Thursday, January 31, 2008

Second Chance Pet Adoption - Filling In The Gaps

I've only met a few people in my life who really didn't like animals. They don't care about animal issues. They've never had a pet and would be happier if they never had to deal with another barking dog or scratching cat. I don't understand them but then there is the opposite extreme, the people who treat their pets better than their children or elderly family members. Neither fringe is understandable, at least to me. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of this equation.

If you are like me, then you ache when you see a homeless animal wandering the city. You put out bowls of food for the strays in your neighborhood. You take care of the helpless ones until a permanent home can be found. You care as much as you can without totally disrupting the lives of the other people who live in your house. That's you recognize a little of yourself?

If you'd like to participate in organized efforts to help stray and homeless pets and network with others who feel this calling, just type "second chance pets" into your search engine. You'll find several results for a Second Chance pet-rescue group near you. Here are just a few I found - Second Chance Pet Adoptions, Second Chance Elk Grove, IL, Second Chance California, and 2nd Chance 4 Pets.

These organizations, with the help of volunteers, work with abandoned dogs and cats, providing foster homes for them, lobbying vets to give reduced rates on care and medications, and ultimately trying to find permanent homes.

Anything you can do to help this cause is appreciated. Even if you can't be a foster family for an animal you can donate money to a Second Chance organization or no-kill pet shelter in your area. You can offer your skills in possibly web design, advertising, or public relations. Whatever your special skill, there is usually a way to adapt it to help a worthy cause. You can volunteer to drive rescued animals to veterinary appointments or to meetings with prospective owners.
I think I'd like to volunteer at a shelter to take the little guys for walks or to sit and pet them for a while, just to reintroduce them to a loving hand before they move into a stable home.

Here are some statistics from Animal Network World about the plight of abandoned pets in the United States:

-More than 12 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters each year.

- Millions more are abandoned in rural and urban areas.

- As many as 25% of dogs entering shelters each year are purebreds.

- Approximately 61% of all dogs entering shelters are killed.

- Approximately 75% of all cats entering shelters are killed.

- It costs approximately $100 to capture, house, feed, and eventually kill each stray animal -- a cost which you, the taxpayer, eventually pay.

In addition to volunteering your time to rescue organization, please have your pets spayed and neutered, encourage your friends who own pets to do the same. That one action, along with your compassion and empathy, will help to solve this crisis.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jack LaLanne - The Godfather of Fitness

In 1936 Jack LaLanne opened the first fitness center in the United States. He encouraged people to eat healthy and exercise, especially strength training with weights. He was 40 years ahead of his time.

Can you believe that back then people thought he was a nut? Doctors told people that working out with weights would cause heart attacks and decreased sex drives. They told women they would develop manly physiques if they exercised too much. And coaches prevented their athletes from working out at the gym because it would cause them to be sluggish and muscle bound.

Wow..conventional wisdom and medical knowledge have finally caught up with LaLanne. Jack is 93 years young and people who know him say he's found the fountain of youth. Jack would probably say, "I can't die, it would ruin my image!" That's just one of the LaLanneisms quoted from the fitness guru's website.

Early in LaLanne's life he discovered that eating healthy and exercising were the keys to a long life. He developed his own techniques for muscle strengthening by studying Anatomy textbooks in a college pre-med program and attending chiropractic college. Instead of opening an office as a chiropractor, he opened a gym and began one a time converting ordinary people to his revolutionary thinking about lifestyle. When the coaches were saying no to lifting weights, LaLanne was giving out keys to his gym so athletes could sneak in to work out.

LaLanne is responsible for many firsts in the fitness revolutions. His inventions include: the leg extension machine and pulley machines using cables and the first weight selectors. He was the first to develop weight lifting programs for women and he also encouraged the disabled and elderly to exercise for health. “There are 640 muscles in the human body,” Jack explains, “and I take every one of them into account as I plan each exercise routine.”

Decades before Richard Simmons or Jane Fonda, Jack LaLanne inspired average Americans to get fit with his television show. I can remember as a small child, flipping through the channels and stopping to watch the man in the red jumpsuit do leg raises and lunges.

LaLanne is famous for his feats of strength. Several times he's swam over a mile shackled in chains and pulling a boat - sometimes several boats! For his seventieth birthday he swam handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, towing 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor, Ca to the Queen Mary, 1 ½ miles away!

Mr. LaLanne has been awarded most, if not all, of the national fitness awards and has his own star on the walk of fame in Hollywood, Ca. He's an inspiration to all who know him. He loves to play tricks on people. When he meets someone new he's been known to act deaf or feeble then spring at them with the energy of a lion, "Gotcha, didn't I!"

I can only hope to be as spry in my 90's and if I follow Jack LaLanne's example it's more than a hope, it's a real possibility.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Quiltmakers Gift and the Power of Giving

I love to take my children to the library, especially my youngest son. We scour the shelves for books with bright pictures and lively stories - not too short and not too long since he's still a toddler. Sometimes I discover one that touches my heart.

The Quiltmakers Gift by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken is such a book. This is a charming fable that celebrates the joy of giving by pitting a generous quiltmaker with magic in her fingers against a greedy king who demands gifts from everyone in his town.

Even though the king has everything he is searching for one special gift that will make him happy and he believes it's a quilt from the quiltmaker who lives high in the mountains. When he threatens her with bears and drowning, she smiles and says that she never sells her quilts. She won't give him one either because they are for those who have nothing and he has everything.

She tells the king that each time he gives away one of his treasures to someone else she will put a piece in a quilt for him. Eventually, the king learns that giving made him happy in a way that receiving never could.

Since the publication of The Quiltmakers Journey and The Quiltmakers Gift, the authors began collecting stories of generosity and sharing from around the world. Some people were inspired to act after reading the two books. Others wrote into the website to tell stories of generous people and organizations who reminded them of the quiltmaker in the books.

One such group was Fresh Youth Initiative of New York City. Since 1995 the youth of Washington Heights have gathered together to make sleeping bags for distribution to homeless people in their neighborhood. Andrew Rubinson says that nearly 1,000 youth have participated in making 400 hand sewn sleeping bags. These children are like the Quiltmaker who walked the darkness putting blankets on the shoulders of people sleeping in the streets.

I stumbled upon another group that carries on the tradition of the Quiltmaker. I don't know if the women of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and Ministry from Chapel Hill, NC, have ever read the Quiltmakers Gift. They certainly embody her spirit by making quilts that they've donated to Lutheran World Relief, hurricane disaster relief programs, nurseries at local hospitals, and grade school children in need.

Quilters are known to be generous, creative people who love to share their gifts with those they love. Look to the fictitious Quiltmaker of Brumbeau's story and to the real women and youth of this world reaching out to help others in need. Giving indeed is better than receiving.

Friday, January 25, 2008

How To Be Happy - Practical Advice

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of "The How of Happiness", we are not complete hostages to our genetics. Happiness is 50% inherited, 40% up to us, and 10% stressers out of our control. She came to this conclusion using data from research on identical and fraternal twins. This goes against previous wisdom that said happiness is controlled by genetics and life circumstances. Lyubomirsky says we can be happier by using simple 'happiness intervention strategies'.

She had test subjects write letters of gratitude, perform acts of kindness and keep 'best possible selves' journals to outline future goals. Up to nine months after the study ended, the people involved said they had kept up the techniques on their own and were significantly happier than in the past. These techniques put into practical terms the principals of the 'Secret' and positive thought theory.

Here are a few other options to create happiness that Lyubomirsky says will enhance your daily life. They are common sense ideas that we so easily forget in our rush to be, do, and have.

Don't overthink, she says. When you catch yourself stewing over some situation or hurt...STOP. These negative, worrisome thought processes are like poison to your body and mind. If you just have to worry, set aside no more than 30 minutes in the evening to ruminate. Chances are when the time comes, the situation bothering you will have worked itself out or seem less consequential.

She tell us to learn good coping skills. Write down (purge) traumatic experiences or talk to someone about them. Learn how to argue with or negate pessimistic thoughts. Don't dwell on negative self-talk.

Savor life's joys, Lyubomirsky teaches. Relish ordinary moments of happiness and pleasure, like a good meal or a hot shower. Stay in the moment and truly experience the good in your life.

Cultivate optimism by finding ways to celebrate the good things that come your way. Instead of telling others about your bad day tell them about the good things that happened. If we choose to see them they are there. Have parties and celebrations just because...the baby took his first steps, you paper trained your puppy, or your daughter got an A on a difficult test.

Be joyous and laugh whenever you can. And for heavens sake, laugh loud and strong, feel it in your gut. Let go every now and then and just be plain silly. Be a kid.

Try it, then share with me the techniques you use to change your mood or to celebrate your bliss. I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thinking Blogger Award - Think, Thank, Thunk

My dear friend, Jerry, at Fishhawk Droppings gave me the Thinking Blogger Award. I'm very proud of this one because for many years of my life I hid my intelligence and bought into the idea that I am not very smart. I think the comments from the person I trusted the most went something like..."Do you think you can wrap your little mind around this? Try to pay attention, will ya!"

Finally, I realized the truths I'd accepted about myself were nothing more than intimidation tactics to keep me in line. If this person could stop me from thinking for myself then he would hold all the power. It was a blessed day when I broke that spell.

Getting this award made me wonder what is a thinker and what is a thinking blogger?

I ran across a list of seven qualities of a critical thinker from the Economic Opportunity Agency. Here they are:

Truth seeking - critical thinkers want to know the truth. They are willing to examine and even accept ideas that undermine their basic assumptions if the ideas come from a place of logic and reason.

Open minded - a critical thinker values disagreement and respects the ideas of others. She also checks her own words and thoughts for signs of bias.

Analytical - a critical thinker recognizes statements that call for evidence and seeks out the evidence in support or denial of the statement.

Systematic - critical thinkers stay with a complex problem, focusing on and testing ideas until a conclusion is reached.

Self confident - since he trusts his intellectual skills he is willing to support others in seeking answers, even if their views conflict with his own beliefs.

Inquisitive - she wants to know. She is hungry for facts and knowledge and is willing to explore ideas even if she doesn't know how this new insight fits into the puzzle.

Mature - he possesses a wisdom born of experience and understands that problems can have many solutions, even if the solutions seem to contradict themselves. He resists the temptation to accept the quick, superficial answer and instead looks deeper to unravel a problem. And at the same time, realizes that people are often called upon to act before all the facts are in.

So how do bloggers apply these concepts to their blogs? I'd say exactly the same way they do in their lives by exemplifying all the qualities to the best of your ability. Thinking bloggers do not slander others or post bias rants. Thinking bloggers explore not only their own minds and lives but the entire world of information available to them.

One more thing, and I realize this is a personal comment...thinking bloggers use their power to unite and heal not divide and wound.

Thank you, Jerry for considering me worthy of this award. I still have far to go but I can look back and be proud of how far I've come. In that spirit, here are my choices for the Thinking Blogger Award. Enjoy! Each of you richly deserve it. Some of you may already have this award but that's okay. Nothing wrong with continued admiration.

Mark Stoneman, owner of several blogs, all deserving of this award. I'll pick Stoneman's Corner.

Tiffany, also the owner of several amazing blogs. My favorite is What's Wrong Around Us?

Francis Scudellari owner of Caught In The Stream. I can't help it. I have to call Francis out for this award. This is one of my favorite blogs. If you want to truly understand critical thinking, this is the place to start.

Deb Paasquella, owner of Let Me Go On And On, stands on a bold premise and lovingly argues her points. I admire her greatly.

Have a great day everyone and thanks again Jerry...big hug from me to you!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Michelle Obama - A Woman of Substance

Most evenings I sit down on the couch after a long day and curl myself around my husband to relax. When I close my eyes, often times a smile bubbles up from some where deep inside of me. I don't think he notices when it happens. That's when I think to myself, "Wow, how did I get here?"

Yesterday, while talking to a friend on the phone, I had a revelation. I was telling Joe about the exciting few weeks I'd had working with Barack Obama's campaign and the progress with the publication of my book . I told him about all the volunteering, the rallies, the caucus, meeting Michelle Obama, and how grateful and in awe I was that these opportunities had come into my way. His answer, "Lisa, since I've known you I can see how you've grown. You are truly the captain of your ship."

That's when it hit me. That's the difference in the "me" now and the "me" I was in my thirties. I am steering the ship and I'm very pleased with where it is going. After meeting Michelle Obama, I wondered if she felt the same way. Does she sometimes close her eyes in amazement to how she and Barack arrived at this pivotal place in their lives, poised to make history? I wonder if she has always known that she was at the helm of her ship? Has she always directed her own course? I wish I'd asked her those things when we talked.

I get the feeling she's always had a steady eye on the future. And from listening to her speak, I think she's been open to where life took her, not plodding a projected course but choosing the path as opportunities presented themselves.

She said one thing that will stay with me always. I'm paraphrasing here so bear with me. She said to never let anyone tell me that I am not ready - it's not my turn - I can't do it - someone else is more capable. Because in her experience, every time she stepped up and took her place at the table she found that she was just as prepared and just as humbled as everyone one else who'd made it that far. "Is this is? Is this what all the fuss was about? Okay, I can handle this," she said.

I met her on her 44th birthday. We are very close in age and as I listened to her describe her childhood, her schooling and career, her husband's decade in public office, I couldn't help but think, "Wow, if I'd been willing to "take my seat" all along look where I could be?" Even though I'm very happy with my accomplishments, I just feel a little behind the power curve. What an inspiration she is, at least to me, and I believe to most anyone who has the opportunity to meet her. She is articulate, intelligent, well-read, and accomplished in her own right. But what got to me was her empathy and concern for people that clearly shines through when she speaks.

She is mother, first and foremost, concerned about the world we are leaving to our children. Our children live in a country governed by fear. It's the driving force behind most all the decisions our government makes. That's not what I want for my children. She shares my vision of a different future where our children are again filled with possibility and dreaming about becoming astronauts and playwrights, not doing the duck and cover, hiding, and waiting for an elusive, undefinable enemy to strike. Fear is paralysing. Hope is propelling. Watch people around you and see if you don't agree.

She also gave a bit of advice on choosing a husband that I think every girl should hear. I think she said it was her father who passed on this advice, but again, don't quote me. She said, "A man's character is not determined by what he does when people are watching. It's determined by what he does when he thinks no one is watching. And that's why I married Barack. I saw the honorable way he behaved when no one was watching and the things he did for people that were to lift them up, not for his own glory and gain."

Girls, there's a lesson. That is the way to pick a husband. Listen to Michelle. She said that when she accepted Barack's marriage proposal he didn't promise her they would have an easy life but that it would be interesting. "And he's delivered on that!" She laughed.

Talking to Michelle one on one is like talking to an old friend that you haven't seen for a while. You know that feeling - even after years apart the two of you can pick up the conversation where you left off and it's like you were never apart. That's the feeling I got from Michelle. If her husband makes it to the White House, she will be a First Lady we can be proud of. Either way, I am proud to have met her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How Full Is Your Glass?

On January 1st, instead of listing his resolutions, my friend Gregorio, made a request of his blog readers and essentially the world. He doesn't want much from us and it will only take a few moments of your time.

He asks that we take a moment and visualize one positive thought and project it out into the world. Think of something wonderful that you'd like to see happen for the betterment of everyone and concentrate on it, just for a little while. Thoughts have power and energy. You're helping to heal the world if you participate.

Gregorio has one more challenge. Each day, take a few moments to picture the world as a glass of dirty water. That's not too hard considering all the problems we face. Then put a drop of clean water into the glass. It will appear clearer than before. The next day add another drop and concentrate on that and the way the dirt is settling at the bottom and how you can almost see through the water now. Before long the glass (our world) in your mind will be a clean, clear, refreshing drink of water.

Visualization and sending out positive thoughts are so important and when coupled with action spurred by your renewed optimism...the world will heal, problems will be solved, people will be fed and so on until our world is truly like the glass of water in your mind.

All of this may sound silly, but my youngest son is a living testimony to this process. Call it prayer, call it whatever you wish...he is here because of it. Several years ago, I was sick and facing a hysterectomy. I was in a new relationship with a man I loved very much and wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I didn't want to give up the gift of having a child together. So we put off the surgery and sought alternative treatments.

Together we visualized my body healing. I saw our baby and played with him in my mind. I asked God to grant us this child. Our son is three years old. My fibroid tumors disappeared without surgery. I just had an ultrasound and they no longer exist.

Ask yourself, if I can do this is my life, collectively what can we do for the good of everyone? What can it hurt? Even if you don't think it will work, you gain a few minutes to rest and time to focus on the blessings you've been given. That alone is worth your time.

Let me know if you try it and what you think about The Law Of Attraction and Positive Visualization. Also leave some love at Gregorio's blog for proposing this awesome challenge to us all.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Barack Obama - The Word Is Empathy

2008 is the year of firsts. My first book is soon to make the rounds with prospective acquisitions editors. My first time truly participating the the election process (more than just casting a vote). And my first time volunteering to help a political candidate.

It seems that these "firsts" extend well beyond me. Barack Obama made history in Iowa as the first African-American presidential candidate to carry the Iowa caucus, or any caucus or primary for that matter. He's well on his way to making history as the nominee for the Democratic party and the first African-American President of the United States.

I'd been passively watching the debates and all the stumping, ad nauseum, of the past year. I told myself I'd pay attention later, maybe in the summer, when I voted in the primary. Then I got a phone call from the Democratic party, asking if I knew about the upcoming caucus and how it worked. I did and I didn't. I said, "Yes but I'm voting in the primary."

Imagine my shock when she answered, "There is no primary in Nevada this time. We are an early caucus state. This is the only time your voice will be heard before the general election in November." That woke me up.

I grabbed my latest copy of Newsweek and some of the local papers stacked up in the garage, hit the Internet, and educated myself on the Presidential Race. I looked at voting records and issue comparison sites, hoping that the pieces would fall neatly into place.

They did. Barack Obama's name kept coming up (along with Dennis Kucinich) when I took the polls or looked at the candidates views side by side. End the war in Iraq within a safe and reasonable time period - check. War, in general, is a bad idea - check. Health care for everyone - check, Common sense education reform - check. Practical leadership experience - check.

Now I got excited and went to my local campaign office to volunteer. Three hours in the stuffy, cramped office and I knew I'd found my political family. As I looked around the phone banks at my neighbors diligently making calls, I noticed something amazing - the America I always believed existed, so different from the image pushed on us by the media. There were young people, college students, retirees, mothers (me with my three year old wandering around the office), white, African-American, Latino. Every walk of life was represented.

I found out about a rally at a neighborhood school and scrambled to get tickets and attend. I had to see for myself if this man and the feelings he ignites are for real. My twelve-year-old son went with me. We stood in line with close to 4,000 people for over an hour, hoping to get inside the gym. Daniel and I made it but just barely. We made out way with the last 100 or so into the few remaining seats at the top of the bleachers.

Sadly, around 2,000 people did not get in. Those inside rocked out to some great music while we waited. When Senator Obama finally walked onto the stage, he took the microphone. "I'm sorry I'm late but there's people outside who couldn't get in. Their important, too. I had to give them some love. I hope you understand."

You know that line from the movie Jerry McGuire..."You had me at hello." Well, he had me. This was different. He did what I would have done - what I would have wanted someone to do for me. Now that's cool.

Before long he opened the floor to questions and I was privileged to ask the last question of the night. I wanted to know his views on the Military Commissions Act of 2006. I got the answer I'd hoped for. Turn back and amend the act, restore the writ of habeas corpus, repeal unconstitutional executive powers. I could go on and on but in my excitement that's all I remember well enough to quote.

The two things that made me happiest - He talked about empathy and understanding, walking in the other guys shoes as a powerful negotiation tactic as well as a life philosophy. That is what I experienced in his campaign office as the staffers played with and put my little boy to work. No one pushed him away or told me not to bring my child. He was included. They were empathetic.

He talked about transparency in government, putting health care negotiations and round table discussions on C-SPAN.

And finally, "No one will be reading your emails or wiretapping your phones or looking at what books you checked out of the library when I am your president."
Amen, Barack.
All I can say is if you feel the way I do, go to your primaries and state caucuses, make your voice heard along with me...Yes We Can. And no matter how your vote is cast, participate in this great process that makes America strong. That is the key to change.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Long Life, Positive Life - They Will Be Missed

What do you wish to leave behind? That's what LifePrints is all about. When you are gone how will people sum up your life? Will they say you worked hard for what you believed in? Or will they shrug their shoulders if someone asks about your true passion? Will they remember you for being kind or for being a curmudgeon? Your sense of humor or your biting sarcasm? You still have time to decide what your legacy will be.

This past year we lost some great individuals who made lasting contributions to our world. People who when you hear their name you know immediately what they cared about and how they manifested that in their lives.

Liz Clairborne launched her own line of clothing in 1976 after toiling undiscovered for years in the backrooms of other designers. She clothed a new breed of executive - the upwardly mobile woman, at that time, often the first female executives in their companies. By 1986 her company was the first Fortune 500 company to be owned by a woman.

Marcel Marceau was the world's most famous mime. Born in 1923, he survived the Nazi occupation and helped children death escape as part of the French Underground. His father was murdered in Auschwitz. In 1959, he established his own school in Paris, and later the Marceau Foundation to promote the art of pantomime in the United States. He received an Emmy for this work on television and was considered a National Treasure in Japan. His career in "the art of silence" lasted over sixty years.

Walter Schirra Jr. was the only US astronaut to fly in all three of NASA's first programs: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. He was the Command Pilot on Apollo VII during the first manned flight test of the three directional spacecraft. He retired from NASA in 1969 and later co-authored "The Real Space Cowboys" with Ed Buckbee, a former NASA public affairs officer and the first executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The book highlighted the Mercury astronauts and their contribution to the U.S. space program.

Ira Levin wrote seven novels in his lifetime. Most of which were New York Times Best Sellers and major motion pictures. "Rosemary's Baby", "The Boys from Brazil" and "The Stepford Wives" tapped into the deep personal fears of a generation (and probably all generations to come).

Madeleine L'Engle was in her 40's when her novel "A Wrinkle In Time" rocked the worlds of young readers. The book was rejected by 26 publishers before someone finally saw the light. It later received a Newbery Medal and hasn't stopped selling since 1963.

Ruth Bell Graham, wife of famous Baptist minister Billy Graham, was anything but a demure preacher's wife. She was his most outspoken adviser, telling him not to run for president or pursue a TV career as a televangelist. She loved to move behind the scenes, away from the spotlight, and helped him craft and research sermons and even books. A gifted poet and writer herself, Ruth authored or coauthored 14 books.

And lastly and sadly, singer and songwriter Dan Fogelberg. His songs will forever live in my heart. Christmas means hearing "Same Ole Lang Syne" on the radio and I can't tell you how many time I've shed tears to his famous song "Longer". Dan died last month from prostate cancer at the age of 51. Please visit his website for an emotional message from him (it's near the bottom of the page under Now for the Sermon) urging all men to have prostate exams. This is as important as an annual breast exam is to women.

These incredible people will be missed but I can still read the Levin and L'Engle's books, watch Marceau on DVD, buy Lizwear, and listen to Dan's sweet voice. Use their amazing LifePrints as inspiration to follow your bliss, live your passion, and leave your mark.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Heidi Hammel - Inspiring Astronomer

When Heidi Hammel asked her high school chemistry teacher to write a recommendation letter to get into MIT, he said, "No. You'll never get in." And when she got accepted he retorted, "That's only because you're a woman. They have quotas to fill." That was 1978. Thank goodness things have changed but still most girls shy away from the sciences, thinking they just aren't cut out for technical careers.

Heidi didn't let the criticism slow her down. MIT was hard and she struggled until she found her niche - Astronomy. Her professor recognized her drive and worked to keep her involved in the class. She was the youngest for four students and the only woman. The following year he asked her to help teach. After graduation she went on to Hawaii for her graduate work and on to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab for post doctorate work before returning to MIT as a as a Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

Now Hammel balances career and family while working with the Space Science Institute. She telecommutes from her home in Connecticut. She's also helping to build the the next big space telescope to replace the Hubble. The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch in 2013.

In 2002, the Division of Planetary Sciences awarded her the Sagan Medal which is given to an active planetary scientist whose efforts have significantly contributed to a public understanding of, and enthusiasm for, planetary science.
During the presentation of the medal she gave a speech focusing on education and public outreach opportunities for the ordinary planetary scientist.

On the education front, Heidi's involved in a website directed at introducing young people to real scientists. She's morphed into a cartoon character that explains the wonders of the outer planets. She's accessible to children and makes stellar careers, like hers, a viable possibility for every young girl and boy to ponder. She's opening their eyes to a myriad of career opportunities in the sciences and saying...yes, you can be a scientist, too.

Heidi Hammel is a leader and on the cutting edge of astronomy. She's a prime example of what can be accomplished with hard work, dedication, and a passion for learning. We should all strive to learn about and do the things that excite our minds and souls...follow your bliss. I think Heidi would agree.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Caucus - It's About Participation

For the first time in my adult life, I really care about the up coming elections. There have been six presidential elections since I registered to vote and sadly, I've only voted in a handful of those. Now, I understand how important the individual is to this process we call democracy. I have strong opinions and I want someone in Washington who shares my views - the right person doesn't have to match me completely but to get my vote they will be full of hope and a positive, peaceful vision for the future. I'm not listening to the scare tactics. I don't care about the politics of fear.

Starting today I'm volunteering my time to a candidate and plan to participate in my state caucus. I hope that other Americans, like me, are waking up to their civic responsibility. I think what happened in Iowa is an indication of the fervor of our nation and our need for change. More people turned out for the Iowa caucus than ever before. Maybe other states will follow suit and concerned Americans will make their voices heard in record numbers.

My time for blogging may be more limited for the next few weeks but I think it will be time well spent. Instead of talking and writing about people who are affecting change, I'm going to take a moment, move away from my computer and be like those people I so greatly admire.

I'm excited to write about my first caucus experience. I hear they can be very unpredictable, wrought with drama or quick, quiet and boring. We'll see on the 19th.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Links for The Peace Train

My View Of "It" - Carol Hamel's blog where you can join The Peace Train and grab the logo for your sidebar.

The Arbinger Institute - Authors of the dynamic book "The Anatomy of Peace". Everyone should read it.

The International Day of Peace - September 21 is peace day around the world. Plan to do something special in your community.

Dayton International Peace Museum - See what people in one city are doing to bring peace into the lives of the citizens of a metropolitain area.

The Peace Train-Hop On Board - Link to my original post that goes along with these links.

Peace Train - Hop Onboard

More than thirty years ago, Cat Stevens, now Yusef Islam, wrote Peace Train. The video is of his performance at the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. That night Muhammad Yunus was honored for his work to end poverty by providing microloans to individuals and small business owners, giving them the capital needed to change not only their lives but to help entire communities.

Listen closely to the words of the song. “Now I’ve been happy lately, thinking about good things to come…Now I’ve been smiling lately, thinking about the world as one…Now I’ve been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is…Why must we go on hating? Why can’t we live in bliss?”

Why can’t we? Abraham Flexnor, a respected medical educator, once said, “Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for war and civilization. We must make our choice. We cannot have both.”

Read any spiritual writing from any great spiritual mind from Jesus to Muhammad to Buddha to Gandhi to the Dalai Lama and you will find admonitions against war…pleas for and instructions on peaceful coexistence. Yet, we still kill one another as some sort of protracted resolution to conflict or retribution for misdeeds against another. We still beat each other into submission in the name of bringing peace.

Carol Hamel of My View of “It” has sent out the call for bloggers to join The Peace Train. Bloggers have power and should use their unique voices to rise up in unison, speaking out against violence in our world. I’m with her. Are you?

If you’d like to join The Peace Train please post the logo in your sidebar and notify Carol you’re onboard. She’ll include you in a list of links on her blog. Look to my next post for links to this and other organizations promoting peace.

Let’s make this the year peace happens. If it becomes a resolution in my daily life and we ALL strive to live peacefully, I believe things will change for the better. Once we taste the happiness of living as if our neighbors were ourselves, we will no longer tolerate declarations of war handed down from our leaders, killing of innocents or abject poverty among our fellow man. How could I? How could you? Think about it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tide - When Clean Laundry Spells Compassion

Long before Casinos dotted the Gulf Coast and long before they were wiped away by hurricane Katrina, I lived in Biloxi, Mississippi. Debbie, my best friend at the time, bought a house on the back bay with her husband. Tom was in the military and this house represented a stable future. No matter what came their way, the house in Biloxi belonged to them...home base at the end of a long career.

Six months before he retired hurricane Katrina battered the little house, flooded it with several feet of water, and rendered it unlivable. When the time came, they moved back anyway and planned to rebuild their dream.

Recently, a letter came in the mail from my dear friend. For the past two years they've been living in a camper while they slowly reclaimed their lives in Biloxi. I couldn't help but think about the things they've sacrificed during that time and how hard daily life must have been. They are truly strong people and I admire them greatly.

I wondered how Debbie managed the simple tasks like cooking and laundry. That reminded me
of a program I'd heard of shortly after Katrina left her devastation. Loads of Hope is a mobile laundry service run by Tide, owned by Procter & Gamble. They moved their mobile laundry mat into New Orleans and opened up shop, washing, folding, and delivering clean clothes back to the weary people of Saint Bernard Parish.

During that time Loads of Hope washed over 20,000 loads of clothes for free, providing an invaluable service. This is a textbook example of "offering up your unique skills and talents". The conversation at the Tide company must have gone something like this.

Executive #1, "Those poor people. Some one shoud do something."

Executive #2, "We could write a check to the Red Cross."

Executive #1, "But that's so impersonal. There must be something WE can do."

Assistant pouring coffee for Executive #1 whispers timidly, "Well, we could wash their clothes."

And there you go.....a grand idea.

Loads of Hope was such a success and morale booster for the residents it helped that Tide wants to keep the program going. They plan to send their mobile units out in response to future natural disasters. They rushed out to California after the wildfires a few months ago and are still there washing sheets and clothes damaged by the smoke.

If you'd like to show your support for this program you can purchase a tee shirt for $15.00. On the front is the vintage Tide logo. The back says Loads of Hope. All of the proceeds will go to help families rebuild after a natural disaster.

I hope that other companies follow Tide's lead and look at the unique help they can offer to philanthropic causes. It does a good turn for the world and gives the employees a sense of pride in the accomplishments of their company.

In the letter from my friend she passed on thanks to all the people and organizations that have helped to make life easier during their long period of recovery. I'm sure the people who used the Tide Loads of Hope service feel the same way.

Look on their website for Loads of Hope mobile locations if they can be of help to you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Year - What That Means To Me

A new year is a fresh start, a beginning. A new year is the continuation of a dream, the next step in a journey. A new year is the end of old, no longer productive thought and action, a time to take stock and redirect our efforts.

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. If I want to lose weight or finish a project I've learned the hard way that a list scribbled on a scrap of paper doesn't get me far. Before long I misplace the list and life goes on as before in my normal half-organized, half-spontaneous way of living.

What works better for me is taking a moment to reflect and regroup. Finally in my fourth decade, I'm getting it right. My children are constant sources of joy and amazement. I cry tears of pride each time I witness their accomplishments - the lightning fast run into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game - The look on my son's face as he breaks a board with a flying sidekick - Notes picked out on the piano and finally the melody of a song from my child who's teaching herself to play - Discussing ambitions for college, possibly music school in Los Angeles and daydreaming of the summer afternoon when my oldest walks across the stage to receive his diploma - The sheer terror and joy of watching my baby scale a 30-foot rock wall at the climbing gym.

2007 became the year of personal accomplishment and growth. My career is on track and I'm working on my next book. My personal life is awesome thanks to the love of an incredible man. LifePrints, which started on a whim, has become a source of daily inspiration and joy. I've made some incredible new friends who share my ambitions toward writing and changing the world one person at a time.

Through the posts I've written, I've learned so much about the resilience of the human spirit and the goodness of the human heart. Each day, I'm more convinced that we will solve the problems facing our world. We are capable. If each of us step up, speak up, and act up...things will change for the better.

I hope to have more this year of what I had last. I hope for you to find a way to your dreams. I hope for the world that suffering ends and true living, instead of just surviving, begins across our planet.