Friday, August 31, 2007

Blog Day 2007 - Five Blogs That Captivate My Mind and Touch My Heart

Today is blog Day 2007! Each blog owner that participates lists their 5 favorite blogs, ones that they visit often, as much as every day. This gives me the opportunity to point out Bloggers who deserve some recognition.

Blogging can be a lonely task. As a writer, it feels good to get my thoughts out but also, as a writer, I long to be read. There are trackers and counters that let me know if anyone is listening but often, especially in the beginning, I felt like I was working within a vacuum with no one to bounce ideas off but myself.

Since becoming more involved in the blogging community, I don't feel that way anymore. Most days I get a few comments. I love that! And the feedback from the members of Blog Catalog has been so exciting. I'm glad that what I post about resonates with people. Maybe it will move someone to action or maybe it will just make them think. Either way, reader participation has made my experience with blogging much more meaningful. I thank each of you, especially Peter at Scruffyhippo's Blog, for adding me to his list for Blog Day.

Blog day 2007, gives me a chance to direct you to a few blogs that have captivated me, more for the unique voice of their owners than the slick look of the page. They are beautiful to me because of the people who run them. They put their psyches and hearts on the line with each post. I can only say thanks for opening my eyes and allowing me a glimpse into the windows of your souls.

Here is my list. Please visit these blogs. If you enjoy them, let the owners know that they are not writing inside a vacuum and their thoughts and ideas are heard.

The Wishful Writer - I can't say enough about Heather. I plug her blog every chance I get. The only way to describe my fascination with her writing is to say that she gently pulls me into her living room, sits me down in a comfortable chair, and laughs and cries with me like an old friend. She's my own personal Hollis Gillespie and that is a BIG compliment.

Eavesdrop Writer - She works in law enforcement. She writes. She listens in on other people's conversations. How cool is that! This is another blog that I send love to whenever I can. In transcript-like form, Vienne shares the overheard details. What I love most is she is an observer and let's me draw my own conclusions about the people she's encountered. No judgment, just great fodder for my building the characters in my next short story or novel.

Caught In The Stream - Pointedly political but also extremely intimate. I love this blog because Francis is clearly a highly intelligent man. When I spend time with his blog, I imagine Francis saying, "Why sure, Lisa, you can pick my brain for a little while. What do you want to know?"
He also has a unique habit of searching out obscure songs whose lyrics fit the theme of his post. Which I think is brilliant!

OMYWORD! Did I Say That? - Lisa Wines is what I want to be. Enough said, except I should probably explain. She lives life on her own terms. she opinionated, funny, deeply thoughtful, strong and fearless. Every post makes me laugh but what holds me is not the laughter, it's the fact that for the rest of the day I think about what she said and wonder why I never thought of it that way before.

Lisa McMann - My friend, Lisa, is the author of two young adult novels, Wake and Fade. Wake is set to hit the shelves next spring. Her website updates her progress. She is an inspiration to me. Just as Lisa Wines is what I want to be in personal life, Lisa McMann is my beacon in the dark fuzzy world of publishing. She's ahead of me in the process and gracious enough to look back and shine a flashlight in my direction. Come hither, dear writer, this is the (that's me laughing in chat lingo, in case you didn't know).

Those are my five but I could go on and on. I've discovered so many wonderful blogs while surfing through Blog Catalog and other resources. I'd love to give them all some love. There is time, I'll have to be patient.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Homelessness - Thinking About It Differently

Years ago, I attempted to write my first novel about a bored, naïve woman who befriends a group of homeless men. In the process, she finds friendship with an old man I called Geezer and falls in love with another who is “not your typical homeless person.”

The result, like most first novels, was not my best work. I finally understand how my concept of the homeless was even more naïve than the protagonist I created. It’s just not that simple and the stereotypes, like all stereotypes, don’t hold up under scrutiny.

I found a truer depiction of homelessness in the memoir The Glass Castle. Jeannette Walls unabashedly lays before the reader a map of her family, one that many times chose poverty over comfort. Her parents, unconventional, artist types, lived on the edge of society and modeled their quirky values for their children.

But were they? Is it really quirky to find good in the most absurd situations? When her mother tried to pull a piano into the house using a truck and she floored the gas, sending the piano flying into the back yard, her reaction was crazy with adaptability. Instead of cursing and crying Jeannette’s mother said – isn’t it wonderful that the neighbors will be able to enjoy the music when I play.

After squatting in an abandoned building for many years, Jeannette’s parents organized a squatters association and bought the building for a very small price. They were proud people, unwilling and unable to be pigeonholed by society.

I wasn’t sure about this portrayal, until yesterday, when I researched Kevin Barbieux, aka The Homeless Guy. He’s become an internet celebrity with his blog about homelessness. Kevin lives on, in, and around the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. He blogs from a donated laptop with the help of free Wi-fi at coffee shops.

Kevin’s insights have again honed my ideas about people that live on the streets. He most closely resembles the “not so typical homeless man” in my novel. He keeps clean the best he can. Intelligent and thoughtful, he contributes to society by doing projects at the local community church. He writes with a lucidity I still aspire to. He’s not a druggie or an alcoholic.

Why is he homeless? He doesn’t really understand it either. Kevin feels he has social anxiety. He is a square peg in the round hole of a capitalist machine. He doesn’t fit well into the mold. So, for the past 20 odd years he’s done the best he knows how.

If I ever decide to resurrect my manuscript, I’ll do three things first – pull out my copy of The Glass Castle. I’ll open Kevin’s blog and read all the entries I can find. Then I’ll curl up in my warm house with a bowl of popcorn and watch The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith (the story of a homeless father working his hardest to get off the street).

I’ll pull myself out of my privileged life and see the homeless clearly, with all their diversity, individual needs, struggles, and complexity. And only when I’ve achieved that clarity, will I attempt again to write about them.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Compassion - What is it Exactly?

Compassion is described as an emotion that is a sense of shared suffering, most often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another. Compassion essentially arises through empathy, and is often characterized through actions, wherein a person acting with compassion will seek to aid those they feel compassionate for.

I come from a family of highly empathetic people. My mother is a sympathizer. She takes on your worry and makes it her own. She’s been known to bake pies and deliver arm loads of fresh vegetables just to cheer a soul up. My father is a fixer. You call him, he’ll fix it. My birth mother marched, protested and got arrested in the turbulent ‘70’s. My husband stops for distressed motorists and helps to push broken vehicles out of busy intersections. I seem to feel everyone’s pain and have an intense desire to “take care of” and “make it better” for those who cross my path, even a pigeon with a broken wing. And our children have their grandmother’s penchant for bringing home stray animals.

Adolph Hitler once said that compassion is for the weak. He was wrong. I am not weak nor are the others in my family who taught compassion to me. On the contrary, they have a quiet, peaceful strength that I’m sure Hitler never imagined existed.

In his teaching on compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self- worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others.”

I believe Hitler was a very fearful man. The Dalai Lama is not. The contrast is stark and clear.

The Dalai Lama also said, "I believe that at every level of society - familial, tribal, national and international - the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities. I try to treat whoever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion. "

In the Dalai Lama’s writings on compassion, I found simple explanation and advice about incorporating this concept in to all aspects of my life.

For parents, like me, struggling to teach this virtue to their children, I discovered this short article by Families with Purpose and the link to a book on the subject.

I have much to learn about turning my constant concern into consistent action. I think these resources are a good starting point.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 - Vehicle for Change

I am very excited about I can't wait to see exactly what they have to offer and browse the profiles of fellow instigators...I like that title. This is what I know so far: is the world’s first online social network and media portal devoted to uniting individuals, non-profit organizations, and socially responsible businesses to generate solutions to pressing social and environmental issues. As a platform for change, enables users to receive comprehensive information, unite with allies who share a common passion and purpose, and take urgently needed action.

The site goes live on September 1st. Joining is easy. Just fill in your email and choose from a list of social issues you are passionate about, then rethos will send you emails with updates and a notification to come build your profile. has been dubbed “myspace with a conscience.” The concept uses the power of social networking to break down barriers of race and geography, thereby enabling its members to unite in addressing these problems.

I hope to use my profile to meet likeminded individuals with whom I can partner to do some real live good in the world. Here's to making the dream a reality.

I'll update everyone as I go along...or better yet, sign up and go on the adventure with me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Free The Slaves - A Reminder That Slavery Still Exists


We discussed it in history class when learning about the US Civil War. We relived it with Alex Haley's groundbreaking mini-series "Roots". We're glad it's over. But is it really?

Modern Day Slavery is not so different from the slavery of the past. Men, women, and children are lured or sold away and forced to work in fields, factories, and homes all around the world. In today's world, Asia and India seem to have the worst records for slave labor but they are not alone in this exploitive trade. They come out on top of this horrible list due to long histories of indentured servitude and birth into slave castes.

What is it like to be slave in the 21st century? Not much has changed in the last 150 years. They are still forced to do back breaking labor with no pay. If there is pay given it's immediately taken back to pay off a debt, usually to the person holding them captive. There is little to eat, horrible living conditions and beatings if the work is not done fast enough. Children and parents are separated. They are isolated from family and homes, not allowed to leave or have contact with anyone outside the slave encampments.

Women and girls as young as six years old are sold or tricked in the sex industry. Sometimes they are sent to other countries by recruiters promising them legitimate work as a domestic. But when they arrive what they find is a life of servitude or sexual exploitation.
Free The Slaves is on a mission to end this horrible tradition in human society. The team believes that all people have the right to be free from any form of slavery and the right to reach their full potential. They are committed to supporting sustainable solutions which prevent adverse repercussions for former and freed slaves.

As an example, Free The Slaves does not endorse boycotts of industries or producers of goods made with slave labor. A boycott may take a particular product out of the store but it has little to no affect on the individual held in slavery. If the need for their labor dries up in one place their owners will simply move them to another location and take up different work.

Instead of boycotts, Free The Slaves focuses their efforts on changing attitudes about slavery and enabling people to meet basic needs such as legitimate work, education and health services. If these things are available, the poorest of the poor will be less vulnerable to the tactics of slaver traders.

Free the Slaves and their partner organizations are responsible for rescues that have saved the lives of many. Drissa, a teenager in Mali, was forced to work with 17 other children in the cocoa fields. He was beaten when he was too tired to work and then forced to work while flies bit at his open wounds. Drissa’s nightmare ended with a rescue by a Malian official.

Free The Slaves lists many ways to get involved, including education materials free for download. There is a great links page with other organizations involved in the cause to bring an end to slavery worldwide. They also accept donations and are lobbying the US government to establish a Commission for the Abolition of Modern Day Slavery.

Awareness is the key. Slavery still exists and there are viable ways to bring it to an end. Spend some time on Free The Slaves website if you are moved to act.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fab Four Meme - Just This Once, Let's Talk About Me

My new Friend, Ebabe at A Modicum of Decorum,, tagged me with the Fab Four Meme.

It’s a lazy Saturday morning so I thought I’d give it a go. This one is not quite on topic for LifePrints but that’s okay. Maybe some of you reading would like to know a little about the person responsible for this humble blog. So here’s the scoop:

4 Jobs I've Held:

Personal Assistant to an uber-intelligent engineering executive.
Jewelry Maker
Medical Laboratory Technician
Book Keeper for a military thrift store and...
my favorite – Mother to my children, step-children, and one foster child.

4 Films I Could Watch Over and Over:

The Breakfast Club
Sixteen Candles
Lord of the Rings Trilogy

4 Television Shows I Watch:

Battlestar Galactica

4 Places I've Lived:

Boston, Massachusetts
Biloxi, Mississippi
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Yigo, Guam

4 Favorite Foods:

Sushi - specifically, cajun albacore from my favorite restaurant around the corner.
Red Velvet Cake
Boiled Shrimp with lots of cocktail sauce
Homemade Baked Macaroni and Cheese

4 Websites I Visit Every Day:

Blog Catalog

4 Places I Would Love To Be Right Now:

My brother's hospital room.
My mother's kitchen, eating a huge slice of pound cake.
By the river at my dream house in New Mexico.
Getting a massage.

4 Favorite Colors:

Deep Blue

4 Names That I Love but Would/Could Not Use For My Children:


Now it’s time to tag 4 more great bloggers to do the Fab Four Meme:

My buddy, Francis at Caught in the Stream,

Mike at Lupideloop’s Thoughts,

JJ at Nature Shows and Dreams,

Karen at Listen from Within,

Have fun, guys, sharing a little about yourself with your readers!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Alternative Energy - Power the Grid with Garbage

What if there was a way to use landfill waste to make electricity? What if with this method a by-product was produced that could be sold for a profit? What if it produced clean and safe steam energy? Would you lobby your local government to give it a try?

Think about your answer because this alternative energy source exists right now. A flagship plant has been operating for the last few years in Utashinai, Japan. And another one is slated for completion by 2009 in Saint Lucie County, Florida.

Atlanta based, Geoplasma, expects to generate 160 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 36,000 homes. And where does the garbage come in, you ask?

Here is the process in a nutshell. The new plant is being built next to an existing landfill sight. They will process 3,000 tons of trash from the landfill and surrounding sources. The garbage is fed into an auger, a machine which shreds it into smaller pieces. These are then fed into a plasma chamber - a sealed, stainless steel vessel filled with either nitrogen or ordinary air. A 650-volt electrical current is passed between two electrodes; this rips electrons from the air and creates plasma.

A constant flow of electricity through the plasma maintains a field of extremely intense energy powerful enough to disintegrate the shredded garbage into its component elements. The byproducts are a glass-like substance used as raw materials for high-strength asphalt or household tiles and "syngas".

Syngas is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide and it can be converted into fuels such as hydrogen, natural gas or ethanol. Syngas (which leaves the converter at a temperature of around 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit) is fed into a cooling system which generates steam. This steam is used to drive turbines which produce electricity - part of which is used to power the converter, while the rest can be used for the plant's heating or electrical needs, or sold back to the utility grid.

The advantages with Plasma Gasification are obvious. Existing landfills would be eaten away to produce much needed energy. The land could then be reclaimed for animal habitation. And at the rate that US citizens produce garbage we would have an endless source of energy without having to drill into the Earth or strip forests and take the tops of mountains looking for coal.

It sounds like the ultimate in recycling and sustainability. I plan to look for future information on the Florida plant and keep an eye on the advancements. I’m wondering about the carbon emissions. I can’t find anything to indicate if they plan to use carbon sequestration. I’ll update everyone if I find anything. In the meantime, here is a list of informative articles on the subject., Tech-faq deserves credit for the section explaining plasma gasification.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In Praise of Stay At Home Dads

When my husband's first child was born, he made the decision to stay home with her. For the first three years, Todd did the mommy thing and his partner went to the office. This was way before the current wave of well- educated men who've come to the same conclusion - kids thrive when a parent is home and if Dad is the best choice for the family, he should leap at the opportunity.

By the time we became an item and later married, Todd had two children and was a work-from-home single parent. His children were the focus of every decision he made. Their welfare was carefully weighed against career advancements and when in doubt, the kids came out on top. He was part of a new breed of father - nurturing, involved men who knew they could change diapers, cook meals, and kiss boo boos as well as their female counterparts. They were open to the idea of a man's unique role in the development of his children. The current crop of stay at home dads guide and shape their families like no generation before them.

It wasn't long after Todd and I married that he went back to the office environment. With the combining of our families and a new baby, it seemed best that way for us. He handed the torch to me and now I'm the chief boo boo kisser. I think this kind of saddens him and he misses the constant stream of hugs and laughter. Sitting in a cubicle is not his thing. For him money is a means to an end, not the goal. I certainly understand.

He still finds time to help coach football teams, make and decorate special birthday cakes (and the kids really put his abilities to the test!), read the Hobbit at bedtime, and go to every school function. It's that important to him, but it's taxing. Now his life is too full, mimicking those of exhausted super-parents who try to do it all.

As much as he misses his years as a stay at home dad, he's told me he felt isolated and devalued by a society that looks down on men who are not racing up the corporate ladder. This is slowly changing, but in a recent article on, Seattle area stay at home dads still find it hard to connect with other like-minded fathers. They still feel left out and ignored at predominately mother/child centered playgroups.

The good news? They are not discouraged. They are redefining parenting and networking groups to suit their needs. No more tea parties at the library. Meetings at the local skate park followed by a walk to the bookstore and a jaunt into the local glassblower to watch the flames shoot out of the torch are more their speed.

It's been shown that full-time fathers are more relaxed than their female counterparts. My husband can attest to this. No precisely packed diaper bag with matching changing pad for him. His style - a bottle and bag of munchies in one jacket pocket and diaper and wipes shoved in the other. Dad's are more likely to change a diaper in the stroller behind a park bench or let their kids pick out their own clothes (who cares if the socks match, she's happy). Do the kids suffer for this? I don't think so. They're probably more relaxed and self-confident because of it.

I, for one, am proud of the choices my husband has made in regards to parenting. Back in the early '90's he was a maverick. I'm glad the ranks of men like him are growing. If you know someone who has taken on the job of full time parenting..give them a pat on the back. It's not easy.

One of the best resources on the web for full time dads is It's much more than a blog. It contains a vast array of resources. Brian Reid, of RebelDad, is living his subject matter and easily conveys the emotions, joys, and frustrations of being a "Rebel Dad".

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Big Ten - a MeMe About Desires and Change

Pete, the owner of ScruffyHippo, , tagged me to participate in a meme. This is new to me and maybe to some of you reading.

A meme is an idea, project, statement or even a question that is posted by one blog and responded to by other blogs. Although the term encompasses much of the natural flow of communication in the Blogosphere, there are active bloggers and blog sites that are dedicated to the creation of memes on a regular basis, so a meme involves 'tagging' another blogger to do a post on the given subject.

The subject of this meme is 10 Things I Want to Do Before I Die. As I get older and look back on my life, I wish I’d taken more chances and not been so afraid of everything and dependent on someone else to shape my perceptions of the world around me. I like to think I have a good six decades ahead of me to live fearlessly, with my hair blowing in the wind, afraid of nothing.

Before my time is up I’d like to:

Travel to Africa, live and work for a short time in a typical village or small town, keeping a journal of the people I meet.

Own a house in the mountains of Northern New Mexico.

Be a prolific, best selling author like Jodi Picoult.

Go on a very long cruise with my best friend, my husband.

Ride in a hot air balloon.

Participate in a marathon.

Own a little red sports car (must be energy efficient or I’ll have to forget about this one)

Meet at least one of my heros, people who inspire me.

Help get a homeless person off the street and into a comfortable life.

Share in the productive, happy lives of my children.
I'm adding another list, 10 Changes I'd Like To See In The World Before I Die. This, to me, is much more important:

The redistribution of food supplies and economic priorities so that every child eats every day.

Community gardens instead of community parking lots.

Openness and acceptance in the Christian Faith instead of judgment and retribution.

Using cooperation to solve our differences instead of litigation and war.

Politicians serve the people instead of themselves.

Humans understand synergy and no longer try to dominate all living things.

The end of the AIDS epidemic.

A time when faith unites us instead of divides us.

Neighborhoods where we all know each other's names.

An awakening of the masses to quickly implement solutions to end our climate crisis.

The fun part of a meme is tagging another blogger to participate. I tag August, the owner of 1000 Holiday Photos, Have fun, my friend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Socially Aware Rockers - We Need More Like'em

When you listen to the music of your favorite band do you wonder what the band members do when they are not making music? Are they trashing a hotel room? Sleeping with groupies? Or perhaps appearing in a reality TV show?

According to, you might be surprised at what this list of musicians do with some of their off time.

Green Day - This pop-punk trio has partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council,, on a Move America Beyond Oil campaign, and have made a number of You Tube videos voicing support for environmental protection and smarter energy policies.

Jack Johnson - This Hawaiian born songster co-founded the Kokua Hawaii Foundation,, a nonprofit supporting environmental education in the schools and communities of his home state.

KT Tunstall - The grammy-winning artist runs her tour bus on biodiesel fuel and her affiliation with The Carbon Neutral Company,, has enabled her and her fans to plant some 5,000 trees as offsets.

Moby - This DJ-turned-pop-star's entire musical style is about recycling -- repurposing beats and riffs from other artists into tracks of his own. A vegan, he's a big supporter of PETA and the Humane Society, and in 2002 he opened Teany, a vegetarian tea cafe' in New York City.

Big Head Todd and The Monsters - For the past two years, these Colorado blues rockers have used their annual Red Rocks concert to raise thousands of dollars for the Boys and Girls Club of Denver and The Rocky Mountain MS Center. This year money raised at the concert went to The Childrens' Hospital Autism Program.

Linkin Park - The world famous rock band founded Music for Relief,, a non-profit organization to aid the victims of the South Asian tsunami and has recently broadened its scope to help reduce global warming by encouraging musicians and fans to get involved with these to causes.

Grist magazine,, has a few more on their list that are worth noting, like Sheryl Crow, Pearl Jam, and Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction.

If you ever you know. Support bands that care.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Memories Never Die

Just a note: After reading this, if you have the time, watch one of the videos in the sidebar. They are important and touching and so deeply illustrate the purpose of this post.
My closest friend became a wife and mother at the end of our senior year in high school. She doted over Bradley and in spite of her young age was a wise and nurturing mother. Bradley grew up and so did she. He was followed soon after by another son. Her children and husband are her life, that's just how it is.
Early on a spring morning last year she answered the phone to hear the words every parent fears the most. Bradley was dead. Killed instantly in an automobile accident. She hasn't been the same since. She goes on. She even thrives and continues to live the God-centered life she'd lived before Bradley's tragic death but every day is filled with memories of her son - the firefighter, the wrestler, the tiny baby that launched her days as a mother.

For a while my friend maintained Bradley's MySpace page. His friends dropped by to leave messages to him, telling him how much they missed him. They left favorite memories, the "remember the time" stories, the kind that help people move beyond the grief to remembrance and solace. And over a year later, my friend still posts thoughts about Bradley on her own MySpace page. Her profile picture is not one of herself but a favorite picture of her son.

Bradley's loss and my friend's memorials to him made me stop and think. What if there was a special place on the Internet to display and nurture those memories, a page designed for just such a task? A page that could be maintained forever or for as long as the loved ones needed a place to meet and share feelings?

It exists and it's called Memory-of. com,

For a small monthly fee, a reduced yearly fee, or a lifetime donation, Memory-of will maintain a multimedia memorial website that is interactive and life affirming or there to express whatever the family needs at that moment in time. I spent sometime going through a few of the sites. They were filled with pictures and videos of the lost loved one. Some were lost to accidents, violence or illness. One was in honor of a grandmother and the sight gave the family a place to collect stories and catalog important events along a timeline of her days on Earth.

I cried as if I knew Michael Schafer, a soldier killed in a fire fight in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was so handsome, a young father and dedicated to his fellow comrades. He's obviously greatly missed.

From personal experience, it's clear to me that memories of people we loved never die. What we do with them is our choice...bury them and try to forget, box up sentimental items and take them out on birthdays and anniversaries, or maintain an interactive website as a living symbol of a life well spent. It's up to us but it's nice to know this option is out there for those who find comfort in using it.

I talk to my friend often and she summed it up best when she said, "I can shed tears that Bradley is gone, or I can smile because he lived. I can close my eyes and pray that he will come back, or I can open my eyes and see all he left behind."

The Memory-of website is one way to do that....see and cherish all they left behind.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Khaya Cookie Company - Creating Opportunity One Bite at a Time

Khayelitsha is a township on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. In Khayelitsha almost one million people live below poverty level in one room homes typically made of corrugated iron and scrape lumber. One out of four children suffers from chronic malnutrition. Seventy percent of the women who raise their families alone are unemployed with little to no education or job skills.

That was the reality facing Alicia Polak when she decided to open the Khayelitsha Cookie Company. Alicia seems an unlikely choice for the task ahead. She didn't know anything about baking and less about the South African economy but she had the will and desire to help and a background in investment banking didn't hurt.

While working for one of the Non-Governmental aid organizations in the area, the Philadelphia native began to look for a way to teach employable skills and provide a sustainable income to the struggling women. Her solution - bake all natural, preservative free gourmet cookies and sell them to the local resorts and high end restaurants in Cape Town. Her goal - find investors and distributors to buy their cookies worldwide. Her mission - teach the employees all aspects of running the business, instill pride in the product and change a few lives in the process.

I would say that Alicia and the women of Khayelitsha have succeeded. They recently launched to expand their operations abroad. Each cookie will still be handmade, individually wrapped and all natural. The products have a three months shelf life and are great when warmed in the oven. Currently you can have delicious brownies shipped right to your door for a very reasonable price. They plan to add new varieties in the spring. And as their slogan says, "Each time you take a bite of a Khaya Cookie, you help Create Opportunity One Bite at a Time!"
What I find most fascinating about this story is Alicia and her teams dedication to "the whole person". The women who work with her are not taught just to bake. They are taught to run the factory, to speak in English on the phone to perspective buyers, and to run the small retail store. They also learn computer and math skills necessary to run a business of any size.

Each woman is in charge of her cookies through out the baking and production process. A few of the women are responsible for developing new recipes and are given time during their workday to experiment with the ingredients. Polak and her team are training them to be self-sustaining, employable, educated women who can conquer any obstacle in their path.

There is a note on the website that reminds us to place our orders early for Christmas delivery. I'd listen and get a move on to give this unique, delectable gift that is more than just a tasty's a brownie that's changing lives.

Way to go ladies of Khaya Cookie Company! More power to ya!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hottest Jobs in America - Would You Want Them?

It's the middle of August. He wipes the sweat pouring off his brow and reaches for the water bottle strapped to his work belt. "Man, it's freakin' hot out here."

She answers the call by pulling on her hazmat gear and rushing to the site of an overturned chemical truck. "I can't breath in here for one more second but if I take of my mask I might die."

The young man squats in a lettuce field in California. "Just one more row, just one more row," he chants to forget the pain in his knees and the broiling sun beating down on his back.

It's August and they work all day out in the heat, toiling to bring home a paycheck, fighting fires, cleaning up hazardous spills, responding to emergencies, and fueling the fires of our electrical plants. Would you want their jobs? I wouldn't either but they have to be done for our society to function.

According to Conde' Naste Portfolio. com there are a considerable number of people in our nation who risk serious illness or even death just by going to work during the hottest days of the summer. How's that for a reason to call in sick?

No one keeps track of which jobs are the hottest. But among the most at risk for heat-related illness are groups that have to wear protective clothing, such as emergency first responders, hazmat workers, and some employees at nuclear plants, says Tom McLellan, an expert on heat strain and a senior scientist with Defense Research and Development Canada, an arm of the Canadian Department of National Defense.

As an example glassblowers and foundry workers are exposed to temperatures as high as 3000 degrees F. Heat is part of the job and in the summer months exposure is worse because many plants and shops do not have electricity. A body can withstand around 3 hours of grueling work in 130 degree conditions, then it's anyone's guess how a worker manages to survive.

Among the list of worst jobs in the summer are jobs normally performed by teens. Workers in the kitchens of fast food restaurants are at risk for heat exhaustion and dehydration. Next time you go through the drive-thru to pick up your favorite hamburger give a smile and a nod to the person at the window. These kids work hard for not much money or respect.

When I drive around my town during the weekends, I see sign twirlers on most every busy corner. If you don't have these where you live, let me explain. Young people or people down on their luck are paid a decent wage to stand on a corner in the scorching heat with a LARGE wooden sign. The sign they are expected to twirl, swirl and otherwise entertain the commuting public with advertises the newest subdivision, or the latest sale at a department store.

Some of these twirlers are very talented and it makes sitting at a long red light less arduous but what a job! I couldn't do it and every time I see one I say a little prayer that they don't pass out and fall into oncoming traffic.

One company has taken to having their sign holders wear cow suits. Now that would be brutal in 100 plus degree weather and sweltering sunshine.

Remember these people with kindness as you go through your day and be thankful to work in an office or anywhere out of the heat. If you are one of those workers who brave the elements and risk your life so that I can have readily available electricity, phone and cable service, a hot hamburger, or emergency assistance in time of crisis - I say bless you and thanks for all you do.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Project Sunshine - Camping Experiences for Kids in Need

When Al Marquis, a Las Vegas attorney, opened his ranch in a nearby community to the kids from Project Sunshine he didn't know what to expect. After three days of playing with the kids and watching them open up to him and the counselors, he didn't want them to go.

In a recent article for his local newspaper he said, "We wished we had a way to bring joy and love into these kids' lives every day, but there is no way for us to do that. So in the end we had no choice but to be content with three days."

Three fun filled days swimming, rock climbing, horseback riding, learning crafts. That's what Mr. Marquis helped Project Sunshine provide for children who've been abandoned or neglected. The youngsters are all clients of other social aid organizations. That's where Project Sunshine comes into play.

They are a non-profit organization designed to fill in the gaps. They partner with other groups and provide 3 day camping experiences cost free to the children. They arrived in late June on Mr. Marquis' ranch and put up rock climbing walls and set up archery ranges. They had porta-potties delivered and equipment to make the camp run smoothly.

On the first day the children were apprehensive and timid. They trembled and held back from petting the horses. When Mr. Marquis playfully grabbed a child's foot while swimming in the lake she pulled away and said, "I don't like to be touched." But it wasn't long before things began to turn around.

On the second day of camp the kids were familiar with the activities and seemed less apprehensive about being in the great outdoors. They splashed and played in the water. Even the young girl who'd been afraid to be touched was rough-housing in the water with the rest of the children and counselors.

The volunteers and staff of Project Sunshine have one great desire, to show these children a little love and joy, maybe help them to trust again in the goodness of people, especially adults, since they've been let down so often in their short lives.

In an emotional quote Mr. Marquis said of his experience with the kids of Project Sunshine, "Maybe those three days will make a difference. Maybe the kids will know love, trust, hope, and joy. However slim those chances are, it was all worth it - a hundred times over."

Project Sunshine is located in Las Vegas, NV. They are always looking for volunteers. This summer they planned and executed five camps designed for the specific needs of the campers, some with emotional issues, others with severe or life-threatening illnesses.

To contact them for donations or to volunteer go to

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Therapy Dogs - More Than Man's Best Friend

There is a lovely lady I know who is writing a book about her dog, McDuff. McDuff was friendly to everyone and had a keen sense of understanding around people with disabilities. My friend's book will be inspiring, I'm sure, and it made me think about dogs like McDuff and their owners who spend their spare time volunteering in nursing homes, hospitals, and library reading programs.

Therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes. They have different talents and areas were they are best suited to help those in need. Some people prefer to call them Visiting dogs, because the word therapy has such a narrow definition in today's world.

Whatever title you give them, these animals bring comfort, smiles, and their own brand of healing to the people they visit. It may be by listening attentively while a child with dyslexia practices reading out loud. Or spending time in a close cuddle with the resident of a nursing home who so badly needs loving contact. Therapy dogs programs are available in some hospitals on the AIDS and cardiac care wards where they share moments of cheer and friendship.
Researchers at UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, have reported that a short bedside visit with a therapy animal can ease anxiety levels by 24% in heart patients. That's much better than the 10% drop seen when the patient is visited by a human volunteer.

Results of the study were presented at the American Heart Association's Annual Scientific Sessions in Dallas, Tx.The study was funded by the Pet Care Trust Foundation, a non-profit organization which promotes human-animal interaction and bonding.

Why take animals into facilities with the sick, injured, and elderly?
Visits from loving animals can help people feel less lonely, less depressed and can provide a welcome change from routine. In nursing homes, especially, the residents become more responsive during and after the visits. The dogs offer entertainment and distraction from pain.

It's evident on the faces of the ones being visited that the dogs are a source of joy. All creatures, especially mammals, need connection and interaction with others to thrive. The hospitalized and disabled often go lacking for this kind of contact. It's heartwarming to see how all of the creatures on Earth can help each other, live in harmony, symbiotically filling the needs of the other, healing the sick in the process.

If you know of someone in need of these visits or would like to get your dog buddy involved visit these websites for information.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Global Warming - Three Ways to be Part of the Solution

This is something I would not normally do but I am going to allow myself to rant, just a sentence or two, just to relieve some of the pressure I'm feeling. Okay, here I go.

Global Warming is real, the decline of our natural environment is real, industrialized society needs to step up and take it's share of the blame. What really gets me going are the Anti-Global Warming, Global Warming is hoax websites that perpetuate our problems and coddle the big businesses who are creating the majority of our greenhouse gases.

Alrighty then, I feel better...if you agree with me I hope you feel better, too. If not, I certainly invite your comments. Now on to a few words about solving the crisis instead of ignoring it.

Leonardo De Caprio currently stands on the forefront of this issue
with his new narrative documentary, "The 11th Hour". One reviewer says that the scientists and thinkers steal the spotlight from the charismatic actor. He becomes the narrator and not the focus. The most inspiring take on our situation in the movie comes from Paul Hawking, "What an exciting time to be alive. All human systems are so bankrupt that they all need to be redesigned if we are to survive. How fun!"

The movie debuts this weekend in Los Angeles and New York. It will open in a growing list of cities during the subsequent weeks. Go to for a complete list and to view the trailer.

Recently, while surfing through blogs and discussions, someone (I wish I could remember who because I'd give them credit here) suggested the website, It's a fun tool that is almost like a game. With myabodo you build your own house, making decisions about energy, the kind of car you drive and how you will acquire food for your family. With each decision it shows you the impact you are making on the environment. When you are finished you can join an abodo neighborhood and start making some "real" changes in your "brick and mortar" abode.

The third recommendation I have is for each of us to accept Al Gore's Global Warming Challenge. The pledge consists of seven points that if pushed for and implemented by the world's people could change the tide of our future very quickly. Here it is:

1. To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global warming pollution by 90 per cent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth.

2. To take personal action to help solve the climate crises by reducing my own CO2 pollution.

3. To fight for moratorium on construction of any new facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2.

4. To work for a dramatic increase in energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school and transportation.

5. To fight for laws and policies that expand use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal.

6. To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests.

7. To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment.

I took the pledge by email but that's not necessary. Print it, cut it out, and paste it to your bathroom mirror, corner of your computer screen, anywhere so that you are reminded to follow through. If you feel you can't do all of them, then cut out the few you can and concentrate on those.

Every bit helps and this is one area where momentum matters. Playing with abodo and watching The 11th Hour may sound more like entertainment than activism but that is how it starts. If we begin to play with the concepts and think about innovative ways to make a difference before long we will find ourselves effortlessly living the changes.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Nice Matters Award - Spreading Kindness Across the Net

My friend, Shari Thomas from Shari's Gone Country, not only runs a farm with a few of her friends and writes a heart-warming blog about country life, she took the time to pass on the Nice Matters Award. I am one of her lucky recipients!

Shari says, "With all the negativity in the world, Genevieve (Bella-Enchanted) took it upon herself to start this award, which emphasizes the "power of nice", the power of inspiration, of teaching, of service."

Wow, I couldn't feel more honored because that is exactly what LifePrints embodies for me - the power of inspiration and service to others. I appreciate that Shari got it and "gets" me and what I'm attempting to do with my blog.

It's my pleasure to pass on this award to seven people that have brought a bit of niceness (is that even a real word?) into my life. Please accept my thanks for the kindness you've shown me and send the Nice Matters Award on to seven more deserving people who've made your day a little better. Kudos to all of you!

1) Daniel at Wrath of Daniel -

Daniel runs a great music blog with free MP3's. Every month he picks a theme and lists songs that fit. Not long ago I let him know that I was eagerly awaiting the August list and one day later, poof, there it was! A new list! He turned me on to my new favorite song by Ben Lee. Thanks, Daniel!

2)Marilyn at Marilyn's Non-Violent Planet Newspage -

Marilyn tells me that we are kindred spirits and I believe her. We share the same blogger template, a similar blog theme, and almost identical world views. Got to love her for that!

3) August at Joethegamers Blog and 1000 Holiday Pictures -

August is a great guy. He attempted to teach me Danish so that I could read his blog. Doesn't get any more accommodating than that! I admire what he is doing with his quest to collect holiday photos from around the world. It's a wonderful way to share our special moments.

4) Adam at WeDreaming -

He gave me a great compliment that really lifted my spirits. And, yes, you do get back what you put out into this world. So here you go, Adam and here's to the deserving person that is you!

5) Bob at Blackholes and Astrostuff -

Bob shares my husband's passion for astronomy. He was kind enough to listen while I rambled on about our dream to own a creative arts/astronomy retreat in the mountains of New Mexico. I'm hoping for a visit from him when we open and have our telescopes up and running!

6) Ruthie at The Day Breaks... -

Ruthie is a new friend who I stumbled upon while searching for others who love the music of Joe Hedges, I took a chance and told her that he's one of my favorites, too. She graciously responded and we exchanged strange stories about how we found out about him. I'm glad I met her.

7) Ariana at Poetry N Jewels -

Ariana and I have an affinity for poetry, the color lavender and all things beaded. I'm enjoying getting to know her and I'm sure we will find even more things in common.

I know some of you manly men might not want to display this daintily designed award and that's okay, just pass it on, keep the power of nice going and know that on at least one occasion, you've made this girl blogger smile.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Empty Mailbox - The Lost Art of Letter Writing

I remember as a child I loved to hide in my mother's closet, way in the back, near the shelves in the corner. I'd pull a worn shoe box from the lowest shelf and carefully open the lid. I'd run my fingers through the stack of old letters contained inside, cards of condolence from my grandmother's death, letters from my uncle who lived far away, and the most fun of all - cards of congratulations from the year of my adoption.

I'd open the cards and letters, slowly read the words, wondering about the people who'd written them, what was going on in there lives so many years ago, and their connection to my parents. The smell of old paper filled the closet. I'd admire the stamps, wishing I could ask for them for my stamp collection. But then I'd have to admit to my mother that I'd gone through her personal letters and worse, she'd discover my favorite hideout.

As a teenager, I dated a young man who was away in the military. We wrote to each other most every day. I'll never forget the rush of emotion I'd get when I opened the mailbox to find an envelope with his handwriting or the let down when nothing was there. I kept those letters, in chronological order (obsessive, I know) for many years and he kept mine. It was a record, of sorts, of our young lives.

When I lived away from home I wrote faithfully to my parents. My mother kept them all, and I know, experienced the same rush as I did when she'd discover a long letter from me narrating my latest adventures as a new mother.

I don't write much anymore, a card here, a note there. She misses my ramblings about what I cooked for dinner and my most recent adventure to the beach. She misses the details. I talk to her on the phone but it's not the same. She doesn't have a computer so email is out.

And it's email that is the problem. It's taken over. I don't write anyone, anymore, unless it's digitally. I guess that counts but I wonder what will be left behind. Nothing but electronic archives, files of digital code, nothing tangible like the smell of old paper and the look of my uncles compact handwriting, his expressions of love for his little sister.

I bought a pack of artistic paper and rose colored envelopes over a month ago. I'd been thinking about letter writing and digital photos and how in this age of technology I miss holding something "real" in my hands - flipping through tattered pages and sorting old photos into stacks.

My challenge is to brighten one person's day with a letter, a tangible letter they can touch, smell, fold and put away for safe keeping. I think it will be to my mother, yes, another new one finally, to add to her box.

Who's waiting on a letter from you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Saint of the Gutters

In 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born in Skopje (now Macedonia), to Albanian parents. Her father was a grocer. At the young age of twelve she developed an interest in overseas missions and realized her calling...aiding and caring for the poorest of the poor.

Inspired by the Jesuit missionaries and their work in Bengal, she left home at eighteen to join a community of Irish nuns in Calcutta, India. There she was given the name Sister Teresa, after Saint Teresa of Lisieux, the patroness of missionaries.

And so began her life's work as the embodiment of comfort and love to India's poorest of the poor, the lepers, and outcasts. She gave dignity to the dying by opening the Nirmal Hriday (or Pure Heart) Home for Dying Destitutes. There, homeless people, uncared for and unacceptable at other institutions, were washed, fed, and allowed to die surrounded by loving faces.

Mother Teresa presided over an order of 4,000 nuns who ran orphanages, AIDS hospices, and other worldwide charities. In 1990, due to failing health, she attempted to resign, but during a secret ballot of her sisters, she was re-elected almost unanimously. The only dissenting vote was her own. She continued to lead until her death in 1997 at the age of eighty-seven.

About poverty she said: "I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper's wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?"

In a letter to U.S. President George Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, January 1991, she wrote: "Please choose the way of peace. ... In the short term there may be winners and losers in this war that we all dread. But that never can, nor never will justify the suffering, pain and loss of life your weapons will cause."

She vehemently opposed abortion, and is quoted as saying, Abortion "is murder in the womb ... A child is a gift of God. If you do not want him, give him to me." And because of her strong influence in India, is thought to have been the major stumbling block to family planning in that country.

When asked about the plight of the poor, she said, "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."

And most profoundly, she said, "I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. "

Mother Teresa did not make everyone happy with her strong conservative Catholic beliefs but that didn't matter. She went on about the work she felt she was here to do and look at the impact one woman from Skopje made.

Use Mother Teresa as an example of God's love in this world, an example of peaceful, compassionate strength...a gently, effective way to walk through life. Believe in your dreams and the passion of your heart, work with all you have to make them come true.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Let's Levitate - Scientists Say It's Possible

We all want to levitate, don't we? It's akin to the urge to fly like Superman or swim underwater like a mermaid. What if we actually could? It's the favorite parlor trick of magicians and illusionists like David Blaine and Criss Angel. Can you imagine the freedom of floating in mid-air.? Not to mention the medical benefits to bedridden, chronically ill patients, no more constant turning to prevent bedsores.

It seems that quantum physicists have found a way, at least on the micro and nano-level. But now that levitation is a fact in the world of tiny objects, macro-levitation can't be far behind.
Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, have worked out a way of reversing a phenomenon known as the Casimir force. Casimir force normally causes friction between nano and micro objects, causing them to stick together. This is one of the reasons why all of the atoms that make up a human being stay connected and geckos can walk on walls and ceilings using something called "the dry glue effect".

The force is due to neither electrical charge or gravity, for example, but the fluctuations in all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening empty space between the objects. The physicists have found a way to manipulate this force so that it repels instead of attracts. Their discovery could ultimately lead to frictionless micro-machines with moving parts that levitate and the same theories could eventually be applied to human levitation.

This force causes problems for the nanotechnologists who build the electrical circuits and tiny mechanical devices found on silicon chips. The team believes the reversal of the Casimir force could initially be used to stop these tiny objects from sticking together.

Prof Leonhardt explained, “The Casimir force is the ultimate cause of friction in the nano-world, in particular in some microelectromechanical systems.

Such systems already play an important role in the tiny mechanical devices which trigger a car airbag to inflate or those which power tiny 'lab on chip’ devices used for drugs testing or chemical analysis.

Even more incredible, Prof Leonhardt leads one of four teams - three of them in Britain - to have put forward a theory in a peer-reviewed journal to achieve invisibility by making light waves flow around an object - just as a river flows undisturbed around a smooth rock.

For now I'll be grateful that because of the professor's research the air bag in my car will operate properly and feel secure in the knowledge that more fantastic advances are on the way.

Someday, maybe my grandchildren will levitate instead of sitting in desk at school and engage their invisibility cloaks to win a game of hide and seek.

What a miraculous and intelligent world we live in!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Help for Brain Injury Victims

This handsome DJ is my brother Casey Leonard. On Memorial Day weekend he was involved in a tragic ATV accident and suffered severe brain trauma. I am happy to report that Casey is working his way back to us one day at a time. Everyday my family rejoices that he is a living miracle, even his doctors say they've never seen a patient survive with injuries as serious as Casey's. He is still in the hospital but when the time is right he'll go to a rehabilitation center where he will stay until he is well enough to go home.

My family is experiencing first hand the arduous journey a brain injury victim must walk. A few nights after his accident Casey's mother whispered to him that if the pain was too bad and the road ahead too hard she would do her best to let him go. "If you want to go to God, I'll understand, " she told me she whispered in his ear. Casey decided to fight and we are fighting with him.

There are so many families dealing with the same situation. We are not alone. Wives and parents are welcoming loved ones home from Iraq that have suffered a brain injury due to IED's and other bombings. They face months of recovery and an even longer adjustment to the reality of living with and within a battered mind.

A battalion was created this summer, at Camp LeJune, North Carolina to give the soldiers a place of support and marine camaraderie. It's called the Wounded Warrior Battalion. To read more about this inspirational place go to

We are finding out with my brother that victims of TBI need constant support and stimulation. They must relearn many of the activities we take for granted. Talking, eating, walking, grasping...things we do almost involuntarily, must be taught as if the adult victim were a young toddler. Connections in the brain must be hopefully rewired by playing memory games, coloring pictures, doing crafts, and simple tasks that link motor skills and thought.

It's an exhausting act of love to be a victim's source of support. If you'd like to help families like mine in some small but tangible way, I located Do One Nice Thing has a program listed under IDEAS labeled "We can help people with brain injuries". Here is what they suggest:

One of the most outstanding Brain Rehabilitation centers is at the Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.orb/, in Rochester, MN. Games and crafts, below, help patients undergoing recreational therapy.
Please send any of the following:

decks of playing cards
wood kits
watercolor paint sets
package of colored pencils
a sketch bookstamp pads/rubber stamps
100-300 piece jigsaw puzzles
games: Scrabble, Trouble, Uno, Scattergories (new or gently used)

How about including a card of encouragement? "We're with you." "You can do it!" "Sending you love." It's a good project to do with children.

Mail to: Dr. Tom Bergquist, Inpatient Rehab Unit, 3 MB, St. Mary's Hospital, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905.

On behalf of my family and Casey (I know he would thank you if he could) thank you in advance for anything you do to make the day of a brain injury patient orpgaofcp he/her family a little brighter.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Kidsave - Uniting Orphans with Families

I love it when people share their ideas for LifePrints. The conversations usually start like this, “I read such and such somewhere and thought you might like to use it” or “Have you heard about…?”

Recently I received just such an email from my mother in law, Margaret, about Kidsave, She said, “The children were featured on 11Alive News (that’s in Georgia) a few days ago. Seems like a good program. Wish I could adopt one...probably too old at this point in life."

This was enough to spark my interest. I am a former foster mother and an adoptee, so stories and articles about children in need always tug strongly at my heart. I want to take all of them home and make the hurting stop, even though I know realistically I can’t do that.

After delving into the Kidsave website, I found they have the answer for people like me, Margaret, and countless others who want to help in some way but don’t feel they can adopt. Through Kidsave, we can be host families for six weeks to orphans from Latin America and Russia. Kidsave brings them to the US for their Summer of Miracles Program. A permanent home is the goal. The host family contributes by introducing the child to their circle of friends and community, in hopes of finding that special connection needed for a family or at least a close adult friend who can provide guidance and friendship to the child.

We can also be mentors to American children languishing in foster care by committing to taking a child out for bi-weekly outings, including them in some of our family activities, and just being a stable influence in their lives. We can be financial supporters, helping to raise the funds to bring orphans from all over the world to the US to spend an incredible summer with a host family.

Young Jonathan Gleason expressed his experience with Kidsave this way, “For six weeks during the summer of 2006, from early July through the middle of August, my family and I welcomed two young children into our home from an orphanage in Bogotá, Colombia as a Kidsave International host family. We, especially me, could never have guessed the extent of the positive effect on our lives when an eight year old girl, Maria and her younger brother, Juan Carlos, age 4, stepped forward to greet us at the Atlanta airport.”

He continued in his letter, “At first I was kind of skeptical because I had no idea what it was going to be like. I have been a younger sibling all my life, and all of the sudden I would have to become the older brother to two kids who I didn’t know, for six weeks. Well those six weeks turned out to be the best six weeks of my life. Every day that the kids were here was full of fun, fascination, and learning for me. These children could embrace joy in spite of their past. The little girl was honestly the best friend I could ever have. All day I would play with her and it would be as if I had known her my whole life, and her brother was just the funniest kid ever! That kid, if he knew something was wrong, would find anyway to get a smile on your face and make you laugh. These kids did not just touch our family’s life, but many of my friends and my parents’ friends too. Friends would invite themselves over, not to spend time with us but to be with the kids.”

“One of my friends even started to cry the last time he saw the kids. One of my favorite memories was whenever the music video of Shakira’s song came on; my new amigos would dance and sing their heads off. Another thing these kids loved was the pool. Both of them learned how to swim while they were here. Everyday they would swim for hours, and whenever you would try to take them out they would say, “5 more minutes….5 more minutes….5 more minutes”, until finally you would have to drag them out of the pool.”

“Don’t get me started on church with the four year old. Let’s just say all of the priests and parishioners knew him by the end of the six week period and not because he misbehaved! Another favorite pastime for the kids was eating. They loved trying all of the new foods they had never seen or tried before. Shopping at Target was an eye opening experience for both of them. However, the most amazing experience was watching these two kids when they stepped on to the beach and saw the ocean for the first time. I wish that I had taken a picture, but the expression of awe on their faces will remain with me forever. I could go on and on,” Jonathan gushed.

I’d intended to paraphrase his statement but changed my mind. Johnathan aptly expresses what happens when one person does something for the good of another. Somewhere along the way, they realize they are benefiting, too, maybe even more so that the one they set out to help. The purpose of Johnathan’s letter was to raise $60,000 to bring children to his home town this summer. I’m not sure if he reached his goal but I do know that right now there are children in Atlanta, Georgia enjoying the company of selfless families like the Gleasons.

Thank you, Margaret for passing on this important story of international caring and cooperation.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Danica McKellar - Who Says a Beautiful Actress Can't be Smart (and law abiding)?

Do you remember The Wonder Years, a family comedy/drama from the early 90's? Well, do you remember Winnie Cooper and the torch Kevin carried for her though out the entire series? She was cute and pouty, his best friend, and the girl of his dreams. Winnie Cooper was portrayed by Danica McKellar. Danica played the part so well because she was a cute and pouty teen. Thing was when I watched her I knew she'd grow into a breathtaking woman. I can't say I worried or thought much about the actress's future. I respected her acting and watched the show faithfully but that is where it ended.

Recently, with all the publicity about young starlets gone bad it brings a smile to my face to tell you that Ms. Danica McKellar is now 32 years old. Acting is just one facet of her life. She is a well-rounded woman who graduated summa cum laude from UCLA's mathematics's department.

That alone is enough to make me want to shake her hand but there is more. As a celebrated mathematician, she co-authored a groundbreaking physics theorem that bears her name, the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem.

Danica is working on a book called Math Doesn't Suck, targeted at girls. The book is filled with real-life math word problems that girls can relate to, graphics and quizes just like the magazines girls read. There are practical tips for avoiding brain freeze on test day and real life stories of girls who excel in math.

She tells NewsWeek magazine that she always loved math but like most girls found it hard in junior high school. This is the age that most girls give up, thinking it's a subject for white, nerdy boys. Lucky for Danica, she had a teacher in high school who used humor and some of the same techniques she's passing along in her book to motivate her in math class. In college she felt right at home in the math department.

Her book, which will be out in August, has already been given top marks by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. "She's a terrific role model," says NCTM's president Francis Fennell.
On the subject of young girls, Danica says, " I want to tell girls that cute and dumb isn't as good as cute and smart."

I couldn't agree more.