Thursday, December 31, 2015

The End of My Month-Long Causes and Effect Blog Run

(Note: For the month of December, I took over the Causes and Effect: My Year of Giving Daily blog, which was created by Melinda Newman in 2013. Today was my thirty-first and final post for that blog. The words below made up the majority that post, entitled "Three Final Donations to Wrap us 2015.")

I have a confession to make:

I almost backed out of taking over this blog for the month of December.

When I found out late last year that Causes and Effect creator Melinda Newman was looking for 12 individuals to take over the reins of the blog in 2015, I was quick to throw my name into the ring. And I was incredibly excited when I got picked to be one of the blog's writers for a whole month. The only downside was that I was assigned to December and had to wait almost a whole year before I could dive into writing.

Then life happened.

Despite being grossly underemployed for the second year in a row, 2015 was a great year for me. But the lack of a decent income reared its ugly head around mid-year when a series of unfortunate events started to happen. At times I felt a bit like Lemony Snicket.

First the washing machine broke. Not surprising, really, since it came with the house when we bought it ten years ago, and it had probably been in the house at least ten years before that. Buying a new one was inevitable. While we were at it, my wife and I decided to splurge and buy a matching dryer, too. After all, the dryer was also pretty ancient, and we had never bought a brand new washer or dryer before. So forking over the money for a shiny pair of appliances wasn't that painful.

Speaking of pain, as 2015 went along I started waking up with a sore back and neck with some regularity, which I attributed to the fact that our mattress was about 15 years old. So my wife and I opened up the checkbook to buy a new mattress and foundation.

See, that's the problem when you age: everything you own ages, too. And it needs replacing. Like our gas range, which decided to die in the middle of baking a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies in late October. And the custom canvas awnings above our front and side doors that got shredded in a November wind storm and had to be replaced. Again, these were things that came along with the house and had just worn out. (For what it's worth, I had no idea that awnings could be so damn expensive.)

Things settled down a bit until some annoying episodes of atrial fibrillation--an irregular heart rhythm--started kicking my ass. After almost 18 years of having that condition kept in check by medication, I decided to have a catheter ablation done on my heart to try and fix the problem permanently. Because we buy our own health insurance, which has a pretty high deductible, that procedure ended up costing us quite a bit out-of-pocket. It was definitely well worth it, but it was also another unexpected expense incurred in 2015.

Lastly, just to put some icing on the proverbial cake, my wife and I bought a second car late in the year. Having one car is something we've done for a long time, but sometimes it's a bit inconvenient. So when the opportunity to buy a 2007 Ford Focus that a friend of ours was selling at a ridiculously good price presented itself, we figured what the hell. (Believe it or not, the car was the cheapest of all the purchases I've mentioned in this post.)

Now back to my concerns about this blog. It wasn't the writing that I was worried about; it was the money. Because the idea behind Causes and Effect isn't only to write about charities and good causes, it's to donate to them, too. At least $10.00 a day times 31 days meant that my family would be spending at least another $310.00 during the month of December (which is more than we paid for the Focus!).

I wondered if I should just throw in the towel and tell Melinda that I couldn't do the blog. Surely she'd understand. And it wasn't like she wouldn't be able to find somebody else to do it, right? But something inside of me told me to stick with it.

There are two things I know about money:

1. It really isn't everything.
2. There's always somebody who needs it more than you do.

I think that's the essence of the Causes and Effect blog. The idea that giving, even if it sometimes hurts a little, is the most incredibly rewarding thing you can do. Knowing that you are helping others and making a difference, no matter how small, just makes you feel good.

Writing the Causes and Effect blog this month has been one of the most amazing, gratifying things I've ever done. It's taught me so much, not just about writing--like how hard it is to sit down and write a reasonably meaningful piece every single day--but about life. I’m so glad I didn't back out of this wonderful opportunity.

Thanks to Melinda Newman (and Brian Mansfield) for having faith in my ability to take care of this blog for 31 days. Hopefully I've done a decent job. And a very special thanks to my wife, Kathy, for her willingness to let Causes and Effect become an integral part of our lives for the month of December. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Now let's just hope the refrigerator, dishwasher, and furnace behave themselves for a while longer.

"Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides....When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back." --Anne Lamott

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