Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Giving Back In Unexpected Ways December 4, 2013

Before things get too crazy with the holidays I wanted to give back something special. I started growing out my hair for a nice updo at my wedding. From July of 2012 to September 2013 my hair grew about 6 inches. Not too shabby but not quite enough to donate. So for the next few months I let my hair continue to grow. Until this weekend.

There were two main non-profits I looked at to donate my hair. One was Locks of Love and the other was Pantene Pro-V’s Beautiful Lengths Campaign. After talking to my friends who have donated in the past, as well as my own research I decided to go with Pantene Pro-V. 100% of their wigs go to women with cancer.

On Friday I set off to Floyd’s in LaGrange. My hair stylist Ashley asked what I wanted to do, and I explained the big chop for a donation. She was very excited and I think a little more nervous for me than I was! She grabbed a ruler and confirmed that I had 9 inches to donate and began cutting.

Here’s the before and  after pictures.









I’m so glad I decided to donate my hair before the length drove me bonkers. Plus, I know it’s going to a good cause.

On an unrelated hair note, another way to give back this time of year is donating your time. This past Monday night, my husband and I spent almost two hours at our church sorting donations for an event called “Christmas Sharing”. Christmas Sharing has been going on for over 40 years in the Wheaton Warrenville suburbs of Chicago. The entire community of schools, churches, civic groups, libraries and businesses in the area collect food, gently used clothing, and toys to be distributed to families in need identified by school social workers.

Matt and I had a great time meeting fellow members at our church and sorting through clothes. We enjoyed a few laughs of old styles and trends. It was the first day of sorting so it feels like we barely made a dent, but our group got all the coats organized in one room, all the shoes in another and made excellent headway on adult clothes.

I’m sad that I’ll miss the big distribution day, to meet the families in need and see their excited faces. But, I do hope to bake a few batches of cookies to donate to help make up for the loss of not being there. Plus, I can always look forward to next year!

During this time of year being able to do things like donate my hair and help out a non-profit organization warms my heart. Because I believe one person can make a difference from a lock of hair to spending time folding clothes.


Volunteering Made Easy October 2, 2012

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 8:24 pm
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My friend Andrea recommended the book MWF Seeking BFF {pictured to the left} back in the Spring.

I finally bought it for my Kindle in June and finished the book in no time at all.  I loved it and actually wished it was longer so I could keep reading!  The basic story is that a girl moves to Chicago with her husband and although she is happy with him and their relationship, she is unhappy that she doesn’t have any close girlfriends in town.  She knows some people in town and has friends, but no one  she could call at a moment’s notice.  She proceeds to set a goal to go on one friend date per week for a whole year.  The story gets really good because her story shares all the different ways she went about meeting 52 girls to go on dates with!  Perhaps I was a little more engrossed by her story because it takes place in Chicago and I live here too.  I found myself taking lots of notes on different organizations and places she was involved with.  One of the ones that stood out a lot for me was One Brick. About them straight from their website:

Our ‘commitment-free volunteering’ allows you to choose when you volunteer, rather than having to make commitments for a certain number of volunteer hours, or agree to be available every week at a specific time.

There are thirteen different cities/chapters of One Brick.  When you go to their website you can look at the calendar for your city and choose events to attend.  All it takes is clicking the RSVP button.  Right away I knew I wanted to volunteer using One Brick.  One of the biggest hurdles in my aspiration of volunteering once a month is the fact that most organizations require training, money, or a long commitment.  By using One Brick I can choose something different each month and still do some good.  I emailed Andrea since she also read the book and I thought she’d be game to try one of these events with me.  It was funny I was a little nervous she would think I was crazy.  Turns out she was excited to try the site too and we quickly narrowed down a date and event that worked for both of us…

This past Saturday we made our way to the Montrose Avenue Beach Dunes north of downtown and worked with Chicago Wilderness:

Lots of People to Work With

Lots of Fun Tools to Work With

First off, neither Andrea nor I knew that this pretty area existed in Chicago.  There was such a stark difference between the nature we were in and the skyline in the background.  Not only did we get to help out, but we got to learn a lot to.  We removed Poplar plants from the grassy areas- these would grow into full grown trees if you leave them there.  Nothing wrong with the trees other than if you let them, they will take over!  There were some full grown ones which have been allowed to grow.  We planted some pines:

Planted Jack pines that were 2 years old
Named this Tree Doug!

And some Brand New Jack Pines! Look at how little they are!

Then we planted a lot more fragile plants.  One guy went around making perfect holes with a nifty little tool and then we followed behind with different dune loving plants to create a kind of prairie.  We were very tired and hot by the end of the day, but were so happy to help make sure this place stays beautiful!


Celebrate More Birthdays May 2, 2012

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 9:57 pm
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Relay for Life crept up on me this year. In the past years, I’ve volunteered leading small groups of students in the planning and preparation for the event. However this year, we had a ridiculously on-task group of college students my assistance wasn’t needed. Still wanting to play a part in the event,  I kept it simple and joined a team comprised of faculty and staff and volunteered on the day of Relay. I even corralled my friends Holly and Kevin to help for a few hours. (They did a great job!)

From noon-6PM Holly, Kevin, Matt and I assisted in the concession stand area. It was a blast. Together with members of our faculty and staff team, we did a great job preparing the food, organizing it and getting into a flow of following up on food orders. We kept our cool the whole time…even when the grill started to go on the fritz. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know and work side by side with faculty members that I hadn’t had the pleasure to meet before the event.

Probably the most exciting part from working in the concession stand was realizing I have a future in cotton candy making. It might prove to be a good retirement option as well. But for now, I’ll just add it to one of my LinkedIn “skills”.

The other part I most enjoy about Relay was seeing a community of faculty, students, staff, local neighbors and families come together to support cancer research. It is truly a moving sight to witness the hugs and tears of sadness in remembrance of those we have lost but also tears of joy for the survivors who have beaten the disease. I’m proud to report that the event exceeded the fundraising goal of $25,000. Who know’s what next year will bring, hopefully more of the same good stuff!


The Swap II November 29, 2011

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 8:51 am
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This past weekend Karla and I held the 2nd annual Clothing Swap at our apartment!  If you don’t know what a clothing swap is, don’t worry it’s not something you hear about every day.  I’ll explain:  everyone brings their gently worn clothes, shoes, accessories and swaps them with the group.  Then all the unspoken for items are donated to a local woman’s shelter.  We also ask for a donation and give the proceeds to the shelter for others needs they might have.  Last year was a huge success, especially being the first time we did it, and this year was an even bigger success!  We had more people in attendance, made more money to donate, and have way more clothes and accessories to give away:

It’s true that I got some cute items from this event, but honestly the best part of it is sharing time with my friends and the thought that someone else can benefit from the items crowding up our closets.  I have too much stuff.  It’s a fact.  I don’t need all that I have.  It feels good to share all that I have with others. To give someone a boost of confidence when they need it most.  What sort of things do you do around the holidays for others?  I’ve always wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen and never done it before.  Perhaps this will be my year!

All Packed Up and Ready to Go

If you want to set up your own Swap or find one in your area, check out this website:



Cards and Flowers Anyone? April 19, 2011

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 9:48 pm
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Some of you may remember me mentioning a glass vase  I found back in November that I intended to use for a project.  I understand if you don’t remember because that was a long time ago for most memories.  Especially for something so unmemorable {I didn’t even show a picture!}  Well the project is finally complete.  Now don’t get all worked up, it wasn’t a 5 month project or anything.  It just took me that long to get my act together.  I was perusing Joi’s blog Nuestra Vida Dulce one day (err, last spring?) and came upon a post that stopped me in my tracks called ‘Don’t Hate on Carnations.’  It stopped me because I do hate carnations.  {Side note: so does my sister, we’ve discussed it in much detail}  But this arrangement, although made to look like carnations, looked pretty and sweet so I ignored my prejudices and decided I would create it for myself.

That brings us to now/5 months later and I have decided to finally get my dupa {Thanks to my dear aunt for this lovely Polish substitution for butt} in gear.  I ended up following a mix of the tutorial Joi linked to and her own instructions.

Here is the final product:

I already redecorated with it. What do you think?  Karla mentioned that it looks like a pineapple.  I do think perhaps I need a different vase for this arrangement, but for now I think it will stay.

Also wanted to share a little project that Karla, Sarah, and I put together.

I was brainstorming volunteer ideas to make up for the fact that I didn’t volunteer last month {doing double this month I swear!}.  I drive by an assisted living facility on the way to work every day and it reminded me think about how my business fraternity used to go play bingo and bring cards to the nursing home near our college campus.  The idea was born and after a lovely dinner and a few hours, 20 unique cards were born!  Now I just need to go drop them off before the holiday passes…

Happy Easter


Relay for Life Update April 13, 2011

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 7:18 pm
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In February, I told our readers about my involvement with Relay for Life. In that post I included some big numbers about those affected by cancer. I have a few happier numbers to report in this time! This past weekend was my fourth Relay for Life event where:

  • We exceeded our fundraising goal by $2,000
  • Over 200 participants attended
  • 6 hours were spent selling concessions with Kelly
  • 25 teams registered
  • $12 made by me personally selling cotton candy for 25 cents around the track
  • 1 band and 1 comedian performed
  • 60 burgers were eaten
  • Along with 40 Italian beef sandwiches
  • And 70 hot dogs
  • My team raised $1,724
  • 4 local restaurants donated food
  • 47 balloons were blown and tied in 20 minutes to create a beautiful balloon arch
  • 32 kids got their face painted
  • 25 games of bags (also known as corn-hole) were played
  • I walked three laps dedicated to the three people I have lost to cancer

This year’s Relay for Life was undeniably successful. All the students and staff worked together to produce a magnificent event. The weather even cooperated by spreading rays of sun down on us with mid-seventy degree weather.  Overall, it was wonderful day to remember those who have battled cancer, those we have lost and those who are fighting back against the disease.

I encourage you to learn more about Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society today. And a huge thank-you to all who supported me individually with donations or contributing their time day of the event!

Walking the Balloon Arch to the Stage


One Can of Paint at a Time February 23, 2011

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 10:34 pm
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By no means am I a Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali or aspiring Ms. Curtis. That could be because my canvases usually consist of drywall, wood, or cinderblocks. And I need more than a flimsy paint brush (no offense to any artists, I simply lack refined skills). My tools are painters’ tape to stay in the lines, rollers, a variety of large brushes and a wet rag. I think Van Gogh would scoff at painter’s tape, but it’s my best friend.

I got to practice staying inside the lines working with one of the Uncharted authors’ favorite nonprofits, Global Hope. Kelly and I ventured out early Sunday morning, so early I treated to coffee at McDonalds as we got on our way to Tanner Elementary School on the south side of Chicago.

Driving down 94 and exiting off at 75th street going east, showed us the reality of what Tanner Elementary would be like – and fully woke us up. Litter scattered the streets.  Businesses were bordered up. Graffiti leapt off the sides of homes and stores. And the houses were dilapidated.

The one beacon of light, literally, in the area was the school. Tanner Elementary not only serves grades kindergarten through eighth, but also offers adult education programs. It is truly a community center endeavoring to advance and empower local residents through education.

What a better way to help a school than by improving the learning environment for its students? As one of the volunteers said, “Whatever we can do to ease the strains due to the environment they live in through a better educational experience is wonderful.”

Our task was to paint three hallways and one or two offices in two days. But, with a bunch of overachievers, we totally kicked butt and went above and beyond. We painted all the hallways, all the doorframes, some of the doors, the main office, and three private offices, scrubbed the floors and washed the walls.

The school sparkled. Light even on the gray raining day came from somewhere outside to gleam off the new bright yellow paint and bouncing off the shine of the tiled walls and immaculate floor. And the best part was this renovation would be a complete surprise to the students.

Through cleaning and painting Tanner Elementary, our actions tell those students and staff that they matter – showing that there are people in this world who will do what is in their power to support them, even if it is one can of paint at a time.

Harlo's ready to paint, are you?



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