31 January 2013

I can’t believe one month has already gone by.  It really feels like yesterday that I was writing my Jan. 1 entry explaining my reasons for starting this blog and outlining the plan for the next 365 days. 

Here are some thoughts after my first 31 days:

*One month in and I already feel much more aware of the world around me, both locally and nationally. Putting the $10 into two homeless people’s hands and spending time talking with them helped remind me that all the homeless people I see every day have their own individual stories. It’s one thing to know that, but to actually ask them their story and see the gratitude that someone recognized them as human instead of just brushing past was memorable. I’m sure the $10 meant more to them than the attention, but probably not by much.  Now, whenever I pass a homeless person, I try to at least say “hello” or “not today” and acknowledge that I heard that another human being was speaking to me, even if I’m not handing them any money. Giving them that modicum of respect seems the least I can do.

*On a national level, the time I spend researching the charities and figuring out what to write about has made me realize I could conduct this experiment for 10 years and never repeat a charity. There are so many worthy causes out there. Finding them has been time consuming, but also very rewarding and encouraging, especially on the days I’m writing about something that has left me dispirited and feeling hopeless, such as on Jan. 28 when I wrote about Shirley Chambers, who has lost all four of her children to gunfire, or on Jan. 30, when I wrote about Hadiya Pendleton, the young girl who was shot to death a week after taking part in President Obama’s Inauguration festivities.

*The charity that touched my heart the most was Luther Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs, the group that took labrador retrievers to greet the children at Sandy Hook Elementary on their first day back to school following the Dec. 14 shooting. That’s probably because I’m just a soft touch for cute animals and the innocence of the puppies and the children seemed very similar. Echoing the cuteness factor, the Wake County SPCA adoption video to Abba’s “Take A Chance On Me” got plenty of play in my house. The other video that affected me was Shirley Chambers’ plea that someone help her find the person who murdered her son. She was so calm and placid, it was as if the life and hope had been drained out of her after going through this horror an unimaginable four times. 

*Updates: I haven’t really tracked any of the charities, but PATH, the homeless assistance organization I gave to on Jan. 12 after I wrote about the homeless man who camped out on my doorstep, reached its goal of raising $315,000. I like to think they were at $314,990 and then my $10 rolled in to push them over the top.   In addition to the standard email acknowledgement for tax purposes,  I got a lovely email from the director of development for Cure Violence after I told the organization about my blog. They are doing tremendous work fighting gang violence. According to their email, they are ranked No 9 by the Global Journal in its international rankings of the Top 100 NGOs in the World. I got a cute note from the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs  that had an adorable little dog paw print on it. 

*The support I have received from readers is unbelievable and it keeps me going.  Though I’m the one giving the money and writing the blog, this truly feels like a group effort, especially when I’m giving to one of the great charities so many of you have suggested. I feel like we’ve started on an exciting journey together with no idea where the next 11 months are leading, except that I know it’s to somewhere good. THANK YOU to everyone who has read any of this and THANK YOU to all of you who have commented to me about the blog. You don’t know how much it means. 

*Coming Up: In February, my goals include figuring out how to deliver the daily blog into your email inbox for those who want it (thank you to the people who have already requested that), start Facebook and Twitter pages for Causes & Effect,  figure out how to make my blog prettier and how to install key words to make it easier to find (I thought I’d done that, but, apparently, I did it wrong).  If you have suggestions you’d like to see implemented, either leave them below or send them to me on Facebook. 

In addition to all the wonderful suggestions readers have made, I’ve compiled a list of my own, based on some of my favorites. I’ve also started paying attention to charities that celebrities founded or give to. One that I’ve admired since my New York days is Children’s Health Fund, which was founded by Paul Simon and Irwin Redlener, MD in 1987. The program provides health care for homeless and medically underserved children. It started with a mobile medical clinic in New York  and has grown to 272 service sites in 17 states, according to its website. Over the past 25 years, Children’s Health Fund says it has provided healthcare to more than 350,000 children.  And you just thought Paul Simon could sing...   (The site is running a special through March 15 whereby Colgate will donate $1to CHF for every person who shares Colgate’s wellness tips via social media)

Jan. 31: Children’s Health Fund:  http://www.childrenshealthfund.org/

31 down, 334 to go!

30 January 2013

Two days after writing about a Chicago mother who lost all four of her children to gun fire, I didn’t expect to be revisiting Chicago and murder again, but I am.

A week after marching with Chicago’s King Prep Marching Band in Washington, D.C. in celebration of  President Obama’s inauguration, 15-year old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down yesterday after leaving her high school.

We already know this is unacceptable. No one, not even Wayne LaPierre, would say slaying an innocent 15-year old girl who was looking forward to spending the summer studying in Paris is behavior that we can condone. But when do words become action? At what point do we actually do anything about it?  I know there aren’t simple solutions to deeply systemic societal issues, but all I see is empty rhetoric and lots of posturing.

Today, Congress dithered back and forth about gun control and Chicago officials held a press conference spewing useless comments about how Harsh Park, where Pendleton was murdered, doesn’t belong to the gangs, it belongs to the community. I’m sure that will make parents feel better about sending their kids there to play. 

Pendleton’s godfather, Damon Stewart, who is a Chicago police officer, told the Associated Press that his own brother had been gunned down when Stewart was 12.  Does any of this make any sense? Of course not. Yet it happens over and overin cities across the country. 

An $11,000 reward is being offered for information about Pendleton’s death. That’s money that should be going toward funding some child’s bright future rather than her death. 

I tried to find out which community groups had put up the reward money so I could contribute to it, but wasn’t able to. Instead I’m sending $10 to The Faith Community of St. Sabina, the outreach arm of Father Michael Pfleger’s parish on Chicago’s South Side.  He spoke at today’s press conference and the church’s website shows that it is taking a very active stance against gun violence  in a community that is riddled with it. It's too late for Hadiya, but maybe St. Sabina's work can save someone else. 

Jan. 30:  The Faith Community of St. Sabina: http://www.saintsabina.org/

29 January 2013

It’s Chooseday Tuesday! That's the day that I pick a charity that someone else has suggested and make the donation in their name.

I’m sitting on my sofa in the comfort of my home and the closest I’m coming to heavy lifting is hitting a few keystrokes while I type in my credit card for today’s $10 gift.

That will not be the case for Tom and his daughter next month when they will be among 16 members of Larchmont (N.Y.) Avenue Church traveling to the Dominican Republic to dig and lay the foundation for a new school for 4th-6th graders. The school will also hold adult literacy classes and function as a community center for the town of Caimonial. The group will also work on an organic nursery farm. 

I found out about Tom’s trip when he posted about it on Facebook. Tom is a big executive at a radio station chain, but despite an impressive title, he’s always been known as one of the good guys, who shoots straight. I interviewed him occasionally when I was at Billboard and he was, and remains, one of those people that other folks talk fondly about. 

When he posted about the trip, I instantly added it to my list because these kinds of church mission trips, as opposed to the kind that focus solely on evangelizing, really exemplify what being a Christian is about: helping your neighbor, whether that neighbor is across the street or in the Caribbean. And regardless of one’s religious beliefs, it’s never too soon to teach kids the importance of giving back. 

28 January 2013

Shirley Chambers lost all four of her children to gunfire. In case you didn’t see  the story on the news this weekend, the Chicago mother’s last remaining baby, her 34-year old son, Ronnie, was killed over the weekend while sitting in a car. He had three kids of his own.

Chambers lost her first child, 18-year old Carlos Chambers, in 1995. Then 15-year old LaToya Chambers was killed in 2000. A few weeks later, Jerome Chambers, 23, was shot and killed, according to DNAinfo.com, a local Chicago website that covered the story in far more detail than AP, ABC, and Huffington Post, where I first read about it. 

Shirley Chambers lives near Cabrini Green. That will be a familiar name to anyone who has lived in Chicago, as I did for two years in the 1980s.  When I lived in the Windy City, it was the only housing project on the North Side (all the rest were on the far rougher South Side).  Cabrini Green was notorious for gang violence and horrible living conditions. The multiple high rises that housed more than 10,000 people were all torn down by 2011. I was scared to even go by it in a taxi. 

In this video, Shirley seems so calm as she asks for help finding Ronnie’s killer. After repeated viewing, it looked more like she wasn’t so much placid as simply hollowed out and heartbroken, exhausted from having given up on her children having the chance to fulfill any of the normal dreams that all parents wish for their kids.

I grew up in a solidly middle class suburban neighborhood. Honestly, the biggest crime I remember happening to any of us kids was when a flasher was spotted in the park that we walked through on our way home from elementary school. When I was 15, I was thinking about getting my driver’s permit, not worrying about getting gunned down like LaToya. When I was 18, I was a freshman in college, testing my own independence, not dodging bullets.

The thought of living in the kind of war zone that makes it possible for all four of your children to be murdered isn't comprehensible. That doesn't even happen in world wars. I saw "Saving Private Ryan." The army stepped in and intervened before one family suffered so great a loss...and yet when it happens  in a low-income project, people just shake their heads and go on.

It’s so easy to live lives disconnected to anyone outside of our immediate circles and not feel their humanity as strongly as we feel our own. I don’t think I understood when I started this blog 28 days ago that I needed to break down that feeling.  Through my work as a board member of Liberty Hill Foundation, an organization that fights for social, LGBT, and environmental justice in Los Angeles, I’ve seen parts of this city that I’d never even heard of before and met people that I would have otherwise never crossed paths with. I felt like some of the barriers were coming down inside of me. But when I watched Shirley’s video and read her story, I still wanted to look for differences instead of similarities, as if that would help me make sense of these unbearable tragedies.  As horrific as her losses are, there’s part of me that said, “Oh, gang violence...” as if that somehow made her pain any less severe than a mother who loses a child in Westport, Conn., or Beverly Hills or was a reasonable, acceptable explanation.   And I don’t like that I feel that way. 

Some problems feel like it doesn’t matter how much money we throw at them, it’s never going to be enough to make a dent. The endless cycle of gang violence and poverty and the inability to provide an effective way out for innocent people caught in that trap feels like one of those problems. But it just can’t be, can it? 

Today’s $10 goes to Cure Violence, an NGO that works at mediating gang conflicts and treating violence like the rampant disease it is in certain cities across the country. 

Jan. 28: Cure Violence: http://cureviolence.org/

27 January 2013

I wish I could beam myself to Nashville on Wednesday, Jan. 30. That’s when “Honoring a Legend: A Tribute to Cowboy Jack Clement” will be held at War Memorial Auditorium

You may not know Cowboy Jack’s name, but you know his musical contributions. He was an engineer at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, the studio that delivered  Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins’s early music to the world.

He also produced  Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, Don Williams and many more, and opened the first 16-track recording studio in Nashville. 

When U2 decided to record parts of “Rattle & Hum” at Sun Studios, Clement was behind the boards. He’d never heard of the band beforehand, but they created magic together on “When Love Comes To Town” with BB King, “Angel Of Harlem,” and “Love Rescue Me.”   

Clement, 81, is also a gifted songwriter, penning Cash’s crossover hit, “Ballad of a Teenage Queen,”  “Guess Things Happen That way,” and “The One of The Right Is On the Left.” 

Jack has cancer and has decided to forego treatment, so on Wednesday, his friends are throwing him a big party to celebrate his life. Among the artists playing the concert, produced by Matt Urmy and Dub Cornett, are the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach,  Kris Kristofferson, Rodney Crowell, Jakob Dylan, Charley Pride, Emmylou Harris, T Bone Burnett, Mary Gauthier and many more. 

Proceeds from the evening will go to Clement's medical expenses and to Music Health Alliance, a Nashville-based healthcare advocacy service that offers health insurance, access to health care providers, financial help for medical assistance, and guidance in navigating the healthcare system. 

If you’re in Nashville and want to go to the show, tickets start at $45 and can be purchased by clicking here  

Jan. 27: Music Health Alliance: http://www.musichealthalliance.com/

26 January 2013

Willie and his wife, Anabelle, came to Los Angeles from Monroe, La., where they were local farmers.  “We wanted to come see the city,” he tells me, sitting in his motorized scooter outside of the grocery story. 

In a story as old and predictable as time, he and his lady fell in with the wrong people, who took their money and cast them into the street once they could no longer pay their share. “We live on Skid Row,” Willie says. “When we were staying in the Mission, there was too much drama.”  So he prefers the streets to the shelter, I ask. Yes, he says.  Every morning around 5 a.m. or so, the street sweepers come and roust them to move, although sometimes they sleep near a Starbucks and get to stay there a little later. 

The folks back in Louisiana don’t know that Willie, 61, and Annabelle have fallen on hard times. “We took a picture of a pretty house and sent that to them and told them that’s where we live,” he says. 

Every morning, he gets on the bus downtown on his scooter and comes and sits outside the grocery store, asking for a little help. Almost everyone completely ignores his quiet, polite, “Excuse me” as if they don’t even hear it. Imagine what it must be like to say “Excuse me” a couple hundred times a day and 99% of people don’t even acknowledge that there is another human being talking to them.

Similar to my story last week, when I put my $10 into his cup, which has about 37 cents in it, there’s no recognition that he’s just received a relative windfall. 

Willie stakes out the grocery store, collecting what he can. Annabelle’s daily activities sound a little more circumspect and tragic. Willie vaguely tells me she goes away for awhile and comes back and sometimes she’s beat up. I can’t tell if there’s drugs or prostitution involved and suddenly feel it’s too intrusive to ask...or maybe I don’t want to know.

As I start to walk away, Willie wants to keep talking. He’s afraid that he’s maligned Annabelle to me, a complete stranger. “I’m no saint. I’m an alcoholic,” he says. “I love her. She’s younger. She’s a good woman. I’m just trying to be the man of the house and take care of her.” 

This afternoon, I’m going to a party for the volunteers who work with The Giving Spirit, a Los Angeles based organization that I wrote about on Jan. 2  Twice a year, they distribute bags filled with goods for the homeless. They coordinate with shelters, but because the vast majority —more than 75%— of Los Angeles’ homeless are on the streets, they also go to Skid Row and under bridges and other areas where the homeless congregate and hand out the bags.  I wonder if I can get one for Willie. 

Jan. 26: Willie

25 January 2013

Last night, I’d gotten up a good head of steam over an assignment for which I hadn’t been paid. It was my only holdover from 2012 and I’d been chasing payment for months. There was some understandable confusion because the  project was morphing all the time and there were middlemen involved, but in December, I was told to send the invoice one more time and a check would be forthcoming. Really.

A month later I hadn’t heard anything back, so last night I was dictating an email in my head that would let this person know that I really didn’t appreciate being jerked around and I didn’t understand why writers always were expected to adhere to a deadline and if we ignored deadlines as easily as those who paying our invoices did, pages would be blank...blah, blah, blah. 

In reality I, of course, would never, ever send an email like that. Despite the fireworks usually going off in my head, my actual manner is fairly tempered and very  professional (but, as you know, it really feels good to think about what you’d say if you shed all filters). 

I go to find my email that I sent in December to write my follow-up on top of that and I realize I had misspelled the person’s name in the address, so he never got it.  Oops.

 I took a minute and just shook my head and laughed at all the times things like this have happened. And was really appreciative that I’d seen my typo instead of sending an email asking why he’d never responded when this had been going on for months. 

It’s all a reminder to breathe, isn’t it? If I’d done that in the first place and not sent off the December email so quickly (I remember I was rushing out the door when I sent it), I probably wouldn’t have made the typo and I probably would have that check in my bank account by now. But the bigger point is to remember to stay calm, double check, laugh at myself, and always look left and right before crossing the road and hitting send on an email. 

I can’t find a charity that helps folks like me who need an equivalent of an AA sponsor to look over my emails, but I did find one that provides instruction on meditation to inner-city kids and veterans suffering from PTSD and it’s even one that Katy Perry endorses. Bonus! 

The David Lynch Foundation —yes, it’s that David Lynch of “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks” fame— runs a foundation for “conscious-based education and world piece.” Who knew.  It is doing some pretty impressive work. And I hear he serves a damn fine piece of pie (Sorry...inside joke for “Twin Peaks” fans).

JAN. 25: David Lynch Foundation http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/

24 January 2013

It’s day 24 and I’d be lying if I didn’t wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. What was I thinking when I gave myself no days off for 365 days?

There’s part of me that wants to backtrack and change my own mandate and give myself weekends off from the blog, but I’m not going to (I realize today is Thursday, but I can see the weekend from here). 

What I’m quickly beginning to realize is that giving away the money is the easy part. It’s the rest that’s difficult: picking an organization that has some resonance to me and finding the time to write about it.  If I wanted to simply give away $10/day for 365 days, I could do that and not blog about it. Or every day I could merely list the name and link to the charity I’d chosen on my blog. But I want this to be more than that.  It already feels like its own little community and I’m enjoying the give and take that I’m having with people about it immensely. Today I got a long email from someone suggesting a charity and I was so touched that they took the time to really explain why this organization would be such a great choice for me to give to. And they were right. 

Still...I have a lot of travel coming up and it’s hard to think how I’ll navigate all that. I don’t know if it’s kosher to decide in advance which charity I’m giving to and to write about it a few days in advance. No one would know but me, but it feels like it might not be following the spirit of what I intended to do. However, if that’s what it takes to keep it going, that’s something to consider. 

Anyway, thinking that I will be doing this for 341 more days without a break feels a little indigestible. Maybe it’s because I’ve had an exceptionally busy week and with a trip, the Grammys, and another trip coming up, I can’t really see daylight. 

Here’s the thing, I’m reminding myself I’m going to just take it one day at a time (as if there were really any other way). Some posts are going to be better than others. Some choices are going to feel more relevant and heartfelt to me than others...again, not that anyone else will know that.  But I don’t ever want this to feel rote to me. 

Today I’m giving my $10 to PBS SoCal since that helps me relax and unwind.  I’m love “Downton Abbey,” but I watch a lot more on PBS than that. In fact, I feel a little bit like a freeloader since I view so much on PBS  and yet haven’t given money to it in quite some time. I’m getting off cheap giving PBS only $10. PBS deserves that much every week simply for how much pleasure I get out of my crush on Mr. Bates. 

Jan. 24: PBSSoCal http://www.pbssocal.org/

23 January 2013

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t get an email about a benefit for a musician who has fallen ill and needs assistance. Each missive reminds me of two things: artists are very good, kind, and generous about coming together to help their own when needed and, more pervasive and troubling, there is an appalling lack of affordable medical care for musicians since most are self-employed or employed at will. 

Today’s call to arms is for a Jan. 25 concert for Mike Atta, guitarist for punk band Middle Class. He’s battling cancer for a second time and needs financial help.  It is criminal  that someone who is fighting for his life has to spend one minute thinking about how to pay for that treatment when all his focus should be going toward healing.

Mike, who has a 10-year old son, has kidney cancer that has spread to his lungs. He has been accepted into a special program at USC Norris Hospital that offers aggressive treatment, and even though he has insurance, there are tremendous costs above and beyond what insurance will cover. 

Friends of Atta’s have enlisted an outstanding group of musicians to play at The Echo in Los Angeles, including Adolescents, Mike Watt and the Missing Men, 45 Grave, Channel 3, Shattered Faith White Flag and more. 

In addition to all the bands donating their time to play, Burger Records will also put out a limited edition cassette (no kidding) featuring everyone from Mudhoney to the Circle Jerks to Redd Kross. Proceeds from the cassette sales also go to Atta’s medical expenses. 

I can’t go because of a prior commitment but today’s $10 goes to the Help Mike Atta Battle Cancer Fund.  The goal is to raise $50,000.  Good luck and good health, Mike!

Jan. 23: Help Mike Atta Battle Cancer Fund: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/6Otz6

22 January 2013

You know what’s right about the below video? How about absolutely everything! 

It has cute kittens, adorable puppies, and Abba. Really, what else is there ?

It’s Chooseday Tuesday and I hadn’t decided which charity to pick from the ever-growing list that readers of Causes & Effect have mentioned. Then, my friend Liane sent me a link to this clip made by the Wake County SPCA as a possible recipient of my $10 donation and it was game on. Paws up for the Wake County SPCA!

What Liane didn’t know, and what made it even better for me, is that I grew up in Raleigh, N.C., which is in Wake County, so this clever video was produced by my hometown animal shelter. 

It turns out the Wake County SPCA made the video more than 9 months ago, but Jezebel picked it up today and we hope the added exposure has donations pouring in. According to its website, the SPCA of Wake County helps more than 17,000 animals in need every year.

How has someone not used Abba’s “Take A Chance on Me” to promote animal adoption before?  (They probably haven’t because they can’t get the rights. We know this clip most likely violates all kinds of copyright protection, but c’mon.. no one’s making money off of this clip).

In addition to the adorable animals (every time you watch it, you’ll notice more critters, including the cute pit bull mix in the wading pool with a life preserver...and yes, we know you’ll be watching it more than once),  the volunteers are pretty cute too.  I’ve volunteered at animal shelters in New York and Los Angeles, and we were all committed to the cause, but I’m not sure any of us would have gone to this length and we certainly weren’t as coordinated. Check out the woman on the skateboard at the end. That’s dedication. 

The comments on Jezebel are pretty amusing... especially the ones asking if some of the handsome men are up for adoption.  I didn’t even notice them I was so entranced by little Chance, the puppy at the end. 

Watching this clip will make your day... and the forever home that some of the animals in this video undoubtedly found made theirs. What a win-win.

Thanks, Liane.

Jan. 22  Wake County SPCA http://www.spcawake.org/site/PageServer

21 January 2013

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others”-Martin Luther King, Jr. 

While the above MLK Jr. quote certainly captures the spirit of this blog, my favorite MLK Jr. quote is “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  When I get depressed about certain world events or political decisions and it feels like there is no way that it will ever change, I mediate on that quote for a few minutes. Justice will ultimately prevail. We may not be around to witness it, we may not be around to benefit from it, but it will happen. 

What a wonderful confluence of events: the inauguration for the first black president’s second term occurs on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, there’s something beautifully poetic about that and it’s a beautiful reminder that history only moves in one direction—forward. 

Each inauguration is a reminder of the ideals on which America was founded, that, as Lincoln said, we have a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Today, my $10 goes to The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. The Center is dedicated to pursuing MLK Jr’s dream of justice and civil rights through peaceful means, as well as educating the world about MLK’s teachings. 

Jan.  21: The King Center  http://www.thekingcenter.org/

20 January 2013

After commenting yesterday that I felt a little removed by donating from my couch, I decided to put today’s $10 in someone’s hands personally. 

As I was entering the grocery store, a security guard was shooing off a homeless person, who seemed perfectly harmless. When I came back out, the homeless man was sitting on a garbage can. I handed him $10. He didn’t say thank you and certainly didn’t acknowledge that I’d handed him about $9.75 more than the usual amount he probably gets.

 He said his name was Tony something that I couldn’t decipher and added that he was a singer. Of course he was. Even when I’m trying to help a homeless person, it’s someone who wants to break into the music business... What are the odds? It wouldn't have surprised me if he'd pulled out a demo for me to listen to. This is Hollywood, after all.

I said “Tannenbaum?” He said, “Cannonsrdivleshd” or something similarly  garbled. And he seemed rather indignant that I didn’t know who he was. I was trying to figure out if he was an older singer who had fallen on hard times. I said “Cannonball?” And he looked at me like I was the crazy one. Not like I know who Tony Cannonball is or if there’s such a creature. Then I started thinking about Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, who had hits before I was born, but I figured it wasn’t him. Besides, this guy’s name was Tony. That much I understood. 

He swept his arm across the parking lot and told me he was going to turn it into a recording studio. I said, “Right here?” He told me yes. He’d written a lot of songs so he was ready to go. He tried to enlist me into his plans. I think he was asking me what I thought we should name the studio, but I honestly couldn’t understand him well enough to continue the conversation. This could have been because he was missing most of his upper teeth. I'll look for him next time I'm at the grocery store and see if I can get more of the story. 

Jan. 20: Tony the singer

19 January 2013

Today is National Day of Service. I’m feeling a little guilty that I didn’t  something significantly philanthropic with my day like serve food to the homeless or build a playground or clean up the beach...especially since it’s 75 degrees and sunny in Los Angeles. 

I have to be careful that I don’t use my daily giving as an excuse not to volunteer in person. As gratifying as I’m finding Causes & Effects —already more so than I ever imagined—it’s doing good from a remove, from a distance.  I don’t have to talk to anyone or clean up anything or pretend to gleefully do a task that I don’t want to. All I have to do is sit on my sofa and click a few buttons. Something for me to think about...

So today, I’m saluting the teens who are doing something through Do Something. Do Something is a 20-year old national non-profit co-founded by Andrew Shue (yes, Billy from “Melrose Place”) that motivates kids to get involved in national campaigns to do good. It’s the perfect gateway drug, so to speak, for learning about giving back and can introduce kids to a lifetime of philanthropy. 

According to Do Something’s website, right now the organization is running a Teens for Jeans campaign because the No. 1 item requested from shelters is a pair of jeans.  Kids can sign up to run a drive at their school or donate individually. Folks can drop jeans off at Aeropostale clothing stores until Feb. 10 and get 25% off a new pair of jeans. Chloe Moretz is one of the campaign’s supporters, which helps bring in some star value and attention.

The site is full of great campaigns that require minimal effort. Plus, there are scholarships and grants. I spent a little time on the site and was blown away by how many projects they have going on, fighting everything from animal cruelty to bullying to human rights. If I had a teenager, I would definitely be encouraging him or her to check it out. The website was one of the easiest to navigate and find information that I’ve come across. 

Go, Billy!  I mean Andrew....

Jan. 19: Do Something http://www.dosomething.org/

18 January 2013

I’m writing this having just jumped off of the treadmill. I walked/ran two miles and I feel like I need to take a long nap. That’s a sad enough statement in and of itself, but I’m reminded that six years ago this weekend, I ran a half marathon. My, how the unfit have fallen...

I had gotten laid off from Billboard a few months prior in August 2006. Having never found myself in the position of being unemployed/self-employed before, I wanted to challenge myself. I had also lost a lot of weight over the previous few years and in 2005, I ran my first 5K (a truly life-changing experience). Then in 2006, I expanded to a 10K.  Still, a half marathon seemed really crazy, though a good reason to carbo-load. I knew I couldn’t/wouldn’t train by myself, so I signed up to run the Carlsbad (Calif.) Half Marathon through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We did practice runs every weekend in Santa Monica and were expected to train during the week on our own. 

Let me add in here that I am not a pretty runner. Every Sunday, I would galumph alongside (behind, actually) girls who looked like shiny, pretty ponies when they ran. Their ponytails were the only things that jiggled with each step and they glided along the beach path as if propelled by a gentle breeze. No matter how far we ran (our longest training run was around 11 miles), they looked fresh when we finished, unlike me, whose face stayed red for hours and my t-shirt was usually soaked. It’s a pretty image, isn’t it? 

 I stuck with it, despite having a coach who only wanted to encourage the cute, young girls he could flirt with (he was not asked back), and despite, for whatever reason, not making good friends with anyone on my team, and despite being the slowest person. When race day came, one of our mentors stuck reasonably close. He was a sweet, kind source of inspiration and support. If there were times when he wanted to run beyond my sad, steady little trot, he’d dash off for a mile or so and then come back and find me (Thanks, Jeremy, wherever you are).

 My favorite part, other than crossing the finish line, came when the elite marathon runners passed through. They had escorts and the rest of us could keep running, but we had to move over on the path.  The marathon started about an hour before the half marathon, so I was poking along at mile 8 or something like that when the marathon winner came soaring past me.  Every stride was long, his arms were in perfect rhythm with his lean body. His motion was smooth and graceful. It was like looking at a moving piece of art or a human gazelle.

I would stop for water breaks and to swallow some goo (runners know what I’m talking about. It’s an electrolyte gel that you squeeze down your throat for a power burst). You don’t really need it for a half marathon, but I was going the distance, man. I was going for the full experience. I was a (half) marathoner. I had the race number, the strapped-on water bottles, and the goo to prove it.

By the time I got to mile 12 or so, I was exhausted and walking, but I knew I was going to finish.  When I saw the marker in the distance for mile 13, I took off like a rocket (a snail-powered rocket) and ran past that marker and for the next .2 miles so I could say I ran over the finish line. 

I’m too embarrassed to publicly announce my race time other than it was somewhere between what Paul Ryan claimed to run his marathon in and what his actual time was.  I do not run like the wind.

But guess what? I raised more money for LLS than anyone else on my team. I may have been slow, but I finished, and the donations I gathered spent just as well as if I had come in first place. I also lost my nail on my big toe. Ask any runner, that is a badge of honor. 

When I think back on a time that I really challenged myself to accomplish something I did not think I could do, I look back at that experience. That and getting certified for scuba diving, but I’ll save that story for another post.

Here I am, six years later, attempting to get back up to speed, literally. I don’t know if there’s another half-marathon in me, but I’d at least like to walk/run 10Ks with some regularity. Let’s see if I can make that happen by the end of the year too. 

So today’s $10 goes to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They do great work and if anyone is training for a half or full marathon, I heartily recommend them. The survival rate for many blood cancers has quadrupled in the last 50 years, according to LLS, and a big reason is because of the research paid for with LLS dollars. 

Jan. 18: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: http://www.lls.org/