31 May 2013

Most of us get involved in a cause because it speaks to us on some kind of personal level. If a loved one has died of cancer or some other disease, we find ourselves gravitating toward charities that deal with that issue. If we love our pets and can’t imagine life without them, we tend to lean toward animal rights organization. 

Then there are those causes that we support simply because they align with our beliefs. For example, when I look back at the past 150 days, I’ve given a fair amount to gay rights even though I’m not gay, but that’s probably come from years of having gay friends and witnessing what some of them have gone through in their struggle to have the same rights I take for granted. 

I also have donated to a number of social justice organizations and am on the board of a foundation that fights for social and environmental justice.  I certainly never had to fight for anything in my life in that regard but as I got older, I saw the inequities facing the poor and the disenfranchised and  couldn’t stand by any longer without trying to do something to make it better in some small way.

This was on my mind today because of this extraordinary video of actor Patrick Stewart that’s been making the rounds the last few days. Stewart was attending Comicpalooza in Texas surrounded, no doubt, by “Star Trek” fans, when a woman asked him a question that prompted a long and beautiful response. 

The woman, Heather Skye, thanked him for the work he’s done to fight domestic violence over the last several years and how he had helped her through her own abusive situation. She then asked him his proudest accomplishment. 

Stewart, in that wonderfully stentorian voice, answered that it was his work  to combat domestic violence against women and children that stood out for him. Extemporaneously, for the next several minutes he spoke eloquently about how he had grown up in a horribly abusive home and he was now able to help other women, though he had not been able to help his own mother. 

He went on to talk about his father and how, only in recent years, had he come to understand that his father, a WWII vet, suffered from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or shell shock as it was called then. While it didn’t excuse his father’s behavior, it helped explain it and it was clear that Stewart now had compassion for his father’s suffering as well. Though as he made clear, “violence is never, ever a choice that a man should make.” 

After he finished answering the question, he tenderly asked her, “My dear are you OK?”  She answered that she was.  Skye was calm and collected throughout, but when someone suggested the two hug,  Stewart and Skye embrace in a beautiful, touching moment. 

I’ve never been a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fan and I doubt I’ve ever seen an episode of the show with Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, though I know he was very beloved in that role. But now here’s a totally new reason to love him. 

Today’s $10 goes to Jenesse Center, a domestic violence intervention program in Los Angeles. Its work includes providing shelter for abused women and children, but also includes counseling, education, training, etc. It provides emergency shelter for up to 30 days, but then has transitional housing that a woman and her children may live in for up to 24 months. 

May 31: Jenesse Center

Why I started this blog.

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30 May 2013

Today is my 150th post. I'm quite sure I have never done anything for 150 consecutive days in a row before other than brush my teeth.

On one hand, I can’t believe that I have already written 150 posts. On the other hand, quite frankly, I can’t believe I still have 215 posts to go in my year of giving daily.... How could I have already written so much and not even be halfway done? 

Some thoughts on 150:

*Writing the blog feels sacred to me: it has become a form of meditation, a prayer that I put out into the universe that something that is wrong can be righted, a belief that justice can prevail, and that some creature’s (two-legged or four-legged) suffering will be alleviated. I don’t mean to suggest that my words are so powerful because they aren’t. What I mean is I feel very strongly in the intention of what I’m doing and that even if the $10 doesn’t make a difference, the thought behind it does... I hope. My daily time with my blog is time that I am in service of others and whatever I may be going through takes a back seat to how I can help others. That has become very important to me.

*One of my original intents was to change my relationship with money and that has happened. If anything, I’m getting a little too freewheeling in my spending and I’m trying to rein myself back in a little, but I no longer worry if I’m paying more than my share when I’m splitting a bill with someone and I’m quicker to pick up a check or treat someone to a movie.  Plus, every time I’ve started to get nervous about my bank account, something reminds me to relax and realize that I am OK. I have enough for today. I have enough for today. I have enough for today.

*The discipline of having to file every single day has been good for me. As a writer, my job is an endless stream of deadlines, so I didn’t expect that part to challenge me, but it has. I’ve found myself rushing through dinners or running out of movies as soon as they’re over to get home to file because I didn’t have time to write the post during the day. If I know for sure I’m not going to be home by midnight, I make sure I file before I go out but I have definitely been caught scrambling some nights.
*Before I started this project, I had no idea that the blog posts would be anything more than a paragraph about the chosen charity, but very early on the posts became something much more... a cross between a journal entry and an editorial, a way to share my thoughts with you. Though you wouldn’t know if from reading some of the posts, I’m an extremely private person, so my desire to open up my life this way has completely taken me by surprise and it’s something I’m still trying to figure out. I have definitely written a few things that I feel odd about sharing in hindsight, but I’ve tried not to be too precious about it. A downside to that is I feel like I'm cheating if I just namecheck the charity and move on.

*There is so much good out in the world. It’s so easy to forget that, but this blog is a daily reminder. There have been times when I’ve written the blog with such a heavy heart because of the subject matter. I have felt the weight of the world and great despair as I type. But then I always try to remember that there is a charity or non-profit that is fighting for the right side of this issue every day. They are in the trenches, going to battle to make it better, even if the mighty struggle is uphill.

*There’s going to a very slight change going forward. My work and travel schedule continue to be demanding, so I’ve asked a few friends, people who have been tremendously supportive of my effort here, to write a blog post for me. I’ve already gotten a handful and I quickly realized that I have friends who are beautiful writers, but also that they have picked great charities that I would have never found. So very occasionally, I’m going to post a blog written by one of them. I’ll always identify it as such and I will still be the one making the daily donation, since the whole point of this year is for me to give money away every day. The first one will get dropped in next week. Again, they aren’t going to be that frequent, but it will help me tremendously on some days to be able to just plug in someone else’s words. Also, it became clear very early on that this felt like a group project. I have gotten so much positive feedback from people reading that it feels right to spread it around a little.

Here’s to the next 215... and, as always, thank you for reading. 

Why I started this blog

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150 down, 215 to go

29 May 2013

Blake Shelton was one of the first artists to get into action after the Moore, Oklahoma tornado last week. 

Barely a week after the storm, NBC airs “Healing In The Heartland: Relief Benefit Concert.” In addition to Shelton and his wife, Miranda Lambert, the concerts, which takes place at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena, features fellow Oklahomans (Shelton is from Tishomingo), Reba McEntire, Vince Gill and others. 

While folks like Shelton can write checks, the awareness that a benefit concert can bring, especially one televised by his buddies at NBC, can help raise multiples of what he could give and it makes people feel good to help. I'll admit there was part of me that wondered if he had to offer to do extra promos for "The Voice" or something like that in exchange for NBC saying yes 

The Tulsa World is reporting that Toby Keith, who is from Moore, will hold a second benefit show on July. Ronnie Dunn, formerly of Brooks & Dunn, has been the mouthpiece on this one, telling The Tulsa World that the concert will take place something over the July 4 weekend in Norman. He’s also saying that Garth Brooks, who grew up in Yukon and now lives outside of Tulsa, will also be on board  (However, Brooks is taping his next television special in Las Vegas July 4-6, so it remains to be seen how the scheduling would work on that one). 

Who knew so many country artists came from Oklahoma? Well, actually, I did, but that’s only because I cover a lot of country music. Lambert’s from Texas, but she’s an honorary Oklahoman after marrying Shelton. There are so many of them they don’t even need artists from other states to raise millions. Plus, add in Carrie Underwood, who’s also a Sooner, who already donated $1 million dollars to relief efforts. 

Funds raised will go to the United Way of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund. Reports are that the storm caused more than $2 billion in damages, so there’s lots of work that needs to be done. 

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28 May 2013

I long for the day when what I’m writing about today becomes obsolete.

There are lots of changes coming with the further implementation of Obamacare. As you may have seen, there’s been big news out of California the past few days about how the program is not going to cost nearly as much as naysayers had expected. That's great news for everyone. 

I’m one of those folks who is for universal healthcare, so Obamacare doesn’t go far enough for me, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction... though I'm very aware that there are some folks reading this who are fundamentally opposed to Obamacare and I respect their right to disagree. 

I bring all this up because today I found out that a fellow freelance journalist, not one I know well, is in the hospital for complications due to diabetes. He has to have surgery due to these complications and he has no insurance. 

As so many of you know, if you’re self-employed, health insurance can simply be out of reach for you financially. It’s not that you don’t want it or are trying to be cavalier with your health or feel you’re immortal, but by the time you finish paying the bills for things like rent, car payments, utilities, etc., there is no money left over for something that you might need, but hope that you never do, so you play Russian roulette with your own health. 

Friends of Chuck’s have set up a paypal account to help defray his expenses, which are sure to be plentiful since they include an operation and a four-day hospital stay, at least. I’m sure a nice sum will be raised, but I doubt it will be nearly enough to cover his bills.

Health care has become such a politically charged issue for reasons I totally don’t understand, but I guess it comes down to you either believe that access to good health care is a right that everyone deserves or you feel it’s an entitlement meant for the small number who can afford it and that somehow being rich entitles you to better care.

Quite frankly, the thought of health care as an entitlement is a concept I can’t even fathom. I look at places like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital-- no child ever pays for treatment there, every single person, regardless of income, race, gender, etc. is given the same level of care. Why should it be any different for anyone? 

I’m digressing a little, but I hope that someday in the near future, friends rushing to set up paypal accounts or benefit concerts for people who don’t have insurance will be a thing of the past. I know there will still be a need to help people because of loss of income or other general hardships associated with their illness but wouldn’t it be nice to know that they, at least, don’t have to worry about getting their basic needs met and coming out of the hospital to a pile of bills?  

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27 May 2013

Last May, I shared a long plane ride with an army colonel. I got off that plane with my eyes radically opened on a lot of issues. 

My Colonel had that ramrod straight, regal bearing of military royalty and piercing blue eyes and an engaging smile. He’d been in the army all his professional life, starting as a helicopter pilot. It seemed clear that he was on his way to General. 

It was one of those flights where I planned to sleep, having gotten up very, very early for the first leg of my journey, but he sat down beside me on my second flight and even before take-off we were talking and we never stopped.  For some reason we started talking about Amendment One, the ballot initiative to alter North Carolina’s Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. It had passed the day before and I was still upset about it.

I probably brought up how mad I was about its passage. My Colonel told me he was a born-again Christian with eight daughters. And, then, he blew me away. For much of the rest of the trip, we talked about freedoms. He never told me how he would have voted on Amendment One (He’d kept his registration in his home state since he moved around so much, but I have a very real feeling that despite his personal feelings, he would have voted against it since he so strongly supported civil rights and freedoms). We  talked a lot about gays in the military, including the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and he said he had no issue with it whatsoever. No one under his command had. In fact, he said the only problem, in a hysterical scene straight out of “M*A*S*H,” was that one of his subordinates was a cross dresser who kept wearing outfits so flamboyant that they were distracting his fellow soldiers.  

My  little liberal bleeding heart self kept throwing arguments at him about many different military issues that I had no real direct knowledge of and My Colonel, who had fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq, told me in a completely non-patronizing way what his experience had been like to actually deal with the Afghanis on the ground or what his experience was when he’d been in command in other countries and why he disagreed with me...or agreed with me on a surprising number of points. 

We talked a lot about “Restrepo,” a riveting and haunting 2010 documentary Sebastian Junger and the late Tim Hetherington made about a U.S. Army outpost in Afghanistan’s Korangal Valley. He hadn’t seen the movie, which I haven’t stopped talking about since I saw it at Sundance that year, but he was a big fan of Junger’s book, “War,” about the experience. (I immediately read it. It is tremendous and enlightening in a way that movie isn’t given the film’s time constraints).

The daily depictions of a soldier’s life in Afghanistan were disturbing enough, but what really stuck with me—and still has— about “Restrepo” and “War”  were the interviews with the soldiers who survived. Many were babies straight out of high school when they went away and babies when they returned, but they were now babies with unending nightmares. They couldn’t sleep or adjust to civilian life. Many of them re-enlisted not because they wanted to go back into battle, but because they didn’t know how to just be in this world where they weren’t sure if anyone had their back. You may hate the guy in the cot beside you, but the movie and book made clear that when lives are on the line, that didn’t matter: you took care of each other and there were rules that left out any of life's messy ambiguities. My Colonel talked about that and what it meant to truly be a leader of men and women. 

It was an engaging push and pull for the entire three-hour flight and a badly-needed reminder that we can disagree about issues and still have civil conversations about them and talk out loud about how we feel... And on this Memorial Day, I remember that the ability to do so is one of the many rights that soldiers have fought so hard to protect. 

My Colonel, whose name I’m not mentioning to protect his privacy, and I have kept in touch since that day. Despite his extremely busy schedule, he even spoke at the retirement community where my father lives since I knew all the vets would love him. He’d wanted to bring his wife and children, but she, also a former soldier, is extremely active in working with the soldiers and their spouses, and, sadly, there had been a soldier suicide that week on the base and she was counseling the family. 

As you know, the number of suicides by soldiers has reached what the military calls epidemic proportions. Last year, more soldiers on active duty killed themselves than were killed in combat. At least 349 soldier killed themselves, the most since the Pentagon began publicly releasing the number 10 years ago. 

All weekend long, I’ve been donating to causes that support war veterans in honor of Memorial Day. There are so many great organizations out there trying to bridge the gap between the services an overworked Veterans Administration provides and the real help these men and women desperately need. Even with all these organizations, way too many veterans are falling through the cracks and not having their basic needs met. And many of the cracks are caused by ridiculous bureaucratic snafus that have absolutely devastating results.

Today’s $10 goes to Operation Homefront, an all-encompassing veterans organization that does everything from help veterans move, find auto repairs, get food, financial assistance, vision care and even purchase a home.  

If you’re looking for an organization that lets you see the direct results of your giving, look no further. Under its Current Needs heading, Operation Homefront runs appeals for specific soldiers. For example, today there are listings to:

  • Help an injured Iraqi war vet who, through a clerical error, has been unable to collect unemployment and other benefits. He is facing losing his apartment and his car. He needs $2,770 while the issue is resolved. 

  • Another vet who is in college had to take a break for surgery for his combat injuries and lost his education benefits while recovering and he and his 3 children are now at risk of losing their home. He needs $1,235.

       *This medical retiree is waiting for his VA benefits to kick in, but that takes                     months and while he is searching for a job, his family needs help with food and auto insurance. He needs $740.

It’s staggering that these men and women who have served this country are struggling to keep their cars running and a roof over their heads... and that the difference between having a home and becoming homeless is only a few hundred dollars. Our country ought to be ashamed. They deserve better. We as a country can and must do better. 

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147 down, 218 to go

26 May 2013

This weekend, I’m giving to causes that support war veterans this in honor of Memorial Day.  Friday, I donated to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of War. Yesterday’s $10 went to Paralyzed Veterans of America. 

Today, I’m giving to National Military Family Association. Founded in 1969, during Vietnam, the NMFA runs programs to “strengthen and protect Uniformed Services families,” according to its website.  Among the issues it fights for are child care for military families, accessible health care, help for military spouses looking for work, and support for widow and widowers. 

NMFA also runs a scholarship fund that has helped more than 2,500 military spouses continue their education. Additionally, NMFA has sent more than 45,000 children to Operation Purple, a summer camp for kids whose parents have been deployed. 

 Time and time again, as I’ve been writing about veterans organizations this weekend (and in previous blogs this year), it’s been a bitter reminder that these organizations are fighting for the very basic of rights for any American, and the fact that men and women who have served our country are not guaranteed these rights is an abomination. Our treatment of veterans is a national disgrace. 

The home page links to a suicide prevention lifeline and a domestic violence organization, as realistic awareness of the troubled hearts many Vets have upon their return.

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146 down, 219 to go

25 May 2013

I’m giving to causes that support war veterans this weekend in honor of Memorial Day.  Yesterday, I donated to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of War. Today, $10 goes to Paralyzed Veterans of America. 

PVA supports paralyzed veterans in all aspects of their lives from fighting for health care (how horrible that there’s even a fight involved), helping them find careers, and even training them to play wheel chair-adapted sports. 

The ultimate goal is to find a cure for paralysis, but until then, PVA will continue advocating for “a barrier-free America,” as it states on PVA’s website, as well as “help veterans with disabilities get a fair shot at the American Dream, a good job at a good company.”

May 25: Paralyzed Vets of America

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145 down, 220 to go

24 May 2013

Tonight marks the start of the Memorial Day Weekend.  Memorial Day, as you know, is a day of remembrance for the men and women who died while fighting for our country. 

I unintentionally honored a veteran last night when I gave $10 to a Vietnam vet, who wasn’t homeless, but was living in the VA Home. I’m going to follow the theme this weekend by giving to Veterans organizations. 

Tonight’s $10 goes to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of War. 

On Memorial Day,  IAVA will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The organization is asking that we all honor the fallen with a moment of silence at 12:01 PM EDT. 

IAVA, formed in 2004, provides health, employment, education and community resources to   the more than 2.4 million veterans of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars.  

May 24: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of War

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144 down, 221 to go

23 May 2013

Michael is king of the Bigg Chill parking lot. The Bigg Chill is a west side institution in LA. Long before Starbucks’ Howard Schultz invested $27 million in Pinkberry, The Bigg Chill was serving frozen yogurt from a small storefront just south of UCLA...far enough to be away from any campus traffic, but close enough and a straight enough shot down Westwood that the sorority girls driving the expensive cars their daddies bought them often need help navigating their way out of the tight, efficient parking lot. 

That’s where Michael comes in. For two years now he’s been there almost every night. Tall and strapping, with towels thrown over his right shoulder, he’s there to wash people’s windows while they enjoy their yogurt. Then, when they are ready to leave, he directs and stops traffic and helps people out of tight spots. He wears a vest that has fluorescent safety tape on it and a cap.

Though he doesn’t look old enough, Michael tells me that he served in Vietnam. He used to be a truck driver, but his job went to Mexico and he says he’s still mad at Bush Senior for that, but he doesn’t want to sit around and do nothing.  “I’ve got 10 fingers and 10 toes and five senses. There’s no reason for me not to be working,” he says. 

Michael lives up the road at the VA Home with other war veterans and it turns out he’s a little peeved at another Bush, George W. As someone who served his country proudly, he’s still upset about the Iraq War and that some of his comrades were “killed for a lie. And now Bush is in Texas, and Cheney is in Montana.”  I don’t engage him in any kind of debate, I just listen. He’s calm, but there’s an anger that roils under the surface. 

My friend and I shake Michael’s hand, thank him for his service to our country, and  get into our car. After making sure our path is clear, Michael comes back to the front of the car, stands ramrod straight and he salutes us as we leave. His form is perfect. 

About 20 minutes later, as I’m driving back home, the Bigg Chill has closed, but Michael is still there, walking the perimeter, making sure his kingdom is safe one last time until he returns tomorrow. 

May 23: Michael

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22 May 2013

Have you heard about Zach Sobiech? He’s a teenager who died of cancer on May 20. He was diagnosed when he was 14. On May 3, when he turned 18, Soul Pancake—Rainn Wilson’s online channel— posted “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech,” a short documentary by Justin Baldoni about Zach’s life. Three weeks later, Zach passed. 

As Zach says, “Many people kind of live in the middle, between when will my dreams come true and you’re dying.” He realized that we make our own happiness. Waiting is a luxury many of us don’t have and why would we want to put any kind of happiness off anyway? 

Some people are born with old souls and Zach’s one of them. Like Mattie Stepanek, who died at 13, Zach was wise so far beyond his years...beyond any of our years. There are so many lessons to be learned from him in this video —all of which we know but so rarely live by— including live in the moment, be grateful for what you have, cherish the ones you love and the ones who love you, and tell people that you love them. Zach has a level of acceptance and serenity about his death that is admirable without ever being treacly. When he and his girlfriend talk about how they want to have four kids together, it’s heartbreaking. They talk about getting married because “til death do us part” will be easy to keep since he’s dying. 

The video isn’t maudlin, but it doesn’t try to sugarcoat how devastating getting such a diagnosis is... not only for Zach, but for his family and friends. And that for some people, there comes a time when even though there is the possibility of more treatment, that treatment has to be weighed against the quality of life—even if it means stopping treatment will cut your life short. He brings up faith occasionally, but admits he doesn’t know what’s coming after death.

Zach turned to writing music to get out some of his thoughts about his life and his situation. He wrote a song called “Clouds” about “falling down, down, down into this dark and lonely hole.” The documentary maker who was filming Zach’s story sent the song to the likes of  Jason Mraz, Bryan Cranston, Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson and Sara Bareilles. One scene features him watching a video of them singing his song  back to him. But the celebrity angle is just one part, and a very small one, of his story.

The biggest lesson Zach learned? “It’s really simple actually: just try to make people happy,” he says. Some people learn it the easy way, some the hard way, he admits, but “as long as you learn it, you’re going to make the world a better place.” 

I wrote a few months ago about how the novel “The Fault In Our Stars” affected me. It’s about two teenagers with cancer and Zach embodies Augustus, the male lead in the book...except he’s real  (the book was based on a teenage girl who had cancer and I gave to that charity earlier this year).

Watch the video if you haven’t already and then go out and seize the day. 

His family has established the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund at Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Today’s $10 goes to that. If you’re a fan of his music, some of which you’ll hear in the video, his CD is available on iTunes. Proceeds from that go to the fund as well.

21 May 2013

“Brush up on your Shakespeare/Start quoting him now/Brush up on your Shakespeare/And the women will go wow...”

Anyone else remember that from “Kiss Me, Kate?” I first the lines first in some other context when I was little... like “Schoolhouse Rock” or something like that, but I always loved it.  I read “Taming of the Shrew” in high school and then finally saw “Kiss Me Kate” on Broadway (with the always incredible Brian Stokes Mitchell) in 1999 and loved how it brought Shakespeare alive.

One of my goals it to read the complete works of Shakespeare. I’m pretty convinced that 95% of the sayings we’ve carried into modern times come either from the Bible or from one of Shakespeare’s plays. 

A few days ago, my friend Jack, who is a show runner now, but started as an actor who trained at Juilliard, told me about the Independent Shakespeare Co., a theater troupe that is dedicated to bringing classic plays to as wide an audience as possible.  ISC’s mission, according to its website, is also to present plays with as diverse a cast as possible.  ISC started in New York with a production of “Henry V,” staged for $800. The company moved to L.A. in 2001 and now works with L.A. City’s Department of Cultural Affairs to produce the Free Shakespeare festival, which drew 38,000 last year to Griffith Park. This year’s slate is “She Stoops To Conquer,” (they’ve clearly moved beyond Shakespeare); “MacBeth” and “As You Like It.” 

ISC also has a small performance space where it presents re-interpretations and experimental versions of classic plays. ISC also offers acting classes, including a 3-hour tutorial to learn lyrical verse speaking. 

Though ISC has some corporate sponsors, the majority of its funding comes from individuals and they need money. They have a fundraising campaign going on right now that ends June 2. They’re 54% of the way to their goal of $35,000.

ISC is one of those gems in Los Angeles that it’s too easy to know nothing about until it’s too late and they’re in trouble. What an incredible gift they provide to Angelenos. I’m so happy Jack told me about them.

Since it’s Chooseday Tuesday, today’s $10 goes to the Independent Shakespeare Company in Jack’s name. 

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20 May 2013

Doesn’t it feel now like we just go from body blow to body blow lately? From Superstorm Sandy to Sandy Hook to winter storm Nemo to the Boston Marathon bombings to the fertilizer plant explosion to last week’s parade shooting in New Orleans to today’s tornado in Moore, Okla.

The Oklahoma tornado may be one of the most devastating in history. As I write this, the unconfirmed dead is 91 and rising, at least 20 of them children. 

The footage of all the twisted wreckage is gut-wrenching. It seems impossible that anyone could have survived the tornado, which had speeds of up to 200 mph and was on the ground for a remarkable 40 minutes. 

All the news is horrifying, but the most chilling words I heard were this afternoon when a reporter, his eyes filling up, talked about how the rescue mission had switched to a recovery mission in one certain area because they had heard calls for help, but they hadn’t heard them for 15 minutes. What if you were one of those people trapped in the rubble? You are hurt, buried, screaming for help and you die as you’re waiting for them to come rescue you?  I don’t know how to process that...the thought that rescue workers could hear them but couldn’t get to them and know that time simply ran out. Nightmare.

I’ve seen interviews with survivors whose homes were decimated and they talk about how everything can be replaced. They must be in shock, but they seem to have moved very quickly from the sorrow of having lost every material possession to gratitude that they and their family members or alive. Or maybe it’s the only way around... after the shock wears off, then they start to mourn the loss of everything that symbolized their lives. 
My heart feels so heavy and I don’t have the words to seem to express the despair, so I’m just going to shut up for today. 

Today’s $10 goes to Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, which is providing relief for those affected in Moore and the other storms that have wreaked havoc across Oklahoma. They take care of those things that seem secondary, but really aren’t: such as providing laundry services, in addition to meals and helping remove trees, etc. 

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19 May 2013

Another hate crime took place in New York’s Greenwich Village over the weekend. A 32-year old black gay male, Mark Carson, was shot in the face after the assailant and two others confronted him, calling him homophobic slurs. 

The police are calling in a bias crime. Don’t you wonder when these will end? Remember in 1998, when some white supremacists dragged African-American James Byrd behind their truck, killing him when his head and arm were severed?  Or that same year when two men met  Matthew Shepard in a bar, beat him up and tied him to a fence. He later died from his injuries. The two cretins pled that they were driving to temporary insanity by Shepard’s alleged gay advances. What? 

When I hear about these horrendous crimes, I want to ask the people who commit them, “What are you so afraid of?” All hate comes down to fear. Fear that what you have will be taken away from you by someone who is  the “other”... “other” color,  “other” gender, “other” oriented sexually, “other” religion, “other” nationality.  With gay bashing, it didn’t seem illogical to think that the perpetrators may also have latent homosexual tendencies that they are trying to suppress. Again, it all comes down to fear. 

There was a vigil for Carson last night at Village corner where he was murdered. It looks like it was attended by hundreds. It was a reminder that love will always   drown out hate in the long run, but that’s no consolation for his family, I’m sure. And  at times like these, it sometimes feels like hate has the upper hand. 

While this post is about hate crimes of any kind, today I’m giving to Fight OUT Loud, a charity that provides resources and assistance for GLBT individuals who face discrimination, as well as trains the GLBT community and its allies how to handle discrimination and raises awareness about the ongoing discrimination and hatred out there. 

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18 May 2013

Today was the Preakness. Congrats to everyone who bet on Oxbow and condolences to folks who voted on Orb. I didn’t watch the race and have never been anything but tangentially related to horseracing. 

When I was at Vanderbilt, lots of my classmates used to go to the Kentucky Derby, since it was only a few hours away, but I never had the money to bet and I never was well-heeled enough to run in the horse crowd. They went more for the hats, the seersucker suits, and the Mint Juleps anyway.

The one time I went to the Saratoga Race Track, all I could think about were the words to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” My horse did not naturally win. 

When I was 10 or so, I went through that horsey stage that every girl goes through on some level. It usually happens right before we get interested in boys. I really wanted a horse, which was totally not ever in the realm of possibility of ever, ever happening in the slightest (I think I make my point). So instead, I read all the “Misty of Chincoteague” books, I put together a model of a horse (and learned that I was not good as working with model cement) and my mom took me to Dorton Arena to see The World Famous Lippizaner Stallions. Then I got a crush on a boy and left the horses behind.

Now, on the rare occasion that I go horseback riding, I don’t particularly enjoy it, much to my dismay. I really wish I did. Getting up on a horse is about as awkward as putting on a wet suit and I don’t do either with anything that approximates grace. Once I’m up there, I feel bad for the horse for having to carry me around and I feel bad for me that I can’t just practice my beauty pageant wave and enjoy the ride. Instead, I’m clinging to the reins with both hands as if I really could control Buttercup or whatever the horse is named. Instead, I’m happier brushing the horse and feeding it carrots and patting in between its beautiful eyes, with its four feet and my two feet both firmly on the ground.

Because of the Preakness, I was thinking about horse charities and what happens to all those horses that go out to pasture. 

Heart of a Horse is a Southern California non-profit that rescues horses and finds them new homes. They have three horses up for adoption right now, including Secret, a 12-year old mare who is a cribber... I have no idea what that means, but it sounds like it’s a bad thing; Sadie, who is lame and really does need a pasture, and 10-year old Holly, who is a good trail horse. 

According to the foundation, there are 7 million horses in America. Part of Heart of a Horse’s mission is to find homes for horses once their racing days are gone, instead of those horses who can’t be bred being led to slaughter. 

There’s lots of good stuff up on their site, including their work with kids and horses, but I was very touched by a photo called “Hospital Visit.” It is of a very ill policeman, whose horse came to visit him in the hospital. I don’t know any details, but I know we all welcome a visit from a loved one when we’re sick. 

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139 down, 227 to go.

17 May 2013

The Dalai Lama is speaking at Tulane’s graduation this weekend, as well as at a conference on resilience.

Every time I’ve seen him interviewed or heard him speak, he’s exuded this sense of serenity and he has a great, joyous laugh. The few friends of mine who have had a private audience with him in Dharamsala felt it was a transcendent moment and they felt they were in the presence of true holiness. One friend brought me back a wonderful gift: a red wrist tie blessed by the Dalai Lama. I think you’re supposed to wear it until it falls off. This may sound crazy, but I’ve saved mine for some time when I feel I really need it. 

Among those in the audience at one of his three speeches over the weekend will be 19 people who were at the Mother’s Day Parade shooting last Sunday in New Orleans’ 7th Ward, according to www.nola.com. That seems fitting. What also seems fitting, in a strange way, is that he will be given an honorary degree at Tulane alongside Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. Wouldn’t you like to sit in on any conversation the three of them have? It will be musical, for sure. 

I don’t agree with everything the Dalai Lama says: for example, he’s against same-sex relationships. Even though I wish he didn’t oppose them  I have no doubt that he treats anyone in one that he meets with respect and compassion.

My two favorite sayings of his are: “My religion is vey simple. My religion is kindness,” and “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” 

The older I get, I’ve really come to believe that kindness is what matters most in this world. Sometimes when friends are thinking about setting me up and ask me what I’m looking for in a man, I’ve found now that “kindness” is the first word out of my mouth and I really mean it.  It’s what I look for in all my connections. I have very few friends who say mean things, but kindness goes so far beyond that... it’s a general understanding of the suffering of others and that we are here to help make other people’s lives better. We are here to lift up others, not put them down. That means all sentient beings. As I’m writing this, I’m wondering where I put some notes I made last year when I heard a Buddhist monk speak. He talked about four basic precepts of Buddhism and compassion was at the very top of the list.  If I can find it, I’ll write about it at some other time. 

The second saying really goes to the heart of this blog and my daily giving. There are days when I’m embarrassed that I’m only giving $10 to a cause and think that it can’t possibly be making a difference and then I think back to when I ran a half-marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society a few years ago and I asked people to donate. I remember one person sent me a check for $5 and I was so pleased. In some ways, it meant more to me than the checks that had zeros in the amount (not that I didn’t appreciate those as well).  

Most days, I realize that giving money is about so much more than the amount. With each donation I make, I am sending the charity a good intention,  a wish that it succeed in its mission, that it make a difference in the world. I’m expressing a belief that by making the world a little better for people that I will never cross paths with who are fighting battles, in many cases, completely different than mine, the world will be a little better for all of us. 

I hope the Dalai Lama would approve.

Today’s $10 goes to The Dalai Lama Trust. The New York-based charity, founded by the Dalai Lama in 2009, promotes educational opportunities, supports institutions working for the welfare of the Tibetian people, fosters dialog between science and religion, and encourages non-violence, among its missions, according to the website.

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16 May 2013

It’s tornado season, as we saw from the devastating twisters that touched down in Granbury, Texas on Wednesday.  No other natural disaster seems as random and as immediately destructive as a tornado. We’ve all seen the pictures where a house will be completely flattened and one right beside it will be totally untouched.

Growing up in North Carolina, we weren’t in tornado alley, but we certainly had our share. I may not be remembering this correctly since many of the memories of my childhood seem to be blurred with my fantastical imaginings, but I swear I recall coming home from junior high one day and a tornado appeared out of nowhere. The bus driver let me off at the corner of our property, and my mother was standing at the front door, frantically screaming for me to run as fast as I could into the house as she could see the tornado touch down in the distance. 

That one may be part of some childhood tall tale, but I very clearly remember going home to visit one year and being woken up by tornado sirens. We were safe, but one of my best friend’s apartments was destroyed as the tornado drove right through her and her husband’s bedroom, splitting it in half. They scampered into their closet just in time. It sounded exactly like how people describe it: like a freight train approaching.

While the focus is, rightly so, on the human injuries and deaths in Granbury, when I see footage of the destroyed houses, it’s impossible for me not to think about the household pets that ran away in fear trying to find someplace safe. 

The Humane Society of North Texas has paired with Hood County Animal Control to rescue animals that may be trapped in damaged homes and to take in pets until they can be reunited with their people. I can only imagine how compounded a pet owner’s anguish must be if they have lost everything and they also can’t find their beloved cat or dog and have no idea if the helpless creature is safe. 

In addition to cash, the Humane Society of North Texas also needs dog and cat food and cat litter.

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