Monday, December 30, 2013

In the Spirit of the Season

How ironic that my most recent post was about having more time than money. Long story short, I quickly got a new job, and in addition to learning the ropes at the new gig, my volunteer work with HiveBio has been taking up a lot of my mental energy. And then it was the holidays.

This year, my family decided to draw names for gift giving, which reduced the number of adults we needed to get gifts for tremendously. This, all by itself, is awesome, since I didn't have shopping anxiety to contend with. But even better, most of my family members requested donations for Christmas. How cool is that?  So, I donated to the Red Cross for my grandmother, and Northwest Harvest for my mother-in-law. I drew my brother's name, and donated to Child's Play (an organization that provides toys and video games to kids in hospitals). He donated to Northwest Harvest AND Friends of Youth. My sister-in-law also donated to Northwest Harvest on behalf of my mom. By my estimate, about $400 were gifted to charity for the holidays.

And while I haven't been blogging, the thermometer keeps inching it's way up. We surpassed the 60% mark, and are approaching $20,000!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Update: More time than money

When I first started this project, I had this real desire to get involved in my community. I'd been living in Kirkland for a year, and I pretty much don't run in to people I know there. Maybe this is nostalgia from growing up in a small town, but I couldn't feel like my surroundings were familiar until the faces in it were too. Of course, what counts as 'my community' seems to be in flux a lot. The lab is across the lake, my old office was in Queen Ann, my house is in Totem Lake. Some of the things I have been working on have really helped a lot. For starters, getting my family and friends involved with me has been really cool, whether we've been running 5Ks or making meals. Learning more about these causes has also helped me to feel grounded in this project. I don't think of those punks at the mall as punks, I think of them as homeless kids who need my help. My homeless kids.

As always, having a real life does get in the way of my fantasy. This is in part because I don't have infinite time to be attending meetings, meeting with people and building relationships, even when the cause really matters. I've been to various Friends of Youth Offices several times, but I 1) don't know anyone's name there, and 2) don't run in to those people elsewhere. I don't know the names of a single person who I've served dinner to. This is fair, considering how little time I actually spend there. The point is, now that we've passed the halfway mark, and I've got a bit of momentum and some time to think about what this whole crazy affair is about, I feel like the real, personal connection is still missing.

This might be because opening the lab took a heap of time, and a lot of effort that involved either working alone in the lab, or sitting at home on my computer. I can rationalize that I think this is important, long term work. But man, I'd really like to spend more of my time with other people. Another crunch on my time has been working. I can't pretend I was working more than most full time people, but with an hour commute on both ends, it really takes a bit out of the day.

The update that I am choosing to view as good news for now is that I have completed my contract, so I suddenly have a lot more free-time. Yes, I will be spending the bulk of it looking for my next job, but the last time I was looking for a job, I felt terribly isolated and unimportant. Making phone calls and submitting job applications that never get answered can do that to a person. These are both feelings that charity work can help to alleviate, so I'm hoping to dedicate some of my time to moving along this lofty goal while I have more time than money. This can hopefully help me to get in touch with the people in my community, which will help me to feel like I belong here.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

HiveBio Moves

Over the weekend, HiveBio relocated. If you have not ever moved a lab, you may not be aware of the vast numbers of weird shaped, fragile objects that tend to get deeply packed into a lab.  The old lab space was about 300 sq feet, and filled every inch of a 17 foot uHaul. When you move a lab, you always start thinking- 'this will be easy, everything is basically already in boxes,' and this slowly progresses into 'how are there so. many. boxes?!'  I knew this was coming. I also know that our executive board (ie, the people who would actually be doing the move) was only half available on the day of the move. We needed more hands, and preferable some with burly biceps attached. So, I called on some old friends.

I sent along a very pathetic request for help to my high school friends who live in the area, and JJ and Paul were both unable to invent an excuse and actually offered to help. They probably had no idea what they were getting into- from their arrival to the time we left the new lab space, they spent 7 hours hauling boxes out of the old space, into the the new building (down 3 flights of stairs) and into the new space. By the time the last box was unloaded, I felt like I'd been holding them hostage. Seriously, "I owe you a beer" does not even begin to cover it.

Moving the lab had been a major source of anxiety for the entire organization- the new space is great: great location, great space, great opportunity. But we needed to quickly transition from the old space to the new space AND get functional so we can start paying rent like responsible citizens. Multiple trips, storing boxes over night in the truck, we don't have time or finances for any of this. In my mind, this was spiraling into a number of other tragic situations- the truck gets impounded for illegally parking too long while we try to fill it, all the contents are destroyed by poor packing in the drive across town, the truck gets stopped and harassed for looking like the other definition of "mobile lab" ... But, none of this happened. We were inhumanly efficient. We didn't even have to stand around and shout at each other (another common tactic I've seen in moves). It was awesome.  I'm terribly grateful to both Paul, JJ and of course my dear husband for showing up and blowing a beautiful Saturday to help me bring science to the people.

And, and... since the move actually happened, we get to announce our opening party! I love parties! Please join us at the space Oct 18 to see what HiveBio is all about.

Another reason I am so grateful... After this weekend, we smashed the 50% mark! Since we had a multi-person multiplier for the day, the thermometer LEAPed up for 52% of the goal! Unbelievable!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Almost half way there!

As I expected, finding a job is cutting into my time for planning and executing wild, philanthropic adventures. But the thermometer keeps ticking along regardless. In the last few weeks, my dear Karen AND my Dad donated blood without me even pestering them to death about it!  Saving lives and eating cookies!

In a month where I have had more money to leverage than time, I was able to support several friend's philanthropic efforts, including Paramita's Alzheimer's Walk, Karl's AIDS walk, and Ian's Half marathon for his local children's hospital. It's been really fun to get involved in some of my own walks this summer, but I also know that it can be awesome to have people help make your fundraising goals.  And all of those are great causes!

I've also been chugging away at my 'regular' volunteer activities. (More meatballs to the shelter this week) In the next month, I will have used up my current contract, so I have a suspicion that next month will be structured the opposite: more time than money.  We'll see if I can figure out the best way to leverage that for some Good.

And let's just take a look at that thermometer. It is SO CLOSE to 50%. Want to help me push it over the edge? I am looking for help for a particular project this weekend, please let me know if you are free and in the Seattle area Saturday.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reflection on Taking Dinner to the Shelter

I was planning to do another brief, "we took dinner to the shelter," note tonight. But.. well, my folks stopped in to drop off dessert (my dad really wanted to send brownies sundaes), and then they hung around to chat a bit. The told me the onions and mushrooms I was cooking for a spaghetti sauce smelled nice, and talked me into making ~1 cup servings of pasta. The point being, my family is awesome, which is obviously a major reason that I have never spent the night in an emergency shelter. But that is just luck of the draw; I got lucky to score an awesome family.

And what with the changing of the seasons, it's getting dark. The shelter in Redmond is basically at one end of a strip mall that is neighbored by other strip malls. When it was light out, the people who were coming to stay at the shelter would hang around in their shorts and T-shirts, and the basically just look like people who haven't decided where they are headed next. I've commented before, they don't look like the long-term homeless. But now that it is dark out, and getting cooler, and suddenly it seems like they are lurking rather than just hanging around. You know how in winter, whenever anyone wears a big winter coat, we basically all look like hoodlums? The same is true of people lurking in the shadows of a closed strip mall, they all look like hoodlums. Not like people who are trying to be unobtrusive while they worry and wait for a meal and a bed. I think it must get a lot harder to be a homeless youth (especially) as the days get shorter, and you spend more of your time conspicuously being in public places, it's harder to pretend you don't have anywhere to be right now. It become a lot more obvious that you don't belong anywhere.

Now that I've been taking dinner to the shelter for many months, I find myself feeling much more empathetic to the homeless people I see every day. On my walk to work, I regularly see at least half a dozen people sleeping on the street (on Denny for crying out loud- that doesn't include anyone who wanted to sleep somewhere quiet). I see people who sleep sitting up, their arms looped around their backpacks, which I assume happens when you are too worried about your own safety to commit to laying down or letting go of the backpack that has your only possessions. Being homeless would be terribly stressful. I see one guy who keeps a hair brush next to his sleeping bag, and I think I know why. He doesn't want to look like a bum. Or get treated like a bum.

Every time I take dinner to the shelter, I reflect that I am SO LUCKY to get to take dinner to the shelter, instead of eating my dinner there. Especially for the homeless youth, being homeless is often a matter of bad luck, and a lack of great support systems. While many of them have been pushed out of the foster care system with few enduring contacts, I have a fantastic family who has supported all my crazy endeavors, helping me get my education which makes it much easier for me to find work. They even bring me brownie sundaes to share with some people they will never meet because I told my parents I needed help. Friends of Youth does a great job at working to supplement the support systems for their guests, to provide them counseling, social work services and connect the with opportunities for education and work. But really, nothing can replace the good fortune of having a lifetime with a great family.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Salad Bars 2 Schools in Concrete

So here is a cool thing that my mother-in-law alerted me to. A group called Salad Bars 2 Schools provides grants for schools to upgrade their cafeteria equipment to include a salad bar. The grants are crowd funded, so you can support a school salad bar in your own neighborhood (or my mother-in-law's neighborhood).

Brief platitudes: Nutrition matters, especially during childhood and adolescence. Plenty of evidence connects consumption of vegetables with lower levels of obesity, and the related health and performance problems that come with it. Want kids to be successful at school? Help them get vegetables at school.  You can learn more here.

Go here, look for Concrete School District and make it happen.

Other updates, Project Save the World needs to take a brief back seat to my latest endeavor: Find a Job! I'll be a free agent come November, but I'm hoping to find something new before then. I apologize if updates get fewer and farther between for a while, but I will continue to update the thermometer. I might need more help from guest bloggers and volunteers/donors in the meantime. Please let me know if you can help! We're so close to the halfway mark!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Donor's Choose Project Funded!

The first of the three Donor's Choose  projects I've highlighted was funded! If you have never had a chance to participate in funding a project, you should totally try it. I backed a project to provide school supplies to a low income Seattle School. For starters, it's pretty righteous to be able to track down your neighbors, and just feel like, yeah, I'm going to help them with this need.  The teacher immediately sent a thank you note to me personally, which makes me feel good. And then when the entire project was funded, she posted this note:
Thank you so much for your donations toward school supplies for my students! Wow, I'm so delighted that my students will have supplies on their desks just for them when they arrive back at school in September. Students will have backpacks for carrying their homework to and from school. Each child will have pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, markers, clipboards, rulers, and a mobile work organizer to organize student work. Thank you everyone for your generous donations!

With gratitude,
Ms. Savage

Remember, this is a high poverty school, where huge numbers of students are on free meals. They aren't going to the store to buy new backpacks and pencils before school starts. Just having these supplies available to them makes the job of all of their teachers that much easier. It's a pretty cool give for a teacher to give to her students, and I'm really pleased I go to participate in it.

It's not too late for you to participate. Schools across the country (even in Seattle and Pittsburgh) are looking for ways to give their students a strong start at the year, and you can step up, help out, and get that really good feeling of helping.

I just donated to support this project: Ms. Ralston want to fill her Pittsburgh Student Achievement Center classroom with pencils, folders, and notebooks so her middle school students have the supplies to get to learning from day 1. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dinner to the Shelter

Just another note that my Mom and I made dinner for the Landing, the Friends of Youth Emergency Shelter. The calendar of people taking dinner has a lot more gaps this month; I dropped off a gift card for groceries, so they can pick up dinner for another night.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Guest Post: Austin Partners in Education

From time to time, I' like to hear from the folks I've coerced into helping me with this goal. My big brother was one of the first people to jump on board with this project, and he spent the spring volunteering in Austin public schools as a math tutor/educator. Here are his thoughts on the volunteer experience he has had at Austin Partners in Education.
My favorite destination for my volunteer money or time has always been education. As near as I can tell, it solves every problem. It lifts people from poverty, helps them make better decisions, opens up opportunities for further growth, and helps build communities in healthy and sustainable ways. It solves energy problems, medical problems, social problems, and even educational problems! It's the best. Education is really just the best. We should do more of it.

Education has also been the first area where I've donated more time than money this year. It's been a long, long time since I volunteered any time, but after looking for a while for a reason to periodically get out of the house, I stumbled upon a volunteer opportunity that was perfect for me. It involved helping teach kids math, one of my favorite and best fields. It was near my work, near lunchtime, and afforded me the opportunity to not only get out of the house for a while, but also work with kids who could really use my help.

The volunteer opportunity I tried was called Austin Partners in Education. It's a pretty big organization, boasting something like 2000 volunteers. Once a week, I would go in and work in very small groups (nearly one-on-one) with kids who were having trouble with math. It was all pretty straightforward stuff, but getting to do teaching, math, and volunteering all at once? Sounded like a great time to me. What they mostly needed from potential volunteers wasn't a lot of crazy experience or anything, mostly just enthusiasm and a willingness to be patient with kids who needed it. I could do that. (Hint: so can you!)

For the most part, it wasn't too bad. I was perfectly willing to give them a lot of patience: my usual math student was less than 2 at the time, and he still hasn't picked up counting yet. The fact that it took the other students a couple of tries to pick complex fractions was a welcome change of pace. Each day we'd do a little more work, sometimes offering encouragement as they worked, sometimes dragging them through the exercises, and sometimes failing even to do that. But you do what you can, and though the kids I was working with were in middle school, and already too cool to appreciate anything, we were continuously reminded by the teachers that they could really see improvement in their students. And the kids did appreciate it, even if they didn't say so with, you know, words. Or actions. Or facial expressions.

I enjoyed it, and being as school is starting up soon I'm planning on volunteering again when the program starts up for the new year. Every year there's a new crew of kids that need help with math, and by Jove! I just might be the incredibly dorky math nerd to help them. If this sounds like the sort of thing you might want to try, here's some little tips you may want to consider:

  1. Bring your own pencils and/or pens. The kids often don't have their own, or are willing to fake it so they don't have to work.
  2. Bring neat stuff. I got a lot of mileage out of my cool and unique backpack.
  3. It's okay to talk about your interests, especially if it's stuff like video games or (hurk) pop music that they can get into as well. You have to let them come out of their shell in their own way.
  4. But do remember that you are an authority as well, and it's your main goal to get them to do work. You can't force them to do anything, of course, but you might be surprised how well telling them 'it's time to work' will just make it so.

Now get out there and change some lives!

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Really, who doesn't love metrics? There is lots of pithy wisdom about the importance of measurement in success, but let's not beat around the bush. I love graphs.

Here is a graph that shows how the thermometer has been moving over time.
Fig 1. Dollars raised over time. This is what rocking looks like.

It's ok to be impressed by the increasing pace that it moves at. It's cool to wonder what the big gaps or wide leaps are about. I've got this all in Excel so I can look at exactly that. It's a little dizzying to try to project when we might just bust the thermometer. Assuming the month of my actual birthday was an anomoly, I think I will probably be hitting about 10% a month- or be meeting my goal in about 6 months. SIX MONTHS. That's like.... well, that's a bridge we will cross when we get there.

In the meantime, I've been pitching in hours to get HiveBio going, and enjoying the heck out of that. puts me in touch with lots of ambitious, energetic folks with great ideas. That is one wonderful thing that this project has brought to my life.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's back to school time!

Education is important to me. Education has been a primary theme of my life; In 2011, I graduated from 22nd grade, I currently work as an educator. It's no secret that education matters to me. Education gives students opportunities that matter, that allow them to become productive members of society. Going to school is where students learn not only their core subjects, but also social skills that help them get along with others, connect with mentors who can guide them through the many transitions from childhood to graduation. This is the time of year when all those "Back To School" Ads trigger my desire to support teachers in their classroom. We are going to be talking about education a lot this month.

And while financial support for education in this country remains a complex political problem, it's clear that there are certain things that make it easier for a teacher to teach. No one knows their students better than a teacher, and they are fantastic and identifying the resources that can help students master challenges- whether it's encouragement to read more complex material, or new pencils to facilitate writing. One of my favorite charities of all time is Donor's Choose, a crowd funder that allows you to pick a classroom to support directly. Teachers post their materials lists, and you kick in as much or as little as you like to help them and their students get the year started out right.

Here are a few projects you might consider supporting (based on my estimation of the geography of my current readership), but you can search them all at

Ms. Savage wants to give her Seattle students backpacks with school supplies they can't afford. Gawd, the thought of teaching students who cannot afford the pencils to learn to write with just chokes me up.

Ms. Milligan's class at the Juneau Charter School wants an iPad for use in their literary workshops. Yes, her 4th and 5th graders publish the school's website.

Ms. Ralston want to fill her Pittsburgh Student Achievement Center classroom with pencils, folders, and notebooks so her middle school students have the supplies to get to learning from day 1.

Please let me know if you end up supporting a project at Donor's Choose. Next time, I may guilt you into it by posting the hand written Thank you Notes I got from a classroom in Pittsburgh last spring.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

HiveBio: Where did all the hours go?

I should have started explaining all the time I've been spending on HiveBio things earlier, but here is the long overdue update. In March, I heard about an enthusiastic group of people who wanted to start a biohackerspace: a community lab where people can come to explore biology by doing experiments and collaborating on projects. Lab spaces like this have been successful in other cities, especially areas with a biotech community, so it seems like time that Seattle had our own. A couple years ago, I went to a conference called "Design, Make, Play" where professionals in non-formal and informal education got together to share best practices, so I was quickly convinced that 1) This is a great way for people to get to experience science, 2) this type of community can be successful, despite the challenges of starting a lab with a tiny budget.

I pitched in a few bucks to the Microryza campaign, and decided to go to one of their meet-ups. I had met with one of the founders, but I wanted to know what type of people were involved in the project. At the first meeting, I introduced myself as someone who had a lot of bench experience, but had no interest in designing my own research projects anymore. Since I'm a curriculum writer though, I might be able to lend a hand with education? A few weeks later, I was approached to the be the Executive Director of their Education Programs. Although this sounded like something I should jump at the chance to do, I hesitated. What did they think education would look like at HiveBio? And did they know that I've only been thinking seriously about instructional design for about a year now? And that I am NOT supremely well connected to the science community in Seattle? The fun and scary thing about hanging around with hackers is that they necessarily have crazy ambition, are used to working with very limited resources, and are successful because they make unexpected connections. So yes, they wanted me to build a program from scratch, but there weren't too many constraints, and they have basically started aligning all the key people of Seattle to the project already. This outsized ambition in contagious.

As an aside, when I finished graduate school, I spent some time volunteering that Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh. It was super fun, but it felt more like fun than working for a good cause. When I mentioned this to my supervisor, he corrected me. No, actually, providing students the opportunity to develop a passion for science is a matter of economic equality. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs pay more than the average American job, women in STEM have a smaller pay gap with men, and the same is true of minorities who work in STEM. In fact, there is a great need for STEM workers, which can be be more easily filled by increasing the number of talented women and minorities working in STEM. Further, having diversity in STEM is was provides us the opportunity for innovations that will solve problems like world hunger, homelessness, climate change, and our changing energy needs. Basically, if you worry about the future of our youth, giving them access to STEM can help them to level their own playing field. At Design, Make, Play, I saw research that demonstrated that learning in informal and nonformal learning environments plays an important role in cultivating an interest and pathway to success in STEM, and this liberated me to believe that the hours I was spending shooting rockets with 4 year-olds was actually making a long term difference.

This encouraged me to find a position in nonformal or informal learning environments, but nothing presented itself. However, during that time, I found work developing content for a nontraditional, formal learning environment, and I thought this might be a good step. It also left me with plenty of time to pursue my outlandish philanthropy goals.
Since I agreed to lead Ed programs at HiveBio, there has been a lot to do. There are meetings with the leadership, and potential instructors. There are documents to create (guidelines for instructors, protocols to format), and plans to create. One of my greatest feats so far has been securing the donation of some unwanted equipment from my office, which was moving to a new, smaller location. The old computers and office equipment I estimated had a value of about $1500 for the thermometer. All the computers had password protected copies of office on them, so my husband spent hours wiping them, reinstalling Linux, and assessing the value of their respective parts. I am going to be spending much more than 20 hours a month working on this program.

I'm really excited to have somewhere to apply my ambition, and I'm excited about what HiveBio will do for the community.

If you are excited about this too, I highly recommend you join us for our lab warming party, August 17 at HiveBio. (Update: Soon)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Something Amazing: 40%!!

Saturday morning, we somehow talk ourselves, our friends, their parents and my parents to get get up early and go to a small 5K, the Bridge to Adoption 5K. It had been quite a hectic week, since both Matt and I have been busy with HiveBio stuff, but we wanted to run this event.
Fig 1. Before the Race. Matt and Julie are saving every ounce of energy.
1) It's super close.
2) Jeffrey and Matt ran last year, and came in 1 and 2.
3) Adoption is even more on everyone's minds of late.... and this event is fundraising for the adoption of a second child in the organizers family.
4) As always, the multi-person multiplier seemed in my favor here.
Since I was with my parents as I was registering, they agreed to come and walk, under the condition that we would all have breakfast together afterwards. It's a nice run through Blyth Park, and although Matt and Jeffrey both put up better times than last year, someone else beat them.  But, hey, we won gift cards in the raffle, and Julie even won a pair of new shoes in the raffle.  How great is that!
Fig 2. Post-race, and post-breakfast. A good time was had by all.

And then I came home, and added the tally to the spreadsheet. 7 people at the 5K, my time at HiveBio, Matt's time with the HiveBio computers, the value of the computer themselves...., and holy cats! We just hit 40%!! Seriously, more than $12,000 raised for charity.

While it is obvious to me now that I need to spend some time explaining what I am doing with HiveBio, I also want to spend some time reflecting on the momentum we have currently. I've mentioned this before; the best ways to volunteer time are the ways that a most compatible with your lifestyle. I can easily ask my mom and grandmother to help me make dinner for the shelter because they like to cook. I can easily convince Jeffrey to run a 5K (who in turn can get the rest of his family to tag along), since he loves running anyway. I filled up our garage with old computers, and Matt was keen to get fixing them. My plan for the rest of the year is to highlight diferent causes that I like to support, and hopefully this will help spring to mind ways that others can help as well.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dinner to the Shelter

I took dinner to the Landing again last night. A few thoughts:
  • crock pots are awesome for large meals.
  • it may not be possible to cook more than 1 lb of rice at once without burning some of it
  • using the "hostess food guide estimations" for how much people eat at a party does not translate well to estimating the food needed for the food insecure. 6 oz of meat and 2 ounces of starch is a good rule of thumb for a cocktail party, but not really for people who might only eat one real meal a day.

Last night, it took me long enough to lay out dinner (Belezean Stew Chicken, Rice and Beans, salad and cookies) that there were some people lining up to come in when I left. They said thanks for bringing dinner.

I remain surprised that the people who come to stay at the shelter don't look homeless to me. They don't look rich. They don't look like they have anywhere else to be. But they are wearing clean clothes, have brushed their hair, and look a little down. They hang together in small groups. They are young. They are polite, and quiet. I'm relieved that they don't look like the long-term homeless I walk by every day in Seattle. But this is part of their problem- they don't really look, outright, like people who need help.

It aches my heart to think about how different my own life would have needed to be, and how different my life is, than these kids. It's complicated for me, but I take it to heart that the staff says a warm meal makes a big difference for them. I want something better for the homeless youth, and if a warm meal helps, I can provide that.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What a Great Birthday!

I have the best friends and family ever. Seriously. I'm still so excited about all the good stuff yinz did for my big day.

First things first: we shattered the 30% mark! 31.5% is the official high water mark as of my birthday!

Is it crass to talk numbers? I don't really care. For my actual birthday, my awesome friends and family helped me to push up the thermometer nearly $900- nearly 3% of the way there! In one day!

So let's break it down. I had TWO friends go in for their very first blood donations, thanks Karen and Ruth! Both of them said it was not terrible, that people were very friendly and they got to eat cookies. You should try this.

My parents gave another donation to one of my favorite teachers on Donor's Choose who is moving to a new classroom and needs (choke) pencils for her third grade students who can't afford their own pencils and crayons. Ms. Kacsur's classroom has been supported by my folks in the past, someday soon I hope to scan in some of the thank you cards I got from her students. *misty eyes*

AND my parents gave me some hats to take to Friends of Youth (you may be wondering if generosity is hereditary: I believe it is a learned behavior). Combined with the lamps and tent from Karen, I'm ready to take quite a haul to the Friend's of Youth office up the hill from me, to distribute these items to foster, at risk and homeless youth.

My parents ALSO gave some money to Northwest Harvest, the regional food bank. It both infuriates and inspires me that there can be people in America who would go hungry, if it weren't for the work of food banks like Northwest Harvest. I'm glad to finally get them up on the board.

I'm so glad to support Northwest Harvest, in fact, that I asked my friends to participate in a game of "skill" at my birthday party. We opened a pool for ladder golf, and planned to split the pool between the winner and Northwest harvest.  This resulted in both some friendly rivalry AND $80 for Northwest Harvest. Aren't my friends awesome??

I had a great time, and I really can't think of a better way to spend the day. Thanks to my friends to hung out with me, supported the causes I care about, and generally made me feel awesome about turning 30.

Before the SummeRun 5K. It might take me longer than 10 minutes.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

We started off strong with a 5k supporting the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research. I got a PR, AND hit my fundraising goal! (But you can still donate to my efforts here.)

Thanks to my team for doing the run with me!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Here is How I Want to Celebrate

I'm turning 30 this year. For my birthday, I'd really like to live in a more wonderful world.
For my birthday, I would like:
  • all of my friends to go donate blood (I add an hour to the thermometer for each donation)
  • for money to go to Northwest Harvest to support the good work they do to battle hunger (Text ENDHUNGER to 80888 to make a $10 donation from your phone.* *See details here.)
  • for people to come and run a 5K with me to support efforts to end Ovarian Cancer. You can join my team when you register (30 for my 30th, of course), or donate to my efforts here. But it would be most fun if you came to run with me.
  • for people nearby to come to my house, eat cake, share merriment and bring me items from the Friends of Youth Supply Wish List, to support the needs of foster children in transition and homeless youth on the Eastside. More details on this to emerge, but Sunday afternoon, my house.

If you do any of these things, or any other really awesome thing in your community, let me know so I can throw it on the thermometer.You'll be glad you did, because then we can share this happy and good feeling.

And, if you know of any good charity food events (pancake breakfast, crab feed, etc) in the area, please let me know so I can add it to my schedule!

--Update 7/17/13--
I've hit my fundraising goal for the 5K! Thanks to the support of my friends and coworkers, how cool! Ovarian Cancer research and patient relief can still use your help, so it's not to late to pledge. Or consider supporting one of my teammates.

We are getting so close to 30%...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pre-Birthday Anxiety

When my friends started turning 30, there was this apprehension that maybe life is over now, that our chance to be cool was over and that life would necessarily be more boring. I can say that of my close friends who have passed this milestone birthday, none of them have gotten less cool, and most of them have started living even fuller lives, like having kids, launching new careers and finally being successful in the careers they've been investing in. Turning 30 isn't cool in a Seventeen Magazine kind of way, but I traded in my cool and popular card a long time ago. I'm looking forward to having the confidence of experience and moving on to the next stage of life.

But... did you know that Ben Haggerty just turned 30? Yes, the Same Love and Thrift Shop rapper, artist, activist and damn cool guy. He and I have had the same time on earth, and I have arguably done less to impact the world I live in then he has. I mean, this whole project (or initiative, as Ruth suggests I call it) is supposed to help me address that. But, with my birthday actually showing up, I'm starting to feel a little behind. I often feel a little behind. Because after my birthday, I'm going to have to clarify that it's not that I am raising money for my birthday, I'm raising money now that I am 30, which is somehow less compelling.

I am still hoping that I can use the general enthusiasm that people have for birthdays to make a little extra good in the world, y'know, for my birthday. I was thinking of hosting a trail work party, but since I know nothing about that and the Washington Trail Association needs about 2 months (and firm numbers) to put that together, we may have to go another route.  At the moment, I am thinking of doing a 5K for cancer research, and possibly hosting a party (because, cake) and asking people to bring things that the shelter is looking for. But I'm not totally sure I can pull off hosting a party at the moment. And there is a chance I can do a work party at the HiveBio Lab, which would be a big help for a nascent non profit (and scores hours with a multi-person multiplier for the thermometer), although arguably not the same heart strings impact as feeding the hungry and curing cancer. Ack! So many decisions!

I hope when I do turn 30 I am no longer paralyzed by indecision or overwhelmed by simple planning and management tasks. And that maybe I can still be a little cool.

I took dinner to the shelter again tonight. I'm pretty pleased with how quickly this has turned from a massive source of anxiety to just another set of tasks. Having my mom and grandmother to help with the cooking was clearly the missing piece to a low-stress dinner for 15 thing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's July Already

Well, I hope it's obvious to everyone else that the pubcrawl things was a bit too ambitious. I'd really like to do something like this in the future, but a lot of other things piled up ahead of that, and I of course made it all much too complicated to get a lot of participation. Which is actually for the best, since on these beautiful summer days, it's hard to picture myself celebrating my birthday in a bar. With crowds of strangers. Ick.

But, I still want to do something to further this goal for my birthday. Which is later this month. (Eek!) I'm pleased to say that my anxiety about the pending day (July 21, I hope to hear from you on FB) is more related to meeting this ambitious goal than it is to feeling old or something. I don't have time for feeling old- I'm wracking up volunteer hours!

Hopefully after a weekend retreat with my inspiring mother-in-law, I'll have some insight into what might do-able in the little time that I have left to pull something off. At the very least, I'll be directing dollars to a charity and asking you to donate blood- so start beefing up your iron levels!

And maybe I'll have time to write about my new (volunteer) position as the Executive Director of Education with the community lab HiveBio.

Goal update- Shout out to my old nieghbor Ruth whose support of her friend's MS bike-a-thon pushed us over the 25% mark. Woot!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

100 Volunteer Hours

Today I spent the afternoon in some volunteer work I needed to catch up on. I am the editor for the Seattle Association for Women in Science (AWIS) newsletter, which means that at least quarterly, I have to sit down and edit some documents, exchange flurries of emails and get some files organized. It's not unlike my real job (as a writer), and it's nice to be able to schedule it for when I have time. What I'm getting at here, is this was a fairly routine experience.

And as I was updating the totals on my spreadsheet (which I love doing), I noticed it updated to 104 hours. That's a lot of time! And since what I really love about the spreadsheet are the metrics, let me break it down for you. From the totals on the thermometer (currently $7,345.27), which is combined hours and dollars, about half of that is hours, and half dollars. About 57 of those hours, I've been involved in (I will track combined hours for something Matt & I or myself and others do, so it's less lines on the spreadsheet).

Just for the record, I think we can compare the amount of volunteer time I've racked up this year to the amount of volunteer time I did last year, which was basically only my work with AWIS. Or ~4 hours a month. In the 5 months since I started tracking, I've basically doubled my own efforts, and some how talked others into matching my volunteer efforts.  Go us!

That being said, having spent a sunny Saturday in my office, I've got to get serious about finding some outdoor volunteer opportunities. And it looks like the pub crawl is going to fall through- but I'd like to get a group together for some type of volunteer project: trail maintenance? flash mob at the blood bank? 5K? I'm not sure, so if you have ideas, let me know.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dinner Donor

Just dropping a line here to say that I did take dinner to the Landing last night. Things worked out that I didn't have much help (except for a clutch moment where Matt helped me slice peaches so I could get a crisp into the oven before the lasagna). Since it was pouring buckets, they were expecting a pretty full house, and warm lasagna seemed like the right thing to bring. While it's neat to feel like I can cook for 15 people by myself, it was way more fun when I had help.

There were lots of staff hanging around at my delivery (there was a basketball game on?), and I am super curious about who these people are. They always act like I'm bringing them something really special- like it's the best stuff they've seen all week. By the time dinner is loaded into my car, I'm always very self conscious: Four lasagnas and 24 rolls. What do normal people eat for dinner? I'm sure they've been told that little bit of enthusiasm makes volunteers like me really happy to come by. What can I say, it works.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Another HUGE Milestone- 20%

Big news- we hit 20% of the goal last month.  That means that in May, we did 10%.  THat's huge! If we can sustain 10% of the goal every month- we'll be done in EIGHT MONTHS.

Of course, there were some (great!) reasons that May was so strong that may not be true through the summer. Seattle Big Give encouraged me to give away a fair part of my donation budget early. My brother's volunteer gig with Austin Partners in Education is on summer break (thanks Noel!). There were Mother's Day gifts in donations.  So, we gotta get/stay serious about keeping up this momentum through the summer.  I'll be looking for some trail work myself, and some more 5Ks.  But mostly GIANT, gushy Thank YOUs to everyone who has helped push the thermometer up this high, this quick!  It's awesome!

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Boring Part

My desk is positively littered with very sweet notes providing receipts for charitable giving. This is cool. In years past, I would have recycled these.  But I think there is a good chance I might make a charitable level of giving this year that warrants a tax deduction.  So I'll be keeping these.  Hopefully not all on my desk.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Busy Day- Go charity!

A long weekend mean lots of time to get involved in the community. We kicked off the day with a 5K that was benefiting the Special Olympics.  We can talk about how slow my time was, or we can talk about how awesome it was to see families encouraging this Down's Syndrome kids on the same course- or how cool it was when the lady pushing her cerebral palsy son crossed the finish line.  It was a pretty great 5K.

Kiwanais-KITH Pancake Breakfast, May 25
Figure 1: Delicious Pancake Image stolen from here, the KITH website

And THEN, we went for the KITH/Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast. And I say "we" to mean not just myself and husband, but his bestie and wife and kiddo. We got the multiplier! The awesome thing about going to a pancake breakfast with a 4 year old is the access to high quality pancakes. Sure, we all got yummy pancakes, but the kid got Mickey Mouse Pancakes- with a smile, how do you even do that?- a doggy pancake and a BIKE pancake.  Kiwanis seriously knows how to make their pancakes; I'll be watching out for opportunities to eat and support good causes with pancakes.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Seattle GiveBIG

I'm a bit late to talking about this, but May 15 is the Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG campaign.  They collect matching from generous donors, and then connect civilians like me to local and regional nonprofits.  On May 15, any funds donated get MATCHED by the Seattle Foundation.

And someday, when it's not so late, I plan to go back and use the resources on the Seattle Foundation site to help me find a good environmental organization to support. They do nice due diligence on organizations, as part of supplying grant 

I cashed out my PayPal Account (where my contracting money goes) to make $500 in donations to some of my favorite charities. I gave money to the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance (on behalf of my husband), Friends of Youth, Kirkland Interfaith Transitional Housing, IDRI and the Puget Sound Blood Bank. And just like that, the thermometer ticked up by $1,000. Thanks Seattle Foundation!

So far, (as of 9:00 PM) 10 MILLION DOLLARS have been raised through this effort. That is stunning.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Share the Love!

I took dinner to the Friends of Youth shelter at the Landing earlier this week. The best part was being able to share that doing-good feeling with my mom and grandma, who happily joined in to help out.  (Also, cooking with my mom seems to reduce that feeling of existential kitchen crisis, where I wonder, "Why am I here? Do I even know what cooking is??")

I knew it would be more fun, and less chore like to have my Mom helping in the kitchen. But I was surprised by how good I felt about sharing the experience.  I always feel really good about taking dinner over there- it's something really tangible that I am doing for my community. It's really nice to share that feeling with someone I like, and to feel like we are the sort of people who do good things in the community.

I was planning to write a post about how I want to look for more ways to share that good feeling, but my folks beat me to the punch on Mother's Day.  While we were sitting down to a Mother's Day brunch, my Dad turned to his mom (my saintly grandmother), and said, "Your mother's day gift is a donation to Donors Choose."  I couldn't have been happier if the gift had been for me.  Or if I actually got to read the books that my grandmother picked to buy for a local classroom.

I think I'm starting to understand what they say about good deeds multiplying.

Have you noticed our totals?  Just inching past the $4000 mark (!)

Now would be an awesome time to sign up for the Crawl for a Cause- raise money for charity, and hang out with me for my birthday.  It's going to be grand!

I'm donating blood this week. I'll try to write an update about the importance of blood donation, but schedule yours today!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Letter from Friends of Youth

Sometimes I worry that I am not doing a very good job of explaining why I am doing this, or why it matters.

Perhaps this letter from Friends of Youth can help to explain it. 
"Your generous dinner contribution... provided a hot and healthy meal to young people in a time of crisis. Your gift helps our guests take their first steps on their journey from homelessness to stability and safety." 

Yup, my pulled pork provided a transition to stability and safety.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Crawl for a Cause!

Big Announcement: For my Birthday Party, I'm going to host a fundraiser Pub Crawl. And you are all invited.

Crawl for a Cause!
July 20
Seattle Bars (TBA, depending on attendance)
Cost $20*

The growing body of knowledge related to this even will be found here, on the tumblr. Here are the key features.  My friends, family, or total strangers should decided to participate.  The cost is $20 (we'll get back to this). You will decide to participate, and for a team of 3-5 people, and fundraise for the charity of your choice.  We'll try to post get some motivating shenanigans as we approach the date (which is what the tumblr is for).

On the day of the Main Event (July 20), we'll all get together for scavenger hunt type activities in a couple of pubs (once we figure out how many people are coming, we can decide on the locations).  There, we'll compete for the money everyone pitched in for entry fees to be donated to thier charities.  Basically, have fun for charity, right?

Here is how you can get invovled:

You think this is a great idea, and have time for hanging out in pubs on July 20.  Grab a few friends, pick a charity and start fund raising.  My friend Adam (who has been the real brains behind this operation) has some fantastically fun ideas for raising money, and I think it might be prize worthy. **.

You think this is a cool idea, minus the part where people go to bars, or are social.  You mostly just support the charity part.  Donate money to the event (ie, send it to me), and I can use it to donate to teams to motivate them during the fundraising period, and to be part of the Grand Prizes we give to charities on the day.

You think this is a cool idea, but can't come and don't have money to donate. We are also looking for non-monetary donations (ie, art, toys, terribly bad gag gifts) to give to teams themselves as souvenirs of my favorite birthday party and prizes for things like **Most creative Fundraising efforts, Most spirited team, Best Costumes (I'm pro-costume) etc. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

What Makes Volunteer Work Easier?

After than initial excitement about launching this project, I've been faced with the multitude of ways that this si going to be a formidable challenge.  I don't have infinite time or money, and you can't just insist that people you know support your crazy efforts, especially if it requires time or money.

That being said, I've also started to crack the secrets of making this work.  Well, they aren't so much secrets as they will be key to my plan.

1) Do things you like.  It's hard to commit your limited free time to anything, but finding something that is fun, and you might have done anyway, is a pretty great way to get in some volunteer work.  That's part of the reason I'm enjoying cooking for Friend's of Youth, I like cooking, and it happens to really help some people in need. Awesome.  It's a similar deal with running a 5K- you might have gone for a run anyway, why not pitch in a few bucks to support a good cause while going for a run somewhere new?

2) Time is valuable.  Part of this reflects how I set up the project, but it will be much easier for me to find 900 hours to volunteer than $30,000 to give away.  My time is valuable, and there are a number of people looking for someone to show up at some event and help out. If you have the time to spare, it means a lot, both to the organization you are helping, and I think actually participating feels more worthy.

3) Use the multiplier.  Volunteering can be a little intimidating if you go alone- meeting strangers, doing new things. I'm much happier doing that sort of thing if I've brought a friend.  And it's a lot easier to rack up hours when you've got friend matching you hour for hour.  How do you think the Science Fair turned into such a huge event? (Thanks Karen!)

Consider yourselves warned, I'm going to be egging on my family and friends to come and do fun things with me in the name of charity.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

10% to Goal!

Great news, we are 10% of the way to goal!  Hooray for charities!

I'm including a graph of progress so far, because, who doesn't love metrics?

Figure 1. The first $3,000 have been raised.  The graph shows progress towards goal over time, with combined hours and dollars being presented as Normalized $.

A couple explanatory notes.  You may notice small jumps or packed data points at the beginning of the month.  For cool people like my brother who report to me a monthly total, I just assign those the first of the month for data tracking reasons.  It does make it look at if there are some days that are more popular for volunteering.

Also, You'll notice the last month or so has been much more productive than the first 3 months of the project.  This gives me some confidence that with momentum (and support!), we can make this ambitious goal.  I'll include another update of lessons I've learned in the last month or so that will really help.

What pushed us over the edge?  My mother-in-law taught a 6 hour class to 4H kids on how to make sock monkeys.  Cheers to her for supporting kids learning important life skills!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cement City 5K

When I started this project, I has some ambitious idea that I would start running charity 5Ks.  This is a cool idea, it combines recreation and philanthropy.  The problem is that I am simply not one of nature's runners.  As I've been figuring out how I might really pull this thing off, I realized I should probably stick to things that aren't any harder then they have to be.  There are plenty of ways to do good that aren't miserably hard.

I also had this idea that I might use my volunteer time to support the projects and efforts of my friends and family, especially those who already give a lot of thier time.  My mother-in-law is a perfect example.  She is retired, and basically spends her time being a pillar of the community.  She volunteers with a lot of organizations.  She was able to talk me out of using people's existing volunteer efforts in my totals because she volunteers WAY more than 900 hours a year. 

When she mentioned that she was going to walk a 5K to support the Concrete Lions Booster Club , I figured, what the heck, I could walk a 5K.  My husband and I got to make a weekend of it, and it was one of those cool events where everyone was cheering everyone before and after the race.  Yay!  Go participants!  I have no doubt that the Boston Marathon Bombing galvanized the sense of community here, and I was grateful to be a part of it.  Especially since my (personal best) 5K time was not that much faster than the walkers- including the 83 year old who did the route with two walking sticks.

But we didn't get sweaty in the rain to make me feel good about my fitness, we went to support the Concrete Lions Booster Club , who in Concrete supports the (rural, poor) schools and students.  Way to be!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Supporting Teachers through Donor's Choose

Sometimes I still take editing contracts.  I had a prolonged job hunt after finishing graduate school, during which time I filled my time, resume and bank account by taking contracts to edit manuscripts for Chinese scientists.  At first, I kept taking contracts because it gave me some sense of job-security (two jobs are better than one?).  But my career interests have quickly diverged, so I can't pretend that correcting bad grammar is going to help me up the career ladder. However, it's a fairly painless way to make some cash, which ends up in a Paypal account I tend not to think about much.

Today I went to check the balance there, and well- it was time to buy up some joy!  I went to my favorite charity, Donor's Choose, and started looking for cool projects to support. First, I did a search for projects in high poverty school nearby me.  It's pretty easy to forget in my cozy suburb that many of our neighbors are struggling; in fact, the project I found was in Bothell (where my grandmother lives). There, a science teacher is trying to implement a science competition for her 3rd and 4th graders.  I gotta say, it makes me feel like some kind of super hero to just fund the rest of her project.

Donor's Choose encourages you to explain why you chose to support a project as a way to encourage teachers and students.  One of the suggestions I say was from someone who was supporting a project where they went to school, and I realized I should check on whether there were any schools looking for projects in the district where I went to school.  Juneau Schools didn't have any projects, but there was a teacher trying to develop reading and math curriculum that are developed with families in Ketchikan.  I stepped up as their first supporter, and I'm hoping my friends and family who have ties to Southeast Alaska will also support the project.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dinner to the Landing

Matt and I took dinner to The Landing for the Friends of Youth Shelter again tonight. Dinner for 15 homeless young adults (18-24).  Our first time was pretty eye opening, actually.  I'm not sure what I thought to expect, but I wasn't exactly prepared.

The Landing is, during the day, a youth center or something.  It's clearly a space that is used for other things; it's an office in a strip mall.  And at night time, when we showed up at 8:30 to deliver dinner, they start dragging mattresses out to cover the floor. We arrived a few mintures early to get assembled- I'm not sure if I was afraid that the yuppie guests would diss my cooking, or that starving hoards would try to steal my donation, but mostly I wanted to get it right. When we arrived (at the office space in the strip mall not far from the movie theatre we sometimes go to), there was no one there.  I wondered if I had brought too many lasagnas.  We dodged the mattresses being dragged out by the (college aged) volunteers, and assembed dinner in the kitchen.

While we were arranging salads and things, people started to knock at the door.  On the door, there is a schedule: 8:30 Line-up and Registry. 8:45 Lottery and Dinner....  What I like about this shelter/organization is that they make an effort to connect people to other services that they might need.  What wigs me out about this shelter is that they might not have space for everyone who needs it. And that the Vista Volunteer who is barely 24 might have to tell someone his own age that there is no bed and he has to sleep in the street. That thought made the experience all too real.

I had briefly pondered staying for dinner- acknowledging the humanity of my neighbors who just don't have a home tonight, breaking bread and sharing encouragement.  But I couldn't do it.  I was struck by the need, the complete need, that would drive a person to an emergency shelter- you have no home, no family and friends to land on, no money to make your own way, and possibly no clear path to change that.  In the few hours (~12) that people stay at the shelter they are warm, fed, and connected with people who might be able to help them solve the very real problems they are facing.  Making small talk with someone who is self-conscious about her cooking is probably not the best use of anyone's time.

BUT, having a warm meal provided frees up the staff/volunteers to focus on helping the people who show up. And providing a meal as just some private citizen is a gesture to say that I still think of these people as my neighbors (even if my notoriously awkward ability to converse with strangers prevents me from being social in these circumstances).  Bringing dinner feels like the best way for me to help- not that it is all the help that these people need, but it is probably the best thing that I can do.