Sunday, November 16, 2014

I'm going to donate a kidney

Today, GW outed me as his donor on FB. He said,
  "by the way, this cool girl who posted the pic of me and her at the Space Needle, is my donor. Everybody show some love to Sandlin, I owe her my life..." 
 which kinda blew up this picture on my FB feed. I figured I owed my friends a little more explanation.

We did have a great time at the Space Needle.

After living away from my family for some years, I deeply value my ability to care for my loved ones. I know what it feels like when you need help that is does not feel available, and what it feels like to support someone like family, whether they are family or not. It is a pleasure to be able to take action when someone I care about needs it.

In early January, my mom called me to tell me that my sister had been with her boyfriend GW in the hospital for days. His kidneys had failed, due to his lupus, and now he was in a whirlwind of dialysis and stabilizing procedures. My grandmother, the model of a selfless human, had offered her kidney, and that planted a seed for me. I remember sitting in my office, hundreds of miles from my sister, wishing I could DO something- make them dinner, take a shift at the hospital so she could sleep, walk their dogs... any kind of action.

As the next few months progressed, I entered a slippery slope of logic that landed me with a clean bill of a health, approval from the medical review board, and a pending date for a transplant surgery.

I decided I would definitely do something to help, because this would prolong GW's life, and improve the quality of his life. I decided I would do some research on organ donation, so I could help them recruit a donor. This would take almost no effort, and it would help save someone's life.

Once I did some research, I decided I should take an active role in recruiting a donor. This would take a little effort, but would save someone's life.

And then I started to think about who I might ask, and whether they would be able to make informed consent- that is, who would be able to undertake this process and fully understand what they were taking on in terms of personal risk and opportunity. After my research, and frankly, experience as a researcher looking for a drug to help people who are rejecting their kidney transplant, I knew what informed consent would look like. I decided the only way to ask that of someone else, was to really consider it for myself. Would I be willing to donate a kidney to someone I loved? Of course! There is a very limited risk, and it would save someone's life! 

But I need my kidney. Or,.. actually, what am I saving it for? The numbers of people who need kidneys are huge (80,000 people are on a waitlist that ranges from 5-10 years), but this still means I am probably not likely to know someone who needs a kidney until we are all much older. I asked around, were any of my friends and family likely to need a kidney? No? Then what am I saving it for? And like many important decisions I've ever made, I had a moment of realization that, oh, that should be me.

Would I be willing to be laid up for 2-6 weeks, if it could save someone's life? I have a lifelong obligation to stay pretty healthy after surgery, but that's just good advice for everyone. And the other side of the equation is what a difference it would make to GW. The cost to me is significant, but it would save GW's life!

Dialysis has proved to be a constant struggle, punctuated by crises that is simply no way to live life. If he could get a transplant, he'd get his time and energy back. His diet could normalize and he could go back to doing things that he enjoyed, like biking, hiking with his dog, and camping with my sister. It would literally add years to his life, and give him a quality of life that isn't possible on dialysis. That's how I made the decision to be a kidney donor.

I'm still scared. I'm still dreading surgery, and the recovery. I'm still anxious that this might change my life in unexpected ways. But those still seem like small risks compared to the good that I can do.

I have an amazing opportunity to save a life. Not everyone can do this. You have to be in really good health to be an organ donor. You have to be able to make the time for screening, surgery and recovery. I'm lucky, I've got the health, the time, and the support system to be able to do this. And seeing the support GW has from his friends and family makes me feel like I am giving a gift not just to him, but to all of his support system. It is humbling to be counted in the community that has rallied around him.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge

My little sister and her boyfriend challenged Matt and I to the ice bucket challenge on Sunday night. Their ice bucket challenge occurred on top of a mountain, in an Alaskan costume that included wearing antlers and ski goggles. Clearly, I can't out do them in terms of showmanship. Or punctuality. But I did want to participate in the challenge, in my own way.

The ice bucket challenge has been ringing around the internet all summer, and dominating my Facebook feed for weeks. I've started to see some "backlash," or perhaps the better phrase is criticism. Wearing ice water doesn't cure diseases. No one learns anything about ALS when you post squealing videos to social media, so it's hardly an awareness campaign. There are other "better" places for your money. I read and considered all this before I was challenged.

I have also lost two colleagues to ALS in my brief career, so my plan was always to donate money and share some learning.

One of the reasons that this campaign has been so powerful is that so very few people had heard of ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, before this summer. This is in part because it is an orphan disease- meaning fewer than 200,000 Americans are affected each year.  Many people die within a 3-5 years of diagnosis, after losing the battle to control their bodies so that they can no longer breathe. I've heard this described as a glass coffin, because unlike other neurodegenerative disorders, these patients are not cognitively impacted; their body simply fails them. Currently there is no treatment, and the only drug that is used in "treatment" may extend life 2-3 months without improving symptoms. The current state of treatment for ALS is appalling.

My quick review of recent publications on the disease suggests that everything from disease progression, risk factors for developing the disease, diagnostics and treatment are all currently being studied, and are not even close to fully understood. There is a mouse model of ALS, which has been used to illuminate the role of superoxide dismutase in the neuronal death of ALS. Clearly, a person could make a fruitful career studying ALS with an eye towards helping those affected, who are desperate for a quick intervention.

Unfortunately, a quick intervention is a long way off. The $100 that I give is unlikely to result in a cure or treatment for anyone currently diagnosed with ALS. ALS is that fast, methodical research takes that much time, and the pipeline for this inquiry has all but stalled as NIH budgets for this type of research have been cut continuously for years. I am joining in the chorus of nerdy voices to say that if you care about ALS (or Alzheimer's, or cancer, or mental illnesses that can result in violent psychotic breaks, or diabetes, or Ebola, or TB, or any other disease that may impact people or places you love), and want to see better diagnosis and treatment, support increased funding for the NIH.   

The National Institutes of Health provide the majority of funding for basic research and much clinical research on all of these diseases. Tragically, funding for the NIH has been shrinking along with many federal budgets, particularly in the last 4 years. Due to the sequester, the NIH granted 8% fewer grants last year than the year before. The current NIH budget is around $30 Billion dollars, so an 8 percent drop represents the equivalent of a failure to fund many entire universities full of researchers. I have seen many bright and talented researchers leave their research because it cannot be funded. This is sad for them and their career. This is a crisis for the patients their research could have helped.

And let me just address the final point, that there might be "better" ways to spend your time and money. I've spent a lot of time in the last year thinking about how to best manage charitable giving and volunteerism. It's easy to look at this as a problem of finite resources: I have $100 for charitable giving, do I give it ALL to ALS? But I have found that living generously helps overcome those finite resources, it sets off a cascade of positive action. You support an ALS researcher, whose breakthrough provides a glimmer of hope for both ALS patients, and patients with chronic pain or other neurodegenerative issues. The chronic pain patient is able to work longer, earning them a chance to donate money to their local foodbank. That positively impacts other members of the community with an opportunity to get their life together, etc, etc. It's a virtuous cycle. Our time on this earth is short, and we ought to spend it trying to make it a little easier for eachother, in any little way that we can. Ice buckets included.

A similar concern about a "better use" is sometimes raised for supporting research- why spend money on research into something that might NOT be the cure, when patients are suffering now, and that money might be better spent on the care of the currently suffering. The beauty of basic research (which is also funded by the NIH), is that we always learn something. You may learn this gene is not involved in ALS, you may discover a drug that doesn't treat ALS. But this research is an investment in the future. In the future, we want scientists to have a huge body of work to look back on when they are developing and improving therapies for these conditions, which seems like a good use of our limited resources today.

Here is a challenge- it's not quite as fun as pouring ice on your head in the summer, but it won't take much longer.

1) Look up your legislators here:

2) Send them a note like this (you can probably email them via the webform on their contact page):
Dear My Legislators,

As a constituent of yours, I am concerned about the decline in funding for the NIH. Decreased funding for scientific research prevents us from being able to diagnose, treat and cure life threatening diseases. Please support an increase in funding for the NIH, which will contribute to a cure for ALS (or Alzheimer's, or cancer, or mental illnesses that can result in violent psychotic breaks, or diabetes, or Ebola, or TB, or any other disease that may impact people or places you love).

Thank you for your consideration,
Your name here

It's that easy to make your voice heard, and don't forget that your voice matters.

In honor of Denice Hougan and Ellen Fanning, PhD.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Birthday! $30,000 for Charity!

My 31st birthday just happened, and it marked another, more momentous occasion: The completion of the $30,000 mark! I'm so happy!

Since my last post, I donated some money to a scholarship fund, to a veterans benefit event, took dinner to the shelter again, and spent out all my contract earnings on Donor's Choose projects. And I got a bunch of support from my family for my 5K next weekend in support of the Misha Rivkin Center. I got to spend part of the weekend picking Donor's Choose projects, which is always fun, which meant I spent part of my birthday getting messages from teachers. I'm not ashamed to admit that I found a bunch of mostly complete projects to fund, so I could get the joyful notes from teachers.
"YAHOO! I am thrilled beyond words that this project has been funded!" 
"I received news this morning that our Magnificent Mindstorms project has been fully funded! I am so grateful. The kids will be so excited to come back to school and begin working on their robotics project with these new materials."
"I am speechless and I can assure you that NEVER HAPPENS!"
This is one of the big things that I have learned in the last year.  Charitable giving is not completely selfless, and it's ok to be a little selfish for the greater good (ie, wanting to get the awesome feeling of helping someone out). In fact, that's pretty much required to get any kind of momentum, either from giving money or time.

I have also learned to think differently about what it means to live generously. I have been practicing thinking about myself as part of a larger community, not just my own family and friends, but the city I live in, the regions we love, and the people who live there. I want to see my family lead joyful lives. I want to live in a city where everyone has a chance to thrive- and that means giving opportunities and support to organizations and missions that perhaps don't directly impact me. This is why I have supported the Puget Sound Blood Center and the Friends of Youth. I have not (yet) needed blood, but I want to live in a region where we don't have to worry about that need. I was never a homeless youth (because I was lucky to have an amazing family), but I don't want homeless youth in my community to miss out on the opportunity for a wonderful life. I really feel that I benefit from the services of nonprofits in my area, and that it is one of the things that makes this region great. Getting to work with HiveBio is really what helped me shape that idea. HiveBio's mission is to bring science to everyone and anyone in our region- and the more I worked with them, the more I realized how happy I am living in a community where everyone and anyone can access science.

It's been really empowering to see how I could make a change in my own community too. I should say, I was WAY too shy to talk about this effort with any of the organizations I worked with, or to solicit support very broadly for this. Instead, the $30,000 up on the thermometer is mostly the work of my family and close friends, chipping away at what sounded like a crazy goal. In that time, my mother and grandmother taught me to cook for 30 people, I built a science education program out of what used to be some boxes in a closet in a warehouse,  my friends got me running lots of 5Ks, my dad donated so much blood the blood center is practically on his speed dial, Donor's Choose reports I have helped 966 kids, my parents started supporting an orphanage in Africa, and most of my family has either given or received charitable donations for birthdays and Christmas. Once we got into the swing of it, the dollars just ticked away. There were hurdles, of course: I lost my job, I lost confidence in how I could reach this goal, at various times I lost focus on the effort. Making a habit of volunteering and the encouragement of my family seemed to provide enough momentum to pull me through. I am really grateful to the friends and family (all of you) that pitched in along the way- despite the fact that the elevator pitch is terrible, and that I often just felt like I was asking for money. And I hope they are happy too- I mean, look at all the cool things we accomplished!

When I first started this project, my dad teased that he would help out this year, but $31,000 is too much for the next year. I have been thinking about how I would follow-up this project. I have found organizations I want to continue to support because they bring me so much joy. I have also learned that volunteering is a really great way for me to feel connected to my community, regardless of whether I meet many people while doing it, so I hope to continue that effort. Mostly, I want to continue to live generously and remain connected to my community, even as my community changes (when I lose my job again in December) and the things I can give change. I want to know that some of the goodness in the world is because of, and for, me.

Monday, June 9, 2014

SummeRun 2014!

Let's talk about a big finish. My grand finale will be a 5K in support of the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer. They do research and treatment for women with ovarian cancer. They do fantastic work, and have created a community of support around these patients. I ran last year on my birthday, and it was a really fun, and inspiring event.

To make this a big finish, I want to raise a lot of money. You can support me or my team- or join the team!- here. My goal is to finish out my fundraising goal with this event. Currently, that means I need to raise another $1800. Hopefully that number will shrink with some other events along the way, but I gotta raise some funds!

I'm also accepting ideas for fun, but run-worthy costumes. The briefcase 5K was a hoot, and I can only think of more reasons to run in costume.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Over 28K!

My dad likes it when I update the thermometer. With some hours I've put in, a big donation he sent to an orphanage they support in Africa, and the Briefcase Relay I talked some friends in to running tomorrow (in support of the foodbank)... the thermometer has just surpassed $28,000. That's a really crazy huge number. 39% of that is real dollars- which is still a crazy huge number.

Hopefully there will be photos from the briefcase relay- there will be costumes. Wish us luck!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Give Big and Leverage Dollars

Thermometer is up over 90%. This has a lot to do with the Seattle Foundation's Give BIG event. It's a good time to give, because it allows you to stretch your money a little farther by accessing the stretch pool. More than $13 M were donated this may to local nonprofits. It's pretty awesome.

I'm starting efforts to fundraise for the SummeRun 5K again this year, and hoping to get in some trail work with friends to get the last bit done.

I'd be lying if I said this wasn't starting to feel like a bit of a slog. Now we are talking deadlines, which are much less sexy. But I'm relieved to know that I'm actually on track to make this deadline (even if plan B is to donate the remaining money in July. It's now a number I can almost afford.)

I think that overall the impact of the project has been good. It's forced me to think about how I want to spend my time and money, and the various ways that those choices affect me and the people around me. And it's helped me to find ways to include charitable work and giving into my normal routine. I now ALWAYS say yes when a cashier asks me if I want to donate a dollar to the foodbank, MS society, cancer research, or what have you. I seek out girl scouts, boy scouts, and campfire kids to help their fundraising. I know how to connect homeless kids to services, thanks to Friends of Youth. I can also cook for a crowd. I make a budget for charitable giving. (Which is cool, because I have enough money I can comfortably share some of it- making me feel double awesome.) I've been able to talk with my friends and family about charitable work and giving, which previously seemed uncomfortable (it's only uncomfortable because no one has any idea what they are supposed to do).

I still struggle with the question of what is best in terms of my time and money. Food bank or Red Cross? Are 5Ks a legit form of "charitable giving"? What about other organizations that do cool and important work, like scholarship funds, animal shelters, or community services? I'm trying not to over think it now. I want to live in an interesting, safe, and vibrant community. That means I support the work of a lot of different kinds of people, mostly because I want to know that those kinds of people are around. One cool thing about giving is that it isn't all or nothing. I can give some dollars to the cat shelter, some dollars to the homeless shelter, some dollars to the community center, and all of this is good. I'm not stressing myself out about whether it is all equivalently good. If I feel compelled to help, I'll help.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Meandering Update on How to Finish Strong

There is a lot to say when you are an intermittent blogger, and most of it, I probably won't take the time to express fully. Even with the moving target of trying to wrap up this effort by my 31st birthday (in July), I'm still trying to figure out what I have to do to make it ALL the way. There is about $4500 or 136 hours left to raise. I'm learned a lot in the last year, and certainly enough to know that while it is acheiveable, I need a plan.

Another one of the things that I have learned is that I really enjoy charity projects when they feel comfortable and relevant, more than some big symbolic effort. Namely, I would much rather have to sit down and plan a menu and shopping for 30(!) homeless youth than go to some one off gala type event. There are fundraiser's for organizations happening all the time, but I would rather have a few groups that I care deeply about and know how to impact positively. (Obviously, this does not include running 5ks.) Friends of Youth has been a great organization for me to support because their mission is good, I feel like it has changed the way I think about my own community, and it lets me do something I enjoy doing anyway (cooking with my family).

One of the reasons that I need a plan, however, is that I am expecting to change where I am spending my volunteer time soon. At the end of the month, I will be passing the torch at HiveBio. While I hope to have some ongoing relationship there, I have found I need a more free time and headspace than that position has afforded me. I'm also planning to stop volunteering with AWIS, in an effort to focus my professional networking on organizations that will connect me with professionals in my field. For recordkeeping, the two major sources of my volunteer hours will be ramping down quickly, and I still need to get something in place to meet that last $4500.

Always the inspiration, today my little sister is participating in a Kidney Walk to support kidney patients . It's the type of event that doesn't require lots of preparation, but can be fun with a team, and gives a clear direction for how to get people to help you out. Send money here. Get your friends involved- for the multiplier effect. I'm planning to sign up for at least one fundraiser 5K this summer, which should fill that niche for me (and hopefully a small team). But I'm also going to need some large-ish volunteer projects. The challenge will be balancing my new sentiment that volunteer work is impactful on the volunteer- what you spend time on becomes who you are- with my hope of getting more people involved, and the logistical limitations of trying to pull this all off by July 21. I would happily accept ideas for how to make this happen at any time.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This is still happening

My father just reminded me to update the thermometer. Much to say on the many things that have been going on- science fairs, finishing my tenure at Director of Education at HiveBio, seeking a replacement for the AWIS newsletter, planning some more 5Ks.

Perhaps the best thing to say is 84.95%. It's getting really close.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cooking for the Shelter

This week Nana agreed to help me take dinner to the shelter in Redmond. They have recently increased their bed count, so now we take dinner for 20-25 hungry young people, which is bordering on too much. Well, perhaps not too many people, but it requires a lot of planning, and careful choices about menu. And you know who I want on my team when there is a cooking project that requires planning and choices? Nana. This week I decided to go with pulled pork, which is crockpotted in 2 crockpots, baked potatoes and salad. My fatal error was to also deciding to cook an apple crisp.

I picked up Nana at 5, and we got back to my house to start with dinner around 5:30. We figured we'd assemble the crisp, cook it, and then do the potatoes (which I foil wrapped beforehand), so that the potatoes would still be warm at dinner. It's ok to laugh a little at this point- we need to deliver dinner at 8:30, and that stuff is simply not all going to happen in that three hour window. Nana and Matt started slicing apples while I made the top and preheated the oven. The crisp went in the oven around 6:30, and I was already starting to think better of my plan. Instead of turning the oven up (since a crisp can pretty much cook between 350 and 425), I just threw the potatoes in there as well. This will get us to the punchline in about an hour.

Next, we shredded 16 pounds of meat. I was feeling good about this- it was tasty, and for once seemed like plenty of food. At about 7, I nuked up some lasagna and the three of us had a simple dinner. Matt kept bragging to Nana that this was special, I usually forget to feed us on the nights I take dinner to the shelter.

At 7:30, I got up from the table, ready to start thinking about how we would move all this stuff, and wondering why we weren't overwhelmed with the luscious smells out of the oven. Picture this, I have a 15x11x4 foil pan brimming with apple crisp on the bottom rack, surrounded by foil wrapped potatoes on all sides, and above that is a tray of more foil wrapped potatoes, which is also surrounded by potatoes. (Dinner for 25, right?) The edges of the crisp seemed bubbly but the middle was... still crisp. Gulp. I figured, if the potatoes were done, I would just pull them out of the way and the heat would get more even in the oven. Worse news, the potatoes are also crisp. My eyes are getting bulgy now.

There is a moment, usually about 7:30, when we are planning to take dinner to the shelter and I think, "Nevermind. This won't work. Is it too late to cancel?" This was that moment.

Nana breezes in to the kitchen and says, "Hm, why don't you turn up the oven? And can you nuke those potatoes?" and then she goes on to cleaning up from all the dinner and cooking. Yes and Yes!  By this point Matt has looked up a real recipe for making baked potatoes (1hr at 425), and we crank up the heat. He starts pulling potatoes out of their foil jackets in pairs and throwing them in the microwave for a couple minutes at a time, then rewrapping them. Matt is watching the clock like a hawk, but I'm confident that dinner can be served eventually. I start loading up the car. Juice. Buns. BBQ sauce. Butter and sour cream. Lasagna pan full of pork. Salad. The longer the potatoes have been in the oven, the less nuking they need. The crisp is starting to soften and smell lovely. We get the last soft potato in the car and hurtle down to Redmond to serve.

I'm feeling grateful that I can afford to donate dinner, and that I have family to support me in the effort, but still a little bashful that we might be a couple minutes late and a fair bit frazzled. When we arrive, the shelter is dark. For one second, I wonder if I misread the calendar, but no, homeless shelters don't take days off. Turns out, we aren't the only ones feeling flustered tonight, the key has gone missing, and the staff are waiting for someone to let them in.

As we wait patiently, more people start hanging out in this dark parking lot, and I'm feeling really glad that we have a trunk full of tasty food to share. Once the door is open, we breeze in like this is no big deal, unpacking and delivering while the now flustered staff and trying to recover from their shortened prep time as well. By the time we left, it seemed like a huge crowd was waiting outside. Several of the guests thanked us for bringing dinner, and we slinked back to out nice warm homes. The next day I got an email that they had more people than beds that night, but they were able to offer dinner, even seconds, to everyone who was there that night.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Benchtops for HiveBio

HiveBio is a DIYBio lab, which means we are putting together a lot of our own equipment. We built our own microscopes, our own shelves, and so its not surprising that we also built our own benches. The original benches in the lab were study, but had wood tops. In a traditional science lab, the lab benches (where you stand to do work) have chemical-proof, flame-proof surfaces. We've only been open a few months now, but the wooden top benches are one of the clues that we aren't a "real" lab.

It's not that hard to talk my Dad in to a construction project these days. When he came to the lab opening party, I mentioned that someday we wanted flame retardant tops, and the very next week I got an update since he happened to be at the tile store 50 miles from his house. And they happened to have the perfect thing for the lab that they were totally willing to donate. These are benchtops from an old school. They were worn, but certainly salvageable and durable. Props to Tile Lines for this generous gift.

Benchtops in need of refinishing.

He brought home 3 tops. He refinished them by spending many gritty hours sanding them down. 
Just a few hours of sanding and buffing, and all those streaks come off.

He painted them all with concrete finish, and now they look really nice. 
The first benchtop, resealed and finished on a brand new sturdy base.

Of course, looking nice in my driveway wasn't quite the end goal. The final step was to load each of the ~150lb slabs back in the truck, deliver them to the lab, and navigate them through the twisty turn corridors of the building. Fortunately, we were able to recruit some students on that day, and my dad played ignorance if mainland social norms ("what do you mean the grass isn't for driving on?") and the unload process took only a few minutes. 

He spent some money and a lot of hours, but it's a major facelift to the lab, and an important step to help us with capacity building. Fantastic. If you want to see the final product, come by the lab sometime.

And btw- the thermometer is hovering around 75% right now. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Day of Service

I didn't used to get Martin Luther King Jr Day off. I have no particular habits for this day (today), but last year I learned that many people take the day as a day of service. It's an awesome way to memorialize a man who worked so hard for peace. 

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'" 
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year, in my current job, I do get Martin Luther King Jr Day off, and I thought I would actually participate in a service project. You know, try out a new organization, meet new people, learn about a new issue.

I emailed my family and asked who would want to tag along, and through the United Way my Dad found a school that was looking for some help with a construction project and that sounded just right to him. My mom opted to go with him, which is lucky for this school, because the two of them are like a construction machine when they get going. I ended up not being able to participate, but they stopped by afterwards to let me know how it went (and get some help on another project my Dad is working on for me. Thanks Dad). They spent 8 hours (!) climbing ladders, sawing framing and generally building windows. Awesome. 16 hours added to the thermometer... and just like that the 70% mark was crossed.

I still want to find an excise to join someone else's service project, but in the meantime, I've got another date for dinner at Friend's of Youth, an both AWIS and HiveBio events on the calendar.

Monday, January 6, 2014

We just surpased $20,000

Just when I was starting to wonder if I could get the focus to finish out this project, I am feeling quite renewed. My mom reminded me about all the OTHER giving that has taken place in the last month (who can resist the $10 bag of groceries that Safeway just gives to the foodbank. It's so easy!), I made a big ol' pot of chili for the shelter, and I spent Sunday in the lab getting ready for some very exciting classes and Voila! $20,000 mark.

Actually, today's total is $20,206.

What's nice about a project like this is that there are milestones. It's trackable, and fairly obvious to me that progress is being made. Big numbers just keep rolling past! There is less than a third of the project left.

I am, perhaps, ready to let go of the illusion that this project might ... how do I put this?... make sense to anyone else. I've had a hard time explaining why I am doing this, what I am doing, how other people should do this with me. The number ($30,000) is arbitrary. My particular way of measuring it is arbitrary. I've come to realize that I'm not the sort of person who is going to organize pub crawls, charity events, or major work parties where I need buy-in from a lot of people anyhow. Although it's not what I expected at the outset, it's actually pretty wild to see what a big difference a relatively small number of people can make without a lot of major sacrifice. No one is $20,000 in the whole. My dad has become a regular blood donor. My brother has a standing tutoring appointment at a middle school. My friends were easily convinced to run some charity 5Ks with me. I got to spend some evenings cooking with my mom. And good work was done.

 I'm trying to think of something cool to do on MLK Day this year. I like the notion of a day of service, and I'm hoping I can find an excuse to try something new. More updates as that comes together.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Re-resolving to Meet This Goal

Being 30, I'm starting to warm up to the parts of myself that aren't going to change. I tend to think of it more in the context of recognizing my strengths, but these come hand in hand with weaknesses. For example, I'm a starter. I love starting new projects, getting new things off the ground and the experience of diving in to new experiences. It makes me a bit bold about novelty. But in contrast, I am not such a great finisher. The top of my desk (and most of my office) is littered with projects I have started, that I have sunk too much time on to completely abandon, although I have quite clearly done just that.

I knew this about myself going in to this crazy project. I was particularly attracted to the craziness of it. But I also knew that at some point I'd get far enough along that I could see the end coming along, and just sorta bail, confident in the knowledge that I would get there eventually. Id join a few groups, and then forget to track, and... well, whatever. To prevent this behavior, I was looking for things that I could engage in regularly, to help me keep up the momentum.  Dinner for Friend's of Youth has been one of those. 5Ks were another. But... I've kinda lost momentum on the other aspects. Finding small ways to stay engaged (and tracking them), getting my friends and family to help with these things, and putting it on the blog has fallen by the way side a bit. 

This is in part because I'm busy. But even more so, it is probably because I need to find volunteer activities that are a good fit for the kind of life I want to be leading. That was (supposed to be) at the core of this project, that I could use this as an excuse to get involved in my community in a way that feels natural.

And maybe I should get a bit more honest with myself about the life I'm realistically going to lead, instead of the life I think I should lead. Let me be honest, the work I am doing with HiveBio, which is very cool, and exciting, and novel is SO hard on me. It turns out, I HATE being in charge. I stress out about decisions, I'm reluctant to tell people what to do, and I would rather talk about venereal disease than money. These are all tasks I'm called on to do fairly often in my role. I should probably figure out how I can transition to instead doing something I'm good at, so I'll feel better about the work. Moral of the story- don't kill yourself doing something you suck at when it would be better for everyone if you did something you were good at instead.

As I enter the new year though, I don't just want to be shirking my responsibilities and waiting for this thermometer to rise on it's own. Instead, I'm going to get back to blogging, which requires me to have something worth blogging about. I'll be getting back to bugging my friends and family to helping me raise the last $10,000 on the thermometer, hopefully before I turn 31. That's something to feel good about.

Happy New Year!