Thursday, December 29, 2011

Last Minute Tax Deductions!!

…or an even better title would be “Your last chances to save the world in 2011” ☺

This week I began printing out all the receipts from charities we’ve given to this year and ya know, it really starts to add up! All those donations can also equal a lot of deductions, and tax time is just around the corner! Here are some really great charities you may not have heard of that you can give to online. I found them on the Daily Grommet website. As with any online giving site, they will email you a receipt, which you can save to hand over to your accountant for some deductions, and more importantly, to make a difference!!

Containers to clinics: I recently heard of this project that repurposes large shipping containers into small clinics for those in areas without medical services!! Watch the video and then try to tell me you don’t want to give to this!! It will definitely pull at your heart-strings (and hopefully your purse strings ☺)

Wine into water: This guy, Doc Hendley, just heard about how unclean “water kills more children than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Every 15 seconds a child dies because of unclean drinking water.” And he decided to do something about it. Talk about inspiration!! I love it!!! Check him out, and check out this awesome cause! !

Need an added bonus?
How about airline miles?! When you give to these organizations through the American Airlines shopping portal you are rewarded with points for each dollar you donate!

Use this site: to get miles for donating to:
• The National Foundation for Cancer Research,
• Susan G. Komen for the cure to breast cancer
• Unicef

If you don’t care at all about a tax deduction, but want to help others, please check out This site allows you to give a small ($25) loan to someone around the world just trying to make it. The loan gets repaid to you over time and you can then cash out or donate your $25 to someone else in need!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #40..finally


There is no other single greater way to help someone than prayer. We can help, but God works miracles. I know. It is an absolute miracle that I:.....

have eternal life
am alive today
had the opportunity to go to college
am a teacher
have an amazing group of friends
am married to, no contest, the greatest man on Earth...and that he chose me
have the most loyal and supportive baby sister in the world

and there is so, so very much more, but I wanted to point out these things specifically because they are the things that I prayed fervently for in my life. And that after I realized what I had in these gifts, I have thanked God for them profusely. These are opportunities that so many people don't get in this lifetime. A second chance at life, a relationship with our Savior, a beautiful marriage and life-long friendships, a profession that I love. These are gifts that I have prayed and wept and begged and prayed and wept for. And they are gifts that I received. Simply because I love an awesome God and He says that what we ask for we receive and what we seek we will find. I did. And He hath provided.

For when you follow Him, He will give you the desires of your heart~ Psalm 37:4.

So pray without ceasing. For change in yourself, and change in the world.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #39 Boycott

I'm freaking out right now. No kidding. Okay, so I know I've already posted about how important it is to choose wisely where you shop and what you buy. My handy-dandy book that tells of socially responsible stores/products helps with that. But today was an epic FAIL.

Tomorrow we leave for our trip to Europe. As we're packing John realizes he only has like one pair of shorts and it's gonna be like 87 degrees in Italy. So we head out to pick up another pair. First, we go to REI, as they sell Patagonia, the MOST responsible clothing company on the planet. But I say (yes, me) that we should just grab something cheap at Old Navy. Despite my eco-ness, I still LOVE cheap clothes, and the Gap was listed as like a "B" in the socially responsible book. Not too bad. Apparently, Old Navy does NOT fall in the same category.

After we successfully find some reasonably cheap shorts, we head to the checkout. We're just casually making conversation with the check-out girl and she asks if we want our hanger. We say, "no" and ask her what they do with the hangers if people don't want them. I'm assuming she'll say they reuse them or send them back to the company to be reused. NOPE. They THROW THEM AWAY!!! Not recycle, not donate to goodwill or something, or logically, reuse them. They trash them. Can you IMAGINE?!?!!?! I bet they go through 300 hangers a day! I can't even fathom what Christmas or big sales are like!!

Needless to say, we returned the shorts and went next door to Kohl's, where they reuse their hangers, and told the girl (nicely, I really was super nice- it's not her fault) that we would no longer be shopping at Old Navy because of their throw-away policy with the hangers. She kinda smirked and didn't seem to care at all, so I'm probably going to have to email Old Navy so that they will know that they are losing customers due to their laziness and unethical practices. sigh. And they make such cute stuff.

Anyway, there's my story. And I had to share it because if we all just keep supporting companies that do that crap then we'll never make a difference. And that's what we're here for, the reason we are put on this planet, to make a difference!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #38 TerraCycle is a company that turns your trash (like CapriSun pouches and Snickers bar wrappers) into cool, reusable stuff like backpacks, toys, office supplies, etc. And the proceeds go to the non-profit organization that you choose! You can just set up a collection box around your office or school for people to dump their dead bic pens or crayola markers in. Once it's full, ship them to TerraCycle to be made into cool stuff and your school (or chosen non-profit) racks up!

I LOVE LOVE LOOOOOOOOOVE this idea! I want to do it so badly at my preschool, but we aren't a non-profit. Please let me know if you start a brigade and I'll send you stuff I collect for your non-profit, for sure!!!

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #37 WWII vets

This organization is working to get all WWII vets to see their memorial before they die. They send veterans, free of charge to D.C. to see what has been established in their honor. My great-uncle Wilburn K. Ross won the Congressional Medal of Honor in WWII. He is, by God's grace, still living and able to visit this memorial. I wonder how many people can say the same of the veteran in their life.

Check out the video, spread the word.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #36 Dining in the Dark

I can't take a bit of credit for this idea (or really any of my ideas), but this one in particular came from my Mother-in-love and Aunt-in-love when they came to visit last summer. Before visiting us in Monterey they spent some time in San Francisco. While there they had an interesting dining experience at a restaurant that was completely dark. It was to advocate for and give others a taste (no pun intended) of what it is like to be blind.

What a cool experience! What a way to open your eyes!!

It turns out these restaurants are all over the country! Search for one in your town by Googling "dining in the dark". You may be surprised as to what you really begin to see!

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #35 Get HOT legs and save the planet!!

May 16-20 is Ride your Bike to Work Week!!! Friday, May 20 is Ride your Bike to Work Day!! (For those that can't commit to a whole week.)

I'm sure I don't even need to tell you the benefits of this: Makes you healthier (and hotter), helps cut down on fossil fuels, saves money (especially with the gas prices these days), and who knows, you may even enjoy it and want to do it more!!

For those who logistically can't do this, try to at least take public transit, or carpool with someone this week! Come on, what have you got to lose?!

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #34 Christmas

Nobody wants to think about Christmas in May. Including myself. But you can't very well think of charity without Christmas coming to mind. With that being said, I want to tell you about my all-time favorite Christmas charity!! I've been doing this charity since I was 17 (Yikes 10 years now!). My mom got us doing it in high school and I just loved the concept, so I've done it every year. This year I was able to help on a bigger scale by helping at the local contribution center as well as buying for the charity.

It's so easy, and it helps children around the world to have a Christmas!! You just grab a shoe box, fill it with little toys, games, clothes, soap, toothbrushes, etc. put a few bucks in for shipping (I think it was like $5 this year) and take it to your local distribution site (found at the website).

You don't have to run out and buy all that stuff either! When I was in college (and of course, broke) I would only eat happy meals when I got fast food. I saved up all the little toys and put them in the boxes. I got donations of crayons in boxes from Cracker Barrel and I also included boxes of soap, travel sized toothpaste and kids toothbrushes, and bought a pack of kids undies and socks. I put any free sample stuff I could get my hands on that they could use. I could usually fill about 3 or 4 boxes this way. I didn't have the money then to even include the shipping. They will accept the box without it (thank goodness), so now I give an extra monetary donation so that other poor college kids can give without worrying about the shipping money.

I thought posting this now might give you an idea of things to grab when you are at the dollar spot in Target or something so you could start a collection for when Christmas comes :)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #33 Who would I be?

I love California. It's beautiful and sunny all the time and the people are diverse and eclectic.....but it's just not the South.

The people here are different. They are good people, but more reserved. Strangers don't really talk to you like they do back home. Certainly, nobody calls you "Honey" or "Baby" unless they are your husband. No one says, "Ma'am" or "Sir" and they don't even dress up for Easter! It's nice that it's so laid back, but it's not home. It's not "Come on by" and "Lemme gitcha somethin' more to eat" or "Stay awhile".

And recently, it's got me thinking, who would I be if not for the South?

I've been thinking that since about Wednesday, since I heard about and saw videos of and got phone calls from friends and family telling me about the destruction and devastation in this place that I call home.

Who would I be if I didn't advocate for help?

The death toll is currently at 330. 248 of those are in Alabama. 79 are from the Chattanooga, TN area, where I considered "home" before I came here. There are so many terrible stories of finding bodies of neighbors, children and adults alike. Whole families killed in one night. As of Friday there were 95,000 homes in the Chattanooga area without power. Many won't get it back until Monday at the earliest. Many more across the state of Alabama. Whole towns were basically destroyed like Ringgold, GA, leaving people searching for family members and memorabilia from what they knew of their lives before Wednesday night. I praise God for the safety of my friends, former coworkers, and family, and pray for those who were less fortunate.

Although FEMA is making a (rather late) appearance, there is help. The night of the storms the Red Cross set up mass casualty units as well as trailers to give out supplies and food, and shelter locations for those with severe destruction or absolute loss of homes. I can't imagine how much it will take to restore these communities, but I have to ask myself:
Who would I be if I didn't help??

Here are some ways to help:
Call 205-248-5045, to volunteer with FEMA,
Or text "Give" to 80888 to make a $10 donation through the Salvation Army

Monday, April 25, 2011

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #32 Locks of Love

I'm sure you've heard of this amazing organization. You probably know quite a few people who've contributed. is an organization that works to create hair pieces for disadvantaged children under the age of 21 that have lost their hair due to illnesses or treatments. Many times hairpieces are made of synthetic fibers that become frizzy with excessive styling, and it's difficult to find pieces to fit children and their cute little heads. Therefore, Locks of Love was created to help children to find hairpieces that make them feel more comfortable in a difficult time in their lives.

You can help by donating your hair to Locks of Love. They do have a few regulations, such as your hair must be 10 inches cut in a ponytail, not bleached, etc.

What a simple way to help someone. It's free. It's easy. And once again, you are making a change for the world :D

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #31 Teach!

I'm not just saying that you should teach because well, it is the greatest profession ever (minus the whole lack of respect from much of society and crappy pay bit), but I'm saying it because we all benefit from learning from each other.

I can't count how many things I've learned from my husband in the two years we've been married. I've learned to downhill ski, snowshoe, shovel snow, cross country ski, rock climb, play racquetball, surf, ride a bike (they say you never forget, but turns out I didn't know that much to begin with), make sushi, and truly, unselfishly love someone without condition.

That's a lot. And it doesn't even count the time he taught me to throw a football when I was 12!

I feel so blessed and that my life is so enriched by these experiences. By him teaching me. Imagine what you could do in someone's life if you took the time to teach them something that no one else had. Trust me, it is an AMAZING experience when you realize that someone can do something new because you taught them!

So try it! Teach your grandma to use email (or facebook!) Teach your little cousin how to knit or wear makeup. Teach your niece how to braid her hair or tie her shoes. Or go out and learn something! I have a date with my grandma this summer to learn how to can tomatoes :D

Some of the greatest skills are becoming lost arts. Teach them, learn them!

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #30 FAIL

Yup. Big, fat, FAIL. I'm not suggesting you do this, by any means, but I'm saying that I did. Blogfail/LentFail. Today is the day after Easter, and after the last day of Lent and I still have 10 more blogs to go. But I have learned a lesson from all this, and in turn, another new way to change the world!

Don't set yourself up for failure.

At the time in your life when you are married, working two jobs, starting a doctorate and finishing up a certification you should just relish in the fact that you are very busy trying to save the world in doing all these things. It's tempting to try to go a step further and to share with the rest of the world ways to help, but don't bite off more than you can chew. (like me ;D)

So, if you want to help others to not get in over their head, how about helping them to take a load off? I bet all of us know some mothers that could use even an hour or two of babysitting so they could recharge their batteries. Or perhaps you know someone that could really use a few already-cooked-meals while they are recuperating from surgery or the flu. Think of ways to help others that maybe have a liiiiiittle too much on their plates right now. They will appreciate it, for sure, but they may not be willing (or capable) of asking for help.

So my challenge for you this week is to think of one person and one way you could make their life easier. Do it! :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #29 Autism

Being a teacher I've dealt with many of these quirky cuties, but it wasn't until I began working as an ABA therapist this past January that I really saw what it was like for those kids and their families living with Autism.

I can't even describe how difficult it must be for the parents of these little guys. I mean that literally. That's why I'm posting this video to give you an idea:

As a general member of society there are only so many ways to help. One way would be to donate or sponsor someone participating in a fundraiser for Autism. There is no cure yet, but we can help supply the means for the research. This can be done at

We can advocate for them and educate ourselves. By being compassionate and non-judgemental we can help people with Autism as well as their family members to feel accepted. The last thing anyone needs is to feel more isolated. To do this you can check out this site which offers a 30-minute online course on Autism Spectrum Disorder.

If you do know of someone, or a family with a member with Autism, I found this great article on Huffington Post's Living website that gives suggestions of how to help:

Finally, as there is no real way to prevent Autism, you may take into consideration these things that have been linked to Autism in children:
Older age of parents
BP-A, the chemical found in all canned goods, plastics, ya know, just about everything. It's pretty terrible for us, and awful for fetuses. you can also listen to Diane Rehm's talk on it
TV before the age of 3: I know you've heard me harp on this before, but it really stresses me out to see children in front of a television. Here's a good article on why:

Monday, April 18, 2011

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #28 Do your research

I heard someone say once that every time you go shopping, it's like you're voting. It's true, in a way. When you buy a product that company makes money. This creates a supply and demand. When you bought that product you were voting for that company over another. You are essentially wanting that company to succeed over the others. But would you vote without knowing what the candidate stood for? Would you cast an uneducated ballot? I certainly hope not. I hope that you'd research the candidates, their agendas, beliefs, viewpoints, etc. So why don't we do that as consumers?

Here's some information to help you make more "informed" decisions:

M&M's (Mars Candy): Evidence that they use child slave labor.
Verizon Cell Phones and Service: Have given $84 million to Washington Lobbyists; discriminated against pregnant employees.
Coca-Cola: On the Multinational Monitor's "Worst Corporation" list for 3 years; hinders clean water access abroad; is the target of major human rights boycotts.
Lubriderm: #17 in "Top 100 Corporate Criminals"; has the worst environmental record in the industry; continues unnecessary animal testing.


Tom's of Maine: (Toothpaste, soap, etc.): Powered by 100% renewable energy; gives 10% of profits to nonprofits; ranked #8 best company on the planet.
New Belgium (beer): 1st 100% wind-powered brewery; conserves 50% more water vs. average; employee-owned business; gives $1.6 million to local community.
Chipotle (fast food): Actively sources from family farms; supports humane treatment of animals; 30% of beans utilized are organic; 50-100% of meat utilized is natural-raised.

Seriously, who would you vote for?

I found this info in a book I recently purchased called "The Better World Shopping Guide" by Ellis Jones. I keep it in my purse now for when I go to the grocery. I have to admit it has been difficult giving up on some of these "trusted" brands that I've grown up with (I still SERIOUSLY struggle with Coca-Cola), but I think about how so many companies are trying to do what is right when it would be so easy to do the wrong things and make more money. I want to support what is right. I want to teach my kids to do what is right. How can I do that by supporting those that do wrong?

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #27 Don't Do Anything

I realize that this sounds a bit counterproductive from all the advice I've been spewing this Lent season, but it actually makes sense. I read this blog that talks about how if we really want to save the world then we should just stop doing stuff.

Much like my favorite mantra: Live simply so that other's may simply live.

Stop wanting stuff. The more crap we buy, the more demand there is for it, so the more companies make of it. Just stop wanting it. You don't need it. It's just more junk that will end up in a landfill for our kids to deal with. Sounds easy enough, but any American will tell you, it's stinkin' hard!! Americans LUUUUUV stuff. I love stuff. But I challenge you, go a week without buying anything new (except food, but try to buy all unpackaged food). Then try to do it for a whole month. Imagine how much money you'd save. If you really really REALLY have to buy something, try to find it used first. There's no since creating more.

Stop going to do stuff. That's not really true, but try to do better stuff. Instead of wasting the gas driving to spend 933423483 dollars to see the newest movie, try doing something good for you. Go on a bike ride. Walk in the park with a friend. Unclutter your house. Don't spend money or resources and just see how much fun you have :)

Be mindful. I have a wonderful husband that helps me to be accountable. He helps me to be mindful of others and the environment (like when I want to go buy new stuff and he reminds me of my quest to save the world). But even with having my John here to help, I want to make a conscience effort to think of others (people, animals, environment, etc.) all the time. So I pray for mindfulness. I pray that God will help me to remember others and bring it to my mind when I'm doing something that isn't beneficial for myself, others, or the environment.
That's more than half the battle.

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #26 Shoes again?!

Okay, what? I know this is my second blog in this series about shoes. I'm a girl; I LOVE shoes! More specifically right now I'm in love with TOMS shoes

I was eyeing these hippie-looking soles for a while before I heard the story of TOMS. I could tell it to you, but instead I chose to steal it from the source:

In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.

So if you buy a pair of TOMS shoes (much like this adorable pair pictured, that I ordered this weekend) another pair will be given to a child in need.

Just another reason to go shoe shopping!! :D

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #24 Easy as Pie

Here's a super easy one for ya! You can put this as your home page (or just go to the site) and click. The advertisers on the site send moolah per click to feed others! You can also click for breast cancer, rainforest, literacy, veterans, kiddos, etc!!

Told ya it was easy!

Friday, April 8, 2011

40 days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #24 Eva's HeroesI

I watched an interview yesterday with one of my new favorite celebrities, Eva Longoria. She is considered a new favorite because of the interview. I'll admit I was expecting the typical, "I'm a celebrity, I adopt children from other countries so you'll love me, but really I pay my nannies to take care of them while I steal other peoples' husbands." But I got something totally different. I think I've found a kindred spirit!!

Not only is Eva Longoria a super hot actor/model/producer/director, but she also is a student. Eva (I'm pretty sure she'd want us to be on a first name basis) is currently working on her Master's in History and Chicano studies. She is an advocate for not only equal rights and social justice of Latino's and migrant workers in America, but she has created a documentary to create awareness for the new slave class that we have created in this country. I'm speaking of the young American citizen children that are working in our fields today. They are victims of generational poverty, unable to escape due to their lack of education created by the demand for agricultural work. In the interview she says, "We won't by t-shirts from China because they were made from kids in sweatshops, but we have our own children, legal citizens, picking our fruits and vegetables!" I <3 her.

Although I haven't found the right way to get behind this fight she's fighting for our Hispanic children (maybe just getting the word out, starting petitions? ...Any ideas?), I have found the way to get behind another one of Eva's great projects. Eva's Heroes, Eva created this project in honor of her older sister, Lisa. Seeing how much independence has helped Lisa, Eva created Eva's Heroes to help other kids with disabilities, namely Down's syndrome, to live lively, active lives. Eva's Heroes is an after school and summer program for children 14-21 in the San Antonio area. Check it out, I think it will bless you!

Finally, an actor I can like!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #23 Mandala House: The search for strength

This morning on our way to church, John and I were having a conversation about the difference between being "tough" and being considered "strong." It takes an extremely tough person to survive a traumatic event, but it takes an even stronger person to survive the event and to find peace again. That rarely happens alone.

The people of Mandala House recognize this, and they are change agents for strength.

At they work with victims of gender-based violence such as rape, and/or sexual and physical abuse in Uganda, Sri Lanka, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of these women and children were abused in war-time situations, and/or held captive, displaced from their families, and often forced to become soldiers of the war. Mandala House works with mental health counselors and instructors to help these victims to trust others and their own emotions again through instruction in yoga, meditation, and non-violent communication techniques.

If you aren't into donations, then I would ask that we at least pray diligently for the women and children that are searching for strength. I can't imagine how someone could come back from that, but I do know that God can do anything. I pray that He supply these counselors and trainers with the skills to equip them for such a huge job. And if He has lain it on your heart to help such a worthy cause, you can do so here:

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #22 Share a Book

Let's just chit chat for a moment about one of my other passions - reading! I read (hehe) that 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book after they graduate!! (This was from a survey done by the Jenkins Group, an independent publishing services group) Is that nuts or what?! I don't know if it's just all the new technology or that these people just never found a book that moved them in some way. It was devastating to read this as a teacher, and a reader. Therefore, I began searching for ways to help :)

One great way to help would be to help out the library! You can donate your old books to your public library! I know that in this economy a lot of people are turning to the library for various reasons such as movie rentals, free internet access, entertainment for their kids, etc. What if your donated book caught their eye, they picked it up, checked it out and they loved it so much that they became a lifelong reader???

Okay, maybe not as probable as using this tactic: This website suggests that you print off their sticker, put your name on the sticker and put it in a book you have finished. You then register the book and then leave the book somewhere for someone else to find. Maybe a coffee shop, your hotel room, the park, just somewhere that someone will find it. Who knows, maybe that book will really touch their lives. Maybe they are struggling financially, trying to live in a big city and they run across your copy of A Moveable Feast and it inspires them to keep pursuing their passion rather than to give up. Perhaps some guy has been pining after the same girl for years, beginning to consider giving up on her when he finds your cast aside copy of Love in the Time of Cholera (or maybe he realizes it is time to give up if you pass along your Great Gatsby). You could be the reason someone finds their personal legend from reading The Alchemist.

Change the world. Encourage literacy.

Tell me you don't love this idea.

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #21 Save The Children

Save the Children.
This one is very dear to my heart, not just because this organization is working to exactly fulfill what I believe my purpose is- to save children, but also because of it's origin.
Save the Children was created 75 years ago in rural Appalachia, to help children during the depression. I became familiar with the organization while I was working for The Center for Educational Research in Appalachia in Richmond, KY during graduate school. Save the Children is still doing work in rural Appalachia to resolve the issues that children there face everyday, the issues of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and disease. In their 75 years of existence they have expanded to more than 50 countries working to save children. You will see them providing aid after every major catastrophe, including with the recent tsunami victims in Japan.
If you are looking for one charity to give to annually, or on a monthly basis, to help children around the world, this is the one I recommend.

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #20 Airline Miles

My husband thinks that accruing airline miles is pointless (no pun intended). I am obsessed with them :) But there's always that time when you have like 5000 miles and nothing to do with them. It will take forever to accumulate enough points for another flight and for whatever reason, you've moved on to another airline. What do you do with the extra points?

Donate them!! There are so many great charities that can use your extra points! Check them out!!

The American Cancer Society


The Salvation Army

and many more!

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #19 Encouragement

I bet if you sat down and thought for a minute, you would come up with someone that you know who could use a little encouragement. I can think of plenty. The friends that just had a new baby, the girlfriend that is going through a terrible breakup, the one with the new job that is overwhelming them, etc., etc. I can always think of someone that could use a little cheering up. I challenge myself to be encouraging at least once a week. That sounds lame, I know, but honestly, it's difficult sometimes. It takes time to pull yourself away from your own life to have a 30 minute phone conversation, or write out a note, or send an encouraging email, or buy a little gift for someone. But it is so worth it. Once a week. Challenge yourself. Make a list of people, go buy a stack of encouraging cards, put post-it reminders on your computer, or just check out these sites:

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #18 Blood

On the Red Cross website it states that only 3 out of every 100 Americans donates blood. That's a sad number when you think about how essential blood is for life!

In short, have a bleeding heart! ;) Click here to find ways to give (blood drives, donation centers etc.)

It just costs a little time to help save lives. get a cookie and juice!! :D

Friday, March 25, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #17 Habitat

I'm pretty sure that everyone in America has, by this point, heard of Habitat for Humanity. But what you may not know is how truly simple it is to work with this organization.

When we first moved to Monterey and the school year hadn't started yet, I began looking for new ways to volunteer. I found the Habitat website for Monterey and learned that Monterey County has one of the most unattainable housing markets in the country. I'd assume this is largely due to folks like the military coming in and having their housing paid for them, that coupled with the insanely expensive neighboring properties of Pebble Beach and Carmel, make it pretty stinkin' hard to afford a home around here.

Another area facing difficulties like this is Hawaii, where there is tons of tourism, but let's be honest, unless you own the hotel, you aren't making a whole lot of dough to support a family.

Habitat for Humanity is just about everywhere. I'm sure you'll find a chapter near you. All you have to do is call them or email them and tell them that you want to help. I did, and they said, "Okay, show up at this address Saturday at 8." It was that easy! There's no weekly commitment or people hounding you all the time. It's a great way for you to help, when you can.

One caveat however, if you are going to bring your husband and he's a pretty hands-on guy, make sure there is some real building going on. He'll be rather disgruntled if he spends two hours searching for the right key to a doorknob :D

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

40 days and 40 help # 16 Peacecorps

Do you feel like you just need to do something great with your life? Sure you do. Don't you? I've felt that way my whole life. Like I was here for some purpose. God has blessed me with the life that I've lived, the struggles that I've overcome, for a purpose. To make a difference. To be the change. The one part of that I've always struggled with is the how of it all. I feel like I have this desire to save the world, but how? Through teaching? Through volunteering? Advocacy? Sustainability? What?!

I'm not totally sure, but I am sure of one thing. These people are.

Until I figure out exactly how I'm going to impact the world, I can at least help them help by donating here: and so can you :D

40 days and 40 help # 15 Help for the Homeless

I guess I should have posted this one after #13.

This is another example of how young children are changing the world (and by that I mean by doing more than just being on the planet and giving us something to adore) :)

Little 8 year-old Clara created today's topic . She had this great idea to give a gift to the many homeless people she sees. She didn't want to simply give them money, so she came up with the idea of giving them a "bag of hope." It's just a little ziploc baggie (I had an eco freak out over this one, but I'm working on ways to give without ruining the planet) with snacks and treats or gift cards to grocery stores and a message of hope. You can purchase them on her website, donate to her ministry, or simply make your own.

We decided to put the flyer to our church's food and clothing pantry on the canned goods we keep in John's car. That way the people we give them to know where they can go for food, clothes, and encouragement.

Our pastor presented this idea in one of his sermons and he created some bags and put this message of hope in his bag along with a dollar, a peppermint, and a granola bar or something.

This gift for you is from someone who wants
you to be okay. They have given you this in the
name of Jesus. It is because of His love that we
are saved,and He inspired this gift.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed are those who take refuge in him.
-Psalms 34:8(NIV)
You are special and very important to God. The
person who gave you this is praying for you.

I liked it, so I thought I'd share.

Friday, March 18, 2011

40 days and 40 help # 14 Spread Some Cheer!!

I try to send a card to someone every week. Sometimes it's encouragement, a birthday card, or just a hello. You know, it's not easy to stay in touch with all your family and friends when you live on the other side of the country. Unfortunately, that must end. Because I'm so in love with these projects that I'll be sending my cards to them!!

On these sites are pictures and stories of children in the hospital that would love some cheer from you. Who doesn't like getting mail?! It's just the simplest thing and it's so sweet. 5 minutes to write a cute card to a kiddo and mail it off. BAM, changing the world already!!

40 days and 40 help # 13 Homeless Children

Probably most of you remember that year I was in graduate school. You probably remember me changing my ideas about what I was going to do next like oh, say, every other week. Well, in one of those weeks I found a school that I absolutely fell in love with. I wanted to work there SO BAD! I just couldn't picture a better way to serve the Lord and to serve children than to go to Phoenix to work at the Thomas J. Pappas School for homeless children. This school not only provided education for the homeless children of Phoenix, but also supplied them with school and hygiene supplies as well as clothes, shoes, and meals to take home. That year (2008) the school closed due to funding. It was luckily reopened in another location as a charter school called Children First Academy (the website isn't working, so donating to them is not as easy right now).

The idea of a school for homeless children is just so inspirational. What chance will these kids have if we don't give them their basic needs and an education? What if Ron Neil, the Superintendent of Sequoia Charter Schools, hadn't given the kids of Phoenix a chance by reopening their school? What will happen if funding doesn't reach other schools like it? Schools like:

or that works throughout California to provide tutoring to homeless children.

or in Sacramento, which is a free, private school for homeless children ages 3-15.

We have been so blessed, and we take so much for granted.

The children in my classes that have been poor, or homeless are a heartbreaking site. Times might have been tough, but I never had to worry that I would have shoes to wear to school or food waiting in the fridge, or a bed to sleep in.

If you want to help children locally, call any local school. I'm sure they will know of a child or family that is struggling and could use an extra pair of shoes or jacket this season.

40 days and 40 help # 12 Plastics

There is no way you could expect me to blog for 40 days without throwing something beneficial for the planet in here. Especially this cause. It's not for charity. It's for you. And your children. And your children's children.

Get rid of plastics.

Please. I will seriously beg you. They are ruining your health and your planet.

John says that I can come off as a bit of an eco-freak when I start talking about how we are trying to live our lives completely without plastics (it's nearly impossible). So, just so you'll actually read this and not completely disregard my hippie ways, I'm only going to talk about one kind of plastic- plastic bags. They are ruining our lives and you probably don't even know it! Good thing I'm here to tell you :) Here's
why you've GOT to get rid of plastic bags (at least):

This is taken directly from the "Bag it" documentary website (if you haven't seen it, you should, then you'll understand why I often sound psycho about plastics :D )

"In the United States alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of oil is used annually to make the plastic bags that Americans consume." (Want to complain about the oil crisis and gas prices?- blame ourselves) "The United States International Trade Commission reported that 102 billion plastic bags were used in the U.S. in 2009. These bags often wind up in waterways or on the landscape, becoming eyesores and degrading water and soil as they break down into toxic bits. Their manufacture, transportation and disposal use large quantities of non-renewable resources and release equally large amounts of global-warming gases. Ecologically, hundreds of thousands of marine animals die every year when they eat plastic bags mistaken for food." (which is, in turn, inside the fish that you eat)

Most people think they are doing good by simply recycling these bags. The problem is, the plastic is
so thin these can't be recycled into anything. So, we ship them off to third world countries where they try to recycle them, but end up just ingesting toxic fumes from the process, or they just end up in a place like this:

And all we have to do is to stop using plastic bags. It's sooo easy!!

These places have banned them or have started charging fees:
San Francisco, LA, Coastal North Carolina, Portland, Austin, Boston, New Haven, Phoenix and Annapolis.
All of China and Rwanda have banned them.

Don't know how? Buy a few reusables and keep them in your car (or the fold ups in your purse). They are everywhere now. Even Wal-Mart sells them for as little as 25 cents! Buy $2.00 worth and never use a plastic bag again!!

It's such a small thing that can make such a big impact and it will barely cost you a thing. Actually, since many stores give you a 5 cent discount when you bring your own bag (places like Target, Wal-Mart, and Whole Foods) you may eventually MAKE money off saving the planet. How does that feel?

40 days and 40 help # 11 Clean Water

I'm not sure what kind of philanthropist I would be if I didn't mention this one. I'm talking about the one major resource that we take for granted every. single. day.

Clean Water.

And the majority of people living in third world countries don't have it. I mean, think about that! I read in one of my eco books that the amount of water we use in a 5 minute shower is the equivalent of what most people in Africa get to use for an ENTIRE DAY!! That's washing clothes, dishes, bathing, drinking, cooking, etc. After reading that same information Jennifer Aniston began committing herself to a 3 minute shower a day. That's just one of the many reasons that Jennifer Aniston is, in fact, cooler than me. I've tried and tried, but the shortest shower I could get down to was 4:20 (and please try to hold back your snickers, that was the real time). Furthermore, when it comes to showering after a big surf day (smelling like whale poop and combing seaweed out of my hair) or a seriously sweaty workout at the gym, I don't even feel guilty for my 5+ minute showers. But I should. It's like little Sydney said, why should I live like a queen when they have nothing?

So guilty, not guilty, whatever. Regardless, the right thing to do is to try to monitor our water and find ways of providing it for others.

I know some great people working for this cause as we speak. One super-awesome pastor friend of mine is supporting the organization during Lent. He is giving up all drinks except for water. Every time he wants to drink something else (or would normally) he puts that money aside. At the end of Lent he will donate the money to the organization to provide clean water for people in Africa. The organization was originally created by the members of Jars Of Clay, who wanted to help the people of Africa after seeing the devastation there, but I just heard about it a few years ago from Donald Miller's blog when he decided to do the 1,000 mile bike ride to raise money and awareness for the cause. (If you are ever looking for a GREAT read, check his books, or blog out!)

Another wonderful gal that I know of is doing a similar project for Lent through 20liters gives some very convincing information on their site that I just have to share with you:

1 in 8 people in the world do not have clean water .

$40 creates access to clean water for 1 family for up to 10 years!

$140 buys a slow-sand filter that creates access to clean water for 20 people for up to 10 years.

$3,200 buys a rainwater harvesting system that creates access to clean water during the rainy season for 100 families for up to 10 years.

Don't have the time to go looking up all these sites? text 20LITERS to 85944 to donate $10.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #11 GoodSearch

OMG, you are gonna LoVe this idea!!! I just know you are, and here's why:

1. It's free!!! WhAt wHaT??? Saving the world for free?!

2. You already do it everyday!! Easy as pie!

3. You love helping people anyway :)

Instead of using Google or Yahoo! for your search engine, try GoodSearch. Every time you search on this Yahoo-based search page money is donated (generated from the ads on the page) to the charity of your choice! Tell me you don't love it?

Wanna know more? Check this vid out!

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #10 Help Teachers Help Kids

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day. Today in my class a "leprechaun" visited while my students were in dance class. He left his footprints all over our classroom and the trail led to a container of cookies for us!! When the kiddos got back from dance they were absolutely ecstatic!! I love that magic and make believe exist for them. I wouldn't trade their looks of excitement and wonder for anything! Not even the extra time and money it took me to bake cookies, decorate them, and then cut 25 footprints out of green paper and tape them around my room. All that is part of the job.

On average, elementary school teachers spend about $541. a year out-of-pocket. And that's out of their measly salaries. They aren't reimbursed for supplies or mileage like a business person, they may spend more than they make for 2 months (as I did this year- sorry Dave Ramsey), and they use their Christmas wishes for things like 100 sharpened pencils just so they don't have to keep buying (and sharpening) their own for a while. The sad truth is, it's getting worse. As budgets are cut and the economy swirls farther down the drain, there is less and less money for supplies and teacher pay. But there's still the never-ending battle for teachers. How do they keep kids engaged? They can't battle the Xboxes and Playstations for attention with pencil and paper, sitting in rows of desks. Monotony will not excite our kids to learn. But teachers can't afford the extra materials or technology to make it fun. What else can they do but spend their own money?

This is an amazing site that allows teachers to post projects they are working on with their kids that need funding.

Projects like....
For Christmas my sister donated to a class in our (John and my) honor that was creating a green classroom. They were growing their own organic foods to eat as well as creating a green house and educating the school on having more sustainable classrooms.

Another great project was one done by my pal K. Decker. Her kiddos made pillowcases for children in the hospital for Valentine's Day! What a great way to teach children about charity and to do something other than the regular old hype-up-on-sweets party!

You can donate as little or as much as you want. You can search for projects based on what type of project, those needed the most or least amount of money, for classrooms in high poverty areas, those with a majority of military children in them, classrooms for children with Autism, etc. Or just make a gift that will go to a classroom in need.

Still not convinced? Check out the movie Waiting for Superman it will change the way you see public education.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #9 Japan

It is really times of tragedy that call us to remember that we are all interconnected.

I'm not going to write about why you should give to this cause, I don't have to. We've been watching and hearing about the devastation on the news, internet, through our friends, and on the radio for days. All I want to do is to help you to find reliable places to donate. The donation itself should be a no-brainer.

Here are some reputable organizations/cites to donate with:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #8 The Sunny Side of Things

As many of you know, I have been "brainwashed by the Hippies" out here in California. Not really, I've always been a bit of an eco-girl, but I've found more of my kind out here, which has been very encouraging!

That being said, I have TWO wondermous organizations/companies to tell you about today.

1. This organization works to create solar power for schools, clinics, and community centers. Honestly, helping those in poverty + creating sustainable energy makes me kind of want to do a crazy-happy-leprechaunish dance on my kitchen table. I could go on and on about this group, but I'll let it speak for itself. Hit up this vid for total <3 href="">

2. My husband's fabulous cousin introduced me to this company that her hubberoosky works for. I was seriously impressed. They aren't exactly a charity, but you'd be helping the planet (and yourself) by purchasing from them.

Sunoptics has created a new kind of skylight that reflects the heat (ie. keeping cooling costs down), but lets in natural sunlight (ie. saving even more money with no artificial lights!)! I'm stoked about it! I want one on our house ...well, if we ever own a house. Huge companies like Wal-Mart and Coke are saving bazgillions (that word is made-up so don't go throwing it around trying to sound smart) of bucks by doing this. Not only is it money saving, but it's upping productivity! Think Vitamin D = Happy :D. Kids in schools with sunoptics are doing better on standardized tests! And people are buying more stuff from these stores, because, let's face it, everything looks better in sunlight than flourescent! Win-win-win!

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #7 Empower African Children

I mean, seriously, read that title. Who doesn't want to empower African Children? I do! And I did back in my first year of teaching when I first started following this organization. does much more than the typical, "Let's feed the starving African children" charity. Not that curing hunger is not an amazing goal- it certainly is! But this Texas-based organization works to not only provide basic needs to children of Uganda, but to help them receive an education (cue the strumming of my heart chords!). Empower African Children provides money for students in Uganda to continue in school, which is often too costly for them, as well as providing scholarship programs for these kids to study in America.

How can you help, you ask? There are lots of options that don't require a huge pocket book or a lot of time!

1. Just spread the word. Easy. I follow them on facebook, you can too! Or send out an email, or I dunno talk about it on your blog ;)

2. Shop!! (Did I say a magic word or what?!) You can buy books, cd's, shirts, notecards, etc. from their website and the proceeds help empower African children!

3. Donate. A dollar, 5 dollars, 100 dollars. Skip the double low-fat craziness latte at Starbucks just once and help a kid. (I hope you are bringing a reusable cup with you at least!)

4. Go to Africa. Seriously, why not? I've been to Africa. The flight stinks and if they lose your luggage like they did mine, so will you, but the experience will change you.

5. See them live!! No kidding, the kids participate in a traveling group! They perform their native dances in a group called The Spirit of Uganda. Check them out!

I don't know if telling you all these things will make a difference for the children of Uganda, but I do know that if we don't tell others, how will they know how simple it can be to change the world?

BE the change you wish to see in the world- Ghandi

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #6 27 Dresses

I don't know if you've seen the movie 27 Dresses, but if you haven't don't waste your money. I saw it and thought it was lame, but the title did give me a great intro to today's blog :)

The story is about a gal that's been a bridesmaid 27 times. She has all the dresses in her closet. I thought this was a pretty big waste when they could just be donated for charity. There are tons of young girls that could use one of those dresses (or a used prom dress, or ahem, military ball gown) to look beautiful on their special prom night or quinceaƱera. I know how hard it was for my sister and I to afford formal attire when we were in high school; I would have loved to know about an organization like that allows ladies to donate their dresses for girls who may need them.

If you have an old prom dress, bridesmaids dress, military formal, etc. lying around (and I know you all do), how about putting it to good use and cleaning out your closet for say...more room for your spring wardrobe?

Also, for all you married ladies holding on to your wedding dresses I have to ask "WHY?" Do you honestly think your daughter is going to want to wear it someday? Did you wear your mom's dress? Why not hand it over for a good cause like ... ?? The organization will accept your dress donation and then sell it at a bride show! The proceeds will go to making wishes come true for breast cancer patients, as well as helping a fellow bride get a cheaper dress. (HINT HINT to all you engaged girls- why buy a new one, it's only gonna be worn a few hours?!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #5 Feed an Orphan

When I found this site earlier this year it absolutely inspired me! Three years ago a then seven year-old Sydney from Knoxville, TN (woot woot for the shout out!!) decided she needed to do something to save the orphans in Africa. She describes in her blog that one night she told her mother that she didn't want to eat dinner asking, “Why should we eat like kings and queens when they have nothing?”

Three years (and two adopted siblings from Ghana) later, Sydney is saving the world with her site !!! On this site you can donate as little or as much as you see fit. You can sponsor a child for $25. a month, or you can even buy a t-shirt for yourself and the proceeds will go to Sydney's cause.

Most of you at one time or another have probably heard me say my favorite quote, "Live simply so that others may simply live." I'd love to live by that mantra. I say I'd love to because I don't really. It's a struggle to deny yourself for the love of others; it's a constant battle, especially in our society where "stuff" determines success. At least that's what we're meant to believe. But Sydney is doing it. She's living what I don't have the courage to do enough. She's striving for simple living for the betterment of others.

And if a mere child is doing it, why aren't we?

Monday, March 7, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) #4: SHOES

Yep. Shoes. I'm not kidding. Just by going through your closet you can help people. So you can actually mingle your Lent project (if you are choosing to do these blog suggestions for Lent) with your Spring cleaning!! BAMSES!!

Shoes may not seem like a big way to help, but put yourself in a hurricane survivor's shoes (no pun intended :) ). You've just survived a HURRICANE, but you've lost everything you have and there is debris scattered everywhere. There's broken glass and plastics everywhere, not to mention the sewer that has now overflowed into to the street. What would you do if you had no shoes??

Now are you wondering how to help?
Here's how:

1st: Go through your closet and pick out all the shoes you don't wear. All of them. Even the ratty, old, no-one-would-ever-stick-their-foot-in-this-nasty-old-shoe shoes.

2nd: Organize them into two piles: The somebody-might-wear-this pile and the aforementioned nasty, falling apart pile.

3rd: Check out this site: - This is a site I read about back in my college days and have sent shoes to a few times. They are a Nashville-based group that collects used shoes to send to those in need. They've sent gently worn shoes to over 125 countries!! They'll even accept that one shoe with the lost match!!

And this one: - This site is for those running shoes (or any athletic shoe) that you have worn out. Nike recycles them and turns them into running tracks, tennis courts, playground equipment, etc.

Both sites have drop-off centers (you can search for them on their websites) as well as the capability to mail them in! So grab your family, and bury yourself in your closet for an hour. See just how many people you can help today!!

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) numero tres

I had planned to post something entirely different from what you are about to read, but when I signed on to facebook today I saw a post from an old friend and the topic just warmed my heart.

Now that I'm getting to that wonderful age when everyone I know is bringing home tiny widdle precious babies, I get to hear A LOT about them. I hear about how easy it is for some couples to just decide to have a baby and vavoom! 9 months later they are cradling an angel. And I hear about the couples that don't have it quite so easy, and it's so devastating. I can't imagine the heartache that comes from wanting something so badly, something that is supposed to come so naturally for everyone, but isn't happening for you.

Luckily, God has a plan for that too! (Isn't he amazing?!) God tells us that "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27.

This site is an example of such pure and genuine religion: Daniel Bashta wrote a song called Like a Lion and the proceeds that he made off the song allowed he and his wife to adopt their first child!! He was so stoked about it that he wanted other parents to benefit from adoption through his song. So, if you go to this website you can make a donation for parents wanting to adopt and you get a download of the song!!

Or if you aren't that into the music, you can donate directly to

Friday, March 4, 2011

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help) part deux

Someday, when I grow up, I want to be in the rankings of those that really stood up for our kids in public education. Not just a great teacher or administrator, I'm talking about one of the greats, like Jonathan Kozol who wrote amazing books advocating for our students in failing, poor schools and communities like Savage Inequalities and Amazing Grace. Maybe I could be like Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, the co-founders of KIPP schools. Or perhaps, I could simply join forces with this woman <----- Michelle Rhee. She's the former Chancellor of the D.C. public schools and she now runs the organization Students First. the organization's focus is to build an educational system in America that puts students first. Not teachers, or big-wig superintendents, or any other person wanting their piece of the pie. She's in it for the kids. Ya know, like it should be, like it was in your first education class when you were so stinkin' passionate about it that you wanted to write lesson plans just for fun!! (ok, maybe that's just me). Anyway, to help Michelle Rhee and students first to change the bureaucracy and mess in public ed, join the movement! Sign the petitions for things that matter!! I did, and I hope I do help to make change in education. I think it's a vision we can all get behind.

40 Days and 40 Ways ...(to help)

I've been rolling ideas around in my brain for what to do about Lent this year.

I think I'm going to give up eating meat. I read in "Natural Health" the other day that it can take at least 40 times as much water to produce a pound of beef compared to a pound of veggies. Who can live with that kind of waste when I could be eating healthier anyway? I felt like it was a double-wami kind of deal. Be healthy, conserve resources!

But as I was telling John about it another super-great idea came to me- what about 40 days to helping?! That's where this blog topic came from. I'm not really doing this for Lent because, well let's be honest, I haven't updated this blog since August, how could I find the time to do it for 40 days straight?! But if I start now, maybe I can get 40 days in before April 24 (the end of Lent). So hopefully, by March 9 (the beginning of Lent) someone will have read one or two of these posts and have found one of the ideas handy!

So here goes.... 40 days and 40 ways to help. Way #1: This site rocks my world. Or really, it rocks other people's lives around the world. I know a lot of people feel that they already give so much money to good causes (like this week when I got annual fund notices from Easter Seals, March of Dimes, the Alzheimer's Foundation and Susan G. Komen), and they really don't have the money to help all the people that they'd like. Kiva changes all that. Kiva, in Swahili, means "agreement" or "unity." is just that. It is a charitable loan. You loan $25 to help low-income entrepreneurs to get their feet off the ground and within a year, the money is repaid to you. From there you can take your money and smile :D about the difference you made in the world, or you can reinvest in another entrepreneur.

Doesn't that just feel good?