Wednesday, May 30, 2007

For You, Casey

This is my handsome brother Casey. He is a young father and and hard working DJ. He lives life to the fullest and is not afraid of anything, the classic adrenaline junkie.

During Memorial Day weekend he took a trip to the lake with his wife. They went for a ride, Casey on an ATV and his wife on a go-cart. Casey's four-wheeler flipped. He was hurled foward into a tree. His forehead and face took the full impact of the shattering blow. My brother was not wearing a helmet.

As I write this, Casey is in a trauma unit fighting for his life. We are constantly praying that he will recover, that he will be able to go home and play on the floor with his children and spin music while my neice does her toddler dance behind him.

Please, before you give your children four-wheelers or any motorized vehicle, research the saftey issues surrounding them. The smallest dip in the terrain can cause them to flip or roll. Even experienced riders and adults can find themselves in dangerous situations. If someone you love chooses to go ATVing, insist on a helmet, especially if it is your child. You have the right as a parent to say, No helmet, no ride." Adults are a harder sell. Tell them about Casey and ask them if it's a risk they want to take.

I don't know if a helmet would have changed the outcome for my brother. It's something we will never know. Much like seatbelts in cars, helmets provide an important extra measure of defense in case the worst happens but do not provide total protection from injury.

My family and I are going to spend some time concentrating on Casey, so the priority of LifePrints will fall for a while. Please think of Casey's wife, his two small children and my entire family as we walk this difficult path with my little brother.

God Bless you and keep you in his loving care, Casey. Don't stop fighting your way back to us.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Where and When to Give

Someone is always asking for a donation and not every organization is on the up and up. How do you know the difference?

Most of us are not in Bill Gates position and don't have millions to give away, so we want the little we have to offer to be spent in the most wise and helpful manner.

The best we can do is what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does - take the time to investigate the charities asking for our help.
Two of the quickest ways to make an evaluation are with Charity Navigator, the biggest charity evaluator on the web, Charity Navigator lists 501(c) charities and gives them a rating based on a formula that takes into account the amount of revenue brought in against the amount of revenue spent on overhead (salaries, office space, advertising, and such). This sounds like a wonderful idea and it is on the surface. But keep in mind that an organization is more complicated and diverse than the numbers submitted on their tax forms. Do not make a decision souly on how many stars Charity saw fit to hand out.

A second watchdog organization is,, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. Their site operates much like the BBB site, giving a detailed listing for each charity that has submitted information and relating complaints against reported charities.

These resources, a few minutes spent searching Google for news about an organization reading other listings than the official chairty website, word of mouth, and your own instinct are the best indicators of where to put your money and time.

If you give locally, look around your community for hard evidence of your intended charity accomplishments. Talk to people they've helped. See if the reality matches the hype.

When all is said and done, be wise but don't let the dirt you find turn you into a cynic. For every scam you uncover there are dozens of worthy organizations where your money will change a persons life.

When to give? Every day is a good day. Giving spikes during the Thanksgiving and Christmas. A turkey dinner is nice but the homeless need to eat the other 363 days of the year. A bag of festively wrapped goodies only lasts so long. Charities need donations and people need help year round. One way to combat the end of the year giving rush is to budget your philanthropy. World Vision and programs like it offer monthly plans of sponsorship to make giving an easy and automatic process.

The bottom line is to give. If money is scarce, give of yourself, your time, skills, and creativity. I'll never forget the heartfelt plea of a DFS worker. Clark County is overwhelmed with foster children living in group homes. The reporter asked the worker, "What is your greatest need?"

The worker replied, "It's as simple as this, come down and play with a toddler, rock a baby for an hour, help us give them the attention they deserve."

No research or checkbook involved with that choice...just simple and rewarding.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wings of Hope - Medical Flight for Kids in Need

In 1985 Ann McGee founded Miracle Flights for Kids out of her one bedroom apartment in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a teacher of children with diablities, she was exposed to families struggling with illness, some without the money or resources to seek second opinions or expert care for their children. This problem was especially accute for children that could benefit from or be saved by treatments available in other states. Transportation became the biggest obstacle to curing their children.

Mrs. McGee recognized the need for the coordination of aviation services that could provide no cost transportation for blood, donor organs, and patients to medical facilities around the country. Out of this need, Miracle Flights for Kids was born to provide families with free flights to hospitals and treatment centers they could otherwise not obtain because of financial hardship.

Through her hard work and dedication she grew the program from only a handful of flights for local kids to a nation-wide effort that flies boys and girls from all corners of the country. To-date, her program has coordinated more than 46,000 flights and provided over 23 million miles of free access to healthcare for America’s families.

Miracle Flights for Kids lists on their website children they have helped over the years. It's heartwarming to read about these little miracles. Alex, 10, was flown from Montana to Seattle Children's Hopsital for life saving treatment of a blood clot in his portal vein. Little Gabby went from Iowa to Boston to have large csyts caused by Cystic Lymphangioma removed from her jawline.

Miracle Flights for Kids flies families from and to anywhere in the USA using seats donated by commercial airlines, private pilots in small airplanes, and sometimes by purchasing commerical seats with donated funds. These donations come from individuals as well as corporate sponsors including the MGM Mirage Voice Foundation and The Christopher Reeve Foundation.

If you know someone in need of this service go to There are also other organizations around the country that provide a similar service. Here is a short list to get started on a search for help.

Mercy Medical Airlift -

Angel Flight NE -

Angel Flight Central -

Angel Flight SE -

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Never Underestimate the Power of a Book

I believe in the power of words. When I have a problem or a question I turn to a book for the answer. As an avid reader and writer, this seems the natural route to take. The great thinkers throughout history shared their knowledge in first, stories around the camp fire, and second, the written word.

At different times in my life I've stumbled upon or been given books that enlightened me, altered my perspective, and literally changed my life. Some were fun, light-hearted stories with characters that still live in my heart today. Others were manifestos meant to rattle my cage.

Here are a few of my favorites. Maybe one of them holds within its pages the advice or gentle message you've been waiting for.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom, a delightful novel with a moral that I will never forget.

In the Meantime - Iyanla VanZant, this book literally fell into my hands at a critical point in my life. I knew I wanted to read it but was not "allowed" to spend money on new books. Then there I was scouring the lost book section of "Unclaimed Baggage", an outlet that buys and sells lost airline luggage, of all things! I looked up and directly in front of me among the hundreds of random titles was this book that changed my view of myself and what I deserve from my life.

Simple Abundance - Sarah Ban Breathnach, my mother gave me this day book as a gift. It took another year before I picked it up and felt ready to do the lessons. It was a year of discovery that launched my writing career.

White Oleander - Janet Fitch, amazing sensory rich novel that drops you into the world of Astrid :foster child, daughter of a murderess, affected personality. She is the best and worst in all of us.

Complete Works of Flannery O'Connor - In my opinion the best short story writer that ever lived. My greatest writing mentor, if only she were alive to answer my questions.

The Seat of the Soul - Gary Zukav, Conversations with God Series - Neale Donald Walsch, The Gospels of the New Testament - The Bible, A Return to Love - Marianne Williamson, The Power of Intention - Dr. Wayne Dyer, and The Road Less Traveled - M. Scott Peck, have all shaped my spiritual life.

The Anatomy of Peace - The Arbinger Institute, Our Endangered Values - Jimmy Carter, Mother Teresa, and In My Own Words - Mother Teresa have helped define my political and social values.

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger, Blue Water- A. Manette Ansay, and The Last Girls - Lee Smith, are my newest favorite novels, all have strong female characters coming to grips with the cards life has dealt them.

When I read to my two year old I always cry at the end of The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein.

Oh! Just for fun, when I need a good belly laugh, I pull out my copy of Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch, Tales from a Bad Neighborhood - Hollis Gillespie. I will never get tired of her quirky sense of humor and ability to poke fun at her own life.

Happy reading and best wishes on your journey to enlightenment and self-realization. It's never a waste of time to read.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Make Your Voice Heard at the 2007 G8 Summit

World Vision urges you to send your comments to President Bush before the G8 Summit in Germany, June 6th to 8th. Let him know that our great nation must keep their promises made at the 2005 Summit in Scottland.

The leaders of the eight most powerful nations in the world pledged to At the 2005 meeting, the G8 leaders committed to:

Cancel the debts owed by 35 of the world's poorest countries to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and African Developement Fund.

Increase aid to poor countries by $50 billion dollars by 2010, with half the aid targeting Africa.

Increase humanitarian aid and support to peacekeeping and arms control.

Help create a world trade deal that favors poor nations.

Ensure univeral access to AIDS prevention, treatment, and care by 2010.

The G8 leaders have made progress reaching these goals but much more remains to be done to make the 2005 goals a reality. This years summit marks the halfway point to completition of these goals. World Vision needs our help to remind President Bush that the issues of AIDS and world poverty are important to us. We, as Americans, want to be seen as a provider of hope and help, not a super power that dominates by dropping bombs and deploying soliders.
Go to to send a letter to our president and express your views on these urgent issues. The link to the form is on the center of the homepage.

For a little background, World Vision is a Christain charity that has been helping children around the world since Doctor Bob Pierce founded the organization in 1953. They are one of the largest and highly respected charitable groups in our country.
You can trust the information contained on their website and feel comfortable that money donated to them actually gets to the people it's intended for.

The G8 summit nations are Canada, the United States, Italy, Japan, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The summit's first meeting was in 1975 and they have met every years since to discuss issues of mutual and global concern.

AIDS and world poverty are such issues. The G8 has limitations and is an informal meeting of the minds but these are our world leaders all gathered in one place. They have the power to change the policies of their respective countries. They should be made aware of the issues that most concern their citizenry and held accountable for promises made and accepted in good faith by the poorest of the poor.

That's what the letters to President Bush is about, to remind him of his commitments and his nation's commitment to help end poverty and solve the AIDS crisis.

In my letter, I told the President that most every day I drive by grafitti on a block wall that reads, "Food Not Bombs". I told him I know his job is difficult and complicated. I told him I think of him every time I see those words and pray that he is making responsible decisions for the welfare of our country and the world.

Send your opinion, whatever that may be. A lifted voice is still a voice and better than the alternative, silent part of the change.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Buy RED - Help Cure AIDS/HIV

Bono. Everyone knows who he is, right? The frontman for the mega-rock band U2? The founder of DATA, a watchdog organization fighting poverty in Africa by holding the G8 Summit countries to their promises of aid? The founder of ONE, the campaign to end poverty on our globe? Or is he the co-founder of RED (products), a partnership with companies to produce RED merchandise, donating a portion of the profits to buy AIDS/HIV medication?

He is all of these things and more. Can you tell that I am in awe of the man? Well, unashamedly, I'll stand up to say, "Yes I am."

When I went into my local GAP store after Christmas to spend a gift certificate and fell in love with a stone washed red sweater, I didn't know that buying it would help provide antiretroviral medication for women and children with AIDS in Africa. I only knew I had a cool new sweater.

I didn't know that RED has raised 25 million dollars for the Global Fund for AIDS from the sale of RED products. Bono said in an interview with CNN that this is more than Canada or China has contributed to the fund and they are nations, much more powerful that little me. Or are they?

That's what Bono wants you to ask yourself. Where does the power to end poverty and AIDS really lie? Look in the mirror. To harness this power he founded the everyday person's activist group, ONE. ONE provides a jumping off place to reclaim your decision making power as a citizen of whatever country you live in. If you are American, you have great power, if you only chose to use it.
One way to exercise our power over the economic model is to support companies like The GAP, American Express UK, Motorola, Emporio Armani, Converse, and Apple. Each have produced RED products and have pledged in their business models to donate a portion of their profits to the Global Fund for AIDS.

It's working, but now RED needs more business partners to jump on board and see the benefits of selling with a conscience. GAP's RED clothing flys off the racks and I can't tell you how many RED Motorazrs and RED Apple IPOD Nanos I see everyday. These companies are fast learning that it pays to care.

Bono says the money funneled into this and other AIDS relief is the difference between life and death in Africa. He feels we must look beyond our front doors, beyond our neighborhoods to the global community. So goes Africa, so goes the rest of the world.

To do something for people living in poverty and the problems it fosters such as AIDS is not merely charitable but justice in its purest sense. Raise as a Catholic, Bono made mention in his CNN interview to religion and the basic tenets of a religious belief system. Every religion on Earth asks us to reach out to others and care of them as we would care for ourselves. He said that his world view drastically changed after he and his wife worked in an African Orphanage during the late 1980's. It became important to do something to help change at least one life in Africa.

Mr. Hewson (aka Bono) you've succeeded and made it easier for everyone else to do the same.

To join the ONE Campaign,

To learn more about RED(products),

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Good Things From Good News Network

Good News Network is compiling a list of 500 good things. Here are some of my favorites so far...

Daily Encouragement at Beliefnet is a great place to go for spiritual learning, comfort, support, news and inspirational stories.

Meditation Products from, a socially and environmentally responsible company. They provide everything for your sustainable lifestyle from clothing to replacement water filters.

Pet Photos by Bill Owen, Just for the heck of it because pets are such a wonderful part of our lives.

Intimacy Retreats- Learn from Diana and Richard Daffner how to keep your marriage alive and enjoy an intimate vacation with your spouse as part of the process.

Fighting AIDS in Africa. News and training for healthcare professionals from the International Center for Equal Healthcare Access,

Giving and Receiving are the tenets of the Thanks Living Campaign at I'm going to join the online community and take the pledge to complete the daily assignments. I'll post my results for everyone to read.

Light of L.I.F.E. Posters are for sale at . The proceeds benefit the L.I.F.E Afterschool Care Program in Canton, Ohio. L.I.F.E. is part of a series of programs designed to keep kids off the streets and away from drugs.

Enjoy these links and thanks to the Good News Network for compiling these helpful, inspirational and fun places to visit and get involved on the net.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

EcoHangers -The Future of our Closets

"No more wire hangers!" screamed Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest. Joan, if you were still alive, you'd have an alternative...the EcoHanger.An EcoHanger is made of laminated, folded, recycled paperboard. It is strong enough to hold clothes and flexible enough to be folded for easy disposal. It's biodegradable and won't add to the mountains of "forever" trash already in our landfills. To make this even more attractive they are free to dry cleaners, paid for by advertisers. So it benefits the industry and gently pushes the dry cleaners toward a better alternative. As it stands, wire hangers from dry cleaners are thrown away at a rate of 3.5 billion a year! Where is all that wire going? Into our landfills. And when will it degrade? Oh, in about 100 years if we are lucky.

EcoHanger has provided a great alternative that uses recycled paper, can be recycled themselves when no longer needed (this is the best disposal method) or thrown away to biodegrade at the same rate as a newspaper.

Consumers don't seem to mind the advertising because the EcoHanger solves two problems. Dry Cleaning customers no longer have to use the wire hangers most people dispise and they don't have the disposal issues that come with wire hangers. Eco-friendly consumers who try to turn the wire hangers back into the dry cleaner for reuse are shooed out the door. The cleaners don't want the bent, used hangers back, ever.

The advertisers get a decent rate to advertise on a product that will stay in the consumers home for six to eight weeks, maybe longer in some cases (like me, I keep things forever). This is much improved over the advertising alternatives like cardboard wrappers around hot coffee cups. Those are tossed in a matter of minutes.

The dry cleaner benefits by getting free hangers and no longer paying 8 cents a peice for the wire eco-disasters no one really wants.

It's a win-win-win-win situation. Earth, consumer, advertiser, industry...everybody wins. How much better can it get?

Right now the hangers are only available in large cities. Be part of the change and contact your local dry cleaner. Direct them to

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

NYChildren and Danny Goldfield's Dive Into the Melting Pot

This little boy's name is Basim. He lives in New York City with his parents. His parents are from Iraq. Basim's face is immortalized on the cover of LIFE Magazine because of Danny Goldfield's photography project, NYChildren.

After Danny received his MFA from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles in 2004, he moved back to Brooklyn where he concieved the idea for his next project. People come from all over the world to live in New York City and possibly at any given time each nation of the world might be represented among the families of the five boroughs.

Danny set out to candidly photograph one child from each nation of the world, with a few criteria, of course. The child had to be twelve or under, have parental permission, be either born in another country or both his parents were born in the same non-US country, and now resides in New York City.

So far he has photographed 148 children and is searching for the remaining 46. Some of the tiny elusive representatives he searching for are from Burundi, Djibouti, and Qatar, countries that most Americans rarely think about and maybe don't even know exist.

His ultimate misson is to gather and nuture an inclusive group of children and plan events where they and their families can form cross-cultural friendships. At the end of the project, his dream event is to have an opening in a museum where all of the participating families and children are invited to gather, meet each other, and view all the photographs for the launch of the exhibit.

Even while the work is in progress, he has had mini-exhibits where the families brought their children together to draw on the sidewalk and listen to a jazz band outside the cafe where the photos were being shown.

Danny may not have realized he was launching a humanitarian project but what else could it be called? To show the sweet faces from all over the world, living in one city shows us that we are indeed all alike in the ways that truly count. Families, no matter color, religion, or culture experience the same joy in their children, the same sympathy when they cry, the same frustration at tantrums, and the same exhileration at their laughter. How could we possible hurt each other if we understand this basic truth?

From one mother in Nevada, thanks Danny Goldfield for a unique pictorial that is as important to the photographed child as it is to the viewer. To see a slide show of some of the NYChildren go to

Monday, May 14, 2007

Animal Victims of Disaster - New Legislation, A Step in the Right Direction

When Hurricane Katrina devestated the Gulf Coast concerned citizens from all over the country rushed to help the most helpless victims of all, the family pets. People were forced by rescue officials to leave behind their dogs and cats, knowing that they were sentencing a beloved animal to death by drowning or starvation. And if the animal did survive, the chances of a reunion with its family were slim at best.

Before climbing into boats to save their own lives, pet owners secured their animals as best they could and wrote loving pleas on the walls of their homes. "This is Blake. Please help him. Don't hurt him. He's a good dog."

Animal Rescue organizations quickly mobilized and went to work wading through toxic flood waters and breaking down doors to save the pets left behind. Weeks after the storm, dehydrated and emaciated dogs were coaxed off roof tops and into the arms of volunteers who whisked them away to waiting Vets at Triage Centers. One amazing German Shepard survived for seventy-one days by licking the mold from the walls as the flood waters receded. He waited loyally in his home for his owners to come back, only to be tossed aside when they returned for their belongings.

Animals were taken as far away as shelters in Pheonix, Arizona to be fostered and cared for in hopes of reuniting the pets with worried families. Some were found. There are miraculous stories of owners searching tirelessly for the past two years for news of their pets. One woman went so far as to go to court to retrieve her pet from a foster family that had adopted and bonded with her dog.
The Humane Society lobbied congress and were successful in their bid to pass the PETS Act, which requires each state to make a disaster relieve plan for household pets and service animals. This is certainly a step forward but some animal advocates believe it is only a band-aide on a serious situation.

States are not required nor can the the Federal Government force the states to fund these emergency plans, except by withholding funding for other programs. Most concerned organizations believe that will never happen and in the event of another disaster the facilities for animals will fall by the wayside.

They believe that it will, again, take the efforts of concerned volunteer groups and individuals rising to the occassion. It takes heart as well as money and planning. It takes people helping people because they can't stand to see anymore pain and suffering. It takes mobilization of average "Joes" to truly make an impact.

The dedicated and tireless efforts of Average Americans saved the lives of nearly 10,000 animals stranded in the aftermath of Katrina. Two years later, volunteers are still working to find homes for lost and unrecovered pets.

The problem of abandoned and homeless animals is an ongoing issue. Disasters like Katrina are acute but the situation is a chronic one. 9.2 million animals are euthenized every year in our country. There are many avenues to provide help from donating food to your local shelters, to spaying and neutering your own pets, to working with fostering organizations taking in homeless pets until a permenant situation can be found.

A great place to start and get ideas is Muttshack is filled with useful information and ways to animal at a time.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Nevada's Homeless Youth and Kathleen Boutin's Mission to Save Them

According to the Clark County Homeless Youth Count, on any given day nearly 400 unaccompanied minors live on the streets in Clark County, Nevada. Another study says that 1,700 kids -- mostly minorities -- are homeless:

75-percent are between the ages of 15 and 17.

25-percent were born in Las Vegas.

66-percent have parents still living in the valley.

Kathleen Boutin, homeless youth advocate, said, "Isn't it sad when life on the streets of Las Vegas is better than their home environment." Boutin is not one to sit around an complain about a sad situation. In 1999, while working for the maternal health program at Southern Nevada Health District she met a 19 year old girl with 4 children who lived in a shelter. That was when Kathleen realized someone had to act on the problem of homeless and abandoned youth in Las Vegas.

She founded the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth and within a few years she'd opened the doors at the "Safe Place" drop-in center, located across the street from UNLV at 4800 S. Maryland Parkway. The center serves as a respite center for chronic street youth and provides access to basic needs items such as food, safety and counseling.

Kathleen's organization is credited with the passing of the Right to Shelter law during the 2001 Nevada State legislature. This law allows unaccompanied minors to consent to the same services that adult homeless persons receive.

Nevada is one of twelve states that allow homeless youth to access food and shelter without parental consent if the minor has been abused or neglected.

Until researching this article, I didn't know that homeless teenagers are not eligible for the services that homeless adults receive. They are truly lost and left to their own resourcefulness. Sadly these kids are committing burgalry to eat, joining gangs for protection and a sense of belonging, and succumbing to survival sex for money and shelter. It's enough to bring a mother to tears. As a mother of five, it makes me ache to think that these kids are having sex in exchange for a blanket to cover themselves in a stairwell, or for five bucks to buy a burger. It's a shameful commentary on American society.

Homelessness among adolesents is a serious public health concern due to the lack of services available to this invisible portion of society. Most of the youth residing on the streets are sexually active and at high risk of becoming parents; many of the girls are already pregnant. Lack of prenatal care, improper nutrition and severe dehydration make these young women prime candidates for delivering premature babies and those with a birth weight of less than 5.5 pounds. This part of the population is also at a high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases that usually go undiagnosed and untreated.

Thanks to the staff and volunteers at Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, the situation is slowly changing. They provide a wide range of services to teenagers, everything from LifeSkills Classes to free haircuts. NPHY runs programs such as Project Safe-Place. Kids in danger can look for the Safe-Place signs on Terrible Herbst Gas Stations and take immediate refuge inside the store. NPHY also runs mentoring, street outreach, and housing assistance programs.

But there is still more to be done. NPHY is in the process of raising five million dollars to build the first 24-hour drop-in and teen center in Nevada. They are in need of volunteers for the already exisiting programs. If you live in the Las Vegas area, please visit to volunteer your time or learn more about this important issue that so deeply effects all of society, not just parents and kids.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ecotourism - Top Ecofriendly Destinations

The buzz word in travel is Ecotourism. Stated plainly, it means responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local people. But as with most ideas that become profitable, you must be a careful consumer.

Travel companies have distorted this definition to loosely include most any destination or cruise they wish to sell that month. Be savvy and ask questions if you truly want to go on a eco-friendly vacation.

One of the easiest ways to protect the environment and have a great vacation is to camp in the many national parks across the United States. Use the Boy Scout Motto of "Leave No Trace" and you will have a wonderful time communing with the great outdoors.

If you are not the tent type and want to travel outside the country, The Indepedent Traveler ( has compiled a helpful list of Ecolodges and Ecofriendly places to stay all over the world. They've also included a helpful list of questions to ask when deciding on a Green Hotel.

Here are a few of the important questions to consider:

Is the hotel locally owned and operated?

What kind of recycling programs does the hotel have, aluminum, plastic, paper, gray water, composting?

Does the hotel use energy saving techniques like low-flow toilets and showers, energy efficient lighting or alternative energy sources?

How does the hotel or resort contribute to the community of which it is a part?

The Eco/Green Hotels on The Independent Traveler's list were chosen for their spectacular locations, outstanding guest amenities and extraordinary commitment to conservation.

Here are a few of their top picks:

San Francisco, California: Orchard Garden Hotel -The smoke-free, 86-room Orchard Garden Hotel in downtown San Francisco opened in November 2006 as the only hotel in the city to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council for environmentally friendly design.

Chichester, England: Old Chapel Forge Bed and Breakfast - The beautifully restored 17th-century house and chapel of Old Chapel Forge provide an eco-friendly stay in the heart of England's Sussex countryside. Old Chapel Forge has been awarded the highest rating from the Green Tourism Business Scheme for its environmental programs, including the use of solar panels to heat water, and partnerships with local farmers and merchants to provide locally grown organic meals. Other green efforts include composting, grey water recycling and guest education. Doubles from $100 per night including breakfast.

Rurrenabaque, Bolivia: Chalalan EcolodgeBolivia's Madidi National Park is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the planet, and a stay at the Chalalan Ecolodge puts you right in the heart of it. Guests stay in Tacana-style cabins built from environmentally friendly local materials, with balconies overlooking the jungle. The lodge was founded in the 1990's by members of the indigenous community of San Jose de Uchupiamonas in an effort to support themselves and protect the beauty and eco-diversity of their homeland. The lodge is still community owned and operated. Environmental provisions include solar-powered lighting, a liquid waste treatment system, a water purification system and a composting program. Doubles from $187 per night (based on three-night stay) including meals, activities and airport transfers.

Siena, Italy: Tenuta di SpannocchiaLooking for your own place under the Tuscan sun? Try Tenuta di Spannocchia, a working organic farm that produces its own meat, eggs, grains, vegetables, honey, wine and olive oil. Guests can rent their own farmhouse for a week or stay for a few nights in one of two bed and breakfast facilities. Visitors are welcome (but not required) to learn about and get involved with the farm's day-to-day operations, which rely on sustainable farming techniques.

Wherever you chose to go with your family this summer keep in mind that low impact vacations, relaxed walks on forest trails and romps in the ocean can be just as satisfying and memorable as the annual trek to the Theme Park.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Project Rwanda - Providing a Livlihood with Bicycles

In April of 1994 an estimated 1,000,000 men, women and children were violently murdered in a 100 day civil war in the country of Rwanda. A little more than a decade later, the country's people are full of hope about the future. With the establishment of a stable government, the people of Rwanda want to reconcile the events of the past and heal.

In 2005, Tom Ritchey, mountian bike designer and national bicycle racer, embarked on a trip to the lush mountains of Rwanda. While riding through the country, they discovered people riding wooden bikes with no brakes down the steep mountain roads from the coffee fields above. They used the bikes as transportation to carry heavy sacks of coffee cherries to the washing stations miles below. The coffee growers relied on one truck to bring the coffee down the mountain. Problem was too much coffee and no time to wait. Coffee cherries must be processed as quickly as possible after picking. They lose flavor and value by the hour. Growers without access to the truck have to carry the loads on their backs and walk hours to the washing station. The lucky ones have makeshift wooden bikes and get there just a little faster than the walkers, hopefully preserving the value of their crop.

Tom Ritchey and his friends realized the need for good mountain bikes with strong brakes specifically designed to haul heavy loads. They took on the challenge and founded Project Rwanda.

Project Rwanda currently operates with a small group of Board members who donate their time, energy and love to help. Because they do not have a salaried staff, offices or vehicles, Project Rwanda gives 90% of the donated money to fulfill their vision and projects.

These recent projects include building awarness about Rwanda's recovery and desireability as a tourist destination for mountain bikers. They sponsor a Wooden Bike Race, that is a sight to see, hoping it will become the buzz among cyclists from all over the world. Other projects provide the specially designed bikes for coffee growers and a bike distribution program to needy organizations operating in Rwanda.

Most interesting is the national pride project which plans to select, coach, train, equip and promote a Rwandan National Cycling Team with the goal of successful participation in International Cycling competitions. This is a creative means of promoting the cycling industry within Rwanda and providing increased awareness and national pride for Rwanda internationally. The cyclists could become national heros when they enter and win the Olympics, providing an emotional boost for young Rwandains, giving them a reason to keep their eyes on the future and hold their heads up high.

Rwanda is one of the safest African nations for travel and the people, though scarred, are eager to rebuild their lives. Tom Ritchey noted that he was sucked in by the positive attitude and smiles all around him on his ride in 2005. Rwanda is resilient. Tom Ritchey and Project Rwanda want be part of the forward vision and help make a positive and profitable reality for the Rwandains who have suffered so much.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Laughter - The Universal Language

Would you join a club whose soul purpose was to gather together for a few minutes each day to laugh? It made me giggle to think about it and when I stopped, I realized something important . I alway feel so wonderful after a good laugh.

I've been told that I laugh too loud but I don't care anymore. It's a hearty belly laugh and I'm proud of it. Apparently, the members of laughter clubs all over the world feel the same way about their thundering gufaws.

This past Sunday was World Laughter Day. Groups gathered in cities all over the globe to laugh together. Some organized elaborate events and other groups simply met in a park and laughed for half an hour.

This phenomenon began in 1998 in India with the efforts of Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the worldwide Laughter Yoga movement. Dr. Kataria's philosophy - laughter is a positive and powerful emotion that has all the ingredients required for individuals to change themselves and to change the world in a peaceful and positive way. He feels that laughter is truly the universal language. Laughing together helps us build bridges between cultures, religions, and racial groups. It unites us all in a positive, happy activity. Dr. Kataria goes as far to say that he thinks practicing Laugther Yoga can bring about world peace.

Even Celebrity Fit Club on VH1 got one of its most serious participants into the act by taking her to a Laughing Yoga Class. Tempest Bledsoe looked happy, smiled from ear to ear, and had only good things to say about the class when she was finished.

It's just a thought but I wonder what would happen if we asked our lawmakers and the president to go to a laughter club meeting before they sat down to discuss important world issues.
Maybe there would be fewer filibusters and vetos and more progress toward solutions.

Maybe we should have laughter sessions before every stressful meeting with the school principle, PTA petition signing drive, marriage counseling session, or company board meeting.

"But that's only my humble opinion," she said with a sweet giggle.

If you would like to find out more about World Laughter Day and Laughter Clubs in your area (and there are many all over the USA) go to

Monday, May 7, 2007

Random Acts of Kindness - It's the Golden Rule in Action

As I child, I remember being told over and over again by my mother, "If you want people to treat you nice, Lisa, you have to treat them nice, too." Well, I was six and I had sharing issues. Luckily, I outgrew my obsessive love for Fisher-Price Little People and listened to my mother. Now I pass on the same biblical advice to my children.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule is repeated in various forms in most every religion known to man. I'd venture a guess that Jesus was passing along good advice.

Random acts of kindness are hip these days but the concept is nothing knew. It's just a way to remind us to be kind and gentle with our fellowman and our planet as a whole. Do something to brighten another person's day. Go out of your way to make the life of another a little easier, send that card, make that call, say those words you feel led to say. You'll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Here is a short list of quick acts of kindness that cost nothing to pass on.

1) Smile at and make eye contact with the grocery store clerk next time you pay. Remind yourself that he/he is not a machine there to process merchandise, acknowledge their presence.

2) If the person in line (any line) behind you seems more rushed or frazzled than you, let them go ahead of you.

3) If you luck up on a two for one cookie deal, pass on the extra to a child who might enjoy it.

4) When a baby looks at you, speak to him or her. Watch their face light up.

5) Volunteer to be a penpal to an elderly person in a nursing home.

6) Take the extra cake from your birthday party to work and leave it in the breakroom.

7)When you see trash in the park where your family goes to play, pick it up.

8) Leave the paperback book you just finished in the coffee shop or on the bench at the bus stop. Some other bored soul stuck waiting will greatly appreicate it.

9) Donate your professional clothes to organizations that help people get back into the work force.

10) If you feel it, please say I LOVE YOU. It might be your only opportunity and someone you care about may need to hear it.

11) If you are on the receiving end of a kindness say THANK YOU.

For more ideas and an online community dedicated to cool random acts of kindness check out,

Friday, May 4, 2007

Help for Families with Lost Loved Ones

My Aunt Eunice had Alzheimer's Disease. She spent the last ten years of her life in a downward spiral, increasingly lost within her own mind. She lived in a nursing facility and wanted more than anything to go back to her little house by the pond. I'll never forget the panic in my mother eyes when she answered the phone to find that Aunt Eunice had, again, wandered away (escaped) from the the nursing home. Luckily for our family, Aunt Eunice was always found within a few hours and never very far from the home but there was always a feeling of terror and dread that this would be the time we would discover her dead on the side of the road.

For those who live in Clark County, Nevada, I'm happy to tell you there is an organization that can help if your loved one is lost. The Nevada Center for Lost Loved Ones specializes in finding memory-care elders who've lost their way. They fill in the 72-hour window created between the time the person goes missing and the police will begin investigating.

Frank Mahoney, the founder of the Nevada Center for Lost Loved Ones, says that these hours are crucial to finding the elderly. Most recoveries are made during this time and the people are generally found within a few miles from where they disappeared. The key is quick action.

He has at his disposal helicopters, dog handlers, ATV's, and volunteers to immediatly being searching for a missing adult. Time is of the essence because most of these elders need medication or no longer remember how to keep themselves safe from harm or the elements. Now that summer is here the heat is a major concern in these cases.

The Center will also help look for teenagers and other missing people but focuses its efforts on Alzheimer patients. Since they opened their doors this past March, Mahoney says they've worked on twelve cases and recovered four people. These cases are not easy. They take diligent, continuous effort but the pay-off is immeasurable.

One of their recoveries was a teen runaway. They flooded her friends with phone calls and by night she was found.

The Nevada Center for Lost Loved Ones is doing important work, filling in the gaps and helping the police department with an overwhelming job. Thanks to them, more families will be happy and relieved to see their loved ones safe again. As a teenager, I remember hugging my aunt and asking her never to walk off again. She'd pat me on the back and smile. I knew she didn't really understand anymore.

It's good to know that there are people like Frank and his crew who are willing to rush to the aid of families like mine. Right now they are operating on, in Frank's words, "A prayer and a whisper." Please call the Las Vegas Metro Police Department for contact information if you'd like to make a donation or volunteer services or time to Frank Mahoney and The Nevada Center for Lost Loved Ones. Someone's grandparent, mother or father could be saved because of your involvement.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Craig Kielburger - Founder of Free The Children

My middle children are eleven and twelve years old. My daughter reads constantly, loves video and computer games and longs to be president of the United States (after she's had a sucessful career as a chef). My son takes martial arts, loves to draw and watch the Food Network. They are both incredibly sensitive people but can I see them spearheading efforts to save poverty stricken children from around the world? Or calling their national leaders to suggest humanitarian strategies? Umm, no. Then, maybe I should look deeper before I decide.

In 1995, that's exactly what twelve year old Craig Kielburger of Ontario, Canada did. Craig stumbled on an article about a young boy named Iqbal from Pakastain who'd been forced to weave rugs to pay back a family debt and was later murdered for speaking out about his mistreatment. At that moment, Craig discovered the horrors of child labor and slavery. For the first time he compared his life as a middle-class child in Canada to a boy his same age in a third world country. The contrast was shocking and moved Craig toward his mission to save children from workcamps, prostitution, and drug running.

Fast forward to 2007 and Craig Kielburger can be found running Free The Children, the world's largest network of children helping children through education. Free The Children has a unique youth-driven approach. More than one million young people have been involved in their innovative programs all over the world. Free The Children has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. They have established partnerships with the United Nations and Oprah's Angel Network.

The offices of Free The Children are run by a handful of volunteers, the bulk of the networking, grassroots fund raising and project planning is done by young people from all walks of life. In a 1999 interview Craig said, "Adults find taking action on large issues like child labor a lot scarier than we do," he says, "because they're more entrenched in their thinking. They say things like: 'Oh, I can't do that. I have a job and a family'. But young people haven't become conditioned to think in a little box; we don't even know a box exists."

Craig also founded Leaders Today, a world renowned leardership organization training young people how to "Take Action" and "Be the Change".

Craig Kielburger is an inspiration and a gift to this world. I'm sure he's made his mother proud and he's caused me to look at my children with different eyes. I have an obligation to nuture their dreams, realize the worth of their contributions, and support them in their vision of the future.

To learn more about Free The Children and Leaders Today or start your own youth action group visit

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ride Sharing- Robin Chase and GoLoco Make It Easy

Need a ride to the grocery store? Tired of driving alone with no one to talk to? Fed up with the gas-guzzling "I go it alone" attitude that's ruining our planet? Robin Chase of Cambridge, Massachusetts has a solution for you.

First, it was the revolutionary Zipcar in 1999. Thanks to Robin, renting a car for a few hours at a resonable cost was as easy as walking up to an ATM. With the motto of, "Wheels when you need them", Zipcar made it possible to be car-less, unless you really needed one. For urbanites, the concept was a godsend. No longer did they have to fight for parking or pay exorbitant fees to garages. They could get a car any time, any where when it was absolutely necessary.

Robin has stepped down as CEO of Zipcar and her newest project is GoLoc, an online service that matches potential drivers with potential passengers, taking the difficulties out of ride sharing.

GoLoco allows members to post trips, such as a short jaunt to the mall, to selected groups of friends, employers, colleges, and such. You choose who rides with you and who you accept rides from. Picture profiles, recorded voice messages, and rider reviews help the members select wisely using the same criteria people use in everyday life for decision making and trust building.

GoLoco is part high-tech college ride board and part social calendar, with a dash of environmental conscience. The online service -- which went live on April 22, 2007, Earth Day -- brokers trips between friends, neighbors, and strangers, then automatically divvies up the cost, the seats in the car, and the carbon dioxide emissions.

Robin is on a mission to change the way we think about driving and car ownership. Today, 75 percent of commuters drive alone, according to the 2000 Census. But Chase is banking that high gas prices and growing awareness of global warming may mean Americans are finally ready to open up their single-occupancy cocoons and share their vehicle-domain through GoLoco. Buying and maintaining a car is an expensive proposition. According to Chase, 20 percent of household income is spent on cars. "What an amazing crunch we've set up for our society," she says.

To be part of the wave of the future visit GoLoco at