Six months ago, I checked in with where I was in my progress on #5. Now that I'm in the home stretch of this 30 Before 30 project, and
And Lord knows, there hasn't been any shortage of tragedy and need over the past few months, geesh. Mother Nature, can you give us a break already?!
To pick up where I left off, a recap of the past five months (I'm leaving out June purposefully...for now):
January - January is National Blood Donor Month, and the Red Cross made it easier than ever to give blood. They regularly come to my office (we are a health services company, afterall...), but this time they sent me a letter detailing all of the places their mobile units would be located conducting blood drives during the month of January. Conveniently for me, there was one just a mile from my office in Columbia. I was able to run over during my lunch break, make a donation, and be back in time for my afternoon meetings. There are countless reasons to give blood, and I'm sure we've all heard them, including how many people can be helped with just one blood donation. If those reasons aren't enough, read Sydney's story and do it for her.
February - Out with the old, and in with the new. Following the Christmas 'splosion of new clothes, it was time to move some of the old out. I had several large trash bags of clothes (both mine and Sadira's) ready for donation. Planet Aid is an awesome organization that recycles clothes, and provides them to people all over the globe who need them as a result of war, natural disasters, you name it. They are also big on protecting the environment and are very environmentally conscious, which is a plus in my book. The best part? They have these awesome donation bins located in several spots throughout Baltimore, and a few in Columbia, where I work. Seriously, could not be easier to donate. Check their website to see if there are bins in your area.
May (yup, I'm going out of order) - In May we participated in the NAMI walks annual fundraiser. NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness, and my office always is a corporate fundraiser. I served on the fund raising team for the second year, this year, and Sadira and I walked at the end of May, with funds going to support educated and services for mental illness.
March - March was memorable. This cannot be said in one concise paragraph. This is going to take some time to explain.
On March 8th I arrived home after our marathon Hawaii/California adventure. I wasn't home for long though, because I had plans to head north to Connecticut for my friend Shannon's wedding reception, on March 11th. Very late in the night on March 10th, I was finishing up some laundry to pack for our brief trip up north when I happened to notice a Twitter post that a monster 8.9 earthquake had just rocked Japan.
I turned on CNN as they were showing live footage of the subsequent tsunami. I don't know how late I was up that night, but it was late. I just watched as the water hit the coastline, pushing whole homes along like they were dollhouses.
As much as I think modern technology helps to keep our world connected, there was something very haunting that night as I watched people's homes disappear. Voyeuristic, almost. Like I was watching something I had no business watching. Presumably, I watched the tsunami as it took people's lives. Live on television, I watched, with the many other people around the world, as Japan's eastern coastline disappeared.
Moments like that make me hate technology.
I thought about my friend Deirdre and her husband, who are stationed in Japan, and all of the children she teaches at her job, who's smiling faces I see on my Facebook newsfeed. Was she okay? How far east is she located? Was she at work when the earthquake struck? I didn't know.
I thought about my friend Rie, whom I hadn't spoken to in over a year, but it doesn't matter, because she's one of those friends who you just pick up the phone and it's like no time has passed. Last time we spoke she was working in Toyota City. Was she still there? Had she moved? If she moved, was she now in one of the areas affected? I didn't know.
Rie and me, 2005
I thought about my other friends in Japan, whom I hadn't spoke to since college but were still on my mind...Aiko, Anna, Yumiko, Naoko. Were they okay? Were their families okay? I didn't know.
I felt helpless.
I hate feeling helpless.
I had to go to bed. It was almost 4am and I had to be on a bus at 7:40am.
I went to bed sick with worry for my friends in Japan. I woke up sick with worry for my friends in Hawaii.
The tsunami was moving eastward, set to hit land sometime that Friday morning. The experts weren't sure with what kind of velocity it would hit the islands. I watched footage being broadcasted directly from Ka'anapali, exactly where I had been with my friends Donna and Jamie just two weeks earlier.
I stalked their Facebook statuses. Jamie was in California for business, Donna was heading back to the hospital (she's the "emergencies gal" so she had to be there). I knew that if anything, she was safest at the hospital, further inland.
I stalked my friend Emanuelle's Facebook. She had only moved out there in November and admitted she was nervous and wasn't sure what to do. She kept us posted.
Moments like that make me love technology.
I stayed glued to Facebook, and CNN...until the very last second when I had to leave. I almost missed my bus.
Fortunately the bus had Wi-Fi. Everyone was connected. Everyone was glued. All 80 people on the bus shared information as it was received.
Then the news came that Hawaii was okay. They didn't get hit. The tsunami had lessened as it traveled across the Pacific, losing steam by the time it hit the Hawaiian Islands, and everyone was safe.
As we all know, Japan was not as fortunate, and the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami would be played out in the news for weeks to come.
I knew I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what. Helping in an international crisis is much more difficult than when it's in your own backyard. I heard that one of the Baltimore Ravens, Haruki Nakamuri (one of my faves!!!) was organizing an event to raise money for Japan relief. Fans were invited to Ripken Stadium, and for several difference dollar amounts, could have their Ravens gear signed by several different players.
I made plans to go with my friend Amanda.
But the day of, it was rainy and very cold outside, and her son Mason, is still an itty bitty baby. So we decided to call it off.
But my donation still made it. I may not have been able to get my jersey signed that day, but I was still able to make a donation through Haruki's fundraiser.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, all of my friends in Japan are safe and accounted for. Thank the Lord.
I have more to say about charity on an international level...but I'll save that for another blog post.
April - The last week of April 2011 will go down in history as the most deadly string of tornadoes in the United States since 1925. It felt like every time I turned on the TV, or the radio, or Facebook, or the internet, there was a tornado warning in another state. More footage of damage. More devastation. Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois...the list went on and on. Six hundred and seventy-seven tornadoes in the month of April alone!
Very rarely does the opportunity to give land directly in your lap, but I was lucky in April, it did. My friend Melissa (who is also a fellow couponer!) sent me a message, saying that Dot (our friend Kelly's mom) was collecting items to send to Alabama, where her son lives. Apparently she knew some people down there who had lost just about everything and they were pulling together items to send down to the community. Done deal, this was easy.
With my huge stash of items that I'm gotten for free or nearly free from couponing, I was able to pull together a big box of toiletries, baby items and household cleaning supplies in no time. Sadira helped me. Here's the stash we were able to pull together to donate to the folks in Alabama:
The best moment came when we going through our upstairs stash, deciding what to donate, when I saw Sadie looking at some kid's Dora toothbrushes we had in her stash...one was pink and one was purple, both her favorite colors. I was ready for her to give me a song and dance as to why she didn't want to give them up. So I said to her, (knowing that the family we were helping had a little girl), "why don't you pick one to keep, and one to give away to a little girl in Alabama?"
She looked at me square in the eyes, "No, mommy."
I thought for a second about what I was going to say. I wanted to choose my words carefully, because I certainly don't want to FORCE her to give, I want her to grow up and WANT to give...how do I say this? Talk about what happened? Talk about what it would feel like to lose our home?
Before I could respond, she said, "No Mommy, I don't need to keep one. I already have one. Let's send both of these. And give them to TWO little girls in Alabama!"
I don't know what I said in reply. Probably something like, "that's a great idea," and "I'm so proud of you, honey." But I really don't know. I was blown away that this little tiny girl was so willing to give away something of hers, something that I knew she LOVED, and I felt like my heart was exploding.
And I didn't even realize I had gotten all teary eyed, until her sarcastic smart-ass side came out and as she quizzically studied my face she said, "what the heck you cryin' for Mommy?"
"Nothing, Sade. I'm just crying cause I love you so much."