We All Need a Pep Talk Sometimes

This hotline is an antidote for an ailing world.

I was having a really bad day. (Actually, it lasted for more than a week, but who’s counting?) Surely I’m not the only person who goes through periods where they feel like they can’t do anything right and that no one is on their side. It’s a lonely feeling.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon this really amazing thing called the Peptoc Hotline. When you call it, you hear the following: “If you’re feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3.”

That’s right. Kindergartners. Specifically, kindergartners from West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, California, along with other students aged 5-12. They are genuinely surprised that this hotline has gone viral, but I’m not. The whole world needs this right now. Perhaps more than ever.

Between the pandemic, and the invasion of Ukraine causing us to teeter on the brink of WWIII, and climate change serving up a winter that never wants to end, we all seem to be at the end of our ropes. This hotline is an antidote to all of that. Kids tell you like it is. They’re genuine. They aren’t jaded by life yet.

So, yeah, I called it. And it made me cry. But happy tears for a change. I highly recommend that you call 707-998-8410 and have your day brightened, if only for a brief, shining moment.

Seriously, though, call while you still can. Because all good things seem to come to an end. According to their Gofundme page, the hotline is getting 800 calls an hour, and therefore they have to fundraise $800 a DAY to keep it going. That, in spite of the hotline company giving them a million free minutes and a discounted rate. I don’t see how they can sustain that level of fundraising. Millionaires, do the right thing for once! (Please do go to the Gofundme page and donate if you can.)

I may just have to call the hotline again and record what they say for future mood-raising. But I have to say that it is a heck of a note when kindergartners have to step up to keep us all from losing our collective marbles.

What a world we live in.

Portable gratitude. Inspiring pictures. Claim your copy of my first collection of favorite posts! Because I’m not always depressed. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The Great Balloon Debacle of 1986

Definitely one for the books.

It started off innocently enough. The Cleveland, Ohio United Way decided they wanted to do a fundraiser. They wanted it to be spectacular. Record breaking, even. One for the books.

They decided that they would stage a balloon release to the tune of 2 million latex orbs, and that they’d get people to sponsor them, 50 cents per balloon. The event was called Balloonfest ’86. It was expected to raise a lot of money for United Way.

This spectacular publicity stunt took 6 months to prepare for. A mesh net was created that would cover an entire city block. The structure to hold said net was 3 stories high. On the day of the event, 2,500 volunteers sat under the net, filling the balloons with helium. At the rate of 2 balloons per minute per person, it would take a little less than 7 hours to reach their target. Most of them had blisters and severe hand cramps afterward. But, hey, it was for a good cause.

Having environmental concerns? Yeah, me too. But the United Way assuaged fears of that by explaining that these balloons were made of “biodegradable latex.” They’d degrade naturally, no muss, no fuss.

In perfect conditions, helium balloons rise up into the atmosphere, continually expanding, until they finally pop and return gently to earth. Unfortunately, according to this article, they return to earth in the form of unsightly litter, and are often mistaken for food by animals, which can cause numerous health problems. And latex does degrade, but it can take 4 years to do so. And the latex in balloons is often treated with ammonia, tetramethyl thiuram disulfide plus zinc oxide, and a plasticizer. And it shouldn’t be overlooked that helium is a limited resource that is needed in the medical field.

So even if things had gone well, the result would have been a disaster for the environment. Oh, but things did not go well. Not even a little bit.

First of all, they didn’t take the weather into account. On this late September day, mother nature wasn’t feeling the least bit cooperative. A rainstorm was headed right toward Cleveland, and it had organizers very worried. So, worried, in fact, that they decided to release the balloons early, meaning that many spectators missed it. And they were only able to release 1.5 million balloons instead of the intended 2 million.

And instead of benignly rising ever upward, these balloons instead hit this weather system and went downward, still inflated. Days later, balloons were washing up on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie. Traffic accidents were reported because the balloons covered a highway, blocking all visibility. One airport had to shut down a runway for a half hour. Many balloons descended upon a pasture in Medina County, Ohio, spooking a herd of very expensive Arabian horses, and causing permanent injuries.

But perhaps the most tragic result was that two fishermen on Lake Erie had been reported missing, but the Coast Guard helicopter couldn’t search due to all the balloons in the air. And the search by boat was futile as well, because it was impossible to distinguish a head bobbing above the water amongst the thousands of balloons that were also floating on the lake’s surface. The fisherman were only found later, once their bodies washed up on shore.

A fisherman’s wife sued United Way and the city of Cleveland, as did the owner of the Arabian horses. Needless to say, rather than raising money, the United Way lost quite a bit, financially and reputationally, on this public relations nightmare. But at least, due to this debacle, the Guinness Book of World Records has since stopped measuring “environmentally unsound events”.

One for the books? Mission accomplished.

Like this quirky little blog? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Books for Kids this Holiday Season

Please share this with friends and family!

Hi everybody!

Many holidays are closing in on us, and thanks to this pandemic, a lot of families are struggling to make ends meet, let alone provide gifts to their children. Here’s your chance to give the gift of literacy this holiday season!

While I’m generally loathe to ask for money on this blog, I think this is a good cause. I have started a GoFundMe account in an effort to bring this all about. Here’s the exact description on the page:

Families are struggling this holiday season. Many parents will not be able to give their children gifts like in better times.

I know that the families in my neighborhood really appreciate my little free library. It’s the Clark Lake Park Little Free Library #87847 in Kent, Washington. (Join us on Facebook!) I would like to encourage families to see these books in the library as potential gifts to give their children.

I plan, right after Thanksgiving, to stock my library full of brand new books, and provide non-denominational wrapping paper as well.

It promotes literacy.
It takes some financial pressure off parents. (I will also be providing adult books for children to give their parents, but I don’t need funding with this. I have plenty of those types of books.)

Childrens books are so popular that I can’t keep them in stock. They fly off the shelves.
I would like these books to be brand new, and that costs money.

Your gift will help give a child a happy holiday. I’m hoping to get these funds by 11/14 so that I have time to make the book purchases. If I exceed my goal, I’ll buy even more books to give out throughout the year!

I also would appreciate any donations of children’s books, any time!

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

If you are willing and able to participate, check out the GoFundMe page here. And I would appreciate it if you share this post with your friends and family in any way that you can!

Thank you, and happy holidays to all!


Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

Have you ever really thought about the lyrics to We Wish You a Merry Christmas? The carolers demand figgy pudding, and say they won’t go until they get some. Granted, it used to be a tradition for carolers to be fed when they performed at rich people’s houses, but still, that’s a little pushy, don’t you think? Since this song is said to go back to at least the 1600’s, perhaps they were either the first peaceful protestors or the first terrorists. I don’t know about you, but I’d hand over that figgy pudding, if only to placate the caroling mob.

Incidentally, that link to the lyrics also provides a list of ingredients for figgy pudding, and frankly, I can see why one would get pushy for some. It sounds delicious.

Another delightful tradition has sprung up around this song here in Seattle. The first Friday in December each year, the city closes off several downtown streets and holds the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling competition. Groups of carolers spread out down the street for your entertainment, and they each have a donation box. You vote for your favorite carolers with your dollars, and that money goes to support the Pike Market Senior Center and Food Bank. The groups that earn the most then have a sing-off on the main stage.

This event is a great Christmas tradition, and an even better fundraiser. And since the people also visit the surrounding retailers, it benefits them as well. I highly recommend this type of event for your city. It gives you a sense of community, and an opportunity to enjoy the holiday decorations and the shopping, all while raising money for a good cause. You can’t beat that.

I plan to make Figgy Pudding one of my Seattle holiday traditions. Here are some of the pictures I took at the event. (Including Santa, and snow INSIDE the mall!)

Happy Holidays, everyone.

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Donkey Basketball

Don’t ask me why, but for some reason just the other day I thought of Donkey Basketball for the first time in decades. For the uninitiated, this is, basically, regular basketball, only the players are riding donkeys. These games are usually fundraisers held at local schools.

As a kid, I thought these events where hysterical and fun. As a member of the urban poor, it was my only opportunity to see donkeys, up close and personal. Even then, though, I wondered what their hooves were doing to the basketball courts. It couldn’t be good. Yeah, that’s how my mind worked.

What I should have been thinking of is what this game was doing to the donkeys. Imagine, being thrust into an unnatural environment, surrounded by a screaming pack of humans, and most likely being ridden, shouted at and kicked by someone who is not only way too heavy, but also has most likely never ridden a donkey in his or her life.

That sounds like it should have its very own circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno. How totally and utterly terrifying. It must feel like being suddenly thrust into a ring with a Roman gladiator.

As much as I enjoyed those games as a child, I think we as a society should have reached a higher level of sophistication by now. There are a lot of ways to raise money without torturing animals in the process. For more information, check out this article written by PETA.

donkey basketball

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book. http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Feeling Helpless About Syria

Unless you live in a cave somewhere, you know what’s going on in Aleppo, Syria right now. And if you’re like me, you’re feeling pretty darned helpless about it. People are being slaughtered and I’m looking at my empty guest room. I’d take them all in if I could. I’d stack ‘em up like cordwood. At least they’d be warm and not have to worry about the world exploding around them.

But it’s not that simple. I wish it were. Contrary to what the Republicans would have you believe, it is extremely difficult to sponsor a refugee. I’ve looked into it.

This is the same level of helplessness I felt during the slaughter in Rwanda. And it’s the same frustration I continue to feel about the Chinese occupation of Tibet. No government seems to be willing to step up and do something about this atrocity. Everyone is looking the other way. People are starving. Children are dying. Women are committing suicide rather than be raped. Men are being blown to bits. And even the UN, despite various resolutions, seems loathe to intervene.

I did find a little comfort in this fundraiser for The White Helmets. This group of heroes has been saving lives in Syria, on a purely volunteer basis, since 2013. They’ve put themselves in the path of the bombs to pull people out of the rubble, and according to their website, have saved 73,530 lives to date. The stories on this website will break your heart.

They risk their lives every single day, while I stare at my empty guest room. I feel sick. And while raising money for this amazing group of people doesn’t seem like nearly enough to do, it’s all I can think of to do at this time. Won’t you help? Even as little as $5.00 will buy them a pair of safety goggles to protect their eyes. That’s better than sitting here watching the tears flow from mine.

I just donated enough for 5 goggles. I wish I could afford to contribute enough money for a gas mask or a defibrillator. I wish I could do more. But together, we can do a lot more than just sit and wring our hands. That counts for something, right?


I’d much rather that you donate to the cause above, but after you’ve done that, if the spirit moves you, check out my refreshingly positive book for these depressingly negative times. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

Help a Family Stay Afloat

Hi everyone. I usually don’t use my blog the way I’m about to, but my family is in crisis at the moment, and I sure could use your help. Even if you can’t help financially, it would mean a great deal to me if you could spread the word about my GoFundMe campaign.

I’m sure you know what it’s like to work hard and do everything right, follow all the rules, and then have tragedy strike and suddenly the rug is pulled right out from under you. That’s what’s happening to my niece and her husband right now. So please help if you can.

The full story is below, and it’s the same text you’ll see if you go to the GoFundMe campaign.

Thanks in advance for your support.


On July 2nd, 2016 Andrew Hurley was enjoying a much deserved day off with his wife Leah and their three young sons, ages 6, 3 and 1, when tragedy struck. He dove into a seemingly deep river in the Ozarks while Leah was putting the water wings on the kids, and, instead of encountering deep water, he struck his head on a log.

When Leah saw him emerge from the water all she saw was that he was now bleeding profusely, and floating down the river. He was still conscious and said he couldn’t move because he had no feeling in his arms and legs. They didn’t know it at the time but he broke two bones in his neck and fractured several in his back.

No one was around for miles. Leah jumped into the water to save him, and even then he was thinking only of his kids. He wanted her to make sure the kids stayed safe. She was able to pull him to shore, but couldn’t get a phone signal. Fortunately, some kayakers came by and she screamed for help. They responded quickly, and stayed with Andrew and the kids while she ran to the car and found a stronger phone signal to call an ambulance.

At the hospital, they discovered the full extent of his injuries. A concussion, two broken bones in his neck, and several fractured bones in his back. They think that he will be all right eventually, as the feeling in his arms and legs is returning, but he may have also experienced some slight brain injury as well. Worst case scenario, he will be out of work for several months while going through physical and occupational therapy, and at the current time he’s not supposed to do anything, not even lift anything, as he heals.

This is a family that has done everything to achieve the American Dream. Andrew has worked hard as a project manager while Leah went to back to college to become an educator while she also took care of the kids. She just got a job as a teacher of special needs children, and was very excited about improving the quality of their lives as a family. But her new job doesn’t start until this coming school year, and her first paycheck will be at the end of August, with a significant portion already earmarked for child care.

Andrew does have health insurance, thank goodness, but their patient expense portion will add up quickly, and the follow-up care he needs is about two hours away, so there will be gas and food expenses as well. Also, he had only eight days of sick leave at work, and his disability insurance will only pay about half of his earnings. Meanwhile the bills will keep coming.

Andrew isn’t someone who is comfortable asking for help, but the financial stress and anxiety is not helping this family recover. So, those of us who love him are making this GoFundMe for Leah, the kids, and him, so that healing and recovery is less stressful.

Anything you can do to help this hard working, loving family will be appreciated. For those friends and family who can’t contribute money, even offering to babysit, run errands, or cook meals will be extremely helpful.

“It takes a village” was once a way of life for all of us, and it would be great if we can provide that same spirit to help a family that needs it for the short term. Every type of support will appreciated.

Thank you.

Andrew in Brace

Leah and Family
My niece Leah, her husband Andrew, and their three sons.