Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Blessed Winter Solstice

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weeks 6, 7 and 8

Well, as you can see, I missed a couple weeks of posts. I humbly ask forgiveness and understanding. Let's review the tips for the last couple weeks (which you saw if you're my friend on Facebook).

Week 6: Pick up litter. That one is pretty self-explanatory, I think. If you see trash, pick it up. A clean neighborhood is one to be proud of.

Week 7: I posted this one on Bill of Rights Day. Read, understand and protect the first ten amendments for every person. Yes, even the ones who don't agree with you.

Week 8: Pause...In many of the world's religions the coming of winter and the impending return of the sun (at least here in the northern hemisphere) is a time of pause, reflection and celebration. Take time to stop, breathe deeply and relax.

I am going to be taking my own scheduled pause. I am going to take the next two weeks and spend time with my family and friends. I am also going to do my own relaxing and breathing. I hope to do a few picture and/or video posts during that time. I will be back in the new year with more tips for strengthening your community.

Have a wonderful winter holiday, whichever you choose to celebrate. If your chosen holiday has already passed, I do hope it was full of wonder and magic.

Thanks to http://decktheholidays.blogspot.com/2010_09_24_archive.html for the picture.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Here is a comment from one of my Facebook friends:

"Since moving to Iowa, we live these 'tips & values' every day. It's interesting to read these & think we used to have to work to make them happen. I love that I wave &/or talk to everyone I meet on our downtown square, whether I know them or not. I appreciate when something about us is in the newspaper, I open my mailbox & find a pile of the clippings from the elderly in town that thought to clip it for us to keep. I value when our neighbor is making a home improvement or changing a tire in his driveway, that we are always there to assist. It's so wonderful."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Week 5: A Pause for Reflection

This week, I think we should stop and reflect on what we have done so far. Have you met your neighbors? Did you share an item or a talent? Did you find something to be thankful for?

I'm happy so far. The project is making me more aware of what I could be doing to strengthen my community and I often make different choices now. For instance, last night the family went to our community tree-lighting ceremony. In the past I would not have even considered it, but we had a good time and I'm glad we went. I'm sure there are opportunities that I'm missing and I need to keep my eyes open for those.

I would love to hear about how the project is affecting you at this point. Leave a comment, or, if you'd like, write a few paragraphs and become my first guest blogger!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Week 4: Be Thankful

Being thankful is sort of a theme this week, right? At least in the United States, that is. But I bet many of us forget to be thankful the other 51 weeks of the year. It's very easy to get caught up in all of the things that we don't have or that have gone wrong in our lives, but everyone always has something they can be thankful for. I'm not naive, I know times are tough for a lot of people in the world. Even in the toughest of times, though, there is something for you to be thankful for. Take a moment and consider your life. Are you healthy? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have a great family? Do you have at least one wonderful friend? Do you have a job you love? Do you have a hobby you love? If you answered yes to even just one of those questions, then you have something to be thankful for every day of the year.

Personally, I am extremely thankful for my wonderful family and amazing friends, and so, keeping them in mind, this will be my only blog post this week. I'll be back after the holiday, but for this week I plan on giving the gift of time to my family and friends and being thankful for every second of it.

Image: giving thanks courtesy of TheAlieness GiselaGiardino

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Gift of Time

This doesn't seem fun to me...
Here in the States, Thanksgiving is almost upon us and will quickly be followed by "Black Friday". For those of you not familiar with the term, Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving and "officially" opens the Christmas shopping season. It's referred to as Black Friday because, for many retailers, this is the day that determines whether they will end the year in the red or the black. My husband read a statistic last night that 49% of households will send at least one person shopping on Friday (as a scientist, I hate that I don't have a citation for that...). Some stores will open at 3 or 4am. I saw a sign on a store in my local mall that they would be opening at midnight after Thanksgiving for my shopping needs. These stores will offer insanely low prices to lure the hoards out in the wee hours of the night for TV's, GPS units, and other doo-hickies. Every year there are reports of injuries as people are trampled by their fellow shoppers. Last year, at least one store employee was killed, you heard that right, KILLED when the shoppers he was trying to let in the store trampled him. Feeling that holiday spirit yet?

Now, this is not a rant against technology, shopping or doo-hickies (although, I think the vast majority of us could all do with a little less of those things). I'm not advocating for a complete change of lifestyle. After all, I enjoy shopping and even my doo-hickies, although I try to make my doo-hickies multi-tasking and useful and not just entertaining (I'm not perfect, I have a Nintendo DS and a laptop that I spend too much non-working time on). What I am doing is asking you all to stop for a second...are you stopped? Great. Now that you have a second, ask yourself why you're thinking about running out the door to snap up those deals. Are they for gifts? For yourself? Have you answered? Great, then stick with me here.

If you answered that you're going to run out and buy gifts, analyze that for a second. Are these things that people asked you for? Do you know for sure that Uncle Bob wants a fancy-schmancy GPS? Has he mentioned it? If not, you have no way of knowing if it will ever get taken out of its box. If it doesn't, no matter how cheaply you bought it, you wasted money. Perhaps more importantly, you wasted time. Was Uncle Bob part of your Thanksgiving celebrations? Is he still around waiting for you to come home from buying the fancy-schmancy GPS that he couldn't care less about having? What if, instead of running out to the store while it was still dark, you had stayed home, slept in and shared a leisurely breakfast with Uncle Bob? Would he appreciate the gift of your time more than the gift of a gadget?

Now, if you said that you were heading out to find things for yourself at a great price, then the analysis is a little different. Is the gadget you're getting something that you truly need? For instance, has your washer been on its last legs for months and now you can get one at an unbeatable price? Then perhaps the trip is worth your time. However, if you're running out to get the latest gadget that you've never even touched before, ask yourself, is this deal really better than one I could get during a normal sale that takes place after the sun comes up? How long will you spend cleaning and maintaining this gadget. Are you giving up your time, not only to shop for the item, but also to keep it functioning optimally? And, lastly, would you have enjoyed sleeping in and having a lovely breakfast with Uncle Bob?

I know that there are many people out there who love their "things".  I know there are many people out there who mourn a loss of connection with their fellow man. I humbly suggest that we can use the holidays to reconnect with our fellow man and save the shopping for another day. All the same gadgets will be available after Black Friday and most of them will be the same price. Unless you're out to get the one big item that a store puts on sale, you're not going to save that much. And that's the point, you give up your time to go for the one big thing and then are tricked into thinking you're actually saving time by buying everything else while you're there. This one year, give the gift of time to yourself and your family. Play games with the little ones. Do a jigsaw puzzle with grandma. Talk to Uncle Bob. I guarantee that at no point in your life will you regret spending more time with those you love. I also guarantee that at no point in their life will your loved ones wish you had run out to buy them one more thing, rather than giving them the gift of your time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Week 3: Share Your Talent

Ceramics Class

Last week we set out to share material goods. This week, let's think about the more intangible things we could share. What if we taught others how to do the things we love? Remember when you presented someone with that lovely knitted hat and they commented how much they would love to knit? Well, why don't you teach them? Or maybe you make jewelry, or candles, or soap. Do you have the most beautiful garden in town? Show your neighbors your secrets!

Sharing our talents does not diminish what we do. It does, in fact, magnify what we do. With only a few minutes of your time you could pass on a valuable skill or a hobby that will give hours of enjoyment to a friend. And, everyone has something they are good at. I hear a couple of you saying there is nothing you're good at that someone would want to learn, but I bet if you thought for a minute you would realize that's not true. Even a skill that seems mundane to you might be exciting to someone else.
Teaching My Little Dude some Cooking

Put yourself out there, you'll be doing someone a service and I just bet that you'll end up feeling pretty darn good about about yourself, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You Veterans!

My grandpa was part of the "greatest generation", but he would've told you that every generation is pretty much the same and wants pretty much the same thing. He once told me that things don't change all that much, what changes is our perspective. There never was a better "community-builder". Gramps knew everyone in the subdivision, not just his immediate neighbors, and every year people for blocks were the recipients of his extra garden bounty. He also served our country for more than two decades from the Battle of the Bulge, to post-war Germany, Okinawa, and the United States.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Week 2: Make Extra and Share

The tip for week two seemed especially appropriate this time of year. We are coming into a period of time where multiple religious and secular holidays converge, along with all of the things that go with holidays and celebrations. Many of these celebrations include food. Some include the giving of gifts. In both cases, some of us go overboard (I'm looking at you cookie bakers everywhere!).  Instead of lamenting how much of what you baked, cooked, canned, pickled, etc is going to go to waste (or to "waist" if you, like me, try to eat it all yourself) why not share it. You could take week one's "get to know your neighbor" campaign to the next level with a box of your special cookies. You could deliver some goodies to a school, office or shelter. No matter where you decide to share the fruits of your labor, they will be appreciated!

Now, I hear some of you telling me that you don't bake, cook, can, pickle...I get it, no problem. Do you knit, crochet or sew? Check with local shelters and schools. They are often looking for scarves, mittens and hats this time of year for folks that need them. Do you do other crafts? Donate some to a school's or church's craft fair. They'll be happy for the extras to use as raffle prizes or gifts for their workers. Do you love scrapbooking? Use some of your scraps to make bookmarks and donate them to your local library for their patrons. The possibilities are really endless.

The holidays are often thought of as a time of excess, but with a little creativity and a bit of community-building spirit, the holidays can be a time when EVERYONE has just exactly as much as they need.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Week 1: Get to Know Your Neighbors

Thanks to the city of Newport News, VA for the image
Neighbors. Most of us have them; many of us don't even know their names. It's not that hard to understand. We're so busy running from one place to another, and so are they, that no one has time to stop and talk. At the same time we're running around, we're lamenting the disconnect in society. We're sad that the "good ol' days" of block parties and neighborhood kids playing together seem to have gone the way of tomato aspic and jello molds. We also cite safety concerns. How many times have you heard, or thought, "What do we really know about the people living around us?"

I offer you a solution: meet the people who live around you! What better way to reconnect as a society and alleviate those safety issues. Heck, once you get to know your neighbors, your safety will improve. Imagine two, four, six or more additional pairs of eyes keeping a lookout for suspicious activity. Your kids are "bored"? How easy is it to send them next door to find out if the neighbor's child can play for a bit.

I know my neighbors. My son has spent hours playing with the boy next door who is near his age. The elderly couple across the street is always happy to visit and let you know if something suspicious has happened in the neighborhood and the retired police officer who lives diagonally from me is not only a source of security, he has been known to mow our lawn when we go on vacation!

Am I glad I know my neighbors? Absolutely. Do I feel better about the street I live on because I know some of the people who share it with me? You bet. Am I going to start making jello molds for a block party? Well, probably not, but you never know. Stranger things have happened!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


As another election season winds down, I can't help thinking that many members of the public will now settle in and wait. They will wait for the elected officials at every level to institute sweeping and miraculous changes. Unfortunately, I believe they will find themselves waiting for a very long time. I also believe there is a much better way. We, the people, can make those changes.

What? Absurd, you say? I don't think it is. I believe that it is not as difficult as everyone thinks to build the world we wish for. Every week, this blog will offer a tip for building a strong community. The tip will be easy and accessible. It will not require an inordinate amount of time or money. It will require a desire to create a better world for all people.

Join us! Tell us what you have done to build your community. Leave a comment on this blog and tell your story!