Friday, December 22, 2006

Need a Last-minute Tax Deduction?

If you're looking for a way to pay less income tax in 2006 and put money toward a good cause, I've got just the thing for you! Why not join the fight against cancer and give to a great non-profit organization? I know just the organization that is literally running against cancer. It's called Joggin’ for the Noggin and was started by two friends of mine that I met while working at Aventail Corporation in Seattle in the late 90's. Allow me to tell you their story.

In Seattle I became friends with these two lively people from Canada – Kim and Stephen – whose wonderful sense of humor and spirit of adventure made me fall in love with Canadians. (To this day I haven't met a Canadian that didn't become an instant friend.)

Anyway, Kim's young sister Holly is a veterinary technician who lives in New York City. Less than two years ago, when Holly was just 24 years old, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. I didn't learn about it until later, in November of 2005 when I found out that Kim and Stephen were coming to NYC (where I lived at the time) from their Colorado home to run the marathon. Holly's tumor was the size of an egg and had to be removed immediately. She endured not only that major surgery, but months of sickening radiation treatments and chemotherapy, a 30+-pound weight loss, and other side effects. You think, "What a terrible thing to happen to such a young person." A terrible experience, indeed.

But the beauty of this tragedy is how Holly's family literally ran to her aid. The outpouring of love and support that I saw from afar touched my heart.

Not long after they learned of the cancer that had stricken Holly, Kim and Stephen started up Joggin’ for the Noggin, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises funds for brain cancer charities through long-distance running events. And that's how they came to run the marathon last year, with Holly watching from bleachers at the 17-mile post.

It's easy to give to this organization online using a credit card or PayPal account. Or you can mail a check to:

Joggin' for the Noggin
8423 Thunderhead Drive
Boulder, CO 80302

The good thing is that the money you send goes to Sloan-Kettering for cancer research, and donations of $26 or more earn you a Joggin' for the Noggin water bottle. :)

Stephen and Kim's 2006 Christmas letter says that Holly is doing great. She is still in physical therapy getting her leg functionality back after the impact of eight rounds of chemo on her leg muscles. See Holly's blog at Kim, Stephen, and Holly thank you for your help.

Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Fun in Philly

Until now I'd never been to the city of brotherly love. Despite a few discouraging comments from friends, I still wanted to get a closer look—closer than from the Amtrak rail that took me past the Philadelphia skyline many times last winter, leaving me curious about the beautiful buildings that lit up the night sky. Plus, I wanted to explore its historic sites. I'm always open to adding another U.S. city to my ever-growing list of places I've seen, so off I went up I-95 last weekend to visit the birthplace of our nation.

I also took a brief side trip to NYC, where I finally visited Liberty Park in Jersey where the Manhattan skyline views are incredible. I also finally got a chance to see Jersey City, which is where I would probably live if I could move back to that area. It was bitterly cold Friday and Saturday, but much nicer on Sunday when I explored Independence Mall.

In NYC, Canal Street was a madhouse—entire road lanes were taken up by foot traffic. But I wasn't leaving without another designer handbag (a Prada this time). I swear, all my life I bought my purses at Target. Nothing special, and I never cared. But ever since I got the beautiful patchwork Coach bag in a little back room behind a secret door off Canal Street, I've gotten more compliments on my bag than I can count! Even today at Costco a woman behind me commented on my Coach. Come to find out, she goes up to NYC twice a year and does her shopping at the exact same places I do – Canal Street, Century 21, and the Pearl River Mart on Broadway. My kind of woman!

In Philly, I got a kick out of the dozen or so non-English speaking Chinese people snapping photos of each other in front of Independence Hall. How's that for irony? I also enjoyed seeing the original Liberty Bell and learning about the history of the infamous crack. The last time the bell was rung was in 1846, in honor of George Washington's birthday. Damage to the bell was too extensive at that point, and it rendered dumb on that day.

I cannot believe Christmas is a week away. I finished my shopping and wrapping last month, so I'm done with that. But my job suddenly began to require lots of overtime work about three weeks ago. Between that and a free-lance writing gig that landed in my lap last month, I have not been able to find the time to get a Christmas tree. I really wanted one this year, but I couldn't find a single tree lot the weekend after Thanksgiving when I was just dying to get a tree. That surprised me. (Bah humbug, Maryland!) At this point it just isn't worth all the effort so I guess I'll forego tree decorating this year and just enjoy the tree at my brother's place down in Atlanta.

Christmas was supposed to happen at my parents' new home in an "active adult" community [reminder: never say "retirement community!"] in Canton, Georgia, this year. Their closing was scheduled for 12/11. But their builder postponed until 12/22, and now my mom's not sure if the builder will be ready by then. God, all builders are alike. I can't even talk about my horror story of the inside stair repair my builder performed on my new home last month. I'm still too disgusted by the total incompetence displayed by the various subcontractors day after day during a job that should've been completed in three days in early October, not three messy, dusty weeks in November. But we won't go there right now.

Happy Holidays, everyone! Here are some pictures for your enjoyment from Philly.

Club Quarters on Chestnut Street, where I stayed, and City Hall:

The clothespin sculpture and the Christmas tree in front of City Hall:

Market Street and and Independence Hall, where the U.S. Constitution was signed:

Reading Terminal Market:

Father of the Navy, John Barry: