Fundraising For Charity?

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A short time ago there was a family who lost a child to tragic circumstances. I won’t give identifying information, since I don’t want to say anything to throw this particular family under the bus- and also because the question I have is more theoretical in nature and not specific to these people.

After their child’s death this family set up one of those popular fundraising pages, presumably to help defray costs such as loss of work for the parents, and funeral expenses. Tens of thousands of dollars poured in, as is often the case when other people feel sympathy (or empathy) and want to show support for someone in a tragic time. And then the family announced that they would be donating the money that was raised to a local charity.

That sort of threw me sideways, not only because the family had not said upfront that they were collecting for charity, but because, frankly, if I am going to support a charity I would like to choose which one. It wasn’t even like the child died of cancer (let’s say) and the family made a donation to the American Cancer Society in the child’s memory. This was a situation where I imagine the parents knew their financial situation up front (you kind of know if you can afford a funeral or not) and then chose to set up this fundraising page. Then they took the money- let’s say the child had been hit by a bus (this isn’t what happened)- and donated it to, let’s say a local art museum.

Whether art (this is not where they donated to) is great or worthwhile is immaterial. The question is, should I have a right to decide where my limited charity dollars go- or when I give money am I giving my tacit agreement that I am entrusting the person or organization to use those dollars as they see fit?

If I donate to the local Humane Society and they use my money to print fliers rather than to directly keep animals alive has my money done any less good? What if they use my donation to throw a fundraiser or to buy a new building or pay salaries? Should I expect to always have absolute control over donations, and if not at what point should my control begin and end? If I give money to a poor person and they go out to a restaurant to eat instead of paying their electric bill, have they been an irresponsible steward of my kindness, or do they have a right to manage their money however they want- just like any other adult- and once the money leaves my hand and lands in theirs it becomes their money to do with what they see fit?

I think what got me about the fundraiser case is that I felt like they got the money under false pretenses, but they never actually spelled out how the money would be spent- just said what happened to their child and people assumed they needed money for expenses related to that.

So my question is, what are your thoughts on how that played out? Does it hit you the same way it hit me, or am I way off here?

Your Care For Others Is A Measure of Your Greatness: Why I Love Ruby

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This makes a bit more sense if you are familiar with Ruby’s show (which I HIGHLY recommend- it is from a while back and is available for free from certain services)- but either way, I think Ruby is exceptional in so many ways… I could (and have!) watch/ed her over and over…


Book of Faces

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One of the biggest dangers I see with social media is that everyone else’s like looks better than yours. Because people put photos of the highlights of their life, it looks like everything they do is glamorous and exciting and wonderful. Although everyone knows this intellectually, it’s easy to forget that what you see online is only a selected slice of other people’s lives. But you know that in your own life there is plenty of humdrum and mundane. A typical person’s Facebook seems to read like a magazine in a doctor;s waiting room: went to lunch at a fancy restaurant, took a trip, went somewhere exotic, wore a hot bikini, hung out with beautiful friends. If I had a Facebook page, mine would look something like this:

Woke up overtired and looking haggard

Cleaned up in the kitchen and did some sweeping

Figured out what to make for dinner

Went to the grocery store/Target/misc store(s)

Came home, unpacked, maybe drove carpool, cooked, hung around, watched Netflix, went to bed, woke up, lather, rinse, repeat. I don’t think my real life would make anyone jealous, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that means I should get Facebook (or whatever else people use nowadays) as a favor to other people, so folks will know that others have a life that is just as bland as theirs. That real people don’t actually pick up and go to Cancun or have random ski weekends for no reason or spend $500 on lunch. That if I eat chocolate mousse there is a special occasion involved, and I darn sure won’t be wearing a bikini when I do it.

Maybe it will help people out there feel like they don’t have to measure up to someone else’s imaginary life. For the last few days I have been trying to upload some cute cartoony pictures to go along with the blog post and it hasn’t been working. I have also been trying to figure out how to end this post. Last night I had a mini-epiphany. Maybe it was Meant To Be that the photos wouldn’t work. Maybe that was the most perfect illustration I could ever have hoped for to go along with what I wrote. Perhaps that showed my point and goes along even better with what I’m saying than any little drawings I could have found on the internet. Sometimes even a simple blog post just doesn’t work as you originally planned and even putting a few small pictures repeatedly fails.

Such is real life.

And you know what? That’s plenty good enough.

In fact, it’s really just fine.

New Underwear


Someone close to me swears by the value of buying new underwear to make you feel like a million bucks. She is pretty convinced that the nicer your undergarments, the nicer your outlook on life will be. So from time to time she will go on a shopping binge where she will treat herself to a new set of underthings, designed to lift her spirits and make those around her appreciate her even more (although they will be none the wiser as to the reasons for her newfound happiness).

Another friend is a sock fanatic and has multiple drawers full of socks. It’s not that this person takes particular joy in actually wearing the socks, and it isn’t like they coordinate with outfits or are of a certain brand or quality. But there is something in the rush of the buying that makes him inordinately happy, so he buys with abandon and that temporarily lifts his mood.

But a conversation with one of my dearest friends a few days ago brought all of these “fixes” into perspective. This person suffers from seasonal depression. When he is sad it is more than a feeling of, “Gee maybe I should go out for ice cream and cheer up…”. it’s worse than, “Oh rats, someone took the parking spot I wanted and now I have to walk a few extra steps. I’m so bummed…”. Real depression is so pervasive and so heavy it isn’t something you can cure with a nice outfit or a decadent treat. As much as he wants to be out from under it, he is just buried by it.

It’s so tempting to look at someone in the throes of depression and offer suggestions. Have you tried exercise? Do you get enough vitamins? Maybe you should listen to some music! (Insert your perkiest voice for maximum effect!) Sleep less! Sleep more! Wear brighter colors! Get out into the nice weather!

I could go on and on but the point is the same. For those of us on the outside, it is both seductive to try to fix and too easy to oversimplify. To compare sadness to depression is to like comparing a splinter to a nail gun being shot through your face. Yes, I think true depression is that bad.

So what is there to do? For those of us who aren’t trained mental health professionals, I think the best thing to do is just to be there. Check in. Check on. Don’t leave people you care about to hang out in the breeze because you don’t know what to say or do, or because it can be too draining. Just say hello. Don’t stop showing up. Don’t smother someone, but the worst thing for a person with depression is the isolation that comes along with it. So don’t let them be alone in their misery. Have their back. Have their front. Have their side. Do what it takes to be the person who doesn’t let them down.

And remember that if depression could be fixed by a new CD you’d have a lot more music and a lot more easy solutions in the world.

I wish it was that simple.

Rooftop Garden, And An Alpaca In A Cherry Tree

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If I had to say the most common question since we moved back to Detroit, it would definitely be, “So where are you going to put the garden?”.

It’s interesting to me that people for the most part aren’t that curious about life in Seattle, or what we’ve been doing the last few years, or any other random topic. But next to, “Oh, where are you from?” (Which always makes me laugh, because my response is, “Uh I’m from here. Where are you from?” And then the person looks perplexed…), we keep getting people who assume that since the Basses are in town, trouble is sure to follow. It’s never a conversational, “Where are you putting your garden?” (Like where do you get the best sun in your new yard?) but rather a conspiratorial/mischievous, oooh let me get in on the ground floor of the next scandal…

So, just to put it out there: The garden thing has been done already :)

We are allowed to have backyard chickens.

I want an alpaca in the worst way, but we don’t have enough land.

We planted several fruit trees in Seattle- what we hoped would be the first of many- and in what I confess are some of my very few only regrets about leaving there, had to (obviously) leave those trees behind just as they were getting nice and mature. So I would like to plant some fruit trees here, but I am still not settled enough to even begin to contemplate something like that.

There are some projects I would like to do around the house (both outside and inside), but again, my head isn’t there yet.

I will probably never be the person who settles into a quiet life of oblivion. But I just want to sort of remind everyone that when the garden thing happened I wasn’t looking for trouble, either. My family has earned some measure of peace. The question that remains to be seen is how peaceful can life with Julie Bass really ever be?

I was going to say more in the post, but instead I would like to make a comment after the Powerball lottery drawing. Something about it really touched me, and I wanted to bring it to your attention, in case you didn’t hear the same news reports as I did. This morning when I woke up they had established that winning tickets had been sold in three states (with smaller winners in others). But instead of the usual hedodism that usually follows: namely, what would you do with that kind of money? there was story after story about people cheering for the winners. People standing outside of stores where the winning tickets were sold and congratulating the store owners who had sold the tickets. People being interviewed who had nothing but good wishes for the folks who had won the lottery. Not a single person who said, “Oh if only I had won instead…”. Perhaps this will be a harbinger of things to come in 2016. Perhaps this will be the year of good news and wishing each other well. Perhaps this will be the year where we can appreciate each other’s good fortune instead of envying each other’s every asset. Maybe this is the beginning of a trend onward and upward for all of us.

I really hope so :)

In and Out


One of the things that hit me fairly soon after I moved back to Michigan was that I had forgotten how to breathe.

Ironically, the air in Seattle is so much cleaner, so much purer, and so much more beautiful- objectively. The first time it rained in Michigan, I asked *h, “Do you smell that?” He scrunched up his nose, and I could tell he had no idea what I was asking. It smelled vaguely like the smell of water that had been sitting in a garden hose for too long, but just a tad bit worse. It was the smell of pollution, and to me it was glorious.

I inhaled deeply and said with a giant smile, “THAT is the smell of HOME!”

But I didn’t mean it to be funny.

I think that we all have those sort of visceral memories, and whereas to other people they may be icky or unpleasant to us they will evoke such wonderful things that to us they are simply the best. For me rain in Michigan is one of those things.

Yes, some people hear “Seattle” and their first thought is rain (I too was once one of those people). But in truth a Seattle rain is a gentle misty sort of affair that if you’ve ever been in a Midwest rain, can hardly be called rain at all. In fact, even in Seattle they have a term, called “Seattle-ing” for the spitting that comes from the sky and passes for rain out there. We were quite miffed to watch people walking around in the rain in Seattle without an umbrella, much less a jacket, until we realized that you could do this quite naturally without even hardly getting wet, since the rain was so gentle and, well, barely there.

In Michigan, however, the rain is like a lot of other things. It’s honest. It’s real. It’s right there up front and unmistakable. It’s like the sky is saying, “Oh you want rain? I’ll give you some rain!” And it does. Boom. In Michigan, with the weather like with the people, you know where you stand.

But this post isn’t actually about rain.

It’s about me.

It’s about the first time I realized that for the last year or two, I have been holding my breath.

Not literally of course, but a few weeks after we arrived in Michigan I was doing something very mundane and I realized that my breathing here was slower. It was deeper. It was more relaxed. In fact, my whole body was more relaxed. My whole Self was more relaxed.

In a thousand little ways I began to notice that I was less stressed here. That the things I didn’t do in Seattle (drive certain places, eat certain things), here I was doing with ease. That things which got on my last nerve in Seattle were less on my nerves in Detroit. That I had been chest-breathing and white-knuckling my way through my last stretch of time in Seattle like a death-row inmate and here I was breathing like a zen master.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still challenges in life. I am cold most of the time, and winter hasn’t even set in yet. I am not being so good about keeping in touch with friends from Seattle, even though there are some I am grateful to for their kindness while we were there. I have about a zillion new doctors I still need to find and make appointments with.

But overall I give our move to Detroit an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Now the question is, what in the world will I blog about?


A Little Christmas Magic


When I was a little girl (I don’t remember exactly how old) I was spending the night at my grandma’s house on Christmas eve. I’m not sure how I got the idea in my head that something very special was supposed to happen at midnight on that night (perhaps it was from the Christian kids in my public school?), but I was trying very very hard to stay awake as long as possible.

Luckily this particular grandma was the type who was somewhat easily persuaded to do things like play endless games of gin rummy with way-too-young-to-be-up-so-late little girls, so we stayed up until 8, 9, 10, and then 11pm. Some time after 11 my grandma finally had enough and decided she needed to go to bed, but I was not to be derailed by something so mundane as an overtired grandma. I checked her bookshelf, but this particular grandma was also the type who read mostly Harlequin romances- hardly the type of thing that sparked my interest at whatever tender young age I was at the time. I think I ended up inventing some sort of game with poker chips and clear discs I found in the game cabinet, and about midnight I was rewarded for my efforts with one of the coolest experiences ever.

It was a cold Michigan night and my grandma lived in a basement apartment, so when you looked out of her windows pretty much all you could see was the pavement covered in snow. If you looked at the correct angle you could see the rooftops of neighboring apartment buildings, also blanketed in fluffy white snow. The sky was clear and the night was silent. Literally at midnight on the dot, though, sleigh bells started ringing. From somewhere- who knew where?- bells began to jingle. Nobody was visible, and nothing else changed, but I believe that the stars twinkled just a bit while the bells were sounding. Then, just as suddenly as they started, they stopped.

I had no expectation of bells, nor even really of Santa. After all, I was a Jewish kid without a tree or a stocking, or a Christmas holiday or any such traditions. Sure I watched the Peanuts Christmas special, and of course the Grinch (both of which made me cry), but that was about as far as my official knowledge base extended. But in that moment, I was a believer. Not of Jesus and Christianity, but of the beauty and majesty of the season. Of the whole peace on Earth and tra-la-la-la-la thing.

If you had asked me if I had harked to hear angels singing, I just might have said yes.

I know some people get a little crazy about not wishing people a Merry Christmas. There are people who are careful to only say “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” or other sanitized generic non-wishes. But who are they kidding? Do most of those people (don’t kill me here- I said MOST!) hedge their bets because the person they are speaking to may celebrate Kwanzaa and they don’t want to offend? I don’t think so. Chances are if you are in America the person you are speaking to celebrates Christmas, and chances are that if they don’t, they won’t get offended if you wish them a Merry Christmas by mistake. It’s not like I go around shouting Christmas wishes in everyone’s face this time of year. But if someone wants to say Merry Christmas to me, I’ll admit that it always makes me remember that night at my grandma’s house all those years ago and how magical it was to hear something so special that seemed meant only for me.

Until now :)

Merry Christmas.

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