Thursday, March 22, 2012

Giving Back

I’ve probably mentioned a bunch of times already that I’m a Christmas fanatic. I find that’s where some of my best storytelling comes from; a time when family and friends are together and everything feels right and peaceful in the world. If I had it my way, it would be Christmas all year round, or at least once a month. I do feel that sometimes the meaning gets lost underneath all of the decorations, presents, and hoopla.

During the holidays in 2006, I walked into Citibank to make a deposit and noticed a Toys for Tots box. I read the description on front and went home to look into the organization a bit more. I was really touched by their mission and what it meant for a child in need to get something special at this time of year. I went to Toys R’ Us the next day and purchased a few items to bring back to the box at the bank. But, I felt like I could definitely do more.

The following year, I decided instead of just buying a few toys and contributing, I could help even more kids by starting my own drive at work. I filled out all the necessary paperwork and got the ok to organize a dropbox at the hotel where I worked. Toys for Tots even sent me a bag full of buttons that I could give out to those who donated and showed their support. I wrapped the box up in sparkly gold Christmas paper with a big red bow and printed out some information about the drive to add to the box. I made fliers and posted them around the building, sent out an e-mail, and spoke about the idea at our weekly staff meeting to try and get everyone on board.

I bought a bunch of goodies at Toys R’ Us again and filled the box up a little to get things going. I was hoping it would be like a tip jar; once people saw something in there they’d get the idea an add something themselves. Well, I was more than touched and happy when after just a few days, the box was overflowing. The drop off day came around and I packed up everything in my car and headed over to the Marine Corps office. They were so appreciate and I felt great that each toy would be going to a child that may not normally get a gift on Christmas. I would encourage everyone to try something like this for any organization that is special to you or helps people in need. It really is a rewarding experience that you and those you help, will never forget.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The School Project

Remember those crafty grade school projects that you used to put your heart and soul into? The other day I was reminded of those days when my friend and I were at dinner and she told of a collage her daughter was making for a science project. I decided to tell her a story about my favorite collage that I made for my 5th grade current events class.

It feels like it was yesterday. The objective was to make two columns of likes and dislikes and fill them with newspaper and magazine clippings. I went with my mom to the supply store and bought a big bright yellow poster board. I searched through tons of periodicals and cut out a bunch of pictures to start arranging on my board. When I finally had everything filled up and organized, I glued it all down. It doesn’t seem like such a difficult project to me now, but at the time it was a big deal and took a lot of effort.

The day of the presentations had rolled around. I woke up got my backpack ready and went downstairs to put it by the door along with my project. I went back to my room to get dressed and a little while later my mom yelled by the stairs for me. She sounded uneasy as she called so I got a bit nervous. I looked over the banister and saw my dog Rocky peaking at me. I walked down to see a trail of little pieces of yellow paper coming from the door. I stepped into the living room and saw the remains of my collage torn to shreds, care of my little pup. He hated when I went to school because he would love it if I could just stay home and play with him all day. I was first panicked and angry, but I looked at Rocky’s sad eyes as he knew he did something wrong. How could I be mad at my little buddy? So I gathered up the pieces of paper in a plastic bag and brought it to school.

As everyone laid their projects out on their desks, I nervously awaited my turn to speak. My name was called, and I brought my bag to the front of the class. I explained, “I know that no one would believe me when I said my dog ate my homework, so I brought it in to show you. I did do the assignment; you can see the magazine clippings on some of the pieces here.” As the class erupted in laughter, I felt a bit relieved. Even my teacher was amused. She took a look at it and said it was fine, giving me an extra week to put another project together. You better believe that this time, I did not put the collage by the door!

Me, Rocky, and my sister Jenn back in the early 90's.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Vacation Book

Last week I spent five amazing days in Aruba, and now I’m back to reality in New York. I can’t be too upset though; it was a great trip and I’ll be back before I know it. In 1995, my parents decided that instead of our annual trip to Disney World we would pick a new destination. My Mom brought home a huge book featuring all of the tropical islands and information about each country and its activities, landmarks, and culture. So, we each got a few days with the book and at Sunday dinner the following week we would all sit down and reveal our choice from the book. If there was no majority decision, we would then talk out the four choices.

I studied that book like it was the SAT’s and went over each option thoroughly to make sure I made the best choice possible. I ended up picking a town in Mexico and was sure based on the information and pictures that at least one other person would agree. It was Sunday, and everyone came to the dinner table with their index card in hand ready to reveal their choice. I, being the youngest, went first. As I happily turned over my card, everyone listened and nodded as I explained my reasoning for Mexico. My sister was next, and she showed her card which said “Aruba.” Ok, it was a good choice too but not as good as mine. I didn’t listen to any of her speech as I eagerly awaited my parent’s choices.

Next up was Mom. She’s 100% percent going to pick Mexico, the level-headed matriarch of the family. The card flips over… Aruba! What, no way! I think I immediately started to sweat and show signs of panic. Again, her reasoning was completely blocked out of my mind. What would Dad choose? If he doesn’t choose Mexico, then Aruba it is. I was sure everyone would pick my choice. Oh how young and na├»ve I was. Dad laughs and shows his card. ARUBA. I nearly fainted, as I stood up and yelled “This was a setup! How did you all choose the same place! This is ridiculous.” After my hissy fit subsided and the vacation was planned, I reluctantly agreed to go. Everyone else had made the best possible choice. We had an incredible vacation, and my parents loved it so much they invested in a timeshare. Each year we go back and enjoy one of the most gorgeous places in the world and consider it our second home. I can’t even imagine if we would have gone to Mexico. We have made so many great memories in Aruba and they continue to grow each year.