What #GivingTuesday Means To Me

Much to the surprise, and mild annoyance, of my Swedish friends, Black Friday hit Scandinavia this year like Sunday’s gale force winds. “This is the first year we’ve seen it pushed so hard here. Why? It’s not like we celebrate Thanksgiving and have the day after off from work to shop.”

One thing I’ve learned about Sweden: people don’t push…ever. “Lagom” – in moderation, in balance, perfect simple – is a way of life.

Yesterday my email and social media feeds – like yours, I assume – were filled with advertisements for Cyber Monday specials. I appreciate this day, actually; I’m reacquainted with small businesses that are doing great work. On the flipside, I take advantage of the barrage of information by unsubscribing to spam and tired marketing lists that have otherwise been ignored the rest of the year.

Today we close out the financial trifecta with Giving Tuesday, which has my heart. My years spent as an arts and education fundraiser strengthened my support of any opportunity to promote the good in this world. This year I’ve stood for The Lupus Foundation of America in honor of my mother.

Giving, but beyond money. It’s on my mind big time today. I became clear when I embarked on this journey that I couldn’t be of service to anyone until I was a stronger person but that giving was the best way to build my strength. An interesting cycle, one that’s taken focus and commitment; I’m striding and stumbling.

Today I emotionally belt out love and praise for two individuals who are the embodiments of strength and have given to others in ways I’m not sure they fully realize. They are dynamic, intelligent women who show up fearlessly, work tirelessly, maintain a sense of humor, and have the kindest of hearts. It’s a special week for each of them and they deserve some serious celebration.

Mia Saling and AnnaKarin Larsson are amazingness wrapped in badass packaging.

Mia and I / Annapolis, MD / 2004
                With Mia / Annapolis, MD / 2004

Mia’s my best friend and former business partner, and she’s being sworn in to the State Bar of California today. Becoming a lawyer is an accomplishment that has been a lifetime in the making. When asked as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up, Mia, without hesitation, said “a corporate litigator” (in addition to being an actress and a pilot). Who says that? Mia says that.

Of course Mia’s set an extraordinary example with her academic and professional achievements; she’s an entrepreneur, executive chef, dive master, and attorney (there’s other stuff as well but you get the idea). What’s most noteworthy, however, is how she accomplished such success: with tenacity, faith, and honesty.

For me, Mia IS determination and integrity, and not the bullshit kind that sounds good and looks pretty but has no substance. She flipped adversity on its head and built a strong foundation from it. She’s someone we all learn from.

Take in every second of this day, sweetie. You’re a bright star for all of us to admire.

With Anna / Washington, D.C. / 1998
   With Anna / Washington, D.C. / 1998

I’ve considered AnnaKarin Larsson a close friend since I was 21, and it’s she who’s welcomed me to Sweden with open arms. Tomorrow’s her birthday, an opportunity for those of us who call her mother, daughter, sister, friend, and colleague to say thank you for giving her best every day.

Anna’s incredibly special; she possesses a compassion that’s matched by very few people I know. She’s also an ass-kicker; she sets her goals and expectations high. The past three weeks have been an honor to witness how beautifully she’s raised Oscar (he’s an awesome happy kiddo), succeeded in her career as a culinary director in the Åstorp school system, and exceled in her college studies. Anna’s a reminder of how lazy is a choice, life is meant to be lived fully, and love is the greatest gift of all. I can’t imagine being in a more perfect place right now.

The happiest of days, sister gurl. You’re an inspiration for every one of us.

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