More love, more letting go

Here’s the thing. I always forget that everything that’s difficult for me is probably going to come around again, especially if I don’t slow down and pay more attention.

I’m going to have to practice letting go, again and again. And I’m going to have to practice recommitting to love, again and again. This all seems very obvious, and yet… I forget, again and again. But I’ll bet that never happens to you, right?

Whether it happens to you or not, let’s celebrate love and letting go, again. I’ll most likely write a blog post every month or so, reminding myself to celebrate these things, so if you’re as forgetful as I am you’re welcome to join me here.

And here’s a happy ending: I eventually I rode the gondola down the mountain, and I let go of the railing, so change really is possible, especially if you’re being spurred on by very insistent children who love gondola rides.

The Philanthropic Mud-Pie-Makers

 

How could making mud pies be related to philanthropy? It’s a bit circuitous, but trust me, it will all make sense in the end.

First, I want to share a statistic that grabbed the interest of my own inner-philanthropist.

“The global child mortality average is now 57 deaths per 1000, a remarkable improvement from the 1990 figure of 88 per 1000.”

A remarkable improvement? Not if your child is one of the children who die this year. Particularly if your child dies from a disease that could have been easily prevented, for about twenty dollars. From a disease that parents in “first world” countries usually don’t fear, such as measles, polio, pneumonia, or rotavirus.

And in the twenty seconds it took you to read that statistic, another child has died from a vaccine-preventable disease.

Globally, one in five children don’t have access to life-saving vaccines.

Take twenty more seconds to imagine five kids that you know. Then imagine that one will be denied those basic vaccines (possibly in conjunction with a lack of clean water, nutritious food, sanitation systems, shelter and education).  Could you make the decision that this child from Tanzania shouldn’t receive vaccines, while four others should?

She has a smile a lot like Bella’s. But due to circumstances beyond her control, she might not make it to her second birthday, as Bella did.

These are sobering thoughts, certainly not celebration-worthy. So why include this post in our family’s month of celebrations? Because there’s an amazing network of ordinary people, just like you, who are working to change these statistics. I hope this organization will inspire and empower you to create change in the lives of children you’ve never met.

The organization I want to celebrate is ShotatLife (Shot@Life). In conjuction with the United Nations Foundation (and many other supporting partners) this grassroots group has been spreading the message about how each of us can make a huge difference in the lives of children around the world. The Shot@Life rallying cry is simple and memorable:

Every child deserves a shot at life.

We’re usually so wrapped up in the day to day busyness of life that we take many of the simple moments of childhood for granted. Our family has celebrated and shared many of those simple moments here.

Losing your first tooth.

Climbing a tree.

And making mud pies, of course.

These aren’t extravagant moments, but each one is special and memorable. Sam and Bella have each had thousands of moments like these, partly because they were born into a time and place replete with blessings and opportunity.

At the evo conference we learned about creative ways that families in the United States have come together to raise money and awareness for the Shot@Life campaign. Just twenty dollars can pay for life-saving vaccines for one child in a developing country. Families have hosted bake sales, car washes and Valentine parties. You can find supporter stories on the Shot@Life web-page, that will get your own creative ideas flowing. If you decide to raise money for Shot@Life, please share your ideas here. Remember that no idea or donation is too small (or too big)!

In addition to personal or family fundraisers, I hope you’ll check out Blogust ’12. Beginning on August 1, a talented group of writers will be addressing the Shot@Life campaign, for thirty-one days. Here’s the amazing part. For every unique comment left on a writer’s post, $20 will be donated to Shot@Life, through the generous support of private donors. So you could potentially save the lives of 31 kids during the month of August, just by reading and commenting on blogs.

We’re also brainstorming about what our family will do to raise money, so that more kids around the world can have the opportunity to make mud pies.

Oooh, how about a chocolate mud pie bake sale? Now we’re getting back to celebrations…

Love and Other Helpers

 

The post I’d planned for today just doesn’t make sense right now. Hearing the news from Colorado this morning was devastating. We haven’t been watching television or even listening to the news on the radio, so at least explaining the tragedy to Sam hasn’t been a concern today.

In moments when we feel powerless, we each gravitate to our own coping mechanisms. My first instinct is simple – love and appreciate my family and friends. My second impulse is think about what small actions, within my circle of influence, could somehow help.

In the field of early childhood education we focus a lot of energy on the social and emotional development of children. They’ve become such buzzwords in the profession, that they often cease to be meaningful. The Aurora shootings are a reminder that we need to faithfully and constantly tune in to the social and emotional well-being of people of all ages in our communities. We can’t support social and emotional competence from birth to age five and then call it good. It’s a life-long process, and there are ups and downs for all of us. We all need friends, no matter our age, no matter our circumstances. I think that I’m pretty good at supporting kids in this area, but I’m not that great at connecting with adults in my community (always that busy-ness excuse).

In that vein, I’m setting a few small goals for myself, to try to connect and build community. To celebrate and share more love. If you’re inspired to do something similar, please share.

  1. Invite friends over for dinner more often
  2. Get to know more people on our block (and not just the ones with kids)
  3. Ahem. Actually pick up my phone when it rings. Sorry to everyone that I’ve been avoiding for the last decade or so 🙂

 

Of course there are many Denver-area organizations that are also accepting tangible donations.

Finally, I know this quote has been making the rounds on-line today, but I think it’s worth sharing again.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ― Fred Rogers

 

 

evo ’12: a lot to celebrate!

Open and not-so-open. While I’d like to say that I spent the entire evo social media conference completely open to new experiences, making new friends left and right, it really was a mix. Here’s the run down…

Day 1

Open: We arrivied in Park City, and not a moment too soon (it’s a loooong drive from Denver)! I was excited to learn something new and to make connections with like-minded women. The first session I attended was led by four incredible women, and hearing their stories made me think about moving out of my own limiting view of myself. Elke Govertsen, Dori Graff, Megan Faulker Brown, and Jana Francis each shared their unique stories of building businesses that have been driven by passion and social media.

The evening keynote session was even more inspiring – eleven speakers each gave five-minute “ignite” speeches, and each one made me smile for a different reason. I’ll profile some of the eleven women in upcoming blog posts because I don’t want to short change any of them here!

Not-so-open: There were so many women, all of them seemingly polished, well-spoken, and well-connected. And from my initial, somewhat closed-down point of view, all of them had already established conference buddies. And then I showed up at the newbie meet-up without enough business cards.  Oh woe…

Day 2

Open: Friday brought the high-point of the conference for me, literally. A group of us traveled by gondola to the top of the resort, for a hands-on photography workshop with Tracey Clark. Again, I’ll be writing more about this in a full post, but the downbeat is that the experience renewed by own wish to begin to take more time for photography. My new-to-me Canon SLR (a gift from Michael) has sealed the deal.

Not-so-open: I was surpised at how scared I was to take those gondola rides! I know they’re safety tested, I know that thousands of skiiers use them every year, but those are some skinny cables supporting all of us not-so-skinny people. I was thankful for distracting conversation with Wendy Copley.

Day 3

Open: Saturday brought two amazing learning sessions for me. The first was about building on-line and off-line communities and was hosted by Allie McDonald, Amy Mascott, and Thien-Kim Lam. Each woman brought a different view of community building to the discussion and gave us great food for thought.

The afternoon session was focused on writing and publishing, specifically for magazines. Heather Morgan Shott and Ellen Seidman both gave an editor’s perspective on the world of publishing. We had time to work on writing leads, headlines, and pitches – great hands-on practice that I plan to use going forward!

Not-so-open: I have to admit that I’m sort of in a fight with myself about SEO, advertisements, and corporate sponsors. I don’t have a problem with other bloggers who take these avenues (if you want people to read what you post, it only makes sense, right?), but I don’t quite know how it all fits for me. But I’m still learning, and really trying to stay open. And I’m going to keep taking steps in the directions that speak to my heart.

I plan to return next year, and my family definitely wants to be included again, because staying at The Canyons was awesome! The people at The Canyons and the evo conference organizers really know how to make it work for families (hello washer and dryer, in our suite). We swam and hiked each day, and played in the central courtyard. By the time we left we’d taken about a thousand rides on the Cabriolet gondola, and I wasn’t scared at all (I’ve got a photo to prove that, somewhere). 

Over the next few days, I’ll be writing about more of the celebration-worthy ideas that came out of the conference, including the power we all have to be philanthropists and the place social media can play in that process.

If you were at evo, what did you love?

If you weren’t there, want to join me next year?

 

The Operational Checklist Countdown

I sort of like getting ready for a trip as much as the trip itself. It helps to be married to the most organized person I’ve ever met. If we just work through the checklist, everything turns out alright.

While I’m concerned with the most important items (Hello Kitty water bottle, my laptop, watercolor crayons and swimming suits) Michael takes care of the secondary luxuries (flashlights, trip itinerary, maps, and camp sight reservations). We really do complement each other, don’t we?

We’re leaving in less than 12 hours – a huge celebration here!

Mindfulness and Random Holidays

I guess most of our celebrations this month are leaning toward some sort of Zen philosophy. That suits me better than the alternatives, like International Town Criers Day or Don’t Step on a Bee Day. And if I’m paying attention to the present moment, breathing deeply, and letting go of what doesn’t feed my soul, I think it suits Bella and Sam.

We’re definitely not against all made-up, semi-organized holidays. Of course we love National Doughnut Day which always falls on the first Friday in June. We’ll probably go ahead and celebrate National Ice Cream Day on July 15, and it’s fortuitous that my sister is getting married on July 28, National Dance Day. I think I’ve missed the official National Yoga Day this year, but I’m happy to celebrate that one on my own each day.

Any national (or international) celebration days that you never miss?

Walking Away from Busy

Maybe even running away. At least five people recommended I read this short piece by Tim Kreider, about ‘the busy trap’. Five people means it’s time to actually listen. So I am. The timing is perfect for us to step back from our self-imposed busy-ness, as we’re about to leave town for some vacation time. But I also see the need to be more thoughtful about the daily choices we make, so that our little family can move beyond hanging on by our fingernails during the work week.

Instead of comparing notes on who’s the busiest, let’s start a friendly competition to see who can be the least busy. What did I do this weekend? I hung out with my family. End of story. But it was definitely a happy story.

Forgetting fear, at least for a moment

I borrowed Me, Frida, brought it home, and didn’t look at it for a week. Maybe I was subconsciously avoiding the story of a woman who created without fear. Finally it was Michael who read it and placed it on the kitchen counter – You’ve got to look at this book – it made me think of you.

Just that pronouncement motivated me to avoid reading it for several more days.

I happened to be eating breakfast all by myself this morning, for the first time in maybe forever, so I glanced at it. What do I need from Frida Kahlo? She’s got nothing to do with  me. I’d seen her work when we were in Mexico City, and I’ve got that postcard of her with the monkey on her shoulder. I saw the movie version of her life, which was fine, but I couldn’t get on board with Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera.

I was surprised that this story of Frida and Diego in San Francisco touched my heart. David Diaz’s illustrations are gorgeous (as is all of his work), and Amy Novesky was able to capture the story in a form that’s both magical and straightforward. I’d always thought of Frida as being rooted in her unique style of painting from the beginning of her career. This story reminded me that Frida had to push to find her voice. It took her time and effort to move out of Diego’s shadow.

Today’s celebration is of pushing through fear, no matter how small the steps. Put the paintbrushes on the desk, carry the sketchbook each day, pick up the nice camera. No matter what your medium, I hope you’re pushing through too.

…It’s late and I almost forgot about celebrating Denver. Hmmm. I’ll have to take an easy one tonight – the Denver Public Library. I know, it’s such a gimme, but it had to be included this month. I love the Central branch because I can walk there from work, but Smiley will always be my number one.