Friday, September 28, 2007

Kent Couch - Have Balloon will Travel

Children dream big, without limitation and expect success. Why is it that adults lose this ability? Somewhere along the way, they buy into the “I can’t” syndrome. But not Kent Couch, a 47 year old from Bend, Oregon. He believed that his fantasy of being carried away by helium balloons was completely doable.

If you were driving between Bend and Union, Oregon back on July 7th and looked up into the sky, you might have seen a guy floating by in a lawn chair suspended from a bundle of 104 helium balloons. No need for panic. It was just Kent realizing his dream.

With the help of friends and family, Kent launched from his Stop n Go Gas Station and flew to an altitude of 11,000 feet. He stayed aloft for 9 hours and flew 193 miles before deciding to touchdown. He configured the balloon bundle in such a way that he could reach up and release the right amount of helium. This was a stark improvement over his virgin flight in 2006. On that flight, he used a BB gun to shoot out balloons and ended up parachuting to safety.

Of his voyage Kent says, “When you're laying in the grass on a summer day, and you see the clouds, you wish you could jump on them. This is as close as you can come to jumping on them. It's just like that."

Way to go Kent!
When I was a child I daydreamed about swimming among a school of whales, just like one of them. I dreamed about riding a horse in the circus. I haven't done either one but I've climbed a 40 foot rock wall and I've jumped off a cliff (a little one) into a river. I want to be like Kent and see myself without limitations.

My question to you is…have you given up on your dreams? Why? Do you even remember what they were?

Next time the word can’t pops into your mind remember Kent and his whimsical flight across the sky. Remember the excitement and boundlessness of childhood and realize that everything that was possible then is still possible now. Go for it and when you do – send pictures! I’ll post them as another example of a brave, imaginative soul reaching for the stars.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Roots Urban Farm - In the Anti-business of Food

New Urban Roots Farm believes in a world of sustainability. The vision took shape in the minds of Trish Grim, Joseph Black and Amy Gerth. Trish and Joseph were working on a rural farm in rural Missouri when they decided to make their dream a reality. Along with Amy, they headed for the city - North Saint Louis, Missouri, to be exact.

They purchased six city-owned lots in a depressed urban area and secured shareholders, contracting that in return for their money they’d receive weekly bundles of vegetables. Truckloads of dirt and compost were dumped into raised beds and New Roots Urban Farm was born.

Two years later, New Urban Roots Farm has twice as many shareholders, a farmer’s market, neighborhood children who tend the gardens, and a shared living program. They support the produce needs of 25-30 families. They provide food for homeless organizations in the area and run educational programs for adults and children.

The members of New Roots Urban Farm have come together because they believe there are more responsible and loving ways to exist in our current world. In order to develop a more ecologically sound lifestyle, they believe we must create radical systems that actively oppose the dominant model of exploitation and oppression in our food distribution system. They would like to see reclamation of abandoned urban areas in order to grow food to sustain the community instead of expansion into already dwindling natural landscapes. They call it food security – the ability of a neighborhood, community, or town to support their own food needs with healthy, organically grown food.

If you would like to help with this worthy project please visit their website for a list of needed items and current projects. They are planning several exciting expansions – everything from beekeeping to Tilapia production to a Vehicle coop program.

My parents always had a garden every year. I don’t. I miss the fresh vegetables and the smell of the growing plants and tilled soil. I worry that someday, if the need arises, I will not be able to feed my family. We are completely dependent on large corporate farms and a convoluted distribution system to fill the pantry. That’s a scary thought.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Paul Kitchen: I Talk To Jesus

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. ~ Matthew 7:7-8, The Bible

This is Universal Law. You don’t have to believe in it for it to affect your life. We are thinking, creating beings whose thoughts are constantly requesting our futures. Are you asking for the future you really want or are you getting what you have by default?

Christians pray to God or Jesus asking for healing, guidance or forgiveness. Other religions pray or meditate to a myriad of deities. You don’t have to be religious to “talk to Jesus/God/Creator”. All people pray because thought is prayer and conversely prayer is thought sent out into the universal consciousness (called God, if you wish).

So the question is - what are you thinking about? Praying for? Whom are you wishing revenge upon? Are you wishing someone harm? Are you day dreaming about your deepest desires or are you thinking you can’t have them? What are you asking God to bring into your life and the lives of others?

Paul Kitchen’s song, I Talk to Jesus, touched me because that is where I go for advice, solace, and safety. I talk to Jesus and my God in my head. I journal. It’s a physical record of my prayer. I’ve seen many things come to pass in my life as a result of these prayers and conversations.

One thing we can do for our world is bring our leaders into our prayers/thoughts, talk to them, ask them to make sound decisions for peace, have compassion and hug them. They have the burden of millions upon their shoulders. Maybe then, they will feel strong enough to step up for humanity.

When you’re feeling lost, exhausted, and insignificant…sit quietly alone and listen and talk and feel…answers will come. We have them but we rarely take the time to hear. Most of all believe that you deserve and we, as all of humanity, deserve better than what we are now experiencing.

To read more about Paul and find his work and music go to

Monday, September 24, 2007

PSI Seminars - My Weekend of Discovery

When my staff partner and I opened the doors on the September Basic PSI Seminar, we saw a lobby full of nervous, apprehensive people. From all walks of life – real estate agents, mothers, constructions workers, nurses, teachers, retirees, teenagers –they filed quietly into the auditorium. PSI doesn’t advertise so the students were there on the recommendations of friends, family, or business colleagues.

They were nervous and frankly a little scared because the Basic Seminar isn’t easily described or encapsulated in a brochure. It’s an experience. And as I watched the weekend unfold, I was reminded that the individual experiences are as unique as blades of grass in a field . The “ah-ha” moments the previous students discovered might be completely lost on this newcomer. By Sunday night the mood changed completely and each one left with a proven set of tools for reaching their goals, a deeply personal inventory of themselves, and a renewed excitement about the future.
They came in looking isolated and left with hugs. We had to shoo them out of the auditorium because they were having so much fun exchanging email addresses with eighty plus new friends. They left knowing that the aloness they’d felt before was just an illusion. We are all connected.

This morning I discovered a quote from a graduate named Mark Montoya. He said this about PSI Seminars - “Crucial to my development as an adult and a successful sales and marketing professional was my enrollment in the PSI Seminars, a series of seminars that empower people to change their lives. Attending the PSI Seminars helped me hone my leadership skills, understand the importance of goal setting, expand my capacity for success, and develop real integrity.”

I witnessed the transformations and empowerment Mark spoke of. I watched as, in a safe environment, the students won back lost integrity and self respect, taking personal responsibility for their lives. They set goals for the future. This was like a foreign language to many of them. Decades had passed since one woman had dared to dream of anything for herself. I listened as they shared about their lives, each story resonating with me and others in the room. A few brave souls allowed people to really KNOW them for the first time in their lives.

As a volunteer staff person, I took part in the exercises, too, giving me the opportunity to do the personal work again and set my own 90 day goal. I took a clear look at where I am and the greatest clarifier was the students. I uncovered my answers through their stories and my interactions with them during the exercises.

All of them are awesome, wondrous human beings. I’d love to have a big party and invite the whole group! Helping out with a personal growth class or any personal development work you believe in is a gratifying way to make a difference in the world. Take someone you care about to a church retreat or tell them about a support group that worked for you and accompany them there. Go with friends to see leaders who motivate you or get an extra ticket and invite that person at work you hardly talk to. Give back to them some of the valuable information that’s been passed on to you. Better yet, go learn a new concept together!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Busy Weekend

This is not my normal post but this is not a normal week for me. I'm volunteering to staff a personal growth class. For the next few days I get the privilege of helping seventy odd people realize and reach for their dreams. I am very excited about it.

I can't say enough about the value I've gained from taking a class like this. It's part of the reason I have a marriage I only dreamed of before. It's a great part of the reason that I found the strength to reject my doctor's recommendation for a hysterectomy and heal myself with surgery alternatives. I have a great little boy to show for my efforts. The tools I learned helped me to focus my vision of a career as a well established writer with a high powered agent to back me up - now it's all coming true.

The one motto I can pass on to anyone is To Think Is To Create. This concept is not patented by any one group. It's as old as time and as current as "The Secret".

So, please excuse me for the weekend while I push myself to grow a little more and help others along the way to their brightest futures.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

This Bulb

Compact Fluorescent Lighting – an easy way to save energy and do your part to stop global warming. Lighting accounts for 20% of the average home electric bill. CFL’s use less than 75% than an incandescent bulb, last up to 10 times longer, have very little upfront cost, and show a quick return on your investment.

Replacing 1 incandescent bulb in your home will save in one year enough energy to light 3 million homes. Over that period of time, using 1 CFL bulb will prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of more than 800,000 cars.

Emails have been circulating about a concern with the mercury levels in these bulbs. CFL’s contain 5 milligrams of mercury – about enough to cover the end of a ballpoint pen. This is minuscule compared to the 500 milligrams found in traditional mercury thermometers. Thanks to technological advances and the commitment of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the 5 milligram level is anticipated to drop significantly by the end of this year.

For now, do not simply throw these bulbs in the trash. They require recycling. Go to to find local recycling options. With every new advance comes new procedures – this is one of them. Think of it like disposing of motor oil – no big deal, just one more little step.

In this National Geographic Green Video, Natalie Portman, Kyra Sedgwick, and Chloe Sevigny explain the importance of making this simple change. Why stop with one? Replace every bulb in your house and do that math – now that’s stepping up.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Proven Benefits of Meditation - Can We Afford Not to Try?

Mediation reduces stress.

“That sounds like a lot of mumbo, jumbo. Sitting still doing nothing would make me more stressful because then I’m not accomplishing the things that are causing my stress!” Have you ever felt that way? I have. It’s a Western culture affliction. We are consumed by the need to do more, be more, get more. Can’t do that if we take time out to just be still for ten minutes, now can we? Or can we afford not to?

Psychology Today has scientific proof that meditation works. Meditation has profound physical and psychological effects on our bodies. Regular meditation can reduce heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, and strengthen our immune systems. Scientists have proven that the stress causing brainwaves in the right frontal cortex are converted and moved during meditation to the calming brainwaves in the left frontal cortex. This results in reducing mild depression and anxiety. Seems like a much healthier solution than whipping out the prescription pad for Prozac.

A quote from Psychology Today says - In a study published last year in the journal Stroke, 60 African-Americans with atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, practiced meditation for six to nine months. The meditators showed a marked decrease in the thickness of their artery walls, while the nonmeditators actually showed an increase. The change for the meditation group could potentially bring about an 11 percent decrease in the risk of heart attack and an 8 percent to 15 percent decrease in the risk of stroke.

I think those are exciting results accomplished through the power of meditative thought, no drug intervention, no surgery to scrape the plaque away from hardening arteries.

Here is another example from Psychology Today - Researchers at the Maharishi School of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, found that meditation has a pervasive effect on stress. They looked at a group of people who had meditated for four months and found that they produced less of the stress hormone cortisol. They were therefore better able to adapt to stress in their lives, no matter what their circumstances were.

There are many types of meditation and beginners often wonder if they are doing it correctly. The determining factor - if you feel better, happier, and less anxiety filled afterward, you are doing it right.

Meditation also brings us face to face with ourselves, our connection to all around us, and the problems we must come to grips with. Meditation puts us in the middle of ourselves, which can be an uncomfortable place to be. Most of us want to fix things NOW instead of accepting them the way they are and moving forward.

According to Roger Thomson, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice in Chicago and a Zen meditator, “Mediation encourages its practitioners to become aware of the fundamentally distorted aspects of an overly individualistic view of human experience. Recognizing that the true nature of all individuals is emphatically non-individual, neither lasting nor separate, is the wisdom of Zen."

Do a short quiet time meditation where you focus on music and visual images while remaining still for ten minutes. I found a great sight that offers IPOD downloads of “meditation rooms”. The rooms feature soothing music and images in various themes. My favorite is forest. My husband’s is space.

Try it. There is nothing to lose but ten minutes stuck in freeway traffic or standing in line at Starbucks. It’s free and as endless as your imagination. Let me know how it works out for you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Super Hero Felines - Saving Lives One Meow (or roar) at a Time

Studies prove that having contact with a pet has measurable health benefits. Cats, especially, are suited for living in nursing homes because their care and maintenance is considerably less than dogs. They love to curl up in the beds with patients, giving warmth and love. Stroking their furry bodies and listening to their purrs can lower blood pressure and reduce the amounts of medication needed by the patient.

Sometimes the devotion and intuition of cats goes far beyond warmth and a few rubs. Just as we often save our meowing friends from tall trees and snarling dogs, they return the favor in miraculous, unexpected ways.

Recently, in Clearwater, Florida, a cat woke his owner in the middle of the night, alerting him to a fire in the mobile home they shared. The owner escaped but the heroic animal died in the fire that engulfed three homes. Thank God for this cat and her love for her owner.

Last year, Gary Rosheisen fell out of his wheelchair. Due to severe physical problems, he couldn’t reach the call button above his bed. He’d attempted, never really believing it would work, to teach his tabby cat how to dial 911 in case of a problem just like this. He even left a phone on the floor with 911 on speed dial, hoping against hope his training worked. On the day Gary fell, the Columbus, Ohio police received a call but no one was on the line. When they called back and got no answer they decided to investigate. Inside Rosheisen’s apartment, they found Tommy, the tabby cat, curled up by the phone. It was off the hook and the last call placed was to the 911 operator. "I know it sounds kind of weird," Officer Patrick Daugherty said, unsuccessfully searching for some other explanation. Mr. Rosheisen doesn’t think it’s weird. “He’s my hero,” he said.

This protective nature is not confined to domestic cats. In 2005, in Ethiopia, Police say three lions rescued a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by men who wanted to force her into marriage. The lions chased off her abductors and guarded her until police and relatives tracked the child down in a remote corner of Ethiopia. The men had held the girl for several days, beating her repeatedly. Authorities suspect that the lions heard her cries and mistook them for the wails of an injured cub. They came to her rescue, surrounded and protected her for half a day until police and relatives found them. "They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest,'' Wondimu, a policeman from Bita Genet, said.

Don’t overlook the strong connection we share with animals, be they domesticated or wild. Being the dominate species and often the only threat to other animals on the planet, we should be cognizant of our power. Animals, especially domesticated cats and dogs, depend on us to be responsible and compassionate to their needs. Within their world there is no malice or ego, they live and help instinctively. Learning to respect that is a huge step in our own evolution process.

Some quick amazing cat facts:

-There are more than 500 million domestic cats in the world, with 33 different breeds.

-The nose pad of a cat is ridged in a pattern that is unique, just like the fingerprint of a human.
Ailurophilia is the "love of cats."

-During her productive life, one female cat could have more than 100 kittens.

-A single pair of cats and their kittens can produce as many as 420,000 kittens in just 7 years.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I See Rude People - Do You Really, Now?

Are people ruder today than they were twenty years ago? Are parents teaching their children manners? Are we too absorbed in ourselves to care about opening doors for others, saying thank you, or helping a poor soul who is chasing important papers as they scatter in the wind?

You’ll have to draw that conclusion for yourself because much of the answer is dependant on the way you behave in the world. Rude people tend to think everyone else is the same way and courteous people, on the whole, believe if the need arises someone will step up to help.

In a not-so-scientific-but-fun study conducted by Reader’s Digest last year, New York City was found to be the most courteous city in the world. A group of Reader’s Digest employees scattered around the globe to perform manners tests. They used a simple formula – one female and one male tester per city, the experiment was performed sixty times, and unwitting participants were interviewed as to why they did or did not respond to the person who needed a hand.

They conducted three types of experiments – the will someone open or hold the door for me test, the I’ve dropped my papers will anyone help me pick them up test, and the will the service staff in a coffee shop be courteous test.

And believe it or not, New York City came out on top, leaving Paris, France and Seoul, Korea in the dust. But is it fair to go to a foreign country and judge them on American standards of manners? Probably not.

What I found interesting about the article is the main reason sighted for offering a helping hand was parental example. “My mother expected it of me.” “It’s what I was taught to do.” Or the other reason for helping out, “It’s what I would want someone to do for me.”

In my home, my husband and I are the manners police. We expect our children to say please and thank you. The first person through a door holds it for the rest of the group. The children help bring in the grocery bags and are told, in no uncertain terms, to ask before taking the last piece of pie. We live in such a rushed and casual society that I think we forget to teach the basic manners our parents taught us around the dinner table.

These little pleasantries help make everyone’s day brighter. When noise and stress levels in our house are high, common courtesy among our mob of seven makes us feel more like a family and less like a rock concert.

Being kind won’t stop the jerk on the freeway from flipping you off from as he shoots by in his yellow corvette, but that’s okay. Don’t sweat it. He probably thinks we all go through life at breakneck speed, never seeing and never doing, except to show our annoyance with all the little guys in our way. For every mid-life-crisis-guy there will be ten more kind souls, like you, willing to hold the door when your arms are full and happy to allow you to merge smoothly into traffic.

It’s perception. Courteous or rude - we get to choose what to be, to see, and to teach.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Meme about me me - Just The Facts, Ma'am

My friends Charlotte and Heather tagged me with a revealing meme. I am now compelled to share eight random tidbits about myself. But first, I must follow the rules -

The rules:
Link to the person/people who tagged me.
Share eight facts about myself.
Tag eight more bloggers to participate.
Notify them of their tagged state..:)

*I'll add my rule - if I tag you and you don't want to participate, no worries, no pressure.

And away we go:

I was adopted at 2 ½ months old by incredible parents. They’d tried for over ten years to have a baby, enduring many miscarriages and the death of their infant daughter. Finally, they turned to adoption and found me. Thirty years later, I located my birth family. I have great relationships with my birth mother and father. Along with them, I found two half-brothers. When I was little I’d beg my parents for a little brother. I got my wish times two.

After having two children in my twenties, I divorced and married again. At the ripe old age of 38, I gave birth to another son…my little firecracker. He’s three and is constantly on the move. He leaves me little surprises (MESSES) all over the house. Yesterday I opened the coat closet to find green cake crumbs on the floor (from big sister’s birthday cake), the doorknob caked with dried frosting and a handful of ants having a feast. Let’s just say he keeps me on my toes.

In high school, my best friend was a cute, tall, quiet boy. He had the sweetest smile I’d ever seen and always listened intently to all I had to say, without the drama a best girl friend can produce. I loved having a guy friend. He had a not-so-secret crush on me. I had a boyfriend. When I married at the end of the summer after graduation, Todd dutifully came to my wedding and caught my garter when my new husband flung it into the crowd of young men. He kept it for many years and now I’m married to HIM and happier than I’ve ever been! Ladies, girls – listen up – don’t ignore the sweet, quiet boys in school and think twice before telling one you only want to be friends. Learn from my experience – you’re missing out on something good!

My first job as a laboratory technician/nurse was at a Women’s Clinic in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was during the time when clinics were picketed on a regular basis. I always braved the mob and walked in the front door with my head held high. I believed if they spent one day holding young women’s hands and mediating horrible family situations instead of chanting empty slogans, they might understand. Sometimes, because of my age (right out of college), the picketers would mistake me for a client instead of one of the staff. The horrible things they yelled in my face and the way they treated me (as a person they claimed to want to help) was much worse than the abuse I got when they realized I worked there.

Once I was a foster parent to a teenage girl. She was seventeen. I was twenty-five. It was the worst and best year of my life. She was very troubled and a constant challenge. We bonded quickly, as well as you can with a child who suffers from attachment disorder. I still think about her every day and wish I could hug her just one more time. While she was with me, I won tickets to a U2 concert and the two of us flew cross-country to see them on Saint Patrick’s Day in Boston, Massachusetts. It was the first time she’d been on a plane.

Ten years after deciding to follow my dream of being an author, I recently signed with a literary agent (my DREAM agent from one of the best boutique agencies in NYC). We are working together to polish a manuscript about my experience as a foster mother. Soon he will be shopping it to publishers. I have a good feeling that it will hit the shelves early in 2009 -That’s a little positive thinking on my part. Hey, if I’m going to give lip service to the law of attraction then I better believe in it for my own dreams.

I did print and runway modeling when I was a teenager. Nothing big, just in and around Atlanta – I wasn’t Brooke Shields or anything like that but it was a blast. The most memorable ad was a brochure for Chaparral Boats. I sped around a lake in a ski boat while crew from another boat took pictures of me in, yikes!, a bikini! I was only seventeen. I could pull it off, no problem, back then.

I sometimes let people believe their first impression about me. I get a kick out of perpetuating the pretty, dumb blond stereotype so I can turn it around and stupefy them later with my wit and intellect. It’s kind of like a hustle and it gives me great secret satisfaction to prove them wrong.

There it is, that's me, the woman behind this humble blog. I'm passing on this MeMe to bloggers I am curious about:

Ashley Cecil
Peter McCartney
Mary K
Mr. BeSilly
Jerry E. Beuterbaugh
A. Blaine
David Elton

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pen Pals - Still Valuable, Viable Fun and Learning for Kids

When I was eight, I joined the Bluebirds, a younger version of Girl Scouts. One afternoon our Bluebird leader handed out cards. My card said, Beverly, age 8, and included an address in Hollywood, Florida. The leader announced that the girl on our card was now our pen pal.

“These girls are from a Bluebird troop in Florida. They are our new friends. Each of you will write letters to and exchange pictures with the girl on your card,” she instructed.

I remember being so excited about the idea of writing to someone who lived far away. I didn’t realize that Florida was less than five hours down the road. To me it seemed like a far off enchanted land where Beverly probably swam in the ocean every morning and had dinner with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto on special occasions.

With the help of my mother, I wrote to Beverly, the Bluebird from Florida. Not long after a letter arrived. It was from her! Inside was a letter in sprawling block letters and a picture of a smiling girl with curly hair, freckles, and missing front teeth and no she said she only goes to the beach in the summer and had never met Mickey or Minnie Mouse. We wrote to each other until we turned twelve. I’ve always wondered what happened to her.

Children need the opportunity to connect in a positive way with children from other communities, cultures, and economic backgrounds. It helps them realize that not everyone lives the way they do and diversity is the spice of life. Affluent kids from green suburbs realize that not all kids have PlayStation's, laptops, cell phones, and pools in their back yards. They might learn that their new friend has only the necessities of life but is still optimistic and looking forward to the future.

Kids learn that underneath the cultural differences and language barriers they are all the same…they love to play, love to learn and long to be accepted. In years to come they will carry these lessons into adulthood and be more willing to see connectivity instead of polarization between people of all nations.

My generation is grown and we have children of their own. Our new crop of kids are Internet savvy and rarely pick up a pen for anything but schoolwork. Even so, there are still programs similar to the one Beverly and I were involved in. Now there is the added twist of cross-cultural friendships, cards for sick children sent by healthy children, and sponsorship/pen pal arrangements with children in poverty-stricken areas.

To look into this for a child you care about go to Youth on Line. They have a list of resources to find an appropriate pen pal situation for your child. My favorite, because of the impact and lessons learned, is Make a Child Smile, which allows you to send cards and letters to a featured child struggling with a chronic disease.

Another great way to help, learn and grow is CRIASNA Connection. This organization makes connections between children in the United States and at risk children in a fishing village in Brazil. They ask for sponsorship of one dollar a day for a year. The money goes to the child’s family to be used for household necessities or to pay school fees for secondary education. They hope to foster an environment where the new friends can meet each other and form life long relationships.

I’ll never forget my pen pal. I don’t know what happened to Beverly's letters but I can still see her big grin and remember the funny stories about her dog named Candy. Even though I never met her she will always be part of who I am.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Help for Victims of Landmines - Designer Wins Award for Prosthetic Limb

It is estimated that around the world there are 50 to 110 million landmines buried in the soil. Governments at war use land mines to stop, kill or disable forces of an opposing country. But when the conflict has ended the landmines are left behind, indiscriminately killing and maiming any person or animal who accidentally trips the firing mechanism.

26,000 people a year are killed or injured by landmines. In Cambodia and Afghanistan 1 out of every 230 people is an amputee. Children cannot safely play in open areas without fear of being blown apart and children around the world sustain more injuries from landmines that the “enemies” they are intended to stop.

By August of 2004, 145 countries had signed and 143 countries had ratified a treaty to ban landmines. The United States is among the company of 47 nations who HAVE NOT signed the treaty. We have aligned ourselves on this issue with Iran, Syria, Russia, China, and Cuba, who also refuse to sign. Our government even refuses to send representatives to meetings with the commission that oversees the treaty and efforts to end landmine use by all countries.

Until we can put an end to this senseless destruction, there are groups working to help amputees all around the world. One example is Canadian designer S├ębastien Dubois, who recently won a prestigious design award for a low cost ($8.00 per unit) prosthetic leg that can be easily reproduced in developing countries with available materials. The leg is lightweight and energy returning, meaning it bounces and absorbs energy much like a real foot. This allows the wearer enough mobility not to just walk but to also run and jump.

He has partnered with Handicap International in a project to provide the “Mobility for Each One” limbs to citizens in Central America. Handicap International is working to secure funding and donations to launch the project as quickly as possible.

After traveling to developing countries, Dubois saw first hand the difficulties landmine amputees face when there is little to no rehabilitation services available to them. Moved by a strong social conscience, S├ębastien decided to use his time to produce and test a product that would help ease the struggles of landmine victims.

I applaud Mr. Dubois and Handicap International for coming to the aid of those who come incontact with these leftover devices of death. If you’d like to know more about this effort and the man behind it please read this article on Handicap International.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What You Might Not Know About Albert Einstein

When we think of Albert Einstein we think of his wild hair, his massive intellect, and his contributions to science that will last for centuries to come. He is lesser known for his concerns with political awareness, activism, patriotism and social responsibility. His participation in political events was shaped by both a sense of intellectual obligation and his own experience of fleeing Europe during the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany.

Seeing himself as a man of reason, Einstein often expressed his belief that anyone carrying the gift of intelligence should also have an obligation to use it for the improvement of the world.

Einstein was a pacifist. He spoke about pacifism and the dangers of the growing martial thinking of governments as early as 1912. Einstein called his brand of pacifism “militant pacifism”, and tried to draw a distinction between the view that pacifism is weak as opposed to his more active definition - a responsibility to educate our children about the dangers of war.

When asked after World War II whether violence was just a part of the human condition and therefore inevitable, Einstein said – while violence was undoubtedly part of human nature, it was our responsibility to channel and control that destructive impulse and to build institutions to allow for peaceful rather than violent resolutions to conflicts.

Later in his life, he became involved with various groups specifically focused on promoting peace. He worked with the Jewish Peace Fellowship, a group founded in 1941 to support Jews who didn’t wish to serve in the military. Einstein believed that every citizen had a right to chose their own appropriate path where warfare was concerned and not to be forced to serve.

There is a wonderful little book on the shelf called 101 Things You Didn’t Know about Einstein. His influence in science and politics has shaped the past century and changed the way we view the world. It’s a pleasure to learn more about the man behind E=MC2.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Spontaneous Pillow Fights - Feathery Fun

Spontaneous urban gatherings, flash mobs – even though I live in a large city, I didn’t know what this meant until I read WebUrbanist, a blog about urban culture. The post on September 3rd explained that these flash mobs are arranged either through the Internet, cell phones, or text messages. A time, place, and theme is broadcast and people just go.

They gather to do the silly and inane activities from childhood that most adults think themselves too mature to take part in, like the pillow fights. I am fascinated by this. What a great stress reliever it must be to meet up with strangers in a public place and spontaneously have a pillow fight, or water balloon fight, or dance to music from the Broadway show Grease. The gatherings last until they are over, with no time constraints on the fun. It’s over when everyone goes on their way.
Imagine how it must have felt to be near the San Francisco Ferry Building on February 15, 2006 when 1,000 people converged from nowhere onto the open mall and produced pillows from backpacks and shopping bags. I can hear the laughter and the squeals as they all began pummeling each other with fluffy bed pillows. Feathers flew in the air like snow flakes. The laughter was contagious. No one was hurt. The police were not called. It was just people enjoying people and I think that’s cool.

In the United States, we need some stress relief. We need to have fun. We need to laugh. I can’t think of a better way. I found the Pillow Fight Club for those of you who want to get in a few good shots with a downy dream catcher. I also found this article about flash mobs in Austin, TX.

Friday, September 7, 2007

This Site Makes The Planet Better Award

Marilyn, of Marilyn's Non-Violent Planet, has seen fit to give LifePrints this award. She loves to surf the Internet looking for websites she feels are maintained by kindred spirits. She spreads love and appreciation by offering her own award to those she feels are making the world a better place.

I am so honored that she thought of me. I started this blog to make me feel better, to force myself to focus on the good in the world. Someone, I wish I could remember who, said that to argue about how to stop warfare and to carry signs that say "no more war" is not the way to bring about peace. The only way is to exalt all that is good and to speak only of peace and understand that peace, compassion, and compromise are our true nature, not violence.

I don't know if I am succeeding in shining a light on all that is good. I want to remind everyone that there are more loving and concerned people in the world than there are warmongers and abusers. It's really true but we'd never know it because we are spoonfed the scintillating and the sensational..that's what sells magazines, airtime, and drives a great portion of our economy. I needed to be reminded that there is more to us than sex scandals, war, and cruelty.

Doing the research for LifePrints is like therapy for me. It makes me happy. The people I write about are blazing the path ahead of us, showing the way, all we have to do is follow. Or better yet, use their inspiration to cut a new road into the wilderness, one only you could have dreamed of.

I appreciate and am humbled by any praise that comes to me through this blog. LifePrints is a blessing in my life and I don't take it for granted.

Thanks Marilyn for reinforcing what I knew in my heart...humanity thrives on love not hate.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Who is Grace Lee Boggs?

91 year-old Grace Lee Boggs can’t be neatly categorized.

She is Chinese-American but was influential in the Black Power movement of the 1960’s. She once aligned herself with the violence inducing rhetoric of Malcolm X but after the race riots of the late ‘60’s in Detroit, Michigan, she saw the potential of non-violent protest and the teachings of Martin Luther King. She is an author, speaker, educator, humanitarian, and activist.

Grace Lee Boggs and her husband James Boggs were influential in most every political equality movement in the last forty years. As residents of Detroit, they were intensely aware of the damage strained race relations can cause. Before her husband’s death in 1993, they began a project called Detroit Summer, a multicultural, intergenerational youth program to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up. The organization is coming upon its 15th season this summer.

In a recent speech called Catching up with Martin, Boggs said of the turbulent 1960’s, “We could no longer separate ethics from politics or view revolutionary struggle simply in terms of us vs. them...The absence of this philosophical/spiritual dimension in the Black Power struggles of the 1960s helps to explain why these struggles ended up in the opportunism, drug abuse, and interpersonal violence…” The transcript of the speech is something we should all read and ponder.

Since the Detroit race riots that she characterizes as race rebellions, she has dedicated herself to helping to realize King's vision of Beloved Community in her hometown of Detroit and elsewhere around the country, one grassroots project at a time.

Bill Moyers recently interviewed Mrs. Boggs. You can watch a video of the meeting at Bill Moyers Journal. He also complied a list of projects headed or developed by Mrs. Boggs that demonstrates her passion for uplifting the human spirit. Here are just a few:

Picture the Homeless: One of Grace Lee Boggs' Beloved Community organizations located in The Bronx. "Picture the Homeless was founded on principle that homeless people have civil and human rights regardless of race, creed, color or economic status. It was founded and is led by homeless people." On the Web site, you'll find information about the many campaigns being conducted by the organization, such as the Potter's Field Initiative, which is trying to secure the homeless access to Potters Field (on Hart Island, NY) in order to memorialize their loved ones."

The Boggs Center: For nearly forty years, the Boggs' home has been a community center and think-tank drawing together individuals and organizations from diverse backgrounds. People from around the world have come to create and discuss visions and strategies relating to local community struggles, workers' movements, and global campaigns for social justice. Today, the second floor of the building serves as the offices and meeting space of the Boggs Center and includes a small boarding area."

Detroit - City of Hope: A digital meeting place for organizations concerned with the betterment of the city of Detroit.

Grace Lee Boggs is an inspiration to all and even at her advanced age is still asked to speak at colleges, universities, and organizations around the country.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Five Moms - Raising Awareness About Dex Abuse Among Teens

Cough syrup manufacturers have banned together with a group of mothers to raise awareness among parents about cough syrup abuse. The campaign called Five Moms, focuses on education, awareness, and involvement. The website is filled with resources for the parent who suspects their child of this type of abuse and a forum to discuss the issue with others concerned about the problem.

Dextromethorphan (known by the kids as Dex) has therapeutic and legitimate purposes and when used appropriately – it is a safe and effective ingredient found in more than 100 over-the-counter cough medicines that families have relied on for decades. But teens are now abusing it by taking it in extremely large quantities.

Cough medicine abuse happens when teens take extreme amounts—sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose—of cough medicine to get high. Teens are finding and sharing information about cough medicine abuse on the Internet, but what they aren’t telling each other is that this abuse can be very dangerous.

Kids use slang terms and IM abbreviations for everything. This form of over the counter drug abuse is no different. If you hear a teen talking about Dex, DXM, Skittles, Syrup, Tussin, Triple-C, and CCC, you might have a problem. Popular expressions for abusing the drug are Robo-tripping, Dex-ing, Robo-fizzing, and Skittling. Users are sometimes called “syrup heads” or “robotards.”

This issue hit home a few months ago when a teen close to my family decided to abuse cough syrup. While high on the drug, he robbed a convenience store with a plastic toy gun and is now dealing with the consequences of his actions. This is no joke and parents should take the signs seriously.
Five Moms wants you to know that education and communication are the key. The project is spearheaded by these incredible women:

Julie Bermant, a pediatric nurse practitioner from Massachusetts
Blaise Brooks, an accountant from California
Christy Crandell, the California mother of a former cough-medicine abuser
Becky Dyer, a D.A.R.E. officer and deputy sheriff from Kansas
Hilda Morales, an educator from Texas

Take advantage of the information they’ve made available on the Five Moms website. Learn the signs and help keep a teen out of trouble. Without a doubt, they think because it’s not an illegal drug it can’t hurt them. It can.

Dextromethorphan is an anesthetic. If the teen takes enough of it, it produces a euphoric feeling, hallucinations, and depression of the central nervous system. There have been deaths associated with Dex abuse because similar to a heroin overdose, the body just forgets to breath.

The message, be proactive in the lives of the teens you love. Educate yourself and be aware of the trends in the youth culture. And above all else, talk to your kids.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

US Presidents - Buffoons or Leaders of the Free World, You Choose

Is it really okay to make a mockery out of the United States presidency?

I don’t care for George Bush and will happily wave goodbye to him at the end of next year but I wonder if we, as citizens of this country, have completely lost respect for the office and not just the man. We have become so accustomed to Bush’s blunders and watching “news” outlets/shows dedicated to showing us what a fool he can be, that I wonder if when it’s over we will be able to recover some modicum of reverence for the highest office in our land.

I feel bad for the candidate who wins in 2008. Will the media set the newly elected president up for a big fall? Will they search through hours of tape to find those unfortunate moments when our new president stumbles over a thought during a speech or eats a bad bowl of soup and throws up? I hope not. I’d rather hear how he or she is cleaning up the messes made by the previous administration and restoring our reputation around the world.

For me, the important thing to remember while the media dumps my president (and the 2008 candidates) into the same paparazzi category as Brittney and Paris, is that we are all human. We all say stupid things. We ALL look clumsy at times and that’s just how it is. No one can be a media robot and would we really want that anyway?

To point this out, Reader’s Digest complied a list of head-scratching gaffes made by the men who’ve run our country. They are nothing, if not, humanizing. I can live with the knowledge that my president is a real person, making mistakes and plodding through every day just like me.

But I hope we move beyond the dehumanizing attacks and back to a healthy sense of humor coupled with respect for the president who occasionally trips on the podium in the rose garden.
Try to read this list of lighthearted ramblings from famous presidents without saying, Huh?

“People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” Abraham Lincoln

“There is a mandate to impose a voluntary return to traditional values.” Ronald Reagan

“This is still the greatest country in the world if we just will steel our wills and lose our minds.” Bill Clinton

“If Lincoln were alive today, he’s roll over in his grave.” Gerald Ford

“When a great many people are unable to find work, unemployment results.” Calvin Coolidge

And my personal favorite HUH statement – “Solutions are not the answer.” Richard Nixon

As we wade our way through this last year of the Bush administration, I will do my best to remember that respect for a person in higher office does not equal blind support. I don't have to like them to respect the enormously difficult job they must do. I don't have to agree to respect the weight they carry on their shoulders every day while in office.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Save 2nd Base - Kelly Rooney's Legacy

Kelly O’Brien Rooney passed away on July 11, 2006 after a courageous, four-year battle with breast cancer. She was 43. She left behind five children and her husband of fifteen years, Sean.

Every three minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the leading cancer among White and African-American women and African-American women are more likely to die of the disease. The rate of breast cancer has increased from 1 in 20 in 1960 to 1 in 8 today.

Two summers ago Kelly and a group of her friends planned to participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day Charity walk. They needed a team name so, true to Kelly’s vivacious personality, she threw out the idea – Save 2nd Base. Her team members loved it.

They drew two baseballs appropriately placed on the shirt and below it, the slogan – Save 2nd Base – eluding to the names teenagers use to signify the make out progression from kissing to more serious stuff.

By the first day of the 60 mile walk, Kelly was too ill to participate. A good friend walked in her place and the team wore the shirts with Kelly’s slogan. Along the route they received smiles, giggles and positive reactions to the euphemism. Everyone got the joke but also understood the seriousness of the cause.

After Kelly’s death, her family and friends founded The Kelly Rooney Foundation to eradicate breast cancer in young women. Through cutting-edge research, comprehensive awareness campaigns, and education programs, the Foundation focuses on breast cancer prevention in young women and the unique challenges they face when diagnosed.

Her sister and a friend spent $10,000 of their own money to trademark Save 2nd Base and set up a store to sell them online. After their initial investment was paid back , they vowed to give 50% of the profits to the foundation to fund it’s campaign.

Kelly used a term, “God winks,” to describe unexpected blessings and happy coincidences in life. Little did she know that she would embody the very phrase she coined – by serving as a “God wink” to generations of women whose lives may be saved by the incredible legacy she left behind.

The Kelly Rooney Foundation raised $145,000 at its inaugural golf outing and banquet. They have their sights set high on stopping this disease that devastates the lives of not only women but the families and children left behind.