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Charmaine Coimbra
“You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give,”
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C. Coimbra photo

I was the shadow. Black covered my tiny body from the shiny black patent leather tap shoes on my feet to the black derby hat perched on top of my curly hair. Charlie, my godfather and a former professional dancer from St. Louis, led me on stage with “Me and My Shadow” blaring through the school auditorium public address system. Barely 4 years old, I followed his every move and tapped my way into a lifetime of volunteerism.

“Encore!” cheered the audience at this dime-a-dip and talent show fundraiser for our local chapter of the Grange. Charlie heard opportunity. He took the microphone and said, “Me and my shadow are happy to give you another performance. But first Shadow and I are going to pass the hat for that scholarship fund. If we raise another $20, we have another little dance for you.”

Coins and greenbacks filled our derby hats. George M. Cohan’s “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy” spun on the old record player, and we gave a sneak preview of the dance we had been rehearsing for the upcoming Fourth of July barbecue to raise money for a fellow running for the state Assembly.

That was 1952. Like millions of Americans, I still shadow Charlie’s devotion to community service.

According to a December 2014 report from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), “1 in 4 Americans volunteered through an organization and two-thirds helped their neighbors last year.”

CNCS breaks down the numbers:

  • 62.6 million adults (25.4 percent) volunteered through an organization.
  • Americans volunteered nearly 7.7 billion hours last year.
  • The estimated value of this volunteer service is nearly $173 billion.
  • More than 138 million Americans (62.5 percent) helped neighbors with watching each other’s children, helping with shopping or house sitting.

CNCS further breaks down volunteers as follows:

  • Americans ages 35-44 had the highest volunteer rate (31.3 percent) followed by those ages 45-54 (29.4 percent). One in five of those defined as “Millennials,” those of ages 16-31, (21.7 percent) volunteered.
  • The age groups with the highest median hours among volunteers are ages 65-74 (92 hours) and those 75 and older (90 hours).
  • The volunteer rate of parents with children younger than 18 (32.9 percent) remained higher than the population as a whole (25.4 percent) and for those without children younger than 18 (22.7 percent).
  • The volunteer rate among young adults (ages 18-24) attending college was 26.7 percent, nearly double the volunteer rate of young adults not attending college (13.5 percent).

So let’s give each other a collective pat on the back for a job well done. But ask those leading most any local nonprofit, and they would sure love a few more volunteers at the helm.  Raise your hand.  Join the movement of volunteerism because “… we make a life by what we give.”*

*Note: “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give,” is often attributed to Winston Churchill. However, according to the Churchill Centre, there is no record of him speaking these exact words.

Author’s Note:  This post is adapted from a periodical column that I write for a local newspaper, The Cambrian.

Lisa Ricard Claro
Near Misses: Guardian Angels On Duty
Other Topics
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Luna, rescued from a storm drain. A near miss.

Near misses. We’ve all had them—the car accident avoided because someone swerved at the last second, a trip to the emergency room dodged because you jumped backwards instead of forwards, the milk not spilled because your reflexes responded in top form.

Do you ever give a thought to those near misses? What might have been, if the other guy hadn’t swerved, if you had moved in the wrong direction instead of the right one, if you hadn’t stopped the glass from toppling over?

Near misses happen all day long, don’t they? So often, in fact, that we tend to forget about them once they’ve passed. But there are some near misses I haven’t forgotten, a few that might have ended in disaster if the stars hadn’t been in alignment—or our guardian angels not flying so close to the ground (God bless them, they’re busy creatures).

A few New Year’s Eves ago, celebrating at a friend’s house, we went outside to watch the neighbor set off some fireworks. It was just after midnight, and cold enough for the warm breath puffing from our mouths to do a fine impression of a cotton candy cloud before dissipating into the night. There were perhaps fifteen or twenty of us waiting for celebratory sparkles, kids comprising a good part of the group. We stood around watching the guy next door set off his store-bought rockets. The kids weren’t running around, and the adults hadn’t over-imbibed. The neighbor appeared to have taken the right precautions against danger. Except he hadn’t. And one of the bottle rockets he let fly didn’t arc upward and outward away from the crowd as it was supposed to. It shot across the lawn at eye level and zoomed past my face, landing somewhere behind us.

“Wow, that was close,” someone said. “You okay? That almost hit you,” said someone else.

Surprised and shaken, I acknowledged my near miss. Six inches to the right and my face would have been rearranged. I can’t even joke that it would be a good way to justify some cosmetic surgery to straighten out my wrinkles.

A couple of summers ago, boating at Lake Lanier, my youngest daughter decided she was tired of wakeboarding. She gave us the “stop” signal and let go of the rope, sinking like Captain Jack Sparrow going down into the mighty depths with the Black Pearl. The hubster had already slowed the boat and turned to go back to her. Two yahoos on jet skis, paying not the slightest attention to their surroundings—or the law—decided it would be a great idea to fly through the wake. Problem was, one of them was headed straight toward my girl. She waved her arms and hollered at him. He didn’t adjust his course.

By now, all of us on the boat were yelling and waving, jumping up and down. I screamed myself hoarse, heart beating so hard it hurt, terrified for my daughter. My husband hit the horn, turned up the testosterone switch (it makes the engine ridiculously noisy for no good reason other than to annoy the wife), anything to get the attention of these guys while he drove to intercept them.

My daughter, terrified, considered releasing her feet from the wakeboard and ditching her life vest so she could dive under the water and take her chances that way—and would that even be wise in 30 feet of murky lake water?—but, of course, there was no time for her to take this action.

At the last second, the guy with his jet ski racing toward my daughter saw her bobbing in the water. Panic overtook his features, and he swerved. A near miss.

We retrieved our daughter from the water and my husband revved up the boat and chased down the jet skiers—young guys who just didn’t know any better—and had a few choice things to say to them about both their lack of common sense and the law (it is unlawful to jump the wake of another watercraft when you are less than 100 feet away). We know the rules. They didn’t. Near miss.

Thank God, because it would’ve been fatal.

Some near misses, like that last one, we are more than grateful for. The word “grateful” doesn’t even come close to the elation and relief felt once the incident is past. Near misses like that bring home the fragility of all we hold dear, reminding us that things can change in an instant—no, not things…lives…our lives can change in an instant. It is best not to take for granted those near misses. Unlike a cat’s nine lives, we don’t know how many we have.

What near misses have caused you to step back in more than gratitude? Have you ever had a near miss that would have changed your life? Did the experience change you, or alter how you do things?



VN Featured Comment
Comfortable, stylish alternatives to high heels
Fashion & Beauty
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Today’s Featured Comment

From DJ

I grew up in the southeast and wore heels and ridiculously high wedges when I was younger because that was “the fashion.” I am now a 64 year old “comfort & support” convert. I prefer a heel of 1 to 1.5 inches, though occasionally I’ll purchase a 2 inch heel in a shoe that is well balanced and classic. I will also buy I a sandal, comfort shoe, or sneaker that is flat, provided the brand is committed to great soles and support. (Truly, a totally flat shoe can be as bad, or worse on the foot as a stiletto.)

Thankfully, shoe manufacturers are starting to “get it” and are beginning to make shoes that are both comfortable and stylish. Now, if only more brands would manufacture shoes in more widths other than medium, I’d be very happy indeed.
Unfortunately, the brands that fit me best are also fairly expensive, (I have a normal footbed, but a very narrow heel) so I’m very careful about my purchases. My faves for summer are Naot, Gentle Souls, Fly Flot, and Donald Pliner, and Cole Haan.

In winter I live mostly in cowgirl boots, but in Wyoming it would be impractical to wear anything else. Out here – you’ll go to dinner and cocktails, and see everything from cowgirl boots to flats to heels … and nobody cares. I love that. I had rather wear a pair of fabulous Old Gringo cowgirl boots any day than a 3″ high pair of Mano Blahniks or Jimmy Choos, but that’s just me.
High heels can be beautiful, but they aren’t worth the price our feet must pay to wear them. If you are willing and able, wear what you love.


[This comment was originally posted in this conversation. ~ Eds.]

Foot pain
Health & Fitness
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I’m having some pain on the top of my feet and into my big toe. Anyone have that problem?

The unsinkable became the unthinkable and …
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that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

The experts were wrong...


I am not sure why, but for whatever reason, The TITANIC has taken up space in my realm of awareness; I keep seeing pictures of it, hearing references to it, and its storyline came up in a Facebook game I play. So when it showed up in the game” Criminal Case”,  I decided it’s time for me to take a closer look at the messages, lessons, or nudges that I’ve ignored .

I have been drawn to and watched several documentaries on its maiden and only voyage, the finding of what still exist of the wreckage still on the ocean floor. I’ve watched with my eyes wide open, ears perked, and gel pens in my hands taking notes.

If you only knew how much I hate and fear large bodies of water you would understand why I’m surprised and confused about why all of this has been in my energy field for a while now. OMG, is that why I hate large bodies of water and the thought of going on a cruise ship makes me cringe and want to upchuck – was I a victim on the Titanic in another lifetime??? LOL – Anyway….

I want to share with you a few things that make me go MMMM:

  • Warnings were ignored – Jack Phillips, the wireless telegraph operator didn’t pass on the messages he received from other ships about The Titanic being in the path of an iceberg and entering an ice field – he decided he would take those messages to the bridge at a later time. Nudge – sometimes later is too late…
  • It was called the Ship of Dreams BUT became the ship of Nightmares even for those who survived. I’m sure they had lots of nightmares after being safely in their homes because near death experiences aren’t something you just get over quickly. Nudge – someone else’s dream can become your nightmare and some things are too good to be true…
  • For many immigrants who were leaving the poorest of conditions in their home country for the promise of AMERICA; that voyage was the best time of their life. Nudge – sometimes living for the moment as if there will be no tomorrow is not by choice…

5 lessons I learned from the Titanic:

  1. Non-negotiable – the ice field and iceberg were non-negotiable and 37 seconds warning was not enough time to change course for the Titanic. We all have -ice-fields and icebergs ahead because there just are things in our life that are beyond our control and the sooner we recognize that truth “we” can decide what is negotiable.
  2. Experts can be wrong – The best ship experts of the day believed and stated often – it is the biggest, the best, and safest ever – it is unsinkable. Whelp, they were wrong – it took only 2 hrs and 40 min for it to sink.
  3. Be prepared – the ship’s captain, crew, and passengers believed the experts’ opinion that their ship was unsinkable – so The Titanic was not ready with enough life jackets or lifeboats to save its passengers. The passengers trusted that they were on the best possible ship and in the best possible care. Trust but verify…
  4. Take nothing for granted – Enjoy the moment – because the moments become hours and hours may be all we have – who knows… There are no guarantees for tomorrow.
  5. Trust your instincts – I wonder how many people ignored their gut when it said, “Don’t go on that voyage”? Intuition trumps logic every time.

It is Your turn: Please leave your answers below.

A.  Where in your life is something non-negotiable?

B.  Where in your life are/were the experts wrong?

C.  When did you trust or mistrust your instincts and lived to celebrate or regret it?

I’ll start us off.

Mistrust: In July of 2006 my gut/instincts kept telling me to NOT go on a road trip to Oklahoma from Georgia – I ignored my gut and went anyway. Whelp, we were in a terrible car wreck flipped in the air 4 times landing 600 feet from highway – it could have been life ending but God showed us favor.

I even had a dream about being in a car wreck a couple of weeks before we left and went anyway. In my dream I died and in real-life in my suitcase, I had the outfit that I died I in my dream, but chose not to wear that day.  Trust me when I say trust your gut instincts!

Come back soon for another cup of comfort!