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?