Friday, October 17, 2014

Helping Haiti: Lessons in Love, Jewelry and Making a Difference

Helping Haiti: Our Junior Girl Scouts' jewelry badge project earned enough to sponsor two students for a year in Haiti.Never underestimate some cast-off jewelry and a bunch of fourth-grade girls.

This is the story of how trash became treasure and a life-changing moment for some girls in Indiana and in Haiti.

What started as a simple project for our Junior Girl Scout Jeweler Badge became an act of love and a major fundraising effort for scholarships for children at our mission church in Haiti.

Yes, our girls learned about creating unique designs from unwanted necklaces, but they learned more. They learned about how seemingly small efforts can build together and make a difference.

Our assignment? Design a necklace for yourself and one other person (meeting two of our badge requirements, one to make a piece of jewelry, and the other to make one to share.)

I was floored when one girl asked if we could sell them for Haiti. And even more so when the rest of the troop agreed.

upcycled necklaces for our Junior Girl Scout Jewelry BadgeWhat began as a simple scrapbook paper and Modge-Podge project became a whirlwind of activity. Nearly 200 necklaces were created for a sale to benefit our Hearts for Haiti program, which in part provides scholarships for children to attend school.

The girls started with a dream: Raise money for Haiti.

And then it grew.

Inspired by their idea and business lessons from another jewelry company that helps out disenfranchised women in Africa, the troop set pricing, learned about marketing (as in, no we don't need a website for a one-time sale, but there are better ways to spread the word), and set a business goal.

They dreamt big.
Hearts for Haiti fundraiser

It was a reach, but we hoped to sell enough necklaces to raise enough for three scholarships for students in Haiti. Our eye-opening moment: A year's tuition was a mere $300 compared to American standards. 

jewelry fundraiser for hearts for haiti scholarships

We didn't quite make the full three scholarships, but we were inspired. And inspired others. Tens and twenties were dropped in the donation jar and as the church service times passed, our goal reached higher....

Four services later, these girls raised more than $700 - allowing for two students to attend school worry-free for a year. We're proud. But we're even prouder of the kids in their class, when the results were announced at school, who want to something too.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Disconnected. What Being Offline Reminded Me

Life without blogging, or social media, or even cell phone service. Yes it can be done!

Imagine how we lived without it. But recent moments have reminded me just how truly dependent we have become on those technologies.

I took an unplanned pause from blogging recently due to a major, unplanned project at work (read: ebola crisis communications). I told my kids that "Mommy has homework to learn about a yucky disease." My unscheduled moments were spent learning everything I could about the disease and developing a communications plan that was a flu epidemic plan on steroids. And I hadn't even touched the employee no-show issues before I left for fall break. So far, we'd been blessed to not have a case in the Midwest.

Disconnected: What being offline reminded meWhile blogging admittedly takes time to do, what I didn't anticipate was the drop in my "social" social media use, too. Instead of checking out my friends' latest escapades and connecting with them online, I refocused my attention to the social media use of work. And I learned it's tough disconnecting completely once you've trained your brain that way. On Fall Break, I sent the disaster coordinator and media manager a text about the second ebola patient, to which I was reprimanded to go back to vacation. And here, I thought a 48-hour media blackout on my part was completely remarkable.

It's taken me some time to re-adjust to a life without relying on the Internet and my smart phone. On day 3, we got a group text on an update on a crisis. Immediately I responded with "What do I need to monitor." And I am so glad I was re-reminded to unplug and go back on vacation.

It wasn't until day 5 until I could get on Facebook - to post some of my kids' pictures - without having the gut reaction of "There's activity on the work page; I need to check it" as I react multiple times a day. I am blessed to work with colleagues who are more than capable of filling in on customer service and other concerns in my absence, and I need to trust them.

My moment of realization, though, was on our return trip home. My husband, a loyal Royals fan for decades, was tracking Game 4 on his ESPN app while I drove. KC was one out away from the World Series. And Sprint service cut out. For a long 30-minute drive, my husband sadly stared at the red X at the top of the bars and waited. No text updates from his parents. No way to call them. Nothing but wonder.

And that's when it hit me. Just a few short years ago, we would have caught the scores on the radio when they came on, or saw the headlines later. Or, like my 6-year-old does each morning, ask another person "Did we win? What was the score?"

We don't always have to be recording the moment, or getting an app to track the moment. Sometimes, we can just connect with the moment. Just us. In person. Enjoying it all with our senses.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Learning lessons from Cub Scout Popcorn

This year, we've embarked on a new adventure: Cub Scouts.

After five years of being drug to his sister's Girl Scout activities and three years of the Tag Unit at Girl Scout camp, my little guy is bent on being a Boy Scout. 

Who could blame him? Add the fun of Girl Scouting with Zoom Zookas (or whatever they're called), more campouts and archery, and I have one excited Tiger Cub.

He came home one day from school telling me that Cub Scouts "camp out on the football field and the basketball court and the baseball field and the soccer field and eat popcorn."

Ahh. Popcorn. The  bane of my existence.

Note that I hadn't fully recovered from the disaster of last year's cookie sales, where the co-leader and I, along with our daughters, were stuck with weekend after weekend of cookie booths picking up the slack of the rest of the troop.  I literally dreamed of cookies for eight weeks.

And now we had two kids in scouting. It made me feel more like this:

The reality is our financial situation means that if we want to participate, we're going to have to pimp popcorn. And it's not a simple sell, even with the world's cutest Cub Scout (not that I'm biased).

However, I have a little guy who is quite motivated. If we hit the goal, he earns enough in his account to go to Cub Scout camp instead of just Girl Scout tag units next summer. Oh, and apparently there's a prize for that level of a bow and arrow too.

You have to work to make dreams reality.

My Tiger Cub is learning that goals aren't always easy to achieve. He walked his street yesterday, only to sell $10 worth of popcorn. He sells at the church popcorn booth after many services, and gets more "no's" than "yes's." 

Cuteness may help, but it doesn't always get your way.

My Tiger Cub isn't always eager to go out, but he's learning that if we wants to make camp and this bow and arrow happen, it's going to take work. Not just mom taking a sheet to the office, but actual work on his part.

And at 6 years old, that's not a bad lesson to learn.

And yes, my disclaimer, if you're truly without a Cub Scout to help, we'd be happy to assist! Here is the order link.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Paying It Forward - A Note of Thanks

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ~Edward Everett Hale

I want to say Thank You. Thank you to each of my readers who've followed our family's journey the last few years. And THANK YOU (large caps intended) for each of you who have helped my in-laws.

Our large medical expenses, coupled with the struggle to keep our children in parochial school, means we have very little left, if anything, at the end of the month. However, our in-laws, who live on a very limited income, have it worse.

Because of YOU - those people who have ever clicked on an Amazonaffiliate link - we were able to replace a needed appliance for them, something that would have been unthinkable to do before.

Thank you. You made a difference.