The Chosen

March 24, 2011 at 6:18 am | Posted in Animals, Disabled Vets, Environmentalism, Equality, Volunteerism, West Hollywood Library Park | 2 Comments

The Oscar winners were announced almost a month ago, so I guess it’s high time that I reveal my “picks” as well.  And just which worthy organizations did I choose, you ask?

Patience.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  I promise.

First, there’s a small issue I want to address.  As I began selecting my organizations, a queasy feeling came over me.  What if one of them didn’t end up getting chosen by any of my gift recipients, like an awkward bookworm left on the sidelines after teams were chosen in gym class?  I couldn’t stomach any of them being left out, so I decided I’d definitely do volunteer work at each organization, even in the unlikely event that one of them had no takers.

Okay.  Now that we have that out of the way…drum roll please…and the five lucky organizations are:

Disabled Vets of America,

Why this organization matters to me:  Because vets rock. That, and I have a personal connection to this cause.  I realize thinking I have any readers who don’t know me personally may be presumptuous, but just in case – I’m disabled and my big sister Deb served proudly in the U.S. Navy for 20+ years.  The fact that disabled vets are dealing with the trials of disability – which, trust me, can be a colossal drag – only because they were willing to sacrifice the freedoms of civilian life to protect me and the ideals of the country I love makes me super-passionate about wanting to help them.

West Hollywood Library Fund,

Why this organization matters to me:  I’m a writer (duh), a reader (voracious), and hence a big supporter of libraries. I’ve been a resident of the wonderfully diverse city of West Hollywood for over a decade.  And while I’ve put our current, quaint little library to great use, the fabulous new Library Park facility (currently under construction and ahead of schedule) sounds incredible.  It’ll feature several special collections, computers and meeting rooms available to the community, much-needed parking and green areas for special events.  Of course, all of that requires a lot of fundraising, and that’s where the WeHo Library Fund – and I – come in.

Tree People,

Why this organization matters to me:  Trees matter to me…and the planet. As a child, I loved to climb trees and there was a tree in my yard I used to read in regularly.  Now, as a writer, I go through so much paper, I have major tree guilt.  TreePeople’s mission is to “unite the power of trees, people and technology to grow a sustainable future,” which sounds awesome.  Plus, their offices are housed in a yurt village, which makes it seem like I’ll be doing my service in a location out of a Dr. Seuss book.  Count me in!


Why this organization matters to me:  I’m a sucker for equality. People who are just getting to know me often assume I’m a lesbian because I’m always going on about gay rights.  Truth is – I don’t happen to be gay myself, but it’s all civil rights in my book.  (If I’d been an adult in the 1960s, I’m sure I would have always been going on about Dr. King and his ilk.)  NoH8 is a “silent protest through photography” that challenges anti-gay laws – a marriage of art and equality that I just couldn’t resist.

LA Animal Services,

Why this organization matters to me:  I believe pets restore us to sanity (when they’re not driving us crazy). When I contacted LA Animal Services to see if there were ways I might be able to help out despite my disability (walking dogs and cleaning cat boxes would not be an option), they told me their biggest need was for volunteers to sit and interact with animals to help socialize them.  My response:  “So, like, I’d get to hang out with doggies and kitties and get to pet them and talk to them and generally enjoy their company and it would be considered…service?”  Sweet!

OK, there you have it – my Fabulous Five.  Not sure which one I’ll volunteer for first or where this journey will ultimately take me – which is the mark of all worthwhile journeys, don’t you think?

I guess we’ll find out together.


The (Re)Search

February 17, 2011 at 9:55 am | Posted in Volunteerism | 1 Comment

I sat down at my trusty iMac the morning after my pre-shower revelation (see: the Spark), with a feeling I couldn’t quite identify.  It seemed familiar but distant, something I hadn’t felt in a while.  Ah, yes!  That was it…that warm and fuzzy Christmastime glow.  That excited titillation at giving gifts you know your friends and family will be jazzed about.  Echoes of “how cool!” and “what a great idea!” and “my, aren’t you just about the greatest person on Earth?” danced in my head.  Confession:  I’m a compulsive fantasizer.  I imagine most writers are, but I’m a bit of an overachiever on that front.  I pretty much start composing my Oscar acceptance speech mere seconds after typing FADE IN on a new screenplay.  This excessive future-tripping (to borrow an apt term coined by a friend) can be, at best, distracting, so I try to thank it for sharing and quickly refocus my mind.

Where was I?  Right.  My Christmas gift revelation – giving the gift of my time and passion.  My first step was to research potential organizations where I could do my volunteer work.  I imagined this would be an easy endeavor and figured the difficulty would be in narrowing it down to just five.  After all, hadn’t I liked a bunch of worthy causes on Facebook?  Didn’t I receive numerous e-mails daily requesting my signature on petitions or that I phone my government representatives to voice my support for equality, the environment, animal protection, literacy and any number of other issues that fall squarely into my liberal-leaning sensibilities?  Finding deserving candidates to grace with my awesomeness was going to be a cinch.  Or so I thought.

I faced an unanticipated roadblock as I clicked on links and scoured the web – the time of year.  The staffs of many organizations were either gearing up for some major year-end fundraising event (and not returning calls or e-mails) or had essentially closed up shop for the holidays.  In order for my gift to work (and the pretty certificates I planned on making to be complete), I needed to confirm that I’d be able to do the volunteer work at a given organization.  I toyed with the idea of choosing an organization on faith – assuming, once I got to the right person or department, I’d be good to go.  But what if it didn’t work out?  The future-tripping kicked in, and I imagined myself having to tell friends, “Sorry, The Save the Bees Foundation only accepts volunteers who are certified beekeepers.  What’s your second choice?”  No, that would never do.  Too messy, too uncertain.  So I kept clicking and calling and sending out e-mails.

Eventually, I did start to reach people at some very cool organizations.  I explained my intentions and the skills I have that might be of use, making a point to disclose the fact that I have a physical disability, which would rule me out for certain types of tasks.  (In another life, I’d love to build houses for Habitat For Humanity!)  Luckily, I’m great on the phone, have mad bookkeeping skills and am more than happy to stuff envelopes.  To my relief and delight, my inquiries were greeted with lots of enthusiasm.

Yep.  The project was really coming together.  I grabbed logos off the chosen organizations’ websites and started designing my certificate.  It took much more work to get things “perfect” than I anticipated (doesn’t it always?), but soon enough, my certificates and reply postcards were all printed and ready to go.  I even found some nice envelopes in just the right size at a local Kinko’s – on sale – oh, joy!

So…which organizations made my list of five, you ask?

I bet you’re just dying to know.

Find out in the next post.

The Spark

February 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Volunteerism | 4 Comments

The idea came to me as I was stepping into the shower one day. Christmas was fast approaching – it wasn’t so close that rectifying my absolute holiday apathy thus far was impossible but close enough that I’d better figure out what, if anything, I was doing and get busy doing it. I’d even flirted with the idea of not participating in Christmas at all. It was a brief flirtation though, because the idea and I were not compatible.

I love Christmas, always have. I knew deciding to ignore it altogether would leave me with regrets. Still, I felt like I was significantly lacking in money and time and energy. Honesty check – let me clarify. I did have some money saved up, but it was earmarked for the new MacBook Pro I’d been planning to buy for myself. I’d already put off purchasing it for a year, and though it felt insanely indulgent, dammit, I wanted it.

The time thing was really about my obsessive need to see every movie with even a hint of award potential – and to see them free while I could, a luxury my WGA card affords me. I start RSVPing to studio screenings in mid-October and have been known to see three or four movies a week through the end of the year. This, too, felt awfully indulgent, but who has time to shop for Christmas presents when The King’s Speech and True Grit beckon?

In all honesty, my personal energy crisis was probably my biggest roadblock, and when I say “energy,” I also mean enthusiasm. It had been a weird year. Specificity check – let me clarify again. It had been the year my best friend died suddenly, unexpectedly. Bummer, right? You thought this was going to be an upbeat blog about volunteerism and doing good deeds and now I’ve gone and tossed “my best friend died” at you. Do you feel blindsided? Letdown? Thrown for a loop? Are you not exactly lit up with that warm, fuzzy feeling you expected to feel reading a blog about volunteering?

Now you know how I felt last December. Sad, because my best friend was gone. Selfish, because I was going to spend what little money I had on myself and was spending hours upon hours in darkened screening rooms, being entertained. And exhausted due to the sadness, the selfishness and the endless running around Los Angeles to feed my movie obsession.

So there I was on that mid-December day, stepping into the shower, with all these emotions battling in my head, knowing I’d regret blowing off Christmas completely …and it came to me: I’d give the gift of my time and passion, I’d volunteer in honor of my friends and family – and then, to put a personal spin on it, I’d write to them, telling them about my experiences.

The fact that I felt like I had no time and little passion for much of anything (beyond movies and sleep) didn’t sway me in the slightest. I’d make the time. I’d drum up the passion. I was sold on my volunteering gift the moment it popped into my head. As the warm water gushed over me, I thought about how to best organize and present my gift. I decided to feature five organizations my gift recipients could choose from, representing a variety of “causes.” Being a tree-hugging, animal-loving, bleeding-heart liberal, I knew I wanted equality, animals and the environment represented, with the final slots going to kids or arts or literacy or veterans or the disabled…or literacy-challenged veterans with disabled kids working on art projects…you get the idea. I figured I’d print up pretty certificates explaining the gift and make reply postcards, so people could let me know their choice of organizations. (Sure, I could have just sent out an e-mail and had people e-mail me back, but where’s the fun and holiday spirit in that?)

So there you have it. That’s the project. That’s what I’ll be writing about in this blog. Will I embark on a crazy/fun, highly rewarding adventure? Or will I live to regret the cockamamie idea that popped into my head as I stepped into the shower that mid-December day?

Who knows?

Stayed tuned.

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