Monday, December 31, 2007
My first attempt at a thoughtful NY Eve ritual came as a 20-something in Washington. My dear friends Sean and David decided we should follow an allegedly Buddhist tradition and, at the stroke of 12, burn slips of paper on which we’d written things we wanted to leave behind with the old year. This was to be followed just after midnight by burning slips of paper marked with blessings we wanted the New Year to bring. Alas, we never made it to Part 2, when the wok in which we were burning Part 1 set off the building fire alarm. We rang in the New Year with 100 or so neighbors out on the sidewalk as the fire trucks screeched up Connecticut Avenue.
Last year in Florida I gamely revisited the ritual-making challenge, with an item that does involve spirituous liquors — and tradition — but does not involve fire or flame. The Joy of Cooking’s classic Bourbon Balls: my favorite! All you need are vanilla wafers, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, Karo syrup, pecans, and bourbon. The only modification I make to the traditional recipe: more bourbon! (The paltry 1/4 cup here will never do.) Ideally, to my taste, these emerge as a moist consistency closer to fudgy brownies than a dry cookie. It’s fine if the balls are quite sticky, since you’ll roll them in powdered sugar to finish.
Today’s mitzvah: Dream up a fun activity to endure as a New Year’s Eve tradition. Count your blessings. (And, seriously: make some Bourbon Balls!)
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Today’s mitzvah: Take a few seconds to click Care2’s children site and help support the kids above, at no cost to you!
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Today’s mitzvah: Most of us may not have Ms. Rosenfeld’s energy, but we can still help improve children’s access to education. At no cost: click on Greater Good’s The Literacy Site, whose sponsors will make a contribution benefiting First Book in the U.S. and Room to Read internationally. For $5 or more: consider a tax-deductible contribution to Room to Read, which helps to build schools, provide scholarships, and publish books in local languages for children in developing countries.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Today’s mitzvah: consider organzinging your small change and other miscellaneous income into a “charity piggy bank.”
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The U.S. presidential primaries begin soon (click here for Democratic schedule, here for GOP schedule). Yet 87 years and counting after American women gained a constitutional guarantee of the right to vote, only 65% of eligible American women voted in the last presidential election (although still beating the guys, who had a 62% turnout). Not registered? Not a problem: just click on Rock the Vote’s voter registration page, which will walk you through it quickly and easily. Alternately, the local League of Women Voters can provide information on registration (or just call or visit the local library).
Today’s mitzvah: Register to vote — or if you’re already registered, consider emailing this post to someone who may not yet be registered.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Re-gifting emerged as a verb in the 1990s (thank-you, Seinfeld). Why re-gift on Boxing Day? First, it's the day with the most loot. (*I have to say I started this post before Christmas Eve, when I received such lovely gifts from my family. This means no re-gifting at my house, but hypothetically speaking . . . ) Second, most Ronald McDonald Houses post a wish list on their local web sites, such as this one here in town. This charity provides a free or low-cost place to stay for parents and siblings of hospitalized children. Many of these families travel long distances for medical care, and the local RMcD Houses provide a welcoming environment and much-needed financial respite. Like our own households, they have an ongoing need for everything from new sheets and towels, to AA batteries, to toiletries, to non-perishables for the kitchen. (Emphasis on “new”: save the used items for Goodwill or St. Vinny's.) They also often need gas cards as well as items suitable to give as gifts for guest family birthdays and other special occasions. A quick Google search will take you to the Ronald McDonald House in your town: and most of the houses post a Wish List prominently on their site. Donations are typically accepted during normal business hours.
Today's mitzvah: Google the local Ronald McDonald House and check out their Wish List, for your own Boxing Day.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Visitors to Jerusalem often place small prayers and letters to God in the Western (or Wailing) Wall. For those not able to be in Jerusalem themselves, yeshiva students will accept prayer requests online, print them out, and place them in the Wall on one’s behalf.
Today’s mitzvah: Consider sending a prayer of thanksgiving and peace to be placed in the Western Wall.
Monday, December 24, 2007
I hesitated to post on the sisters’ vigil since I know they are sometimes overwhelmed by internet prayer requests, which they receive quite gladly. Yet for me nothing better embodies the spirit of Christmas than these amazing women.
The sisters receive prayer requests on their web site. They also welcome donations — this is a cause for which I don’t hesitate to suggest a contribution if you are able.
Today’s mitzvah: Send a thank-you to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and consider praying for them as they pray for us.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
- funding Vitamin A supplementation, to help prevent 400,000 cases of childhood blindness each year
- providing oral re-hydration formula to children with severe dehydration, a major cause of death for children under five worldwide
- making a prosthesis for child amputees, many of whom have have lost a foot or leg to landmines
- restoring lost eyesight through simple surgeries that reverse blindness caused by cataracts and trachoma
- testing pregnant mothers for HIV as a step toward preventing mother-to-child transmission of the AIDS virus
Today’ mitzvah: Click on The Child Health Site to give a gift of health to a child this holiday season
Saturday, December 22, 2007
- Amazon offers seemingly everything on earth, and they will email electronic gift certificates to arrive on the date you specify. If you use this affiliate link, Amazon will rebate a portion of the purchase price to benefit Kiva, the microloan group. Or shop Amazon at Nonprofit Shopping Mall to choose from a long list of charity partners.
- Support Kiva directly with a gift certificate that allows your recipient to choose a low-income entrepreneur and help fund his or her microloan. The gift certificates are downloadable PDFs that you can print yourself from Kiva’s site, or email to your recipient.
- I’ve posted previously about Tis Best, the charity gift card site. Their gift “cards” are delivered by email — to you or to your recipient — and can be used to donate to any of 200 partner nonprofits, supporting everything from animals to the arts.
- Heifer International allows you to donate anything from a flock of chicks to a water buffalo in your recipient’s name. They offer printable gift inserts and e-cards for last-minute giving. also offers online gift cards you can print out yourself.
Friday, December 21, 2007
What Friends Do is a web-based concept that allows friends and family to come together as a team, via a centralized site, to offer coordinated and organized support during a health or other crisis. Once the group’s “coordinator” completes the sign-up process, a web site allows the team to: coordinate schedules for meals, childcare, errands and other needs; provide information updates via a team blog; share photos; and post messages of support. The main site also contains practical suggestions for how friends can help, as well as insight into maintaining a relationship with someone who is seriously ill or otherwise in crisis.
Today’ mitzvah: Check out Caring Bridge or What Friends Do for your mitzvah toolkit, to keep in mind in case a friend or family member might need them.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
- Bob in the Middle East has terrific photos and stories from one of my favorite people and former colleagues
- Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things, is an award-winning group blog filled with odd and (often) wonderful items they gather for posting
- Brighter Days for You and Me, a fun and creative personal blog, has one of the happiest home page photos in the blogosphere
- Dane 101, our sturdy local group blog, includes “Breakfast Links” each morning as a quick round-up of news (and oddities) one needs to begin the day
- The Devil Dog is not a devil at all but a little dog named Roxy Dragon Pebbles who blogs about the humans in her life, and sometimes broccoli
- Dollar Philanthropy hasn't been updated recently, but it's a wonderful concept and worth a look
- Fun Spirit, by the same author as Brighter Days, is devoted to fun and laugher
- Marty Finestone’s Activity Book has charmed many award groups and offers a little bit of everything: DIY meets whatever interests Marty at a given moment.
- Eric B’s Random Acts of Kindness blog features his self-challenge to perform an act of kindness every day for a year. He is on Day 32 and counting!
- Skeet’s Stuff, another personal blog, introduced me to my new favorite group, Chemo Angels, and features a terrific Tuesday contest, plus it's always a good read
- A Soviet Poster a Day has nothing to do with mitzvahs, it's just a cool and visually rich site
- Tree Hugger is the all-things-sustainable blog. Like Boing Boing this is in many ways more like a web site, but posts with dates = blog, and it is full of good ideas
- Upgrade: Travel Better is a must-read for frequent travelers (as well as savvy non-frequent travelers)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Today’s mitzvah: Check out Chemo Angels/Senior Angels to see if this is the right volunteer opportunity for you, or if you know someone who might need an “angel.”
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
, the microloan site, is one of my favorite organizations — I included them in my very first post on this blog. Giving a Kiva gift certificate allows your recipient to choose a Kiva entrepreneur and help to fund a microloan to the individual. As the loan is repaid, your recipient will receive Kiva Credits, which can be reinvested in other microloans (or withdrawn). Note that Kiva gift certificates are NOT tax-deductible since they fund loans that will be repaid. Kiva gift certificates are printable online, so they also work for anyone who saw the calendar today and panicked.
For even more flexibility, and a tax deduction for you, Charity Checks will send you a special check or checks in the denominations you specify, which you can then give to friends and family. Recipients may make these checks out to any of the 800,000+ charities registered as 501(c)(3)organizations with the U.S. government. The charity simply enters its Tax ID number on the back when depositing the check. (Deposits from groups that are not 501(c)(3)s are not honored.)
Today’s mitzvah: Consider replacing a traditional gift with a gift certificate from Kiva, a gift check from Charity Checks, or a cool gift card from Tis Best.
Monday, December 17, 2007
I’m on the fence about posting one’s personal good deeds, which seems a little showy. But in the spirit of the day, here’s mine. My grades were due yesterday, and when I looked at the cumulative scores I saw one student was going to miss passing the class by a close percentage. This student was failing for reasons of her own making — the problem was less about the quality of her work than how infrequently she submitted it. Yet she had also been trying harder toward the end of the semester, and she was the only person on the roster who was going to fail.
I decided to go back and re-grade some of her previous assignments. I was able to identify one where I could stretch and justify increasing her score by a couple points, which allowed her to squeak by with a passing grade for the class. Did the student “deserve” this? Who knows. But people have done me favors in the past that I certainly didn’t deserve, so I decided maybe it was time to return the kindness.
Today’s mitzvah: Join bloggers around the world for “Acts of Kindness Day.”
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Today’s mitzvah: Be kind to yourself in this busy season and observe National Chocolate-Covered Anything Day!
Friday, December 14, 2007
- Continental Airlines: Donate your miles
- Delta Airlines: Sky Wish Charities
- Midwest Airlines: Miracle Miles
- Northwest Airlines: Air Cares Partners
- United Airlines: Charity Miles
- USAirways: Miles of Hope
Thursday, December 13, 2007
- Arkansas Children’s Hospital (Little Rock), Family Packs
- AmeriCares, Healthy Kids Kits for international shipment
- Casa Esperanza (Albequerque, a home base for families of cancer patients)
- Cathedral Shelter of Chicago
- Crossroads House (Portsmouth, NH)
- The Hoboken Shelter (Hoboken, NJ)
- Operation Blessing, Disaster Relief Kits (see site for specific instructions on contents & packaging)
- ROOTS Young Adult Shelter (Seattle)
- Shepherd's Table (Silver Spring, MD)
- Starlight Ministries (Boston & Cambridge)
- Samaritan House (Atlanta)
- Various “support the troops” sites (Due to military and security regulations, these sites have their own specific requirements. Find the right fit via a GoodSearch.)
- Your local Ronald McDonald House — most post wish lists on their home pages, like this one
Today’s mitzvah: Consider sending travel-size items on a trip to a worthy organization.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
New programs at Travelocity and Expedia offer carbon offsets as add-ons when booking a flight. (If you book through iGive or GoodShop, you’ll also be making a donation to charity, whatever the effects of your offset.)
Today’s mitzvah: Check out TerraPass or the Conservation Fund’s Go Zero Calculator to take a quiz and measure your own carbon footprint, as well as steps to reduce it.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Today’s extra credit mitzvah: Click here to send a note of support and thanks to an Iowa precinct captain.
Today’s mitzvah: Consider using a charity portal such as iGive or GoodShop the next time you need to make travel reservations.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Today’s mitzvah: Sign a petition to help save the Carnegie Hall Artist Studios.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Today’s mitzvah: Consider signing up for an every-other-day email message — and “click to donate”!
The evening also includes music — my favorite is Sheryl Crow’s rendition of her new song, Shine Over Babylon. I’m including a YouTube for the song, my little extra mitzvah for you.
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Saturday, December 8, 2007
Today’s mitzvah: Visit a local Starbucks and kick back some cash for charity while enjoying a fancy coffee drink. (Not in a Mid-Atlantic state? Buy yourself a nice coffee drink and ponder freelance mitzvah possibilities!)
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