Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yoga Retribution

So, if you read my blog regularly, or follow my tweets, or just happen to catch me on a Tuesday, you know that I've had a love-hate relationship with Yoga at the Y. 
I LOVE it.  Don't get me wrong.  Drew, the usual instructor is AWESOME and his noon class is always packed to the brim. 
However, the other instructor, who will remain nameless, just doesn't have that same je ne sais quoi...
The first time I took her class (a year ago!), she came to me after and said, I noticed you don't quite have the balance down yet.  Keep working on that!
Now I know what you're thinking, it was your first time at that class! You would only get better with time!
I know this, but I felt awesome after that class and I felt like I had really held up my end of the namaste bargain.  I really felt like the divine light within me was recognizing and affirming the divine light within her! But her divine light went ahead and blew my freshly lit light out with that little comment. 
Well, the same lady came in and taught class today in Drew's absense.  And I almost got up and left when I heard... (I wouldn't have been the only one! Two women said they were just going to go workout on a machine... Yikers.)
But I waited it out, and I gave her another chance, and afterwards she came up, and I was holding my breath, because I hadn't done that great with the balance poses, and my arms had gotten pretty tired during one of the extended planks and I dropped down to child's pose...
But she addressed another girl and myself and said, "You two girls are really getting good! I can tell you've been working hard at this. You've improved quite a bit!"
WHOA WHAT?! ME?! GOOD AT YOGA?! Dang right, lady!
The divine light within me is shining bright after that class.  Namaste. 

12 Ways of Giving: RECYCLE!

We had a great Christmas, and I know I didn't post all 12 ways of giving before Christmas, but guess what folks, this is MAH BLOG, and I do what I want!
So there. 
Friday my mom, dad, brother and I opened gifts as a little immediate family after a pretty stinkin' good dinner.  I announced my desire to recycle our wrapping paper, and watched everyone unwrap their gifts. 
Saturday we traveled to Nevada for a potluck and a few small gifts.  I didn't collect the wrapping paper... mostly because I just forgot. 
Sunday we opened gifts at my grandparents' in Ames and, even after setting the ground rules of no bags and no metallic wrappic paper, was asked 100 times if I was taking bags or metallic wrapping paper. 
Much to the annoyance of my family, I banned all wrapping paper ball fights and neatly folded our wrapping waste and threw it in my recycling bin outside my apartment
Click Here to find out what you can and can't recycle this holiday season!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12 Ways of Giving: Email an Old Friend

I have been thinking about my friends back in New Orleans quite a bit lately.  I keep up with a few of them on Facebook, but some of the older folks don't use social media as much as some of the others... 
I got on my little lap top and sent an email to my old boss in New Orleans today.  Donovan was the one who rallied to get me from Chicago down to NOLA, and when I called him last year to tell him I wasn't coming back for the season, he was understanding and encouraging. 
I haven't talked to him since last year around this time, so I just sent him a little email.  Didn't talk me long, but it keeps the lines of communication open with a friend I could have easily lost forever.  That's more a gift to me than anything. 

Just a few more days 'till Christmas, and I have a lot of giving left to do and an empty bank account.  I'm excited to see what I come up with! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12 Ways of Giving: A Letter

I wrote a letter to a soldier today. 

I've always wanted to write one, but I never knew who to send it to.  Until last week. 
We did a story on a woman who was dressed as an angel in the skywalks of Des Moines asking people to send a Christmas card to her soldier son overseas. (click here for the story) (yeah... that's a shameless whotv.com plug)

I wouldn't have had the guts if I wasn't doing this project (and beginning to get desperate for things to do).  But it took me more time to write this blog than it did to pen a thank-you card.  Thank you for everything you do in the military!

I wrote about my project, I wrote a little about my job, I wrote about the unseasonably warm weather.  Just filled up both sides of a thank-you card. 

It was easy and pretty painless.  Now I just have to figure out how many stamps I need... 

UPDATE: I guess something labeled APO AE just goes to NY before being sent overseas! So I just need a stamp.

While I was looking for the postage info, I found this website: http://anysoldier.com/ It's a little cheesy... but there's a list of soldiers and what they would want in a care-package! I'm ABSOLUTELY going to send a package once Christmas is over and I have a little spending cash. 

One thing that made me smile is that the soldier I spied on wants strawberry and cream oatmeal.  :)
Can't wait to send a package!!! 

12 Ways of Giving: It's Just a Plastic Bag

Today I really felt awkward about my gifting... At church this weekend the pastor pointed out the resistance of Americans to accept a hand out.  He said they were trying to give out tacos in downtown Des Moines and a surprising amount of people said no! (I will note that I was not aware of these free tacos... and I would have taken one.) But that was in the back of my mind as I went to offer a gift to a girl I didn't know. 
I was at Dahls the other day shopping and I brought in the only bag I had in my car to load up my groceries in.  It just happened to be a bag I got at Mood in New York. 
Mood is a fabric store that my mom and I specifically targeted during our latest trip to NYC to see my little brother.  (I have to hold back from gushing about my favorite (only) brother.  He just got home for Christmas and I can't wait to see him!)
Mood is also the fabric store that the contestants on Project Runway buy their fabric from, and their iconic (eh?) bags get a lot of air time. 
Well, I brought that bag in, and the check-out girl perked up a little bit and made some conversation about Project Runway as she rung up my groceries.  She asked if it was THE SAME Mood that they went to in PR.  We talked about our love for the show. 
Well, I was looking at the crumpled plastic bag last night and I thought to myself, I should give this to that girl at Dahls!  But the more I thought about it, the dumber it seemed. 
My Bag
Why would a girl I don't know want a plastic bag... Maybe she was just making conversation... 
Anyway, I fought those little voices in my head that were saying, "she is just going to throw this away as soon as she gets home." "She is going to think you think she's a charity case." And walked into Dahls. 
I grabbed a few things I needed and I went to her lane.  I went to explain it to her, and she was a little confused.  I've come through her lane before.  She's deaf, and I know she reads lips pretty well... But I think there's only so much you can expect to converse about in the grocery lane, and "this is for you" isn't usually in there. 
After a little "is this what you're saying?" She finally realized what I was getting at, and remembered the interaction.  She said she would put it in a safe place, thanked me, and we talked a little about our favorite contestants.  I was nervous, so I couldn't think of any details... So the conversation was a little awkward.  But I did it.  And ya know what? She can throw it away if she wants.  That's probably what I would end up doing in a few months after one of the handles falls off and I drop my eggs in the parking lot...
But she might really like it.  She might use it to carry her gifts to a Christmas party.  Someone else might recognize it and she might have another conversation with a PR fan.  Either way, I did it.  And there's a chance I made her happy.  And that's good enough for me. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Ways of Giving: Collection Plate

Today I walked past an opportunity to "give" by scraping some windows before I headed to church.  I didn't do it because I was afraid I'd get yelled at for touching someone's car...  And turns out, it was 50 degrees today.  So the frost melted by the time I got back anyways. 
But I did put some cashola in the collection plate today.  However... I wasn't listening very well.  I thought I was contributing to the Christmas collection.  But I guess I was just putting it in for the normal Sunday pass-the-plate.  Which is fine.  But it doesn't make for a very good blog. 
I won't be there for the Christmas collection on Christmas Eve... But here are the details: 50% will go to start a benevolence fund to meet the needs of the people in our church, and the other 50% will go to the under served in our neighborhood through Hope Ministries, Freedom for Youth and Wildwood Hills Ranch. (This is at Gateway Church downtown.) 
I'm a little nervous about my 12 deeds getting done.  But I'm keeping my eyes open for ways to give back without spending too much money. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Ways of Giving: Christmas Goodies

For my latest "act of goodness" I made some cookies for my neighbors.  I hardly ever see the people across the hall, so I decided to drop some off to them and maybe extend the olive branch.  There's also a guy who lives around the corner from me who has cancer.  So I hung a bag of cookies on his door knob. 
Tomorrow I'm going to drop a few more plates downstairs for the awesome maintenance guys in my building. 
The cookies are a mix of some internet recipes and my grandma's recipes. 
For those who don't know, my grandma passed away on Monday, and it seems like everyone went home and immediately made cookies.  My grandma used to have a freezer in the garage full of perfectly packaged cookies.  The whole town of Nevada would come and get cookies from her freezer.  And her cookies won all kinds of awards at the Iowa State Fair. 
The cookies of hers that I made were Sugar Roses, Nut Bars and German Chocolate Cookies.  I found a Bobby Flay Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on  foodnetwork.com that I'm not in love with, but I like them enough for them to be dangerous in my freezer...  And then I made some Almond Bark Covered Pretzels to pull it all together.  The plates were full and looked delicious. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12 Ways of Giving: Starbucks with a Shot of Honesty

Not all of my "giving" is for the less fortunate this holiday season.  My recent "gift" was to some average joe (see what I did there?) in the drive-through line after me at Starbucks. 
I'm sure he could afford coffee... or else he probably wouldn't be in line for it.  But that's not what a "gift" always is.  Especially during Christmas.  For most of us, giving gifts during Christmas means giving something that someone doesn't need, but they might enjoy. 
I figured the guy behind me might like some free coffee.  So I told the lady to ring up the guy behind me too. 
Then I drove away like a crazy person, afraid he was going to find me and think I was hitting on him...

This project was never intended to illicit praises... But I find myself wanting people to notice, and wondering in what ways I'll be "paid back".  I say this because I feel like I'm supposed to do this out of the kindness of my heart... And that's what my intentions are! But I have to fight the desire to be "paid back" in some way.  If anything, I hope that giving will become second nature to me.  It will be come so normal that I won't think twice if I don't get a "good job" from anyone.
Just wanted to send out a little honesty. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

12 Ways of Giving: Beza Threads

I woke up this morning dreaming of a few outfits I pinned on Pinterest yesterday.

I was thinking about how I would love a red scarf to accent some of my black and brown outfits, and how I should make sure to grab one while I’m Christmas shopping with Grandma next week. 

I got ready for church and walked in (1/2 an hour early… but that’s another story) and they were selling scarves! Red ones, blue ones, cream ones, striped ones…
I waited to hear what the story was, and I could believe my ears. 

Each scarf sold rescues a girl for one night from sex slavery. 

It’s all part of a program called Beza Threads.  (www.bezathreads.org) They save Ethiopian children from sex slavery and slave labor.
In our minds, slavery is a thing of the past, but in countries like Ethiopia, it’s fairly mainstream.  In fact, they say there are 8.4 million child slaves in the world and 1.8 million kids sold into sex slavery.   
You can read the whole story, but I was shocked to hear this stat: In 1850 a slave cost $40,000 in today’s standards.  Now an average slave costs about $90. 

For every 3,000 scarves sold, the program can save 10 girls from sex slavery.  And taking them out of this life isn’t the end of it.  This is the only job they’ve ever know, they have no way to provide for themselves or any family they may have.  Many of the kids have been abandoned by their family, or taken far from them completely.  Just thinking about it breaks my heart. 

This is definitely a cause I hope to be more involved in. 

PLEASE visit the website at www.bezathreads.org.  Think about giving a scarf to someone for Christmas.  They are amazing quality and a $20 gift with a heart wrenching story. 

I bought two of them myself.  A red one for myself and another for a Christmas gift.  I’ll spend the next two nights being thankful that both me, and another little girl, are free from sex slavery. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

12 Ways of Giving: Adopt-a-Family

Project number two was quite an undertaking.  I found out that the Boys and Girls Club still had 30 families who needed to be “adopted”.  Basically, you buy them what’s on their wish list (usually coats and clothes) and drop it off before Christmas.  Little did I know that I had about 4 days to get this all done.  The last drop-off date was Friday!
I’ve done something similar called the Angel Tree where you chose one person and buy a few things on their list.  But this was WAY bigger.  I had a family of 5 to provide for.  So I called on my friends and family for a little help. 

The mother asked for a casual coat and a winter sweater.  The father asked for a coat and socks.  The 8 year old boy asked for a winter coat and a car toy.  The 3 year old girl asked for a baby doll and a table and chair set.  The family had another baby girl due this week! So they asked for a snow suit and some baby clothes for her. 

I asked around and finally found a table and chairs set on Craigslist for $15! I tried to guilt the rich lady who sold it to me to hand it off for free… but she wasn’t getting it. 

What a perfect table and chair set for a 3-year-old!
Along with what they asked for, I added a gift for each parent.  My parents got them a purse and some gloves.  For the kids, I found some cute long sleeved shirts that would make them the most adorable kiddos at the B&G Club. 

Just a few of the things we gave the family
I had enough money left over to get them a gift card to Dahls!
Huge thanks to everyone who helped with this project, including my parents, grandparents, Autumn and Megan.  And thanks to Amber who drove me out to the rich lady’s house to get that table and chairs!
I love that this project has sparked some conversation with other people around me about what the holidays are really about and what we can do, whether it be with our time or our money, to help out those who are less fortunate. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

12 Ways of Giving: Middle School Concert

My 12 ways of giving started at Merrill Middle School just down Grand.  My friend is a talented music teacher and her students were having a concert.  She had asked WEEKS ago if I would help.  And I obliged (Even though I hadn’t yet committed to doing 12 acts of kindness). 

Around noon I got a desperate text from my friend asking me to pick up a few necessities she was missing.  I swung by Walgreens and happily secured the items she needed and dropped them off at the front office for “Mrs. Copic”. (How adult!)

Later that night, I arrived an hour before the concert and started to “decorate” the cafeteria where the cookie pot luck would be after the show.  I say “decorate” because I taped up 30 snowflakes I had made from some recycled paper… Not exactly my finest interior decorating hour. 

Once the show started, I sat front and center and taped the whole concert.  The kids were pretty cute.  I remember being that age and doing those concerts…  I had no business being in choir. 

The grand finale was a little number by the show choir complete with comedy commentary.  “I know you’re thinking, why would ANYBODY want to spend more time with Mrs. Copic than we HAVE TO.” 
I wouldn’t say this was the largest gesture of giving, but it was something my friend was relying on me to do, and I’d like to hope it gave her a sense of relief knowing she had an extra pair of hands (and eyes) if she needed them.  
I've been working on a BIG "way of giving" all week. Blog coming tomorrow! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12 Ways of Giving.

So I’ve been trying to get into the Christmas spirit… But it just isn’t working.  I haven’t had the motivation to put my tree up, I haven’t made a list of what I want, or what I want to give people.  I have some projects that people have asked me to do for Christmas and I just don’t feel like doing them.  

Some of this is because I haven’t been home and awake for more than 45 minutes at a time for the past few weeks… Or it could be because I accidentally showed my mom a picture of the shoes I bought her for Christmas…  But that’s another story for another day.  

Either way, I was reflecting on my favorite part of Christmas and I remembered the Angel Tree.  The Angel Tree was something I’ve looked forward to for YEARS.  I picked an angel off the tree each year growing up and then in high school and college I helped the City of Ames organize their Angel Tree.  

If you’re not familiar with the concept, basically you just take an “angel” off the tree.  On the back of the angel is the info for a child, or sometimes an adult, and what they want and, more importantly, what they need! Boots, jackets, Legos…  I always wanted to buy EVERYTHING.  

This year I’ve decided to change my mindset from the hustle and bustle of Christmas spend, spend, spending to giving.  It’s also going to cost me some $$, but I have faith that every penny I spend, wisely, will come back in some way or another.  (Note the WISELY part… This isn’t coming out of my Visa.)

I’ve enlisted some of my friends and family to help with some of the things that will cost a little more.  But a lot of the ideas I have won’t cost me anything, if just a little of my precious time.  

If you got through this photo-less stimulation-free blog, then let me challenge you to give along with me this holiday season.  Can you match my 12 ways of giving? Or can you pick just one? 

If you’re interested in helping with the giving, let me know! Email me at alisa.link@gmail.com and I’ll let you know where the needs are and where I wish I could give more than what’s in my own pocket. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Trip to Chicago

I took a Friday off and went on a long weekend to Chicago to visit my besties. 

I lived in Chicago for two years and I have some of the best memories of that city.  And I am SO lucky that I got to see Kaysie, Heather, Dave, Emily, Andy and AMARA!  Pretty much an awesome vacation. 

I didn't take as many pics as I should have... I just get distracted. 
Here are a few of them:
 Kitsch'n is a GREAT retro restaurant with AWESOME decor. 
 Glad that's not plugged in...
 These two little gems took me on a walk Wednesday...  Jemma and Elsa! My favorite doggies ever.  Doesn't Jemma look like a statue? I can't help buy laugh at her posing for the pic...
 My little love, Amara.  She wanted to wear my jacket... 
And this is for DesirĂ©e... You thought I wouldn't do it?! Full wheel baby! On Thanksgiving.