Volunteering

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I am a somewhat spiritual person, but I really don’t believe in any organized religion. Which is why it’s pretty darn funny that one of my greatest beliefs comes from a verse in the Bible (Luke 12:48, to be exact). The Bible has been translated millions of times, but one common version is, “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.”

I feel as though in my life, I have been given much – smarts, compassion, dedication, not to mention a loving family, husband, pets, a bevy of great friends, and a moderately successful career. With all of these riches, my debt to the greater world is deep and I’ve spent a lot of time and energy over the years seeking to pay it.

I have done a lot of volunteering. A LOT. I absolutely love it. It’s generally hard work, but there is little that fills the soul more. In addition to doing some good for others, it’s a great way to meet friends, learn new skills, or experience new places.

I hope you might be reading this and thinking at the same time, “I’ve been given a lot; I should do more!” You should! And wouldn’t you know it, I have some suggestions for you from some of my all time favorite volunteer experiences.

Do you have an hour a week? Help develop a kid’s literacy skills and build his or her self esteem by reading a story aloud over lunch. I read to kids for over seven years in a program like this. We all know that reading is important, but did you know that children with strong reading skills are less likely to end up in jail and are less of a drain on our national health systems? Seriously. One hour a week with a kid can help our society. Not a bad ROI. Check out Read to a Child for more.

Do you have two hours a month? Give out food to hungry families. One of the most rewarding things I have ever done is to help set up a mobile pantry and dole out much needed food and groceries to students and parents at a school in a low-income section of Boston. Food is a basic fucking need. The fact that people in this country go without is outrageous. Contact your local food bank and do something about it.

Do you have two or three days a year? This country has seen some SAVAGE natural disasters in the last few years – Hurricane Katrina, the Joplin tornadoes, California wildfires, Hurricane Sandy. Every time one of these things hits us, it leaves a wake of physical and emotional need for years to come. Sign up with the local chapter of the HandsOn Network in any of these areas and they’ll have no trouble putting you to work in human services or rebuilding property for a few days.

Do you only have a couple of hours a year? Decorate a youth shelter for the holidays. Being a teenager sucks in general. I seriously can not imagine the pain of being a homeless teen. Living in a shelter with little privacy, too few warm clothes, and beaten down common areas for eating, studying, and entertainment? It’s heartbreaking. A small, but meaningful gesture that you can do for these kids is to help decorate their space for the holiday season. I did this project for several years as part of Harpoon Helps in Boston. But even if this doesn’t exist near you, go buy a tree, a couple of strands of lights, and some bulbs and drop them off.

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Truly, any amount of time you have can be put to good use and I’d love to see everyone get out there and give something back. If you don’t have a second to spare (I know that feeling), money is always good too – donate generously to your favorite cause.

Life Hacks

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I started this project as something of a whim. I really like to write. This seemed like a fun outlet. If nothing else, a mini-diversion for the holiday season.

Also, I have this one friend. She always tells me she wants me to blog again. I love this friend. A lot. I am inclined to do this project for her, if no one else.

So, I open this up on Facebook and (to date) I’ve received exactly 31 requests for 31 days of December posts. I have exactly one (1) (uno) (ichi) (wahad) topic for which I have not a G.D. clue what to write about.

The request is from that friend. The, hey, please blog again, friend. I am ashamed. I feel that I have failed. She wants a post on life hacks. And I have drawn a blank.

In a moment of pure desperation, I demand of the sous-chef (otherwise known as husband number one), “What life hacks do we use around this house?!” Hand wringing included. He assures me, “No problem, I saw an article that’s perfect for this.”

Sous-chef’s article: http://seriouslyforreal.com/seriously-for-real/99-life-hacks-that-could-make-your-life-easier/.

Life Hacks

I read the article and several times have this reaction, “Huh, that’s pretty clever.” More often, I have this reaction, “You must be kidding. Who has time for this nonsense?” And then I realize. I have my post.

You are fine. Your life is fine. Your house is fine. Your cupboards are fine. Your fridge is fine. Your messy ass desk is fine. Your sloppy, unorganized, Barbies and Legos on every free surface kids’ rooms are fine. You closet with mismatched shoes and silks with wools and short and long sleeves all mixed up is fine. Your spouse or your housemate is fine. Your dog is fine.

Stop criticizing the shit out of yourself. If you’re reading this, there’s 99.9% chance that you’re my Facebook friend and I know you personally. And you know what? I think you’re more than fine. I think you’re fucking awesome. If I don’t know you personally, I’m willing to bet you’re pretty darn awesome.

You don’t need life hacks. You need life. You need to love. And drink. And swim. And pet your cat. And tickle your kid. And watch reruns of Modern Family. And work too hard some days and beg off at 2 pm on others. And giggle. Fucking giggle as much as you possibly can.

I don’t care if the wires behind your TV are tangled. Or, that the unsealed bag of rice in your kitchen has spilled all over the floor. You know what I’ll think if I walk into your house and see that? “Thank god… she/he is too busy too. I’m not the only one living in chaos.” And after I walk into your house and see your obvious and desperate lack of life hacks, I hope we hop in my car and go somewhere to have a stupid amount of fun.

Because that’s how you hack life.

Fashion assistance for those in need

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One of my favorite expressions is, “the shoemaker’s children have no shoes.” There’s a bunch of versions of it, but the basic idea is that we often don’t do as well as for ourselves as what we do for others. I think this is true in lots of scenarios.

So my fourth request for the month was “fashion assistance for those in need or would otherwise never know they were in need.” Not sure if the requester was hoping for a hot-or-not-esque spew of cattiness (which, clearly, I am capable of delivering) or legit suggestions.

For better or worse, I am going with legit suggestions. Here’s why. I secretly fantasize about being a stylist. Let me be clear… I am not highly fashionable. When I actually leave the house (says the lady who works from her second bedroom and wears yoga pants “to the office” four of five days a week), I think I am reasonably put together. But that’s about as much credit as I am willing to give myself. However, I believe that I really am good at dressing and accessorizing other people.

So, with that very unsubstantiated credibility established, here goes.

Clothing tags

1) You are wearing things a size too big. Yes, you are. Um, no, you are. Shut the f*ck up. I said, you’re wearing things a size too big. If I go shopping with one more of my girlfriends and she pulls a medium (or a size six or a size 14, I don’t care) off the rack, I will smack her. I don’t give a crap about the little gremlin in your head telling you you’re fat, or your shoulders are too wide, or you could never wear that size because of your boobs. Try it on and have someone honest there to tell you it sags in the butt or, hey, everyone likes a little cleavage. BUY A SMALLER SIZE.

2) Try it on (because sometimes you might need a bigger size). Ehh, see what I did there? I know, it’s confusing. Except that it’s the exact same advice. Try clothes on and see how they look and ASK someone else. Ask, ask, ask… you’re your own worst enemy. Someone will tell you if it’s too snug. Or, if the collar hangs funny. Or, WTF is with the buttons on the side that you didn’t even notice when you picked it up. Or, is an asymmetrical hem an actual thing? Really? Is it a thing you like? You’re only going to know if you try it on.

3) Mix stuff up. Patterns. Colors. Textures. Lengths. If I see you in a grey crewneck under an unaccessorized black cardigan with jeans and black clogs, you do know what’s coming, right? I will smack you. Floral shirt under a pinstriped blazer? Yes. Silver belt with rose goal chunky necklace? Sure. Leather shell under cashmere v-neck? Ooh, please (I wish I had that outfit!). Navy and orange? Fine. Be bold for Christ’s sake. It’s your outfit. You’ll change tomorrow, if not in an hour. How wrong could you go?

4) Be a little bit sweet and a little bit dirty. I’m so tempted to just leave that with no explanation. Just, always mix something dainty with something a little rock and roll – a sundress with cowboy boots, leather leggings with a flowy blouse, a maxi skirt with a jean jacket. Same deal with your makeup, FYI.

5) No loosey  with loosey or tighty with tighty. You know that top you have that’s so skin tight that you can actually see the pattern of your bra? I love it. It’s hot. Take off your skinny jeans with it or I will personally cut them off of you. Your goal is not to be a sausage-encased whore. (No, it’s not.) Put on your wide leg jeans or a swishy skirt. There we go. Same with flowy/flowy. Remember, you are not a woman activist at a book reading. (Ok, maybe you are and still please follow this advice, because you will look better for it). Take off the palazzo pants paired with a tunic and knee-lengthy cardi. That cardi is cozy and cute! Wear it with your leggings, dummy.

Hmm. It would seem that I managed to both be catty and offer some tips. Makin’ shoes, makin’ shoes.

Oh, and one last word of advice – put on a belt. You’ll go from frumpy to put together faster than you can say “wardrobe.”