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If I had a million bucks

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Have you ever played that game with your friends, your siblings, your spouse where you ask yourselves: what would I do if I were rich? It’s a fun game, an exercise of the imagination that usually nets a lot of silliness. But believe it or not, I think it’s good for us. When we stop playing such games, haven’t we’ve stop believing in the impossible?

When I was growing up, in the Beverly Hillbilly days of the world, “rich” meant a millionaire. Nowadays, I’m not sure you’ve even classify someone who had $1 million as  rich, though the person would certainly be considered wealthy. When you watch shows like Extreme RVs, with double-decker, two-story vehicles, two-person soaking tubs and chandeliered living areas, a million bucks feels like pocket change. But I’m choosing that number, because I don’t want to be rich. I just would like to be more comfortable.

So what would I do with my million bucks?

First and foremost, I’d buy peace of mind. That has meant different things in different periods of my life. In the poorer days, it meant paying the bills. Today, there are crunch times, but far fewer of those paydays when I feel good for 10 minutes, only to realize the money is already gone.

These days, peace of mind would mean more money in my retirement account and taking care of my elderly parents. My siblings and I spend a lot of time side by side, swords in our hands, battling old age issues as best we can. But I would love to see my mom and dad in an assisted living place that would shoulder the day to day worries about falls and not eating enough and finding ways to keep from getting bored.

Second, I’d buy delight. One of my favorite things in life—a gift God gave me when he gave me a kid at 41, was to rediscover how pleasurable it is to delight. With a child, it’s a simple task—a giant sucker or a pretty sticker. In my life today, it might mean presenting my husband with a Mediterranean cruise (okay, okay, that’s for me, too), send my daughter on a backpacking trip to Europe with some of her many friends or work a miracle for one of my sisters (yea, you know who you are): a personal introduction to Barbra Streisand.

Third, I’d buy independence for a short time. I am certainly an independent person, but what I mean is … now that I have discovered how truly wonderful it is to pursue your creativity, I absolutely hate the fact that I have one hour in the morning to do so. It is pure heartache to stop at the end of the hour I’ve allotted myself for creative pursuit in order to return to the reality that there are bills to pay. A million bucks might buy me a period of time when I could spend 8 hours being the true me.

I know myself well enough to know that I’d also give a chunk to Nyumbani.org, a charitable foundation I’ve worked with for many years that fascinates me because I’ve been there to see its phenomenal growth. It sprang from the heart and passion of a priest and a nun that wanted badly to help save a few orphans who had HIV/AIDs. But it’s grown into a multi-country-supported effort that reaches more than 4,000 children.

And I also know myself well enough to know that I would have to buy one purely materialistic toy just to experience the thrill of spending money. A fully-restored, baby-blue Thunderbird convertible would do nicely.

Hmmm, maybe I’m going to need more than a million bucks!

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Cracking Open the Christmas Nuts

Okay. Okay. I know you’ve seen that word: Christmas, and already you are shuddering. I’ll make a commitment here and now not to lambaste you with yet more Christmas crazy. After all, it’s not even Thanksgiving.

But then … whom am I kidding! I’ve been trying not to say “awwwwwww” at Christmas commercials since Columbus Day; I have half my shopping done; and this past weekend, my husband decided that to save time at Thanksgiving for visiting with relatives, he’d put up the outside lights.

“In that case, honey, bring down some of the inside decorations, and I’ll unpack just one box,” I said.

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The box was empty, its contents in place in ten minutes and what was I to do? I knew it would take my hubby at least two hours to put up lights. So I picked and I picked at the decorations boxes, not able to stop the “awwwwww”ing as I pulled each memory out, dusted it off and found the perfect spot to show it off. Two hours later, most boxes were empty, and I stopped out of pure guilt. My college daughter had already texted twice and threatened ex-communication from the Church of Parente Christmas Nuts if I did it all myself without her expert eye.

So I stopped.

However, when this blank computer screen in need of a blog stared me straight in the face this morning, well … what was I to do? Christmas is on my mind, and the lull that occurs after shopping and before the big day gets here is weeks away yet.

Besides not lambasting my readers (uh, don’t count on that), my commitment to this holiday is to look for simple ways to celebrate that have nothing to do with December 25 and everything to do with making someone feel good. Here’s my ideas so far:

  • Keep a few dollars in my pocket. This is so that when I’m loaded down with groceries or packages, and I hear the tinkling of the bell that so many of us recognize as the start of this season, I’ll always have ready access to the cash. I’m not doing this for the Salvation Army or its many recipients. I think it’s wonderful what the organization does. The cash, however, is for that soul who stands in the chilly weather ringing the bell. The gloved, smiling volunteers are terrific and need a pat on the back.
  • Do my online Amazon shopping at http://www.nyumbani.org. I am not supporting Amazon.com by doing this. But I end up on the Amazon sight a lot during the holiday season. This giant of a retailer has created a program whereby charitable organizations can get up to 4% of the proceeds of a sale from people who link to its shopping through the organizations’ websites. There’s a big brown button on my favorite nonprofit’s site that will see a lot of click throughs from me this season!
  • Do some of my charitable giving at home. I’m not talking about buying my poor rundown dining room windows the new drapes on their Christmas list. I’m talking about looking around at what some of my neighbors, friends and family need. Most of that doesn’t involve money, but rather time. I can spend some time helping my elderly parents put up their decorations (I know. I know. Such a sacrifice). I can ask a neighbor I know is laid up with illness what they need at the store. I can make a few extra calls to a friend who needs my ear to get through a personal crisis.

The list is started and hopefully will grow. Got some ideas to help out? Send them my way and we’ll get the Christmas cheer going. It will help me pass the time as we anxiously await … the printed version of Wretched Fate. That should happen any day now and I’ll let you know as soon as it does.

In the meantime, send me your ideas!

 Parente Christmas Nut Mom Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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All dressed up with a great place to go

Once a year I don a fancy dress, nylons and mascara.  That’s a far cry from my early career when it was a daily habit, but a benefit of both being older and having an at-home job. I don’t particularly like putting on nylons and mascara and nobody is going to make me do it at age Almost Sixty.

In this case, though, I put on spit and polish because I’m going to a pretty fancy dinner that celebrates a feisty priest, a fervent nun and miracles they’ve wrought in 20 years. Since I’m not even a Catholic, it might seem doubly weird that I’m going to this event so I’ll come clean: the dinner is for client Nyumbani. However, I stopped thinking about them as “client” long ago.

How could I not? Nyumbani was born from the mind of Father Angelo D’Agostino, a Jesuit priest serving in Africa whose heart simply could not fathom the many children left homeless and orphaned by HIV-AIDs. These children had no hope of survival and no family to turn to. They were abandoned in hospitals or along roadsides at an astonishing rate. Father D’Ag, as the world now knows him, and Sister Mary Owens from Ireland started a hospice, taking in three small orphaned babies, and beginning the planning process for an orphanage designed to provide the babies love and medical care for what remained of their lives.

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Sister Mary and the children

But the seed they were planting grew rapidly, fed on tough love and two determined people. Father D’Ag already had some connections in the United States and began to build a powerful network of supporters. He was the type of man who would not take “no” for an answer, though he was soft-spoken. With Sister Mary, who is an educator, behind him, the two grew the orphanage to where it is today: over 100 children. But even more astonishing, Nyumbani (which is Swahili for “home”) was transformed from a place where kids went to die gracefully to a place where kids went to live and learn and love each other. And building on that very strong base, Nyumbani began to develop an outreach program to set up centers in the most desperate of places―the slums of Nairobi―to help the thousands of families trying to support someone suffering from HIV/AIDs. That center, now supported by many other parties, including international governmental relief agencies, helps thousands by giving guidance, food, medication and moral support.

And a second idea began to germinate: what if someone cared enough about what was happening to take the children who had lost their parents to HIV/AIDS and the generation of grandparents who had lost their sons and daughters and put them together, taught them how to be self-sufficient, and gave them the tools necessary to begin their own village.

Don’t even think of scoffing readers. From the red clay dirt on a piece of land three hours out of Nairobi, the Nyumbani Village has risen, home to a thousand children and 100 grandparents, housed in 100 homes and featuring three levels of schooling, a medical clinic, a place of worship and gathering and a thriving generation of Africans who stand as an example of what can be done with a dream and a lot of determination. Government agencies, foundations, research facilities, charitable and green organizations, and thousands and thousands of people all over the world have joined forces to make this latest dream come true.

Meanwhile, Father D’Ag, who lived to see his ideas come to life, and Sister Mary, who now stands at the helm of this tremendous effort, get to witness the miracle of what happened when they took those three babies into their hearts and home.

As their lowly U.S. editor (they now have boards in five countries), I get to put together a newsletter that practically leaps onto the page because of the individual stories that joined together to create this miracle. And I get to put on my Sunday clothes and act like an adult. At least until someone says something that reminds me how wonderful this organization is, and I start bawling like a babe.

–Genilee Swope Parente

For information on Nyumbani, please visit www.nyumbani.org.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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