What is Your Passion? Finding Your Philanthropy

What do I consider philanthropy?

For me, it is the budgeting of a percentage of my family’s financial resources, donated yearly to nonprofits that are pursuing missions we agree are important and are being done well. My personal time and volunteer efforts may come along with this financial support (statistically, many people do give more to nonprofits where they volunteer), but it is not guaranteed. My husband jokes that I work more hours than he does in his full-time job, but mine are much more variable!

You have limited resources and only you can decide what is the best way to use them!

I started thinking of myself as a philanthropist through my work with Impact Austin. This is a collective giving group that gathers 500 or more women together who donate $1250 ($1000 to grants and $250 to overhead) and cumulatively give out half a million dollars or so a year in high-impact, targeted grants to nonprofits in the Central Texas area. Sounds kind of magical, doesn’t it? Few of us are wealthy, some are budgeting each month to make their yearly commitment, but most of us are in the middle. We can write that check but it definitely takes away from other charitable things we could do.

Why do women choose Impact Austin? Continue reading

Ask the Woman Next to You

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(c) Can Stock Photo / razyphoto

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but the people who experience it want you to be aware of it all of the time.

My first personal experience with a victim of domestic abuse was in my early twenties. I met a stunning woman who worked at my office and we became friends. Betty (not her real name) had dark hair worn full and glossy to her shoulders, porcelain skin, beautiful dark blue eyes, and a slender, feminine figure. We were talking one day and I expressed admiration at how lovely she was. She looked at me with a strange grimace on her face and said, “I didn’t always look like this.”

I laughed and said, “What, a little gilding on the lily?” She grew very quiet and pensive and I suddenly realized this was hard for her. I quickly assured her I didn’t mean to pry and she said, “No, you are a friend,” and she told me her story.

She married young to a man who was ten years older. Although she had no idea at the time that this was not the usual way to express love, he spent the next five years of their marriage isolating and tearing her down through emotional abuse. By the time they had a child, the abuse had become physical, but she was afraid to leave because he told her he would kill her if she ever left him and she believed him.

One night when her son was about four, the physical abuse affected him as well and she finally fought back. She never had before and she said, “It was like it was what he had been waiting for.” Continue reading

The Best Labor Day Present

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(c) Can Stock Photo / rogistok

My husband’s birthday often falls on Labor Day (although this year it is after the holiday) and the family lovingly teases his mom about “really celebrating Labor Day right!” She has nodded and smiled ruefully over the years, looking with pride at the three wonderful children she brought into the world. She devoted a good portion of her life to being their primary caregiver.

Dad Rourke was an extroverted sales and marketing guy with a great math mind and a way that made everyone around him feel lucky to be there. He always knew that he couldn’t have done what he did without a strong woman to support him and he loved his wife fiercely. His insurance business brought travel and frequent moves for the family, and she was the glue that held it all together.

His success was hers, as well and she took pride in always being his loving, impeccably groomed, and incredibly organized partner. They were our role models in how to make a strong marriage last and they enjoyed over 50 years of happiness.

Rourke 50th Portrait

50th Anniversary Portrait by Sharon Roy Finch

Dad Rourke passed away in 2010, and Mom has resented not going with him sooner as she approaches 93 and is losing much of her independence to age and senility. Over the thirty plus years I have been married to her only son, every once in a while, I have sent her a thank you card on his birthday for giving me and the world such a gift.

This year, I sent it early. I wanted to be sure she would still be able to read it and know, perhaps for the last time, how special she is and how grateful I am to her for all she has done for us.

When we celebrate Labor Day, I know it is primarily to honor the working men and women of industry and commerce, but I submit to you that without the historic and heroic labor of women in the home, whether while giving birth or nurturing, educating, developing and loving these children as they grow, there would be no Labor Day to celebrate.

Happy Labor Day, Mom Rourke. You did a fabulous job and always made it look classy, coordinated, and effortless. As Bob Thaves so famously quipped about the great Ginger Rogers, “Backwards and in high heels,” right?

 

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A Legacy of Pearls

This is a story of pearls.

When I was in my late twenties, a friend I worked with got an opportunity to go to China. This was not a usual occurrence at that time, and she asked me if I would like her to pick up some pearls while she was there.

“How much are they?” I asked. She wasn’t sure but she thought she could get me a really good strand for $500 or so. I told her I really loved the baroque style of pearls and a pink hue would be awesome.

“Baroque, huh?” she said, “Well, then maybe $400.” Done!

The pearls and 80’s hair – always a classic combination!

She brought back a strand of the most beautiful, lustrous, and baroque pearls and it was long enough to drape around my neck twice over. I wore them frequently, with business suits, dress up, whatever!

Then Dan and I got engaged and I decided I would like to wear them on my wedding day. My mother had done some jewelry making in the late 70s and had ground a large, oval opal herself and gave it to me as a birthday present. My husband and I discussed it and decided to have the jeweler who was creating our custom wedding rings look at it and see if he could create a strand enhancer for my Chinese pearls that would protect the opal and coordinate with the calla lily theme that was emerging from my engagement ring design and the pearl and gold earrings Dan was having made for me. Brian was up to the challenge and created a gold and pave diamond enhancer that was perfect!

Decades went by, and our older daughter was graduating from college. I had an inspiration that led me to have my pearls restrung, holding out two of the most perfect for Brian to make into earrings as her graduation present. They turned out great!

In 2017, our younger daughter got engaged and I was again inspired to take two more pearls from my string to create her wedding earrings. She had an elaborate gown and the simple, shining pearls at her ears were a lovely accent for her special day.

Our older daughter then got engaged and I thought again about those pearls. She had the earrings from her college graduation, but since she had chosen a very simple gown for her Spring 2018 wedding, would a matching necklace work?

It would, and while we were at it, I asked Brian Hoover of Avant Garde Jewelers (Still our jeweler thirty plus years later and the source of our older daughter’s engagement ring!) to look at my wedding necklace one more time and see if he could mount the opal on two single strands of pearls with a simple clasp. My plan was to wear my wedding jewelry for my daughters’ weddings and with the successive gifts of pearls, it was no longer as comfortable as a strand enhancer. Brian was up to the challenge, and there were enough pearls left over with the change to make a simple bracelet of them, as well. It was a lovely memory for me and a meaningful way to share the pearls along with my wishes for happiness in both of their marriages.

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My wedding, Dani’s wedding, Devin’s wedding…and the pearls continue! Photography by Wayne Long, Teale Photography, and Amanda Pomilla Photography.

My hope is that these will be heirlooms they will treasure and pass on to their daughters or granddaughters.

This is how legacy works, right?

You invest time, talent and treasure in something you feel passionate about. You pass that on and they pass that on, and someday many decades from now, a square-chinned young woman with bright eyes and a blinding smile may be touched when she wears these old and treasured pearls that the women in her family wore on their wedding days. I do love that image and perhaps she will wear them for her wedding and continue the chain of wonderful marriages. You never know!

Here’s to heirlooms and may they travel down the ages, bringing delight and memories of time past into the future.

 

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Do Gerbils Go to Heaven?

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(c) Can Stock Photo / zsv3207

Our Pastor told a story in his recent sermon, and in it, a little boy’s hamster had died and he asked his father (a fellow Pastor) if “Timmy” had gone to heaven. The boy was told in no uncertain terms by his father that nothing that has not professed faith in Jesus Christ shall enter the gates of heaven. I am paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

We were all a bit appalled to hear that blunt and dismissive statement from a father to a grieving son, and our Pastor said that he took the little boy aside on his way out and told him that Timmy sounded like a great hamster and he was sure that he was now playing in heaven.

Sounds like a platitude, doesn’t it? Continue reading