Friday, August 31, 2012

Day 244: Donated To A Church

This weekend is going to be a blast. On top of it being Labor Day weekend, it is one of my best friend's weddings. I have the honor of standing up in the wedding and there is a 745% chance I will cry. Andrew has always been my moral compass and someone that I look to whenever I need advice. He and his bride to be, Megan, are a real life match made in heaven. Tonight we had the rehearsal dinner at the church here in Chicago that they are getting married at. I had another random act plan for this evening, but a random act arose while at the church. So tonight, for my random act of kindness, I donated to the church. I paid for a prayer candle for the next person that comes in needing one. Now I am about to crush some Lou Malnati's pizza.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 243: Assisted With A Job Search

Last week, I went to go see the screening of "366" which was a documentary about my random acts created by 3 amazing grad students from Northwestern Medill School of Journalism for their capstone project.  I was blown away at how well done the movie was, but wasn't surprised because Donesha, Jackie and Veronica are so talented, professional and creative.  Even as I watched the movie, I kept thinking to myself, "Why did they choose me?"  I am so thankful that they did because the movie is something that I will always have to show Isla how she inspired my random acts.  In fact, I am so thankful that I wanted to find a way to thank the three women for including me in their project. 

As so many people out there know, it is a difficult time right now for graduates who are looking for jobs.  The job market is crowded, so it is many times very hard to differentiate yourself from the pack, especially in the news and entertainment industry.  Well the three women are now a part of the job seeking community now that they have graduated from Northwestern.  I figured if there was anything that I could do to try to help them find an interview/connection/job/network as a way to thank them for including me in their film, then I had to do it.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I am going to assist them in trying to find a job.  I have had the privilege of meeting and interacting with many people within the news industry during my random acts of kindness.  I am going to reach out to them to see if there is any way they may be able to help out the three women in any way.  I will also use my skills from when I worked in recruiting to get their resume in front of the right people.  If anyone out there is looking for awesome candidates for reporting or producing jobs in any capacity, please let me know.  NEWS TEAM ASSEMBLE!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Need Your Help!!

I am planning a worldwide random act and want to see if there is anyone in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, South America, and through the U.S. and North America who would want to help (I promise it will be easy and won't take too much time).  The more places, the better!  Please email me at if you are interested.

Day 242: Donated School Supplies

My wife has been back at school for the past week and a half preparing her classroom for the return of her students, and today is that day.  For the first time in 4 years, my wife is welcoming a new batch of students into her classroom (her school does looping, and she changed grades midway through their loop).  Even though she has been teaching for 7 years, she still gets nervous on her first day back to work, but it is a sort of nervous excitement.  I don't know what the feeling is like for a teacher returning to school, but I still distinctly remember what it was like going back for that first day of school when I was a kid.  There were nerves yes, but it was mostly excitement at getting to see all of your friends and classmates that you hadn't seen during the summer.  You got to brag about all the awesome things you did during the summer, most of which was completely exaggerated.  One of the things I loved most about going back to school was going shopping with my mom for school supplies.  Should I go with Ninja Turtles or Michael Jordan folders?  Why is the store completely sold out of Chicago Bears pencils?  Mom, I need the box of 96 crayons...24 isn't enough!!  I never realized how expensive school supplies were when I was a kid, and although we didn't have a lot, my Mom always got me what I wanted.  My wife told me that there are certain families at her school that have a difficult time affording the necessary supplies for students.  I thought that no kid should have to have their education suffer in any way because they couldn't get the right school supplies.  So today, for my random act of kindness, my wife and I are providing a student all of the required school supplies and a book bag for one of the students at her school.  Back to school is supposed to be something you always remember, and a kid shouldn't have to worry about being prepared.  Now, I am going on eBay and finding that Super Mario Trapper Keeper I always wanted.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 241: Spread The Word About Others' Kind Acts

I am not alone...there are others.  While the previous sentence may seem like a line out of a horror movie, that is not what I mean.  What I mean is that I am not the only one out there who has dedicated time this year towards completing random acts for friends, family and strangers.  Some have made it their goal to doing it every day of the year like me, some have done it for lent, and some have done it for their birthdays.  My blog has fortunately gotten a tremendous amount of exposure, and rather than keeping it all for myself, I feel like I should shine a light on others out there who are spreading the kindness message just like me.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I want to spread the word about others in the RAK world who are making a difference.  If you get the opportunity, please visit the links below to see some really great acts!

I am sure there are more out there.  If so, please share at so that I can spread the word about you!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 240: Gave My Wife Flowers

I enjoy performing kindness simply for kindness sake.  That is part of the reason that I am doing all of these random acts.  We shouldn't have to have a reason or motive to do things for others.  We should do them just because it makes them feel better.  I've had a lot of people ask my why I did an act for them or why I do what I do, and typically besides going into a long spiel, I simply say "Just because..."  That phrase ties in well, especially today, because it is National Just Because Day.  It is the one day the year that you don't need any reason to explain your actions, and can do spontaneous things with no reason or logic behind doing them.  With that in mind, I am going to perform a random act of kindness for my wife.  I used to be in the habit of getting my wife "weekly flowers."  I joked that the flowers were a preemptive strike on her for future occurrences of me being annoying or aggravating.  Truthfully, I got them because she deserves to be spoiled with flowers for all that she does for me.  I speak about the "weekly flowers" in the past tense because I used to get them before we adopted our crazy cat, Karen.  Unfortunately, Karen has made it nearly impossible to have flowers properly displayed in our house because she enjoys eating the flowers, drinking the water, and knocking over the vases.  Well today, for my random act of kindness, I decided to say the "hell with it" and roll the dice on getting Lindsey flowers in hopes that Karen has outgrown her love of destroying greenery.  There is no specific reason behind me getting these flowers for Lindsey.  I am doing it "just because..."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day 239: Drove Someone to Church

This morning, my fall softball league started in the suburbs.  Unfortunately, due to my back being screwed up, I won't be able to play.  While I won't be subjected to slaughter rule blowouts by teams made up of guys 10-15+ years older than us, I also won't be able to spend time with my friends like usual.  I'll still make my way down there for a few games, and then for a few postgame beers to watch the Bears at the (in)famous Ridgewood Tap of Homewood, but not being on the field is kind of rough.  The games typically take place during Isla's nap time, so I will have to find something to do to fill the time.

One of my best friends, Joe, is the captain of our softball team.  Joe is someone that I have always looked up to due to his character (affiliation to Ohio State football not withstanding).  The past few years have been kind of rough on Joe's mother from a health perspective.  She has had heart surgery, hip replacement surgery, and is scheduled to have her other hip replaced as well.  All the while, Joe has been there to take care of his mom, no questions asked.  Due to her recent surgeries, Joe told me that his mother has a difficult time getting herself to church every Sunday.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I gave Joe's mother a ride to church.  Since I am not able to play softball, if I am down in the suburbs to watch one of the games, I'll be sure to reach out to see if she needs another ride.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day 238: Brought Over A Housewarming Gift

My friend Andrew and his soon-to-be wife Megan (their wedding is next week and I cannot wait) recently became first time homeowners.  From speaking to Andrew, the whole home buying experience is super stressful, but once they were able to close on a place, it became very exciting.  Personally, I am really looking forward to buying a place for Lindsey, Isla and I, but we first have to figure out whether that place will be in Chicago or in Northern California (Hint: it will be Chicago). 

This morning, Isla had her first ever swim class.  It was awesome watching her adapt so well to the water.  It's crazy to think that just 16 years from now, she will be winning multiple medals in the 2028 Olympic Games as a dual sport athlete in swimming and volleyball.  After the swim class and a delicious Bahn Mi sandwich, we stopped by Andrew and Megan's new place just as the moving van was pulling away.  Luckily, I had remembered to bring the gift that I had gotten specially done for them.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I brought over a housewarming gift for Andrew and Megan.  Andrew, like myself, is a huge fan of late 80s/early 90s era professional wrestling.  I wanted to incorporate that into their gift, so I reached out to our friend from college, Pete, to see if he could create something special for me.  What he came up with was incredible, and is pictured below.  He was able to take the iconic shot of Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth celebrating Savage's winning of the then-WWF Championship, and superimpose Andrew and Megan into it.  I told them that they needed to have it prominently displayed at their house for all time.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 237: Bought A Drink

                                            This is my sister Jennifer

I miss my sister.  Since she moved to Florida, I haven't really gotten to see her very much.  Luckily, in a couple of weeks she is coming home for Isla's first birthday.  When she gets here, we will spend a bunch of time busting each other's chops and trying to figure out which one of us has larger nostrils (by ratio of head size to nostril size, I guarantee hers are larger).  I wanted to fly down to Florida this weekend to surprise her for her birthday today, but I lack wings and flights are too expensive.  Had I been down there to celebrate her birthday, I would have joined her for dinner at Bella Brava for some delicious food and birthday cocktails.  Since I wasn't able to get down there, I still wanted to at least participate in the dinner.  So tonight, for my random act of kindness, I got in touch with the awesome staff at Bella Brava, and they allowed me to buy an after dinner port wine for my sister as her birthday drink.  I had to wait until now to post this because I know she would have been all over the blog and Facebook (she has had unwavering support for my journey, and for that I thank her).  Happy 35th 25th Birthday Tiffany!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day 236: Went To A Movie Screening

For the past month or so, I have been participating in a graduate school project for three young women who are students at Northwestern Medill School of Journalism.  They have been filming different random acts, interviewing me and my friends and family, and been working so hard on editing their project.  I'm still kind of in awe at the fact that they chose me for their project because I don't think I am very interesting (unlike this guy).  Last week they finished up their filming, and it was kind of a sad occasion.  Not because I wasn't being filmed anymore, but because they wouldn't be around to hang out anymore.  Besides the tremendous professionalism that they showed, I got to know them as just all around great and fun people.  This evening, along with 5 other groups of students, they will premiere their documentary, "366."  So tonight, for my random act of kindness, I will be supporting Donesha, Jackie and Veronica (I did it alphabetically as to not mess with top billing) as they screen their movie for the first time.  (Editor's Note: If anyone is hiring for a great producer, reporter, newscaster, or anything of the sort, I know 3 AWESOME candidates that I can send your way!)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Day 235: Took Rocco Out To The Ball Game

For me, a baseball field is a sanctuary.  It has been since I was a little kid.  Being able to go sit in the stands for a few hours has always been a respite from any issues I may have been having at the time.  Whenever I enter a baseball stadium, I instantly turn into my 10 year old self and any problems in my life disappear even just for a little while.  It's crazy I know, but it works for me.  Since it has always worked for me, I am hoping that it works for a new friend of mine, Rocco.

Rocco is a 5 year old boy who has been going through a rough time as of late.  In March of 2009, Rocco's parents, Christy and Jason, received the news that Rocco had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphonoblastic Leukemia or ALL.  ALL is a type of leukemia that attacks the white blood cells and prevents the body from being able to fight off infection.  After a few years of intense chemotherapy, spinal taps, and transfusions, Rocco and his family planned a celebration in honor of him kicking leukemia's butt.  However, the family was shocked to hear that after all of that, Rocco's leukemia had returned.  For the next 2 years, Rocco will undergo a slew of tests and chemotherapy that will hopefully get rid of this horrible disease once and for all.  For being so young, he has showed so much strength and toughness.

When I heard about Rocco's story from my friends Paul and Alex, I wanted to do something for him for one of my random acts.  From speaking to Paul and Alex, I found out that Rocco plays teeball with their nephew (also named Rocco) and is a huge baseball fan.  So I decided that I wanted to take Rocco and his family to a White Sox game so that hopefully they could get away from their problems for a few hours and enjoy themselves.  However, for such a special kid, we needed to make this game extra special.  Through my friend Brandon, I was able to let Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees know about Rocco and his family.  I have read a bunch of stories about how charitable a person Curtis was in the past, so I wasn't surprised that he was completely open to helping with a random act for Rocco (plus he is a Chicago guy, and Chicago guys are always awesome).  In a little while I will be leaving to meet up with Rocco and his family at U.S. Cellular field.  Today, for my random act of kindness, I will be taking them to the White Sox-Yankees game where they will have the opportunity to have a meet and greet with Curtis Granderson.  Also, a special Thank You to Brandon Buwolda, John Millsap, and Joseph Sum for helping coordinate the tickets and meeting!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day 234: Collected Box Tops for Education

I love cereal.  If not for potential weight gain and the judging eyes of my wife, I could probably eat a box of cereal everyday.  It really doesn't matter what type of cereal it is either, although I prefer ones typically geared towards kids such as Cocoa Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms and Count Chocula (though this is becoming so hard to find).  Needless to say, in any given month, I go through a decent amount of boxes of cereal.  I have always just thrown out or recycled the boxes, not thinking anything more about them.  However, my wife reminded me of something that I did for the first time when I was in 8th grade, so I figured I would do it for one of my random acts.  Box Tops For Education is a great program which allows schools to collect the tops or labels from many different products, which then turn into funds that the school can use for a variety of supplies and programs.  So today and for the next 30 days, for my random act of kindness, I am going to be collecting the box tops for all of the cereal that I eat.  Any other products that offer the same rewards, I will be sure to include.  I am going to send the funds to Erie Elementary here in Chicago because I know the teachers pretty well and "THEY'RE GRRRRRREAT!!!" (Apologies for the terrible cereal joke).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 233: Stopped The Clot

A couple of years ago, my fraternity brothers, Steve and Danny Flanagan, lost their father due to a blood clot in his lungs.  Their father had been afflicted with a clotting disorder, and although he had gotten through previous clots, regularly visited the doctor and took blood thinners, the disorder unfortunately took his life.  DVT/PE (deep vein thrombosis/pulmonary embolism) is a potentially fatal issue that hasn't received nearly enough attention for how serious of an issue it is.  Every single year, 100,000 people die as a result of DVT/PE, and it is something that is easily passed down through genetics.  The National Blood Clot Alliance has made it their goal to advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of blood clots through its support of research, public and health care provider education and advocacy.  One of the biggest fundraisers for the NBCA these past 2 years has been The Jim Flanagan Memorial Golf Outing which is put on by my fraternity brothers in honor of their father.  This year's tournament took place this past Saturday, and in a single day, they were able to amass over $7300 to go towards stopping the clot.  Unfortunately, due to previous commitments, I was unable to make it to Indianapolis for the tournament, but that won't stop me from helping the cause.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I am helping to stop the clot by making a donation in Jim Flanagan's name to the National Blood Clot Alliance.  If you would like to join me in stopping blood clots, you can donate here

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day 232: Rode My Bike A Loooooong Way

For 5 years at Indiana University (yes, I took a victory lap), I was able to attend the greatest sporting event known to man.  Until the Bears win the Super Bowl, the Little 500 will always be my favorite sporting event, and one that I look forward to every single year.  As much as I enjoyed Little 500, I never jumped on a bike to potentially participate in it.  This was mostly because I enjoyed the party week that led up to the race more than anything.  Well today, with no training whatsoever and back pain that sometimes keeps me from walking of late, I decided to finally get on a bike and ride my butt off.

For the past 3 years, the Chicago Cubs and World Bicycle Relief have put on the Wrigley Field Road Tour.  The Wrigley Field Road Tour is a 100 mile bike ride from Wrigley Field to Wisconsin and back that helps to raise money and support for World Bicycle Relief and Chicago Cubs Charities.  My fundraising efforts, which was predominantly supported by all of you in the 366 Random Acts community, helped to pay for 5 bicycles for female students in Africa.  These bicycles are life changing.  "A bicycle in the hands of an African student changes everything.  Students with bikes arrive to school safe and ready to learn. Initial results from the program show grades and attendance increasing while child pregnancy and other health risks such as HIV/AIDS rates are decreasing. Families of students also benefit from the bicycle; it is common for a family member to borrow the bicycle to take goods to market during the day while a child is in school, then return it for the student's journey home."

The race started off without a hitch (except for the fact that I was in pretty bad pain), and I was able to make it about halfway before my back wouldn't allow me to continue.  Luckily, they had an awesome response team which took me and my bike to near the finish line so that I could ride across with my friend Chas.  It was a great day, and in all, the 450 or so riders were able to raise over $240,000 for the charities.  After the race, we were able to hang out on Wrigley Field and play catch.  If you are interested in helping others raise money for great causes by putting their bodies through physical hell, please visit the pages for my friends Dan (Infant Welfare Society) and Bryan (Returning Wounded Soldiers)!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Day 231: Created A Safe Parking Spot

Mark Moll is tired of hearing stories about dogs dying because their owners left them in a hot car.  It happens all too often (over 1000 reported animal deaths this past year) and he wants to do something to raise awareness of this issue.  On the first day of summer, Mark started "73 Days of Summer, 73 Safe Parking Spots" here in Chicago.  What Mark does is depicted in the above picture, but he creates a "safe" parking spot for people to view, and if they choose to park there, they are hopefully making the promise that they refuse to leave an animal in the vehicle.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I joined Mark in creating a safe parking spot near my house.  It only took a few minutes to do, which is around the same time it takes for an animal to succumb to the heat should they be left inside a hot vehicle. 

Just a few tips for traveling with your animal companions:
  • Even on "cool" 60 degree days, animals should not be left in a car even with the windows cracked because the temperature can rise greatly.  
  • Be sure to keep a water source nearby the animal should you need to travel with them.
  • Call the police should you witness an animal stuck inside a car.  It will probably save their life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Day 230: Took A Friend Out For A Birthday Dinner

Rob and I doing the "Bad Boys" pose back in 2002

My friend Rob turned 29 years old on Wednesday.  I have known Rob for about 11 of those 29 years, and that time is filled with some hilarious/insane/inappropriate/fun/epic memories that I have.  Let me tell you a few things about Rob.  He is the biggest Michigan fan on Earth, and this isn't up for debate.  It is a fact.  Relationships have ended due to Michigan football season.  Rob and I share the same favorite movie(s) which are Bad Boys and Bad Boys II.  Rob has 2 tattoos on his thighs to signify this: one reading "Will Smith" and the other reading "Martin Lawrence" (this would be one of the aforementioned memories).  Rob is also one of the most loyal dudes that I know and would probably give up a vital organ if it meant his friend could live but he would perish.  Rob's birthday usually coincides with the Jimmy Buffett concert, and that is the usual celebration.  Since we already enjoyed that back on Day 182, I wasn't sure what we would do for his birthday.  So after some planning, tonight for my random act of kindness, some buddies and I are taking Rob out for a birthday dinner.  Tomorrow he leaves for Las Vegas for a surprise company trip, so I am hoping to get a call that he got a Joe Pantoliano tattoo to match the others.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day 229: The Smile Factor Challenge

As I mentioned yesterday, this week is National Smile Week, so I want to make sure to include smiles or smiling in my remaining random acts for the week.  I also want to try to get as many people within the random acts community to help me participate.  In February, I received an email from a woman named Lori.  Lori told me that for her child's birthday, the entire family participated in random acts of kindness.  One of these acts was to have a contest amongst her the members of the family.  The contest is called The Smile Factor.  Basically it is a challenge for everyone to give a smile to everyone they see throughout the course of their day.  They then count up who can get the most smiles back in return.  I thought this was such a cool idea and a small random act that might actually make someone's day.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I am going to issue a challenge.  Starting at Noon, whatever your local time may be, I challenge everyone to smile at as many people as they can, and to count how many smiles they get back in return.  At 5PM your local time, stop counting and send an email to with your name and the number of smiles that you received.  There will be a special prize that goes out to the winner of the contest.  Good luck though because I am winning this contest!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day 228: Helped A Kid Show Their Pearly Whites

I found out a crazy thing on the radio this morning.  This week is National Smile Week here in the United States.  I can't believe I didn't know this!!  Between working in dentists offices, and being someone who is somewhat of a smile aficionado with my acts, you would think that I would be all over this.  Luckily, I did find out about it, so today and tomorrow I am incorporating smiles and smiling into my random acts of kindness. 

In my role at ZocDoc, I am able to interact with a number of dentists.  From them, I have learned how expensive it can be for families to get preventative dental care, let alone dental care after there are long, untreated issues with the gums and mouth.  Serious health problems can arise from letting your dental care go untreated, and this is especially an issue for children in low-income families.  Since 1997, Smiles Change Lives have been helping these children to get access to proper orthodontic care.  Since then, they have been able to help over 1500 kids nationwide get dental assistance that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I made a donation to Smiles Change Lives so that I could help a kid show off their pearly whites and participate in National Smile Week. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Day 227: Helped Out The Miracle Man

Imagine having everything: loving wife, 2 beautiful daughters, great job working at NASA, awesome friends.  You are living the dream and on top of the world, seemingly in a position where nothing can stop you...but then something happens that does.  That is the position that Charley Yates found himself in after suffering a massive brain stem stroke that left him unconscious and paralyzed from the nose down.  Charley was placed in hospice care and his family was told to prepare to lose him within 30 days because he had less than a 1% chance of living.  He had previously signed a Do Not Resuscitate, so for seven days, Charley remained in his hospice bed with no food or water.  Then it happened.  Charley was able to move his right hand, and then able to communicate enough to let his wife know that he wanted a feeding tube.  The doctors still painted a bleak outlook and said they would only give the tube in an effort to appease his family.  Well guess what?  Charley Yates is just about to pass the 4 year anniversary of his massive stroke, and recently just took his first unassisted steps.  He has regained movement of his arms and is slowly getting back his ability to speak.  Charley Yates is indeed a Miracle Man and has no plans of turning back. However, insurance has only been able to cover only a portion of his medical bills, and since Charley was the sole earner for his family, it has left them with a huge financial burden.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I have donated to Charley's Indiegogo campaign in an effort to help alleviate some of his burden.  Charley has been through so much that if I can help take a little weight off of his shoulders, then I will. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day 226: Followed Someone On Twitter

Through this blog I have truly learned how incredible social media is for raising awareness and support for different causes.  I have been able to find so many tremendous organizations and groups on Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger that are doing things that are changing so many people's lives.  It is amazing the power that a few keystrokes and mouse clicks now have.  As part of my acts, I made it a point to put a dime per follower on all three sites towards a great cause, and I am happy to say (and to thank) nearly 7500 people whose dime is going to go to something I will reveal on Day 366.  By looking at the blog of a new Twitter follower, Love Anonymously, I learned of someone using the Twitter handle @St0pChildAbuse.  They have made a similar proclamation to the one I made, and will donate a nickel for every follower to Love Our Children USA, a group that is dedicated to eliminating child abuse here in the United States.  @St0pChildAbuse has tweeted out some alarming facts about abuse, the most scary of which is that every day in the U.S., 5 children die due to child abuse.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I followed @St0pChildAbuse on Twitter so that my nickel will go towards helping to end all types of abuse directed at kids, not just here but hopefully abroad as well.  If you have a Twitter account, please think about doing the same because it is such an easy act to join in on.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day 225: Beared Down

Way back on Day 11 (man, that seems like so long ago now) I wrote about a child named Meechie that I have been mentoring and tutoring through the Off The Street Club for the past 3 years.  I haven't been able to see Meechie for a while due to the summer months, and I knew I wanted to do a cool random act for him.  I've made it quite clear on here that I am a gigantic Chicago Bears fan, and I have been getting extremely fired up for the upcoming season since training camp started.  Not long ago, I was lucky enough to get in contact with Bears cornerback D.J. Moore on Twitter.  D.J. was more than willing to help with a random act, so I decided to ask for a favor.  My goal was for me and my friend Brian to take Meechie and his friend Kejuan down to Bourbonnais, Illinois for Bears training camp and introduce the boys to D.J.  So today, for my random act of kindness, Brian and I took Meechie and Kejuan to the Bears training camp.  We picked the boys up at the club and held off on telling them where we were going until we pulled into the parking area and Meechie noticed the Chicago Bears Training Camp Signs.  Up until that point we had told them that we were taking them to a ballet which they had absolutely no interest in.  Unfortunately, due to a shot to the leg that D.J. took during practice, we were unable to meet up with him.  Either way, the boys were able to see him and the rest of the Bears practice the plays that will no doubt be unleashed upon the rest of the National Football League as we march towards New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.  The kids had a great time.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Day 224: Donated To The Bongo Man

This morning was the most perfect weather that we have had here in a long time.  This got my wife super excited, so we decided to go for a walk to the local farmer's market.  My wife loves farmer's markets more than the average person, so just one farmer's market wasn't enough and we ended up going to a second.  When we arrived at the second one, we noticed a bongo player banging away on his drums for a group of kids.  We figured we would pass by after we went through and finished our veggie shopping.  By the end of the shopping, Isla was completely zoned out and bored.  However, when we brought her over to the Bongo man, she completely lost her mind.  She was mesmerized by him, and he even gave her a little maraca to play along with.  He asked her name and started singing a song about her.  He was so awesome with her and all of the other children.  We had some spare cash left over from shopping, so we gave it to him in his tip jar.  We will definitely be going back to see him soon because I have never seen my daughter so enthralled with someone (well, besides her father.)  I didn't have my phone to take a picture or video, so instead here is Isla in her Hoosier gear from this morning.  The weather made it feel like it was football weather, so she wanted to get hyped up for it to start.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Day 223: Texted Happy Birthday

Before jumping into my random act, I wanted to give one final update on Lindsey and I doing the Live Below the Line challenge.  We have combined to lose about 17 lbs. in just under 5 total days of doing this.  There were certain points where we thought about cheating and/or giving up (Lindsey wanted to lick one of Isla's peaches just to get the taste), but we started to think about the people who live in extreme poverty and knew it would be a disservice to them.  Doing this challenge can never really equate to what these people are going through because on top of being near starvation most of the day, they are also struggling to find shelter for themselves and their families.  Once again, the big reason that we did this random act is to help support one of our Facebook friends, Victoria Rose of Australia.  She still has 5 more days to go in order to complete her 15 day challenge of living below the line.  If you would like to support her in her quest to raise food and cattle for impoverished folks, please visit her Oxfam website. Now on to my act.

When I write this blog, I sometimes forget that I am writing to thousands of complete strangers.  Well, I guess at this point, you all can't be considered strangers.  You are my random acts friends at this point, and I thank you for that.  I figured since we are all friends now, and friends know about one another's lives, then I can open up more on here.  I haven't mentioned someone on this blog before, mostly out of anger.  That person is my father.  There are many reasons why I am angry, but they mostly have to do with previous treatment of my sister and mom.  I'm not going to get into that though.  We haven't spoken since Isla was born, and I am not really sure why.  Sure it is probably a massive amount of stubbornness on both ends, but I feel like maybe there is fear on both sides to take the leap to reach out.  At the beginning of my random acts, I made it a point to tell myself and others that there isn't a single person out there who doesn't deserve one of my random acts.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I have decided to break the silence and send a text to my father to wish him a Happy Birthday.  I don't know where it will go from here.  If it goes nowhere, then it goes nowhere, but I am sticking by my guns and being kind to even those who have pissed me off and made me sad in the past.  Sorry to get all emo on you guys, but then again, we are friends now, and that's what friends are for.  Hmmm...That's What Friends Are For...This song goes out to all the readers of this blog!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Day 222: Took the Pledge to End Childhood Hunger

Share Our Strength has an aggressive but completely doable plan.  Their plan is to eradicate childhood hunger from America by the year 2015.  They intend to do that through 4 key fronts: break down barriers on the state level that keep kids from accessing healthy food, feeding kids in schools and at places of play, educating children and their parents about the importance of healthy and nutritious eating, and by creating awareness of the problem that is childhood hunger.  They have teamed up with Walmart, The Food Network, ConAgra Foods, and many other food stores, restaurants, and distributors in order to get the word out to as many people possible.  This week, as my wife and I participate in the Live Below the Line challenge, we have definitely gained an appreciation for how difficult it must be to not have access to food, let along healthy food.  We can only imagine what it would be like to have that problem as a child.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I took the No Kid Hungry Pledge to help end childhood hunger by the year 2015.  The pledge states: "I believe that no child in America should go hungry.  By pledging today, I add my voice to the national movement of people committed to ending childhood hunger in America by the year 2015."  If you would also like to take the pledge or learn more about the movement, you can do so here

Live Below The Line Update: Hi everyone!  This is Lindsey, Ryan's wife.  Although Ryan is usually the one to post on the blog, I wanted to take a few minutes to chime in with my feelings about this random act.  It has been 96 hours, and although the end is in sight (when I will be feasting on a delicious assortment of candy, greasy Papa Johns pizza, and MEAT), my stomach still aches for food.  There have been many emotions that Ryan and I have both felt, but the feeling that has never disappeared is the emptiness in my stomach.  Since the first day, I noticed a huge craving to eat everything in sight.  Part of the problem with doing this random act and not actually being a person who lives "below the line" everyday, is although we purchased our groceries ahead of time, we still have many snacks, beverages, and other delicious goodies to eat in our house on a normal basis.  So each day when I go to the fridge to grab a glass of water, or a hard-boiled egg, I look up and see the bag of Birthday Cake Oreos staring back at me. I don't mean to be humorous on this random act because it is sad to think that although we are only doing this for 5 days, to many, this is their reality day in, day out.  It makes me realize how lucky and blessed my family and friends are to have the luxury of putting spices in our food, or the option of grabbing any snack at the grocery store without worrying about what it costs.  I have never had to budget the amount of food I have eaten this closely. Of course, there have been times where I don't get the filet mignon at the grocery store because it's not on sale, but then again I have never hesitated at buying a bag of chips or candy.  What I've learned from this experience is that we are blessed so much and should never take anything that we have for granted.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day 221: Cooked A Delicious Meal and Gave It Away

We have just about reached the 72 hour mark of our participation in the Live Below The Line challenge.  I am almost to the point where I can no longer eat oats or cereal any more.  The thing that my wife and I have been craving the most is fruit.  I think I would sacrifice 2 meals of oats for an entire pineapple right now.  Unfortunately, that is one of the big problems with poverty and hunger world wide.  Nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables are more expensive than everything besides meat.  I can feel the toll that the lack of fruits and vegetables is having on me because I am slogging along throughout the course of my day with very little energy. 

One of our biggest concerns in starting the challenge was the fact that we had a bunch of food in our refrigerator that we thought would go bad by the end of the week.  Luckily, Isla eats anything put in front of her, so she has been eating gourmet baby food like she was a princess (which she is).  However, there are many items that we cannot give to a baby, so we weren't sure exactly what to do with it.  Rather than be wasteful and throw the food out, we had to come out with a way to utilize it.  Churches and shelters don't take perishable items typically, so that was out of the question.  Then it hit us.  Why not cook a delicious gourmet meal like we normally would, but instead of us eating it, we find someone less fortunate to give it to.  So this evening, for my random act of kindness, I am going to join my wife in cooking a delicious meal, and then we will find someone who is living on the street and in need of food.  We will give them the meal so that they can have something tasty to enjoy.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Day 220: Gave Someone Directions

I tell my wife all the time that if I were blindfolded and dropped in the middle of the Amazon, I would be able to find my way home.  I am not joking.  Although she doesn't want to admit it, she knows that I have a tremendous sense of direction.  At a young age, I believe someone implanted an early version of Google Maps into my head.  I know where both Waldo and Carmen San Diego are.  Well today I had the opportunity to put my skills to good use.  While walking out of a call with a doctor, I noticed a family looking at a map in a confused manner.  They kept looking up and pointing, and I could tell that they were either tourists or contestants on The Amazing Race.  Either way, they looked like they really didn't know where they were going.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I helped the family find their way to the Field Museum of Chicago.  They were pretty far, but I gave them directions to get to the train to take them there.  I just hope my directions were right...

Living Below The Line Update: We are closing in on 48 hours of living below the line, and I would be lying if I said that it hasn't affected us at all.  Combined we have lost like 8 lbs already which I find to be insane.  Also insane?  The looks that Lindsey gives me.  I think she is picturing me as a delicious Thanksgiving turkey like how they used to do in Looney Toons.  We are down to only a couple of bananas for the both of us for the next 3 days, so we will see if we end up playing Rock, Paper, Scissors for the rights to them. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 219: Played The Hunger Games

We are approaching the first 24 hours of living below the poverty line, and thus far it has been more mentally difficult than physically.  We feel that we have more than enough food to eat, but not being able to season or add sugar to any of it weighs on a couple of foodies.  Even in this small amount of time, we have gained more of a perspective of what life is really like for those living below the poverty line.  What we see as a small amount of bland food, they see as what they need to survive.  I can already say that I will never take the food that we have for granted. 

My wife (along with my friend Matt and every teenage girl) has been enthralled by the Hunger Games series.  I have never seen her tear through a series of books so quickly.  I'm not too familiar with the series seeing as how I haven't read any of the books, but it seems that they must survive on a small amount of food similar to how we are doing the Live Below The Line challenge.  Well yesterday, I received a message from one of our Facebook followers that pointed me in the direction of a Hunger Games challenge that went in line with what we were doing this week.  The studio behind the Hunger Games, The World Food Programme, and Feeding America have teamed up with an anonymous donor who will donate a nutritious meal for answering correctly on a Hunger Games themed quiz.  All you need to do is answer the questions correctly, and hungry children will get to eat.  Please join me in taking a couple of minutes out of your day to answer a few questions and feed the needy.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day 218: Lived Below The Line

 This is all Lindsey and I can consume this week!

I've learned many life lessons since I started this journey, one of which is that I shouldn't take anything for granted.  My family and I are blessed to be in a position where we have never had to worry about whether or not we would be able to afford a roof over our heads or a meal when we were hungry.  I know there are so many others out there who are not always afforded this and so I have tried to make an effort to be mindful of that and donate whenever possible.  I guess saying "so many others" doesn't really put in to context how many people are actually struggling to eat every single day.  Around the world, there are roughly 1.4 billion people who are currently living below the extremely poverty line, which in the United States means that they are trying to survive on $1.50 or less for food per day.

A few weeks ago, I received a message on Facebook from a woman in Australia named Victoria Rose.  Victoria directed me to a movement that she was participating in called Live Below The Line.  Live Below The Line is a worldwide effort to raise awareness and funds for the growing epidemic of extreme poverty.  To participate in the effort, you agree that for 5 days, you will live below the line of extreme poverty, and not spend more than a certain amount (which, again, in the U.S. is $1.50) on food.  You are not allowed to accept handouts or donations.  You simply must survive the same way others around the world have to.  Victoria is actually taking it up a notch and going for 15 straight days below the line!  I figured the least I could do was to join her in her effort, and to help raise awareness for her specific cause.  So today, and for the next 5 days, my wife and I will be living below the line of extreme poverty.  If you have a moment, please visit Victoria's blog, Facebook, or Oxfam donation site!  In addition to my random acts each day this week, I will blog about how my wife and I are doing.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day 217: Cleaned Up The Beach

Lindsey and I joined our friends for a getaway to a friend's cottage in New Buffalo, Michigan. It will be nice to relax, grill out and soak some rays up on the beach for 36 hours. We are going to enjoy some food and drink down on the beach, and will definitely end up leaving a wake of destruction behind us (I am basing this on any other time 16 of us have been together in one setting). Although I know that everyone would do their part to clean up our area, I am going to take it upon myself to do so. So today, for my random act of kindness, I am going to clean up both our area at the beach and any surrounding areas where there is garbage.  Now it is time for me to get in that cool ocean water and show my friends that they are in the presence of a swimmer on par with Phelps and Lochte.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Day 216: Continued Hannah's Hope

Today was definitely a tough day for the family of Hannah Grace Martinez.  This morning, they laid 3 year old Hannah to rest.  Although her time on this planet was cut short, that didn't stop Hannah from having a profound impact.  After being born with severe brain damage caused by a possible pre-natal stroke, Hannah has been an inspiration and a source of hope for both her family and strangers.  Even at such a young age and even after being dealt a tough hand, Hannah and her family decided that they would make a difference.  That is when they started Hannah's Hope, a non-profit organization that allowed Hannah to help others.  Hannah's Hope has been able to raise funds to monetarily support families with developmentally or physically challenged children in their efforts to obtain costly medical supplies (wheelchairs, braces, etc.).  They have also raised money to fund research for pediatric brain disorders/maladies.  Just because Hannah has passed on doesn't mean that her hope to help others stops.  So today, for my random act of kindness, I donated to help continue Hannah's Hope.  When I see someone who is so small, yet so brave, it really makes me realize that there is even more that I can do.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Day 215: Random Act of Wine-ness

Today is the final day of Pookie's Acts of Kindness.  The meal that I made last night (seared scallop tacos w/green chile chutney) was incredible, and I once again want to thank Chef Jeffrey Saad for the recipe.  It has been so much fun surprising my wife with something different everyday, and her reactions to each one have been priceless.  However, no reaction will ever top the one that she had when I proposed to her at Byington Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.  The best description I can make of the noise she made would be to say that she sounded like a wounded badger.  On top of that she kept saying, "This isn't real...This isn't real."  It took me four or five times asking her if she would marry me before she came out of her blackout and said "YES!!"  It is still weird to me that we got engaged at a winery because before moving to California and meeting Lindsey, my experience with wine was nothing more than warm Franzia straight out of the box at my fraternity.  Since then, however, I have really come to enjoy wine, and I love nothing more than sharing a glass with my wife while we relax after dinner.  Each year for our anniversary, I purchase a bottle of wine that we wait to drink until next year's anniversary.  I wanted to do something really special for this year, so I started researching custom blends and bottles.  After scouring the internet, I found a place that allowed me to pick out a special blend of wine and work with the team to create a special label for Lindsey.  So today, for my random act of wine-ness, I am going to present Lindsey with her own custom bottle of wine.  I'm not sure whether or not she will want to drink it when next year comes along, so I probably should get another bottle just in case.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 214: Made A Very Special Recipe

"A way to a man's heart is through his stomach."  If that phrase is true, then I know exactly how my wife made me fall in love with her (besides tricking me into taking her out on a date which is a whole other story).  I've documented on this blog before how outstanding of a cook my wife is.  Each Sunday, she does the grocery shopping and documents on her chalkboard menu which gourmet meals we will be enjoying that week.  I am not kidding when I say that when I come home from work, it is like entering a 5 star restaurant, and I am extremely appreciative for that.  Lindsey has been able to become such an accomplished amateur chef through a steady stream of cookbooks and recipe magazines, but one of the biggest influences on her culinary ways has been the Food Network.  The Food Network plays on our television so much that it has almost become ambient sound in our household.  Lindsey is so obsessed with the Food Network (and the Cooking Channel) that I was surprised when she agreed to name our daughter Isla Quin rather than Rachael Giada.  So when I was trying to think of random acts to do for Lindsey, I wanted to definitely involve cooking, but somehow wanted to find a way to incorporate the Food Network/Cooking Channel.

Our friend Laura has been a great help with 366 Random Acts.  She has given a ton of suggestions, participated in a few, and also babysat Isla while Lindsey and I were out performing some.  As per usual, she asked if she could help in any way with the random acts for Lindsey this week.  I remembered a while back that Laura had mentioned that her friend, Lisa, was the sister of Jeffrey Saad, a tremendous chef and star of Season 5 of The Next Food Network Star and Cooking Channel's United Tastes of America.  I figured it was a long shot, but I asked Laura if she could potentially work her magic to see if Jeffrey might be able to create a recipe for Lindsey for our anniversary.  I didn't put a whole lot of hope into it due to the fact that on top of his filming schedule, he also was releasing a new cookbook, so I assumed he was a pretty busy guy.  You can imagine my surprise when Laura called me with the exciting news that Jeffrey would be more than happy to send a recipe in honor of our anniversary.  Jeffrey is a pretty philanthropic guy himself having been a supporter of The Alexandria House since 2006 (The Alexandria House is a transitional house in Los Angeles for previously homeless and/or impoverished single women and women with children that helps serve as a shelter to allow them a chance to get back on their feet), so along with the recipe, he sent along some well wishes for our 366 Random Acts.  So this evening, for my random acts of kindness, I am going to be making my wife the very special recipe that Jeffrey Saad sent along for her.  I am super excited about this one, and I think she might flip out over it.