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

Quest for Turkey Perfection

Thanksgiving Turkey TossOh, Thanksgiving.

You should be one of my favorite holidays with your legendary link back to my Mayflower ancestors, the opportunity to gather with family, all of my favorite fall colors, and what may be one of the greatest excuses to bag the diet for the day EVER!

But, sadly and inevitably, when it came to my production of a perfectly browned, succulent turkey for that important day, the answer came back from fate with a resounding “No.”

My fortunes changed a bit after I married my husband and discovered that he had a deft hand in the kitchen and was not only willing but interested in making the turkey for our Thanksgiving feast.  Yes, he IS the perfect man. 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 shared 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! Continue reading