows House members to vote on a much smaller bill – a package of changes to the Senate bill – and “deem” the underlying Senate measure as passed. Republicans and some Democrats are howling in protest at this “manipulation of the process” and blatant attempt to avoid a straight up or down vote on the historic and controversial healthcare bill.

While this procedure has been used dozens of time by both parties over the years, I am howling, too, albeit with less righteous indignation. Really? THIS maneuver?!?!? At THIS time?!?!? The potential for a “deem and pass” vote seems sneaky and underhanded to me – and I’m someone who really, really wants healthcare to pass. Republicans argue that Democrats are “ignoring the will of the people” and “shoving healthcare down our throats.” If the House leadership ends up using this procedure, those cranky elephants may have a point.

(2) States lining up to sue the Federal government. As if pushing the weighty healthcare rock up hill isn’t hard enough, 37 state legislatures have passed bills ordering their state attorney generals to sue the federal government if healthcare passes. At this point, only Idaho’s governor has signed the bill, thus enacting it into law.

The states’ manevering is considered symbolic and unlikely to actually push healthcare back down the hill. However, the fact that fresh batches of critics are lining up to take more whacks at the healthcare pinata is disheartening, to say the least.

Wise Women, you may have weighed in on healthcare reform before, but your wise voice needs to be raised once more during this pivotal time. Contact your Representatives and let them know your views about healthcare reform. We can shut our eyes, wince, or do SOMETHING to influence the course of healthcare reform.

Now, THAT’S Good Coffee

The-Coffee-Party-USATrue confession: I could not bear to watch or read any of the media coverage of last week’s healthcare summit. The pre-meeting posturing and pandering left me anxious and a tad nauseous. I was worried that the actual event would hurl me into a black abyss of disillusionment (or cause me to hurl, one or the other). Perhaps I’m wearing both my political stripes AND my naivete on my sleeves when I say – If reasonable and even-tempered Obama can’t get the players to work together, who can?!?!?!

Fortunately, a recent article from The Washington Post pierced my despair, like the comforting whiff of freshly brewed coffee. Dan Zak’s Coffee Party Activists Say Their Civic Brew’s A Tastier Choice than Tea Party’s showcases the new Coffee Party movement. The mission of The Coffee Party USA is to:

The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

Now, THIS is a political sentiment I can embrace (and hang on to tightly – for dear life). It’s a welcome alternative for a Wise Woman who enjoys chatting over coffee and is suspicious of anyone swinging around tea bags in protest.

The fledgling movement is gaining traction through virtual discussions and live meetings in various communities. It’s all a bit confusing and messy, yet invigorating. I’m not sure how much I want to jump into the fray (or even can in my Facebook-less life). But even the notion that this movement exists is enough to wake me out of my cynical slumber. Similarly-minded people are standing up to demand that public officials work toward solutions, not throw up politically-motivated roadblocks. How great is that?

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, and let’s talk about it.

The Silver Lining for your Pet Project

dosomegood1Most of us are involved in our community in some way – whether it is a charitable organization, our local schools, or our church.  In addition to the time we commit, sometimes it would be nice to have a few extra dollars to get a new project off the ground or supplement current programs which are underfunded.

Over the next five months, Pepsi-Cola Company is giving away over 20 million dollars in grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,0000, as part of the Pepsi Refresh project.   Each month consumers can apply for a grant, and consumers vote on those projects which are deemed most worthy.   While it is a huge experiment in social marketing, what do we have to lose?  It might just be worth a shot – it’s rare to know that a sum of money that size is sitting there waiting to be awarded.  Check out the site by clicking on the Pepsi Refresh Project above, and then start collaborating in your community about how you just might put some of these funds to use.  It’s worth a try.

Playing The Gender Card

scott-brown

If I lived in a different state (i.e., had moved back to my home state of Massachusetts) and time (a time when a filibuster-proof Democratic majority was assured), I could actually see myself voting for newly-elected Senator Scott Brown.

I kind of like the guy.

I like the fact that he had a “rough” upbringing. I appreciate some of his moderate political positions. I admire his triathlete discipline. I even cheered for his daughter Ayla when she was a contestant on American Idol in 2007.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am bitterly disappointed by his recent election and the risk it poses to enactment of health care legislation. But, I understand why Massachusetts voters would vote for him.

What I DON’T understand, however, is why Brown’s posing nude for Cosmo (as a law student in 1982) generated only a few winks. Where was the pundit outcry?!? The occasional national media wisecrack – e.g., Cosmo’s campaign slogan suggestion:  Vote for Brown. He Has One Hell of a Stimulus Package -  did nothing to derail Brown’s growing popularity and eventual victory.

What would have happened if similarly-revealing photos had spring up of his opponent, Democrat Martha Coakley or, reaching back further in time, Republican Sarah Palin? I suspect neither politician would have survived the ensuing firestorm and questions about her judgment/suitability. Heck, Ms. America can’t even keep her crown when risque photos surface.

I don’t blame Scott Brown for this double-standard. Actually, I don’t know who to point my finger at. Maybe that’s what makes this gender double-standard so frustrating!

Wise Women in Haiti

haiti-flagI feel like my recent posts have been downers lately. Without meaning to, I’ve drifted toward heavier topics, less fluff. Thus, my intention was to be lighter with today’s Wise Women discussion; but now I just can’t. The situation in Haiti after Tuesday’s massive earthquake is too distressing to ignore.

I can count on one hand the number of foreign countries I’ve visited in my lifetime (well, maybe 1.5 hands). Haiti is among that relatively small group.

I traveled to Haiti as a high school student with my friend Cathy and her family. Cathy’s family was the kind that had the inclination, social conscience and money to expose their kids to the world. I was along for the ride. Visiting Haiti was my first time outside the U.S. My memories of Haiti include the genuine warmth and directness of the people I met juxtaposed with neighborhoods of cardboard houses and children begging me for money for their next meal.

Thus, listening to and seeing the reports out of Haiti is frighteningly surreal. How can it be that this poorest of countries has been dealt such a devastating blow?  It reminds me of my reaction as I tried to wrap my brain around the growing number of deaths  following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 (nearly 230,000 died). What must it be like to have loved ones in Haiti and not know their fate? To know that the county’s shaky infrastructure is now non-existent and that it may be impossible to ever learn what happened to friends and family. Or, to actually be in Haiti, walking the streets and realizing there is nobody and nothing to which to turn.

If you are like me, you may be yearning to do something – anything! – to help our Caribbean neighbors and put a dent in the overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness. Consider making a monetary donation to a relief organization. You can make an online donation to the International Response Fund of the American Red Cross. (According to the site, if you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, mail your donation with the designation to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.)

The Salvation Army, which has run schools, clinics, and children’s homes in Haiti since 1950, is also accepting disaster relief donations. Go to the site and you can specify the Haiti Earthquake when you donate.

Whatever you decide to do … pray …  donate … volunteer … let’s all do something to help Wise Women and Wise Men in Haiti.

Ode to Christmas 2009

Tis the day before Christmas
And all through the Midwest
A storm dumps mounds of snow
Putting holiday travelers to the test.
***
Millions are out of work, through no fault of their own.
Yes, the economy still stinks, as statistics have shown.
When the market looks bullish, it turns out to be a bear.
But, fear not, Wise Women, there is good news to share!
***
A monumental event just took place in DC,
A wondrous sign of Christmas, for all to see.
In a city where hot air and inaction are the normal drill,
The Senate finally passed a health care bill!

P.S. Enjoy the final days of 2009 with family, friends and a good cup of coffee. We’ll be back on January 4, 2010.Christmas-star

New Twist For 2009 Wise Women Big Bucks Givaway

world-wish-beadThis holiday season Anne and I invite you to consider an alternative to hunting down that elusive “perfect” gift in the aisles of Target. Instead, you can buy a lovely present and contribute to world prosperity with a few clicks of your mouse.

Yesterday Anne wrote about an innovative charity called Global Colors whose mission is to create self-sustaining grassroots projects throughout the world for the common good. One of those projects is the World Wish Bead Campaign, the sale of beaded necklaces crafted by women in disadvantaged countries to support themselves and their families.

As Anne shared, “The bead is made by women in Kenya, and the necklace part is made by women in Cambodia. Supposedly when the Kenyan women make the bead, they make a wish, and then when you purchase it, you’re supposed to make your own wish. The necklace has traveled globally and the circle is completed.”

We’re excited that this year’s Wise Women Big Bucks Holiday Giveaway will support the World Wish Bead Campaign. As evidenced by last year’s campaign, we are a generous and civic-minded bunch.

Here’s how our little online community can make a big difference:

  1. Join the circle of women from Kenya to Cambodia by purchasing a beaded necklace through My World Wish.
  2. Add a comment below indicating something about your purchase … who you bought the necklace for … its color scheme … your wish … as much or as little as you want to share. Remember, you can always comment anonymously, if you want.
  3. For every person who buys a necklace and leaves a comment below by December 23, 2009, Anne and I will make a matching contribution of $25 (up to 20 people/necklaces).

So, join us as we partner with our Wise Women sisters from Kenya and Cambodia and help change the world.

Let the bead-buying begin …

My Discovery of Global Colors

barton_brooks_with_batwaOn a beautiful drive up and back to Vermont over the Thanksgiving holiday, I listened to an interview on the radio (happened to catch the same interview both ways) with a gentleman named Barton Brooks. Barton, once a Manhattan Real Estate Broker, tossed that life aside four years ago and started Global Colors.  Global Colors’ mission is “to aid in the development of grassroots campaigns using local ingenuity and resources to accomplish very specific goals”.

I decided to do a little investigation of Global Colors when I arrived home.  An hour and half later – after digging into his site and the global projects that he has undertaken – I must say I’m impressed.  Part of the appeal is his simple call to action – just go and do. Visit a part of the world you’re interested in, and ask how you can help.  Involve the locals in the solution – so they too learn how to empower themselves.  It can even be as simple as inquiring at the concierge’s desk at the hotel you’re staying at during vacation to learn if there is an orphanage near by that you can visit for a few hours during your vacation.

His website is filled with stories – and about the projects he’s currently working on and trying to raise awareness to direct aid efforts.  One that struck a chord with me was the Batwa Pygmies in Uganda – a group of people that have been displaced from their ancestral lands – a group of people who aren’t even recognized as humans because of their small stature.  They live on a small bit of land, but can’t afford the seeds to even farm the land.  They subsist on a small portion of porridge daily.

When Barton asked the villagers how he could help, their response was help to raise money to provide a chicken for each of the children – as a chicken will lay an egg a day to give each child the protein they need, as well as give them an animal to care for and love.  Barton’s efforts have turned into a much larger effort – helping the villagers build huts, chicken coops, plant gardens.  I must admit that this project had particular appeal to me – the ability to raise $9 per chicken to provide a child with food is a tangible goal that my son and his friends that are interested in agriculture could embrace.

Another inspiring story is the women of  Nairobi, Kenya – who have been making beads for years – at the Kazuri Bead factory.  (The creation of this factory is one for another blog). Their beads are beautiful – (and are for sale – check out Kazuriwest.com) but the inspiring piece of this story is that these women sometimes provide for up to 20 extended family members, and the company itself is a model of commerce – providing healthcare, childcare, paying three times the customary annual wage for these women that work at the factory.

Barton’s latest project is called 52 weeks to Change the World, and he has mapped out a course to take him to several destinations across the world to implement his notion of “guerrilla aid” – helping with whatever the local need is.  He has a blog where he is reporting on his travels and identifying how people can help.  I have signed up to receive his reports – so will keep you apprised of any interesting stories.  Barton Brooks has created a very inspiring life mission indeed.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

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