Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yes, Nice Matters

My friend, Jerry at FishHawk Droppings, thought of me the other day. He decided to bestow LifePrints with the Nice Matters Award. I am very flattered. This is the second time I've received this one and it's just as much of an honor this time. I hope I never forget that nice does matter in this world.

Just to drive the point home, here are a few tidbits to stir your imagination - sells tee shirts, hats and such emblazoned with the slogan "Just Be Nice". No we can wear the motto.

Winn Claybaugh will teach you how to Just Be Nice or ELSE! He says, "In a world where you have to be computer literate, business savvy, a master negotiator, and dressed for success, you also must be nice. Winn Claybaugh believes learning how to be nice is the most important skill one must obtain: "When you start being nice, everyone wins!"

NewScientist Magazine says that social responsibility is mostly learned from our parents and that genes also contribute greatly to how nice we are. In this interesting article they also state that we spend more time socializing our girls. With boys we still have the age old attitude that boys will be boys. We don't seem to be as willing to take the same risk with the behavior of little girls.

Thank you again, Jerry, for this award. I'm going to pass it on to one of the nicest bloggers I know. Mike at Reality is Overrated is always there to answer questions and tell a joke. He's very active on the Blog Catalog forums. If he knows how to help you he will. He's quick with praise and I've never read anything unkind about other bloggers.

Mike, I don't know if anyone has given you this pretty pink award before. Post it if you wish...please pass it on to another kind soul. Congrats!

As a side note, I'm taking a little break from blogging to spend time with my family. I'll be back on Monday. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone and "Just be nice."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Global Warming - What Can One Person Do?

When confronted with the idea that the world could be headed toward catastrophy due to the effects of global warming, most people throw up their hands and say..But what can I do? Changing a few lightbulbs won't really make a difference.

That may be true but we can all do something. This man (he chose to remain anonymous on YouTube) is a science teacher. He's chosen to do something, to share his views on logic and reason. And what he presents is the clearest, easiest to understand presentation about climate change that I've ever seen. No scare tactics, just unadulterated logic. He even asks you to post a comment and let him know if you can find the flaws in his reasoning.

So far over 2 million people have viewed his video. If it causes even one person to lobby their congressman for significant policy changes then he, an anonymous science teacher from who knows where, has done more to help the world than most of us.

What I love about this is he uses his special skills as a teacher to contribute in a proactive way.

What skills do you have? Can you use them to bring about change?

Think about it. You never know. If you'd like to see more of his science videos on YouTube, his user name is wonderingmind42.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Secrets to Happiness from the Dalai Lama

On this day, when most of the United States is recovering from too much turkey and pumpkin pie, I thought I'd share with you the wisdom of the Dalai Lama. Here is his advice on how to achieve happiness. But even achieving is a misnomer...he would probably say to stop trying and just be.
Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

Follow the three Rs: Respect for self, respect for others and responsibility for all your actions.

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

Spend some time alone every day.

Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.

A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.

In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.

Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.

Be gentle with the earth.

Once a year, go some place you've never been before.

Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

Have a wonderfully relaxing weekend and enjoy the company of your friends and family. Remember to be thankful for what you have and what you love. Be thankful for yourself, your body and your mind.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shibumi Award - A Noble Cause

Shibumi - The Japanese concept of effortless perfection, a state of mind in harmony and awareness, a noble cause.

Pete at My GPS Camera Phone feels that LifePrints is worthy of this award. I am deeply honored. He explained to me that his wife had once mentioned starting a newspaper dedicated to good news. I told him I think she should because then she would share in the joy that I've found in writing this blog.

There is something special about being on the look out for positive ideas, people, and events. It has changed my perspective. Instead of immersing myself in what the mass media wants me to know (which apparently is mostly warnings that the world is in decline and we all want to kill each other), I go out searching for what makes each day worth living.

One of my blogger friends, Chrissy stumbled on something profound. She said, "I wish the news focused on positive things like this (Mariane Pearl) instead, but I guess they're just a lot more rare."

Chrissy, the good things are not rare, they are just undervalued and ignored by the powers that be. Somewhere along the way the media complex decided that we'd rather hear about murder and destruction than birth and peace. They made bigger profits from dragging out scandal. Uplifting stories of cooperation just weren't page turners.

My readership is modest. LifePrints is a drop in the bucket but that's okay because there are more drops like me. Collectively we can make a huge difference. Yesterday while watching a YouTube video about Dennis Kucinich I heard him echo something I've always felt in my heart. He said essentially that a mindset of war creates war and a mindset of peace creates peace.

This translates to everything we do. A mindset of negativity creates negativity. A positive blog like LifePrints fosters harmony and so on. I love what I'm doing. Every post is a pleasure to write and an exercise in faith. I cannot tell you how excited I am that others read it and find value in it. All I can say is pass on the feeling, in whatever way you chose. Keep it going around the world until the mindset of war, destruction, lack, fear and doom no longer rule the day.

I'd like to pass this award on to a few bloggers who I think are lights in the darkness. Read a few of their posts and you will quickly see what I mean.

Mike at Mr. Grudge

Mauro at 1 Million Love Messages

Lisa at Positive Sisters

Congratulations. Keep shining! I love your blogs and hope that you keep posting for a long time to come.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mariane Pearl - In Seach of Hope

Mariane Pearl's husband was a journalist. In 2002, he was captured and murdered in Pakistan by Islamic extremists. She was five months pregnant. Daniel Pearl never got to see his beautiful son Adam. This heartbreaking story is enough to paralyse most women. Not Mariane, she refuses to be defined by her husband's violent death. If that's what Daniel's murderers wanted - to change Mariane's view of the world - they must be sorely disappointed.

Mariane, who is also a freelance journalist, wrote a book about Daniel's death, "A Mighty Heart" and asked Angelina Jolie to portray her in the movie adaptation. In her latest project backed by Glamour magazine, Pearl explores the meaning of hope through profiling the lives of 12 deeply optimistic women. The women span the globe and span class structure - one is a Moroccan cleaning woman in Paris, another is the president of Liberia, each are working to heal their corner of the world.

Mariane say she began this project because she is determined to hold out to her son a sense of hope. She wants him to know that people like the ones who killed his father do not define the world. Hope comes from the actions of individuals like the women in her book.

Newsweek magazine quotes her as saying. "You have suicide bombers who are ready to lose their lives to destroy, but there are also people who are ready to lose their lives to build." Finding those people became her quest. It was as much personal as professional. The book, entitled In Search of Hope, answers this question - Can we spread hope in the way others spread fear? How? And what are out assets to do that? To her, the assets are people, like the women she talked to for this book.

Glamour profiles the book with a photo section. It's filled with pictures of incredible women. You can see love and peace on the faces. There is a profound quote under the photo of Somaly Mam from Cambodia. She says, "I am not sure what being happy really means. But when I cuddle with the girls, giving them the love I never received, then I do feel happy.”

If you purchase In Search of Hope through, Glamour Magazine will donate 100% of the profits and royalties to charities picked out by the women in the book. There is a list on the website so you know where the money will go.

It's a worthy cause with an important message and a very nice gift. Think about it. I'm buying two.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Wayne Pacelle - The Best Friend An Animal Could Have

In 2004 Wayne Pacelle took over as the president of the Humane Society of the United States. His appointment has ruffled the feathers of several organizations who say that this Vegan doesn't just want to protect animals he wants to turn the food chain upside down.

When talking about the people who oppose him, Pacelle is quoted by the Washington Post - "They all go wild on me," he says, adding that he has even received death threats. "My ex-boss . . . said you could tell a lot about a person by his friends and also by his enemies. I'm happy to have some of these people as my enemies."

The US Sportsman's Alliance calls him "enemy number one." The National Animal Interest Alliance says that he is a "wolf in sheep's clothing". All this because Pacelle has vowed to aggressively pursue the HSUS's goals. He's determined to stop the mistreatment of livestock, decrease the use of animals in research, protect wildlife and foster responsible pet care.

He says that for as long as he can remember, he's felt a sense of kinship and empathy toward animals. "Animals are different from us, but in a good way. They deserve not only our appreciation but also our respect," he says.

While attending Yale University in the mid-80's he made the trip to Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. While there he witnessed a pigeon shoot, a fund raising event by the local fire department. Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw happening. Men lined up with guns, a few pigeons were released from cages and the men fired. After the birds dropped from the sky the children were encouraged to stomp on the birds and twist their necks. Not only was the event extremely violent, it indoctrinated the youth of the town by encouraging cruelty among the children.

Pacelle went back to Yale with a purpose. He started an animal advocacy group on campus and when he graduated he devoted himself to stopping animal cruelty.

He feels that since that time things are slowly getting better. There seems to be a shift in public opinion about the value of animals. In the last few years he's seen more than a dozen successful ballot initiatives, including the first ever ban on the use of gestation crates, as well as bans on leg-hold traps. More than a half dozen federal laws to protect animals have been passed, most recently the ban on interstate shipment of fighting birds and dogs.
Pacelle is proud of his testimony before Congressional committees on more than ten occasions. He's briefed them on topics such as canned bird hunts (the type Dick Cheney uses to hunt pheasants), the Animal Welfare Act, the exotic pet trade, cockfighting, bear baiting (leaving food for wild bears then shooting them while they eat), and dog fighting.

What does he see for the future? He figures all 50 states will one day treat animal cruelty and animal fighting as felonies, euthanasia of dogs and cats in shelters will dwindle, and the marketplace will diversify with humanely produced products. "I think we will see a real reduction in the number of people wearing fur and the number of major retailers selling fur," he says to the Washington Post. "We will see the end of wild animals in circus acts and the end of horse slaughter for human food. Humane sustainable agriculture, that should happen. So should phasing out animals used in research. As for the future of hunting as sport, he thinks we will see a steady decline in numbers, and we'll see the elimination of particularly extreme practices like canned hunts and baiting.

Pacelle writes articles on the HSUS website. Here is the link if you'd like to learn more about his views. There are links to the different articles at the bottom of the page. My hope is that he will continue to be successful in his fight for the welfare of animals on our planet.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New York Wedding Ring - Do It Yourself Love

I'll never forget walking into my friend's jewelry shop and asking him to make a special wedding ring for my soon to be husband. John and I had known each other since elementary school. His father was the only jeweler who designed and made the custom pieces. He was sort of famous in my little home town. Now I stood in John's shop looking at original designs and molds inherited from his father. We settled on a premade band that he would alter to match my engagement ring. The process was exhilarating. I felt involved in the creative process. I wanted Todd to have something special.

He did the same for me. He spent most of a day with a prestigious Atlanta jeweler staring at stones under a microscope. It had to be the right one in the perfect setting. He'd waited until his mid-thirties to buy an engagement ring...big step! It deserved intense contemplation. I deserved his full attention to detail.

I'm sharing these memories because this morning I discovered a way to take that exhilaration one step further. Metallurgist and jeweler, Sam Abbay at New York Wedding Ring, teaches couples how to make their own wedding and commitment rings from raw materials. The couples design and create their rings from start to finish. With Sam's guidance they hammer and love their rings into being. I can't think of anything more romantic.

In today's fast paced society we are so disconnected from everything - our loved ones by distance, our food delivered in serving sized packaging, love found on a website that tests compatibility for us, and wedding packages premade to order at the most popular resorts. We don't feel or process our lives nearly enough.

What could be more visceral than touching raw metal, heating it to it's melting point and shaping it into a gift that will be worn for a lifetime, a symbol of all you hold in your heart of this special person? Perfect or slightly blemished from inexperience, the rings essence is truly in your hands. I wish I could recapture this moment in my life. I do it again this way.

It's not cheap and it does take time and effort. There are only two locations to have this experience (New York and San Francisco) with Sam. Those are the drawbacks. The upside is the offer of cultured diamonds and gold alternatives that are just as beautiful and more durable. The ultimate upside is giving from your heart a handmade, tangible symbol of love.

I'm gushing, apparently I need a boost today...and concentrating on the expression of commitment and love is a good way to accomplish it. Browse the New York Wedding Ring website for gorgeous photos of handcrafted rings, happy couples excited to start their lives together, and cool snapshots of the entire process.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Janie Sullivan - You Will Be Missed

I met my Aunt Janie at a picnic when I was thirty years old. Kind of odd to meet your father's sister for the first time when you are both adults with families of your own. But not so odd when you are adopted and your birth father's family plans a Welcome to the Clan Picnic by the lake. I met them all that day...Aunt Janie, Aunt Ginger, Uncle Leo, Uncle Tommy and my little brother Casey. They welcomed me in the only way the Leonard's know how..with lots of food and lots of hugs.

Janie stayed by my side all afternoon. She stroked my back and touched my hair, almost as she were convincing herself that I was real. It's understandable since a few months before none of them knew I existed. I was a secret carried inside their big brother's heart.

My Aunt always took time out of her life to call me just to say hello. I got used to her perpetual excitement and quick way of talking. She could say more in five minutes than most people could cram into fifteen. (I'm alot like her) I loved her wit and the instant way she'd dissolve into laughter.

I saw her this past summer when I went to Georgia after my brother Casey's horrible accident. We spent time together at the hospital, clinging to the hope that Casey would soon be better. I went to her home and shared a glass of "oh so sugary sweet tea". We dreamed of her hopping a plane to come see me and "doing the town up right, girl!"

I wish I'd had an inkling that this would be the last time I'd see her. I would have taken more pictures, hugged her a little tighter, and made sure I said "I love you" one more time before we ducked out the door in the rain. And even so, I'm happy she got to hold Ethan, she met my husband Todd (of whom I'm incredibly proud), and I got a few snapshots that will last a lifetime.

Janie died suddenly yesterday. My family is in shock at her passing. "Not my baby sister," my father said, but it's true. My thoughts are with my father and my Augusta, GA family. I wish I could be there with you. I'm there in my heart. I love you Aunt Janie..until we meet again.

I'm Totally Fabulous - So Says La delirante

What could be better than finding an award waiting for you after a long plane ride home? Yes, it was the trip of a lifetime but I was tired, slightly irritable, and not so happy about going back to my normal routine. So this award from Wen, at La delirante was welcome surprise.

I guess she thinks I'm totally fabulous. I think she is, too. Her life seems so exciting and exotic compared to mine. Someday I'd love to visit Malta and her home country of El Salvador. She does a wonderful job of passing on information about her adopted country of Malta and her culture. She posts beautiful photographs like as recent set in a post entitled Jungle. Check it out. It's worth your time.

It's time to pass on the Totally Fabulous Award to a few bloggers that I think are Totally deserving. Here is my dilemma. The last time I passed on a pink award, some of my guy friend recipients weren't quite sure what to do with it. So this time I'm keeping in mind the theme and will give a shout out to a few of my girl blogger friends...although, I will say that I don't believe in pink being only for girls. It's just a color...if you like it, then like it. and be proud. Don't fall for a marketing ploy.

Here are a few of my favorite Totally Fabulous Bloggers. Have fun passing on the award, girls!
Starlily at The Active Life
Babz at Lovebabz
Angela at LiteraryMinded
Congratulations ladies! I love your blogs! Keep up the good work!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Great Santa Run - Seeing Red in Vegas

Every December thousands of people in Las Vegas, NV put on Santa suits and jog around the Freemont Street Experience in a 5k run/walk to benefit Opportunity Village. They bring their dogs, their kids and their friends to share in the festivities. If you happen to be here having a great Vegas weekend then look out you hotel window on December 1st and you will see a wave of red and white flooding the street below.

Why do they do it? Well, it could be because they like dressing up as Santa or it could be that they like the feeling of helping Nevada's favorite charity. Opportunity Village was founded in 1954 by a group of local families hoping to help their intellectually challenged children. They saw a need and met it.

Now, so many years later Opportunity Village is the largest not-for-profit organization in the valley. They have a myriad of programs designed to inspire, integrate, and empower the mentally challenged. Dottie is an example of the people who use these programs to get their adult lives off to a prosperous start.

Dottie was born with Downs Syndrome. She was educated in the public school system but her family feels that because of her challenges she was isolated socially. She found Opportunity Village shortly after graduating and told them that her goal in life was to work in a kitchen on the Las Vegas Strip.

After intensive training at Opportunity Village Dottie was offered a job at the prestigious Capital Grille on the strip...the job of her dreams. “Her excitement is inspiring,” said Buck Kish, Dottie’s dad. Dottie relishes the fact that she’s working a real, paying job in the community and is eager to finally be doing what she trained so hard for. What she loves most, though, is that she’s now like everyone else.

Siegfried and Roy of the famed white tiger show are the honorary team captains this year and Mayor Oscar Goodman is the honorary head Santa. What makes it even better? After paying the $45 entry fee, which goes to supporting Opportunity Village, participants are given a Santa suit of their very own. They get to keep it and pass on the cheer for the rest of the season. Now they can be Santa anytime they wish.

Best of luck for a successful 2007 Santa Run with a record breaking number of Santas! If you would like to dress up in a red suit and yell HO, HO, HO here is the link to get involved or just to make a donation to the cause - The Great Santa Run.

Merry Christmas Opportunity Village!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Kindness of Strangers - New York With A Smile

Not long ago I posted that New York was one of the most polite cities in the world. Even I said, "Yeah. Right." And now I say..Yeah. The Reader's Digest researchers were right. In my experience New York City is a friendly city crowded with smiling faces.

Ever heard anyone say, "When you go to New York don't smile, don't look people in the eye." Well, I didn't take that advice. I smiled. I talked and people talked back. They smiled back. They held open doors and offered an umbrella when I got drenched walking ten blocks in the rain. Taxi drivers told me cute stories about their youth. They shared information to make the trip to a new city more pleasant. They made me feel welcome in the backs of their cabs.

I traveled to the city with a new friend. Someone I'd never met in person before we stepped of
separate planes in Chicago and into each others lives. For the next few days she'd share her hotel room, her friends and her excitement about the future of her career. She listened to me talk. She waited while I bought tons of souvenirs and steered me away from that last shop when she knew I'd "spent enough."

She shared her friend, a well-established author with an animated smile. He took us to dinner and imparted great wisdom about the road ahead of both of us. "Don't worry. It's in the bag, girl!" He encouraged every time my confidence wained. Over cider ale, I watched him, envious...he's only thirty and has been in the business for thirteen years. "God, do I wish I'd had my head wrapped around my goals at seventeen. I'd be in his shoes now. Books on the shelves, books in foreign countries, books on contract, books on deadline. My Goodness! Someday!" He is an inspiration.

I reconnected with an old friend. We met near his work and went out to a long lunch. I can't explain how great it was to see him again, listen to him talk, and watch his gentle face, to know he will always be the same sweet man I remember.

I walked out of the rain and into a store, sans umbrella. The man behind the counter said, "You look happy." I said, "I am happy. Anything else is a waste of my time."

And I meant it. I'm looking forward to the new year and the fun it will bring. I'm looking forward to another trip to New York to launch the next phase of my career. I'm looking forward..happily!
Oh, and on the celebrity spotting front. My friend saw Tori Spelling. I saw Holly Hunter and Condoleezza Rice! Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Seeking Balance and A Quiet Place to Work

I need more hours in the day. So many tasks and projects and not enough time to complete them in the way I'd like. I'm on a deadline. The fact that it is mostly self-imposed doesn't matter. It's still an important deadline. Before the day is out I will complete the first round of edits on a manuscript. Next week, New York awaits along with valuable face time with my agent. He's such a great guy. Working with him is a dream come true.

This manuscript has been a miracle in the making, so much raw emotion to drag out and examine. Some days I'm not sure why I wrote the first word, thought I could make this work -then I think about my inspiration. I remember her and know it's worth the agonizing excavation to commit her short life to paper.

There is interest in this manuscript and the insight I can offer to others in situations like mine. So far the compliments have made me light-headed. "He must be talking about someone else's work," I say. But no, it's mine. Now is the time to make it the best it can possibly be. I have today to accomplish it.

I'm worried that I can't pull it off, bring the story around the bend to a satisfying end, leave the reader with hope instead of despair. How will it go? Will you see my name on the cover of a bestseller, or even a modest print run?

I'm taking the day off to pray, work, and give it my best shot. Have a great weekend. May all our dreams come true.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

One voice - It's a Strong Voice - Use it

Fired up! Ready to go!

It’s the rally cry for the Obama campaign. I haven’t decided who will get my vote in 2008. I’m exploring my options, which is how I stumbled on this video. I’m impressed. I watched a clip that was twice as long where he told the story of his rally cry at the end. I choose this one because it’s just the story. Then I ran across a Wall Street Journal entry denouncing his use of it. But that’s the media climate we live in.

The thing I love about Barack Obama is his ability to focus on the future, to ignite a positive vision of the United States in the hearts of the listener. We need inspired people who believe in the power of one voice running our country. Should it be this candidate or someone else? That’s for you to decide.

He says over and over in the clips I watched that we all matter during this pivotal time in our history. For the most part, our citizenry has been lulled into a state of complacency and apathy. I’m finally waking up and realizing that my voice, my vote, my opinion counts. I can speak up and start the chant. Others will join in, then more and more until we have a clear shift in consciousness – and that translates into policy changes and a better life for all on our fragile planet.

What is important to you? What issues are you passionate about but think that no one will listen? When did you decide that you didn’t matter? These questions are on my mind because in fourteen days there will be a major debate between the Democratic candidates and it’s being held just miles from my house. This time, during this election will I do something different? Will I care enough to go and see for myself what my country has to offer?

Yes…I wish I hadn’t waited so long to see my own power and understand what it means. Our founding fathers understood and were willing to die for the right (theirs and mine, so many generations later) to be integral part of their country. I can, at the very least, drive across town and pay attention.

Then in January, I will participate in my state caucus because it is an honor and privilege to do so.

I’m fired up and ready to go!