Thanks(4)giving

It's all about the little things…

Week 51-Meet me in… Day 5-The Couch

It has been one of those lazy, rainy Sundays that I love.  It was filled with lots of catching up on TV shows, sleep, and quality time with my family.  Long story short, the couch has been my best friend today.  We bought this little love seat before we moved to New Jersey and it has served us well.  It’s the perfect size for the two of us, or the four of us, if the puppies jump up for a snuggle.  I think when you work really hard all week you can really appreciate the down time you get on the weekends.  When you have the hectic and unpredictable schedule of a graduate student, rest and relaxation is on the top of your thankful list.  Especially when you have the whole week off from classes because of Thanksgiving this week!

Music to my ears 🙂

We all have our favorite furniture in our homes, but what do you do with those items when you have loved them to pieces?  Donate them of course!  The problem is some of us don’t even know where to start looking when it’s time to donate items.  Luckily for you and me Donation Town takes all the guess-work out of donating.  Started in 2008, DT wanted to be sure that they were focused on helping people donate non-cash items.  DT also lets you know which charities will come and pick up your charitable donations, which is perfect for those of us who can never seem to make it down to Goodwill or Salvation Army.  Your donation is also still tax-deductible, and the bigger your couch the bigger the deduction you’ll get.  Lots of people are totally unaware that great charities have pick-up services.  DT realized this and decided they could get help get the word out.  It’s a totally free service run by people just like you and me.  One of my favorite shows to watch on Sundays is The Sopranos.  Lorraine Bracco, or Dr. Melfi as we all affectionately know her, has written a booked ironically called “On the Couch”.  She isn’t just at home sitting on her couch though, because she’s on the Board of Directors for the Riverkeeper Inc, which is devoted to protecting the Hudson River and it’s tributaries.  Despite what you might think, the Hudson is a healthy ecosystem that is full of life.  It also provides safe drinking water for 9 million people who live in and around New York City.  The Hudson is also a great place to play!  Millions of people go swimming, boating, and fishing in the Hudson every year.  When you live in a concrete jungle like NYC it’s nice to have a place to get away from it all.  Since 1966, RK has been an advocate for clean water through education, legislation, and enforcement.  I love the Hudson and miss seeing it everyday.  It’s nice to know RK is protecting it so it’ll be right where I left it when I go back and visit NYC.

Schedule a Donation Town Pick Up!

Riverkeeper Inc. Donation

So here’s to you couches everywhere!  You’re the place where we crash after a long day or week.  You come in as many colors and styles as our imaginations can come up with.  Sometimes you recline or can be pulled out, which makes you even more comfortable.  Thank you for being there when I’m feeling lazy, and not judging me.  Seriously, that’s hard to find these days.

Nap for one please!

Week 51-Meet me in… Day 4-The Barn

Another beautiful Saturday spent working with animals.  I helped a couple of other graduate students with their research project today, and I loved every minute of it.  Plus we had the best BBQ sandwich I have had since moving to WV for lunch which totally made my day.  I also had to go out to the school farm and check on the cows for our lab’s research project.  As I was sitting up on top of the fence watching the cows, it hit me how lucky I am to be doing something I love.  I love animals.  I always have, and even though my career goals have changed since the age of 7, I am so thankful to truly be exactly where I am, doing exactly what I do.

I wish all barns had this view...

Being in grad school I am also surrounded by other people who love what they do.  Tina is one of those people, and you can tell she is passionate about wildlife from the first time you talk to her.  That’s why it was no surprise when I found out that she had founded the non-profit Wildlife Research & Conservation.  As the name pretty much indicates, WRC’s mission is to promote and support wildlife conservation through education and research.  WRC also works alongside zoological institutions to improve the welfare of captive animal populations.  WRC believes that these animals should be treated like the ambassadors from the wild that they are.  The knowledge that researchers are able to glean from these animals helps to improve the lives of their counterparts living in their natural environments in the wild.  WRC’s website also has a great Kids Corner with full coloring pages and facts that kids will love!  You gotta start ’em young.  That’s how I got hooked!  Even though I just discovered the non-profit Fauna & Flora International this evening, I can immediately see their passion for animals as well.  Even though they work with species that are much more rare than sheep and cows, I think we draw inspiration from the same place.  The teams that work at FFI have a special place in their hearts for the underdog.  Everyone wants to save and protect the cute cuddly animals, but they make sure that the creepy, crawly, and slimy animals like the Antiguan racer snake are protected as well.  Each animal creates a unique piece of the puzzle that we know as the world, and puzzles with missing pieces are no fun.  FFI works hard to make sure they save as many pieces as they can, no matter how small they may be.

Wildlife Research & Conservation Donation

Fauna & Flora International Donation

So here’s to the barn!  It’s the place where I learned to ride a horse, clean a stall, take a blood sample from a sheep, and ultrasound a pregnant goat.  You’ve kept me warm when it’s cold outside and dry when it’s wet.  You’re the place where I’ve shared lots of laughs and even a couple of tears.  Who knew you would be such an important place in my life.  Thanks for being my home away from home.

Like Vegas, but with more dirt

Week 51-Meet me in… Day 3-In the middle

I feel like I’ve been in the middle of a tug-a-war match all day long.  Go do surgery, go to class, go back to the lab, oops you forgot you scheduled a haircut.  I loved being busy but today is one of those days when I wish there were about three more of me.  Being in graduate school is all about keeping it between the lines.  If you go too far outside them your program will suffer, if you stay too close to the middle you will never have any fun.  Plus the Diamond Rio song with the same title is one of my all-time favorites.  It comes on and I immediately turn it up and jam out.  Thanks for making me want to meet you in the middle every time.

One of the hardest places to stay in the middle, ironically, is when you are in middle school.  It’s such a weird time for boys and girls emotionally, physically, and socially.  The After-School All-Stars program works to enrich the minds and bodies and spirits of these young adults.  Middle school is the time to prepare students for high school and even college, but these days that is easier said than done.  ASAS provides enrichment opportunities, academic support, and health and fitness activities for over 81,000 kids each year in 12 different cities.  Oh, did I mention that this daily after-school program from 3pm-6pm is free!  I don’t even have kids but I can imagine the sense of relief that those All-Star parents much feel knowing that their kids are safe each day while they finish up work.  ASAS also provides a model for other middle schools that want to implement an after-school program in their area.  If Lebron and Arnold both support this cause then it must be a pretty big deal.  Being in the middle of a divorce is one place that no child should be.  Kids In The Middle  uses education, counseling, and support to help children, parents, and families work through a divorce.  KITM also promises better, healthier futures for children of divorced families.  My parents have been divorced a long time, and I was one of the lucky kids who wasn’t put in the middle, but unfortunately that is not always the case.  Founded back in 1977, KITM was originally created to counsel groups of children whose parents are divorced or separated.  Over the past 34 years they have expanded to 35 committed professionals who counsel entire families.  KITM also has a great section on their website for just kids.  That way kids have access to things they need to help them cope 24/7.

After-School All-Stars Donation

Kids In The Middle Donation

So here’s to the middle!  You are right there in-between the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, and the crazy and boring.  You know who would love you?  Goldilocks!  That was a girl who knew a thing or two about liking things in the middle!  Thanks for giving us a place to meet when we just can’t pick a side.  

Week 51-Meet me in… Day 2-St. Louie

I have to admit, I had never even heard of the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” until seeing the Sex and The City movie.  That doesn’t change the fact that I love saying, “Meet me in St. Louie!” randomly during the week.  Plus, I have actually been there (albeit once) and I loved it. I’ve also bent thinking about the Midwest a lot because Thanksgiving break is upon us and lots of grad students are returning to their corn-fed roots for the next week.  It is true that St. Louis the gateway to the Midwest, but really it’s so much more than that.  I’m thankful that I put aside my automatic disdain for all things west of the Mississippi and learned to love St. Louie.

You can find Nelly is St. Louie

I dunno what you first thing of when you hear St. Louis, but for me, it’s Nelly.  That’s right, the rapper.  Well of course I think of my friend Rachael who is from St. Louis, but then I automatically think of us singing Nelly songs on the drive to Missouri.  While Nelly may come across as a hard-core rapper he really is a softie at heart, which is why he created a scholarship to help disadvantaged students from St. Louis.  This scholarship provides two high school students with 4 years of complete financial coverage to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO.  The scholarship is open to any first year student who excels at academics and are financially in need. About 15,000 students attend Lindenwood each year and receive undergraduate or graduate degrees from one of their 120 plus programs on campus.  Founded in 1827, LU has established themselves as a dynamic four-year liberal arts college that is dedicated to providing the best education possible to thousands of students a year.  Whenever I start to think about St. Louis I always think about all the great and unique food I had while I was there.  The St. Louis Area Foodbank was not one of the places we ate, but they are the reason that there are less hungry mouths in the gateway city.  In 2009 alone, SLAF collected and distributed more than 22 million pounds of food, which was a whopping 8 million pounds more than their 2008 total of 14 million pounds.  Those numbers sound great on paper but they sound even better to the 57,100 people who rely on the SLAF each week for food assistance.  SLAF is also out there helping people realize that hunger doesn’t discriminate, and it’s not just problem in some far away land.  Hunger lives here in the United States.  Just this evening I had one of my teacher friends tell me that she is taking a bag full of food to a student tomorrow because otherwise her family won’t have any food to eat for Thanksgiving next week.  I almost cried when she told me that, and it makes me want to cry typing it.  This blog was to remind me, and you guys out there reading this, that we are so lucky.  It’s easy to be thankful each year in November, but don’t forget all those other months where your belly is full and your bed is warm.

Lindenwood University Donation

St. Louis Area Foodbank Donation

So here’s to you St. Louie!  You and I have only met once, but I’m thankful for the great people you’ve brought into my life.  You’ve got the arch, the Cardinals, a pretty nice zoo, and the Rams.  Not too shabby.  What you really have above everything else is heart.  You’re the little city that could, and you prove it over and over again.  I’ll meet you anytime.  Thanks for warming my heart to the heartland of America.

See you soon St. Louis

Week 51-Meet me in… Day 1-Your dreams

Six o’clock wake up call for me this morning means weird dreams for me last night.  I won’t go into all the details, but one was that I forgot to blog and everyone was terribly upset with me.  Obviously this has happened before and the world has not stopped turning, but it was scary in my dream none-the-less.  This week it is also hitting me more that there are only two weeks left of my 365 project.  It’s become a part of my daily life and I really don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when it’s over.  Even though this part of the journey is quickly coming to an end, I am thankful that we can always meet each other in our dreams.

See you when the sun goes down!

No matter where life takes us, we should never stop dreaming.  Kristi Yamaguchi has used this as her personal motto for years.  First, I just have to confess my serious girl crush on Kristi.  I have so many found memories of watching her kick some serious butt on the ice, and then she showed she can dance her way to the mirror ball trophy just a few years ago.  If her dreams take me as far as she’s gone, sign me up!  Kristi founded the Always Dreams Foundation in 1996 to support organizations that have a positive influence on children.  Fifteen years later they are still looking for a diverse range of programs which are created with the sole purpose of creating and nurturing the dreams of children and adolescents.  ADF has provided funding for summer camps for children with disabilities, back-to-school shopping sprees for underprivileged children, and purchased computers for after-school mentoring programs.  Some people are blessed with amazing family and friends that believe in our hopes and dreams and help us reach them no matter how lofty they are.  Krisit and ADF knows this isn’t the case for everyone, but they are hoping to change that.  It turns out that even though we grow up, we never grow too old to dream.  Dream Foundation was the first, and is still the largest, national wish-granting non-profit for adults who have life-limiting illnesses.  DF has been working for 17 years to enhance the quality of life for individuals and their families as they reach the end of life’s journey here on Earth.  DF is the adult version of the Make A Wish Foundation that we have all heard about.  Everyone’s dream is different but DF makes it come true.  Some people just want to be sure their family is taken care of after they are no longer with them, and other people want to meet Justin Bieber.  Hey, who are we to judge?  DF also gives its supporters the chance to sponsor adopt someone else’s dream, and make sure it comes true.  Who doesn’t want to be a part of the Dream Team?

Always Dream Foundation Donation 

Dream Foundation Donation

So here’s to your dreams!  Sometimes they are filled with flying and other times with falling, but they are always a nice break from reality.  You really can be anything our little heart desires, and that type of freedom is hard to find in the world these days.  You let us be us without anything thinking, decision-making, or judgement.  Thank you for setting us free from the constraints of real life, and making the impossible, possible.

Week 50-The Golden Week, Day 7-Golden Number

Today marks the last day of this golden week so what better to end on than the golden number?  It’s also quite appropriate because I feel like my day has been chocked full of numbers.  We’re doing surgery on a cow for the first time since September tomorrow and we were trying to figure out how many treatments we needed, how many samples we can obtain from one surgery, and how many assays that means I need to run.  The best part is, we are doing a new method which dramatically decreases the number assays I have to do, which is music to my ears.  My Biology students have filled out evaluation forms about me tonight and ranked my performance in numbers.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Yea, that's a nice round golden number

Numbers are one of those things that usually make sense to you or don’t.  There is a very small gray area with math.  The National Math + Science Initiative was created to address the fact that our students are falling behind in the essential courses of math and sciences.  The mission of NMS is to provide the ideas, inspiration, and resources need to close the gap that exists.  You may not think of it this way, but this gap is actually putting our nation’s economy at risk.  Students are less prepared to take college courses in math and science and are then less prepared for their future careers in those fields.  Science and math are the universal languages of the global marketplace.  It’s hard to be dominant force in a field where we can’t even speak the language.  NMS knows that they don’t have all the answers alone.  They look to those who have already reinvented the wheel, and roll with it.  They take the programs nationwide and prove that America has great students.  Obviously I especially think that women are capable of leading our nation in the fields of math and science.  Brain Cake is an online resource for girls ages 11-17 where they can learn that it’s fun to be smart and sweet.  BC is a part of the Carnegie Science Center‘s Girls, Math, & Science Partnership.  BC helps girls learn how to be confident, solve problems, and think independently.  For anyone who has had a teenage daughter or known any teenage girls this task is much easier said than done.  Thankfully, BC seems to be using all the right tools to make this happen.  They link these girls together, help them understand how the science they are learning applies to everyday lives, help them reach their goals and dreams.  BC knows that these girls can change the world, they are just the resource some of them need to get started.  Plus their website is really colorful and pretty like girls like.

National Math + Science Initiative Donation 

Brain Cake Donation

So here’s to you golden number!  You’re the one lucky number that we are all looking for when we play Bingo or the lottery.  Whenever we see you or hear you we can’t help the smile from creeping across our face.  You might not be the same number every time, but you always know how to turn our day around.  Thank you for making my fiftieth week go out in a glitter of glory.

See ya week 50!

Week 50-The Golden Week, Day 6-Gold Medal

I think everyone should get a gold medal every week just for making it through another Monday.  I think even for people who like what they do Monday can be grueling.  You just enjoyed two lovely days without work and now you’re thrown back into five more days before you get another break.  I realize that completing a single work day does not take near the dedication or effort that winning an actual gold medal does, but sometimes the small accomplishments help us work up to the big ones.  So today I’m simply thankful for the gold medal of a yummy home-cooked Mexican dinner and being home before 9 pm.

I'll take 3 please

Gold medal snowboarder Hannah Teter does her fair share of winning off the slopes as well.  She started Hannah’s Gold, which is a company that makes maple syrup and donates its profits to provide water for the Kenyan village, Kirindon, and helps buy plots of land for homeless AIDS victims.  You’re probably asking the same question that I am.  What does snowboarding and maple syrup have to do with Africa?  I love Hannah’s answer to this.  “I always felt like there was a lot that needs to be done in the world, and who better to do it than me?”  Exactly!  That is the same way she approached the Olympics and that seemed to work out pretty well for her so she kept spreading her positive energy around.  Hannah grew up in Vermont so making syrup is something that is special to her because she used to do it with her family, and she wanted to share this with others.  She also sells organic cotton/hemp sweat bands to help out bring clean water to Kirindon.  I’d say Hannah is shoo-in for the gold medal in charity work.  Other gold-medal winners like Clara Hughes and Joey Cheek have donated thousands of dollars to the organization Right To Play.  Every child has the right to play, and by jointing with RTP we can help make that a reality.  The power of sport and play for development, health, and peace can be used to help some of the most disadvantaged children in the world.  Sports are capable of bringing children from all backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities together to become active participants in society.  Real social change happens because these children are actively engaging in sports on a regular basis.  More than 700,000 children are a part of sports activities because of RTP.  Officially founded in 2003, RTP has helped countless children build self-esteem resist peer pressure, and learn how to communicate with others.  I wish I could give every one of those kids a gold medal, but they probably feel like they’ve already won.

Hannah’s Gold Products

Right To Play Donation

So here’s to you gold medal!  You’re that shiny prize that every athlete hopes to win every few years when the competition really counts.  We even keep a tally of all the medals each country has won during the Olympics.  It’s a big deal, I get that.  All I’m saying is that maybe the rest of us are pretty good at what we do as well.  Thanks for giving us the motivation to reach for our goals, and help somebody else reach theirs along the way. 

Week 50-The Golden Week, Day 5-Golden Girls

My girls!

Well, another birthday is officially in the books.  I had such an amazing day yesterday filled with love from so many wonderful friends near and far.  I got to do a little shopping, get dressed up, eat a yummy dinner, play some pool, and enjoy a few adult birthday beverages.  I also got lots of Facebook and text message love from those who were with me in spirit.  I was a tomboy growing up so it took me a little while to really appreciate good girlfriends.  Thankfully, I have some of the best ones a girl could ask for so it made the transition pretty easy.

There is no possible way that I could write about Golden Girls without mentioning the ever popular Betty White.  She is an avid supporter of PAWS/LA, which works to keep people and their pets together.  This is one charity that definitely stands out from the bunch.  PLA help low-income seniors and individuals with serious illnesses care for their pets.  Started back in 1989, PLA was founded in response to the companion animal crisis that faced those living in LA county who had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.  The cost financially and physically that this auto-immune disease took on the community left these innocent pets in need some love and attention.  Numerous studies have shown the mental and physical benefits that a pet adds to the life of its owner.  No one wants to give up their pet, and PLA does everything in their power to make sure no disease rips an animal from its master.  Betty is also on the board for the Morris Animal Foundation which envisions a healthier tomorrow for all animals.  You could say that Betty is a bit of an animal lover.  She even posed for the hilarious 2011 MAF calendar.  MAF is a world leader in advancing veterinary research that treats, protects, and cures animals all over the world.  Founded in 1948 by a veterinarian with a vision, MAF has funded more than 1,700 research projects which have led to many breakthroughs in the field of animal health.  MAF supports over 300 research projects every year at zoos, colleges of veterinary medicine, and research institutions.  No wonder the quintessential Golden Girl loves this charity!

Betty White goes all out for MAF

PAWS/LA Donation

Morris Animal Foundation Donation

So here’s to you Golden Girls!  The ones I love on the television screen and the ones I love in my life.  You’re there for me on the day of my birth, but more importantly, every other day of the year as well.  Another birthday has come and gone, but I know the Golden Girls in my life will be around till we’re old and gray.  Thank you for being a friend!

A golden night indeed

Week 50-The Golden Week, Day 4-Golden Hour

Today is my birthday na na na…well not mine, but it is Lizzie’s birthday.  Hello everyone out there in blog reader land, my name is Scott and I am Lizzie’s husband and today I thought it would be important to recognize the effort that Lizzie has put forth in writing this blog every day.  As one of her birthday presents I thought that it would be nice for her to have a “day-off” from blogging and give all of her loyal followers a chance to thank her for bringing awareness to the great many causes she has.  We all know that Lizzie has been writing this blog since Thanksgiving 2010, so this coming Thanksgiving is her one year anniversary of blogging about being thankful – EVERYDAY!

Let’s look at the impressive stats that Lizzie has put up.  First she has written a blog for every calendar day, except for the guest writer week and today, and there were a couple of times that she was a day late but she ALWAYS makes up for it the next day.  So today makes it her 349th blog.  For each blog, Lizzie typically identifies at least two charitable organizations, what they do, their impact on society and how to give to them.  So, not to leave out those day she blogged about three or four charities, let’s assume she has shined the light on 2.5 charities per blog which totals 865 charities that received free advertising and further recognition through the efforts of my wife!  I would be remiss if I did not talk dollars and cents as Lizzie has not only brought further recognition to these organizations she has also donated to a multitude of charities.  Her goal was to donate $10 per week.  For the first 25 week she donated at least $10 to one of the charities she wrote about in that week’s blog, bring that dollar amount to approximately $250.  Oh, but wait I am not finished.  In lieu of presents, yes I am talking about Lizzie, she has asked people to donate to a non-profit that aids water infrastructure in Northern Ethopia, and so far Lizzie has garnered 11 donations totaling $309. Below is an excerpt from Lizzie’s donation site at mycharitywater.org

“So this year, I want to celebrate my wonderful 27 years of life by giving life to others!. Over the past year I have been learning and blogging about all kinds of charities…charity: water holds a special place in my heart…100% of all donations go directly toward water projects and 18 months after this campaign ends, charity: water will show us where and how every dollar we raised ended up helping in the field.”

So here’s to you “Ferguson.”  Over the past 349 days you have brought your readers closer to what you care about.  By sharing your thoughts and feelings about being thankful, you have allowed each of to participate with you in this extraordinary activity, even if it was just reading your blog during the late night hours!  I am so thankful that I have a wife that has such a great heart and cares so much about others and someone who is always thankful for the little things in life.  Happy birthday and thanks for sharing!

Week 50-The Golden Week, Day 3-Golden Opportunity

Stacks of opportunities!

TGIF!  Today was a fun day filled with lots of animals and lots of laughs.  Even though I am in the animal science department I don’t get to work with actual animals near as much as I’d like to, so it’s always nice to spend a day out at the farm.  I was also surprised by my wonderful grad school friends with balloons, cupcakes, and presents for my impending birthday.  The best part is, we still have a whole evening of fun ahead of us.  We’re going out to celebrate Fiesta Friday (which is Mexican Monday’s first cousin) and going to the WVU men’s basketball game.  Having the opportunity to move here to Morgantown and meet so many great people is something I am more and more thankful for everyday.

There are opportunities swirling around us on a daily basis.  Tiki Barber, former NY Giants football player, decided to start the Opportunity League for disabled children back in 2008.  The mission of the OL is to promote health, physical fitness, wellness, and independence for people of all ages and abilities.  They also help to improve the quality of life through inclusive fitness programs as well as recreation and sports competitions in community-based handicap accessible parks, schools, and healthcare facilities.  OL specializes in developing and building park and playground equipment that helps everyone have fun together.  OL isn’t just about the sports either.  Their facilities bring people together as a community to celebrate their differences and learn how to help each other.  Playing outside is the universal language for children, and OL makes sure that no one is left out.  The United Nations Population Fund is also doing their part to make sure that every woman, man, and child is able to enjoy a life of good health and equal opportunity.  UNPF uses population data for programs all over the world that help reduce cases of HIV, make sure every birth is safe for mother and child, and make sure that every young girl and woman are treated with dignity and respect.  UNPF knows that every person counts.  We’re all interconnected in this small world, so the more we help to take care of other the more we will be taken care of.  We just have to make sure we’re ready to see and take on the opportunities that life throws our way.

Opportunity League Donation

United Nations Population Fund Donation

So here’s to you golden opportunities!  You make life a little more interesting.  We never really know when or where you are going to show up, but you find a way to pop up when we need you the most.  You weren’t named silver or titanium opportunities for a reason.  Thank you for putting a certain shine on life’s little wonders.