Category Archives: charity

Putting my money where my keyboard is……

Yesterday I wrote about Sasha’s Generosity Day Project and I pledged to participate on February 14th. Well, dear readers, I just got me a jumpstart.

I started by donating to a project called Acres for Agnes. Naomi is a friend from my Delhi life and her mom has already reached her goal of $12,000 which will do this for Agnes and her family…

Buying me some bovines for the Generosity Day Project.

  • buy 2 acres of farm land
  • build a simple mud hut and separate kitchen
  • dig a pit latrine, with an adjoining washroom (for bathing)
  • and possibly be enough to dig a well so that she and the boys can have clean drinking water

So I figured a little extra can’t hurt because maybe it will be that little extra that will get them a well for clean drinking water. Let’s hear it for clean drinking water! Yeah!

Then I bought me some heifers at Heifers.org. These bovines will be donated to families in need. And I also donated to the Seeds of Change in Arkansas and Appalachia through the Heifer.org website to help those families struggling in America.

And yes, I feel amazing! Tomorrow might not be about monetary donations but I am going to make sure I am generous in one way or another! You can still join in the fun by clicking here to pledge! You will be the one who gets the greatest gift! Pinky Swear!

Unwritten part 2………………..

If you would like to read part 1, it is here.

We saw so much in India that we had never seen before. Some of it was absolutely amazing – the history, the people, and the beautiful children with charcoal lines painted around their dark eyes to keep evil from peering at them.

But a lot of what we saw sank in our gut like a meal riddled with hidden poison, so scrumptious in the consuming, so vile in the digesting and all of it leaving you sick for days. In some of the scarier moments, we saw a man beaten at the zoo, blind children begging in the middle of the night and the middle of the street, and children simply unattended. We saw a hoard of men lunging with lead pipes in hand toward the driver of a car sitting in line at a tool booth.

Once, when my friends came to visit, our car was stopped by a group of men on a dusty side road in the middle of truly nowhere. Our driver got out of the car and I feared for him and selfishly feared what would happen to us if something happened to him.

More than once, I saw a dead body strewn across the side of the road and completely ignored.

It’s hard to reconcile that. The very nonchalant way that someone can distract herself from a human being lying forgotten on the side of the road. Sometimes covered. Sometimes not. There are no reporters dreaming of headlines. No crowds of people gathering and gasping in disbelief. Mostly just people moving on – or moving around – busy with their own way, barely glancing over to see what happened other than to avoid the inconvenience of it all.

I always wondered who was at home waiting. Who did care that someone had stopped breathing through no fault of his own? What story would the family have to create with the absence of a caring witness?

Most of these memories simply dissipate into the haze. They fade and lose their sense of reality. In fact, unless you were armed with stacks of my own words right in front of me, it might be hard to convince even me that some of it truly happened. It couldn’t. It wouldn’t. But wait, maybe it did.

In most of those situations, I was eager to avoid danger and remove myself completely from acknowledging that anything dreadful was going on. Usually my kids were with me and I was trying to distract them so I would not have too much to explain later. I could busy myself with keeping them safe by keeping them unaware.

Words always failed me in those tenuous situations. I didn’t understand the “why” of what was happening any more than my children could and never found the strength to make sense of the different scenarios for my kids. So, if they could be preoccupied with counting people on a bus or looking for camels – so be it.

But there is always a moment when you can no longer pretend that you live in a world where suffering doesn’t fall like rain. There is always a memory you cannot escape or deny.

It happened to me right after a few of my friends and I decided to venture deep into Old Delhi. One of the best memories I have from my time in India was tainted and stained by one of the worst.

Many westerners are hesitant to travel into Old Delhi. But we were having none of that. Old Delhi is alive with all that India is about. It is a fascinating and wonderful corner that is best explored with open eyes, an adventurous spirit, and an old pair of shoes that can be thrown away later.

My friends and I donned colorful dupattas (scarves) and climbed the steps to the Jama Masjid mosque and removed our shoes and rang the bell at the Jain Temple letting the gods know we were there. We visited our favorite jeweler and his family and spoiled ourselves with shiny trinkets. We laughed that our new jewels were really for our kids and our grandkids and that we would just hold them in safe keeping until they were mature enough to have them.

We felt humbled by the seriousness of the students study and chants and prayers in the Fatepuri Mosque. We inhaled the dust and braved the stares of the male-dominated Spice Market, where we dined on delicious raw cashews and pistachios as we watched men bathe in buckets.

We enjoyed the Sikhs bowing in reverence as they entered their Gurdwara and admired their dedication to feed those who are hungry. We relished the fact that just up the street of Chandni Chowk was also the home to a Baptist Church and a Jain bird sanctuary. All of the world’s major religions had a presence on that street and we boasted how wonderful that was.

We moved on to the famed Karims restaurant and laughed as we asked for our sodas in cans and paper plates for our food, brave enough to eat the food but not brave enough to eat it off of their potentially uncleaned plates.

It was one of those days where everything clicked. We learned, we laughed, and we wore ourselves out. Our glow grew with every stop – the spirituality, the friendship, and the jewelry.

On the way to the car, we continued to marvel at the sights, sounds, and smells of Old Delhi. The alleys were alive with crazy electrical wires hanging from every single building serving as balance beams for the monkeys who danced across them over our heads. We did our own dance over unknown splats on the crackling walkway and tried to identify what each might be. Ultimately, we decided some mysteries were better left unsolved.

We kept pace with the men and animals pushing and pulling carts and women covered in veils. Children coming home from school and merchants delivering their wares. Spices that made us sneeze a little, then gag. Brides shopping for invitations. Incense burning right around the corner from the used auto parts shop rich with its own smells of rubber and grease.

Old Delhi was vibrant in a way that my neighborhood in the Unites States never could be.  And whenever I visited this part of Delhi, I always tempted time by staying for just one minute more. There was forever a window that had not been seen before or a corner that had not yet been turned.

As time dripped away, we realized we had better hurry and bustled to the car in a little bit of a panic that we might be late for school pickup. We got in the car and immediately started calling the different school offices to be sure they knew we were on the way – explaining that just this time, we would be just a smidge later than normal. “Traffic is horrible,” we said and winked at each other while holding our hands just right so that our new rings reflected the sun streaming in the window.

As I was putting my phone down and sinking into my seat, I looked around at the busyness on the street. It was chaotic and endless. It was hard to pick out a single scene and soak it in.

But then just over to my left, a man came into focus. There was no reason, really, that I should be drawn to him. He was defined in the same dusty, brown haze as the foggy air that surrounded him. He wore a simple and stale, used-to-be-white robe and was standing in the middle of the road. In between traffic and blinks, he could have easily disappeared. He looked drunk and obviously wanted something. Help.

But it was not immediately obvious just how truly desperate he was. You can unfortunately and intentionally become numb to the desperation in India a little too quickly. Even with the biggest most generous heart, the realization that you simply cannot help everyone graciously lends you an excuse to ignore someone who is clearly struggling.

My friends were still on their phones and I am pretty certain that they never even saw what happened next. I do not know how my driver could have possibly missed it but he showered me with the gift of never discussing it.

As traffic slowed, the man in the middle of the road slowly began lifting the skirt of his tattered robe.

At first, I only saw his bare and wrinkled feet. His toes seemed to be bent in half from holding on too tightly to the melting asphalt. Then he revealed his far too skinny ankles. Followed by his knotted and bent knees. His skin was ashen and taut, stretched tightly over bones that were very likely brittle and deteriorating. They were bones that had probably never tasted milk. Maybe they had never even had the chance to be strong enough to allow him to hold up his slight frame with pride and determination. With hope.

It took me a few seconds to fully comprehend what he was doing. To really understand. To allow myself to believe I wasn’t just imagining it. But not enough time to distract myself from it. To delve into conversation and disappear.

With his skirt fully lifted, I finally realized what he was doing. This man had taken straw-colored raffia, or maybe it was old rope, and tied it around one of his testicles. His testicle had swollen to nearly the size of a basketball. He would lift his robe to show the passerbys how profoundly he needed help. Their help.

How are you supposed to respond to that? How do you digest that? How do you explain it? What are you supposed to do?

How do you say, from an air conditioned car with a full belly and new rings on your fingers, that you are not going to stop?

We drove away but I can never forget his face. His destruction.

This time I think I was so stunned that I could not act. Even if I had thought to empty my purse at his feet, I could not have done it. I was frozen. I never even turned my head away. Our eyes met as we were rolling away and he just looked at me as if to say, “Yes, my dear, you are seeing exactly what you think you are seeing and what are you going to do with it?”

I sat in disbelief that I totally and completely ignored a man who had intentionally mangled part of himself beyond all recognition. His marketing plan was to be the most disfigured – the most in need. And even that was not working.

I still am not quite sure what I am supposed to do with his image. I am not sure how to handle this experience. What to do with it.

Who really cares what this man across an ocean did. How does it relate to life here and now? I am not really sure. But I know I don’t want to forget it. Well, that will be easy enough because I cannot forget him.

But what now?

Through the Glass…………….

As soon as we knew we were moving to India, we made plans to take our cats with us.

Unfortunately, our one cat is diabetic and it really didn’t make sense for her to be on a plane for over 24 hours without access to water. I wrote a very fun resume for her when we were trying to find a place for her to live. If you want a chuckle, you can read it here. A lovely family adopted her while we were gone and spoiled her rotten.

We decided it would be very helpful for the kids to have their other two beloved furry siblings with them – and, not for nothing, someone else was going to be cleaning out the litter and wiping up the inevitable furball throw-up. Yeah. In case it’s not painfully obvious why that was awesome, you can catch up here.

Our first attempt to get the cats to India was a colossal fail. I do not heart United Airlines and if you want to be mad at them too, you can read about that here.

Now that you are all caught up on the history, let’s get back to the story.

Eventually, the cats made it all the way across that big ocean. Alive and well and very confused – kind of like the rest of us.

They settled in quickly and were very well cared for.

But our staffs initial reaction to them was hysterical. They could not believe that we had cats as pets. I should explain that cats aren’t really kept as pets in India. There are tons of stray cats on the streets but it is very rare for someone to actually bring them into their home, feed them, care for them, and make them a part of the family. To love them.

I guess it’s hard to worry about stray animals too much when there are so many stray humans without food and shelter.

Someone also told me that Indians consider cats to be bad luck. I cannot verify that, but it might be true.

Cats are so rare as pets that India does not even have a manufacturer of cat food – at least not one that delivers Indian cat food to any of the pet stores in Delhi –  there may not be an Indian dog food manufacturer either because most dogs are simply given table scraps. The only cat food I could find was imported and ridiculously expensive.

Good thing we brought, not one but two, very large cats who really like to eat.

When we first moved to India and lived in an apartment, the cats very rarely saw the light of day. But then number one hubby found us a house and the cats had access to glass doors at ground level. (We did not feel comfortable letting them actually go outside because there were hawks in the area and tons of stray dogs and cats.) Our cats seemed happy enough to just look outside and they immediately discovered that they were not alone in the world. That other cats lived just beyond that glass horizon.

The difference between our American house cats and the Indian stray cats was nothing short of amazing.

Ours – big and fat and shiny – not a scratch on them. Loved and cuddled. Not afraid of humans in the least. Not particularly fond of every single human, but not one tinsy tiny bit afraid of them. No front claws.

The strays – little bitty – boney – ears ripped – dusty and dull fur with patches missing – never touched by humans hands and terrified of people.  Their faces looked more alien than feline – too wide at the eyes and too narrow at the lips. And their bones nearly poked through their fur. They would never survive without their claws.

They did love our patio though. Largely because it always had a bowl of fresh water and some very expensive cat food on it. The shade from the scorching sun didn’t hurt either. And it was enclosed by a gate, so the dogs could not get in. I wonder if they felt safer in it. But I believe they must have been curious about our cats too.

They would sit and watch each other through the glass.

Part of our morning routine as humans was to put food in the bowls for the cats outside and watch them slink in and get breakfast. It was always fun to see who came first and we worried when one of them didn’t show up for a few days. We noticed who had new scratches and delighted when kittens arrived one morning. We counted them and named them and wondered if we could catch even one and bring it inside.

The pet store that carried the cat food and the cat litter I liked best was not very close to our house. So, I would often send our driver to pick up several packages of each.

This means that the cook, housekeeper, guard, gardener, driver, and the man on the moon all knew just how much money I was spending on these ridiculous creatures that pooped and threw up in the house. And I am sure they compared that to their own salaries and calculated in their own minds what they could do with that kind of money. To us, it wasn’t a hardship – but to them it could have been all the difference in a nicer house or better schools for their kids.

I am not sure why I am stuck on the thought of all of this. How anorexic the stray cats looked compared to our literal fat cats. How the staff must have been fascinated and miffed by the resources we dedicated to them.

One day, our cook was finally able to say out loud what he must have been thinking for months….

Francis: Ma’am, why do you feed the outside cats such expensive food
Me: They look so hungry
Francis: They will eat your leftover rice
Me: I guess that never occurred to me. Let’s try it.
Francis: Duh.

We did try it. And those cats had grown too accustomed to the the tastiness of the meat flavored cat food. They merely picked at the rice.

Francis was not about to be outsmarted by a street cat. He started adding leftover gravy to the rice. They were happy once again.

One of the things that struck me was that those stray cats never got any fatter. They knew what “full” meant and never seemed to gorge themselves.

I guess that is what was hardest about helping others in India. It was easy to feel taken advantage of. To feel like generosity was expected. Those cats came and took only what they needed and left the rest for the next cat who might pass by.

But now that I am once again an ocean away from the struggles of so many, I am left to wonder why I didn’t do more. How I might better define the lines of graciousness that I was willing to tiptoe around but never fully cross over. I am not sure there is an answer but I am sure I will always question why those of us with too much (including myself) aren’t more generous to those with much too little.

Let’s Stop the Snack Madness………..

I have been trying to figure out a way to be more helpful to others and I think I might have figured out a small little way to make a difference.

It will relieve stress on parents, address childhood obesity and pollution in America, and possibly feed some hungry children in the world. Sounds good, right?

If you have ever had a child in a rec sport, then you probably already know where I am going with this. But in case you don’t, let me ‘splain.

Take little Suzy Quzy. She’s 8 and she loves soccer. It’s Saturday and she has a 10am game.

Her mom gives her a good breakfast because she has a game. She’s going to need the energy. Suzy goes to the game and warms up. During warm ups, she drinks some of the water from one of the tw0 bottles of water that she brought with her. Then she plays about 15 minutes of soccer.

During half-time Suzy’s mom comes running across the field with oranges slices. She is slightly frantic because half time is such a short period of time to give out a snack. There is real pressure here to make sure everyone has a snack. Seriously, the children might actually starve because they have not had anything to eat in the last 45 minutes. Those aren’t airplanes people, they are grumblies in their tummies.

And not for nothin’, these kids better love these oranges. Afterall, Suzy’s mom went to two grocery stores to get oranges because they didn’t look great at the first one (where they had been on sale because it’s not really orange season and they are expensive, so a sale sounded good). And there was traffic. Jeez Louise the traffic. It took her an extra 20 minutes to get home. Now she is running late. She yelled at her kids to leave her alone because she had to get these oranges sliced for the game. She cut her finger because her husband tickled her when he walked by. The sheer nerve of that man. Now he is in trouble. Suzy cannot find her soccer cleats but mom cannot help because she is slicing oranges.

While the coach is talking, Suzy’s mom sees that most of the kids don’t have oranges. Suzy’s mom really wants everyone to know there are orange slices. So while the coach is talking, she is weaving in and out of the kids just to be sure everyone knows there are oranges. Oh, and diaper wipes. She wants to make sure no one plays soccer with sticky hands. That is critical to soccer play because – fyi – you don’t even use your hands in soccer but, sure, it is probably better if they are not sticky.

During half time about three kids have one orange slice each. But one of the players has a three-year-old brother who just loves oranges, especially when they are sliced and bought (out of season) by someone else. So, deflated, Suzy’s mom gives him the bag of oranges and he plays with eats them with very dirty hands. The husband is wondering why they just spent $20 on oranges but he is way too smart to say it out loud. He compliments his beautiful bride on having the best snack ever. Oh, yeah, those diaper wipes kicked it up a notch. How is it possible that no one had thought of that before?

The kids open their second water bottle because they cannot figure out which ones are their original bottles. There are 8 bottles on the ground, all only half empty. But, they can’t drink out of those because they might catch a real-life cootie. Don’t laugh, I have seen it happen and it ain’t pretty.

Finally, the kids finish up their soccer game. Another frantic parent comes over with a peanut-free, glutten-free, and dairy-free end-of-game snack and another drink. They must be famished by now.  Holy cow, it’s been an entire hour and a half since they have had a proper meal. Yeah, Suzy’s mom thought she was all hot stuff with those exotic, organic orange slices, but we see where those ended up – abandoned and alone in the dirt.

The kids forget both of their original water bottles and suck down a juice box. And honestly, they are glad to have another drink. At this point, water is so two hours ago. Now each child has 3 bottles of trash. Only one of which will actually be claimed. The rest of the bottles nearly filled with perfectly good water get left on the field. Along with some  orange slices formerly known as perfectly good. The kids all open their snacks but it’s not one they are crazy about (maybe because peanut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free snacks actually taste like cardboard) so they don’t eat it. The overachieving mom brings a trash bag to pick up all the leftover pieces – take that Suzy’s mom – diaper wipes indeed. But a lot of trash still gets left on the field.

Oh, wait, the coach has one more announcement. It’s Stephie’s birthday. Everyone sing and there are cupcakes. And boy, are they cute. Another fyi, the cuter the cupcake, the more likely it is to go uneaten. Kids love looking at them, but if it’s too complicated, eating them very quickly becomes not-so-much.

More trash is created by the cupcake wrapper and one-bite-taken-out-of-cupcakes.

Suzy’s family gets home exhausted. And Suzy’s mom announces, “It’s lunchtime!” They are having fruit salad with dirt dressing. However, Dad is not hungry. He has already had a really cute cupcake and a half of a bag of cardboard.

I therefore propose that if your child really cannot go an hour and a half without eating, plan ahead. Bring them a snack. One that is safe for them and that they like and that they will actually eat. And the parent responsible for snacks can take the $50 s/he would have spent on snacks and drinks and donate it to the World Hunger Organization or their local church or local food bank or whatever – you get the point.

Really hungry children would get the resources they are truly desperate for, husbands would once again be allowed to tickle their wives, moms could help their children find their soccer cleats without cut fingers, kids wouldn’t overeat as much, fields would have less trash, and the list goes on. I am not sure what to do about the little brother who really likes playing with expensive orange slices in the dirt, but hey, Rome was not built in a day.

Kohl’s Cares – Another Scholarship Opportunity…….

I did not know this but apparently every year Kohl’s recognizes and rewards young volunteers (ages 6-18) across the country for their amazing contributions to their communities. This year they are recognizing more than 2,100 kids with more than $415,000 in scholarships and prizes. Listed below are the rules taken directly from their website. If you think you would like to nominate someone (and you can nominate your own children), please, please, please do not just rely on what is written here. Check out their website.

Official Rules For Kohl’s Cares®
Scholarship Program

Eligibility: No purchase necessary. Students eligible for nomination (“Students”) for the Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program (“Program”) must be legal U.S. residents of a state in which a Kohl’s store is located. Students must be between the ages of 6 and 18 and not yet a high school graduate as of March 15, 2011. Each Student must be nominated by someone age 21 years or older. Parents may nominate their own children. Associates of Kohl’s Department Stores, Inc. (“Kohl’s”) and/or Associates’ immediate family members may not nominate their children or minor dependents. Kohl’s Associates may nominate non-related children who are not members of the Associates’ household. For purposes of this Program, “immediate family members” include the Associate’s parents, children, spouse and other members of the Associate’s household who are declared also as dependents on the Associate’s federal income tax return. Employees of Scholarship Management Services and its respective affiliates may not participate in this Program.

Students who were a prior Kohl’s Cares® regional or national scholarship recipient are not eligible to win a scholarship under the 2011 Program.

Nominations: Nomination forms may only be completed and submitted at www.kohlskids.com beginning at 8 a.m. CST, February 1, 2011. Forms must be submitted and
signed electronically (by typing your name) by a nominator who is 21 years or older no later than 11:59 p.m. CST, March 15, 2011. One nomination form should be submitted per Student. Nomination forms containing multiple names will not be accepted. One nominator may nominate multiple Students by submitting multiple nomination forms each containing a unique email address. All sections of the nomination form must be completed.

Nominations should describe how the Student has contributed to the community in a meaningful way by performing volunteer services that helped non-family members.
The volunteer activity must have occurred within the last 12 months (March 15, 2010–March 15, 2011). Financial need or academic performance will not be considered in
the review and selection of winners.

Kohl’s and Scholarship Management Services shall not be responsible for misdirected, incomplete or late nomination forms. All nominations become property of Kohl’s and Scholarship Management Services and will not be returned or acknowledged. Additional information about a Student and/or documentation may be requested by Kohl’s or Scholarship Management Services. To remain eligible, parents must provide all reasonably requested documentation and information upon Kohl’s or Scholarship Management Services’ request.

As a supporter of equal opportunity, Kohl’s will work with Scholarship Management Services to distribute awards to minority students on a basis at least proportionate to the number of known minority Students nominated.

See below to learn more about the Nomination process.

Awards: Nomination forms will be separated into two age groups: ages 6-12 and ages 13-18. Kohl’s plans to recognize one Student from each age group as a store winner
for each Kohl’s store. Store winners will receive a $50.00 Kohl’s Gift Card. Additionally, over two hundred $1,000 regional scholarship awards for postsecondary education are planned, half to each age group. Ten $9,000 national scholarships for postsecondary education will be awarded, five to each age group. Since a national winner is also a regional winner, the total scholarship amount for national winners is $10,000 each. In addition, Kohl’s donates $1,000 to a non-profit organization on behalf of each national winner.

Notification: Store winners will be notified in May 2011. Regional winners will be notified in June 2011. National winners will be notified in July 2011.
Non-recipients and nominators will not be notified.

Recipients Claiming Scholarships: All recipients will be required to sign and return a Publicity Release/Acceptance Form as a condition of receiving a gift card and/or
scholarship. Scholarship redemption is subject to recipient submitting verification of full-time enrollment in an undergraduate program at an accredited two-year or four-year college, university or vocational/technical school (a “Qualifying Institution”). In the event a recipient does not graduate from high school or does not enroll in a Qualifying Institution within two years after high school graduation, the scholarship will be forfeited. All scholarship recipients may be subject to a criminal background check.

Scholarship Restrictions: Scholarship awards must be used for educational expenses at a Qualifying Institution. These expenses may include tuition, fees, room
and board, books and supplies, transportation and other miscellaneous education related expenses. Scholarships will be paid in one installment in September and
will be mailed to each recipient’s home address payable to the school for the student.

Awards are one time only and are not renewable. No substitutions or transfers are permitted. Limit one award per household per year.
Nomination Form and Process: Visit www.kohlskids.com and click on “Nominate a Kid.” You will need to read and agree to an online Consent and register as a nominator.
During the nomination process, you will be able to leave the site by clicking on the Save and Log out button located on any application page. To return, you must enter the
username and password you entered when registering for your nomination account.

Correspondence to nominators will be via email only; check your email regularly. You must provide a valid email address that accepts bulk email. To ensure delivery of messages, add kohls@scholarshipamerica.org to your contacts, email address book or safe senders list.

Nominators may wish to gather the following information before beginning the nomination process:
• Information about the Student: Including full name, address, age, birth date, phone number and current grade in school.
• Information about the project: Including items collected, money raised, time spent, number of people affected, outcome of the project and general project description.

Nominators are solely responsible for submitting in English all information necessary for the nomination process. Nominations found to be incomplete as of the nomination deadline will not be processed. No faxed or mailed nomination materials will be accepted. No email attachments are allowed.

All information submitted is considered confidential and is reviewed only by Scholarship Management Services, Kohl’s partner in managing the Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship
Program. Information about selected Students will be provided to Kohl’s for purposes of verification of eligibility, demographic research, publicity and recipient communication.

Carefully review your nomination before submission. All pages must be completed and entered in the format described in order to electronically submit the form. Standard capitalization must be used when entering data. Once the nomination is submitted, your nomination account will be closed and no revisions can be made. The nomination must be submitted electronically by 11:59 p.m. CST, March 15, 2011. A confirmation email will be sent once you’ve electronically submitted your nomination.

Additional Terms: Taxes on awards of any kind are the sole responsibility of the recipients. By participating, the nominators and Students agree:
(1) to these Official Rules and all decisions of Kohl’s and Scholarship Management Services which shall be final in all respects;
(2) to the use of their names, photos, likenesses, video, and/or images in any media, including without limitation on the internet and in social media, for advertising, promotional and publicity purposes in relation to this program without prior written consent or compensation where legal and subject to a signed Publicity Release/Acceptance Form; and
(3) to release, discharge and hold harmless Kohl’s, Scholarship Management Services, and their respective subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, directors, and employees, from any and all claims or damages arising out of, in any way, their participation in this program.
(4) Kohl’s reserves the right to cancel, suspend or extend the Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program at any time, with or without notice. Scholarship Management Services and Kohl’s reserve the right to interpret these rules and to make all decisions concerning the award, acceptance, and use of scholarships in situations not covered by these Rules.

Questions?
Contact us:
Email: kohls@scholarshipamerica.org
Call: 1-507-931-1682 and ask for Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program
Write:
Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program
Scholarship Management Services
One Scholarship Way
Saint Peter, MN 56082

Hey Mr. Big Shot………..

Ryan Lochte recently came to our area. If you are asking who that is – you have come to the wrong blog. 😎

Really, you don’t know? Yikes. He is an amazing swimmer who has recently beaten Michael Phelps. Yep, he is a big deal.

Not only is he a rock star athlete – he is a tad bit good looking. And, yes, I am fully aware that I am old enough to be his mother. Don’t worry, I didn’t make a move on him – poor number one hubby is still stuck with me – I just noticed that he has some assets in the looks department, that’s all.

He is also apparently quite the philanthropist. He has raised a good bit of money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Plus he was not obnoxious at all. He seemed really low key and his was even willing to take pictures with old ladies. He even smiled so as to not let on what torture it really was. tee hee.

I thanked him for being such a good role model of just how well hard work can pay off and I told him he was very fun to watch in the water (no kidding, right) and then I told him to remember on those tough days that he is inspiring kids to get better. Flower is sure he is going to quote “that mom from NoVa” when his wins his next gold medal. It might be swimming, but I won’t hold my breath. 😉 Bear was just extremely thankful that he wasn’t there to see me embarrass myself him.

The Golden Temple Continued…………..

I don’t think I am overstating it when I say that Ann, Julia, and I were in awe of the Golden Temple. It is a peaceful place with such a spirit of community about it. None of us really knew too much about the Sikh faith and we walked away absolutely in love with its ideals.

The fact that they have such a commitment to reach out to those in need is amazing. Our guide told us that, beyond each gurudwara having a kitchen to feed those who are hungry,  the Golden Temple also sponsors between 200 and 300 young women each year for their weddings. They select girls who cannot afford dowries and the temple sponsors them. (And, yes, it would be great to get rid of the whole dowry system but it is a reality and every year hundreds of girls can get married who might not have without the temple’s help.)

Another lovely aspect of Sikhism is that they do not believe in the caste system – every one is equal. Someone told me once that every Sikh has Singh in their name and that Singh means lion. I was also told it means brother, signifying that they are all connected to each other. This concept was in practice at the Golden Temple. So many people come to volunteer their time and they all seemed pretty happy about it. (By the by, supposedly the women all have Kaur in their name which means princess. I could totally get used to that. Just call me Princess A Reason To Write.)

The Sikhs have some lovely cornerstone ideas for their faith. According to Wikipedia, there are 10 beliefs in Sikhism. They are:

1. Believe in one God.
2. Treat everyone equally.
3. Live by the 3 main tenets –
Practice constant meditation and prayer.
Make an honest income and do it honorably.
Share earnings and selflessly serve others.
4. Avoid the 5 sins of ego
Pride, Lust, Greed, Anger, and Attachment
5. Get baptized.
6. Keep the code of honor by abiding the gurus teachings.
7. Wear the 5 symbols of faith:
uncut hair, wooden comb, dagger, proper undergarments, silver bracelet.
8. Follow the 4 commandments:
Do not dishonor the creator’s intention by cutting the hair.
Do not harm the body with tobacco or other intoxicants.
Do not eat sacrificial meat.
Do not commit adultery.
9. Recite prayers daily
10. Take part in fellowship
Worship together and sing God’s praise.
Cook and eat together.
Serve each other.

Sometimes things just don’t make sense until you hear and see them first hand. I never really understood the whole growing the hair thing, honestly. But now I totally get it. If God meant for hair to grow – let it grow. It seems very symbolic of really turning things over to God. I am not going to stop shaving my legs but I totally get it!

And this is it – the Golden Temple. It is beautiful.  The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak whose father wanted to raise him according to strict Hindu beliefs.  However, Guru Nanak rejected the idea of the caste system and preached that all humans were equal. He believed that life was given as an opportunity to get closer to God and that all humans were afforded that same opportunity.

Sikhism is said the be the youngest of the world’s religions. It is only 500 years old. But the Sikhs have reportedly already grown into the world’s fifth largest religious group. The word Sikh means disciple. Guru comes from two words – Gu meaning darkness and Ru meaning light. So a guru helps fellow believers turn darkness into light. It is estimated that there are about 26 million Sikhs in the world.

Guru Nanak was the first Guru and 9 others followed behind him. The last human Guru was Gobind Singh and he named the holy scriptures as the 11th and final guru – the Adi Granth which then became known as the Guru Granth Sahib. There are over 50 places throughout the temple where passages from the holy book are continuously being read. We were told that priests can wait up to 20 years to have their turn at reading scripture at this Temple. We were also told that women can be priests and are able to take part in the readings. Equality reigns.

The temple is an active place of worship and people of all faiths are welcome there. We saw Muslims, Hindus, and even Christians in reverent prayer throughout the temple. We even bowed our own heads in silent meditation when we sat a top the Golden Temple and listened to the prayers. The atmosphere was remarkably reflective and we felt so much a part of the worship ceremony. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of any part inside the actual Golden Temple but it probably really is better if you just imagine a light breeze blowing thru a picture perfect sky, us on our knees with eyes closed with hands in our laps, our hearts beating slowly, prayers humming in the air, and everyone quiet together except for the very young child playing with the donations box. Normal Rockwell would have painted it for sure.

At first I felt a little uncomfortable taking the spot of someone who practiced Sikhism on the floor in front of the priest reading the scripture. But our guide reassured us over and over that people of all beliefs are welcome at the temple not only as visitors but as active participants. And I must say I felt very comfortable there.

I also noticed that many of the worshipers would touch the base of the doorway as they entered the Golden Temple complex and any of the smaller areas inside. So I did that too. I am not sure what it represents but it seemed very respectful and reverent. And people also fell to their knees when they entered the temple. You could tell some of them just could not believe they were actually finally there.

The day was truly magical. Our hearts opened to a faith we were not familiar with and stereotypes of brutes came crashing down. Beneath the warrior persona lives men who are compassionate about humanity and dedicated to their faith.

And, if you go to the Golden Temple during the day, make sure you go back at night. You will not regret it.

Over 100,000 served daily……………

Wouldn’t that be fun if that was the number of people who read my blog everyday? Alas, it is not.  In fact, a year and a half into this great blog adventure, I am barely approaching 100k visitors. One hundred thousand is the number of people that are served free food every single day at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. I did not realize until this trip that every single Sikh Temple (Gurudwara) has a kitchen to feed anyone who comes there to eat. No one who is hungry is turned away. That is amazing. I only have to feed five people and sometimes I struggle with that – and I have a cook. Yikes.

I had heard so much about the magnificence of the Golden Temple – the highest of all Sikh Temples – and was thrilled Ann and Julia were up for the trip. They survived the overnight train and we all really enjoyed Amritsar.

Everyone who enters the Golden Temple must cover their head (yep, the men too), remove their shoes, and wash their feet. Because the water was in a marble basin area, I thought it was going to be freezing – but it was delightfully warm.

These guards stand watch and I believe they know the history of the Golden Temple and are also meant to help anyone with questions.

The name Amritsar means “nectar of mortality” and the man-made lake around the Golden Temple is thought to be filled with immortal nectar. While we were visiting the temple, we saw many men bathing in the water, drinking the water, and/or placing droplets of water on their heads. The women have their own section that is in a building to ensure their privacy and so that crazy bloggers won’t take their picture and post them on the internet for all the world to see.

You might notice that these men have daggers in their turbans. Many Sikh men carry with them 5 things that symbolize their allegiance to the Sikh faith. These things are known as the 5 Ks and they are:

Kesh is uncut hair on the head and body, symbolizing acceptance of God’s will. Apparently more contemporary Sikh’s do not necessarily follow this rule.
Kachh is a white cotton undergarment. It is practical in battle, and therefore symbolizes moral strength and chastity.
Kara is a steel bracelet symbolizing responsibility and allegiance to God. It is also my understanding that the bracelet can protect the owner’s wrist in battle and is a constant reminder to do the right thing – the hand shall not be used for any wrong-doing.
Kangha
is a wo0den comb that represents personal care and cleanliness. Plastic combs cannot be used because they are more likely to pull out hairs.
Kirpan is a steel dagger, a symbol of resistance against evil and defense of truth.

Every Sikh is asked to do all that they can to make a pilgrimage to the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) at least once in their lifetime. And the temple receives 200,000 visitors each day. To accommodate those traveling to the Golden Temple, there is an entire building with rooms for sleeping and the most unbelievable soup kitchen I have ever seen. Both of which are free to visitors. These are just some of the plates.

I know some of my germ-o-phobic friends are thinking Holy Swine Flu, Batman, how many hands are touching those plates. But each plate, cup, and all utensils are washed 5 times before they are put back into rotation. The temple has 3,000 volunteers who come everyday to help out.

I think this might have been the dahl.

This is the main dining hall. You bring an empty plate and sit on the floor and you can have as many helpings as you would like.

Julia asked if we could help out and they put us to work making chapatis. The woman helping me just shook her head and laughed (a lot). I don’t think I will be opening a chapati stall anytime soon. They were all crooked and uneven. I finally got up when I realized she could make 10 chapatis in the time she was “helping” me make one. I was way dumbin’ her way, way down. But I would sincerely argue that it was difficult to keep my big arse scarf out of the way – they should really just consider hair nets. 😉 Julia was much, much better at it. They were actually sad to see her go.

After we made handmade chapatis for the masses, they showed us this machine that can make something like 3,000 chapatis an hour.

There are some things at the temple that are supposed to bring you good luck. One is if fish swim up to where you are standing. Notice 3 fish – 3 friends. That was lovely.

Then this blackbird landed on the branch while we were standing nearby. There was only one bird, but we took three pictures of it just in case.

And then there is this tree. It is the jubi tree and was planted by the first head priest over 450 years ago. It is believed to have very special powers and women who do not have children tie a ribbon on it for good luck. (Please do not even ask me if we tied ribbons.) It still grows fruit but no one is allowed to pick it. It is simply amazing to me that this tree is older than the United States.

This post is getting much longer than I thought it would be so I am going to say goodbye for now and finish up tomorrow. Nite nite.

Sit on your b.u.t.t. for Life………..

Yesterday I posted about the Walk for Life happening in Delhi on Sunday, February 7th. I am sure some of you pulled out those calendars and marked the date, got your tennis shoes out, rallied friends and neighbors, and probably even went for a quick warm-up lap around the block. Heck, you probably have your pledge sheet completely filled out. (Show off. ) For the rest of us, not so much.

If you are anything like me, this things are great in t.h.e.o.r.y. Signing up is easy – it is a certainly a cause that has affected all of us in one way or the other – and it even sounds like fun.

But what if…
I am tired that day
A child is sick that day
It starts too early
It starts too late
I need to wash my hair
It’s raining
It’s not raining
It’s hot
It’s cold
It’s crowded
The sky really is falling
and on, and on, and on…..

Some of you even thought you were off the hook because the 8,000 mile commute is just a tad too much of a commitment. Nay-sayers.

Well, have I got the solution for you. While some of the less sane more dedicated among us Walk for Life, (there is even talk of some over-achievers people Running for Life – whatever), the rest of us can Sit on Our B.u.t.t.s. for Life.

There is a way to make a difference from that chair you are sitting in right now.

Log on to the payment gateway in the CanSupport website: www.cansupport.org or www.walkforlifeindia.org .

There are no two ways about it. Cancer is awful and we all know just how bad it can get – parents lose children, children lose parents, loved ones lose loved ones. Families suffer. Friends suffer. Strangers suffer. It stinks.

Unfortunately, many, many Cancer patients in India are left completely without any medical, psychological, and family support – they are left to battle in the fight of their lives without any help at all. In a word, they are often abandoned by their family, their friends, and their country. It is devastating to hear the diagnosis of Cancer and it is unfathomable that someone would have to face it alone. But that is just what happens. Families are overwhelmed as much by the cost of cancer treatments as by the stigma associated with the diagnosis. So they simply step back and retreat.

And even though early detection can mean all the difference in survival, most cancers in India are discovered much too late for effective treatment. People here have just not had the opportunity to learn enough about the disease to prevent it and fight it.

So CanSupport steps in and helps where others cannot or simply will not. They educate, they coordinate, and they hold hands and hearts.

So yes, even from that comfy chair, you can make a difference. I do have my tennis shoes on but I am ready to use the keyboard if I trip on my laces standing up. 😉

P.S. And I promise not to bug you about this again – have no fear, my blog is not turning into a Jerry Lewis Telethon – but unless you are buying pashmina scarfs or carpets, a little bit of money goes a long way in India. You truly have the chance here to ease someone’s suffering without sacrificing too much yourself. Thanks for thinking about it!

Walk for life……..

THE WALK FOR LIFE IS in Delhi ON SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7th

Come WALK and make a difference in someone’s life.

Join CanSupport’s ”WALK FOR LIFE” and

STRIDE against Cancer down Shantipath,

on Sunday, February 7th at 9am.

Register early on the website, www.cansupport.org or

Registration desks will be at ACSA, AES, The British School, WHO, Khan Mkt, The French School, The Am Center and more…  the last week of Jan & first week of Feb

WALK on your own or form a group with family and friends.

RUN ahead of the Walkers with a new running club called “RUNNINGANDLIVING”.

Registration Fees are: Rs.250/- for adults and

Rs.100/- for students with a valid ID.

There is no fee for children below 12 years of age.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE- WALK FOR LIFE!

For more information or to Volunteer please contact:

Catherine Bali

natcatbali@aol.com

All CanSupport Services are free and aimed at the less privileged.