Somewhere Off the Coast of Love
My wife tells me I should pay more attention to details -- the house, the car, the lawn -- there's a thousand things, by sunset, that need to be done. She's right, of course. It's true. If only I wasn't floating many miles off the ground today, caught in the updraft of a single gaze from you, spinning like a thousand cyclones off the coast of love.February 21, 2015
One Week After Valentine's Day February 20, 2015
Your Mother Tried Her Best
February 16, 2015
What I Learned from Our Independent Valentine's Day Fundraising Project
Recently, my good buddy, Stuart Hoffman and I collaborated on an independent fundraising initiative to help support our favorite charity, The Prem Rawat Foundation. It was a ton of fun. So far, we've raised $4,981 and gotten more than 13,000 hits on our video. Here's a bunch o' stuff I learned (or remembered) along the way:
1. It feels good to serve.
2. Most people want to give.
3. If you want to create something new, it's helpful to have a collaborator.
4. It takes a village and a few village idiots to make magic.
5. Some people don't like Valentine's Day.
6. Twelve saints named "Valentine" have been canonized by the Catholic church.
7. Googling "love quotes" reveals hundreds of inspiring quotes from known and unknown sources.
8. Everybody has an opinion.
9. The staff of The Prem Rawat Foundation is very committed and easy to work with.
10. Some people think 5:23 is a long time.
11. More people will participate in a fundraising effort if they are invited to participate and have a clearly defined role that makes sense to them.
12. Daya Rawat is an extraordinary singer.
13. Any effort made to personalize a fundraising effort is an effort well-made.
14. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.
15. Fundraising success can be measured in many ways. HINT: It's not all about the money.
16. Coffee is an excellent fundraising catalyst.
17. Many people suffer from "fundraising fatigue."
18. Posting a video on my friends' FB pages is a good way to get the word out, as long as I don't overdo it and only choose the friends who won't be bothered by my taking that liberty.
19. I have a tendency to obsess.
20. I never really knew that my dog, Chili, could become part of a fundraising campaign.
21. Donors to a fundraising campaign appreciate getting updates and progress reports.
21. Some people perceive a request to donate to a charity as a botheration.
22. Publishing an article about the History of Valentine's Day in the Huffington Post is an excellent way to publicize a Valentine's Day-themed fundraising campaign.
24. It's inspiring to set seemingly impossible goals as long as I don't get attached to them.
25. Keep my emails short.
26. It's useful to pay attention to feedback, especially the feedback I judge as irrelevant or absurd. It's also good to thank the people who give me feedback, even if I don't agree with them.
27. Murphy's Law has a way of creeping into any project.
28. The path is made by walking on it.
29. TPRF could use some more volunteers.
30. In some places around the world, $1.00 feeds a hungry child for a day.
31. Some people won't get to #31 on my list of 40 things I've learned (but YOU have, so, congratulations!) You either have nothing better to do, are slightly crazy, or are a patient friend of mine.
32. Stuart Hoffman and Jennifer Edwards are a great songwriting team.
33. No matter what you think of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook is an awesome platform to facilitate communication.
34. The Peace Education Program is working wonders to help people in prison get a fresh start in life.
35. When your Mac keyboard stops working in the middle of a project like this, buying a $49 plug-in keyboard at Best Buy is the way to go.
36. Doing anything on behalf of a charity, whatever the cause, works way better when you are actually feeling grateful.
37. Love rules!
38. The Food for People program is a shining example of how a good idea can work wonders.
39. Thinking I don't have time to volunteer for a charity (in this case TPRF) because I need to focus on "making a living" is a bogus thought, originating from a weird place of fear and anxiety. There is always time to be of service. And the amazing thing (even though I can't really prove it and the concept of "cause and effect" is a slippery slope to walk), two well-paying gigs came to me out of the blue while I was working on this project. That's two month's worth of income, folks. Coincidence? Maybe. But maybe not. Just saying...February 15, 2015
Don't Worry. Be Happy! February 14, 2015
Full Moon at Sunrise
Excerpts from my book of poetry (Best viewed full screen).February 11, 2015
The History (and Present) of Valentine's Day
Most people think Valentine's Day was invented by Hallmark Cards. It wasn't. Valentine's Day is actually a well-documented, historical phenomenon -- its tangled roots winding their way through centuries worth of Christian liturgy, pagan tradition, myth, and an occasional beheading.
The most popular account of its origins date back to a temple priest named, not surprisingly, Valentine, a later-to-be-canonized saint who was executed in 270 A.D. by Emperor Claudius II for performing illegal marriage ceremonies on the Roman battlefield. Back then, as the story goes, the military-minded Claudius believed connubial bliss was bad for war and made it illegal for soldiers to wed.
Imprisoned for his battlefield-betrothing ways, Valentine, a man of many talents, supposedly healed the blind daughter of his jailer while incarcerated and, the night before his execution, gave the newly sighted young lass a hand written card signed -- you guessed it -- "From Your Valentine."
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, as in most historical accounts, there is almost an infinite variety of competing legends -- some religious, some pagan, some merely the result of bad translations by poorly educated scribes. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there were at least three early Christian saints named Valentine -- each of whom were martyred on February 14th. And to make matters even more Valetiney, the official Roman Catholic roster of saints lists no less than 12 saints named "Valentine."
Indeed, depending on where you live and what you believe, it is possible to celebrate St. Valentine's Day on six different days of the year -- November 3, January 7, July 25, July 6 being four of them. Me? I prefer February 14, not just because it's an American tradition, but because, where I live, February is ridiculously bleak and chocolate keeps my spirits (and blood sugar) high.
It wasn't until the 14th century, however, that Valentine's Day was associated with romantic love. And it was the English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, who we have to thank for that. Chaucer's opus, Parliament of Foules, was the first ever to link the tradition of courtly love with St. Valentine's day.
Handwritten Valentine's Day cards were the tradition until 1847. That's when Esther Howland, a Mt. Holyoke graduate and budding entrepreneur, got the idea to mass produce them, ordering massive amounts of paper and lace from jolly old England, a country where no less than half the population was in the habit of giving and receiving Valentine's Day cards.
Thirty five hundred miles away, in the not-so-jolly United States, more than 190 million Valentine's Day cards are given each year -- and, if you count the number of cards school children give each other, that number skyrockets to one billion. With US citizens spending approximately $13.1 billion on Valentine's Day gifts each year, it's fair to say this love-themed holiday may be just as good for the economy as war is.
Fortunately, you don't have to be martyred, heal your daughter's jailer, or recite Chaucer's poetry to celebrate your loved ones this year. In addition to sending chocolate, roses, jewelry and cards, you can also send something digital, more specifically, the 5:23 music slide show featuring 23 inspired quotes on love by a selection of movers and shakers, none of whom, I believe, have ever been beheaded, healed the blind, or performed a single marriage ceremony on a Roman battlefield.February 08, 2015
The Momentous Moment
February 06, 2015
If you like our Valentine's Day show, please consider making a donation to The Prem Rawat Foundation, a non-profit charity dedicated to bringing a whole lot more dignity, peace, and prosperity in the world. Stuart and Mitch have set up their own Social Fundraising page to make donating easier for you. Our goal is $50,000. Every little bit helps. Just $1.00 feeds a hungry child for a day.
International Soy Latte Donate-to-Your-Favorite Charity Week
Every day I have a soy latte at my favorite cafe in Woodstock, NY. Sometimes, I also have a cranberry scone, thinking I should really order the oatmeal instead. I read the NY Daily News when I drink my latte and eat my scone, always starting with the sports section, even though the Knicks are 10-39, the Giants didn't make the playoffs, and the Mets lose more than they win.
The latte, which is always served with a heart in the foam, goes for $3.75 -- pricey, I know, but it's a morning indulgence I've grown to like, even though my nutritionally-minded friends keep warning me about the evils of soy.
A week's worth of soy lattes runs me $26.25. Each month, that's $105.00. Being prone to cleverness, I thought of making a case for how everybody who reads this blog post should give up their soy lattes (or whatever) for a week and donate what they saved to the charity I'm fundraising for, but then I realized how bogus a request that would be. Guilt and pseudo sacrifice is not what life's about.
So I'm not going to say that. What I am going to say is that there are A LOT of really good charities in the world that need our support. Intellectually, we know this, but knowing it and acting on it are two very different things.
The Breast Cancer Society, for example, calls me every few months and asks for a donation. I often find myself squirming when they call. I mean, I should give, right? But the highly scripted way in which they make their pitch makes me cringe and I find myself judging the way the Breast Society rep is asking for a donation rather than realizing it would actually be a good thing to donate $25, especially since I've got a few good friends who've struggled with breast cancer.
My point? For all of us to pause for a moment and ask ourselves how we might support at least one worthwhile charity in the world. Not necessarily my favorite charity. But yours -- whatever it happens to be.
If you don't have a favorite charity, take a peek at the list below and find one to support. They all need our help, especially during these tough times when donations are way down and the need is way up.
American Heart Association
The Red Cross
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Pathways to Peace
Kum Pah Orphanage
Family of Woodstock
Haitian People's Support Project
The Prem Rawat Foundation (via Stuart and Mitch's fundraising page)
Charity Navigator (a guide to worthy charities)
"Hi, my name is Ali Kamil and I want to help spread world peace."
That's how this inspiring 2:53 video begins. To learn more about Ali's cool project, Kids Global Peace Week, contact him today. We're all in this together -- no matter how old or young we are.
Another cool project for peace
The Prem Rawat Foundation is doing some amazing work around the world, spreading peace, dignity, and prosperity to people who really need it. TPRF's Food for People program is groundbreaking. What follows are photos of some of the children on the receiving end. If you are moved to donate, click here -- part of a Valentine's Day-themed independent fundraising effort to support the good work of TPRF.
February 05, 2015
23 Inspiring Quotes on Love
Some people who have seen the Valentine's Day YouTube video that Stuart Hoffman and I produced have told us they'd like to pause on specific quotes -- so, here it is reformatted as a slide show. Click the white triangle to forward the quotes at your own pace. Stuart and I are trying to raise $50,000 for our favorite charity, The Prem Rawat Foundation. $1.00 feeds a hungry child for a day. Click here to donate.
February 03, 2015
The Valentine's Day Show is Here!
For the past hour, or so, I've been trying to find the perfect sentence to begin this blog post but couldn't find it, so I'm beginning with the second sentence.
That's it. One word. A very short sentence.
No matter where we live, what we believe, or how we try to experience love, we all want more of it. We're sad when it goes and we're happy when it returns. And yet, curiously, the word means so many different things to so many different people that it often loses its meaning.
Some people say they love their i-phone. Some people say they love sushi. Others say they love pizza, ice cream, or the South of France. But the love I'm talking about is not a consumable. It cannot be consumed. On the contrary, it consumes us -- animating us from the inside out.
As Valentine's Day fast approaches, many of us will undoubtedly search for the perfect gift to give our loved ones. ($13.19 billion was spent last year). We'll give cards (180 million), roses (196 million), chocolate, and all kinds of other goodies.
But cards get tossed, roses wilt, and chocolates disappear all too quickly. Which is why my good friend, Stuart Hoffman, and I have decided to give you something else to consider giving your loved ones -- our hot-off-the-press 5:23 Valentine's Day slide show, featuring 23 inspiring quotes on love an a fabulous song by Jennifer Edwards and Stuart Hoffman, featuring vocals by Daya Rawat.
Our goal? To put something positive out into the world that will have a shelf life -- something that won't wilt, melt, get stale, stolen, lost, or be returned to the mall.
This Valentine's Day, Stuart and I are going one step further than we usually do. We are stepping up to raise $50,000 for our favorite charity -- TPRF -- an extraordinary organization that helps spread dignity, peace, and prosperity in the world.
OUR IDEA? To send our Valentine's Day show to as many people as possible, inviting them to send it to as many people as possible, and asking everyone who is touched by the show to consider making a donation to our favorite charity via our just created "No Water Buffalo Were Harmed in the Making of Our Independent TPRF Fundraiser Landing Page."
Everybody wins. You get a free gift to give your loved ones on Valentine's Day... your loved ones get inspired... TPRF gets the funding it needs to continue doing it's amazing work... and Stuart and I get to experience that it's actually possible for two friends, using their noodle and creativity, to make a difference in the world.
If you're intrigued, but need to know more about TPRF before accepting our invitation to donate, click here.
If you like our show, but don't feel like donating to TPRF, feel free to make a donation to the charity of your choice.
If you like our show, but don't want to give to our charity of choice or yours, then consider performing at least one random act of kindness on Valentine's Day. Buy someone a cup of coffee. Give someone a hug. Take someone to lunch. Something!
And finally, if you want to make a donation, but can't decide how much to give, feel free to use our handy...
1. 50% of what you saved by giving our show, instead of roses
2. The price of a cappuccino
4. 25% of what you saved by not buying something your Valentine will exchange on Monday because it doesn't fit.
5. The number of hours you think we put into this show x $2.00
7. The number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin
9. The first number that pops into your mind
10. The gross national product of Ecuador
Remember, love is the most powerful force in the universe. It's what the world needs more of. Love, sweet love. Give it! Receive it. Enjoy it!
Click here to accept our invitation to donate to TPRF
Click here if the above invitation doesn't really move you
Click here if you think Mitch and Stuart need therapy
Click here if you need a vacation
Click here if you haven't clicked any of the above
Click here to hear the sound of one hand clapping