A follow up to a dose of well-deserved medicine

A story about charitable giving and a response to a Tzedakah Challenge - www.alliepottswrites.com

If you ever need an exercise in patience, ask me where I would like to go to dinner sometime. I’ve found so many great options nearby to choose from, it is difficult to pick just one. Each have their own flavors and benefits. I wish I could support them all. The same holds true for service and outreach programs.

I would like to thank everyone who commented, liked, or otherwise helped serve my husband a taste a of his own medicine last week. He’d thank you too … eventually. But now comes the hard part – picking the recipient for the pledge total (which fell somewhat short of my self-imposed cap, but will benefit a group all the same).

There are a number of organizations that immediately came to mind. For example, my husband is a member of Rotary International which is a group with more than 35,000 clubs located around the world which take on projects, funded by club members and the Rotary Foundation, which are designed to promote peace, fight diseases like Polio, provide clean water, protect women and children, support education, and grow local economies. In fact, I try to make sure that everything I post online would pass the Rotary Club’s Four Way Test:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

They are good guidelines to keep in mind, even if you aren’t a member.

Another program worthy of mention is B.A.R.K.S Book Buddies which stands for Bonding Animals, Reading, Kids & Safety, which is a collaboration of Helping Paws International and InterMountain Therapy Animal‘s R.E.A.D (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) program. I first learned about it when Kiddo’s teacher sent a note home stating that each child would, if permitted, be invited to read to a dog during occasional on-site visits at the school. I thought it was a cute idea and signed him right up, which he loved by the way.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that in addition to giving students a reason to look forward to extra reading, the animals help build confidence by acting as an entirely judgement free partner. The program is not limited to only school children either. These therapy dogs also provide assistance to individuals with learning and/or developmental disabilities, comfort those who are sick, or help support with other physical, speech, or occupational therapy goals. Her Royal Highness might find herself volunteering as well one day, if I can ever get her off the pillows.

While this particular program is local to my area, similar programs can be found across the United States as well as Canada, Italy, Slovenia, South Africa, Netherlands, Croatia, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, and Australia.

We also considered making a donation to DonorsChoose.org, which is a crowd funding site much like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where teachers can place funding requests for furniture, equipment, or other supplies. In their words “We make it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need, moving us closer to a nation where students in every community have the tools and experiences they need for a great education.”

The requests aren’t unreasonable either.

One teacher is requesting help with a subscription for Bookflix, a digital literacy resource that strengthens early literacy skills. Another teacher simply wants to be able to purchase a rug for his or her first graders to sit on during group lessons. While these teachers work at different schools, both are in a classrooms where more than a third of students from low‑income households.

DonorsChoose vets requests, but what I like most is the site’s transparency. When you donate, your money is going to the projects and schools you select. You can see how many students will benefit and know that you’ve made a difference in those student’s lives at a very individual level. You can also choose to double all other’s contributions for a specific request.

Now all that is left to do is publicly declare who the recipient will be. However this was one challenge we never expected to ‘win.’ I am instead going to keep our gift relatively anonymous with the knowledge the real winner here isn’t the organization itself, but the people it serves. Nor will we be naming nominees as I encourage anyone in a position to give time or money, to do so, challenged or not. If nothing else, remember to be kind.

I think we can all agree that the world could use some healing right now. While this sort of medicine won’t cure all ills, a little more kindness is something everyone deserves an extra dose of.

Easy Random Acts of Kindness


A dose of well-deserved medicine

A story about charitable giving and a response to a Tzedakah Challenge - www.alliepottswrites.com

It was Sunday evening. I was sitting on the couch, enjoying a little quiet time while mentally readying myself for the week ahead. I happened to notice my husband typing on his phone with a self-satisfied grin on his face. I was immediately on alert. To be clear – this is not a look to be trusted. Not when it is on my husband. The only way it could have been worse would be if he had that grin while typing on my phone.

“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?” – Groucho Marx

I glanced at my phone, but the only alerts showing were a slew of news headlines, which were anything but grin worthy. Nope, we definitely weren’t looking at the same thing. I navigated to Facebook. My feed is set to show my husband’s actions and reactions at the top, so within an instant, I could see he was being particularly active that night. Yeah. This can’t be good. I braced myself for impact as I clicked on the link.

The status update belonged to my cousin advising she was participating in a Tzedakah Challenge. For those not familiar with the word *raises my hand* Tzedakah roughly translates to charitable giving. Per her status update, she had to give to an organization of her choice based on the number of likes and comments she received in a 24 hour period. She pledged to donate $1 for every like and $2 for every comment and would reveal the specific charity after the 24 hour period expired. However, as it was Mother’s Day, she was willing to share that the donation would go toward helping women become better mothers.

Now my husband is a bit of a troublemaker/jokester by nature (and by a bit I mean even our friends’ kids knew by age three to always take what Mr. Potts says with a grain of salt), but he usually means well. Apparently, my cousin’s public pledge provided too good an opportunity to pass up. He commented on her post. Then he commented again, a reply to his first comment. Then again with a reply to his reply. Again and again.

This is who have to live with folks.

A friend of my cousin noticed my husband’s ‘enthusiasm’ and chimed in. What have you done? I shook my head. Don’t you know not to ever encourage him? It’s like saying ‘Beetlejuice’ three times – it sets him free. If she didn’t know what the consequences of her actions were at the time, she does now.

“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” – Will Rogers

Either bored with his conversation with himself or emboldened by the (potentially misguided) encouragement, my husband went on to like and reply to more of my cousin’s friends and acquaintances like an internet troll with a one-trick agenda (but a happy, friendly, supportive troll).

The following day, we learned exactly where my husband had spent my cousin’s money. All $150 of it.

She had chosen to donate to Literacy for Life – a regional adult literacy program, but also a program that provides mothers, fathers, and even those without children valuable life skills. In their words:

“Literacy for Life has helped people with numerous individual goals, including studying for and passing the U.S. citizenship exam, obtaining a better job, learning to manage family finances, passing a driver’s license test, effectively communicating with medical professionals, and helping a child with homework.”

There are worse things trolling can do.

However, my husband’s bit of fun (as well as intentioned as it may have been) wasn’t without its own repercussions. After the day was over and the pledge complete, my cousin ‘thanked’ him for his support by naming him as one of her five nominees to carry on the challenge. As I would like to remain on speaking terms with my extended family, I’m here today to ensure he does just that.

I’ll leave the lesson of the day to another:

“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” –  Ernest Hemingway

Now, I don’t normally participate in these sort of challenges, but in this case, I am choosing to make an exception (I can be a supportive spouse too after all). If you would like to give my husband a taste of his own medicine or if you just want to support a charity of our choice (up to $150) please feel free to comment or like this post here or on Facebook. I’ll be sure to tell the hubby what he owes.

But be warned, because no good deed goes unpunished, I’m leaving the follow-up nominations to him. If you aren’t careful, you may just earn yourself a new friend.

The official time period for the challenge is up, so you can comment or like from this point on without fear of nomination. Thank you to all who helped me teach my husband a lesson – and helped me support a good cause. I will posting a follow up with the official charity we’ve chosen to support in a later post.

Coffee and Karma

Three am.

I was wide awake. I just couldn’t seem to find a comfortable enough position to sleep more than ten minutes at a time. I tossed and turned. Nothing seemed to work. Time passed during the wee hours of Saturday morning in fits and spurts. After hours which felt like years, I felt the bed shift as hubby got up for a pre-dawn run. Morning people… grumble, grumble…

Slightly after dawn, (I can’t tell you the specific time as the clock and I were no longer speaking, but it was early) I heard the sound of Kiddo moving around in his room across the hall. It didn’t matter if that I hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep. Morning could no longer be denied. I exited the bedroom with a single mission in mind. Find coffee now.

Immediately Kiddo’s door swung open. “Mom! Mom! I need help!”

“With what?” I asked, although it probably sounded more along the lines of “gah! wha?”

“With my museum. Can you help me build it?”

Available on Amazon
Yup – This pretty much sums up my mornings. Too bad the kids are still learning to read. (Mug available on Amazon – Click to link)

I rubbed my eyes. It didn’t help the view. His LEGOs had turned the floor into a land field, and there, at the other side, was a partially built construction about the size of two loaves of bread. It would take hours to complete his ‘vision’. Run, my body urged me. Run, while there is still time. “Sorry kid, Mommy needs her coffee.”

I made my way downstairs. Kiddo followed. “I’m starving. Cereal please!”

At least he was trying to be polite. “Here you go,” I said, pouring him a bowl. Or did I say bah!?

“Then can you help me with the museum?”

“Mommy needs some time to wake up.” Darn you coffee pot, why are you still empty?

Thump. It was a sound that meant LT was not only up, but jettisoning toys from his bed. I could go upstairs and collect him at once or spend the rest of the day attempting to coordinate a clean-up process with a stubborn three-year-old. It was my decision.

“Milk!” LT greeted me while flinging another animal friend.

Sigh… I  carried him downstairs, placing him near his brother.

“Movie please!” they demanded in stereo. My tummy grumbled, the coffee pot remained dry, and the kids were on a fast track for early naps.

Ding. Ding. My phone chimed. You’ve got to be kidding! Who in the world is texting me at this hour?

“Am bringing home a bagel for you.” The unsolicited text was from the hubby extraordinaire and savior of offspring.

No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted – Aesop

I love that man every day, but some days even more so than others. Fortified, Kiddo and I completed his museum. It only took two hours. A new record! Huzzah.

Fast forward a couple of days. I saw another message from the hubby. Someone had placed a handwritten note on his windshield. “You’ve been RAK’d,” it said. Beneath the note lay twenty dollars. There were no strings attached and no name on the note. It was exactly what it said it was. a RAK, also known as a Random Act of Kindness.

Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you – Princess Diana of Wales

Out of all the cars in the parking lot that morning, some individual had chosen to be generous with my family. We will never be able to pay that person back, so I guess we have no choice. We will have to pay it forward.

Thank you, note-leaver, whoever you are. I hope that your kindness is returned as swiftly as was my hubby’s.

Easy Random Acts of Kindness
background image courtesy of unsplash

Some times a little change is good for you

Tooth fairy trinket
Tooth fairy trinket (Photo credit: JanetR3)

My eldest son recently lost his very first baby tooth. The tooth fairy had luckily been anticipating a visit to our house in theory, but he didn’t give her a ton of notice when it came time for the actual event. The tooth was loose and gone within the same day. My son nearly broke the sound barrier getting ready for bed that evening eager to see whether or not the tooth fairy would come.

The following day, he reached under his pillow and pulled out a shiny quarter. He gave us all a great big gap toothed smile and immediately placed the coin in his bank. He then proceeded to call my attention to the gap repeatedly and made sure that all his friends at day care were equally informed. By his estimation there could be no more solid proof that he truly was a big kid now.

I informed my extended family and co-workers about this new development only to learn that the tooth fairy had gotten off incredibly cheap at our house. Apparently inflation affects more than just the cost of a gallon of milk. In case you are curious, I’ve since learned that the going rate for a child’s tooth is actually a dollar or more on average. Five dollars were commonly cited as the going rate for a first tooth or larger tooth such as a molar.

My son was excited to receive his quarter. He’d never asked the tooth fairy up front how much she thought his tooth would be worth and was thrilled to receive his quarter. All he had expected was a coin and a coin is what he received. But I was worried.

Tooth Fairy (film)
Tooth Fairy (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my son is excited about something, he likes to tell everyone who will listen all about it. There was a very real risk that he would talk to an older child at the playground about the receipt of his quarter and learn that the other child received more. If that happened, would his joy suddenly be turned into shame? Would he wonder to himself things like why didn’t he receive more? Why wasn’t the tooth fairy just as generous with him? Was there something wrong with his teeth? Was there something wrong with him?

We as a society frequently confuse our sense of self-worth with our financial worth. However if you were to ask most business owners, they would tell you that money is actually one of the worst ways to incentivize your staff.  Monetary bonuses tend to provide little positive long-term impact on employee behavior and actually typically result in the exact opposite of their intent.

People become increasingly dissatisfied doing their regular work and company culture can take on a climate of unhealthy internal competition. Studies have shown that companies which pay a fair wage and offer other benefits designed around the values of the employees are more productive than companies which offer bare bones salaries with astronomical bonus potential.

3D Employee Empowerment
3D Employee Empowerment (Photo credit: StockMonkeys.com)

I have begun reading a number of studies on a concept called the prosocial bonus. The concept is somewhat simple. Rather than cut a check to an employee in reward for the job they should be doing anyway, the employee gets to redirect where the bonus should be applied provided it goes to somewhere other than themselves.  The important thing is that the employee must be in the driver’s seat. An employee might request that money be spent on a cause of their choice or on their teammates. They get to feel empowered.

Companies who have experimented with the concept reported that employees had a greater sense of self-worth even though there wasn’t an adjustment to their financial worth. This in turn created a culture of increased morale and teamwork.

I am intrigued by this concept, but the system only works if a person is first paid fair wages. Luckily for us, upon examination of the quarter we found it still had residual fairy dust. My five and a half-year old only had to behave himself all day, make a wish while holding the quarter near his tooth gap, and place it in a cup of water for the magic of the first lost tooth to work. The quarter grew overnight into a silver dollar. He may have just gotten his first lesson in investment as he had to move his money into a different vessel and do a little extra homework for it to grow.

Thankfully we managed to avoid an awkward discussion about disparity. While a little change might do him some good, at this point in his life, I am sure he would tell me a lot of change would do him even better.

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What would you do differently if you knew others were watching?

The sun sets over a set of "Big Eyes"...

My husband didn’t jump into entrepreneurship overnight. No, like an illness, the bug went through an incubation period prior to maturing to the point of full outbreak. During this period, he started taking classes on how to better understand the nuances of the stock market. How to recognize the patterns in price that might indicate a trading event, how to interpret industry jargon, and how to take control of our own portfolio.

Learning (Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360)

He drug me along to a few of these classes, and to this day I am not sure exactly how he managed to do that. They always followed a long work day and the very last thing I wanted to do after a day in front of the computer screen was listen to an instructor drone on about the importance of line charts.

I must not have been the only one to feel this way. While there remained a number of students in the room, there was not quite as many midway through the course as had been there on day one. The instructor must have sensed that those of us in the room were feeling worn out and a little overwhelmed. He went off topic.

He told us about one of his prior students. She had come in and sat quietly night after night, hardly noteworthy. After the end of the class she had written him. She wrote that she was a mother in an abusive relationship. She had signed up for the class almost on a whim. Each night she watched as those around her scribbled notes and listened to her neighbors dream of a better future. She realized that she too had a chance for that future. She gained the courage to remove herself and her child from a dangerous situation.

He mentioned this particular story only to illustrate how each of us have the ability to inspire others whether or not we are aware of their interest. It was his way of motivating us to buckle down and see the course through.

My mother-in-law cross stitched a poem that at one time hung in my husband’s room and now hangs in our son’s.

A careful man I ought to be,
A little fellow follows me.
I dare not go astray,
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,
Whatever he see me do, he tries.
Like me, he says, he’s going to be,
The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see,
That little fellow who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Thru summers’ sun and winters’ snow.
I am building for the years to be,
In the little chap who follows me.

by Rev. Claude Wisdom White, Sr

There are days when being in business for yourself (or trying to establish yourself as a writer) isn’t easy. Days filled with such negativity that I know my husband is tempted to shut his doors for good, or for me to completely walk away from the computer. At least for now, we’ve chosen to continue on.

I like to believe that as a result, our children will grow to be even more determined, less likely to accept the status quo, and more willing to chase after their own dreams. But I do sometimes wonder who else might be watching and hope that the decisions we make are worth it.

Inspiration can have a domino effect, but what is amazing is that most people don’t realize how many pieces in the chain they have touched. Sometimes even when you think you are teaching one thing, there is a far greater lesson being learned.

The woman didn’t have to share her story, but I am glad she did. I occasionally think back on that woman who was able to learn how to take control of her life when the rest of us were just trying to learn how to take control of our finances and hope that she remained strong.

Original caption: I decided to see if I could ...
Original caption: I decided to see if I could catch the motion of Dominos falling. It took me ages to get the timing right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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