Wish Me a Happy Birthday. Give.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I’m going to be 39.

That’s one year shy of 40! Yikes!

I want you to give to someone else. Read on.

This past year has not been the easiest in my life. In fact, it was maybe the hardest. In the past year, I saw myself recovering from unemployment to being financially on top of the world to being beyond broke. I saw myself visit the darkest part of soul as I struggled with severe, sometimes crippling depression. I saw a relationship slip from my grasp while also going through recovery, joining 10up and getting back to a healthy place in life. It’s truly been up and downs for me, and while it’s been painful in many ways, it’s also been very rewarding.

Particularly when it comes to recovery from depression, I’ve come to realize how much of a positive impact it is to be outwardly focused and put resources, time, money and focus on others.

Tomorrow, my Facebook and text messages will explode with happy birthday messages, and I’m grateful. I hope in addition to sending me well-wishes (or maybe offering to buy me a drink… you can do that too), you’ll consider giving to one of these organizations, all representing my interests (my very diverse spectrum of interests!), that are working toward a goal near and dear to me.

European Migration Crisis

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01.05.2014 Hamburg, Germany: 500 people opened a Refugee Welcome Centre in Hamburg situated in an empty school, while Hamburg City Council and the ruling SPD refuse and fail to solve the problem of the Lampedusa in Hamburg group. As the Hamburg Government is not willing to find a political and humanitarian solution, people took the initiative and showed how easy things can be solved!

Rasande Tyskar, via Flickr

As so many refugees are flooding into Europe from Syria and the Middle East, many EU nations are strictly interpreting EU rules that require member nations to “hold” asylum seekers in-nation until clearance can be granted by the entire EU body of nations. Due to the sheer number of refugees, this is creating enormous humanitarian challenges and tempters are running high. Across the EU, governments are struggling with what to do with hundreds of thousands refugees while the general population in most member states fall on the side of the spectrum that is welcoming to these refugees.

The International Refugee Council is based here in the United States and is coordinating with refugee councils in Europe on managing the crisis in Europe. Please consider making a donation to the IRC to assist in these efforts.

Forever Homes For All the Dogs

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Fender Excited about Snacks at Christmans
Fender Excited about Snack at Christmans

I met Fender in 2011 after he was unceremoniously abandoned at Whole Foods in Austin. I decided on that day to give him his forever home. In that time, he has lived in two states, two cities, peed on 13 state capitals, claimed 973 bushes in Baltimore and has been loved and cherished by all who have met him. He’s a joy to have next to me, even when his 25 lb stretched out frame takes up my entire queen size bed, at times, relegating me to the floor.

Though I did not adopt Fender via Austin Pets Alive, their mission resonates with me. Many people I know have either worked for, volunteered with or adopted from APL, Austin’s largest no-kill shelter. The national standard for the “No Kill” label is 90% of all pets being adopted or fostered.

Since I adopted Fender, I’ve advocated for people adopting a pet rather than getting a puppy from a pet store, which are often sourced as “puppy mill” puppies. It’s so much more rewarding to take a broken and hurting animal and give that pet the life of royalty. To make that pet feel special, when they have had their trust shattered in the past through abandonment or abuse.

As a birthday present to me, if you’re in Austin, go volunteer or adopt from APL. If you’re not, please consider a donation to help APL continue their mission.

Free as in Speech, not as in Beer

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A Colombian teacher uses WordPress.
A Colombian teacher uses WordPress.

Photo by Oriana Robles, via Flickr

I have made an entire career on open source software such as WordPress. I’ve had significant contributions to the community, including being a cofounder of WP Engine, writing the WordPress Bible (sadly, out of date — ask Wiley to let me write another edition!) and WordPress core and plugin contributions. Not bad for a kid from Baltimore that dropped out of college and never got a degree.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this without free, open source technology. Free as in speech, not as in beer… free does not indicate that money does not change hands. It indicates that my software can be taken, modified and distributed for other purposes.

In much of the developing world, including Africa (where I also have roots), money goes less farther than here in the relatively prosperous western bloc. When 25 cents can buy a meal, expensive proprietary software is simply not an option. The developing world is where open source becomes extremely important in bridging the digital divide.

The Free Software Foundation is on the forefront of open source technology distribution and evangelism here in the United States and abroad. For my birthday, help them continue being that champion.

Thank you, in advance, for a birthday gift on behalf of me to one of these, or many other organizations, that are doing the hard work.