It’s not all bad: 3 uplifting blogs about family

We recently learned of a Canadian holiday called Family Day, celebrated in many provinces on the third Monday in February. We second the notion that recognizing the importance of family is, well, important, and are pleased to pay homage this week to clans large and small, given and chosen, with Family Week on Idealists in Action.

Families are nothing but trouble.

I think this is the conclusion you’d have to come to if you were a visitor from Mars and wanted to cobble together an idea of what “family” means. If you took even the most cursory survey of the United States’ cultural output—from the the Kardashians and Hiltons in tabloids, to the good-but-depressing literature of Shirley Jackson and Jonathan Franzen, to TV talk show hosts from Donahue to Ricki Lake—it would be hard not to arrive at the notion that families are the root of all our problems, cause us nothing but consternation, and are often best escaped from.

With this static always in the air, I think I felt a bit like a visitor from Mars a few months ago, when I stumbled on a blog written by a guy who actually seems to enjoy his family life—and enough to write about it! With sincerity and humor! I pinched myself.

Art of Man

(image via The Art of Manliness)

I subsequently got lost in The Art of Manliness’s “Relationships & Family” section for a while, fascinated by posts like:

Seeing a guy so psyched about his family that he feels compelled to spend a lot of his time writing a good-quality blog about it gives me palpably more hope for our collective future.

Another feel-good read I tripped on was a short post by The Healthy and Fit Homeschool Mom, entitled “Breakfast for a Hardworking Man”:

Bagel

(image via The Healthy & Fit Homeschool Mom)

When was the last time you read something as sweet as this?

The author elaborates a little more on her family’s simple but affectionate breakfast rituals, but the sentiment is well summed up in these three lines left by a commenter: “When I was a kid my dad left work at 5:00 am. My mom was up with him and made him a hot breakfast, just like she did us before school. It was such obvious sacrificial love.”

Are you trying to make me cry??

I’ll just share one more, which is a triumph of a bit different sort.

Jen Bauer blogs about life with her partner Kendra and their three children on Adventurous Moms. While it’s not all fun and games (there are definitely posts about life under DOMA, conception difficulties, and the legally-necessary act of adopting her own daughter), Jen’s chronicles are largely expressions of biophiliac enthusiasm about life with her family.

Take this recent snippet from the Outdoor Adventures tab:

Snow

(image via Adventurous Moms)

Here in New York City, we’ve been decrying this winter’s dumps of frozen detritus—but Jen and company are turning snowflakes into lemonade and choosing to tromp around all joyfully in it together. I, for one, could take a lesson.

Well, there you go. Three top-notch blogs to make even the most jaded and curmudgeonly among us remember that there can be a lot more to family than arguments, grudges, and annoying holiday travel.

There can also be radiant, irrepressible, joyous love.

Tell us why your family’s not a bummer!

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Chiditarod: America’s coolest food drive / shopping cart race?

At Idealist, the sporting world is not our usual beat. The Olympic Games, however, hit us where we live as an inspiring, international gathering of outstanding individuals and teams (not unlike our own new network!). So we’re taking this opportunity to pay homage to excellent athletes, winter beauty, fun games, and a host of other concepts we could tie (even tenuously) to Sochi. Welcome to Olympics Week on Idealists in Action.

If you’re like me, you’ve been looking for most of your life for a combination charity food drive, beauty pageant, costumed shopping cart race, pub crawl, talent show, nonprofit fundraiser, and (most importantly?) chaos generator.

Luckily, the Chiditarod is here to answer our call.

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Chiditarod competitors get down in 2013
(image via Chiditarod Facebook)

In the grand traditions of the original Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska—and the urban genre-founding San Francisco Urban Iditarod and New York City Idiotarod—Chicago (get it? Chi-ditarod?) started their own race in 2006 and has since become a strong presence on the now-nationwide annual urban Iditarod scene.

How do they stay so strong?

  • A winning premise. At its heart, the Chiditarod is a costumed shopping cart race through two Chicago neighborhoods, scheduled to coincide with the kickoff of the actual Iditarod. Teams of (human) participants roll decorated carts filled with 60-plus pounds of food for donation through the streets for up to five miles—rain or shine—and encounter checkpoints, contests, bribe-happy judges, and sometimes friendly sabotage attempts along the way.
  • Some great add-ons. The Chiditarod tradition has grown to include such additional highlights as a t-shirt, patch, and poster design contest; companion bowling fundraiser event called the ChiditaBowl; and a summertime Kiditarod for the little ones.
  • A very worthy cause. By encouraging its community to donate food and cash beyond the outlays required to participate in the race, the Chiditarod (itself a nonprofit organization) has donated over 80,000 pounds of food to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and $40,000 to organizations that provide immediate hunger relief or work for food justice.

This year’s Chiditarod is on March 1. Ladies and gentlemen, start your carts.

Chiditarod registration closes this Saturday, February 15. If you’re in the Chi-Town area and want to sign up, or if you just want to read more about the event’s history and gawk at some funny photos, hit up their website.

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VIDEO: Portland rocks the MLK Day of Service

This past January 20th, the Idealist video team traversed the neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon to visit some awesome service activities happening as part of the MLK Day of Service. The thousands of volunteers they encountered clearly did a lot of good for the organizations they were helping, but they also told us it wasn’t just about giving back—it was also a fun, easy, rewarding endorphin rush.

 

 

It’s always great to serve on MLK Day, but remember that orgs need help all year long. You can search for thousands of ways to give back in your community, while getting some ‘good’ yourself—just visit Idealist.org/act.

How did you serve on MLK Day this year? Would you describe it as easy and fun?

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Join Idealist on March 11 as we launch a new global movement for action and change!

 

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Move over, Movember. It’s time for Dinovember.

Dinos big and small team up to write this blog post.

Dinos big and small teamed up to write this blog post.

Two parents in Kansas City wanted to make some magic for their kids and ended up starting a nationwide creative craze.

Refe and Susan Tuma, the parents behind Dinovember, came up with an idea to help their kids “see the real world with a sense of wonderment” by setting up elaborate scenes around the house.

During Dinovember, toy dinosaurs come alive at night and do naughty mischief: breaking plates and spilling food, spray-painting the walls, getting stuck in the freezer while stealing ice cream.

Kids find the dino scenes in the morning, freak out, and play for hours.

The Tumas encourage all parents (and kids and people without kids) to participate in Dinovember. In a Fast Company article by Jennifer Miller, they offer tips on how to join in the fun while sharing their thoughts on taking risks, being creative, and making your own magic:

1. You Don’t Have to Pay for Play. The Tumas haven’t spent a dime on Dinovember. All the props—from the dinosaurs to the cans of spray paint—were already in the house. This forces them to get creative with what’s already available.

2. Make It More Than Child’s Play. Your project may be silly, but it’s still art—and worth no less than that novel you’re writing. “We rarely have time to work on our own projects,” says Refe, whose wife is an artist as well as a full-time mom. “But Dinovember is a way to combine our kids and our desire for creative pursuits.” In other words, if you take your project seriously, it might just provide that artistic outlet you crave.

3. Make (Them) Believe. When the Tumas started Dinovember last year, their oldest child was completely convinced the dinosaurs were real. A year later, she’s wised up. “We can see in her eyes that she knows what’s going on, which is why we had to escalate,” says Refe. And how. He and his wife spray-painted the walls. “She knows Mom and Dad would never graffiti the living room,” Refe says. But would a dinosaur? Not out of the question.

4. Make a Mess. Speaking of spray paint, take risks! Defy convention! “Repainting the walls is a small sacrifice to keeping the fun going with our kids,” says Refe. The same thing applies to dirtying the kitchen or breaking common household objects in order to make the dinosaurs appear responsible. Tuma and his wife have found new freedom in their non-adult behavior. “It reminds us that our stuff isn’t as important as our kids,” he says.

Read the full article to learn more about Dinovember or visit Dinovember’s Facebook page.

What projects or ideas do you have that could use some magic?

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