Category Archives: arts

Facing my fears plus other observations on Ghana

We got up early today and traveled out to the Kakum National Park.  No one will believe this but I am TERRIFIED of heights. I have been obsessing over the rope bridge at Kakum National Park since our very first planning meeting.  One way or another, I was going to do it.

Anyone who knows me well knows that besides a fear of heights, I have some social anxieties and I have to push myself sometimes.  This entire trip has required me to push myself outside my limits, but now I’m comfortable with these people.  At dinner last night, John and I were teasing each other about going across the bridge, and I told him if I could then SURELY he could cross the bridge.  There was a fair amount of trash talking and ultimately neither one of us could get out of crossing that rope bridge, 100 feet in the air, over the tops of trees.  There are actually a totally of 6 or 7 bridges.  I’m not sure how many, but there are a lot!

We got up to the bridge and there was no question that I’d do it, but I was so scared.  I can’t even describe my level of fear.  “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself” was said by someone who never looked down from a rope bridge in Ghana.  But we’re on this pilgrimage together, and nowhere was that more evident than today on the bridge.

In our group was a family from the UK with four children, one an infant in a carrier strapped to the front of the mom.  She’s currently teaching in Egypt and they’re here on holiday, and they all went over!  Do you think this made me less frightened?  No!  Not in the least!  I didn’t even think about them.  Instead, I obsessed over the number of people on the bridge.  The guide told us that the maximum was five.  FIVE!  Whatever happened to the elephants they said went across the rope bridges to test them?  Surely five of us wouldn’t weigh as much as an elephant!

I took the first step, petrified.  I started reciting to myself the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the 23rd Psalm, and all the other prayers I’ve ever memorized throughout my lifetime.  Then I started singing to myself.

Whether Shanna and Sharon have superhero hearing is something I’ll never know for sure, but Shanna said look at the back of her head and step with her.  I counted every single hair on the back of her head.  She stepped and I stepped.  Then Sharon started asking me questions.  I didn’t forget my fear of plummeting 100 feet to my death, but I was distracted enough that I can’t remember the exact number of bridges that I crossed.  I just know it was a lot.

John and Gale also made it across, and the three of us joined hands to help hold each other up as we went up and down the hills through the jungle.  I had left my cane in the bus and I am so proud of how well I did.  This entire trip has been one giant leap of faith after another.  I’ve made new friends and I’ve learned a lot about myself.

But I never need cross another rope bridge again in my life.

What am I going to do with my Dad?

For the record, I’m really talking about my dad’s ashes.  My dad died in 2016.  He is sitting in an urn in our living room, and I seem to get some sort of odd comfort in knowing where he is.  I didn’t really give this question much thought until our Boxing Day party, when a friend asked me who was sitting on the fireplace.  It took me a minute to realize he was talking about my dad.  This led to a discussion of scattering ashes and how to memorialize someone who has been cremated.

I love cemeteries.  I’ve been actively involved with Riverside Cemetery since we moved to Macon.  I love to go out and walk and look at the graves.  I love knowing where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried.  But what am I going to do with Daddy?

At some point, my dad told someone he wanted his ashes scattered at Hanna Park in Jacksonville.  He might have told me; to be perfectly honest, my memory is fuzzy on some things.  There were a few things I really wanted to forget.  But I can’t scatter him.  I just can’t.

Part of it is the issue of memorializing, and this was my friend’s objection to scattering.  I find comfort in bringing flowers and going to the cemetery.  If I scatter him, how will anyone know where he is?  How will anyone remember he was even here?  Will anyone care?  Who will remember him when I’m gone? How do we memorialize him?

My step-father’s ashes are at the National Cemetery in Salisbury, North Carolina.  I told my mother we could put the two of them together and then I would only have to make one visit.  I thought it was pretty funny but my mother didn’t.

I am the person who makes decisions.  My daughter and I planned my father’s funeral.  My brother has not been involved and has said he really doesn’t care.  I care enough for both my brother and me.

I just don’t know what to do with Daddy.  Do I scatter him, as he wished?  I’m not ready.  But he deserves to be memorialized somewhere.  I just don’t know where.


Winning the Lottery

I won the lottery this week. Not the Georgia Lottery, but one even better than that.  I’d have to play the lottery to actually win, and I can’t really see the value in that.

This week, I got to spend time with my mom, I introduced one of our grandsons to one of our favorite books, I had a picnic with a new friend, I started physical therapy for my knee, I went on a walk with another new friend (or I tried), I saw a movie with Michael, AND I made another new friend.  The icing on the cake was finding out I could go to college in Georgia for free.  Age does have its privileges.  Can you imagine a better week?

Let’s start at the beginning.  My mom is always fun and anyone who knows us knows we love road trips.  We just came back from a successful road trip with Sloan, another grandson, and he liked our habit of listening to audiobooks on the road. With Jacob, a somewhat reluctant reader, we chose “Skink, No Surrender,” by Carl Hiassen.  Carl Hiassen is one of our favorite authors and even his books for young readers keep us entertained.  Jacob laughed the entire trip and even asked to turn on the phone when we got inside. He couldn’t get enough!

We got home Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning I had an appointment.  This was where I met my new friend, Mike, in the most unlikely place. We had already talked on the phone and I knew he was very helpful, but when we met in person we clicked.  You can never have too many friends.  He’s a smart guy, a social worker, and I’m adding him to our Boxing Day party list.  Not just everyone goes on that list!  Thank you, Mike.  I never expected to find a new friend that day, especially when the next lady who came in acted like I was some kind of nut case.

This was a very quick trip and I’m on a diet so I got three barbecue sandwiches that I intended to ration carefully.  I ate one for supper on Tuesday and I knew both needed to be eaten on Wednesday, but there was no way.  When my friend Lawrence said the magic words, I suggested a picnic on Wednesday.  The weather was perfect and we ate under a big tree at Wesleyan College.  The company was outstanding, even though we were both eaten up by ants and I’m still itching.  If you know me very well, you know I don’t share my barbecue sandwiches with just anyone, so you know Lawrence must be a very special friend.

Paige Parker is the best physical therapist in the world.  If anyone can help my knee, Paige can.  She worked miracles with my shoulder.  I’m highly motivated, but she pushes.  I’m optimistic.  Getting an appointment brightened my mood.

The best laid plans don’t always work out, and the rain prevented my walk with Hal.   I have so much respect for Hal Brickle and his work with the weekend lunch and I couldn’t wait to walk with him, so off we went. We got to the stop sign, and down came the rain.  I hobbled back to the car and he ran a little faster.  J

As I said, the icing on the cake was finding out I can go to college for free at state schools in Georgia. I’m particularly interested in the history program at Middle Georgia College, perhaps the music program there, the theatre program at Georgia College in Milledgeville, or if I’m really serious about studying, economics at Georgia State University.  For $49 per course, I can even go to Emory University.  I could get a BSN at Middle Georgia College, but I think I’m over that.  I think I want to do something FUN!  I may be the only person, though, who thinks public policy and economics sounds like fun.

First, though, let’s get some money coming in on a more regular basis. But this has certainly been a fun week.

Nonprofit Basics: Cultivating your Donors


My husband and I love to donate to charitable organizations. Seriously. We do it because we believe in giving back. We like to support organizations that do good. One organization has just gotten its last donation from us. There are ways to cultivate donors, and there are ways to drive them away.

Fundraising is a huge part of any nonprofit organization, whether it is a church, a theatre, public television, or a helath care organization. As board chair of two nonprofits and board member of three others, I am used to asking for money. We also support several other organizations whose missions we believe in and whom we know do a great job meeting their objectives.   With so many organizations competing for donations, how do you attract and keep your supporters?

  1. Reach out and touch. Remember the old AT&T commercial where they advised us to “reach out and touch”? There is so much to be said for this. Chances are good that you have a prostpective donor list, and chances are even better that you run into these people on a fairly regular basis. If not, there’s always the phone. Let your donors know that you’re there and that you care. You might consider keeping a spreadsheet with the donors’ birthdays, anniversaries, and any other key information, then use that when you’re on the phone to trigger conversation.
  2. Celebrate your successes. Donors want to know your organization is making a difference. Unless you are public broadcasting and have a constant presence, it is important that you have SMART objectives and you let your donors know when objectives are met.   The Mercer University Children’s Choir offers free concerts several times each year to allow families and donors the opportunity to see the progress. They also maintain an active Facebook page where donors can follow the choir and its upcoming events. There are lots of opportunities to see their successes.
  3. Thank your donors. People want to be recognized for their contributions. Piedmont Players is a nonprofit community theatre company in Salisbury, North Carolina, and they have a substantial playbill for each of their performances. The playbill recognizes donors at all levels, as well as corporate sponsors. They’ve grown to the point where they have two buildings, one for the mainstage and one for children’s theatre.   Though strictly voluteer, this community theatre has become a destination for central North Carolina.
  4. Personalize your invitations. Mass mailings are often overlooked and sometimes get lost in the mail and mailing services are not always reliable.   Remember you are inviting people because you want them to donate and to continue to support your organization. The small amount of time it takes to include a personal note is one that can really pay off. The Atlanta Opera is excellent at this. When phone calls are used instead of written notes, they are personal and always begin with a greeting
  5. Be direct in your ask. You donated $300 last year; can we put you down for $500 this year? “Could I put you done for $1000?” This gives the donor the option to offer a different amount. I received a letter from an organization that I had promised to support, which read, “We’re trying to do our budget so how much are you going to give?” To be perfectly honest, I was a little startled by the tone of this letter from someone who had not engaged me at all. It was a local organization and a phone call would have made that important connection that is more likely to result in a higher donation. When they followed up with an invoice for the agreed amount, my view of the contribution went from donation to the dreaded bill.
  6. Value and nurture your relationships with donors. A local nonprofit recently had an anniversary celebration and posted photos on their Facebook page, but many of the donors responded that had no idea the event was taking place. The administrator siad that they had used a mailing service and were sorry that some people might not have received their invitation. She said that they couldn’t afford to post it online as an event, because of their budget, so they were sorry if donors/subscribers didn’t know about it.   This response did nothing to appease supporters who should have been invited.

Most people who donate to nonprofit organizations begin the year with an idea of how much they will donate and what causes are meaningful to them. A carefully constructed plan to cultivate the existing donors can go far in promoting donor loyalty. With so many organizations competing for donors’ generosity, your organization cannot afford to overlook these important development opportunities.