Giving stuff Away for Free

Life Is Too Short

I love TED Talks, there are so many inspiring, inquisitive, and informational talks to watch.  From Steve Jobs to Stephen Hawking.  NPR has a radio program where they feature a few of talks that have similar subjects.  It’s super fascinating to me, to get a coordinated presentation of talks.  And it’s FREE, at least it’s no additional charge beyond what you already pay for your internet streaming/downloading device.

This week’s show is about giving things away for free.  It’s funny because today we want everything for free.  And we want it quick, and 100% accurate.  But it takes time and money to get the right answer, to produce the radio/TV program etc., and to make it available to the public.

free-stuffIt’s also funny to me that we don’t want to pay people too much for services, we’ll drive 5 miles away to save $3 at the store, or to have…

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Safe In Boston …

I am proud to be a member of the Boston Community.  Despite the bombings and the events surrounding the capture of the suspects, I feel safe here.

516dad8ed3799.preview-300It’s been an extremely emotional week.  Thankfully I was not at the finish line on Monday.  But my charity organization had 10 people running the marathon, and I had given finish line passes to other volunteers for our charity.  Being at the office with readily accessible internet access turned out to be an even greater blessing.  We were able to track down our runners and friends through email, Facebook, the Google People Finder for the Boston Marathon, and lastly by called the person with finish lines passes at home and reaching him when he finally returned home that evening.  That’s when I lost it and my emotional disruption lasted through Tuesday.  It wasn’t  until I went running that evening that life started to feel more normal.

So I tried to avoid the news, to focus my energy and nervousness into something positive like healthy exercise, and cope with the other difficulties life has deposited in my lap this month.  And to focus on the outpouring of love and support, anything positive related to the event.

Then I awoke early Friday morning ready to get ready for work.  My boyfriend was already awake and reading the news.  854184_t607He starts telling me about the updated news reports … the bombing suspects robbed a 711 and had a shootout with police (waiting for the Frontline coverage of these events to know the real truth)…  I could not believe the story and asked if he was telling me a dream he had.  There was no way this crazy story was based in reality.  Some of those details have now been revised, but that was the story at the time.  And we learned of the “Shelter in Place” lockdown expanding to our town, and the events in Watertown were no more than 2 miles away.  We expected that the end was near and we would go on with life.  The day long lockdown resulted in us staying indoors with the doors locked and listening to the continuous news coverage.

bostongraphic1Eventually I had the feeling of being hostage.  I didn’t want to open my door, I didn’t want to drive my car, it was difficult to look outside and once it started getting dark I closed the blinds.  Granted, this is the most favorable hostage situation imaginable, being with my bf, able to talk to family, to read, do chores, and try to distract myself.  We had no idea what information was true, where the suspect was, or what his motivations were.

19642323.cmsThen just as they called off the lockdown, without fresh insight to the suspect’s whereabouts, the report of new exchange of gunfire (not sure of the facts here) and possible knowledge of his whereabouts.  Thankfully they have captured this 19 year old, and throughout Friday’s events no civilians were injured.  Boston celebrated last night, and we will heal.  But there is still risk of consequences from this attack.  We must stay vigilant to avoid harming innocent people just because they share ethnicity, immigration status, or religious belief with these terrorists.  There are already reports of random acts of violence, and the discussion around immigration is referencing this event.

It’s a reminder for each of us to do what we can to improve our local community.  Fear and hatred are the problems and the underlying source of these tragedies, not the answers.

Boston Marathon ExplosionsHere is the message I shared with friends and family:

We are so grateful for the law enforcement people who went toward danger to capture these terrorists.  Their diligence and coordination kept the residents of Watertown safe during each encounter, and no additional injury or fatality was added to the toll.

It will be a long time before the true facts are known and we must avoid spreading information that is not yet fact.  We have received little tidbits of information, which are sometimes revised.  Now that we have one of the culprits, hopefully additional truth can be discovered.

Our vigilance is still needed, to prevent additional acts of terrorism.  This event is not reason to attack people of Russian or Chechnyan decent, or people of Muslim faith.  There are disturbed and harmed people in all communities and faiths.  This is our opportunity to learn the harms inflicted on these two brothers, and for each of us to improve our communities and social interactions to avoid repeated offenses.

We cannot use this bombing to affect our view of immigration.  I can’t imagine the level of detailed analysis required to detect this kind of behavior in a person, especially given the classmates reports of a bright, friendly, social young man who never gave any indication of having the capability to perform an act like this bombing.  The reports of the Mercedes owner being let go, and the Watertown resident who discovered the 19 year old in the boat left unharmed, I can only imagine this person to still have some humanity left in him.

At the same time we are processing this event, we also mourn the explosion in Texas where the loss of life is even greater.  Whether by carelessness or negligence, it is a reminder of that our lives are continuously in the hands of others.  And we have the lives of others within our influence as well.  We must not lose our focus on responsibilities that affect the lives of others.

Everyone needs a little Humanity

A couple of things I have been surrounded with lately have combined into one idea. What everyone is looking for in life, and what seems to bring infinite happiness to people is compassion and understanding.  A human connection that comes from understanding each other and the experience one or both persons are going through.

Today’s local public news station has a story recently of how a little understanding and act of compassion goes a long way in the local jail (the people held here are awaiting trial and have not been convicted of a crime).  We can debate back and forth the worthiness of criminals to receive these types of acts, but given the positive impact for life of the inmates and the guards, and the potential for this to be the first step in getting their lives back on track, isn’t it worth while to make the extra effort?  I would imagine this to be more effective reform of many types of criminals.

Another related story is a discussion on K-12 education in the US where the participants identify the most significant need for education today are people (teachers/counselors) who have the time and ability to connect with the students and be emotionally for those in need of that support.  Some kids just need someone to believe in them.  This can come from family or from someone in the community.  Each participate related a story of success to having that supportive person in their life, and the student who dropped out of school agreed that a lack of support was a major factor to their decision.  Check out the discussion on Education Nation on NBC.  The challenge is to develop our education system with proper incentives for providing this support while maintaining the educational goals, and not overtax our educators.  I suspect the evidence will show that we need more educators and staff in the school system.

“Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it. ”

– Harold S. Hulbert

I think this applies to all people, but especially to children.  We spend so much time each day interacting without significance, especially when living in the city.

Holiday Cookie Weekend

My favorite holiday tradition is cookie weekend.  I used to spend Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday with my aunt and younger cousin makings a variety of cookies.  We would make 6 or 7 different kids of cookies, bars, candy, and brownies, over 100 dozen in all.  My aunt would give them away as holiday gifts to close friends.  And they were a treasured gift because it’s not easy or inexpensive to make such a mass of treats.

Rolling out and Cutting the Gingerbread cookies

I  make frosted Gingerbread cutout cookies every year because they are my favorite.   Most of the ingredients I do not enjoy individually (molasses, vinegar, ginger), but mix them all together and bake it up, yum yum.  I decorate these cookies with a cream cheese frosting.  They freeze very well to enjoy throughout the season.

Both cookies baked and ready for Frosting

This year I also made wreath and tree sugar cookies with mint frosting and cinnamon candy decorations.  I have not yet made this one myself, because it took a while for me to find an appropriate cookie cutter for the wreath shaped.   I love the multiple sized fluted biscuit cutters for this.

Then invite a few friends over to decorate, serve some hot chocolate, and sing along to holiday music.

I love the way they decorated the Snowmen and the Star of David.  And tomorrow I’ll take them into the office to share.

Frosting Art Therapy