Friday, August 29, 2008

The Kindness of Bloggers and Cats

On Wednesday night Tami Cowden and I co-taught a workshop for the beginning blogger at my local library here in Nevada. We had 40 plus people in attendance and wow, were they a lively bunch. They tested my blogging knowledge with tons of relevant questions. I hope they walked away feeling more confident and ready to dive into the world of blogging.

One of the highlights of the evening was seeing Meg, the mother of Fin the amazing blogging cat. Fin sent a gift for my cats, Harry and Domino. He shared two cans of his beloved Fancy Feast. Now that's generosity. It really does mean something when a cat shares the items most near and dear to its heart.

Another was seeing familiar faces in the audience. They were their to learn but I like to think they also came as support. Among the Henderson Writers' Group, my fear of public speaking is well known. Maybe not, but like a teenager with a big zit on her nose, I'm positive everyone can see my fear radiating bright and red. I was very happy to see John, Linda, Judy, and Helene.

When I arrived home I showed Harry and Domino their gift. They were very happy and couldn't understand why it took me so long to open the cans. Duh, I was documenting the event for all to see. Especially Fin.

My cats were very grateful to Fin and anxious to devour what was hidden in the little cans. They sniffed and pawed at the tins until finally I decided I that I might be inflicting emotional torture upon my sweet pets.

I stopped snapping photos and filled their bowls. I must agree with Meg, Fancy Feast is very aromatic, much more so than Friskies (the typical feline fare served in my house). But I think it was the smell that drove Harry and Domino completely mad with desire and anticipation.

They ate the treat in record time. As they smacked away, I told my family all about the night at the library -how proud I was to have sold a copy of Writer's Bloc II and signed my name for the buyer - how happy I was to know the answers to all the questions put before me (except, how to move mail from a web based service into Outlook. Not my expertise, sorry John). - how excited I was to be asked back to do more workshops and to participate with Tami in a new writing project.

Life is good for me and my cats. Thanks to the kindness of a room full of new bloggers, I'm feeling less nervous about speaking before a group. And thanks to Fin and Meg, my cats are feeling like they want more Fancy Feast...good cat food is addictive and kindness is contagious, so they tell me.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Caregiver - Stepping Up When A Loved One Needs You

Sometimes your life changes in an instant and instead of inviting your adult son over for dinner you're holding his head coaxing him to eat just one more bite. Other times change comes so slowly you don't notice the metamorphosis until you realize that your mother not only depends on you to balance her checkbook and drive her to an endless secession of doctor's appointments but lately she needs help with baths and personal care, too.

The majority of us will be faced with situations similar to these or we might even be the recipient of the loving kindness of another. Let's face it, even if we avoid a serious illness or accident, we are living decades longer than previous generations...if we are not the caregiver, we will mostly become the cared for.

I am often reminded of my mother and the way she tirelessly cared for two sisters and an aunt. Every week for nearly twenty years she shuttled between two nursing homes, forty miles apart, to look after the people she loved. They needed her. She was there and that was that. In her words, "Someone had to do it so I did."

When I think of this I am renewed in my guilt that my mother is in her seventies and I, her only child, live thousands of miles away. One day, I know that will have to change. She will need me and I will make the necessary adjustments to care for her as she did so faithfully for others.

Many times my mother felt overwhelmed and didn't know where to turn for help. She muddled through it the best way she could. Apparently, things have not changed much since the twenty years since. I spoke with a friend recently who shared that her husband had been diagnosed with a debilitating illness. She's feeling the same isolation and confusion as my mother and so many others have experienced.

For my friend, and all those I know who are in her situation, I've compiled a short list of places on the web that might be helpful. I want my friend to remember that she is doing a noble thing, a loving and charitable thing at a time in history when it seems people turn away from heavy responsibilities. I want her to know that she is up to the task and she has support. Caregivers should be held in the highest esteem. As with my mother and many like her, my friend has my respect.

To care for those who cannot care for themselves is our highest calling as human beings and is rarely recognized as such.

Caregiver Resource List:

National Family Caregivers Association
Helene Moore, Author of Behind the Mask
Administration on Aging
Family Caregiver Alliance
Resources from the US Government
Ways To Connect With Other Caregivers from the American Cancer Society

Disabled Veterans
Alzheimer's Association
Emotional Side of Chronic Illness

I hope this helps in some small way. Reader, if you have a link for this list please put it in the comments section and I'll add it as soon as I can. Share you story, if you have one, it might just help someone in the same situation.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Announcement - Radio Interview and Author's Panel Next Week

If you live in or near Las Vegas, Nevada come spend an evening with me and Tami Cowden.

Blogging Your Way Through Life: How to start your own on-line journal
Wednesday, August 27th at 6:30pm
Clark County Library
1401 E. Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, Nevada

The Internet has become the cheapest and fastest way for an author to market her book while keeping her writing skills fresh. Join local authors Tami Cowden and Lisa McGlaun as they explain how to start your own blog, proper blogging etiquette, popular on-line journal communities, protecting your website content and using your blog as a marketing tool for selling your book to the general public. A book signing and light reception to follow the presentation. For more information, please call (702) 507-3459.
And on Monday, August 25th at 10:00am on KNPR 88.9FM, Lisa and Tami will be guests on The State of Nevada discussing how they began blogging. They'll pass on their best tips for running a successful blog. Listen live in Nevada or catch the rebroadcast at 7:00pm or the show archives.

I'm very excited about this opportunity to speak in conjunction with Tami Cowden. She is an appeals lawyer, romance author, and public speaker. She also runs writing workshops that breakdown the character archetypes used in story telling. And my stomach fills with butterflies just thinking about the radio show. I listen to Dave Burns on KNPR most every day and now he is going to interview me! I'm flying....that's all I can say!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Supersize Me Backwards

"You can't win today's game with yesterday's pitches." This is a drop of wisdom from Frank Ferrante. What does he mean? He means that in order to succeed and have the happy, healthy life he desires he must renew his spiritual connection everyday. And just how did a 55 year-old, ex-addict from Brooklyn come to this revelation?

Watch May I Be Frank? for the answer. May I Be Frank? is an independent film conceived by Ryalnd Engelhart, Conor Gaffney, and Cary Mosier. The idea for the film took shape when Frank Ferrante walked into Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco, CA. Ryland struck up a conversation with Frank and soon learned what the overweight and sick Ferrante wanted more than anything. He wanted to fall in love one more time.

Ryland asked Frank if he'd be part of an experiment. He told him that he could help him better his life in 42 days by switching him to a raw food diet and teaching him to think abundantly. Frank's reaction was something like, "Yeah, right." But something inside of him said to give in to the process.

Josey Duncan writes an inspiring article in Ode Magazine about Frank's journey to health. It wasn't easy and at the end of Engelhart's filming they had to surrender to the fact that outcomes are not predictable. Granted, Frank was forty pounds lighter, rebuilding past relationships, and had reversed his Hepatitis C diagnosis but he wasn't healed yet.

During the year after the filming Frank became addicted to prescription pain killers and backslid into isolation and depression. It took another 12 step program to finally bring the epiphany Ferrante needed. These days, he is working on his master's degree in humanities, does volunteer work and has been clean of all "mind altering substances" for over a year. He feels healthy and his eyes sparkled when he told Josie, "My life is good. It's free of drama." Then in true Frank form he added, "Probably because it's free of a girlfriend, too. I'm still looking for her."

Engelhart hopes to have May I Be Frank? ready for screening at the Sundance Film Festival in September. This is one movie I would love to see. Frank is a testament to life itself. What was his epiphany, you may ask?

When Frank moaned I don't know why I'm not dead yet, his counselor looked him squarely in the eyes and answered, "The real question isn't why aren't you dead, it's why are you alive?"

That would wake anyone up to the possibility that they are worth the effort of finding out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm a Kick Ass Blogger - Yeah Baby!

My friend, Jerry at As The Crackerhead Crumbles, passed on this cool award to me. I'm not really sure how it originated or what it's supposed to say about me so I'll give you my interpretation.

To me, a Kick Ass Blogger is someone who puts her best into her blog and takes the responsibility seriously. Even if their blog is funny or satirical, the blogger cares about her readers and passed on information that is true to the best of her knowledge. A Kick Ass Blogger writes with a purpose and is relentless in pursuit of excellence. A Kick Ass Blogger is an awesome writer and works tirelessly on her craft so that her posts are interesting and informative. A Kick Ass Blogger cares about the blogging community and is active within it.

I hope this is what Jerry meant when he thought of me for this award. I know I think he fits into this category of dedicated bloggers. I do my best with LifePrints and hope that in some small way I am making a contribution to my readers and through them, the world.

I have a few people I'd like to pass this award along to, bloggers who are Kick Ass in my book:

Claudia who owns Museworthy. She's an artist model in New York. Oh how I would have loved to have lived submerged in the art community. She gives me a peek into that world.

Heather runs The Wishful Writer. She's probably getting tired of all the awards I send her way but she deserves them. She's my Hollis Gillespie, my Carol Burnett...I don't know what I'd do without her blog to make me laugh.

And finally, Anok, my favorite anarchist. Her political views and passion never fail to ignite my own. She shares her opinions on Identity Check.

My hat is off to these three bloggers. Keep it coming, ladies. You make me proud to call myself a blogger.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

$4.00 per Gallon For Gas - A Positive Catalyst For Change

I recently read a story in Newsweek magazine about a woman just like me - a mother/taxi driver/scheduler/helper. Jennifer Perrow parked her mini-van and presented a challenge to her family. She made a game out of seeing how long they could go without buying a tank of gas. To her surprise, her family jumped at the chance to be creative.

Here's what happened:

-Now she bikes with her children to swim lessons -She borrows books from friends instead of running out to the bookstore - Her family eats out at the variety of restaurants within one mile of her home - She jogs in her neighborhood instead of driving to the gym to hop on the treadmill - Her children carpool to school both there and back - And she says her dogs are loving the increase in exercise because she's taking them on walks to reduce her stress.

Jennifer is not the only one changing her lifestyle and parking her car as much as possible. According to a survey by AARP, leisure and vacation driving is down this summer. In my home state of Nevada, AARP reports that leisure driving is down by 6.7% and people are using alternative forms of transportation more frequently.

Networks and stories of people who've given up their cars completely are popping up on the Internet. Here are a few: Don't Drive, Living Without a Car: My New American Responsibility, Google Groups Frugal Living.

If going car-less is too much of a stretch, others have led the way by parking their rides and hiding the keys in the freezer (much like people do with credit cards) to reduce the temptation of jetting to the 7-11. And then there are families like mine who dream of using our car less but we don't know where to start.

For people like us there is a new book by Chris Balish, How To Live Well Without Owning A Car. This is my next purchase at the bookstore. He promises to show me how to save money and the environment by parking my car. I look forward to some practical advice for a family of seven.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What Do You Make Of These Quotes?

Saint Augustine of Hippo said, "Love and do what you will."

He said, "Once and for all, a short rule is laid down for you: Love, and do what you will. If you keep silence, do it out of love. If you cry out, do it out of love. If you refrain from punishing, do it out of love. Let the root of love be within. From such a root nothing but good can come."

Can you see this concept working in your life and the ways in which your daily interactions with others would be different? What would happen if we all lived this way?

Saint Augustine was a prolific writer. His best known work is Confessions, which is an account of his early life. He also wrote The City of God to restore fellow Christians faith in God after the destruction of Rome by the Visigoths in 410AD.

Here is another Saint Augustine quote to ponder: He said, "Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are."

What if we all got angry about poverty, homelessness, and hunger? What if we all had the courage to make sure things did not remain as they are?

Think about it. What do Saint Augustine's words mean to you?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

29 Gifts - One Gift A Day To Change The World

Cami Walters suffers from multiple sclerosis. During a particularly rough period of her chronic illness she asked her spiritual teacher, Mbali Creazzo, for help. Mbali suggested an African spiritual ritual of giving away 29 gifts in 29 days. This was to help Cami step away from herself and her suffering to create a new story, one that centered around the needs of others.

Cami tried it and was so moved by the experience she decided to share it with the world by starting the 29-Day Giving Challenge. She created a website and formed an online community where people could register and share their stories. Her goal is to have 2,000 givers signed up for the challenge by September 29, 2008.

At last count she had 781 people signed up and active on her website. That's 781 people reaching out to someone every day. Cami wants us to recognize that we all give gifts, even if we are not aware of it. It could be that we let someone go ahead of us in the check out line. Maybe we returned books and paid the library fines for a sick friend. Or maybe the gift was a simple smile to another motorist instead of the all too familiar finger.

That doesn't mean that you can't give big, too. Donate your old car to a needy family. Pay an elderly person's power bill who can't afford to run her air conditioner. Sell the ring from a marriage that's ended and donate the money to a homeless shelter. The ideas are only limited by your imagination and willingness to let go.

Cami also recommends being spontaneous with your gifts. She was tempted to line her hallway with numbered goodies and plans for each day until she realized this was completely counterproductive to a spiritual exercise of this kind. She suggests to just let each day unfold, give what you are moved to give, journal about it at night, and be gentle with yourself if things don't go as you would have liked.

Cami posted a video explaining to viewers why she started the challenge and how to join. It's very simple. There are stories on the website and giving ideas from members. There are meetings where you can get together with others doing the challenge. It's a real community experimenting with the idea of a world where people are as anxious to give as they are to receive.

Give it a try. I'm going to.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Righteous Among Nations - What It Means To Be A Hero

How many fifteen years olds do you know that would risk their lives for another? You might quickly answer NONE, but I'd ask you to remember that (if you are American) the crop of teenagers you are familiar with have not been tested. I like to think they would be heroic if called upon to act and I also hope they are never tested in the same was as Maria Lopuszanksa.

At the tender age of 15 Maria, a Catholic, was all that 8 year old, Jewish Janina Pietraskiak had to cling to. Maria was the teenage daughter of Anti-Nazi parents. Her parents were part of the Polish Underground during World War II that worked to shelter and save Jewish families. Little Janina was part of one of those families in jeopardy.

Janina and her mother were hiding in the Lopuszanksa home when suddenly her mother succumbed to tuberculosis. She was alone. After that, to further protect Janine, she was baptised into the Catholic faith and adopted as a member of Maria's family. She clung to her new family out of fear and loyalty, refusing to go live with an uncle in the United States.

At one point the girls had to fiend for themselves during the Warsaw uprising of 1944. Maria's father was ill and her mother had taken up arms against the Nazis in the city streets. They saw bombs exploding, corpses and worse atrocities happening within feet of them. The girls narrowly escaped death. Janina recalls how she buried herself in Maria's skirt and how she thought of the teenager as a protective mother. But Maria was just a girl herself...a heroic one, maybe a little like a young girl in your life now. Who knows?

At 79, Maria lives in a nursing home in Warsaw and Janina visits her sister every day. Recently, she petitioned the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem to have Maria included as one of the "Righteous Among The Nations".

Under a program created by the Israeli Foreign Ministry in 1963, 15,000 non-Jews have so far been recognized to be "righteous" because of their efforts to save, aid, or transport Jews to safety during the Holocaust.

These individuals have their names inscribed on a wall at the National Holocaust Memorial. They are given the Righteous Medal and a certificate of honor. Those that are found to be in financial need receive monetary gifts from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

Maria was awarded 1,200 dollars per year to help with her living expenses and medicine.

The title, reserved as the highest honor for non-Jews, has gone to people from 44 countries. Poles made up the largest number, 6,066, followed by the Netherlands with 4,863.

Maria and Janina are bonded for life, sisters of the heart as much as sisters of circumstance. Theirs is a beautiful story of selflessness - Maria to Janina when she was a young frightened child and now, Janina to Maria in the frailness of old age. We should all learn from their example.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Three Little Words - Inspirational Book About Foster Care

May I recommend an extraordinary book:

Ashley Rhodes-Courter was three years old when the state of Florida removed her from her mother's home. Nine years, fourteen foster homes and two group homes later, Ashley was adopted at the age of twelve.

Three Little Words is intended for young adults but resonates far beyond that age group. Ashley is plucky, smart, and aware. Unlike most children who might cower in the face of overwhelming odds, she talks and keeps talking to anyone who will listen to her tales of one abusive foster mother. She's determined to make sure everyone knows the Mosses' are not what they profess to be. No matter the obstacles, she clings to her love of learning, her longing for her mother, and her desire to protect her little brother, Luke.

Ashley's life is inspiring. She was meant for bigger things. She was meant to be heard. After Ashley won a Harry Potter essay contest, JK Rowling predicted she'd go far because she'd already over come so much. First Lady Hillary Clinton heard about Ashley's winning piece and mentioned it in a television interview. Later, Ashley met the First Lady and President Clinton.

Three Little Words began as an essay that ran in New York Times Magazine. Just a hint to the reader...the "three little words" are not the ones you think, which makes Ashley's story all the more powerful.

As a former foster mother and the author of a memoir about my experience, I am in genuine awe of Ashley, her accomplishments, and the manner in which she embraces life. I thought of my foster daughter, Sandy, when I read Ashley's words. I wonder if Sandy felt the same intense loyalty to the parents who tossed her out...if I'm honest with myself I know the answer. I'm sure she did.

I don't think my husband and I were ever as wise as the couple who adopted Ashley but I know I tried very hard and did the best I knew how. I'm glad there are children like Ashley, who in spite of the system, are thriving and happy people. Thanks to a handful of adults who devoted themselves to her welfare and in defiance of the foster parents who abused or dismissed her, she is an incredible person and talented writer. Someday it would be a pleasure to meet her. After, reading her story, I feel like I already have.