Category Archives: give back

365 Small Things

Waxing philosophical about the closing of the chapter known as 2014? Me too. Admittedly in years past I’ve been a tad bit snarky about the making of resolutions. The roots of my disdain for the public deceleration of one’s intent to “fix” things in the New Year may stem from my inability to waive away the cheese platter for more than a week. If I had a pound for every new year in which I resolved to lose weight… that would be great. Certainly better than the 10 pounds I’ve got now. 

This year rather than being crotchety, contrary, or committing to resolve nothing, I’ve chose to think small.

It seems to me that the bulk of resolutions made by the masses invovle some sort of commitment to ‘Self’. While I wholeheartedly agree that I can do with innumerable improvements, I also accept that those are going to take far longer than a twelve months. Why not try looking outside myself this year?

Something I’ve noticed in my decades on this rock hurtling in orbit around a cosmic bonfire, is that it feels damn good to make other people feel good. (Not, that… come on people, lets be adults. Okay, I giggled too) The great thing about this is that it doesn’t take much. Time, money, effort… not much.

Yes, this is not the newest of ideas. Random Acts of Kinds, The Happiness Project, The Hug Tour, 100 Good Deeds, and the whole Social Good movement – all awesome, all came before me. 

I tend to be a big thinker I want to do ALL. THE. THINGS. That desire eventually gets me mired down in details and – to be honest – I don’t end up getting much done. What I need some small, with a dash of that not much of any of those.

Here is the plan: find some small thing to do each and every day of 2015 that makes someone feel happy, supported, appreciated, puts a smile on their face, makes them laugh themselves into tears, or gives them that extra boost they need.

Totally. Doable.

Along the way I’ll post a few photos on Instagram using the hashtag #Small365, if you’d like to follow along… or hey JOIN IN!

Small 365 Do ONE Thing a day for someone else

If you have a really lousy day, or an epically awesome one, know someone who needs a nudge to bring out that gorgeous smile, or that quite super hero that needs a spotlight, Let me know! I will be thrilled to send along some ‘Small’. 

Kicking things off early, let me start with a Thank YOU.

I’ve been spewing my random wordage all over this blog for over ten years. Some of you have been with indulged me since the very beginning. Others may just be taking their first spin on my personal tilt-a-whrill. Each and every one of you that stop by, read a post or two, leave a comment, enter a giveaway, like a pin or pic, pop in on Facebook or Tweet with me have given me a gift beyond measure – your time. For that I am thankful beyond expression. Which is saying something when we’re talking about a girl who suffers from chronic wordiness.

 

Study Abroad Because…?

White House Travel Bloggers Summit - Gingerbread House in the State Dinning Room

The White House was decorated for the Holidays, beautifully picturesque and embodying all that is good, familiar and comfortable in our country.  Traditional vignettes were everywhere; the smell of freshly cut pine, the sumptuous float of color on mantels, the brilliant shine of ornaments and the inviting twinkle of lights evoked a yearning for the Rockwellian innocence of American Christmases past.

It would have been easy to become swept away in the grandeur, delighting in my snug little box of national pride.  But, that’s not why I was there. 

I was there to consider the value in sending American children to other countries as part of the White House Travel Bloggers Summit.

America is the land of opportunity, right? So why encourage your precocious progeny to pursue knowledge beyond our borders in a place where those “A’s” they earned in foreign language classes might not be so impressive? Why?

Because it will change  their life, yours and maybe the world.

Study abroad is for everyone and we must prepare our future leaders — American students of all backgrounds — for the global workforce and to be global citizens.” ~ Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs

Studying abroad opens minds and doors for our children, providing better job opportunities, making the connection between what is found in a textbook and how it translates into application on a local and global scale. And frankly, it makes them far more interesting.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s address summed up eloquently, the core reasons why both travel and study abroad should play a key role in the education of all Americans,

“…travel outside our borders can add a new dimension to a person’s social and cultural intelligence – and one’s knowledge of how people abroad interact and do business with one another…In this day and age, more and more employers want to hire people with a true “world view” with the adaptability and openness that comes with having experienced other cultures.”

The Secretary sited a survey by MetLife that found 65% of Fortune 1000 executives identified global awareness as “very important” or “essential” in order to be ready for a career.

Study Abroad is a relevant, important, life skill.

Applying this message to myself, I considered my own years abroad. My study abroad experience wasn’t traditional. There was no “convincing my parents” that there was value in it, that I was mature enough, able thrive living a content away in a country where I barely spoke the language. They didn’t have to struggle to find the funds needed to send me. A set of orders from the Secretary of the Navy rendered those points moot.

Yet the years I lived in Spain – explored Europe and North Africa, studied life – imbued me with the same depth of understanding of our oneness, illustrated firsthand the impact of global citizenship, and the power in person-to-person exchange of ideas and values. 

The knowledge I gained in my early adulthood travels is with me to this day. It is the spark that kindled my passion for travel,  my need to continue to build relationships with the people I meet – be that down the street or digging beets out of the ground with a farmer in Jamaica – and to help my children see the value in these experiences. It was the beginning of an unquenchable wanderlust.

Living abroad changed me forever, for the better.  It allowed me to explore and appreciate of our differences while becoming keenly aware of our sameness, of those threads that run through each of our stories that form the binding of a book this the greater anthology of humanity.

The summit was also used to announce the opening of the State Department’s new U.S. study abroad office, which will manage some of their premier study abroad programs. The office will join advocating for the benefits of study abroad, and bringing resources to those interested in participation. To that end, they announced a partnership with the Institute of International Education and College Week Live to launch the first ever Virtual U.S. Study Abroad Fair that will be taking place on February 25th on-line and everywhere. (for updates connect with the State Department Exchange Programs on Facebook )

In the midst of the busy holiday rush, as we shop and shop, furiously checking off the “wants” on Christmas lists and hunting down longed-for toys, I invite you to consider some “needs”. 

White House Travel Bloggers Summit - Christmas Tree in the East Wing

The need for shortening the bridge between cultures. 

The need for uniting the threads of our world into a tapestry of more peaceful understanding.

The need for living life fully, for contributing meaningfully to the creation of future history.

As you sip cocoa in the firelight this season and listen to the strains of “Joy to the World”,  I invite you to think of THE WORLD.

I’ll be back in Part Two of this series to share information gleaned in our family’s quest to find a the Study Abroad program that works with our resources and suits Kaytie’s (our teenage daughter) goals. She seems to have an ever-changing list of places she wants to go and things she’d like to focus on… none of which include cleaning her room.

Patent pending, Hyperactivate

Changing The Face Of Childhood Hunger In America

I could tell you the cold, hard facts about childhood hunger. Share that right here in the United States 1 out of every 5 children do not know where their next meal is coming from. Hit you with the numbers;

16 Million Suffer from Childhood Hunger

I could even bring it home for you and say that with numbers like that, it’s highly likely that someone you know is dealing with this. Or, I could tell you my story.

When I was in elementary school my dad lost his job. Saver of lives, a man who rescued people and fought fires – a hero, my hero – was laid off by the state of California due to budget cuts. In the blink of an eye our family of five lost the sole breadwinner in the house.

All I knew was that we got to play with daddy more. I thought that mom was hunting more because dad was home so much – driving her crazy. To me the time we spent as a family volunteering at the local food-share program was another way for my parents to teach us life lessons. The bonus always being that we got to bring home a big box of “leftovers.” My 8 year old self had no clue that, that was our only food. I didn’t know what my parents were struggling through to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

As an adult I look back on that time and my heart breaks for them. How could a man with multiple advanced degrees, years of experience,  who had saved countless lives and homes, EVER end up in a place where he didn’t know if he could feed his family? I can’t imagine looking at my own children and knowing I couldn’t feed them.

We made it through. Mom kept us all strong, held the family together. She was always our rock. Dad went back to work. I grew up not ever knowing how bad it had gotten. Sadly, not all kids can say that.

Today I’m joining with Unilever Project Sunlight in doing my part help shine a light on hunger in America. We need to change long-held notions of what hunger looks like, why it happens and to whom. Childhood hunger touches us all, in so many ways. Let’s talk about it, listen without judgment, and put an end to it. 

The families in the short video, “Going to Bed Hungry: Changing the Face of Child Hunger” have shared their stories – who they are, where they come from, will surprise you. I add my story to theirs and ask that you take a moment to watch (with some tissue nearby) and then take one minute more to spread the word. Help put an end to the hunger – we CAN DO THIS!

Veteran’s Day: A Letter To Those I Served Alongside

n’s DayDear Brothers and Sisters,

Some of us came for a cause, moved to serve by life-altering happenstance. Others arrived here in the footsteps of long family tradition. Many came in search of purpose, lost and hoping to find ourselves. A few arrived, escorted by lack of choice. We were so young. Children really, holding on with ever slackening grip to the carefree days of youth. No matter how, or from where we came, we would depart with bonds that tether us forever, together.

Through war, in peace, in times of victory and gathered together to ward off the pains of defeat, we are one. We have served this great nation. Some have given far more that others can comprehend, the scars of which they carry both outwardly and within. Yet, not one of us left without the tie that binds. In the hearts of all who have served rests the light of those who went before us, and hope for those to come.

My time in the uniform of the United States Navy, has long since passed. The pride I have in being one amongst you, a member of the family of Veterans who served, and continue to serve, defending the liberty of this country, fighting for the freedom of uncountable others, rendering aid to those in need, will not diminish with time. I am honored to stand along side of each of you, and shall always be.

With Gratitude,

Lara DiPaola
Formerly Aviation Boatswains Mate (90-94)
United States Navy

Photo credit: “Vietnam Reflections” by Lee Teter

 

This Veteran’s Day, would you consider lending your voice, time, support and/or money to charities that help heal the wounds -both seen and unseen- of my fellow veterans?

“Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul.” -Michel de Montaigne

Operation Freedom Paws provides service dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Musicorps is an amazing concept and effort! They teach music to veterans who’s lives have been forever changed by the loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, and PTSD. This past week a band of brothers -and actual band– took the stage with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd in the Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert.

Sew Much Comfort makes adaptive clothing for the wounded. I personally would never have thought about a something as simple, yet necessary, as clothing altered for those who have lost limbs. Read more about this wonderful effort in this post by my friend Candace at Army Wives Lives.

For more information on charities that may not have the backing of big corporations or foundations, but could sure use yours, see this post from the indomitable and inspiring Lisa Douglas, military mom to seven and author of one of my favorite blogs, Crazy Adventures in Parenting.

Let us also not forget that though today is Veteran’s Day, no veteran serves alone. They take with them, to all theaters of battle and peace, the hearts and souls of their families. One of my favorite organizations that helps support military families is Operation Shower, read all about the great work they do in this post by the ever gifted (seriously, I want to BE her) Dawn Sandomeno of Party Blueprints.

 

What The Heck Is A Quarter Auction?

So you’ve been invited to a quarter auction. It’s likely your first reaction to join in this recreational enterprise was, “What the heck is a Quarter Auction?!” Yeah, me too.  I’ve enlisted the help of the pal who drug invited me to my first one, to help explain how these things work, why they’re so much fun, and frankly… what the heck they are.what the heck is a quarter auction?

Quarter auctions appear to be the “new thing” in some states. I’m not sure how or where they began (I think they started in Virginia but I can’t be held to that) but they had their launch and the rest is history…

From my experience with the auctions here in Maryland, quarter auctions (also termed “Quarter Mania”), are a venue where you go to bid and win items of your choice. Bidding is in quarter increments, thus the name.

There are a million variations on how quarter auctions are run. It’s impossible to cover them all but I’ll give a general overview of those I’ve participated in.

Typically, a fundraiser group will plan the quarter auction for their organization to raise money. The auction items can be ANYTHING! I’ve seen brand new items such as restaurant gift certificates, jewelry, purses, food, home goods, toys, and tools auctioned off.

What The Heck Is A Quarter Auction?

As a quarter auction participant/player you’ll arrive to the location at least half an hour in advance of the start time, loaded with tons of quarters. You want to arrive early so you have the opportunity to view all the items being auctioned off (there are usually about 100 auction items). You will also need to arrive early to make sure you get a seat. Some venues have been known to sell out!

When you arrive, you’ll find a table where they are selling paddles and making change in quarters. Here you pick a numbered paddle (or two, or three) that you will use as your bidding number(s). You’ll pay a rental fee for the paddle that generally ranges from $1 – $3 and you’ll return the paddle at the end of the auction. The paddle money is retained for the charity organization. The person selling the paddles will put a corresponding numbered chip/ball into a bucket.

When the auction begins, each item will be displayed to the crowd and auctioned off, one by one. At this time, you will use your quarters and paddle(s) to bid. Each item will have a retail value that determines the number of quarters required per paddle to bid. For example, 1 quarter for an item with a $10 – $25 value, 2 quarters for $26 – $50 value, and so on up to 4 quarters. The values and quarter amounts do vary from auction to auction.

Once you deposit the required number of quarters per paddle to bid (quarters are dropped into bowls on the tables and collected) you can raise your paddle(s) in the air. The announcer will begin calling numbers from the chips/balls in their bucket. If the announcer calls a number that wasn’t played (the person didn’t bid and raise their paddle), that person with the number will yell out, “No bid.” The announcer will continue calling numbers until there is a winner amongst those who bid and had their paddles raised in the air.

Here’s an example:
Jane really wanted this beautiful new necklace. Its retail value was $50 and it required 2 quarters to bid. Jane had two paddles, numbers 6 & 104, and since she REALLY wanted the necklace she put four quarters in the bowl (two quarters per paddle) and raised both. The announcer called her first number, “2.” Joe had 2. He didn’t bid on the necklace so he hollered out, “No bid.” The announcer called the next number, “104.” “Right here!” yelled Jane. The necklace was hers! So, for a $50 item, Jane won it for just quarters.

Still muttering to yourself, “What the heck is a quarter auction?” To sum it up, quarter auctions are good, clean fun and they don’t require a lot of money to play! Check your local papers or craigslist.com to see if there are any auctions in your area.