Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Several years ago my daughter surprised me with a Christmas gift that has become one of the most meaningful I have ever received--a gift card to Kiva. Kiva? It is likely you've never heard of this organization. I was curious when I opened the envelope because at the time neither had I.

Founded in 2005, Kiva is "a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty." The way it works is simple. You can loan as little as $25 to any of hundreds of people around the planet running tiny businesses to support their families. Right now I'm helping Eva in the Philippines and Halima in Pakistan. Both are mothers of three children and needed more inventory for their general stores. Eva someday wants to send her kids to college.

Every time repayment in my lending "bucket" reaches the $25 mark (you are notified by email each time a payment is made) I go to the Kiva website and look for someone else to assist. At this moment there are 3779 lending opportunities available, sorted six different ways to help your decision. You can also focus on a particular country if you wish. I particularly enjoy finding a situation where my loan gets a person to 100% funding.

I'm one of 1,175,451 individuals who has provided micro-financing (total loans, which can be funded by multiple lenders, are often only $100 to $200) of $565,201,650 to aspiring entrepreneurs in 75 countries. These might seem like high risk loans, but amazingly the repayment rate over the entire nine years of Kiva's existence is 98.86%.

Why? Every penny of your money goes to folks with no access to traditional banking systems who are anxious to create opportunity for themselves and others. Plain and simple, the gratitude for receiving assistance in their effort drives them to repay this kindness no matter what.

Anything we can do for the less fortunate among us is admirable. As a former small business owner this particular concept speaks to my heart. I've thus far assisted individuals and groups in seven countries and look forward to many more. Kiva calls its program "loans that change lives" and my personal involvement has been a special blessing.

I encourage you to put as little as $25 to work lending a helping hand. Go to Kiva's website and find someone's personal story that speaks to you. I guarantee you'll be glad you did.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Power of Intention

I befriended the administrator of the driving school while I was there attending classes. Having lived in Atlanta and Houston she speaks perfect English, so I sometimes stayed after class to chat.

We've both enjoyed long marriages (she & her husband 25 years, Cynthia & I approaching 43) and were talking about the "secrets" of our successful relationships. I told her that from the beginning my bride and I had intended for our marriage to work at the highest level, and asked her if she had ever read Wayne Dyer's "The Power of Intention." She had not, so I immediately decided to give a copy to her as a token of appreciation for her kindness.

At Cuenca's largest bookstore the next day I learned that they only had a copy at their branch in Guayaquil that could arrive in several days. I was hot to trot to make this happen and decided to search elsewhere. Two days and three bookstores later I had still come up empty, so I returned to my original location only to discover the store was closed for a holiday.


On the way home I spied a tiny bookstore I've probably walked past 50 times and never noticed. It was open so I walked in and asked the clerk if the book in stock. She unlocked a window and handed me her only copy. My copy.


Cynthia wrapped the book for me and I went over to the driving school to present my present (unintended wordplay). My new friend was extremely appreciative--don't think driving school students often drop by with gifts. When I asked why she wasn't opening it she said, "Because I already know what it is--"The Power of Intention," right? Is it in English or Spanish?"

Was stumbling upon perhaps the city's only copy of that book in an obscure store a matter of luck? Or coincidence? My life experience says, "No." To me it is magical that the power of intention came into play with a book having the same name.

Takin' It Easy

It's Wednesday afternoon, the last day of April, and today I've been doing a whole lot of nothing. Things seem to happen in waves here at Casa Staton, and after the past week of torrid activity we are taking a much-deserved break.

I started driving school last Monday morning to get my Ecuadorian license and finished yesterday. No, we are not getting a car. One of our reasons for moving to Cuenca was to enjoy a pedestrian lifestyle, and I hope to never get behind the wheel in this country. But my US license expired and I need to be legal when we return in July, so there I sat for two hours each morning listening to lectures totally in Spanish.

My Spanish is OK for most circumstances in which I find myself, but for every reason you can think words having to do with driving, traffic laws, and the anatomy of cars are not part of my vocabulary. I tried so hard to understand in class, but after a while my concentration collapses into the sounds of Charlie Brown's teacher (wha-wha-wha-wha-wha) with a lot of a's and o's on the end.

Ecuador traffic laws turned out to have a few surprises. The biggest one is that pedestrians always have the right of way. As a four year veteran of walking all over this city I can attest that this law is ignored by every driver. Crossing the street requires concentration, timing, and a dose of courage (sounds like I'm describing martial arts). Hell, even pedestrians don't give other pedestrians the right of way when approaching each other on the sidewalks.

So many drivers talk and text that I was amazed to learn using cell phones while driving is illegal. Think Ecuador is a third world country? A recent survey revealed that there are more cell phones here than people!

Traffic laws are pretty much common sense, but it's hard to provide correct answers when you don't understand the questions. Fortunately the manual had all the 200+ multiple choice questions with correct answers from which 20 were chosen for the final exam, so with the assistance of Google Translate I was able to properly prepare.

The old guy's still got it and I aced the test, so in about twenty days I'll receive approval from Quito to take the "real" test and after passing get my license on the spot.

We try to keep our foot on the brakes with social commitments, we really do. But last week we (well, to be fair--I) lost control. Wednesday night we had dinner out with a large group of friends. Thursday night I went out drinking with a buddy. Friday I took another friend to lunch. Saturday we went to a wine tasting, and you know what that means--a lot of wine drinking. Sunday we attended a party that started at 3 and ended at 10. Here's a tip--having an alcoholic beverage in your hand for seven hours is not a good idea. Then Monday we hosted a dinner party for dear friends.

Whew! After washing all the dishes Tuesday morning we were done and decided to pull the plug on social engagements for a few days while recuperating. And reading, exercising, sleeping, and watching some TV have been a real joy. Besides a facial I've got scheduled for tomorrow and dentist appointments on Friday the calendar is blissfully clear.

But then tomorrow morning I'm going fishing in the Cajas followed by a Kentucky Derby party in the afternoon. Sunday we're going to a play--Tuesday lunch with friends--Wednesday afternoon it's bingo.

So saddle up our horses--here we go again!