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The Countdown to Summer…

“Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.”

John Mayer

Just typing the word makes me happy, giddy, joyful….Summer. I know it isn’t officially here until June 21st with Summer Solstice or when the kids are finally out of school but with Memorial Day weekend just a few days away, I think that the official countdown officially begins now.

Summer brings with it longer days, a slower  pace, a change of routine and one that rarely involves stress or homework. Summer brings simplicity, joy, relaxation and sunshine….and who doesn’t need more of that? We race around all year and then something shifts as soon as we get through Memorial Day. I’m not sure if it is an internal clock that is triggered by our childhood summers or simply the weather but regardless, we all feel it. More than that we need summer, a time for rest and renewal.

So this weekend, as you celebrate Memorial Day, get excited to celebrate summer and all the joy that comes with the season. Have a fantastic long holiday weekend and enjoy the countdown!

Happy Memorial Day.

charity matters.

 

 

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Saving Innocence

“i raise up my voice-not so i can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard….we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

Malala Yousafzai

There are so many things that make us uncomfortable. ….driving past the homeless and seeing the ravages of war on the nightly news but this topic is beyond being uncomfortable, it is down right unimaginable. The topic is human trafficking or modern day slavery. It is something that we want to believe only happens in other countries but the harsh reality is that it happens here in the United States of America to over 300, 000 children a year. Children who are sold and enslaved into prostitution, like a product or good sold….but these are our children.

Last week, I was invited to a friend’s home for a Friends With Causes dinner. Her guest was the nonprofit Saving Innocence and the speakers were the Executive Director and a young girl who was sold here in LA at the age of 11. We will call her O and her story was truly unbelievable and haunting.

This inspirational twenty-two year old girl told us her unimaginable story. Raised by  a loving single mom who worked two jobs to support them in house full of love and extended family. O accidentally discovered at the age of 11 that she was adopted and the news sent her reeling. She was confused, angry, sad and upset. At the same time, her mother had just broken up with her boyfriend. The boyfriend came to O’s school to ask how she was doing and offered her a ride home. That moment changed everything because he kidnapped her and sold into sex trafficking at age 11, right here in LA.

Founded in 2012 by actress, Kim Biddle, Saving Innocence are the first responders when trafficked children are identified by the police or other authorities.

The nonprofit arrives within 90 minutes with a Child Welfare and Probation officer. They take the child to the hospital, provide, food, clothing, emotional support and a safety plan and housing for the child. The child is given up to nine months of time, support, love, counseling. Saving Innocence works with the child to see the perpetrator through the justice system and then continues empowerment programs with these young children.

This incredible nonprofit has contracts with the probation offices, judges and prosecutors to help these children through the system and have shown the courts that children who have been commercially sexually exploited need intensive aftercare.

Today, O is working for Saving Innocence and helping the girls get through their ordeal of being held as part of a human trafficking ring. She mentors young girls, works with the police, social workers and empowers these children to become survivors, just as she has done, because of this remarkable organization. As I hugged 22 year old O and told her what an incredible inspiration and leader she is, she cried and said, “No one has ever called me a leader.”  When I told her that a leader is someone who uses their gifts and experience in the service of others, she smiled, hugged me again and said,”Then I guess I am a leader.”

charity matters.

 

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Lessons learned from graduation

“you build a legacy not by one thing but by everything, your legacy is every life you touch.”

Maya Angelou

As many of you know, there many things in this world that make me happy, giddy and joyful. Last week at my alma matter more than a few of them came together. Talking, giving speeches, college graduations, USC Annenberg and Oprah….like a perfect storm they became one. While I was supposed to attend the graduation for one of our volunteers, I sadly couldn’t get there in time.

However, through the power of media I was able to watch Oprah’s speech. She has such wonderful lessons that I wanted to give you some of the highlights here. Oprah knew the first rule that they teach you at Annenberg and that is to know your audience. She certainly knew hers, future journalist, broadcasters and the messengers of the future. Oprah asked those messengers to give voice to the people who need a voice. She said,”Use your gifts to illuminate the darkness in the world.”  She asked the students to, “Be the truth” and asked,”what are you willing to stand for?”

Oprah quoted her friend Maya Angelou’s words saying, “You build a legacy not from one thing but from everything. Your legacy is every life you touch.”  Words that resonate.  As she wrapped up her speech with practical advise about making your bed, being kind, and investing in a good mattress, she pivoted and said,” Join forces in service of something greater than ourselves. Pick a problem, any problem and do something about it.”

These are not just words for USC Annenberg alumns or words for Oprah fans but rather words for all of us to process, think about and decide how we are going to act.

charity matters.

 

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Pivoting

“when patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.’

Tuli Kupferberg

Change. Why is it so hard? And yet so necessary. Even the tiniest tweak in our daily schedule can throw us into a tail spin. Let’s face it we get comfortable and secure knowing that the same things are going to happen in our days. There is a sense of security in routine. On one hand we crave it and on the other we despise it, but which do we want more?

I realize when I do the same things the same way for so long, how can I possibly be surprised when I get the same results? If I go to the gym each day and do the same thing, the results will be the same. If I eat the same foods, do my work the same way, the needle doesn’t move. The reality is that in order to see new results, I need to break out of the pattern and habits that I have created.

The process isn’t easy but necessary to stretch, to grow or even to bend a little. None are comfortable but that discomfort pushes us, stresses our routines and gets us out of our daily comfort zone. The smallest tweak can begin  to make a difference. Let’s face it we are all creatures of habit but breaking some of those patterns feels like a fresh start towards a new world.

 

charity matters.

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Reflections on Motherhood

“Having kids…the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings-is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”

Maria Shriver

Lately, I have been thinking about being a mother. Motherhood isn’t something you typically think about, it is a verb, an action and rarely a mere thought. The reflection began last week, when I saw a young mother in the grocery store trying to contain her toddler. I smiled and told her to enjoy this moment because it goes by so fast. She looked at me as if I was insane and her expression said that this moment was already way too long and she hoped it would go by quicker.  I clearly remember being that young mother with three toddler boys in the grocery store.  Older women,(and I mean that in the nicest possible way) would share these  same words of wisdom with me and my reaction at the time was probably pretty similar. Last week,  I realized with horror, that I was now that older woman.

I am really not sure where that time went or how it slipped by so quickly, especially when those days felt like eternity.  The days when the boys drank food coloring and stained their faces, fingers and everything else in sight. The day we were painting the nursery for their new baby brother’s arrival when they knocked over a can of paint, ran through the spilled paint and all over the house leaving baby blue foot prints on the carpets, wood floors and most surfaces.  The upstairs sink they turned on without my knowledge that ran for hours, flooding the upstairs and my husbands treasured old convertible in the garage below. The memories of dirt, destruction and chaos are vast and yet, each crazy moment is now a treasured gift.

The goal in those days was mere survival. If you were showered and nothing was hugely destroyed, the day was a victory. Little by little those toddlers, ran faster and farther. They started using bikes, skate boards  and pushed every boundary mental and physical that they possibly could.  Those beautiful little faces could destroy you and wear you down, motherhood  was an endurance sport where only the strong survive.

Like a triathlon, you begin the race of motherhood full of energy and excitement for the journey ahead.  The swim is the first part of the course, as you dive in you realize the water is colder than you thought but you are just beginning, so  you visualize your finish line. You focus on that moment on the podium and your shiny metal at the end of the race with these amazing humans you have molded, supported, guided and loved. Quickly, very quickly into the race you realize you are sinking…fast and that the race is going to be longer and harder than expected.

Not to worry, if you can survive the swim, then you are ready for the ride. Once on the bike, those twists and turns on the road of motherhood where school, hurt feelings, sporting activities, homework and planning your daily course is harder than planning a military strategic operation. The ride seems as if it has to be better than the swim and yet the challenges are never ending. They just keep coming.

Still, you hold onto your vision, you dream of the finish line. A polite, kind, educated human, with a diploma and perhaps a job. You finish your ride and begin the run. You are now slower, much slower and yet you are determined to finish the race. You will get that prize and so you push through those last hurdles, roadblocks and obstacles. They are big ones, high school, getting into college and everything teenager that will test your mental strength like never before. You are a survivor. You are strong, you are a mother and you are so close to finishing. Then you see it, the finish line and the tears begin because you now realize you no longer want the race to end.

You see those beautiful children, kind, polite, and good and realize that it was the race, the journey and the challenges that were the joy. Each obstacle overcome is a victory and each failure a lesson in love, patience and endurance. You survived the frigid deep waters of babies and toddlers, the twist and turns along the ride to adolescence and the run through the teenage years and college. The tears stream down your face as you cross the line exuberant, proud, strong and tired. Your vision is real, your prize is waiting with open arms….those beautiful, kind, polite and amazing humans are there just as you imagined and dreamed. You are a mother and your race is almost over and now you just wish you could run part of it again.

Happy Mother’s Day!

charity matters.

 

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A love letter

 

All have you have been on this crazy journey called life with me. Many days the journey involves nonprofits, the incredible people I am privileged to meet, to serve and whose stories I tell. Other days the journey has been personal, I have shared my joy, my sorrow, loss, love and everything in between here on this platform, so it seems only fitting that this large milestone is shared with you as well. Our oldest son is graduating from college this weekend and I am just trying to process it all.

Almost seven years ago when I started Charity Matters, our sons were 16, 14 and 10 and I did everything not to mention them, embarrass them or shine any light in their direction from the blog. Today, however, our oldest has no choice because this love letter is for him.

My dear H-,

Twenty-three years ago you entered this world and made us parents. You taught us what love really means and how to live without sleep. Every new parent writes a secret script for their child. They hold their newborn and envision their first step, teaching to ride them a bike, baseball games, proms, high school graduations, college, first love, first heart breaks and everything in between. We don’t tell anyone our secret parental script but we all have it, the way we think you are supposed to be and who we dream of you becoming.

You taught us to throw away the script early on. You refused to be defined by our expectations or anyone else’s. You arrived on this planet knowing who you were and spent the last twenty-three years informing us. You didn’t want to play with firetrucks but rather vacuums and irons. You didn’t want to play baseball but study how old cars can run on recycled kitchen grease as fuel. You did play sports but only on your terms and more than anything you loved cars, photography, beautiful things, and spending over a thousand hours volunteering to serve the neediest children in South Central Los Angeles. You showed us just how huge your heart is and that you could write a way better script than we ever could.

So this weekend as you graduate from college, you need to know that we have never been more proud to be your parents. You are the most remarkable, honest, real, loving human being and more than that, the world is a better place because you are in it. I know you will continue to surprise us with the script you write and I can hardly wait to read the next chapter. Just know that our hearts are overflowing with love and pride, not because of what you have accomplished in your short life but because of who you are.

Now go into the world and do well but more importantly, do good. We love you!

charity matters.

 

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May Day!

Every new beginning comes from other beginnings end.”

Senea

May. A month full of joy. Sunshine, springtime, Mother’s Day, graduations and Memorial Day….I think  of May as the gateway to summer. So how can we not be excited about that? The dictionary defines the word May as  meaning “expressing possibility.” I can think of no better way to describe a month that is exactly that….so full of possibility.

Today is May Day, which is a holiday that is believed to have been started in Roman Britain around 2,000 years ago. Soldiers celebrated the arrival of spring by dancing around decorated trees thanking their goddess, Flora. Today, we still celebrate May Day but use the May pole instead of a tree….which must have been tricky…just sayin.

Here is to a month full of possibility, beauty, spring, celebrations and new beginnings.  Wishing you the most joyful month!

charity matters.

 

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Let love be the last word

L-O-V-E. Four simple letters that change everything. Love, a word that should always be the first thing said and the last. Anyone who has ever lost someone suddenly knows this. Love and saying, “I love you,“are words to live by.  You hear it, you may think it, but do you actually say it? Life is so short and changes in the blink of an eye and last week we blinked and it changed.

First, was a call that a friend had died unexpectedly. We had seen him two weeks before, told him what he meant to us but had no idea it would be our last hug and in a blink he was gone. Two days later, another 49 year old friend shared that he has 3 months to live and is dying from cancer. The reaction was swift and immediate, hugs, tears and I love yous.  The words didn’t take the pain away and the blows felt like a one two punch, almost too much to process within such a short period of time.  The reality of how fragile our lives truly are came crashing down in a way that just makes everything else seem trivial and irrelevant.

As I watched the evening news that night, still trying to process our loss and find something better to focus on, I saw that a Southwest Jet lost an engine. What struck me wasn’t the pending panic or fear but rather all passengers scrambling to connect with loved ones to make sure they said I love you one last time. Had they started their day with it? Did they say I love you before they got on that flight? Did everyone they care about know how they felt? My sense was no because each of them appeared to try and say it, just one last time.

Fifteen years ago, when I discovered that my mom had died tragically and unexpectedly, one of my first thoughts was,”Did I remember to tell her I loved her before she left for her trip? Was I love you my last word?” I replayed the tape of our last time together over and over until my godmother confirmed that, yes, I had said it. I had a witness and somehow, the pain subsided.

Since that moment, our family doesn’t end a call or leave the house, no matter the rush…without saying , I love you. Angry, late, grumpy we say it. It is a gift and one that I have only recently realized, in light of last week.  Life is precious. It is short. We have so little time and yet somehow, we miss the important stuff. If I died tomorrow, everyone in my life knows that I love them because love is always the last word.

L-O-V-E. Four simple letters that change everything.

 

charity Matters.

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Earth Day

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” David Attenborough

I think I have shared with you before that my Dad was in the recycling business, long before it was hip. He started recycling in the mid 1960s and spent his entire career recycling. This week my husband started a new job and will also be in the recycling business, in a different way, but his new business is truly based on protecting our earth. Since this Sunday is Earth Day, I have been thinking a lot more about our environment lately.

We were raised to recycle, not pollute and to respect our planet. That being said, we grew up at time in LA with smog alerts and our lungs hurting after swimming outside on summer afternoons from the pollution. While smog has improved in LA in the past few decades, pollution and litter seems to be at an all time high. Scientist are saying that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. How devastating is that?  It is statistics like these that really make you think more about our planet and what we can do to protect it and why this year’s theme is End Plastic Pollution.

What began in 1970 by one man, John McConnell, has gone global in the best possible way.  On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans came out to peacefully to demonstrate about environmental reform. This year over 192 countries and close to a billion people will celebrate Earth Day, making it the largest secular holiday in the world. We have come along way in these past few decades but still have much work to do.

My pledge to Earth Day is that I am going to start using my reusable metal water bottle and cut back on bottled water. A small step but if we all just make one tiny adjustment then our united impact can be significant. We all love this beautiful planet we call home.  Now, its time to take care of Mother earth. Happy Earth Day!

charity matters.

 

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A time to rest

All that is important comes in quietness and waiting.”

Patrick Lindsay

There is a time for work and a time for rest. I really do believe that sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to rest, be still, slow and listen. Honestly, all things that are challenging for me personally. Full speed ahead is the usual pace, however, all the signs have pointed to me that rest is needed. We just came off a huge work push and are getting ready for another that will last through July, so I am squeezing in a few days of much-needed R & R.

So forgive the brevity of this post but I have big plans for the next couple of days, sun, naps, family time and lots of reading. You will find me on the chaise lounge above reading a new book, Paul Coelho’s, Warrior of the Light, which is a few years old, but is already super inspiring. Looking forward to sharing it with you all. My hope is that all the rest will rejuvenate this tired girl and bring forth a mountain of inspiration and writing. Hopefully by then all my email subscribers will be receiving their post again.

I am hoping that my theory of unplugging things to make them work, will apply not only to this blog but more importantly to me.  Wherever this post finds you,I wish you a little rest, a little quiet and beginning to see the beauty of renewal and spring.

charity Matters.

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Happy Easter!

“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and a new life.”

Janine di Giovanni

It is hard to believe that Spring break has arrived and Easter is this weekend. For our family Easter means that the boys will be home from college, egg hunts with my nieces and nephews and family time….and of course chocolate!

 

I hope this weekend finds you with the ones you love, with time to relax and to think about what spring renewal means to you. I’m ready for March to end, it has been an incredible month but a reset is in order.  Here is to a joyous Easter filled with hope, renewal and new life.

charity Matters.

 

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Inspiring service…

“I think leadership is service and there is power in that giving; to help people,to inspire and motivate them to reach their fullest potential.”

Denise Morrison

I must confess these past few weeks have been crazy busy at work and in life, overwhelming really. In addition to all of that Charity Matters email subscribers have not been receiving their emails, which has really been frustrating for everyone….so thank you for your patience! I’m not sure if its Mercury retrograde or what the source is but we are working on it and it pretty much sums up my March Madness.

At work, we are just wrapped up training and teaching thousands of young students leadership and Saturday we worked with our high school leaders. One of the key messages we tell our students is that you can not lead unless you serve. Honestly, one of my favorite things about my job…inspiring others to give.

When I saw this quote above, it spoke to me about service and what it means to me. I was recently interviewed for a recognition of service and just saw the video. While I am not a big fan of watching myself, and really who is? However, I thought I would share because a few of you have asked and it gives a bit of context to the message of how important it is to serve.

Service is what we are all here to do, to serve one another. When I am overwhelmed, thinking about all of lives  many tasks, the only way out of that feeling  is when I think about others, rather than myself. It is so easy to get wrapped up in all we have to do  but the moment we think about caring for or helping another, a shift occurs.

As we get ready to wrap up this wild month and dive into Spring, I am committing to a renewal of service, purpose and focusing on what matters.

charity matters.

 

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Prescription: Downtime

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves;otherwise we harden.”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


 

I have to say that March has been an incredibly crazy month. Life has been so full, so fast, so fun and so much…it’s been a bit like Christmas you can’t really even process what has happened because it is all overwhelming. It started with a huge event and continued with an unexpected ski trip and has truly been an incredible two weeks filled with family, friends, celebrations and fun.

Last weekend we were supposed to be out-of-town but my husband’s cold had us reschedule our plans. The result was an unexpected quiet weekend with everyone thinking we were gone. A gift from the universe for sure. It rained in LA, so it was fires and movies. Saturday was sleeping in and taking a long nap in the middle of the day, who does that? Sunday, came with kids in the house, walks with friends and a family dinner. Basically, all of lives pleasures.

What I always find so fascinating, is that I don’t see any of these gifts until I stop. Stand still. Pause. Listen. Reflect. Of course all of these gifts are all around me, but do I see them when I am zipping through my to do list? Do I notice the joy of being not scheduled? Do I see, really see the smile on my son’s face? Do I notice the beauty all around me on my walk? Do I appreciate life’s blessings? Do I stop to feel gratitude?

The answer is no. It is only when I stop, give myself downtime that I can hear myself, my inner voice speaking. Then in those magical moments I can feel the joy that comes from feeling grateful. I can see clearly what is important and where to redirect my time and attention. It is the quiet of downtime and the gift of rest that resets, refocuses and shifts our attention to what matters and where we are heading next.

The next two weeks are going to be crazy at work.  I am grateful for this respite, refueled and ready to roll up my sleeves and make things happen for those I am privileged to serve. Life is short but we all need to take a moment to simply pause and appreciate all our gifts, especially the gift of downtime. Hoping this weekend brings you yours!

charity Matters.

 

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Today is the International Day of Happiness

“happiness is not something ready made. it comes from your own actions.”

Dalai Lama

Are you happy? Well if not, you might want to rethink that thought because today is the International Day of Happiness. A holiday we all should be celebrating. If this is the first time you have heard of the holiday, you probably are not alone and not to worry I don’t think Hallmark has created cards for it just yet. It seems that in 2012 the United Nations had an assembly on happiness and made happiness a resolution, recognizing happiness as a fundamental goal of the UN. In 2012, the United Nations deemed that March 20th would be the International Day of Happiness and the first year it was celebrated was 2013.

This international day is coordinated by the nonprofit, Action for Happiness, which is a nonprofit movement of people from over a 160 countries and growing. Their goal is to commit to building a happier and more caring society, where people care less about what they can get for themselves and more about the happiness of others. The Dalai Lama is one of the organizations main supporters.

Just in case you need a little help to get in the mood, maybe Pharrell Williams can help you out.

So today, smile, eat healthy, exercise, be grateful, give back, think positively, spend time with friends and family, spend time alone, be mindful, dream, listen to music, say thank you and mean it, compete, be charitable and most of all do what makes you happy.

charity matters.

 

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