Make a Difference Through Simple Acts – with Natalie Silverstein

July 29, 2022 / Mom &… Podcast Episode 81 / Guest: Natalie Silverstein

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Show Summary:

An episode topic close to our hearts this week: advocacy. Not only advocacy, but a discussion about getting the whole family involved. Our guest, Natalie Silverstein, has made giving back a way of life, and her “Simple Acts” books provide busy families with actionable (and simple) ways to get involved. One of our favorite quotables from Natalie is, “Don’t count the hours. Make the hours count.”

More About Natalie Silverstein:

Natalie Silverstein is an author, volunteer and passionate advocate for family and youth service. Her first book, Simple Acts: The Busy Family’s Guide to Giving Back, was published in 2019 and was named as one of the Top Books for parents who want to raise kind kids by the HuffPost.  Her second book, The Busy Teen’s Guide to Making a Difference, launched on July 12th, 2022.

After a successful career in healthcare administration and as a non-profit founder, Natalie became the New York coordinator of Doing Good Together, an organization with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute. In this role, she curates a free monthly e-mail listing of family-friendly service opportunities that is distributed to thousands of subscribers. Her personal essays on parenting, grief and loss have been published on several national platforms including Medium, Grown and Flown and Motherwell. 

Along with her husband, she is the co-founder of The Silverstein Foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA, a non-profit focused on finding a cure for Parkinson’s Disease in GBA mutation carriers.  As a philanthropist, she is a member of Impact 100 NYC and Legacy Collective, two giving circles which make grants to nonprofits making a transformative impact on their communities.

Natalie holds a master’s degree in public health from Yale University. She lives in New York City with her husband and three teenagers.

Topics From This Episode

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Musical Notes

Our delightfully happy intro and outro theme music, “We Will Get Through This” is performed by Young Presidents, and used under license from Shutterstock.

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Transcript autogenerated. Apologies in advance for any misspellings and/or errors.

[00:00:00] Missy: Welcome to the mom and podcast. I’m Missy Stevens, mom and writer, foster child advocate, and lately full-time summer swim mom.

[00:00:35] Susanne: no kidding.

[00:00:37] Missy: hot.

[00:00:38] Susanne: Oh, that’s a bad week for it here in Texas.

[00:00:40] Missy: a bad week.

[00:00:42] Susanne: And I’m Suzanne Kern’s mom writer, LGBTQ and sex ed advocate. And today returner of a dozen swimsuits did not make the cut for our trip to Belize. So wait for those Amazon. Oh my God. I always feel so guilty. Like the ups people didn’t have enough to do before they became like the drop off point for all things, Amazon.

[00:01:04] Missy: Right, We are thrilled today to welcome Natalie Silverstein, mom dot. Volunteer and passionate advocate for family and youth service. Her first book simple acts, the busy family’s guide to giving back was published in 2019 and was named one of the top books for parents who want to raise kind kids, her second book.

And what we’re spending most of our time on today is the busy teens guide to making a difference launched just recently, July after a successful career in healthcare administration, and as a nonprofit founder, Natalie became the New York coordinator of doing good together.

An organization with the mission of helping parents raise kids who care and contribute her personal essays on parenting grief and loss have been published on several national. Platforms, including medium grown and flown and mother. Well, along with her husband, she is the co-founder of the Silverstein foundation for Parkinson’s with GBA and nonprofit focused on finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease in GBA mutation carriers.

She’s also a member of impact 100 NYC and legacy collective two giving circles, which make grants to nonprofit. Natalie holds a master’s degree in public health from Yale university. She lives in New York city with her husband and three teenagers.


[00:02:15] Natalie: well, thank you so much for having me miss and Suzanne. It’s such a pleasure to meet you guys.

[00:02:19] Susanne: Oh, my gosh. And I, I love so much about volunteering and this idea that you say that everybody has something to give. And I just, I cannot wait to dive into the book, but I know that there’s a lot more to you than your book. So is there anything, beyond your bio that you can give us a little Natalie?

1 0 1.

[00:02:38] Natalie: Well, you know, I started out, as you mentioned, my career in healthcare administration and a master’s in public health. I worked in hospitals, I worked for managed care companies. I was a consultant. I worked for a startup, and it was wonderful. It was, um, you know, these were my first jobs out of college and I really enjoyed it.

And I think I spent my whole career and, and much of my life figuring out ways to help people. Right. So that’s what drew me to healthcare. Generally. I didn’t wanna be a clinician. I wasn’t going to be a doctor or a nurse that was not for me. Blood and bodily fluids, uh, were not for me, but until I was a parent, apparently, um,

[00:03:13] Missy: Then you have no choice.

[00:03:14] Natalie: choice, but, um, I knew that I wanted to work in that environment.

And so it was wonderful and very fulfilling after. Third child was born. I, I kept at it for a while. And then after the third one, um, I kind of figured out that it was, it was time for me to stay home, but I, you know, I worked in as, as you mentioned with several nonprofits, mostly cancer focused. I did a lot of fundraising.

I consider myself to be a really good fundraiser. I love asking people for money. I have no problem asking people for money. For something that I care passionately about. if I believe in something and I think that it’s a philanthropic priority for my family, I would be delighted to speak to you about why I think it’s important for you to support that as well.

and so I love fundraising and raising my family and sitting on the board of my children’s school on and on and on, everyone can relate to this work. Um, and so at some point in there, when my kids were. it occurred to me as I think it does to most parents that really the only way to raise grateful, grounded, empathetic, compassionate kids who care about others.

And aren’t totally self-involved right. um, is to have them turn their focus outward, you know, to do hands on service, to really insist. That these are our values as a family, and we’re going to incorporate this work into the way that we live our lives. And so birthday parties, having an opportunity where kids could do a service project or have donations in lieu of gifts, that sort of thing, this sort of just became what we were doing as a family and in New York city, if you can.

it’s very hard to find non-profit organizations that would accept us as volunteers with young children. That’s true everywhere across the country. And I totally understand this is an insurance issue. I get it, but, that being said, I connected with doing good together. Which is an organization that your readers must your listeners.

Excuse me, must learn about, doing good It’s based in Minneapolis. I founded the first sort of regional, office, if you will, in New York city, but now they’re all over the country. We do not have one in Texas. Just yet. But so what I do is I curate a listing of family friendly, volunteer opportunities in New York city, and that’s pushed out two thousands of subscribers.

So that became my passion. And, I became that resource. I was the Rolodex of this information for families in our community that led to speaking engagements that led to sort of personal consulting. People would call me, where should we donate our items? My kid has a bar mitzvah coming up. What should we do?

All of these things. I was like, wow. Parents really want this information and it’s just not out there for them. So I figured I love writing. Uh, it’s also a passion of mine and there’s a book here and I wrote it and that was the first book in 2019. So, you know, it’s funny, I found my passion and my purpose, the thing I was meant to do here, aside from raising good people.

I found that fairly late in life, you know, my first book was published the year I turned. So, uh, I don’t know. I just think it’s, it’s just a, a good reminder that, wherever your career starts and whatever path you take, sometimes things fall into your lap and, and your lived experience presents these opportunities to you.

[00:06:26] Susanne: Oh,

[00:06:26] Missy: I mean, that speaks right to our hearts.

[00:06:28] Susanne: I know every bit of that. I’m like, so, so, so, and I did wanna actually throw in, um, for people who live in the Austin area, even though we don’t have, the organization you were mentioning here, we do have a grouped that my friend Erica started called Austin allies. And it really was cuz exactly what you said.

It, you think that, you know, there’s all these organizations that need all this help, but they do need help, but they don’t necessarily. To be managing a bunch of little kiddos and, you know, it’s a lot of work for them to figure out what to delegate and what, what their skills are. And so she does a lot of that work of finding the organizations and I mean, just making it as turnkey as possible to the point of even like, come get the materials you need out of her garage kind of thing.

And you could do it at home.

[00:07:17] Natalie: And that’s the truth. I think every parent recognizes that this is important work to do. They probably realize there is stuff out there in the world, but we’re all so, so busy. And let’s be honest. This is gonna be pretty low on the list of things that you’re gonna go out and look for and Google and figure out for yourself.

So what I wanted to do, because it was my joy to do this was sort of package it up in this very easy to use, very actionable, very sort of. Bulleted, you know, go here, Google, this, find these, um, organizations in your community, think about this kind of project. And I put it all together in this very prescriptive, very actionable resource guide.

And I hear from people all the time that they just leave it out on the, on the table and their kids will pick it up and scroll, you know, just kind of flip through it and be like, oh, that looks like fun. Why don’t we try that? That’s I love to hear that because this is what it’s about. It’s about finding.

Thing that sparks your child’s curiosity and their interest and the thing that they love to do, because if you can figure that out, they will want to do it and they will wanna continue to do it over time. It’s not this forcing them to go out and do service. It is something that brings them great joy.

[00:08:25] Susanne: Yeah. And beyond just the teenagers, we’d argue. This is really helpful for a lot of our listeners who we encourage, we feel like stay at home. Moms are this army of potential for doing volunteer work and doing good in communities. But sometimes it is a just hard even knowing where to start knowing what time of opportunities are available and how those match up to your temperament and those type of things.

And this book is just so amazing. So for any age, really? I put it on the coffee table for your kids to see it, but then also read through it yourself. There’s it is. So I, I am the nuts and bolts girl and it is so like, literally, like you said, do this, like BA it baby steps, you and hold your hand through every step of the way.

And it is just, yeah, it’s incredible.

[00:09:15] Natalie: Well, in the first

[00:09:16] Missy: get my hard copy to do just that, to leave it out. Cuz we do service together, but I don’t think we’ve hit upon, especially my older sons. I don’t think we’ve hit upon his passion and I think they have to figure that out themselves. And so I can’t wait to just have the hard copy and he’s a reader and I know he’ll pick it up.

[00:09:33] Natalie: Awesome. And this book, you know, the new book that just came out this week is really written for teenagers, which was a little bit of a challenge, cuz I didn’t want it to be naggy or preachy or corny. You know, our, our teens are, you know, a little tapped out and they have enough people telling them what to do.

I didn’t want them to read my book and feel like another mom is telling them what to do. So that was a new challenge for me. The first book from 2019, the, the busy families guide to giving back was really written for parents because that publisher insisted that it be written for families with children zero to 10.

So I have chapter in there about, you know, your first birthday party that you’re planning or a. baby shower or, you know, a christening or a Briss and how to incorporate service and, and gratitude sort of setting this precedent, understanding that the child involved here , I don’t know about you, but my kids on their first birthday, they slept through the whole thing.

[00:10:21] Missy: Yes,

[00:10:22] Natalie: that party, that party is for you and

[00:10:24] Missy: that’s for you. That’s the, I kept a baby alive for a year, kind

[00:10:28] Natalie: the baby falls asleep. I want people to congratulate me. However, if you sort of set this tone, like this baby doesn’t need anything, maybe we could have, you know, donations in lieu of gifts, or you decorate the tables with something that you might then give away to an organization.

Like all of that stuff is just setting a tone. And I think the perspective that I like to share is it’s never too early. To start this work. Cuz I get that question all the time. How old do they have to be? My child is six and a half. Do you think they have to be seven? And I’m like, okay, start today. Let’s just start today.

What could we do today while you’re making dinner? And the child is sitting at the table doing nothing. You could have a stack of paper and some crayons and the child could be drawing pictures or whatever, and then you could fold those up and make cards and send them to, you know, a nursing home, send them to children in the hospital, whatever.

So that book was really for this kind of young families to be inspired, to do this work from the get go. But now let’s say you have older kids and that has not been the work that you’ve kind of traditionally done in your family. That’s okay too. It’s never too late. It’s never too late.

[00:11:35] Susanne: Yeah. And to that point about like writing the little cards and stuff, those, I love that you have the kitchen table kindness tips because there may be some families out there. I mean, we’re speaking from a point of privilege. There may be some that they’re like. Uh, birthday present toys may be the only toys my kid gets all year, but, but you have so many great ideas about like other things that you can do.

If, if that is the case where you can still show gratitude, you can still be involved and show caring, with something that doesn’t necessarily have any price tag associated

with it. So I love that you address that. So clearly in the

[00:12:11] Natalie: Thank you. Thanks.

[00:12:13] Missy: And I wanna pivot a tiny bit. You’ve spoken some about the challenge that our teenagers are facing, and I think families are facing in this COVID time. And you started writing this book, the beginning of COVID lockdown. We’re still in it. The world is still evolving and we’re trying to find our way through this.

And it was really challenging. you said very candidly that at the beginning, finding optimism and talking about this, like, let’s go change. The world was really hard. Um, so how did your own children help you through that? And how did writing this book change your perspective?

[00:12:49] Natalie: so, you know, timing is everything in life, right? So this book came out. The first book came out in April of 2019. And I had people say to me that day, the day it was launched at the party with the cake and the champagne, like this is great. I love your book, but my kids are a little older. So I wonder if you could write the same book for teens.

And I’m like, could I just enjoy this moment that I, at the age of 50 finally had this dream come true that I wrote

[00:13:12] Missy: Yeah, I just wrote a book.

[00:13:14] Natalie: just finished it. I could, I just have my champagne, but I had teenagers myself. I totally get it. And, and you could make the argument that as sweet as the first book was, and as important that as that work is doing this work with older adolescents, tweens and teens is even more critical as they sort of mature into, you know, conscious leaders, people who care, who are curious, who are, you know, intellectually humble.

who find issues that they’re passionate about and then how do they, harness those things, their talents, their gifts to really make an impact. And so, I pitched the idea to a different publisher, a teen based publisher. They bought it, we signed a contract and my, my assignment was to write it from March 1st, 2020.

To June 1st, 2020, and we all know the rest of that story. So, um, my daughter came home from her freshman year of college. Absolutely devastated. My son was a junior in high school. My younger daughter was in the sixth grade. I promptly get sick. You know, we were in the epicenter, we were in New York city.

My husband became ill. this was all of March, basically, poof gone. So now I have two months left. Um, but it’s funny as I wrote in the, in The introduction to the book slowly, slowly. It occurred to me. as I looked around, you know, in the words of, Mr. Rogers, you know, look for the helpers, right.

I, I have to be honest the first few weeks I completely lost motivation. I thought to myself, No one cares about this. This is such a soft subject. What I am talking about here, the world is literally ending, right? Like we don’t know what’s gonna happen here. Feels like we’re all gonna be dead in six months.

It was just so terrifying. And we live in New York city. So we were particularly terrified and I thought. Who’s gonna care about this. It’s like shouting in the, in the woods. Like there’s no one there to hear me and does it really even matter? And so I got better physically. Thank God. And, um, we’re stuck in this house doing the puzzles, making the sour dough, right?

Like, and. But slowly, slowly, slowly as we started to look for the helpers, right? We started to see the telethons on television. We started to participate in some online events that were raising money for the, the Broadway community, for example, were huge theater lovers. And the heartbreak of what went on with the theater community is just terrible.

Um, you know, then we would send pizzas to the local emergency room because one of our, one of our friends is an emergency room physician putting her life on the line every single day. To save people in New York city. So sending, you know, pizzas, um, baking cookies and individually wrapping them and taking them to the fire station here.

you know, making blankets, my little daughter was making, like fleece blankets and taking them to the, to the animal shelter. Of course all the animals were gone because

everyone adopted


[00:15:59] Missy: adopted

[00:15:59] Susanne: yeah.

[00:16:00] Natalie: it just over time, we just started doing all of these little things to make ourselves feel better. Uh, because what else did we have?

We had food television and, and wine. There was nothing to make us feel better except perhaps turning our focus outward. And so it kind of hit me in April. Like this is what the book is about. This is my perspective. This is what I’ve been trying to. Preach and, and share all of these years. So why not take that motivation and, and kind of pour it into this book and to remind everyone again, the overarching concept, you don’t need to change the whole world to make a difference.

Even the smallest pebble creates a ripple. So if you impact one person’s. And you have no idea how your actions will impact them. So, so just to remind teenagers of that, I think there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on our teens and our young people to be change makers, to change the world.

You know, they see on the media, young people starting movements on social media and marches and, you know, Greta Tomberg, you know, quit school and sail across the world to speak to the UN, like this is not realistic because kids have to go to school. And keep their jobs and, and take care of their siblings and pass the S a T and apply to co right.

So what can we share? What can we offer to young people to say, you don’t have to do all of this crazy stuff. You just have to be a good and kind person who moves through the world with intention who cares for other who connects to other people. And I just tried to find these really simple, real life actionable.

Things that they could do on a day to day basis to, to make an impact on their communities. However, those communities are defined and then ultimately the most important point to make ourselves feel better because we could all agree. The research shows doing for others, helping others. Even if that person doesn’t acknowledge you, even if that person doesn’t know who you are, you doing something kind for another person that benefits them, that makes them smile, that eases their burden actually makes you feel better.

It’s called the helpers high. And it’s a real thing. It’s a physiological response. Why would we not wanna give that to our teens right now, who are suffering from so much anxiety and stress and depression and isolation and academic disruption? Why wouldn’t we wanna give them that gift?

[00:18:21] Missy: Absolutely. And in the process, we, we also experience that. And I think as moms in midlife, we get that like, oh, I there’s nothing I can do. That is enough.

[00:18:31] Natalie: right,

[00:18:32] Missy: doing one thing, focusing on one piece is more than enough for both you and for your community. And I just think it’s a great message,

[00:18:40] Natalie: As Glen and Doyle says the next right thing. What’s just the next right thing. We can’t solve the pandemic, but could we send pizza to the emergency room right now? Could we write a note to the elderly neighbor who is isolated and hasn’t seen another human being, imagine the impact this had on our isolated seniors.

I mean, what is the next right thing we could do just to get us through the day and maybe make things a little bit.

[00:19:04] Susanne: I love this so much, especially as we do have kids that are applying to colleges and looking at applying to colleges, and it’s kind of, it’s kind of making me mad and making me happy at the same time. Cuz I mean, we all know the 10 things on the. What is it the common app or whatever, where you’re

[00:19:20] Natalie: The activities list

[00:19:21] Susanne: activities list and, and here you are.

And you know, here, these kids are, who’ve spent two of the past years, pretty much in lockdown, depending on if your parent is me and traps you inside. Um, and you know, they’re trying to fill out these activities lists where they haven’t, started their own, Nonprofit organization or, you know, sailed around the world or whatever the case may be.

And I really wish that there was a place on those lines to be just like, I was a good kid who like nurtured my neighbors and focused on self care insanity, but there is not. So since we do not live in that world. and I think there’s a beautiful part about the helpers high and just, you know, I have these small ripples, but.

again, nuts and bolts wise. If kids need to put a line on that activities list, this book is the perfect way of helping them actually make that line, not just performative, but something that actually matches up with their temperament and their priorities. And you do such a beautiful job of, oh my gosh.

I love the little quiz so much because first of all, it is so short and, and. But it actually gets the job done. Cuz when you mentioned before that you love fundraising and that’s like your thing. I think that’s what a lot of people think of as volunteering is like going door to door, knocking, like having to be this person who’s all up in your face.

And I mean, that gives me, I. Can just feel every muscle

in my body clench up. I know the idea of calling someone and asking for money or going door to door. Oh my God. And asking for money. And just the idea that you have this beautiful list of like, if that is not you, if that does not make you feel comfortable, that there’s like a list of 20 other things that organizations, need your help on even some at home, you can be totally behind the scenes.

You can be as. what are, what are we not narcissists in? when are we? I

[00:21:22] Natalie: Introverts

[00:21:23] Susanne: Thank you. Yes, you can be

[00:21:26] Missy: Could you tell Suzanne’s coming off of a week of vacation of

just being like tropical bliss,

[00:21:31] Susanne: I just got back from Belise. No, we are not narcissist. We are introvert. Well, we might be a little bit of narcissist too.

[00:21:39] Missy: you’re

[00:21:39] Susanne: Um, but no, uh, for people who are introverts or, you know, just, just not super extrovert, there’s so many different opportunities and there’s so many different things that maybe you didn’t even think of that.

Yeah. You don’t know what you don’t know, especially when you’re a teenager.

[00:21:54] Natalie: Well, and also I think teens tend to say, well, I’m not good at anything. You know? And especially after these last two years, when per perhaps all of the, their activities, all of their lessons, all of the things that they would’ve pursued completely disappeared. Right. this notion that, you know, Ugh, and I’m not good at anything, I don’t have any talents.

I don’t have any skills. You know, everyone has a gift. Everyone has a skill. Everyone has a strength and it doesn’t have to be, you don’t have to be a, you know, Concert pianist, a fantastic gymnast. Like I am talking about. Are you patient? Are you kind, are you good with little children? Are you good with animals?

Do you love animals? Do you have, you know, neat handwriting

[00:22:31] Susanne: that was my favorite one. I was like, I can do the handwriting

[00:22:34] Natalie: right. Do you have handwriting some

[00:22:36] Missy: could do that. My children cannot.

[00:22:38] Natalie: You know, some nonprofits somewhere need someone to hand write messages or whatever it is. Are you great with elderly people? You know, are you super like physically strong? Could you go somewhere and help move pallets of food or boxes of books?

Like there is something out there for everyone and making teens. See that about themselves. First of all, what a confidence boost to have someone say, wow, you know what that skill that you have that you just shared with us really made a difference for our organization. You know, you don’t have to know everything.

You don’t have to like, it’s it to keep it sort of. Real and realistic for them. I’m always reminded of the story. We went to work in a soup kitchen once and my son was, was fairly young and he was so distracted. He didn’t wanna have anything to do with serving or cleaning up, or, gosh, God forbid you should clean up the tables.

Right. But the, you know, the folks were coming in that we were serving the clients. And so we were going around whatever, and there was a piano in the corner. And he had been taking lessons. He wasn’t particularly good, but he had been taking lessons and he sat down and he starts playing whatever he knew.

And I was like, oh my God, he’s not supposed to do that. And the woman in charge was like, oh no, no. Let him play. Think about that. These folks who live marginally, who perhaps are living on the street, they’re not, they don’t ever have exposure to live music if you wanna call it that. So he gave the gift, he shared the thing that he wanted to do.

It kept him occupied, but that was something. And I, I don’t think we can dis you know, discredit that. And so the, the quiz, as you’ve mentioned is really about what do you love doing? And I wanna start there, like, what do teens enjoy doing? Because again, if they enjoy it, then they will wanna continue to do it.

So what do they enjoy doing then? What are their perhaps skills and strengths that they haven’t identified in that other piece? And then how could. Combine those two things and then look at what are the issues that really get them fired up? What are the things they’re worried about are angry about the things they hear on the news, the things they learn about at school, we spend a little time on the computer.

We do a little noodling around, we find organizations that are addressing those issues. And then we think about how to marry this, the things they love to do, their strength, their talent, their gift, and then how to, how to offer it to this organization in a meaningful way. There’s the sweet. That’s the magic.

And once your child identifies that and goes, and has a great time, or maybe not so great a time the first time and has to stick with it, we all know you need to do something a number of times before it becomes a habit, you know, and it’s so important to, if you make a commitment to one of these organizations that a teen should continue that work.

And eventually they make connections to people. Who are there and that’s where the magic happens. That’s why they wanna continue to go because they start to make a connection to others. And I’ll just go back to something you said earlier about the, the college essays or the college app. You know, the thing that they’re asked to do on college essays is tell a story.

Right. There’s no formula for this colleges don’t wanna hear. I was the president of this and I was the captain. They don’t wanna hear that. They wanna hear a story about something the teenager experienced that was meaningful to them. And so I would suggest to you that this work. Is not performative.

It is not checking a box that they have so many hours that the high school has required them to have. This is an opportunity for them to connect to other people, to hear stories about ways that people live that are very different than themselves. It’s exposure to all sorts of different types of people and that they might have an experience there that allows them to really learn.

So. And opens their eyes and broadens their kind of perspective. And that, that is something they can talk about in an essay in a really meaningful way. And so I’m not being like cynical here, like do the service. So it’ll help you get into college Uhuh. Cause I think colleges can smell that a mile

[00:26:30] Susanne: Exactly. I know. I love your quote. Don’t count the hours, make the hours

count because I think they can, especially if you’re just doing like, oh, I did an hour here. I did an hour there. I did an hour there, which actually gives me thinking this isn’t necessarily something in the book, but just curious about the, your own thoughts about this.

So say. A kid does the quiz and kind of the self inventory and figures. Okay, I’m gonna try this. And I think it’s just as important of a learning experience to find out something’s not a fit as a fit. So I’m just curious. So, you know, we don’t wanna just be hopping around, you know, thing to thing.

But in the quest of finding something that really is a good fit, like, is there kind of a rule of thumb for like, give it a month, give it two months or whatever, and then try something else? Or

[00:27:16] Natalie: You. I mean, listen, if the first experience was an absolute disaster, if, if, if your teen went to do cook in a kitchen and it was like, couldn’t find heads or tails of the knife, like, you know, you don’t wanna, and also you wanna be respectful of an organization, right? Like they don’t, they don’t want someone there who doesn’t wanna be there.

Um, one of their little tip and I talk about this in both books. If your teen can go and do this work with a friend, Or a couple of friends, if there’s a small group of them that will wanna go together. if they can find like-minded friends who, who also wanna try this, I guarantee you that they will have a better experience and they will wanna go back because there is a social element to this, again, back to the connection piece, going and doing this work together.

And then they go out for pizza after or whatever. Um, that’s also, and I talk about that with young children too, this notion of like, not wanting to go and do the, do. Park cleanup. Well, if a group of families get together and they’re doing this with a group of friends and, and the adults are cleaning and the kids are kind of running around and jumping in the piles of leaves, which I’ve had that experience.

But then at the, at the end, we get to play and have our picnic and whatever you are much more likely to get kids to want to. Kids and teens to wanna do this, but yes, I think if the initial reaction is I’m very uncomfortable with this, the people I’m interacting with make me uncomfortable, then, you know, you don’t force that situation, but it is also really important to give something a chance, right?

And if their skill set is something that that organization needs and they can stick it out for a couple of times and see how they feel about it afterwards. And I think you raise a good point, you know, letting them have. Letting them have some decision making on this and then really talking about it afterwards.

What did you like about this? What did you not like about this? How do you think it might be different? what other kind of organization might we look at? You know, showing them what’s out there in the world. Teens don’t know kids and teens don’t know there are lots of organizations doing incredible work that I don’t even know about.

Right. There’s thousands, hundreds in your community. Of organizations doing incredible work around particular social justice issues, right. Particular topics or issues, but coming at them from different angles. Right? So, so if an issue is of concern to your teen and they wanna do something with it, let them come at it from a couple different angles until something until something sticks.

[00:29:34] Susanne: Yeah, and I, you know what, we should put a link, uh, Missy, into the show notes about the episode we did with carrying hope and foster village, because they outlined The variety of things that you can do for carrying hope. You can put together a hope pack. You know, that’s a thing that a lot of kids do for birthday parties.

Instead of bringing a present, you bring something that goes

into the hope pack, but foster village and carrying hope. I think both have things where, I mean, you can just go work in the warehouse. You can, you know, you can deliver things, you can pick up things. So it’s,

[00:30:05] Missy: son and I are going to do yard work at foster village

[00:30:08] Susanne: There you go. So, yeah, there’s such a variety of things.

So even if it’s an organization maybe that, you know, going through the quiz and assessment matches up with their heart and they’re like, oh, I really did not enjoy the washing, the poopy dog blankets part. But, um, but I would really love to go wheelbarrow. The, Dog food donations in somewhere else. So there’s just, it doesn’t have to be that you write off that entire organization.

It could be that there’s just a, another need that you can fill there.

[00:30:36] Natalie: Absolutely.

[00:30:37] Missy: really argue that for moms too, since a lot of our listeners are looking. To pivot into doing something different, whether it’s a volunteer or even for work, something like that, self-assessment tool. And then working through this with your team is really eye-opening for yourself too. We started this whole podcast to get to know ourselves better and in the process, help our listeners get to know themselves better as well.

And I just think, yes, this is about your teens and your book is really targeted at them, but there’s so much we can learn from this too. And,

[00:31:08] Natalie: 100%. And, and again, back to this issue of, you know, doing this work makes us feel better getting out of our own heads. Sort of staying connected to our essentially humanity after these last two and a half years, you know, I don’t know about you, but like, we, we all need this connect. We need connection to other people.

And so whether that’s, you know, an elderly neighbor that you’ve sort of adopted through the, through the pandemic, because you had to. Get their prescriptions and you had to go to the grocery store and now your child, your teenager is, is shoveling the snow, not for you guys, but shoveling the snow where I am, or, or, you know, helping out when there’s, when there is a problem.

these relationships that’s. Those are really transformative for both the senior and for the team. I think they have a lot to teach each other and, and you, and, and your own relationship with these people, we have so much to learn from our elderly. Um, and I, you know, again, these are anything that your team does like this.

I, I think it comes down to either the people they meet, who work at the organization, the other friends that they take with them, that they kind of create this bond around this work. Or ideally, I think the ideal scenario is always, doing service where you have a, a, a true kind of partnership with the folks that you’re helping so that your kids can actually see and feel, and, and respect and understand that everyone is deserving of dignity.

and I always say this too, when we’re talking to younger children, I think teens need to know this too. Right now we are in a position of privilege, such that we can give. Service, we can help someone else who’s in need, whatever that need is right this minute, because someday probably pretty soon we will be in need of.

Ourselves. this is a quid pro quo here. Like there is no us, us kind of coming in and saving and, and being the SA. No, we are, we are helping, it’s a privilege for us to help right now because we are capable. We have the resources of their time or whatever. So we’re able to do this right now. No big deal, because at some point in our lives, we’re gonna be in need of help and someone else is gonna come to our assistance.

And so I think that’s all really important. Those are just perspectives that you have to have. It’s not like we’re gonna go out and do service on Sunday and we’re really gonna save the world. Now. It’s just our, our privilege. Um, our pleasure to do this work because someday someone’s gonna do something nice for.

[00:33:26] Missy: Yeah. I think it’s a great take on just that’s how we should live our lives.

[00:33:30] Natalie: Right, right.

[00:33:31] Susanne: I really just love, I love how you wrote the book. I love the points of the book. again, as I’ve been go mentally struggling through the 10 points on the common app activities list and how much it doesn’t define the goodness of a kid and like, and their worth


[00:33:51] Missy: it really doesn’t show the whole kid.

[00:33:53] Natalie: Right.

[00:33:53] Susanne: it doesn’t show the whole kid, but just. Knowing ahead of time, like in those early teens, that this is gonna be something that, you know, a team of college, if, if that is the route that your family chooses and your child chooses will be looking at to really take that time, to make it as meaningful and, you know, heartfelt as possible.

And yeah, so it can be something that is just not an hour here, an hour there just

[00:34:21] Natalie: Well, exactly and

[00:34:22] Susanne: and get signed off.

[00:34:23] Natalie: Right. I think you said that, you know, if you haven’t, you know, tried this and you tried that, that doesn’t, you know, they need to find the thing and then stick with it, you know, and that, cuz that then that shows a level of commitment. It shows responsibility for, you know, that you’ve taken this on.

You know, my son worked for an organization. He started doing it prior to Ms. Bar mitzvah. And he continued until the. Unfortunately shut it down, but they would do birthday parties, in homeless and domestic violence shelters for children who obviously weren’t going to get them. So every month.

So one in the one in the actually, excuse me, one in the fall, one in the winter, one in the spring, he and a group of other teens would go to a domestic violence shelter. and they would put on a party. So it was cake. was the goody bag. It was a banner. They wore the t-shirt, they had a special song.

And so all the kids. In the shelter could come and celebrate and be part of it, whether they had a birthday that month or not. Um, and so he did that consistently over time and he just loved who doesn’t love a party who

[00:35:18] Susanne: Yeah,

[00:35:18] Missy: Right,

[00:35:19] Natalie: put on a birthday party, who doesn’t love to, but think about, you know, in the scheme of life, it was like an hour and a half out of, out of these teens lives.

And it just made all the difference for these kids. and he loved doing it and that was how he just kind got hooked. And he continu. You know, straight through high school till unfortunately they couldn’t enter the, you know, the shelters anymore because of the pandemic.

[00:35:40] Susanne: I love that. And I think that just summed up by your awesome heading of the make the hours count. Don’t count the hours. And that that message is just woven so beautifully throughout the whole book and about making the time that you are volunteering really meaningful to you. and that makes it extra meaningful for the people that you’re helping.

[00:35:59] Natalie: absolutely.

[00:36:00] Missy: really does. Well before we jump into look, listen and learn. Do you have any special events coming? Or where’s the best place for our listeners to find you, if you don’t have events?

[00:36:10] Natalie: Well, the events are tough with the summertime here in New York city people sort of scatter like, like roaches, when the lights go on, you know, the summertime people get out of there as PO as quickly as possible. but people can find me on Instagram and, and Facebook at. At simple acts guide. So I like to post things about organizations that I support and volunteer work that I’m doing.

And I amplify other really wonderful stories. right now it’s all about the book coming out this week, but, um, simple acts guide and, um, my website is also simple acts So you can read some of my personal writing and you can learn more about both books there, and see where to purchase Amazon Barnes and noble bookshop, all the, all the good places.

also, please do share doing good because it is just a wonderful free, mostly free resource for families to raise kids who are kind and contribute. And I just think, there’s so much good stuff there. They have wonderful listings of books for families with younger children to use, to sort of start a conversation around these social justice issues and just, um, printables and all kinds of good stuff.

[00:37:14] Susanne: Oh, so cool.

[00:37:15] Missy: very cool. we will share all of that. It’ll be in the show notes. So if you’re listening and you are trying to write it down or you are driving or something like it’s going to be in the show notes, so you can find it all and we will put it on social media as well. So I think we’re gonna jump into our look, listen, and learns, and that if you’re here for the first time, we are so glad you’re here and we every week share something we’re looking.

Like reading, um, listening to learning about sometimes it’s really serious. Sometimes it’s really silly. It’s just a fun way to get to know each other and our guests. So we don’t like to put our guests in the hot seat first. So Suzanne is going first.

[00:37:51] Susanne: Let’s see. Well, I’ve kind of been listening to, I just got back from a trip to Belize and I take a lot of Dramamine, especially cuz one of the planes that we had to take to this island was like a little crop duster, this very bumpy. Um, so I, I was listening to comedy comedy, comedy drama by Bob Odenkirk who.

from better call Saul. Um, he’s all, and he’s in many other things. Um, and I just hadn’t realized the depth of his background in comedy. It’s so funny, cuz I only knew him originally from, what was breaking bad and then better call Saul. And I didn’t realize like his history was Saturday night live and oh shoot was the one that he did, man, not man show. Oh, my gosh. Okay. I’ll put it in the show notes. Y’all

[00:38:40] Missy: it’ll come to me in the night.

[00:38:42] Susanne: but, but see, this is the problem and it was so funny cuz I just, literally, as I was coming up here, I was listening to the last few seconds of the book and he’s referring back to, and it all came back to this meeting that we talked about, in chapter two or whatever.

And I was like, Oh, I think I slept through

that. Cause I had so much Dramamine for these flights that I was just kind of going in and out of consciousness. So I probably listened to about 80% of the book

[00:39:08] Missy: There you

[00:39:10] Susanne: uh, but I do highly recommend it. If anybody enjoys him, he reads it. So it was just kind of fun. and then look, miss Marvel are any, are you guys watching?

[00:39:20] Missy: started it yet.

[00:39:21] Susanne: Oh, my gosh. It’s I think it’s one of my favorite offshoots, just because there’s so much, culture and history around India and Pakistan that is woven into it. And it just does such a beautiful job. And there’s all these woman to woman, you know, grandma, mom to the daughter, generational secrets and learning to understand each other.

And this Kamala who’s the miss Marvel. Such. Oh my gosh. She’s such a fan girl of the Marvel universe, but she’s just so charming that it’s not annoying or irritating or anything. And she’s played by, I think it’s, uh, pronounced Iman LAN, and she’s so charming and it’s just so sweet. I mean, I, I can’t say enough about it.

I’m really enjoying it. And it, I think it spends more time actually talking about the history and I mean, actually some little history lessons broken in there as far as, how the Muslims were. Had to move into Pakistan. Once the India became independent from England and all these things that are still so timely in topics today, and what that does to families and for generations and generations to have this separation and this forced.

Evacuation of a place that has been your home forever. And they just, I think they do such a beautiful job at that. And my learn was, uh, that there’s one month left of summer and I’m starting to panic cause one thing that we did not talk about, um, as far as. The kids volunteering is how to get their butts there.

If they choose one that is far away because, so my daughter just finally got her driver’s license. So I was like, oh, well, your volunteer hours are gonna skyrocket now because I was the weak link a lot of the times as far as trying to get her there. So that’s another reason to team up with other people so you

[00:41:12] Natalie: You bet.

[00:41:14] Susanne: Um, but yes, so that is my learn that I got a month left to get some stuff together, but luckily I now have a new. Licensed a 17 year old so she

[00:41:25] Missy: Very exciting.

[00:41:25] Susanne: some,

[00:41:26] Natalie: or condolences.

[00:41:27] Susanne: oh, I

[00:41:27] Missy: it’s a little of both.

[00:41:29] Natalie: right, right.

[00:41:31] Susanne: wood. so, okay, Natalie, what about you? You look, listen learning.

[00:41:36] Natalie: Well, um, so my look, I guess it can be reading, right? So I’m a big reader. I, I, um, voracious, I would say I’ve always been a big reader, but this year I gave myself a goal of reading 22 books in 2022. And I already surpassed that on by July 1st. I know

[00:41:51] Missy: at you.

[00:41:52] Natalie: I know, um, you know what? I just decided, um, you can’t be a good writer unless you’re a.

Um, I just wanted to read as much as I could from different types of voices, different people with different perspectives. so I really try to be sure that as much as I enjoy. the sort of best selling, women’s sort of literature that we read on the beach and all that good stuff. I I’m a big fan of all of those folks, but, um, you know, Jess, Jess Chan wrote this great book, the school for good mothers, and I love Samantha Iby.

Who’s a humorist. And, um, so I’m just really trying to read different voices and, um, mostly PE people of color if I can. Um, but I mixed. So I, I try and serious stuff and then light stuff. but really, what I was gonna share is that my mom passed away in October. She was 90 and she had, um, come here from, thank you.

she had, uh, moved here. she and my father both came from Ukraine. And so after world war II. And so I lost her in October and that was hard and she was not always the easiest person and end of life is so challenging. Uh, generally, and it’s certainly very challenging here in this country for some reason, but, um, I was okay in the fall and then weirdly the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, um, really brought up a lot of stuff for me.

And it’s been interesting processing. My grief and my loss through the lens of the invasion and this notion of like, well, what would she have thought about this or whatever. Um, which, you know, in many ways, I’m, I’m grateful that she’s not here to see it. Um, it’s so, upsetting and heartbreaking, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading around grief and loss.

And so, you know, that’s sort of depressing. I don’t wanna end on a down note, but, um, there’s a beautiful book. Um, grief is love. By Marissa Renee Lee, that is just gorgeous. And, um, I’m a huge fan of Kate bowler who has a podcast and is, you know, kind of a, just an amazing figure, uh, divinity professor at, duke.

And I just love her no cure for being human and, everything happens for a reason and other lies I’ve loved. so I just, I love her


I love her voice. Anytime she’s on a podcast, I listen to her. and I’m also, I’m hoping to read on, on my stack. rabbi Steve letter, um, has a new book about grief and loss.

He’s um, he wrote the beauty of what remains and then the new one is, for you when I’m gone. So I know that all sounds sort of sad, but I feel like, um, my birthday is this weekend. I’ll be 53. And, uh, thank you. And I just think that in midlife, I’m just in a position where I just wanna be really, thoughtful and real about loss and grief and hard times.

You know, life is hard. if we didn’t learn anything over the last two years, life is really hard and messy, and I just want, to be really authentic and, and, uh, I don’t wanna have sort of. Surfacey conversations about this stuff. I wanna, I really wanna think deeply about it and talk to other people who wanna be honest and vulnerable about these topics.

So that’s where my head is sort of at. Um, but I do read a lot of, you know, fun, light romance stuff too, to keep it, to keep it fun. And

[00:44:52] Missy: I like to alternate every other one, like I do something kind of heavy and then I,

[00:44:55] Natalie: Super important, cuz we don’t wanna be like a downer all the time. But, um, I also can’t do the romance stuff. Like I did like three like light romantic books on vacation recently in a row.

And I was like, okay, I’m done with the romance. I , I can’t do the romance anymore. Um, and then in terms of listening, I don’t know if you listen to Kelly Corrigan wonders, but she is one of my favorite authors. She’s a memoirist and she has, she started a podcast over the, pandemic and it just always makes me think and she has wonderful guests and it’s.

Full and optimistic. And she has a similar worldview about, service to others and, and why we’re here on this planet. and so she always makes me think, and so she has three different types of episodes each week, so I, I never miss those Kelly Corrigan wonders.

It’s great.

[00:45:37] Susanne: wonderful.

[00:45:38] Missy: I need to put that on the

list. I

[00:45:39] Natalie: Mm-hmm

[00:45:40] Missy: like Carrie Corgan. I haven’t listened to that before though.

[00:45:42] Susanne: And have you learned anything?

[00:45:44] Natalie: Oh, my gosh.

[00:45:46] Susanne: it sounds like you’re

[00:45:47] Natalie: I don’t think so.

[00:45:48] Missy: yeah, you’re

learning all the time.

[00:45:50] Susanne: All the stuff you’re looking at. You’re learning

[00:45:52] Natalie: I am. I cannot identify one specific thing I’m learning except, um, except I think that this book grief is love, which is really beautiful. Um, again, Marissa, Renee Lee is her name. she lost her mother like 13 years ago or something. And so she felt compelled to write this book to remind everyone that grief.

There is no. Getting over it. And there’s no linear path. And this notion of like the stages of grief and, that actually is incorrect. You know, the Kula raw stages of grief, those were written for the person dying and, and we’ve misinterpreted those all of these years to suggest that it’s ours as the grievers that we denial, whatever anger that’s, that has nothing to do with grieving that has to do with a person who’s

[00:46:36] Susanne: oh, well, I just learned something right


[00:46:38] Natalie: you go. Right. Right. And, um, and she just really, uh, gave me permission to feel differently about grief and loss. And, um, so I’m just, I’m just learning about all of this stuff. You know, I lost my dad 20 years ago, but it was, it was a very different situation and I had young kids and whatever. So I’m really, processing this stuff more now and I’m, I’m grateful to have, really wonderful voices.

I just don’t think we’ve talked about this as much in the past. Maybe these last two years have. These issues out to the forefront. And I think it’s all for the good

[00:47:10] Missy: agree. I agree. I think we’re learning a lot about how to talk to each other about these things, because we’ve all just been faced

[00:47:17] Natalie: And to kids

[00:47:19] Missy: the kids they need. Yes,

[00:47:21] Natalie: They need to know life. Isn’t all ice cream and movies and fun, you know, like life is hard.

[00:47:27] Missy: Yeah. Their childhoods, unlike so many. Before them, not that other generations did not experience trauma in war, but I just think these children have experienced such a sustained amount of time where life has been upended. And so we need to be able to talk to them about it. And I love the image. I’m sure you’ve seen it on social media where it talks about.

Grief doesn’t go away and grief doesn’t shrink, but we grow around grief. So it’s this image of like grief is a circle and the person around it and the person gets bigger, but the grief stays the same size. So I think for so long in our lives, we’ve heard this language around it of like, it gets better.


[00:48:05] Natalie: Right. Get over

[00:48:06] Missy: away, get over it. And that’s not the case at all. Your grief is always there. And

[00:48:12] Natalie: It just morphs and maybe it changes and maybe it moves in the back front to, and then it goes to the forefront. And the other, the other thing that Marissa Lee says is grief is just unrequited love, right? It’s it’s, there’s no place for your love to go because the person is no longer with you. And there’s no, you, you can’t have that.

Person’s love in return. It’s just unrequited love, but the love doesn’t go away. The love is still there, right? The relationship is still there. It just changes. it morphs into something else. Actually remember I went on a speaking engagement for the first book down to Florida and I was speaking at a temple and, um, I spoke to the rabbi who had invited me and she said, I said, You know, I was making conversation like you do.

And I said, do you have children? And she said, I have two. I have my son that’s here with me and I have a son who is in the spiritual world or the, the, you know, um, in, in another world. And so she, so she spoke of her son whom she lost to a brain tumor, that he was still very much with her.

So she has these two sons. One of them happens to live with her. On earth and one of them lives in on another plane. And so she continues to be his mother. I was taken aback by that, not to, not to end on a sad note, but that’s a really beautiful way

[00:49:24] Missy: That is

[00:49:24] Natalie: to reframe the loss of a child.

[00:49:27] Susanne: Yeah. And so many of our listeners are in that sandwich generation. So I think that that’s gonna be important. Someone out there is hearing what you’re saying, and I think it’s gonna be really important


[00:49:36] Natalie: and I hope they buy Marissa’s book because it’s

[00:49:38] Missy: Yeah. Yeah. We’ll put it in the show notes for

[00:49:40] Susanne: Oh, I love. And we just got a few minutes left.

I, Missy, do you have some look, list and learns

[00:49:46] Missy: I do. I’ll just do two and talk fast, but my first read, I think I mentioned this on an episode that I hadn’t read it yet. And I have now read bomb

[00:49:54] Natalie: Oh, it’s


[00:49:55] Missy: by

[00:49:55] Susanne: I’m reading it

[00:49:56] Missy: I mean,

[00:49:58] Natalie: loved

[00:49:58] Susanne: Oh, it’s not

[00:49:59] Missy: Telling you, it is. Hmm. Laugh out loud and cry. And I, my breath was taken away multiple times.

She talks a lot about loss and phases of life, beginnings and endings. And, I don’t think a chapter went by where I did not connect on a really visceral level. It was something that really connected with my life and. I, I mean, I want to write her a really long letter and I think I might, it might be weird, but I think I might do it still.


[00:50:28] Susanne: We

[00:50:29] Missy: so good.

[00:50:29] Susanne: her on.

[00:50:30] Missy: I would like to invite

her on.

[00:50:32] Susanne: could

[00:50:32] Missy: and there’s so much in here that I think we could talk about would really resonate with the mom and of life. And, so that I have read and actually reread part of it recently. Like it’s just so good. and then I’ve been listening to a new podcast called V interesting with V spay har and V is under the desk news.

If you’ve caught them on, TikTok, maybe I’m the only one who

is on the TikTok. Um,

[00:50:58] Susanne: with your

[00:51:00] Missy: cool or sad. I don’t know. It depends on if you ask my children. Um, but V is with the LA times and does this under the desk news segment on TikTok, that is just. It’s gets right to the point tells you what’s going on that day.

They also do, um, good news only Thursdays, but now they have this podcast that just kind of talks about things going on in the world. The other day, they had shopping tips for the farmer’s market. They have had, they have really interesting guests that we talked about space the other day and, um, I love it.

I learned something every time. That’s my listen and my learn for this week, but I learned something every episode I wait for the episodes to pop up in my podcasting

[00:51:41] Natalie: for that right now.

[00:51:43] Missy: yeah, cool guests and just cool topics. And so I highly recommend V interesting it’s from Liata media, but you can get it on all the podcasting platforms and that’s me.

[00:51:53] Susanne: Just write it down.

[00:51:55] Missy: All right. Well,

we’re all gonna jump off cuz everyone has places to go, but

we loved this conversation.



[00:52:02] Natalie: I

[00:52:02] Susanne: but

[00:52:02] Natalie: thank you so much, guys. I could have talked to you forever. Thank you so much.

This was such a pleasure.

[00:52:07] Missy: really was. I hope everybody

goes out and gets both books.

[00:52:10] Susanne: Yes,

[00:52:11] Natalie: Thank you.

[00:52:12] Susanne: All right. Have a great rest of the day. It’s good talking with

[00:52:14] Missy: Thanks,

[00:52:15] Natalie: Thanks

[00:52:15] Susanne: All right.

[00:52:16] Natalie: Suzanne byebye.

[00:52:17] Susanne: you, byebye.