Today Is One Year

Happy 1st AnniversaryI couldn’t help but notice. Whenever I shared stories about “my” troops, people would suddenly feel connected to them too. Some would ask how about ways they could get involved. If I was talking to someone in the military, the stories touched their heart. So I decided to start blogging to see if I could help these good things happen more often.

It’s now one year later and I’m humbled and honored by the response of my amazing readers. I’m thrilled that many have been inspired to take action. Here are just a few examples:

-Thanks to readers, an Air Force family got help from Peyton Manning in a special way after the tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma. Folks reached out, shared their story, sent supportive messages…the family felt comforted even before they knew Peyton would get involved.

-Wendy from the blog The Monday Box (care packages of home-baked love) was inspired to create some “desert-safe” recipes specially taste-tested to survive the rigors of shipping to a combat zone. Now she’s a valued resource for those wanting to send “home baked love” to the troops (or any bakers wanting travel-friendly recipes.)

-Dayna is a Veteran who is spending her civilian life having as many travel adventures as possible (35 countries and counting) She shares them on her blog Where In The World Is Dayna. Reading a post here made Dayna remember how much letters and care packages meant to her when she was deployed. So she adopted two soldiers.

-Another reader is a caregiver to a family member. Her situation is isolating and challenging. This reader was inspired to adopt some soldiers and use her love of writing to lift others up. She wound up lifting her own spirits as well.

-Natalie from the blog Mother Goose, was inspired to “do more.” So she turned her volunteer work, hand-making Blue Star Family banners, into a charity. She hopes to help more of these families connect and feel supported in their communities. She knows how important this is because she has two sons in the Navy.

-Many readers have told me they were sending coffee through Cup of Joe or adopting troops through Soldiers’ Angels or Adopt A U.S. Soldier or participating with the other charities listed in the Ways To Make A Difference page.

Then there are the comments and emails. I appreciate every note and the emails have been especially moving. Civilians have shared what volunteering has meant to them. Troops and families have said they feel like they have a voice here and how much it means to know that they are not alone. I should know by now to have tissues ready when I open my blog inbox.

Thanks and…

Thank you for coming here. For caring and for every kindness shared. Thank you for all you do. I’m also grateful for my “advisors,” both civilian and military who I bug with questions, bounce ideas, and receive invaluable feedback from (often on very short notice.) And thanks to all the wonderful and experienced bloggers who have encouraged and taught me along the way.

After my initial “hello” post, I wrote about the random event that started this journey. It’s called A Sailor Wrecks My Indifference. One year later, the last line in that post has taken on even more meaning.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

 

So this documentary filmmaker called and….

A film shoot and readers making a difference…just some of what’s happened since I started this blog a few months ago. As we end one year and begin another, I figured it was a great time to share the good things going on.

The film

They interviewed Rudy Giuliani, General Franklin Hagenbeck, General Spider Marks, Barbara Van Dahlen, veterans of the current wars, the Vietnam War and then called me. Yes. I was surprised too. Director Tom Donahue is making a film about issues facing veterans and the divide between military and civilians. After he read this blog he asked if would speak to him.

I’m camera-shy so this was a semi-terrifying request. But my not secret goal is to help close the divide between military and civilians. What if something I know can help? So I told Tom’s producer that if the men and woman I support could face what they do on my behalf, I guess I could face Tom on their behalf. She assured me he was not scary. She was right. Tom and his crew couldn’t have been nicer. Here’s a pic from the shoot. They have others to interview and the film will take about a year to complete.

Interview with Director Tom Donahue

Interview with Director Tom Donahue

One crazy week

The same week we filmed, I made my radio debut. Sandra Beck, one of the hosts of Military Moms Talk Radio had come across this blog and invited me on the show. I was pretty nervous but Robin Boyd (the host that interviewed me) was very warm and easy-going.  After a few minutes I relaxed more and got into a groove. Below is just my segment minus the ads.

That same week WordPress chose to Freshly Press this blog. Bloggers know that’s a big deal, a wonderful honor and mathematically difficult to achieve. There are millions of new blog posts a day and they pick a handful to feature. The post they choose was:

Coffee And A Serving Of Perspective

Readers in action

So many readers have taken action after reading a post, I’m beyond thrilled and totally floored. From sharing, re-blogging and increasing awareness to sending hundreds of cups of coffee, supportive messages and letters, even adoptions. I thank you all and want to give a special shout out to Dayna of Where In The World Is Dayna.  Her blog is about her travels. She is also a veteran and, after reading a post here, adopted 2 soldiers (one from each adoption charity I’ve written about) and did a post of her own about Cup of Joe. Thank you also to the wonderful Navy family blog Buoyed Up who has helped me spread awareness and has been supportive in many ways.

My favorite reader idea this year

I love this idea because it’s such an easy way to get the community involved. Michelle from Liberty Harley-Davidson/Buell shared how they do Cup of Joe.

“We’ve been doing Cup of Joe for a Joe at our Harley-Davidson dealership for a few years now. It is SO wonderful to get those letters back. I share them online, and hang them up around our customer coffeepot to inspire people to drop something in the Cup of Joe bucket, then we send the coffee in batches”  (Pictures and links in the Ways To Make a Difference page)

A few words about comments

I am so grateful for the many thoughtful comments that have been left here. I do try to respond to all of them. Sometimes I get behind or miss a few. But please know that I appreciate every one. You deepen my understanding and inspire me. Sometimes your words bring me to tears.  But I guess that’s fair because I’ve heard I do that to others at times. Thank you for being open and honest and taking the time to write, even on the tougher topics.

Oh, and if there’s ever a topic you’re hoping I cover or you have a suggestion, you can leave a comment or email me privately here:  gina@ginaleftthemall.com

Proving me wrong

Whether you are civilian or military I would like to thank you for helping to make a difference all the ways you have. Thank you caring, increasing awareness, and helping me get closer to my not secret goal.

When I started Gina left the mall, I wasn’t sure if anyone beyond my boyfriend and immediate family (you know, Readers Without A Choice) would be interested. I am humbled and honored to be proven so wrong. Thank you for making this all wonderfully worthwhile. Happy New Year, and I wish you the best for 2013!  See you back here next year.

© Gina left the mall, 2012