It's all about the little things…

Did you miss me?

That’s right people, I’m back!  I can only hope that you missed me as much as I missed you!  I do have to admit however that I have throughly enjoyed a little break form the blogging.  It’s funny how you don’t realize how much work something is until after you’re finished.  There are nights when I get home from school and the fact that I don’t have to write a blog is what I am most thankful for.  Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system let’s get down to business.  Just in case you’ve managed to go all day without remembering, today is Monday.  For most people that means an extra cup of coffee, hitting the snooze button one more time, or a well deserved adult beverage at the end of the day.  It also means new beginnings.  Since this is my first post of 2012, it only makes sense that I’m thankful for a new year, a new semester, and new chance to blog!

It's the year of the Dragon people!

Life is all about beginnings.  We are born, we start school, we start college, we start a career, we start a family, and the list goes on and on.  It’s easy for us to forget that we even though we like new beginnings and what they represent, we didn’t really have it all that bad to start with.  Orphaned children in Uganda on the other hand, deserve a new start.  There are over 2 million children who are orphaned because of war, poverty, AIDS, or famine.  New Beginnings Charitable Trust works to provide the resources these children need for a safe place to call home, somewhere to receive medical care, and the education they deserve.  NBCT started by purchasing 8 acres of land in the Nakasangola District of Uganda near the local school.  Your heart will break when you read the stories of the brave children whose spirits just can’t be broken.  The team from Northern Ireland works closely with a carefully chosen African staff to make sure they change the lives of Ugandan children one at a time.  Nothing says new adventure like starting a new business.  I mean it is called the American dream for a reason.  New Profit Inc. exists in order to help entrepreneurs find a way to make their dreams of improving the lives of children, families, and communities come true.  Some of the most innovative organization I’ve ever come across have been non-profits.  Don’t get me wrong, I like to watch ridiculous infomercials as much as the next gal, but I would much rather give my hard earned moola to an organization that is changing lives.  Can I get an amen?  I know I don’t loose any sleep over the donations I gave to charities last year, but I bet you’ve got a ThighMaster taking up space in a closet somewhere.  Sorry Suzzane.

New Beginnings Charitable Trust Donation

New Profit Inc. Donation

So here’s to you new beginnings!  Sure, we’re all about you this time of year, but I have a feeling this year you’ll be sticking around.  You represent all the things we hope for and dream of.  You’re a huge part of our life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Without you there would be no new years, new semesters, and new babies, and who doesn’t love a new baby?

Welcome to the world baby Connor!

Week 52-The Final Countdown, Day 7-You

That’s right, today I am thankful for you.  Yes, you.  If you are reading this blog for the first time or for the 352nd I am so thankful for you.  This little idea that I had while trying to fall asleep one night in New Jersey has been the biggest blessing I’ve experienced in longer than I can remember, and it’s all because of your support.  You were there to comment on my posts, encourage me to keep going, and give me ideas when my inspiration well was running dry.  Even though I love writing I would be lying if I said I didn’t care if anyone read my posts.  Luckily I have you to make sure that wasn’t the case.  Thank you.  I have no bigger words to express the gratitude I feel, but I have a feeling you know exactly what you mean to me.

Thank YOU!

I thought long and hard about the charities that I would write about today.  Here’s what I decided.  There is no one or two charities that could even come close to represent the diversity of reader support I’ve had over the past year.  So I’m not going to write about any charities today.  I’ve rambled on for the past year about one charity after another.  Hopefully you’ve learned a little something and been touched by at least one of them.  I know that both of those have happened to me everyday.  I’m pretty sure there are very few activities that you can do where you can learn and be moved every single day.  The real question is, now what?  Now that I’ve poured my heart and soul out to you, where do we go from here?  Yea I said we because I’m not on this journey alone anymore.  Do we make this a book or a movie?  In my dreams!  But I really would value your opinion on what becomes of Thanks-4-Giving.  So don’t be shy! 

So here’s to you!  Scott, Beth, Chris, Jane, Clay, Melanie, Kristina, Justin, Karen, David, Rachael, Kim, Richard, Eve, Al, Jean, Becky, Rico, Keri, Terry, Debra, Tim, Nancy, Richard, Lindsay, Paula, John, Jessie, Johnny, Logan, Connie, Matt, Garrett, Rachael, Luke, Kathy, Katy, Annie, Jimbo, Jonathan, Adam, Jen, Danica, Britten, Julia, James, Kellie, Jackie, Stephanie, Jessalyn, Tina, Debi, Amy, Jennifer, Jessica, Meredith, Whitney, Jodi, Devon, Abby, Ashley, and the million other people that I’m missing.  Thanks for being you, and supporting me.

Week 52-The Final Countdown, Day 6-Grad School Girls

Another Mexican Monday in the books and I got to spend it with some of my favorite grad school girls.  I really enjoyed having the week away from WVU, but I missed them!  We’re all so different but I love how well we all get along.  We’re from Kansas, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland.  It’s always so nice to have someone to talk to about classes, exams, and our research that only we can understand.  Being in graduate school together is something that unites you forever.  Yes I realize how cheesy that sounds but it’s true.  I’m so thankful for these intelligent, beautiful, and fun women in my daily life.

My girls

So one of our favorite things to do together is eat.  What?  We all gotta eat so we might as well do it together, right?  So Others Might Eat knows this, and they work really hard to feed those who need it most in the Washington D.C. area.  SOME doesn’t stop there though.  They make sure as many needs as possible that the people around D.C. have are met.  That means putting clothes on their backs, making sure they have health care, a place to lay their heads at night, and any counseling they may need.  For over forty years SOME has been restoring hope and dignity to thousands of people one at a time.  Last year alone more than 260,000 hot meals were served to men, women, and children, and more than 18,900 people were able to take a hot shower.  Homelessness is a cycle that can be broken, and SOME gives people the resources they need to transform their lives.  I’m pretty sure the only thing we like to do more than eat is laugh at/with each other.  I don’t know about the other girls, but Robin Williams is someone who can always bring a smile to my face.  Apparently his Juilliard classmate Christopher Reeve also thought he was pretty hilarious.  However the work that the Christopher Reeve Foundation does to fund research in order to cure spinal cord injuries is no laughing matter.  CRF is also dedicated to improving the quality of life for those living with spinal cord injuries through grants, information, and advocacy.  Williams has taken on Christopher’s dream as his own.  Christopher may not have been able to get out of his wheelchair, but because of his determination and passion others are getting that chance today.  Chris’ wife, Dana, was the mastermind behind the Paralysis Resource Center which has helped thousands of people living with paralysis and their families with life-changing information and resources.  Christopher knew that the impossible was possible.  I know how he feels with only one more blog post till my one year anniversary!

So Others Might Eat Donation

Christopher Reeve Foundation Donation

So here’s to my grad school girls!  We’ve celebrated birthdays, Mexican Mondays, football games, game nights, and presenting seminars and it’s only our first semester together.  We help each other with research, homework, and exams.  I mean who else would understand the frustration of using SAS or R?  Thank you for Fridays at Panera, Mondays at Los, Saturdays in Wardensville, and everyday that you make me smile.

This is what you girls do to me 🙂

Week 52-The Final Countdown, Day 5-Garage

Well the country roads have taken my back to the place where I belong in WV.  I loved being with my family and friends but there is something so wonderful about coming home to your very own house and sleeping in your own bed.  I also never knew how nice it was to have a garage until we moved into this townhouse.  My grandmother had one when I was growing up, but I was definitely too young to appreciate it.  Being able to unload all of our stuff out of the rain today when we got back was worth it’s weight in gold.  It still needs a little bit of TLC, but I know I’m only going to be more thankful for it in the winter months to come.  Plus, where else would we sell all of our old crap out of?

That looks about right...

The Good News Garage gives low-income families in New England an affordable and reliable transportation option.  GNG is different from other car donation charities because they try to repair as many cars as they can to provide them to others.  We need cars in this country to go shopping, go to work, and to get to the doctor.  Over the past fifteen years GNG has given away more than 3,800 refurbished vehicles.  GNG will also come and tow any car that is being donated for free, or you can drop it off any of their locations six different New England states.  Plus, more than 85% of people who received a vehicle from GNG said they experienced increased economic opportunity and improved quality of life.  Even though I’m sure the garage they use to fix up all these donated cars is way bigger than mine, without it, all of this good wouldn’t be possible.  The second best thing a garage is good for, storage!  I know even in the short time we’ve lived here we have lots of items that have found a home in the garage.  Charity Storage is a non-profit that had the bright idea to designate one storage unit for donated items at already existing storage facilities.  I think this is genius.  That means people who are currently renting storage units, people moving out of them,  and auction buyers (you know you’ve seen Storage Wars) are all able to donate any unwanted items right there on the spot.  Once the unit gets full its contents are auctioned off and the proceeds from the sale go to local and national charities.  The storage units already have the space, goodness knows we already have the stuff, so CS just organizes it all to benefit charities.  I have a love/hate relationship with ideas like that CS because they are so amazing, but I wish I’d thought of them first.

Good News Garage Donation

Charity Storage Donation

So here’s to you garage!  You’re there to make sure our groceries and our bags stay dry when it’s nasty outside.  You’re also pretty convenient when it’s a wee bit chilly outside.  You give us a place to store our Christmas decorations and old memories.  The building of many birdhouses, flower arrangements, and band practices have occurred in within your four walls.  You’re also awesome because of your cool door that opens at the touch of a button.  Thanks for giving us a little extra coverage that helps out in a big way.

Week 52-The Final Countdown, Day 4-Reunited

So it’s the last night we’re here in good ‘ole NC, and I’m so excited to see all my girls!  I’ve seen a few of them here and there over the past 5 days, but tonight is going to be like a mini-reunion!  There was a group of about 8 of us who were super close in high school, and stayed that way even though we went our separate ways for college.  They are the type of girls that I love with all my heart, and I know that no matter how far apart in distance we are, we’re never more than a phone call away.  We’re all grown up now, or at least we’re suppose to be, but I’m so thankful that we take the time to reunite and reconnect. 

I can hardly stand being separated from my friends, so I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to be parent separated from my child.  Reunite International was created in 1987 to help parents who are trying to navigate through the legal nightmare of international parental child abduction.  They provide information and support to parents, family members, and guardians who have had their child abducted or are afraid their child may be at risk for abduction.  RI is also there to talk to and give practical advice to a parent who may have abducted their own child.  RI is also dedicated to raising awareness about international parental child abduction on a global level.  RI works closely with government agencies and other organizations to formulate quick resolutions that are in the best interest of the children when abduction does occur.  RI is able to provide support to parents when they need it the most.  The closest thing I have to children right now are my dogs, and I would be heart-broken if something were to happen and I was unable to see them on a daily basis. Nowzad Dogs is a charity that was created in order to rescue stray animals in Afghanistan and Iraq that soldiers have come across in their everyday lives.  Afghan and Iraqi dogs and cats spend most of their days just trying to survive.  ND knows they can’t possibly rescue every stray dog in those two countries, so they are also trying to educate the locals on animal welfare.  ND gives hope and new homes to numerous dogs that someone else has just totally forgotten about.  A few soldiers have even been reunited with the animals they took the time to care for and nurture while they were deployed.  I don’t know how anyone could say no to adorable little faces like the ones below.

So cute!

Reunite International Donation

Nowzad Dogs Donation

So here’s to being reunited!  There are very little things that compare to hugging the neck of someone you haven’t seen in way too long.  You can be played every 10 years, or impromptu, but you’re always a chance to catch up on the latest.  Everyday life may try to keep us apart but you will have none of it!  There’s no place like home, and there are no words to tell someone you love how much you’ve truly missed them, cause we’re reunited and it feels so good!

I love a good reunion!

Week 52-The Final Countdown, Day 3-Forgiveness

It only seemed appropriate that I miss one of my blog posts during my final week.  I remember when I missed my first post on Christmas Day last year, and I was sure the world would end.  Wrong.  Just like it kept on turning yesterday even though I didn’t publish a post.  The great thing is, there’s always tomorrow.  I always find a way to rally and make sure that I get caught up from the day before.  So even though I’m a day late, yesterday I was thankful for forgiveness.  I knew you guys out there wouldn’t stop reading just because I skipped a day.  Thank you for being so forgiving, and just plain awesome.

Forgiveness is one of those lessons that is hardest to learn, but oh so important.  The Forgiveness Project is a charity across the pond that explores forgiveness, reconciliation, and conflict resolution through real-life experiences.  TFP collects and shares the stories from people around the world who have chosen forgiveness over revenge.  By healing the wounds of the past we can start to build a better future.  TFP works in prisons, communities, and with any group of individual who wants to explore what it’s like to forgive.  Forgiveness can be big or small, but what TFP hopes to do is inspire just one person in the right direction.  The F Word is an exhibition put on by TFP which shows powerful images of forgiveness triumphing in atrocious situations.  Basically, it makes me being worried about not posting one day look like a walk in the park.  If you’re interested in sharing your story about forgiveness TFP would love to hear it!  Forgiveness can also be extremely difficult.  The Caylee Marie Anthony Foundation was created to honor Caylee’s memory, but I also think it’s helped those involved find peace and work towards forgiveness.  The mission of the foundation is to help prevent child abduction through creating awareness of child safety measures, and provide support to families and law enforcement agencies during child recovery efforts.  Obviously the Anthony family has experienced what it is like to have a child missing, and they want to reach out to others during this difficult time.  They may not have made it all the way to forgiving the person who took Caylee away from their lives, but they are helping others as they journey towards that goal.

The Forgiveness Project Donation

Caylee Marie Anthony Foundation Donation

So here’s to you forgiveness!  You can be hard pill to swallow when you want to be, but you always seems to make us feel better.  We learn about you as we grow up, but sometimes we need a little reminder about you even when we’re grown.  Thank you for making the world a better place, one “I’m sorry” at a time.  

Week 52-The Final Countdown, Day 2-Thanksgiving

Gobble, gobble people!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I can’t believe it’s basically been a year since I had the idea for this blog.  Thanksgiving gives us all the excuse to really think about what we’re thankful for in our lives.  On the last Thursday of November we seem to love our family a little more, appreciate our friends, and really be grateful for the huge meal that piles up on our plates.  Here’s my question.  Why can’t we keep that feeling around all year-long?  What is so special about that one day in November?  This year I’m thankful for more blessings that I can count.  You out there reading this are on the top of my list.

Even though Turkey Day is about being thankful, it’s even more so about the food.  Hey, the truth hurts.  That doesn’t mean we can’t be thankful for all that glorious food we shove down our gullets.  This time last year I was thankful for food for an entire week!  So it only seems right that tonight I am thankful for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.  Since they opened their doors in 1982 Second Harvest has distributed more than 100 million pounds to 18 different counties in the western end of NC.  The simple mission of sharing the abundance so no one goes hungry is as powerful as it is short.  Something else that I feel like I’ve said a billion times over the past year is that an idea doesn’t have to be complicated in order to change lives.  There is so much food that goes to waste on a daily basis that could be given to those who truly need it.  That’s the whole idea that food banks were founded on.  The other great thing about Second Harvest?  A little bit of money goes a long way.  A single dollar donated by you or me will buy $12 worth of food that will make 7 meals!  That’s way better than the dollar menu at McDonalds.  Golden Harvest Food Bank shares both the mission and the year they were established with Second Harvest.  The work they do is a little further South than Second Harvest, but it’s needed because hunger knows no boundaries.  GHFB has a Back Pack program similar to other charities, where they work to bridge the weekend meal gap that many students experience.  It only costs $14 a month to sponsor a child for the 32 week school year.  I bet all of us have spent $14 on ourselves for a single meal out.  I can spare a meal out a month.  It boggles my mind how simple it is to fix some of the world’s biggest problems if we were all just a little more giving.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina Donation

Golden Harvest Food Bank Donation

So here’s to you Thanksgiving!  You provided the inspiration I needed to start Thanks-4-Giving.  You’re also the reason that countless people return home every year.  You are the glue that keeps us together when all else fails.  You can’t say no to someone you love on Thanksgiving.  You’re also the start to the holiday season, no matter how badly the department stores try to brainwash us.  Thank you for making me thankful.  Year after year, and day after day.

I think I will!

Week 52-The Final Countdown, Day 1-Brother

Well this is it folks, the very last week of my post-a-day marathon!  I know you’re all terribly sad, but trust me, life will go on.  This week is all about getting back to the heart of why I started blogging in the first place.  To be thankful for all the little things I take for granted on a daily basis.  Even though this endeavor has helped me realize how blessed I am, it still amazes me how easily I can forget that.  I may not blogging everyday anymore after this week, but I will continue to be thankful everyday.  Like today for example, I am thankful I got a chance to eat dinner with my brother.  I have eaten dinner everyday for almost 18 years, but it made my day.  Little things, people, little things.

Can ya tell we're related?

Even though they’re not my brothers, there are a lot of screaming tweens everywhere that are thankful for the Jonas Brothers, and tonight I’m with them.  The Jo Bros founded the Change for the Children Foundation in order to support charities that motivate and inspire children to face hard with a positive and determined outlook.  I’ve actually already blogged about most of the charities CCF works with like Nothing But Nets, the American Diabetes Association, and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  The cool part is, the Jo Bros agree that the best people to help these kids, are other kids!  There is something like 1,788,643,438 people in the world who are between the ages of 5 and 19.  That translates to a heck of a lot of people to help each other out.  The Jo Bros are also no strangers to getting their peers to help them out a little.  CCF has teamed up with Edward Norton and Crowdrise to help them raise money, and so far they have raised over $12,000 towards their $15,000 goal.  Not too shabby.  Another impressive charity is Brother’s Brother Foundation which founded in 1958 in order to promote international health and education.  BBF has provided more than $3.4 billion worth of donated medical, educational, and agricultural supplies in 140 plus countries on five different continents.  Thousands upon thousands of text books, medical supplies, seeds, and food have given people better health, an education, nourishment, and a hope for more good things to come.  My brother doesn’t have a brother, but if he did, I’m sure he would follow suit with BBF and give him anything he ever needed.  He’s taken pretty good care of me more than once.

Change for the Children Foundation Donation

Brother’s Brother Foundation Donation

So here’s to you my awesome brother!  You’ve been there for me through thick and thin, and I know we still have lots more trials wade through together.  What I’m really thankful for is the fact that we still have lots more memories to be made.  You may be the only brother I have, but I know a good brother when I see one, and you’re it.  I love how we can have an entire conversation without saying a word, or finish each other sentences.  Thank you for being the peanut butter to my chocolate.

Week 51-Meet me in… Day 7-The future

First full day in NC and I already feel like a new person.  We spent most of the day with my Dad and Jane relaxing in Liberty and working on Ruby.  She needed a little oil change and her tires rotated, so Scott showed me how to fix her up!  I think my very favorite part of the day was laying on the swing in the yard basking in the warm sunshine.  I haven’t taken the time to slow and relax like that in way too long.  I started thinking about all kinds of things while I was laying there, but the future seemed to keep popping up.  I think coming home always gives you that feeling of nostalgia and makes you think about where life will take you next.

Who's coming with me?

I think the future has also been on my mind because next week is the last week of my 365 adventure.  People, mainly my Mom, keep asking me what I’m going to do when it’s over and I don’t’ have an answer yet.  I’ll guess you’ll just have to wait and see!  What I’m excited to see is a future where there is no war, and only peace.  Futures Without Violence, formerly known as Family Violence Prevention Fund, has been working to prevent violence within homes and communities for more than thirty years.  FWV works to end violence against women and children around the world, because everyone has the right to live violence free.  FWV has been successful because they have thought outside the box.  They reach out and train professionals such as doctors, nurses, athletic coaches, and even judges on way to improve responses to violence and abuse.  FWV is on a mission to end domestic and dating violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and all other kinds of violence that are some of the most pressing issues of out time.  Another thing in the future I’m looking forward to, is a job.  I know these days that’s not guaranteed but Jobs for the Future is doing it’s best to change that.  By 2020 JFF wants to double the number of low-income youth and adults who attain post-secondary jobs.  JFF works in over 200 communities spread across 43 states to improve the pathways that lead individuals from high school to college and then on to life-long careers.  No matter what stage of education or lapse of education someone is in, JFF works to get them back on track.  JFF promotes education, training, and workforce strategies that help our nation compete in a global economy.  It takes more than a pretty face and a high school diploma to be job ready theses days.

Futures Without Violence Donation

Jobs for the Future Donation

So here’s to the future!  You’re the place where we still imagine that cars will fly and The Jetsons will be there to greet us at the door when we get home.  You hold endless possibilities and things we can only dream of.  You’re the place we can never seem to get too fast enough no matter how hard we try.  Thank you for the promise of a new day, a new beginning, and a new goal.

The future is what you make it...

Week 51-Meet me in… Day 6-The car

Woo hoo games!

Well six hours later we are officially in NC!  I love being home.  Especially when it’s been three whole months since I’ve been here.  I know that doesn’t sound like a long time to some people, but for me, it is.  I love being with my family, and seeing all my friends when I come home.  I also really don’t mind the car ride.  In fact, I kind of enjoy it.  It gives me time to think or read or play games that I would normally be too busy to do.  Somehow being trapped in a car for hours on end gives me the permission I need to relax and do whatever I want.

One of the best parts of taking a road trip as kids (and even as an adult for me) are the games you get to play and bring with you.  Donate Games works hard to be sure that children with rare diseases can play all the video games their little hearts desire.  DG collects new and used video games and gear and repurposes them so they come back to life for their new owners.  Started in 2008, DG has grown tremendously over the past three years and has donated more than 3,000 new video games to hospitalized kids.  Jim Carol was inspired to give back  after his son was diagnosed with a fatal form of leukemia, and he saw the joy and comfort video games brought into his son’s life.  DG teams up with other charitable organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, XBox, and EA Sports.  If you’re feeling especially moved by DG’s cause, you can sign up to host your own game drive!  DG will hook you up with all the posters, collection boxes, and pick-up arrangements.  Child’s Play is another organization that uses the power of the video gaming community to benefit sick children.  CP has a network of over 70 hospitals world-wide where they donate toys, books, and video games to help brighten the day of kids who could really use a burst of sunshine.  CP works in two ways.  They work with their network of hospitals and their staffs to set up gift wish lists full of all kinds of fun stuff.  If you click on a hospital location on their website you can see the list and send a gift of your choice.  CP also accepts monetary donations that they put towards purchasing new consoles and games so children and their families have an enjoyable distraction from their otherwise uncomfortable situation.  Life is too short not to play games! 

Donate Games Donation

Child’s Play Donation

So here’s to you cars!  You give us the perfect excuse to kick back, relax, and be a kid again!  Unless we’re driving and then we should definitely be an adult and pay attention.  The ABC game, the name game, Eye-Spy, you name it and most people have probably played it at one time or another in the car.  Thanks for being one big arcade on wheels.  I’m pretty sure I hear the sound of parents everywhere agreeing with me.