Friday, November 18, 2011

From New Year's to Thanksgiving: And what to do in-between

As I'm sitting here on this crisp, sunny day sipping Millstone pumpkin coffee and nibbling Andrew's homemade chocolate chip cookies, I'm thinking..."so much for my public service blog!" (That thought actually came after the one about how charmed a life I'm living, even as a broke student).

But I don't plan on giving up. I've actually had a semester rich with great stories, enlightening moments, kickbacks to reality, and trying times. I just haven't put the words to the screen. But, like any good New Year's resolution, it's never too late to start again, and it's not necessary to wait until Jan-one either.

My first instinct was to list the highlights since September, and then slowly fill in the details with flashback blogs. But then, it makes much more sense to look forward at this moment in time. There's so much to look forward to!

TOMORROW, November 19, 2011
10th annual World Toilet Day celebration!! Why should you celebrate? In most cases, clean toilets come before computers. So, if you're able to read this, then you're probably able to answer the call of nature in a well-equipped, sanitary place. Imagine- while you're reading the newspaper over your pretty porcelain, up to 2.6 billion people are defecating in conditions that are less than sanitary. I don't mean to be crude nor do I want to make light of the situation. The point of World Toilet Day is to wipe away taboos and take a stab at the real issues. Wanna get educated on toilets?
  • Ira Flatow had a great convo with Professor Toilet on Science Friday today.
  • My classmates and friends Heath Carelock and Ryan Williams worked for the World Toilet Foundation in Singapore last summer. Click on their names to visit the blogs and get inspired.
  • And finally, I'll share with you some of my favorite euphamisms for you to break the ice and spread the word tomorrow about the beauty of toilet bowls! 
Break the seal
Spill the coffee
Paper work
Hacer caca (the Spanish version)
Wee willy winkle
Cop a squat (when you are out in nature)
And my favorite:
Making the bladder gladder

Now go out, spill the beans, and squat in solidarity on Saturday in the name of sanitary conditions for all!

Friday, November 25, 2011
To most, it's BLACK FRIDAY, a day of enormous pre-holiday sales, when the masses in western consumer markets crawl over each other in their haste to grab that last knick-knack before it's not 25% off anymore. I'm not bashing joining the festivities or, in this economy, trying to save pennies while still maintaining normal standards of living. But while you are out shopping, it would also be a great opportunity to grab a gift for a stranger and make them thankful for YOU.  Here's my top 5 six suggestions.
  • School supplies! The ones that you donated in August are probably used up now. There are schools all over in need of good books, fun learning tools, or just some new pencils. Grab a few notebooks and take them to your local learning institution. Or, find me (via comment on this post) because I know a lot of teachers/schools/programs in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas that could use those supplies. 
  • Blankets. Whether you donate an old ratty one to the pups at the animal shelter, or your nice, but slightly out-of-date throw to a homeless shelter, it will surely find it's way to warm a fellow's hands and heart. 
  • Calories. Of course, food is always a great thing to give, especially when it's cold outside. Take a grocery bag to your local food bank. But think outside the box. Instead of soup, pick some peanut butter and crackers to accompany someone else's Campbell's can. Just make it healthy...the link between hunger and obesity is becoming ever stronger as the impoverished rely more on nutrition-less, high calorie foods that they can afford rather than hearty, healthful sustenance. 
  • Suit up. Donate or buy business clothes for a local employment agency or job fair. I went to a job fair in Rogers, AR, recently and they had FREE brand-new business clothes for job seekers who may be financially strained due to unemployment. Clever!
  • Make an investment. Take a mere $25 out of your holiday spending budget and put it toward someone else's business. With $25, you can buy one shirt, or you can enable someone in Peru to make hundreds of shirts! And if they do, you will shortly get your $25 back to reinvest. (Or buy that shirt, which would then be on sale for less in the post-holiday season). Try Kiva out.
  • Personalize it! If you know someone who works at one of the previously named institutions, ask them for suggestions. You never know when a school is going to need a bag of food and when a homeless shelter is going to need some books. 
 The most important thing is to stretch your creativity while you think about giving this time of year. Often, the same food banks and shelters receive a wealth of donations that are difficult to manage, while other less-known institutions are left wanting during the most difficult times of the year. Don't be afraid to ask around or make it a topic of conversation. You never know what cause you'll find that you and your family will relate to. Just follow your interests (and your heart) and find your special niche for gift-giving.

Post a thought:
What creative idea do you have for advocating, donating, or general do-gooding this holiday season?