The Boys in the Boat

A friend recently told me, “You have to read this book!” And she was referring to The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. It’s a work of nonfiction and both this friend and I are crazy about this genre. We inhale the stuff- I might have mentioned this ad nauseum in other posts, sorry about repetition.

From internet

From internet

Anyway, Brown recently wrote about Seattle’s opening day tradition, where the boats take to the water and celebrate the beginning of the boating season. I was inspired by his little snippet of information about the UW rowing crew who made it to the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany (which his book is based on). These boys could not afford to fly over to Germany and would have had to cede their place to the second-ranked (and wealthier) Pennsylvania University.

Brown writes:

But that night, phones began to ring all over Seattle. Ulbrickson [the UW coach] and the Washington press contingent — Royal Brougham of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and George Varnell of The Seattle Times — began placing calls back home and composing headlines for the morning editions of their papers. By the next morning, committees had been formed. By that afternoon hundreds of students and citizens were out on the streets of Seattle selling paper badges for 50 cents apiece. Donations began to come in from businesses and individuals: $1 from a donor who wished to remain anonymous, $5 from the Hide-Away-Beer Parlor; $500 from The Seattle Times.

By the time another 24 hours passed, the effort had raised $5,000 and the boys were good to go to Germany. But only because the citizens of Seattle stood up and said, “Yes they will go.”

It was, as someone pointed out to me recently, an example of Seattle’s 12th Man in action before Seattle even had a professional football team. Or, perhaps more aptly, as there are nine men or women in an eight-oar shell, it was Seattle’s 10th Man in action.  Whatever you care to call it, it was a sterling moment in Seattle’s history, an extraordinary outpouring of civic pride.

Now that’s philanthropy in action!

I can’t wait to read his book!


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May 6: A National Day of Giving

From internet

From internet

Next week, on May 6, the national day of giving, you may decide you want to donate to an organization. That can be overwhelming. In this latest Parentmap articleI give tips on how to choose an organization.

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Boston Strong: How Two Words Helped Raise $1 Million

This morning, I was at the gym getting my rare CNN fix (Hey, it’s news! At least I am expanding my horizons and not watching some lame tv series.). The Boston Marathon was happening today and there was a segment about the one-year anniversary of the bombings. Three Emerson college students, Chris Dobens, Lane Brenner, and Nicholas Reynolds, wanted to do something to help their city heal from such a devastating attack. They decided to put the term “Boston Strong” on t-shirts and sell them for $20. And to date, they have raised over $1 million. The money will be donated to the One Fund Boston.


I loved what Chris Dobens said when he was interviewed for an article written last year: “Now I really want to go into marketing for nonprofit organizations. I’ve never been this happy in my life. I’m helping people who really need it and meeting people who want to help. That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life—help people.”


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A few inspiring happenings…

Well, after that last downer post, I have something more uplifting to say! There’s been a couple cool things I have been inspired by:

  • Last night after we ate out for dinner and were on our way to my son’s school play, we got stuck at an exit getting off of the highway. There was a man holding a small, battered sign that said one simple word: “Food”. As I passed him, Shiori (the Japanese student who is living with us) and I both looked down at our leftover packaged food, then looked at each other. She suddenly gave me her food and in that moment we made a split second decision to hand it over. I opened my window and called out to him but he did not hear me. So close and yet so far– I thought the moment had passed. I tried once more and gave a great bellow, “Hey, Sir!” and he turned and saw me waving vigorously (luckily the traffic was still deadlocked). He ambled over to us and I handed him the meals and said, “Enjoy!”His face broke out into a huge smile and he said, “Oh thank you, God Bless You!” I felt goosebumps break out all over. There was this incredible high that whooshed right through me, much like being on a zipline hurtling a gazillion miles per hour towards a very big and unmoving post at the other end.
  • An acquaintance from middle school posted on facebook: “Day 365/365 of exercise”. Yup, that meant that every single day she exercised– whether it was walking, going to the gym, riding her bike, etc. Some plusses for her: she gets up early in the morning to exercise, her two kids are a bit older (teenagers), and on weekends she spends time exercising WITH them– nature walks, hikes, bike rides… Exercise really helps me in a major way, in terms of productivity, a healthy outlook, and just a better quality of life! Her accomplishment has gotten me thinking hard about this sort of goal– I really love goals and deadlines like this. Problem is, I am not a morning person before 6 am. Maybe it is time to be! I can feel that old determination creeping back in. Gotta do something like this.


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The Healing Power of a Community During a Crisis

I’ve been in a reflective mood lately.

There’s been too much death and dying all at once in the past few weeks. First, the disappearance of that Malaysian flight, the news that my 83-year-old uncle is dying from kidney failure, the landslide in Oso, WA, and on the same day as that landslide, the death of a man my age who lives nearby, in a skiing accident.

While that landslide was just unspeakably horrible (a close friend of mine had just traveled that road a mere 24 hours earlier) and the impending death of my uncle is very sad, the death of this man actually really hit me hard.

I’ve only met him once or twice and I was in a preschool cooperative with his wife for a short time. She made us a meal when my son was born- and this was eight years ago. And I see her, a friendly presence, from time to time around town. And Seattle is a small town– so many people I know from my neighborhood and other social circles have known him.

All I can think of is:

  • It can happen to any one of us at any time.
  • Life is short. And every day is precious.
  • I can’t imagine what she must be going through, with two young children. I really feel for her, this acquaintance of mine.
  • I don’t know them well at all, but I wonder how I can help. I want to pay it forward with a meal- hers was incredibly sustaining so soon after my delivery.
  • How can I strengthen my own community so that I have people to lean on when and if times get tough?

Ok, at the very least, I can do a meal for her. I looked online, found a website dedicated to his memory, and there were signups for bringing the family a meal. But it was completely full, through June! Luckily there was an email contact on the form, so I sent an email asking if I could bring a meal later, when the support starts to thin out as it will at some point. The response was, yes, that would be great, and that one of the family’s neighbors was a chef and would be making them regular meals on Tuesdays.


And apparently, there were 1000 people or more at this man’s memorial service this past weekend. From what I have heard and seen, the family has an incredible community of people supporting them. Isn’t that what we all need? To have people in our lives who care about us and support us when times are tough and vice versa? Absolutely, yes.

Credit: Detroit Jewish News

Credit: Detroit Jewish News

In the end, you are still alone in your private grief, especially if you have just lost your best friend, partner, lover, and as his wife said, “tour guide through life”. But I think all the love and support from this community will help her get through this grieving period more easily.

I hope I have that rock of support when I need it.


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Foster Care and the Power of Storytelling

Daniel Bryson-Beane, 13 and Ashlyn Bryson-Beane, 10. Credit: Jane G. Photography

Daniel Bryson-Beane, 13 and Ashlyn Bryson-Beane, 10. Credit: Jane G. Photography

My first post of the spring! It made me feel great and I hope you enjoy it too.

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Thinking about Difficult Topics

Wow, February just flew by!

It has been a wet, rainy month here. My writing has gone into hibernation!  My storytelling class just ended and I am feeling a bit bereft – – we had a great, supportive group. I’m determined to get back into the creative groove though.

I’ve been thinking a lot about topics that are hard to talk about or take courage to share. First, I went to a great fundraising luncheon for Amara, which helps to place foster children into adoptive homes. The hour-long program was so powerful and I was impressed at how effectively the organization presented the stories of the people who were impacted by the work. Speakers shared intensely personal stories about being foster children themselves. I’ll write a post about this for Parentmap soon.

Also, a friend wrote a great piece about sex in a marriage, which I thought was brave and incredibly open.  It’s great to have pieces like that to sort of jar you into thinking about the important stuff of relationships. I don’t think I could ever have the courage to talk about something so personal– which is something I struggle with in this blog. People have told me I can be a little too factual, much like a journalist reporting on a story, and I’ve been urged to go a little deeper into how I am feeling about a subject.

Thanks, Brene Brown!

Thanks, Brene Brown!

Finally, Oscar season came and went. I’m a HUGE movie fan and there’s nothing I love better than watching a movie on DVD, curled up under the blanket with popcorn. I decided this year I was going to try and see as many of the best picture-nominated movies as I could. Usually I am lucky if I get to see even one, maybe two each year. I ended up seeing more than half of the nominated 9 pictures and get this, I did this all within a month+. See, that’s probably why I haven’t been posting.

Anyway, where am I going with this? Oh, of the five I saw, I was most affected by Twelve Years a Slave. I just knew it would get best picture and was a little hopeful that Chiwetel Ejiofor would get best actor. I didn’t see Dallas Buyer’s Club and from what I understand, Matthew McConaughey, the best actor winner, underwent an incredible transformation in that movie. And character development is hugely important to be an Oscar contender, I think. And yay for Lupita Nyong’o for winning best supporting actress. That woman gave an absolutely powerful performance and her acceptance speech was superb.

Twelve Years a Slave is a movie that everyone should see- my stepdaughter was adamant about that and now I understand why. It’s a part of our history, which we often don’t speak of or acknowledge. At first, I was skittish about seeing it because I knew there would be some hard parts to watch. And that’s exactly why people should see it- to understand and feel in some minuscule way that slavery was pure hell. After I saw it, I was left with a feeling of something akin to outrage– that I lived in a country that allowed slavery to even exist. That allowed people to be treated so inhumanely.

This video clip of the movie moved me the most:

My daughter was curious about why it affected me and I explained that this scene was a turning point for Solomon (the slave character Ejiofor plays) because although he is oppressed, he remembers he still has his faith in God.

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