On This Giving Tuesday…

I’m not sure if I learned about tikkun olam – repairing the world – when I was in Hebrew school. My rabbi and teachers may have talked about it, but I probably wasn’t paying attention. What I do know is that I’ve been practicing tikkun olam my entire life.

From raising money for developmentally disabled people in my youth to launching major fundraising campaigns and events for the Jewish community and for childhood cancer families, giving back to those in need is something I take to heart and have passed along to my children. It has also been the focus of my career.

After spending 10 years working in the publishing world, I decided to switch to nonprofit organizations. During a recent job search, people kept asking me if I would consider going back to corporate or for-profit work. While I thought about it, this was never my preference. I am highly motivated to help others, and so it’s important to incorporate that into every aspect of my life — including my job.

For the past 15+ years, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and interviewing families going through some incredibly trying times. They are the real people behind the fancy marketing and branding, who benefit from your support. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to listen to and share their stories with the world.

Today is Giving Tuesday. It was created when two organizations, the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, came together in 2012, about a month before that year’s Thanksgiving, to set aside a day that was all about celebrating the generosity of giving. From there, a great American tradition was born.

Each of us has a cause that is near and dear to our hearts. Have you checked in on them lately? How has their year been? In 2020, most nonprofits saw a decline in donations because of COVID-19. Some charities had to close their doors. Others are struggling to keep their programs and services running. And the people they help and the issues they champion haven’t disappeared. In fact, the need is even greater.

Today is the day to practice a little tikkun olam.

What important causes are you donating to today?

Unlocking Me

Lately, I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us–which I highly recommend. My favorite episode so far is the one on burnout. And then there was this other one about using play as an energy source. Oh, and the interview with Dolly Parton this week is so great.

Okay, so I don’t have a favorite because they are all my favorites.

Anyway, at the end of every show, she asks her guests the same 10 rapid-fire questions and the answers give a lot of insight into who they are as a person. So, I thought I’d give it a go.

  1. Vulnerability is…. not a weakness; it’s the path to the truth.
  2. When I’m called to be brave but the fear is real, I…push through. Quick story. I don’t like small boats. Actually, I’m terrified of them because I’m not a strong swimmer, and I’m deathly afraid of capsizing. This happened to friends of mine on a duck boat many years ago, so I don’t consider this an irrational fear. Anyway, while I was on vacation with my extended family in Costa Rica, everyone wanted to go on a boat trip. Normally, I would let Scott and the kids go, and I’d stay behind but, I didn’t want to be the party pooper. So, I got on the boat and traveled downriver past some scary looking alligators to see amazing wildlife that I never would have seen otherwise. It was a memorable experience but I was much happier when we were back on solid ground. So, when I’m called on to be brave and the fear is so real that I can feel it all over, I give it my all to push through.
  3. Something people get wrong about me…that I was popular in high school. I’ve had several people say this to me in my adult life and nothing could be further than the truth. I’m an extrovert, so maybe I give off that vibe, but back then, I was a bonafide nerd with a small group of solid friends and zero self-confidence. I was a very late bloomer. Thank God for college where I became much more comfortable in my own skin and felt ready to take on the world.
  4. Last show that I binged and loved … The West Wing. It was exactly the dose of hope I needed to get me through the last year or two… or four.
  5. Favorite movie … The Princess Bride – and I often quote it when I feel it is necessary and I am frustrated when people don’t understand the reference.
  6. A concert I’ll never forget … I’ve been to many, many concerts, so this is not an easy choice. I’ll go with Madonna’s Ray of Light tour. I love Madonna, but it was a terrible show. Like, awful. I was blinded by all the strobe lights and special effects. The whole concert was one big music video where she sang everything from her new album and none of the hits I grew up with. One silver lining – watching other people parade around the arena dressed up as the many looks Madonna has shown over the years. That was pretty awesome.
  7. Favorite meal … Rosh Hashanah dinner – juicy brisket, kugel, sweet and sour meatballs, Jewish apple cake…yum!
  8. What’s on my nightstand … Glasses – distance glasses, reading glasses, a glass of water, oh and my CPAP machine complete with a nasal mask. Sexy, right?!
  9. Snapshot of an ordinary moment of my life that brings me joy … any picture of me dancing with my dad. I’m not the best dancer, and I never know exactly where he is going to step next and where I’m supposed to put my feet. But, I always enjoy my time with him on the dance floor. And the photos, always capture those special moments.
  10. What are you deeply grateful for right now… Hand sanitizer.
    No, I’m kidding. I’m deeply grateful for my own resilience during a difficult year. I lost my job, then searched and found a new position. I can only describe that experience as a soul-searching, often gut-wrenching, roller coaster ride. I supported the people I love who struggled this year and got them through some tough moments. I managed our day to day life under this new normal while keeping my own anxiety in check. Yes, my resilience has definitely been a blessing this year.

Is Ironing My Superpower?

The other day I said to myself, I don’t want to cook anymore because I don’t want to do the dishes. But that’s silly, isn’t it? I can’t say I don’t want to wear clothes because I don’t want to do laundry. Food and clothing are basic needs, and I suppose the chores that come before and after are unavoidable. And these things need to be attended to immediately otherwise they just pile up until I can’t take it any longer and resign myself to the tasks at hand.

I went downstairs this morning and there were Halloween candy wrappers and empty cans on the counter. And I ask myself, does anyone know where the trash can is? The answer, it’s right underneath the same counter.

And then, I turned around and saw clean and folded clothes on the table that need a home. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t walk their way up to their respective drawers by themselves.

When I was little, we spent Saturdays cleaning the house from top to bottom. We wiped down our bureaus in our bedrooms, vacuumed the floor, wiped down the kitchen, dusted shelves, and ironed clothes. Back then, we ironed EVERYTHING. I may have learned to iron right after potty training, tying my shoes, and looking both ways when I crossed the street. We had a seemingly bottomless pile of clothes to iron on the floor right next to the ironing board. Afterward, we neatly folded the clothes and laid them all onto the couch so nothing would wrinkle. And then, we carried everything upstairs to hang them up neatly in our closets.

One of my good friends sells small appliances and asked me to help him demonstrate some items at a trade show. He asked me if I knew how to iron. I laughed and told him I was born to iron. But, I rarely do it now. I don’t even think I own an ironing board. I prefer to throw the clothes back in the dryer, and let them unwrinkle from the heat. Or hang them on the towel hook in the shower because the steam will do the trick. But, when it is deemed necessary to do so, I will throw down a towel and clear off my dining room table. My kids ask where I’m going like it’s a special occasion.

I don’t need an immaculate house. I need a house that doesn’t have clutter in every room. My modest wish is to walk into a room and not have to do anything to clean it up.

And I hope no one reads this and believes this is a put down to my family and a not so subtle hint of some kind. I think I have a sixth sense about these things. Maybe it is my superpower. I look around and see what needs to be done, and I can’t walk past it. I see the clothes piling up in the laundry and the dishes in the sink, and it drives me crazy enough to do something about it.

Yeah, I’m the Wonder Woman of house cleaning. Lucky me.

Did I Smell The Roses?

On March 12, 2020, me and 50 of my colleagues met in the back of our office. Our executive director had an announcement. The room is a nice size for meetings and eating our lunch, but when all of us are there, standing shoulder to shoulder, we fill it up.

When I think about it, this may not have been the best place to congregate during a global pandemic. Statistically speaking, at least one or two of us were likely exposed to the virus unknowingly.

But, I digress…

We aren’t sure what is going on with this virus, but we want to be responsible. So, we want everyone to work from home until further notice. We don’t know how long it will be but go back to your desks, take what you think you might need for the next two weeks, and head on home. We will stay in touch,” said the man in charge.

That was seven months ago, but it seems like a lifetime. Since then, I adjusted to working from home, managed a full house since everyone was sent home, got furloughed, networked my ass off to find a job, and started a new job. And in the midst of all that I ate a lot of salmon for dinner, ran many loads of laundry, and cleaned out closets.

Did I stop to smell the roses during the lockdown? I’d like to think so. We bought fresh flowers every week to brighten up the place. Does that count?

I definitely did more than my typical number of jigsaw puzzles. We all sat down to dinner at the same time every night because we had nowhere else to be. Jenna taught me how to apply eye shadow since that is the only part of my face people will see while wearing a mask. Andrew was in charge of family movie nights. We played Cards Against Humanity with our teenage children – that was a fun night!

Looking back, I wish I had done more. This pandemic definitely gave me the gift of time with my family. But, it was still stressful. We didn’t know what we were dealing with and everything was scary. Something as mundane as grocery shopping was scary. Someone coughing nowhere near me was terrifying.

And not only was it stressful, but every day I tried to bring some small element of normalcy back into our lives without feeling guilty. I let the kids hang out with one or two friends on occasion. I forgot to put my mask on when I went to drop something off at a friend’s house.
I hugged my parents.

Did I stop and smell the roses? I hope so. I honestly can’t remember. All I can say is that in five years when Facebook memories remind me of the mask-wearing, social distancing, and family bonding, I can say I was grateful for our time together and I’m glad it’s over.




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