Friday, January 16, 2009

Swallow the frog first...

I got an email a couple months back that contained a story along the following lines:

Imagine that you have a rewarding and comfortable life except for one thing. In exchange for this life, you have to eat a frog every day. From the time you wake up, the thought of this unwelcome task is always in the back of your mind, draining your energy in ways you don't even fully realize. The solution to this problem is to swallow the frog first!

So, that's become my number 1 New Year's resolution. I'm swallowing the frog first! Every day, I've been trying to pinpoint the one thing on my to-do list that I most dread doing. That item then becomes the first thing I attempt to resolve. I have to admit that this simple change is working amazingly well for me. Even things that have seemed like huge problems have, for the most part, been solved by 10:00 in the morning, leaving me free to enjoy the rest of my day. It's only two weeks into the new year and I've swallowed all my on-going "big frogs". Now I've just got a handful of tiny ones to work on.

Wish me luck, warts and all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


When I was in college, I was an Asian Studies major, which meant taking several fascinating classes on development of third world countries. In one of those classes, I learned about Grameen bank, a micro-lending bank in Bangladesh. Back in the 70s, the founder loaned a very small amount of money ($27 each) to a couple dozen poverty-stricken families. The money was primarily loaned to women because, it was reasoned, women have the most stake in improving the lot of the entire family. Most of these families were able to use the money to dramatically and permanently improve their standard of living. Almost all the loans were repaid on time and now, three decades later, Grameen Bank is huge, still lending to the poorest citizens of Bangladesh. I had seen extreme poverty before (as an outsider in Mexico) but still was amazed that such a tiny (to my way of thinking) amount of money could have such a huge impact.

Fast forward twenty years. About once every four months, I catch an episode of Oprah. I love the show, but it's not on at a convenient time for me and I don't love it enough to commit to watching it in its recorded incarnation. About a year and a half ago, I happened to tune in and learned about Kiva. Kiva is a non-profit organization that matches micro-lenders (you and me) with people in mainly third-world countries who need micro-loans (in most cases, a few hundred dollars). I can go to Kiva's website and lend money in $25 increments to people who have applied for loans for various purposes. (The entire $25 goes to the loan with no fees taken out) My $25 joins the $25 loans from other people until the entire requested loan amount is funded. So far I've made nine loans, four of which have been paid back and five of which are in the process of being repaid. As one of my loans is repaid, I just lend it back out to someone else. I love that I can be personally involved in making the earth a better place for some of its least fortunate inhabitants. Rarely is a loan not repaid and, if one of mine ever isn't, I will know that that $25 is probably needed a heck of a lot more by the person who has it now than it is by me.

A Kiva volunteer made the following video if you'd like more information: This video lasts about 10 minutes and follows the money as it's loaned by a group of people in London, travels to the Kiva offices in San Francisco, and then goes on to the intended recipient.

Or, you can visit their website

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oops - make that the top eleven

In yesterday's top ten, I omitted something that should definitely have been there. Devin and my anniversary! We have been married 13 years as of last week. He didn't even make any comments about it not making the top ten - which means he didn't think about it. Because if he had thought about it, believe me, he would have said something ;). On one hand, it's hard to believe it's been that long, but on the other hand, it seems so right that I can't imagine a life other than with him. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Here is my all-time favorite picture of him as a little boy. He looks so much like Dakota sometimes it's almost scary.

And another, more recent, picture. Although this one is about 5 years old and he's a little scruffy, it's still one of my favorites because I find myself smiling back every time I look at it. I love you, honey. Happy Anniversary!

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm shocked to realize it's been WEEKS since I've blogged. Even Devin has made a comment or two. So, in the interest of catching up in the shortest amount of time possible, here is my top ten from the last three weeks.
1. David - it was wonderful having him home. His girlfriend, Kimberly, spent a lot of time over here so we got to know her a little better, too. She really is a nice girl. I made cinnamon rolls twice because of special requests from the two of them. Everybody else really enjoyed them too, of course.
2. Gingerbread - David and Dakota paired off against Kimberly and Dylan in a gingerbread house building contest. I helped with Kimberly and Dylan's in the beginning because they couldn't quite get it structurally sound (the short set of walls was on the inside to begin with, which made the roof not fit, then the walls were falling over, then the roof kept sliding off - the smack-talk was hilarious). David and Dakota were clearly the winner in part one - construction, but Kimberly and Dylan held their own in part 2 - decoration. They might have done even better if Dylan hadn't wanted to eat all the candy instead of use it on the house. Then they each decorated their own gingerbread man, ahem, person - which were all gleefully eaten immediately after this picture was taken. It's always struck me as pseudo-cannibalism to eat cookies shaped like people - most often headfirst - all the while making little screaming noises. Those sound-effects only happen at my house, you say? Oh, well. Notice how Dylan's is absolutely covered with stuff? He couldn't wait to get at it!
3. Weather - like everyone else in the Pacific Northwest, we had severe weather the last couple weeks. Here in Newport, that meant that of the last week of school before break the kids only went for 1 whole day and 1 other day with a two-hour late start. Talk about messing me up with the whole last-minute-errands-before-the-holiday thing.
4. Weather - I know, I've already listed this once, but it deserves special recognition here. I went up to Portland on December 23 to pick up my in-laws, Ed and Kathy, from the airport. A trip which normally takes just under 6 hours took me 15 hours to make. Yes, that included putting on and removing chains, being stuck behind a snowplow moving 3 mph and sitting in a miles-long traffic jam waiting for a major freeway ramp (205 to 5 south) to reopen after an accident. I drove all night, leaving home at 5:00 pm and getting back at 8:00 am, just in time for Devin to go to work. I kept thinking about the fact that 15 hours will get me to Kalispell, Montana, three states away, where I grew up. Instead, I just went to Portland and back, never even leaving the state.
5. In-laws - mine - Ed and Kathy came for a nice visit. It was pretty relaxed and I think we all had a good time. It was unusual, however, to be frequently setting the table for eight people (including David and Kimberly), instead of our usual four.
6. Christmas - a good time was had by all.
7. Wii - we got one!! I'm not normally into video game platforms, but I also received the Wii Fit and it totally rocks! Our living room turned into a tennis court, gym, yoga studio, race track, bowling alley, ski slope, etc. I felt like we needed a sign-up sheet and time limit because EVERYONE wanted to play ALL the time. Our New Year's Eve party consisted of all of us, including kids, staying up and playing Wii games until midnight.
8. Pitas - I have to make pitas every month or so and had been out of them for over a week. I used to be able to buy them in Florida, but the brands they carry in the store here taste just awful! I get such a kick out of how they puff up like whoopie cushions.
9. Everyone leaves and I can breathe - I love having company, but I love it when I have the house to myself, too. My in-laws left on Saturday, January 3, and David left on Monday, January 5. January 5 is also when the younger boys went back to school. So, last week went like this: Monday I took David to the airport, Tuesday I met with my monthly sewing group, Wednesday I volunteer at school, Thursday was our monthly Quilt Guild meeting, Friday I got to stay home and veg! This week I'm back in the swing of things, getting set up for the year ahead. Yesterday I read the 50+ blog posts I had missed over the prior couple weeks. Today I'm posting (Yippee) and will be caught up again (even bigger Yippee).
10. DRUM - I am STILL having problems. I called tech support this morning and they are sending me a box. They will take it all apart and (hopefully) figure out what's wrong. I've already backed up everything to my old laptop (I hope!!) and this will only be a minor glitch (I hope).
Those are most of the high points from the last couple
weeks. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and is looking forward to an even more awesome 2009!