Friday, December 30, 2011

Secret Santa, Texas Hold’em, Gift Exchange, aka, North Pole Give’em

by Shinazy

This year I celebrated Christmas in California where the majority of my family lives.  All members of this branch are now adults.  I love Christmas, I love everything about it.  But, this year the idea of all that shopping and spending just felt uncomfortable.  To counter that feeling I considered various gift exchange ideas and, similar to many families, the Secret Santa gift exchange seemed best.  Even after making that decision I still felt less like a Secret Santa.  You see, as a boomer, I really have everything I need; I have no need for more stuff.  Did any of us really need more stuff?  My answer, “I think not.”  But if not, then what?
More days of weighing possibilites.  Then the ah-ha moment - you know the one: You’re in the shower with a head full of suds and wham . . .  the perfect thought forms and you just know it’s The Answer.  The answer to my problem was a spin on the traditional Secret Santa gift exchange.  Instead, we would have a Charity Exchange.  No shopping.  No stuff.  Just giving.
The only rule was that the charity had to be legitimate, a 501 (c)(3) organization.
The process was easy: each person would bring a gift-wrapped note stating his or her charity and each of us would put $25 into the pot.
Now, there were many ways to decide which charity to contribute the collected $250.  But, since my family is a card-playing fun group, I decided we would play winner-takes-all Texas Hold’em.
After Christmas dinner, instead of Secret Santa, each person opened a lovingly wrapped package declaring the charity they would represent in our Texas Hold’em Gift Exchange game.  We followed Hoyle’s rules.  I followed my son’s strategy.  He followed his betting system.  My daughter followed her instincts.  Our card-shark followed his Vegas ways.  His wife followed his tutoring.  Our jolly, white-haired patriarch followed . . . his giving ways.  We all followed fun.  We posted the blinds, and bet, and raised, and called, and checked.  Several of us “went all in” and won, others lost.  (Y’all gotta know the lingo.)  At the end of this festive evening, the winnings were donated to Oakland Children’s Hospital.  One of our family members works at a company who will match our $250, so our total Secret Santa, Texas Hold’em, Gift Exchange gave $500.  Now, that feels good.
Everyone enjoyed the concept and we had just as much fun opening our one gift and playing to win for a charity.  This is now my family’s Christmas tradition and we named it North Pole Give’em.  
Next year, try North Pole Give’em at your home . . . I guarantee a fun and rewarding experience.
I think Santa is happy.

 Here are the organizations in our ‘gift’ exchange
  • Camp Grace-South Austin, providing programs for children with special needs

  • Friends of the Urban Forest, making San Francisco greener

  • Muzart World Foundation, restoring music and art programs to public schools

  • Oakland Children’s Hospital, full-service hospital just for children

  • Save the Children, creating change in the lives of children

  • SPCA - East Bay, welfare of cats and dogs

  • The Human Society, animal protection

Friday, December 16, 2011

FOLLOWER Friday: Intoxicated By Her There (Poem & YouTube by Daryl Allison)

Intoxicated By Her There
Written by Daryl Allison

There she was
She had always been there
Shadow behind the screen
Before I could see her there
Teeming at the seams
Woman of my dreams
Soft skin
Dark eyes
Perfection, disguised
Urge grips
Was she a dream?
She was there
I didn’t care
There she stood
In low light
A highlight
Silhouette caressed
Backlit glow
Just right
Candle smoke swam through the night
Stilled the air
With ease stopped
Just behind the sight line there
A pretentious man feigned love there
Slight of hand
Betraying eyes
Fumbled lies, revealing stare
His affair
Once before
His woman
Twice ago
She'd care
Thrice wounded wing had fallen bare
A fainted feather
Adrift she blew
Alone together she’d float on through
Torn she knew
She'd fall forever until someone new
Someone true to catch her there
Two lovebirds perched there
Tweeting their little nothings there
Nothing that the world would care
No truth
Nor dare
No need, nor care
Just there

A working girl lingered there
Selling love
Wanting love
Wishing love
Would find her there
But love finds no home for the lonely looking the other way
Love can have it that way
Love is funny that way
My love
She stood there
Not lonely
Not working
Not wandering
She knew to come home
There she stood
How I dreamed
…how I loved
…how I longed
For her to come home
She looked this way
I looked away
Played it cool
Played it smooth
Velvety smooth
The band played smooth
All eyes up front for this one
Vacant bodies swayed the crowd as one
Married upon the rhythm
Carried away in rhythm
I closed my eyes with them
Let the music open me
Make of me what my eyes could not see
Cresting echoes, pulsing drum
Sultry voice the sax become
Haunted, soulful, spirit succumb
Fluttered among the flamingo strum
Applause after this one
I landed
Back from a dream
Back to this dream
This one
The one I called home
There she was
She looked this way
I could not look away
Dared not look astray
Her gaze locked my way
Desire of my dreams walked this way
Light steps
Slight smile
Floated there, a while
Heart skips
She walked that way
Her style

She walked this way
Where I sat alone
Siren of my dreams returning home
Red hair
Red nails
Black dress, black heels
Red lips
She walked my way
Where I sat alone
Where my breath would not come home

There she was
No longer alone
Without a glance
Pretending not to care
Teasing as she stood there
There she was
Denying my pleas to come home
I waited
For that chance I had waited
I had wanted to wait for her
Now I waited
Wanting her
Begged her
Come home

There she was
The one
There she was
I played it smooth
With a side of couth
A shot of debonair
She looked this way
A coy smile to say
She approved
She walked my way
My eyes shied closed
Subtle scent of chocolate arose
She touched my lips
Pressed my lips
Opened my lips
Took my breath away
My breath was not home anyway
Her taste touched my tongue
She was smooth
Velvety smooth
I paused for a moment
Her taste
That moment
Velvety smooth
Intoxicated by her there
She was there
I was home
Eyes slid open
She wasn’t there
A dream?
I didn’t care
Intoxicated by her there
I was home

Copyright © 2011 Daryl Allison. All Rights Reserved
Special Thanks:
Rebecca Siedschlag - Feedback, inspiration, keeping me pushing further

Monday, December 12, 2011

MUSIC Monday: Power Of A Song - Each One Teach One

MuzArt World Foundation™ will demonstrate how the power of a song can empower children across the globe; the understanding they can make a difference with the mainstream release of the song “Each One Teach One.”

The project will encompass the development of the song “Each One Teach One” in both audio and visual form, and be released globally into the mainstream media.  The project will benefit charities all over the world that are specific to children and their well being. 

Project Producers:  Ken Kragen, founder and creator of We Are The World, Hands Across America, Live Aid together with Pat Melfi, Former VP MCA, Five Time Promoter of the Year, Concert Tour Management for The Eagles, Alabama, Rod Stewart, and Tom Petty & The Heart Breakers will develop, produce and market the project.

We are certain that as you ponder these initial thoughts, you will see all of the areas YOU can participate in and with your abilities and talents, make a meaningful contribution in this program with us.  We all know we have to turn this train around by empowering the children of tomorrow with accurate knowledge. 

We are interested in many areas that center around the re-development of “quality work ethic” “generational mindset change leading to a greater peace in the home, school, and community”, “financial literacy”  and “child empowerment” in children’s minds across the world.  We are intending to do that with the development of a beautiful song that Pat Melfi and partner Ken Kragen discovered along their journey. We can pull this off with the support of community members across the world that are truly dedicated to youth. This is an incredible opportunity to pass a life changing message to children through children…a peer-to-peer passage

Companies across the globe can be a part of that process.  While we seem to be a divided world on many topics, one of those topics, is not our children.  As parents, we all want one thing for our children; a real shot at their success…and that requires additional education.  That being said, we have to re-direct their thought process from “entitlement” to “privilege”.   Back to a place that gets them on track, a place that gets them to understand hard work will help them achieve their dreams, a place that allows them to understand it is OK to have differences in opinion, but those differences can co-exist in peace.  A hope and change they can truly believe in, and for the benefit of each child one filled with accountability

Phase One:  Develop campaign in schools across the world with a strategic plan to engrain into the minds of children, but we must take action.  We must get back to the core ethics our grandparents gave us.  In a turbulent world, such as the one we live in today, we have an opportunity to change the environment we live in.  This is at the very core of our drive, passion and enthusiasm for the “Each One Teach One” project. 
Corporate sponsor desiring to align their corporate image with youth, around the world to design, and distribute a poster campaign. In addition, to develop with our team campaigns pertaining to contests for children to submit social impact deeds, as well as enlist teachers as teachers with the goal of getting their children in their school districts to perform “Each One Teach One” with their choirs.

Let’s begin the revolution of the MuzArt World Foundation™!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Traditions

  by Shinazy

Ah, December, the month of festive merriment -- Homes filled with the sound of the Kitchen Aid mixer blending…2 cups flour, 1-cup sugar, ½-tablespoon cinnamon…warm delightful fragrances filling each breath.  All efforts focused to honor the season with one well-planned celebration.
Except in my childhood home - there the Tasmanian Devil reigned.  December was a bustling whirlwind: Hanukah, 3 children birthday parties, 2 adult birthday cocktail revelries, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, my parent’s anniversary soirée, and, of course, the New Year’s Eve bash.
For us Black Friday was “Decorating Day.”  My grandmother would arrive in an overloaded sleigh, resembling a Ford pickup, packed with the products of her yearlong effect.  Every year she designed and crafted the decorations.  I have memories of her 5, 6, & 7 feet tall candles, made from 10 inches diameter cardboard tubes, painted with military precision red and white stripes.  Fanciful gold and silver driftwood on which hand-made ornaments floated from spider silk.  Copper tubing contoured into all manner of holiday shapes.  And, there were all those decorations for the various one-day events – installed in the morning, dismantled at night to ready the house for the next fête.
Our Christmas dinner table was equally diverse.  Yes, there was the ham studded with its array of clove pegs aligned in their juicy trenches.  Yes, there was that green-bean dish with its golden tanned globs of white goo.  (I firmly believe roasted marshmallows have one purpose: to sit on a chuck of melting chocolate, barely contained between two pieces of graham crackers.)  In my multi-ethnic family, the all-American ham and green beans were surrounded by an array of international delights.   Lumpia, hand-rolled by any child over the age of 7.  Nigerian yams, so shiny from the corn syrup and butter you could see your reflection.  Fried udon noodles, seasoned with exotic spices I still find unpronounceable.  Stir-fried snow pea leaves.  Transparent layered croissants.  The United Nations represented on one table.
After I became aware of the outside world, I discovered everyone had a tradition – something that heralds this time of year.  On Christmas Eve, my friend goes to a local dairy to buy fresh eggnog with the intention of bringing it to the gathering of friends the next day.  However, she always arrives with a bottle of wine because . . . that quart of nog only has a sip left in the container.  This has become her holiday tradition.
When it was time for me to form my holiday traditions, I wanted something calmer than the activity of my youth.  I also wanted my children to have memories, a tradition we could claim as ours (but, one without ham and marshmallows.)  So, every year we select a country and celebrate that country's seasonal customs and foods.  This year is Peru, with a few modifications: I’ll set the clocks ahead five hours so that they chime midnight when it’s only 7:00 PM and use corn nuts rather than chulpe.  However, I’m still conflicted about roasting guinea pig –I wonder, is it really just an itsy bitsy tiny ham?

photo by Laszlo-photo

Monday, December 5, 2011

MUSIC Monday: Public School Music Funding Needs a Hearing Aid

by Daryl Allison    
Do you hear that?  Listen closely, behind the silence.  This isn’t a sweet silence, not to frame a pin drop.  Missing are strings stretching, horns waking.  Missing are rising waves of creative expression, cacophonies of misplaced, amateurish, aspiring, beautiful notes.  That joyous, clanging clutter was what it sounded like before, when we took for granted the funding of our public school music programs.
Before long … The music room is empty save for old instruments collecting dust.  Few students know what’s behind that door, locked since before they first attended this school.  None would know the names of those strange contraptions anyway.
Do you hear it now?  It’s the lurking contagion of apathy. Echoing off the concert walls: Yawns. Bored students who don’t know that with our help school can be fun again, a place of personal and social creative exploration.
Big sports make big bucks.  We wouldn’t dream of cutting them.  Not every child is has athletic aspirations.  For all the others, what is their outlet?
We all know how integral music is in the developmental years.  Can you imagine a kindergarten class without it?  Countless facts sing music’s benefits on a child’s learning.  But we don’t need research data.  We know in our hearts this is true.  If we know music aids learning, and we wouldn’t dare take it from our kindergartners, then why are so many deaf to what is happening in our middle schools and high schools: funding for music programs being cut at an alarming rate.
The value of music:
·         SATs – Music Performance students scored 57 points higher on verbal, 41 higher on math; Music Appreciation students: 63 points higher on verbal, 44 higher on math.

·         A study of 237 second grade children used piano training and math software to demonstrate improvement in math skills. The group scored 27% higher on proportional math and fractions tests than children who used only the software.

·         Students who participated in band or orchestra reported the lowest lifetime and current use of all substances (alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs).
The value funding places on music:
·         3 to 5 times as many schools see funding for music cut on a yearly basis than schools that see their funding increase.
Funding isn’t diminishing solely due to a rough economy.  The market crashed in 2007, right?  Check the charts linked in that last bullet.  The data looks the same since 2005, and probably before.  What was the excuse then?
Music funding is needed most in a down economy.  As funding is lost, so go talented teachers.  If we wait for things to turn themselves around, what then for the students who must suffer the consequences of actions too little, too late.

photo by minkymonkeymoo