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December 2010

A Little Bit Random

I had to chuckle on Monday. . . when I got the topic for this week's Ten on Tuesday.  It was "Ten Things on Your To-Do List."  Given the busy time of year, I think Carole had a great idea.  But, I decided to spare you the things on my list. . . and just DO some of the things on my list instead!


We've had a bit of snow, and that makes everything quite lovely and festive.  It also means. . . I can see what's been in my garden a lot more clearly!  Like. . . raccoons!


This morning, Tom woke me up to see several deer - including a buck! - in our front yard.  They were beautiful in the moonlight.  Jenny was pretty excited.  I fear for my magnolia tree and my tender tri-color beech, though.

The Christmas Express is chugging right along!  I'm busy . . . but not really stressed about it.  (I'm also just . . . doing less.  And I'm happy about that!)


My kids will be home for the holidays soon.  Brian arrives tonight; Erin later next week.  It'll be nice to have them home.  I'm preparing my pantry and fridge for the onslaught!


Stay warm!


Best Dressed

All the cool wine bottles are wearing them. . .


I saw these darling little handknits in the Sundance catalog, and fully intended to make some for my own gifts-of-wine this holiday season.  But.  Time is running short.  And the price just keeps getting lower and lower!  So I ordered a stock for myself, and they arrived yesterday.

Maybe I'll make more NEXT year. . .

Philanthropy: A Parable

"Seek always to do some good somewhere.  You must give some time to you fellow man.  For remember, you don't live in a world all your own."             --- Albert Schweitzer

Last Thursday, I wrote about Philanthropy. . . and explained how I was going to focus on "doing good" or "giving back" during the month of December.  This week, I'm going to share a story - a parable, of sorts - that gets told quite frequently in the social change philanthropy world.  It's a good way to explain different types of giving . . . and how they work together to make the world a better place.

The Babies in the River:  A Parable About Philanthropy

Touring Baldwin 003

Once upon a time, there were two women walking together along a river bank.  Suddenly, one of the women noticed a baby floating by in the river.  Then, she noticed another.  And another.  Quickly, she jumped in the river, grabbed a passing baby and handed him to her friend on the river bank.  The babies were coming faster and faster, and the women were rescuing as many as they could, as fast as they could. 

During a lull in the action, the second woman jumped in the river with the first, and they started teaching the babies to swim.  This plan worked well.  Now, many of the babies could swim down the river - safely - on their own, while the two women continued to rescue those who couldn't.

But the babies kept coming.

After a very long time, the first woman climbed out of the river -- exhausted.  The second woman looked at her with alarm.  "You can't give up now!" she appealed to her friend.  The first woman answered, "I'm not giving up!  I'm heading up to find out who's throwing these babies in the river -- and convince them to stop!"

This story works well to show that there are lots of different ways to "do philanthropy" -- and they really do need to work together to bring about change in the world.  We have the "rescuing" and "providing"  kinds of organizations -- the food banks, the crisis centers, the homeless shelters, the chemo hat makers -- to provide direct support to people in need.  We have the "teaching" kinds of organizations -- the community gardens, the parenting networks, the literacy tutors, the support groups -- to teach people new skills and new ways of coping in the world.  And we have the "change" or "advocacy" organizations -- the community organizers, the activists, the marchers, the researchers -- who work to influence change at the root.

Most of us have our preferences -- where we like to enter the "doing good" movement and get involved.  I challenge you to think about your own personal philanthropy; what can you do to make a difference in the world?  Because. . . we all can!

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  --- Margaret Mead

Lights! Camera! Holiday Action!


This week, Ten on Tuesday is all about our Ten Favorite Holiday Shows.  December isn't complete, for me, without a few of my favorite holiday movies.  My all-time favorite. . .


1.  Love Actually

Followed by. . .


2.  A Christmas Story

Another must-watch is. . .


3.  White Christmas

Rounding up the list. . .

4.  The Muppet's Christmas Carol

5.  The Holiday

6.  Miracle on 34th Street (the Natalie Wood version)

7.  The Santa Clause

8.  Home Alone

9.  The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the animated version; I've never seen the movie)

10.  Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer

What's your favorite?


The Sounds of Music

Soundtrack time. . .

My holidays have, traditionally, been filled with music.  Live music.  Erin is a singer.  Tom is a singer.  Brian is a musician.  The holidays were filled with concerts and recitals and solos and the Messiah and practice, practice, practice. 



But, this year?  I got nothin'!  The nest is empty; the house is quiet!  Even Tom has given the Messiah a rest. 

So I decided it was time to fill my house with a different kind of music, and I shopped iTunes for some new Christmas selections.  I found some really great stuff!

Check out this group, for example.  They're called Sonos -- and they're an acapella group.  Here's a little clip of them singing a non-holiday song I've always loved.  (They don't seem to have any video clips of their holiday music.)

They're great!  And. . . they just released a new holiday album called "December Songs."  Love it!


Annie Lennox has a new Christmas album. . .


and so do the Indigo Girls.


I also found some great Christmas music from Joan Osborne. . .


and, for something completely different, Kristin Chenoweth.


Music fills my house again!  It's sounding a lot like Christmas!

Perfect Timing

I just arrived home after spending a few days in Chicago for a conference, and found these. . .


I love these labels!  Mine are printed on twill tape -- which gives it a nice, casual look.  I ordered them here.  They carry a variety of materials (tape, ribbon, etc.), and can do nearly any size, color, and font.  They can even add logos. Reasonable price and quick turnaround.

I'm really excited to add these labels to my gift knitting this season.


The timing is perfect!

Philathropy Means Not Having to Lick a Stamp

"I shall pass through this world but once.  Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."  -- Gandhi

Philathropy.  Such a big, old, stuffy word!  For most of my life, I thought it was . . . stamp collecting!  (Nope.  That's philately.)  I thought philanthropists were "old rich guys."  I thought you needed to have lots and lots of money . . . so you could have "extra" or, at least, "enough" to give away.  I never saw myself . . . connected to philanthropy.

But then, inexplicably, I landed smack-dab in the middle of the world of philanthropy.  I have spent most of my working life immersed in philanthropy.  I have spent a significant amount of time studying philanthropy.  And now, even though I'm not a stamp-collector. . . or an old rich guy. . . or someone with lots and lots of money, I have become . . . a philanthropist.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to work in a field where "doing good" is part of my job description; where my charge is to . . . make a difference.  I didn't start out in this field because I was particularly charitable.  But because I am in this field, I have become . . . particularly charitable.

So, if it's not about stamp collecting. . . or old rich guys with boatloads of money. . . what, exactly IS philanthropy?  The most commonly accepted modern definition puts it this way:  Philanthropy . . . is . . . private initiatives for public good focusing on improving the quality of life.

In other words, it's something we ALL can do.

During November, I posted each Thursday about being thankful.  It's easy, in November, to think about and reflect on our many blessings; to remember - and even list - all the things we're thankful for.  Now, it's December.  It's easy for all our "thankfulness" to get pushed aside and buried away in the crush and bustle of holiday activity. 

This holiday season, I've decided to keep my focus on my thankfulness. . . and shift my attention to . . . philanthropy.  Rather than get caught up in the hustle and hassle of the Christmas season, I'm going to try to look outward.  At how regular people . . . practice philanthropy. . . and "do good."

For example, earlier this week, I came home from work, pulled up in my driveway, and found a large brown grocery bag hanging on the doorknob of my garage.  A closer look showed this note:


One of the families in my neighborhood organized a small food drive last year -- as a family project.  They single-handedly recruited our neighborhood to gather food; they picked it all up; distributed it to a food bank. . . . and, clearly, felt pretty darn good about their effort.  Because . . . they're doing it again this year.  Only BIGGER.  This year, they have partner agencies.  They're collecting food from a larger community area.  They're distributing the food to several pantries.  They're doing . . . Philanthropy!  Private initiative. . . for public good. . . improving the quality of life for others.  No stamps.  No great pools of money.  No rich guys.  Just a family, trying to make a difference in their community.


Feels good, doesn't it?

"How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world"  -- Anne Frank

Hark, How the Bells. . .

I've been doing some Christmas knitting.


I don't go crazy with the gift-knitting; I don't put pressure on myself that way.  But every year, I like to knit a few little things that I can give to a few special friends and family . . . a way to wrap them up with love and stitches and happy thoughts and warmth.


I knit this cowl over the Thanksgiving break.  It was a test-knit of a new design by Diana Troldahl -- the Winter Vine Cowl.  For those of you not familiar with Diana's work, you should definitely check it out!  Diana designs beautiful things that reflect her personal spirit and creative soul -- and warm heart.  Her patterns are well-written, thoroughly tested, and simple to follow.  (She's a fellow Michigander, to boot!)  Here's my Ravelry link.

I hope to complete several small projects for gift-giving over the next few weeks.  For me, there's nothing quite like a handmade gift!