Flannery Correspondence

April 14, 2013

Matching Donations

Brian had this to say today:

I am committed to 25 in Change.  In fact, I’m going hungry for them.  (Today we ran out of sponsorships so we’re skipping dinner.  If we don’t pump up the partnerships/sponsorships we’ll skip breakfast tomorrow and so on.)

Having skin in the game is important.  I’m sacrificing my comfort and habitual fullness.  But it’s no big a deal.

For some reason, it doesn’t feel like a big deal unless I’m giving up something that deeply, deeply matters to me.  Like money.  I’m not in love with money — but I like having my family in a warm house.  I like providing food for my children, even if I’m starving myself for a cause.  I work long stressful ours to scratch out a dollar or two to take home for the sake of my family.  Money matters to me.

So Christa and I agreed we will match any donations I receive [1] during these 25 days of rice and beans.  But it’s hard to match donations to an organization that limits donations to $25 per person.  (That’s right.  You can only sponsor one advocate like me and only one time.  If you want to do more, spread the word:  When someone asks you why you’re not eating fast food, tell them.)

We want to keep the spirit and focus of 25 in Change:  School meals to hungry children around the world.  We decided to match all donations to another charity:  Pastor Andrew Kizito is taking a small group from our local church in Aurora to a small village in Uganda in June.  His ministry, Kuza Africa, has a school that feeds and teaches children.  They are currently fundraising for a water project to provide a long-term supply of clean drinking water.  (What’s worse than hunger?  Thirst.  Imagine being thirsty with no way to get safe or clean or even drinkable water.)

If I can successfully acquire 75 partners (goal: 3 meals per day for 25 days), that means that together Christa and I and all my advocates raised $1875 each for two charities.  That’s not bad.


[1]  http://25inchange.org/advocate/brian-flannery/

April 11, 2013

Being Cold

Being Cold

I hate being cold.  It’s my least favorite discomfort.  I guess I’m soft.  I can handle brief cold — like walking from a warm car to a warm building.

Far worse is when you must remain cold, working in the cold, sitting there miserable while trying to be productive.

In the summer, when it’s most natural to wear thin clothes and short sleeves, some big corporations (like my employer) turn up the air conditioning past cool, past chilly, to refrigerate:  People wearing sweaters shiver and gaze longingly out the conference room window where the real world is sunny and 89°F.  Keeps employees awake and alert, helps avoid the after-lunch sleepies.

In the winter, those same companies are cutting back on their heating expenses, as some cost saving exercise, perhaps to compensate for the summer’s AC bill, or perhaps only out of sheer sadism.  The only time it’s comfortable indoors is when the weather suddenly changes before the system can bring the big building back to uncomfortably nippy.

My nose gets cold.  My ears get cold.  Most of the time I’m not quite cold enough to shiver — but almost.  My fingers get so cold I can no longer type quickly.  My carpals are all tunneled and rusty.

When people describe cold weather as gnawing or biting, that’s right — a subtle, nagging, persistent bother.  I hate that.

I wear layers.  A tank top undershirt then a t-shirt then my proper long sleeve button down shirt.  When that doesn’t cut it, I wear a sweater.  Then a thick wool hat that looks absurd.

Being Hungry

Going hungry is much like being cold.  It’s a steady pester, bugging you subtly and regularly.  Scientists have linked the sensation of hunger to stomach contractions:  It’s trying to grind up food but finds only emptiness.  It makes you generally grouchy and mean.  People learn to avoid you.

Volunteering to be hungry is like volunteering not to warm up.  No coat for me, thanks.  The shivers come and go.  Life plods on, slower than usual.  You act slower, think slower, like you’re freezing.  You’re running out of fuel like a car coughing and stalling — then surging — then stalling.

I’m not starving.  I’m not totally out of fuel, just living on much less — maybe 1000 fewer calories than usual (say 60% of my norm).  The body adapts.  We are excellent at coping — biologically the body will endure as long as it doesn’t totally run out of fuel.  Your metabolism slows as your insides learn to live on less.

Hunger Chill

Here’s the best part:  When your metabolism slows down, you get colder.  It’s harder to stay warm (less fuel for your internal furnace).  Everything I hate about being cold and working while cold and being uncomfortable and being hungry all meet together in this experience.

I’m wearing long underwear all the time, besides my usual layers.  I pulled out the big, puffy, down-filled coat and I wear it around at work no matter how dumb it looks.  I drink tall mugs of hot water to try to bring my core temperature up.

I can start to imagine what it would be like to live hungry all the time — how steadily exhausting and annoying, how hopeless and helpless it would be.

That’s why I’m doing this [1] [2]:

  • To experience and inspire empathy with the hungry and
  • To make sure a few hundred thousand children can escape that hunger.


[1]  http://flann.co/100
[2]  https://flannco.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/quick-sponsor-…-i-wither-away/

April 7, 2013

25inChange: First Day

Filed under: Charity, Charity and Generosity, Good Causes — Tags: , , , , , — bcflannfam @ 05:23

Yesterday and the day before I kept expecting my wife to do a big rice and beans cook-a-thon.  It never happened.  We had a cup or two of rice left over in the fridge.  No beans, though, except the worst kind: butter beans.  I hate butter beans.

Sundays are crazy for us.  Eating breakfast is rare for Sundays.  Maybe coffee.  Maybe a cold bowl of cereal.  Today, nothing.  Get the kids up, fed, in the car, to church less than 25 minutes late, throw the kids into their childcare or Sunday school rooms, attend a worship service or a class, smile, chat, greet, hobnob in hallways, attend second service/class/childcare rotation, collect everyone again, back home!

I finally got around to eating at 11:45 AM by skipping second service.  I have never enjoyed a bowl of rice and beans like I did this morning.  Every kernel was amazing; every bean sumptuous (butter beans!).  I kept asking Christa to confirm how much salt and oil I was allowed to use:  It seemed like so much!  I was wallowing in flavor-country.

My youngest child toddled over to me, miming with his hands that he wanted some.  Some food.  Some of my food.  No way, dude.  Perhaps, in an actual starvation situation, I would consider sharing some of my portion with my offspring.  Not now.  You can eat an unlimited amount of any other food in this house.  Go forage in the back yard for all I care.

We raced off to a quick small group prayer meeting on the church playground.  I still had my bowl in my hand:  Eating it slowly, savoring it.  While mobilizing kids to the playground, the stroller struck uneven pavement and sent my toddler falling forwards, unharmed but angry and soon crying.  I dropped everything, snacks, bottles, diaper bags, jackets — everything except my bowl of rice and beans.  I picked him up and comforted him. He put his foot in my bowl of rice and beans.

That was a decision point for me:  Put down the crying baby or the bowl of food?  I put the child down.  At this point I was willing to scour the ground to make sure I hadn’t dropped a single grain or bean.  Nothing lost. No calorie missed.  And besides, kids are robust, right?

My smiling toddler

He’ll be fine

April 5, 2013

Quick! Sponsor me before I wither away.

Filed under: Charity, Charity and Generosity, Good Causes — Tags: , , , , , — bcflannfam @ 04:59

Starting April 7th, Brian will eat only small meals of rice and beans — and only when a meal is sponsored.  He is an advocate with 25 in Change.  You may sponsor one of his meals for $25 if you promise to avoid “fast food” for 25 days.  Think you can do it?  I’d like to see you try:


Click the orange “Sponsor” button and partner with us!

We want word to spread and we want the habit of avoiding “fast food” spread.  Each sponsor may only sponsor one meal, no more.  Each sponsor may only sponsor one advocate, no more.  So tell everyone!

For more information, see some of my recent posts:

And read 25 in Change’s FAQ:

His final bio, in case it renders poorly on http://25inchange.org/advocate/brian-flannery/:

I have children; I love them and want them to grow up grateful and generous. When we find ourselves prosperous and well fed, I want to avoid the ambivalence and entitlement that can sneak up on you. I want to endow my family with awareness of a world full of opportunities to love people in sincere, tangible, and fundamental ways… plus the opportunity to trade an unexamined life for one of humility, sacrifice, and deeper joy. Eating nothing but a small amount of rice and beans for a few days seems like a small and temporary inconvenience — a worthwhile exchange in order to raise funds to fight starvation and make these statements:

“Here’s some food.”
“Here’s some of my precious time.”
“Here’s a Savior who wants you alive and healthy: body, soul, and spirit.”

April 2, 2013

What is “fast food”?

Filed under: Charity, Charity and Generosity, Good Causes — Tags: , , , , , — bcflannfam @ 05:07

How would you define “fast food”?

For this charity [1] [2] that Brian will be starving for soon, he may only eat sponsored meals.  Sponsorship costs $25 and is limited to one meal and one advocate (sponsor Brian, or someone else, but not more than one person).  Sponsorship also comes with a promise to avoid “fast food” for the next 25 days.

So what exactly is “fast food”?

Must a sponsor avoid all forms of food that can be purchased quickly or eaten quickly or prepared quickly?  What if it’s really greasy, and really sugary, and deep-fat-fried, and oozing with carcinogens and preservatives — but it takes a really long time to prepare?  That is, can “fast food” come slow?


We think it means quick and unhealthy food in general:  Too much sugar, too much of that bad kind of cholesterol, too much fat or grease or scientific-sounding chemicals.  A salad at McDonald’s?  Up to you.  A health-conscious sandwich at Subway?  Maybe.

What do you think?


[1]  http://25inchange.org
[2]  https://flannco.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/decision-charity-participant/

March 20, 2013

Hunger Empathy

Filed under: Charity, Charity and Generosity, Good Causes — Tags: , , , , , — bcflannfam @ 04:46

(Regarding the charity 25 in Change [1] [2]🙂

One of the interesting things about this charity is that they are cultivating empathy.  For example, children around the world will be eating meals of rice and beans thanks to this charity — so the advocates are eating nothing but rice and beans.  The children would otherwise go hungry more often than not — so the advocates are eating a limited portion and coping with hunger — and skipping meals if they cannot procure sponsors.

More subtle:  Advocates are not allowed to receive sponsorship until two days before the event begins.  25 days eating meals only when those meals are sponsored — and sponsors have no more than two days warning.  The empathy element in this comes from the “food insecurity” of not knowing when and if the next meal is coming.  Many people live with that insecurity as an ongoing reality; I guess we can deal with it for 25 days.


[1]  http://25inchange.org
[2]  https://flannco.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/decision-charity-participant/

March 18, 2013

Decision: Charity Participant

Filed under: Charity, Charity and Generosity, Good Causes — Tags: , , , , , — bcflannfam @ 04:47

We decided that Brian should try advocating the charity our friends discovered [1] [2].  He wants to support our friends and the cause.  Christa will not advocate it because she needs all the fuel she can get.  Having her live on a limited portion of rice and beans would not make anybody happy.  We don’t know if many other people from our nearby church will join us.  If we cannot muster 25 people, we may be able to join in with one of the two other participating churches (Denver Community Church or Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church, likely the latter).

We signed Brian up:


(Help him brainstorm his short biography for the website:)

I have six children (only) and a beautiful wife whose steady blood sugar is the only thing keeping those kids alive.  That’s why she’s not joining me in the rice and beans game.  We are big fans of foster care and adoption, and otherwise acquiring children by alternate means.  Three of our children are adopted through foster care.  Sometimes a child will grumble and complain about how they don’t like dinner.  We don’t force-feed in our family:  If you don’t like it, the next meal is your next meal.  It’s fascinating to think about my children voluntarily skipping meals because they’re feeling bratty, considering how many people in the world would love to eat the crumbs from our floor.
I’m tall and skinny and always felt awkward about that.  People always talk about how concerned they are about their weight, how they need to watch calories, exercise more, then they turn to me with disdain and say, “Not everyone can be a skinny puke like you.”  Can’t help it.  I’ve got a fire inside and no number of calories ever sticks to my bones.  I keep all my fat in a dense ball surrounding my heart.
I live in Aurora, near Tower and Hampden.  I go to New Life Community Church and I am grateful to Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church for letting us aboard.  When my friends, the Barkers, told me about this, I was interested in the idea but inspired by their excitement about it.  I couldn’t see any reason not to temporarily sacrifice the luxury of eating-my-fill in order to raise money and fill some empty tummies around the world.
[1]  http://25inchange.org
[2]  https://flannco.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/oh-great-another-mlm/

February 25, 2013

Oh, great, another MLM

I’m busy.  I don’t read most emails that come through my various inboxes.  I’m not a trasher but I do “file” almost everything immediately into prioritized folders that really only delay the inevitable trash button.

The other day I received an email with a lot of energy … too much energy.  A good friend with whom I too seldom correspond was super-excited to tell me all about — what?  Probably just another MLM.  No thanks; I’m busy.

For some reason, weeks later I accidentally noticed its contents.  Here’s what it said, mildly anonymized:

Hi [you two],

I wanted to talk to you, [name], about this crazy idea this morning in the hall after church, but since my son insisted on treating the little, old man on oxygen like a bowling pin to knock down, I decided it wasn’t a good time to talk in order to ensure the old man lived…

Anyway, [husband] and I have been anxious/antsy/excited/terrified to do something big for God – something bigger than us or anything our little brains could come up with.  As a starting point, we found out about this organization, 25 in change (25inchange.org).  It was started at Denver Pathways church.  They have a new campaign set to start on April 7th and their goal is to have 5 churches committed to be involved (at the moment, they have 2, Denver Community Church and Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church).  Currently, I’m begging [another church] to be involved so I figure the more people I tell, the better chance we have (of course, everyone I tell gets this look of terror in their eye…which makes me think I’m self-sabotaging).  So, bear with us (I just thought, if everyone thinks we’re nuts, then maybe you guys/small group would want to join in some capacity, because the past has proved you’re all as nuts as we are).

The basics are this:

25 people (advocates)
25 days
$25 sponsorships

Each advocate needs a $25 sponsorship for 3 meals a day for 25 days (75 sponsors each, as a person can only sponsor 1 time).  The advocate agrees to eat only rice and beans each meal, each day (because this is what will be served to the hungry and starving).  If every meal is sponsored (and we really hope it is, because if the kids don’t eat, then we don’t eat), then our group of 25 people will have raised $46,875 to be donated to the World Food Programme (and with 5 churches involved, that’s $234,375!).  WFP provides school lunches to kids in the poorest countries of the world.  They feed them at school because they’ve found parents are much more likely to send their kids to school if they will be fed.  The stats on world hunger are so astounding and this is an “easy” way we can make a real impact.  Just $25 buys 100 meals in countries where children are starving to death. To put it in a little more perspective, most of the world lives on $.23/day.  The average U.S. person lives on $70/day.  That’s why I say it’s “easy” for us: such a short time of sacrifice in the grand scheme of things to provide 187,500 meals for children who would otherwise not be fed.
On the flip side of fighting world hunger, the sponsors, along with their $25 donation, agree not to eat fast food for 25 days as a way to fight obesity in America (our big killer).

We would love to be able to present this at our church and be one of the 5 churches in this April campaign.  The FAQ section of the organization’s website will answer any other questions you could come up with, I think.

Can you let us know your thoughts?  Bring it to your small group (I told [one person] about it and I’m pretty sure she thinks I’ve lost my mind, bless her heart).

Thanks so much!

Can you see why while skimming that it came off like the old “Put $1 in ten envelopes, mail them to this list, then send a letter asking everyone you know to do the same.”?  After more careful inspection, it sounds like an interesting way to grow a charity:  Recruit participants who fundraise while performing an attention-grabbing gimmick.  What do you think?


November 20, 2011

It’s a Boy!

Nehemiah Baux Flannery was born at 9:50pm on 11-1-11. He weighed 6lb 5oz and was 19 in long. We are all doing well, so happy to have this little man in our arms.


September 9, 2011

The lottery is a voluntary tax, like most taxes

Filed under: Ever Wonder, Good News for a Change, Joy — Tags: , , , , , , , , — BrianOFlan @ 17:33

I turned 19 on 9/9/1999 (that is, 1999-09-09).
So I bought a lottery ticket.  

Random numbers? No way.
I picked my own numbers: 9, 19 and ….
Shoot, what else goes with 9 and 19?
I needed six or seven numbers to play this lottery.
I picked the last few numbers at random, hoping the 9 and 19 would matter the most.

I went to the liquor store to buy my lottery tickets.
I went with my cousin who was worldly wise but similarly underage for a liquor store.
The liquor store guy asked, “How old are you?”
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I just turned 19.”
He was unimpressed but let me buy lottery tickets if I was quick about it.
I took forever to figure out what numbers go well together.

I won!
My cousin who had played the lottery regularly, almost religiously, bought a handful of tickets.
He had never matched more than two numbers.
I matched four that night.
He was mad.

The next day I went to King Soopers to cash in my winning ticket.
“Excuse me. I have a winning lottery ticket.”
The lady looked at the ticket. “Okay, so do you want that as more lottery tickets or just cash?”
“Look lady, I’m not an idiot. What are the chances of winning the lottery again? Quit while I’m ahead: Cash, please.”

Guess how much I won?
Four dollars, burning a hole in my pocket.
And to think, I could have had four more lottery tickets instead!

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