Friday, July 2, 2010

My niece is going to change the world!

My ten-year-old niece, Makila is going to change the world. In early June, I spent a couple of days with her trying to make a difference in the world. I am awed by her compassion and drive to help those less fortunate. When most kids her age are worried about the newest technology craze and the coolest new band, Makila is thinking of ways to help kids in need. Don't get me wrong, she is still a typical preteen interested in the newest trends and the latest heartthrobs (She is totally team Jacob!) - but with a heart of gold and a desire to make a difference.
On June 10th, I took her to
Bright Hope International for their Experience tour. Bright Hope is the organization that I volunteered for earlier this year to promote their Run For Hungry Children. The Experience tour allows you to see the work that they do and the help that they provide for people around the world living on less that $1 a day. It is an amazing organization and the tour really opened our eyes. I was not the only one impressed with Makila that night. One of the gentlemen giving the tour spoke with us a little bit and was also struck by Makila's desire to help others. He even included her in his closing prayer for the night and asked me to keep him updated on her progress.

That night, we made the mistake of waiting until after the tour to go to dinner. On our way to the restaurant, we talked about the tour and how the people that Bright Hope helps are lucky to get one meal a day. And here we were hungrily awaiting our third meal that day. Once at dinner we discussed our plans to do more. Makila wants to have a lemonade/ hot dog stand several times throughout the summer and give the proceeds to Bright Hope to feed more children. She even began designing the poster for her stand - picking out pictures from the brochure to add to the poster.

(Property of Makila - Please do not copy)
The next day, we got up early and drove out to Aurora to take part in a program called, Feed My Starving Children - another amazing organization working to feed the extreme poor. This program puts together meal packs containing enough nutrients in one meal so that people only getting one meal a day can survive. What Makila and I got to do was work with a group of volunteers to assemble, seal and pack those meals. It's really a very precise and well run program and I highly encourage everyone to go at least once to do it. Makila and I are already talking about our next trip and who we can bring along.
Makila had two jobs while we were there. She started out weighing the filled bags.

She then switched in the middle and was one of two girls filling the bags. I am so proud of the hard work that she put in that day - without complaining. She really worked hard! After we were through, we met as a group and found out that we packed 84 boxes that will feed 50 children for a whole year. Amazing! I can't wait to see what other kind-hearted things Makila will surely accomplish. You can be sure that I'll keep you posted.
Hope to see you all at her lemonade/ hot dog stand this summer!

Giving kids clothes and food is one thing but it's much more important to teach them that other people besides themselves are important, and that the best thing they can do with their lives is to use them in the service of other people.
~ Dolores Huerta

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's been a while. . .

I know, it's been ages since I've updated this blog. And I know that the two of you who actually read it have been on pins & needles waiting to hear what I've been up to. Well, in short, I have been busy! Since my last entry, I have begun my second of two required courses that I need to reinstate my teaching certificate. Too bad I'm still pretty sure I don't want to go into teaching.
Anyway, this class has proven to be as helpful as the last one, but in a completely different way. The class I'm taking now is called Technology in Education and I get to spend three hours in front of a computer every week. The class has given me some great pointers and also reminded me of how much I love to work on a computer. Hmmmm. . . if only there was a job that helped those less fortunate by playing on a computer all day.
So besides the Oakton class every Thursday, I've been taking a water aerobics class on Tuesday nights. And as much as I can, a yoga class on Friday afternoons.
I'm also volunteering several hours a week for Bright Hope International's Run For Hungry Children. I am in charge of creating and updating a spreadsheet of over 100 businesses, 100 churches and 100 schools in the Hoffman Estates area. We then have been contacting them to get involved in the race. Yay! Finally an opportunity to make a difference and work towards creating a better world.
And of course, I'm still changing the world one latte at a time 30+ hours a week. That being said, I'm really going to try to post updates more often. But if there is a lapse, at least you'll know why.
My intention for this blog was never to be solely about me, but more about my experiences and thought and observations on trying to make this world a better place. My main idea when I started this blog was to do some (for lack of a better term) social experiments and then blog about them. Or maybe talk about some aspect of society that I think has gone downhill (or maybe something that's changed for the better). I've got tons of ideas and I promise, I will make more of an effort to get moving on them.

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Close up of a gerbera

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Check this out

My yoga instructor and friend, Brooks Hall, writes an awesome blog. She has asked me to be a guest muse on her blog. You can find my contribution here:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Spirit

I find it a bit ironic that the blog post that I've been writing in my head for a few weeks about slowing down, not rushing and enjoying the Christmas season more had to get postponed. Why? Because I was rushing around to prepare for Christmas and couldn't fit it in. . .
However, it's only January 2nd and I think it still applies.
Christmas is over and it always amazes and saddens me to see how quickly everything comes down. It seems like the day after Christmas people are taking down decorations and stores (including Starbucks) redecorate and remove all traces of the holiday. It's unfortunate that we rush, rush, rush for this big day and then POOF it's over. No wonder everyone complains around holiday time. Nobody enjoys it because they are too busy rushing to get to it, then remove all traces of it as soon as the day is over. Nobody gives themselves the time to enjoy all of the hard work. Thankfully in my family, we were raised by a mother who thoroughly enjoyed the holiday season and we would keep our decorations up well into January to enjoy.
I will admit that it took me a while to get into the holiday spirit this year, but I'm not ready for it to be over yet either. I think the people that complain about the holiday season and the commercialization of it all need to remember what it was like to be a child at Christmas. Not just the fun of opening gifts, but the wonder of the lights and decorations, and the excited anticipation of the parties, and getting together with family and the joy of giving. Who doesn't remember making something special for their parents in school and how excited we were to give it to them on Christmas morning? I still love to give gifts. I truly enjoy watching people open gifts that I picked out (or sometimes even made) especially for them. We need to remember those things when we're running around like crazy trying to get things done. We need to take time to enjoy the wonder of the season.
If you think that Christmas has become too commercial, then do something about it. Don't hate Christmas and the Christmas season, just change your outlook and your approach to it.
~ You can start making your gifts and not buy (yes, pun intended) into all of the materialistic hype that goes on.
~ You can donate your time to a charity in need.
~ Donate gifts to children in need. Every year, I pick a name or two off of a Christmas tree at my church and buy gifts for an underprivileged child. Get your kids involved in this, teach them that there are children out there who are not as fortunate as them.
~ Instead of gifts (or in addition to) donate money to charity in a loved one's honor.
~ If you're running out of time, send your Christmas cards late. I love getting a few cards that didn't make it to me before the holidays. It helps extend the season a little more. I sent mine late this year and I know some didn't make it before Christmas.
~ Do a simple craft project with your kids. If you don't have kids, borrow some. I did. I hosted a Christmas sleepover for seven children (ages 4-12) a few days before Christmas. We decorated the tree, made ornaments for them to surprise their parents with, had pizza and popcorn & watched a movie. It was a really fun time and really helped me to see Christmas through the eyes of a child again. Sure, I missed out on two days of shopping, wrapping and Christmas card writing, but it was totally worth it.
Don't get me wrong, there are times that I feel stressed and overwhelmed during the holiday season, but all of the positives about it greatly outweigh the little stresses.
Let me share with you two stories that reminded me this year of the true spirit of Christmas and why Christmas should be enjoyed and not rushed through.
The first happened a couple of weeks ago when I was shopping at Target. I kept noticing a bunch of people who appeared to be together, all looking around in the toy section. I then happened to be at the checkout at the same time as the group and asked them if they belonged to some sort of charitable organization (assuming they were buying toys for needy kids). They said that they all worked together and that instead of getting Christmas gifts from their boss, he was buying gifts that they were all choosing for a children's charity. What an awesome way to put the meaning of Christmas in perspective.
The second happened just a few days ago. It was December 28th and I'm sure many people had already taken down and packed away their Christmas decorations. Much of my family and I were on our way to Jamaica. We had a layover in Dallas. We were all sitting around waiting for our connecting flight. As we were sitting there, we heard some people start to clap. We (of course) turned to see what was going on. The clapping people were all looking up at a walkway one floor above us. On that walkway was a large group of soldiers coming home from their tour of duty. The whole airport seemed to stop and everyone in the vicinity stood and clapped as every last one of those soldiers walked past. What an awesome thing to witness so close to Christmas! You had better believe that the families of those soldiers were extending their holidays past December 25th.
So, I'm pretty excited that because of scheduling conflicts, my family actually hasn't celebrated our Christmas yet. We are getting together on the 9th instead. We too are extending our season this year and I'm glad. I'm not ready to see all the decorations go.
I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.
~ Harlan Miller