Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Giving from the heart

I want to share a story I heard last week. It really made me think about what it means to be truly generous.

A colleague of mine (Steve Peifer) whom I met during a college visit to Boston, happens to work in Kenya. He helps kids get into colleges all over the world. The poverty these students live in is remarkable. A few years back, he started raising funds to provide lunch for the kids attending 1 school because if students get fed, they're more likely to keep coming to school because it will likely be the only meal they get.

It only costs $30 a day to feed 600 students Today, because of donations, Steve is able to provide daily lunch for 20 schools. When he delivers the food, he makes sure everyone in the community knows he has delivered enough food for a month. That way it can't "disappear" without everyone noticing and someone being held accountable.

Anyway, right now Kenya is in the midst of a severe drought, so food is even more scarce than usual. When my colleague went to check on one of the schools, which has had food "disappear" in the past, he discovered that they were going to be 9 days short of food for the month. Suspecting that someone had possibly profited from the missing food, he made some inquiries.

What he discovered was that the school community had decided to give up 10% of their food to 2 schools which aren't part of the program so those children would also have some food.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Latest Squirrel Forecast

Having dwelt in the suburbs for most of my years on this planet, I considered squirrels to be an exotic species that only made its home in places where one goes on vacation. That unenlightened perspective was radically changed when we moved into our own home which sits smack dab between suburbia and the wilderness. As neophyte homeowners, we were charmed by the first squirrel we met. We playfully named her “Shirley the Squirrelly”. Every day she would come to the back door and wait for one of us to give her a treat out of the bag of peanuts we kept by the door. She even came to trust us enough to take them right out of our hands. It wasn’t long before Shirley was bringing her offspring to what was quickly becoming the wildlife equivalent of a drive thru window.

We have delighted in watching our furry neighbors as they chase each other up and around the trees, swing upside down on the suet feeders we have put out for the birds, and feast on special winter treats of peanut butter and sunflower seeds. With all their comings and goings, we have become quite accustomed to their faces and their twitchy little tails. That is why it gave us pause this past fall when we noticed that our fuzzy friends were changing colors. Their fur was getting lighter and lighter. At first we thought it was just our imagination, but when their ears turned white we knew something was up. Our memories may not be as good as they used to be, but we were pretty darn certain that we had not seen this before. We wondered if the squirrels were trying to tell us something - turns out that they were.

It seems that these ingenious little critters are better than a barometer for predicting future snow – and lots of it. Apparently, a light gray coat is just the perfect shade for one who wishes to blend in with snow-laden trees. And since we have had more snow this year than they’ve had in decades, we can tell you with some confidence that it’s an absolutely perfect match.
Every day now, as we continue to support their peanut addiction, we look carefully for signs of the golden brown fur which heralds the end of the snow and the return of spring. So far, there’s been no change and we just keep getting more snow. I’m starting to get a little desperate. I mean, the primroses are starting to bloom and the trees are starting to“leaf” and it still keeps snowing. “What’s it going to take for these furry little buggers to turn brown again and end this?!?” If something doesn’t happen soon, I may have to take drastic measures. One more snowfall, and I’m going squirrel hunting – with a super soaker filled with Grecian Formula.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I love my award! Thank you, Cheryl.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Say a Little Prayer For You

Loving God,
As we stand on the brink of change - both hopeful and fearful - I ask you to be with us. Please keep President Obama and his family safe and continue to bless him with wisdom, courage, and steadfast hope. Bring all our public servants the compassion and inspiration they need to lead well in uncertain times. Most of all, help us to open our hearts and eyes those around us and enable us to enthusiastically embrace the positive possibilities that await us just beyond the horizon. Amen

Monday, February 16, 2009

How I Spent My 3 Day Weekend

For the 2nd day in a row, I have put on my work jeans, my lime green garden gloves, as well as my favorite baseball cap, and headed outside into the blue skies and very chilly winter air.

Grabbing my trusty shovel, I headed into the back yard where the meticulously placed landscape cloth has been peeled back like an overripe banana. I surveyed my work – three asymmetrical holes varying in depth from 8 to 12 inches. As I stood there, I considered that I could now add “hole digging” to my ever-growing resume.

Why, you may ask, am I digging holes? I wish I could say it was to plant trees, but with 22 pine trees already in residence, that would seem excessive. A water feature, perhaps? No, the last thing we need in a place where moss grows on anything that slows down is more water. No, the truth of the matter is that I am trying to find our septic tank.

While I believe that the nice septic man deserves every penny he charges for the nasally traumatic job he does, I still decided to save a little money by locating the “cover” for him. Armed with a vague idea of where the tank should be and the “directions” of where the cover is usually located, I took shovel in hand and started digging. Well, at least I took my shovel in hand. Did I ever tell you that we live on an ancient lake bed? You know what a lake bed looks like after all the soft sand washes away? Well, it looks like a gravel quarry. So, digging in our yard is a lot more like excavating.

In the first hole I dug, I managed to unearth several rocks the size of a small cat. The next hole yielded rocks similar in size, as well as the added bonus of semi-indestructible roots the length of my arm. What the holes didn’t yield was the elusive cover. Then I found the steppingstone. I was so excited that it might have been a marker left by the previous owner to aid me in my quest of the holy tank cover that I began excavating with renewed vigor. What did I find? Rocks, roots, and a note from the previous owner that said, “Just kidding”. Well, not really, but that’s what it felt like. I mean, really, why in the world would anyone bury a steppingstone in the middle of the yard?

As I stood there today, contemplating where to dig my next hole, I tried to find a lesson in all this. I came up with a few:
1. Always leave a map for the next guy.
2. When all you find are rocks, use them for landscaping.
3. When you don’t know where to dig, STOP DIGGING.

Being a good student, I have found a long stick to mark the cover. I have gathered up all the cat-sized rocks and set them aside for future use in my garden. And, I have stopped digging. I have decided to let the nice septic man find the cover for me before my yard looks even more like it’s been invaded by giant gophers from hell than it already does. I have abandoned my digging and growing frustration for a nice cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream. I encourage you to do the same.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Changing the Palette

As we flew over mountains I had no name for, I noticed splotches of gold that were strange to me. They seemed to be randomly scattered across otherwise barren slopes. It took me a moment to realize that those vibrant patches of gold were trees, their leaves brilliant with the color of fall.
It occurred to me that such a technicolor spectacle was nature’s own splendid costuming for the season’s finale. As if to say, “You thought the green was nice, well get a load of this!”

I wish I could be like that – so unselfconscious that I would cease to clothe myself in the grays and khakis of safety and the familiar. How lovely it would be to embrace the vibrant, variegated colors that the artist Divine has chosen for my personal palette. Oh, to say to the world - unafraid of comment or consequence, "You thought the old me was good, just wait till you get a load of this!"