let’s do something important

I’m going to ask you to do something important. It’s not for me. It’s for a group of war refugees who have been through hell and need your help.

You may already know about my involvement with the AZ Lost Boys Center. But if you don’t know who the Lost Boys of Sudan are, they have an amazing and heartrending story. Forced to flee their villages during a brutal war, more than 20,000 young boys in south Sudan started walking. They journeyed over 1,000 miles, finally ending up in a refugee camp in Kenya. Many of the boys died during the journey, and those who lived now carry the memories.

Now young men, about 4,000 Lost Boys have been resettled to the U.S., with about 600 living in the Phoenix area.

The problem

When they arrive in our country, they are given just 3 months’ assistance by the government. They must learn so much: the language, how to get a job, how to pay bills. They want to go to school, to make a new life for themselves, but the obstacles are staggering, the emotional trauma unbelievable.

This is where the Lost Boys Center comes in. The Center provides assistance in employment, education and life skills, as well as a cultural support system. The Center exists solely on donations and desperately needs our help to continue operating.

What *you* can do

On February 14, I’ll be running the Lost Dutchman half marathon with the Lost Boys team. We want you to run or walk with us! Anyone can do this; there’s a marathon, half marathon, 10k, 8k, and 2-mile course. My husband John will be walking the 10k.

As part of the team, we ask that you to raise $100 by getting others to make donations. That’s just getting four friends to donate $25. Simple. Easy. You can do that.

Here’s how

To join the race team, download the registration form here. Mail it to the Center or just give it to me and I can turn it in for you.

If you can’t run with us, sponsor a runner here by making a donation online. Any amount helps!

Remember, this isn’t a distant problem in a faraway land. This is an opportunity to impact lives right here in Arizona. (If you don’t live in AZ, donate anyway!)

Need any more convincing?

Watch this 60 Minutes episode about the Lost Boys (click and scroll to the bottom of the page). It’s a great introduction to their story, their journey, and the continuing needs.

Photos are from the UN Refugee Agency. Check out more of their photos of the Lost Boys, along with captions that tell their story.

how one blogger raised $30,000. yesterday.

When blogger Jon Acuff announced on Monday that he wanted his readers to build a kindergarten in Vietnam, he set a December 31 deadline for raising the $30,000 needed. It was an ambitious goal. Would it even work, especially in the middle of a recession?

Surely he didn’t expect his readers to raise the whole $30k in just 18 hours. But that’s what I watched happen.

The project was inspired when Jon’s 6-year-old daughter saw a picture of a starving boy in another country and said, “That’s not real though. That’s pretend right?” What Jon heard was, “Why aren’t we doing something?” and he felt a burden to use his online platform for something more.

Around 9:00 Pacific Time on Monday morning, I saw Jon’s post announcing the project. Armed with my credit card, I clicked on the donation link and was shocked to see that $15,000 had already been raised! There were donations from $5 to $5,000. One giver had commented, “Maybe we can fund a new project tomorrow?”

I made my small donation and spent the rest of the day clicking “refresh” and watching the total climb. Eighteen hours after the announcement, the $30,000 project was fully funded. (He’s since raised the goal to $60,000, to build two kindergartens.)

It was cool to feel like a part of this adventure—to see a man so moved by the words of his 6-year-old daughter and his faith in God to take a chance, to try to make a difference.

Read Jon’s post where he expresses amazement at what happened yesterday. And you can still make a donation. Then, be motivated to do something yourself. I know this has encouraged me to do more for the cause I’m supporting.

john and cara bake an ugly pie

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One morning after picking up my produce basket from Bountiful Baskets food co-op, I realized we just had too many apples. What to do? Make a pie!

Neither of us had ever baked a pie from scratch before. So I consulted my friend Rachel because she knows how to do such things. And the recipe she sent me looked reassuringly easy.

Here is how you make an apple pie.

Ingredients

Crust:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup water

Filling:
6 – 8 medium apples (i used gala)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnimon
dash of salt

Step 1: Make your dough ahead of time

Put the flour in a big bowl and mix in the shortening until it’s in pea sized pieces. Normally, people do this with a mixer. Not the Pattersons! A fork and knife did the trick, albeit slowly.

Next, add the water and knead it until it forms a gooey mass. Divide this into two even balls, wrap them with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge for four hours or overnight.

Step 2: Whip up some apple pie filling

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Take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit on your counter while you do this part. That’ll let it soften so you can work with it.

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Throw the apple wedges into a big bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the other filling ingredients. Pour that over the apples and mix it up until the apples are well coated.

Step 3: Create the crust

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Roll out the dough balls on a well-floured surface until they’re big enough to make a pie crust. Put one in the pie pan, pour in the filling, and put the other on top. Cut off the excess dough around the edges.

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Step 4: Bake it!

Bake it at 425 for 50-60 minutes. I guess you can poke it with a fork at some point to see how well cooked the apples are. Rachel did instruct us to put foil around it at 45 minutes, which we neglected to do. Oops.

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And the finished product:

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Okay, it’s not the prettiest pie. But it was quite tasty with large scoops of vanilla ice cream. We had pie for dinner for a couple days.

the walgreens game

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My mom is a really frugal person who knows how to play the system. Today I learned from her how to play the Walgreens game.

Walgreens used to have a monthly rebate program. Each month, I got the free-with-rebate stuff religiously. They stopped that program and started a new one that I just never got around to figuring out.

I still had a Walgreens gift card with some money on it left over from the rebates.

Well, here’s how they do it now. Their circular ad lists items that are “free.” Really, you have to pay for the item and then you get a coupon for the cost of that item. So you buy a $2.99 item and you get a coupon for $2.99 off your next purchase. You just have to remember to use it before it expires. This is probably where they get people, but not my frugal mother! And not me!

To play the Walgreens game, use your coupons to buy more free stuff next time. Use those coupons next time and so on. There’s an initial investment, but once you start rolling coupons, stuff becomes free or very cheap. Just make sure you only buy stuff you need and only stuff that gives you coupons (the “free” stuff) or stuff that’s just a really good deal. Don’t make regular purchases at Walgreens! When you start making regular purchases there, you’ll eat up those savings quickly. Stick to grocery stores and Walmart/Target type places for regular purchases; they are much cheaper. Today I did buy some stuff that didn’t give coupons because they were “buy 1 get 1 free” and HSA eligible.*

Here’s how I fared today:

Total of stuff I bought with tax: $20.19
Total after using gift card: $7.57
Total after HSA reimbursement: $1.57

Total coupons: $11 off my next purchase

So next I need to learn to play CVS. There are lots of blogs about how to do this stuff, but I can only learn through doing it. So it’s taken me a while to figure it out.

Maybe I’ll post after doing this for a while to say whether or not I think it’s worth it.

* HSA is “health savings account” and is kind of like a flexible spending account except you don’t lose the money at the end of the year. HSAs come along with high-deductible health insurance plans. My company deposits some cash in my HSA every month as an incentive to use that health insurance plan, so my company actually paid for these couple Walgreens items. ;-)

Photo from:

Pride and Prejudice and dragons

Last week we watched Bridget Jones’s Diary and John didn’t get any of the Pride and Prejudice references. I was appalled! So I’ve taken it upon myself to read Austen’s great work to him in the evenings. He’s handling it pretty well so far, and I think he even chuckled a couple times.

A couple nights ago while I was reading I noticed he was nodding off. After a great deal of nudging, he seemed to be back with me. But after a while he looked a little confused and asked, “Wait…at any point in the story was there a dragon?” Apparently, while dozing off he’d inserted a dragon into the story. I can understand his confusion.

By the way, I attribute John’s dozing to his amazing ability to fall asleep under almost any circumstances and definitely not to my reading or Austen’s prose.

On complainers (including me)

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Photo: slum children in Bangladesh

“Complainers are so annoying. Remind me of this the next time I complain about anything,” I texted my husband John from an airplane while I was waiting to take off.

A few weeks ago, I flew across the country to visit my family for a long weekend. I loaded my iPod up with podcasts and took along a book by Muhammad Yunus. Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank, which loans small sums of money to the very poor of Bangladesh and has spearheaded the microcredit movement to fight poverty.

My 3-hour layover quickly turned to 4 hours when the pilot was late. Then we taxied out to the runway only to return to the terminal because of a problem with a door. So we had to wait to get back in line to take off. During this fiasco, I was reading about how Yunus started Grameen Bank and about the problem of extreme poverty in his country. In the row of seats in front of me, a woman my parents’ age and 2 girls my age were bitching about the delays and firing off comments of scathing vitriol about the crew and the airline. Their attitudes made them seem childish and silly, and the whole scene felt absurd against the backdrop of stories about impoverished women in one of the poorest countries in the world. In fact, everyone around me was complaining. I wanted to stand up and yell, “You’re all being stupid ridiculous selfish Americans!”

Now, this is easy for me to say because I *like* flying. I like having a book, podcasts, and nothing to do but sit quietly and relax. I have airport security down to a science. I’ve got my little bag of liquids and gels. I pack light and never check baggage. I don’t mind layovers and waiting around (again with the sitting quietly and relaxing…something I have trouble doing normally and so relish in airports).

But this was a good reminder to be more easy-going, to put things in perspective, to watch my attitude when I’m feeling annoyed, to think about how my attitude would look to another person. I am a natural complainer, and I’m trying really hard not to be.

Earthquakes

Did you hear about the earthquakes that hit the Gulf of California yesterday? I felt them in Phoenix! Well, kind of.

I’d never experienced an earthquake before, so it was kind of cool.

I work on the 10th floor of a 12-story office building in central Phoenix. Around noon yesterday, some coworkers and I started hearing a repetitive clanking noise. We finally figured out it was the window blinds hitting against the side of the window frame. Another coworker said he felt dizzy. When we saw the light fixtures swinging back and forth, we realized the building was swaying. We had no idea why, so my whole office evacuated the building quickly. While waiting outside, people Googled on their phones and figured out that an earthquake had just hit northern Mexico, and this must have been what we were feeling. So we went back to the office and back to work. The blinds and lights started swinging again briefly a little bit later and, sure enough, another earthquake showed up on the USGS map.

So that was my excitement for the day. Apparently, a bunch of people around Phoenix felt their buildings sway, but most people probably noticed nothing at all. I think we were the only company in the building who evacuated. The security guy on the first floor had no idea anything had even happened.

Here’s an AP story about the quakes. There were 4 quakes in quick succession, all over 5.0 with one at 6.9.

Here’s a news video where a coworker of mine is interviewed (Dan).



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