Monday, September 29, 2008
Here are the rules: Link to the giver - Link to the ones you give to - Give to up to seven bloggers - Notify them of the award.
So, drum roll please. I love!!!!
Linda Lou because not only is she a kick butt blogger and writer but she's my friend...the real kind...like I see her, in person, as often as possible.
Helen, also a real life buddy, writes the funniest things. I love her politics and love her.
Then there is Helene, not to be confused with the previous Helen. I also know this lovely lady. I'm sensing a pattern here....lovable bloggers that I know.
I have to give kudos to Heather. I never miss an opportunity. She's a rising star and I'm proud to know her...even if it's only virtually, but we're gonna fix that someday, I hope.
Okay, girls...go forth unto the blogging community and spread the love! Have a great day!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
"You can win that," A lady who was standing next to the table said. "The raffle money goes to Lyrics For Life."
"What's that?" I asked.
"A charity that helps kids with cancer. It was started by Ken." I must have wrinkled my brow because she added, "You know, the lead singer of Sister Hazel. His brother died of cancer when he was young. It's his way of helping out."
I bought a ticket and knew I had to know more about this person, the owner of the voice I so admired, and the cause he championed. After the concert, the band members signed autographs and when it was my turn, I told Ken Block I wanted to write about Lyrics For Life. He was very kind when I asked if I could send him a few interview questions.
Lyrics For Life was founded in honor of Block's brother, Jeffery, who passed away at the age of 18 after a four year battle with T-Cell lymphoma. He was an inspiration to Ken. From the L4L brochure he remembers...
I was in the room the day the doctor told my brave, battered brother, "There is nothing else we can do." And my brother looked up, tears slowly welling up in his eyes and said, "Well, thank you for giving me four years I never would have had without you." He's still my hero. I miss him today and every day.
During my research I found a video of Ken performing with Edwin McCain at a Lyrics for Life event. Other artists that have participated in the cause are John Mayer, Matchbox Twenty, and Elton John....there are many more on the list of supporters.
I decided not to bother Ken with my questions since the group is on tour. I'd like to thank him for a great concert and his tireless efforts to make this world a softer place for people and their families who've been touched by cancer.
If you would like to help out, the L4L website takes donations and has merchandise for sale.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I won't tell you how to vote, never, but I will implore you to be an informed voter. Dig deeper than the soundbites and political ads. Make sure you understand the issues so that when one campaign or their mouthpieces attempts to twist the truth (this used to be called lying) you will know it is happening.
Here are a few books that will help you along the way. I've found these to be the most balanced portrayals of modern politics and the pressing issues facing a new president. I have more if you finish these but this is a good place to start.
The Arbinger Institute's The Anatomy of Peace is the best book, in my opinion, on how to foster peace in the world, but also in your community and your home. It's easy to understand and a quick read. The authors use the Jewish/Arab conflict as a backdrop for some of life's most important lessons.
Beyond Tolerance, is an in depth look at the other side of the post 9/11 world. We are bombarded with hateful/fearful rhetoric about terrorists, what they look like and who we should fear, and the religious divisions since the attack. This book thoughtfully shines a light on people of all religions who were prompted by the events of 9/11 to come together in love and compassion and resist the easy path of hate.
The author shows us, through the work of others, that it is possible and necessary to not just tolerate religious differences but to embrace them as our founding fathers did. Knowledge of and respect for the views of others are imperative in our shrinking world. The United States is filled with many different religious groups. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Shik, Buddhist...we are all Americans.
Alpha Dogs is a very interesting look at the two men who formed
Sawyer Miller, the political consultant firm who served as backroom strategists on every presidential contest from Richard Nixon’s to George W. Bush's. You will never watch a campaign ad again without thinking about these men and the way they changed campaign strategy forever.
Just remember, to a campaign strategist you are a consumer not a voter. They want you to buy not think. If you think too much you might see through the smoke screen and actually vote your conscience. What a concept that is!..to vote your conscience. Next time you watch a campaign ad, think of it like an ad for kids cereal or a new car. See if you can find the similarities and then give it as much weight as you do the ads for Lucky Charms and the new Hummer.
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama and Faith of My Fathers by John McCain. If you really want to understand the choice before you, you must read these two books. How better to know a man than from his own words.
Please vote. Please vote responsibly. The future of our children depends on you exercising your civic duty. There are only a few more days to register to vote. Register today.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS; OR THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.
In 1966 Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart gave this dissenting opinion in Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 - "Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .”
Why am I pointing this out?
September 27th to October 4th is Banned Books Week - Celebrating the freedom to read. This is the 27th anniversary of the American Library Association's attempt to draw attention to this basic democratic freedom - the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. The ALA stands on the principle that intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.
What are the four most frequent reasons for petitioning for censorship? They are family values, religion, political views, and minority rights.
Would you be surprised to know that Mark Twain and Toni Morrison are on the most challenged author list? That To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland were once on banned book lists? This is why it is so important to uphold and support our freedom to read what we wish because if we don't, it soon follows that we will not be able to think or say what we believe.
Here is what Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had to say about regulating thought (Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition):
“First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end. The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought."
Please support Banned Book Week in your community. The American Library Association website has a complete list of ways to participate and draw attention to the cause. As a writer and lover of books I think this is such an important issue and freedom provided to us in the founding documents of our nations, one that we must remain on vigilant watch to protect.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Harlem Children's Zone programs are many, too many to mention in one short article...all with basically a cradle to college mentality. Canada and his companions are trying to reshape the culture of the entire community, not just raise the percentage of kids that graduate from high school.
I am most impressed with a program called Baby College. Parents and soon-to-be-parents enroll in a comprehensive 9 week course that teaches them how to parent. Many of these young adults came from fractured families or traditions of neglect and depravity. They need help and a skill set to know how to effectively parent their little ones. How can they emmulate something they've never seen? They have to be shown in order to do it.
Lessons about such basic topics as proper feeding, childhood diseases, and playing with your baby are alien to many of the parents. Baby College teaches a method of discipline without hitting that will help to break the cycle of abuse and foster care.
The Harlem Children's Zone website boosts that for the sixth year in a row 100% of the kindergartners enrolled in Promise Academy, their charter school, were preforming at grade level and 97% of their 8th graders were preforming grade level math. These are astounding improvements in a community where nearly half of the teenagers don't finish high school on time.
Canada's methods are controversial in some educational circles but I applaud his efforts. He's in the trenches trying new ideas every day. What more can we ask of someone? He's so inspirational that Barack Obama has cited the Harlem Children's Zone as a model he'd like to replicate in at least 20 more inner-city communities if he is elected president in November.
With vision, it is possible to save more than a handful of the next generation.
Monday, September 15, 2008
What do you do when this happens to you? I imagine you feel bad, let down and ask yourself what was the point. Please don't.
Gary Chapman, author of The Five Languages of Love and Love as a Way of Life, says we must realize that it is not our responsibility to make people respond positively to our expressions of kindness. We all have the ability to receive and return love or to reject the love offered to us. When a person rejects our kindness, it's easy to pull back or get angry. But people are free to accept kindness with gratitude or turn it away, to accuse you of selfish motives or to reciprocate with kindness toward you. What we must remember is that their response is out of our control.
In our world, relationships do not always work the way we want them to. We might never see the influence of our acts of kindness. But when we love authentically, we remain kind even when loving is difficult. If someone rejects your kindness you can continue to hope that in time he will turn and walk toward you instead of away. In the meantime, hold on to your attitude of love and kindness.
If it was a random act for a stranger that was rejected keep in mind that many people do not trust strangers. You know your motives but they are not always clear to the other person. So don't be offended when an offer is turned down. For every time your kindness is rejected there will be many more when it is greatly appreciated.
So what do you do when your act of kindness is rejected or goes unnoticed? Just smile. After all, who were you doing it for anyway and why? For yourself and your own edification? Or because you truly care about another? If it's the latter there is no reason to feel bad...bursh off your ego, move on, and DO.
You'll be glad you did.
Friday, September 12, 2008
In his 90 years on this Earth he's lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, the civil rights movement, the Cold War, and 9/11. He is a living history of the 20th century. In his new book Letter To A New President, Senator Byrd strives to share the commonsense lessons he has learned throughout his long life, over half of it spent in politics and service to the people of West Virginia and our nation.
I'll admit that I am a baby to politics. I'm ashamed to say that I never really worried about my government until one day less than a decade ago I slowly began to wake up and realize my country was a very different place than I'd imagined. I'm also ashamed to say that until yesterday when I picked up his book from the library I knew next to nothing about Senator Byrd.
I have a new found respect for him and his story. He reminds me of my grandfather and my father, strong Southern men who've had to change with the times, having some of their most basic values about society tested and proved false. What I respect is their ability to adjust and grow, admit mistakes and soberly move on.
What is his advice to our next president? It's so simple and also like sitting in my grandparents house listening to ruminations about how to lead an exemplary life. Byrd counsels the new president to:
-Find a way to reach the American people in much the same way as Franklin D. Roosevelt did with his fireside chats. Talk to them as a friend or family member, from a place of compassion not condescension.
-Remember that no life stands outside of history. We are products of our time and we must learn lessons from the past. He quotes revolutionary war hero, Nathanael Greene in saying, "Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful." (I love this quote.)
-Never lie or mislead. "Nuff said.
-Build a presidency around accountability. "The buck stops here," said Harry Truman of his time in the Oval Office.
-Let the press do it's job, even when what they say about you stings.
-You will make mistakes. Take responsibility for them without hours of well planned spin and talking papers for justification.
-Be well versed in diplomacy. It's a skill that will serve you more than any other with foreign relations.
-Bring the nation together by putting an end to partisan warfare and replacing it with real debate.
-And for heavens sake, teach the people about the Constitution and encourage them to think for themselves and speak out, even if it is against you, most certainly if it is a voice of dissent. Those voices will be your compass on this difficult journey.
My goodness, do I respect this man and his wisdom. He is nearing the end of his political career and some have said he's become a doddering old fool. I would counter that he is an icon of a bygone era of respectable public servants. His book is a voice of reason in a turbulent time of talking heads and beeping cell phones.
I'm so glad I stumbled on his book and pray that a copy will be waiting on the next president's desk in the White House and he will eagerly devour and refer to it often.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
But when I got in the car and tuned into KNPR, my local public radio station, I was hit with a different prospective. They were running a story about the dedication of a memorial at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. I was struck by a comment from a MassPort official. He said that because the two planes that were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center both originated from Logan that employees at Logan will always feel a sense of responsibility and a depth of sadness that few people can understand. I got that and it hit me hard.
I knew one of the men who died in the Pentagon. He was an acquaintance and I only met once but it was just prior to the plane diving into the building. He didn't even work at the Pentagon. He was there for a meeting. Max Beilke's smile and firm handshake are forever etched in my mind. I didn't know until today while researching this post that Max was the last US combat solider to leave Vietnam. He lead an extrodinary life.
Not long after the tragedy I was asked to speak during a memorial service at my church in Harvest, Alabama. Here is a little of what I said that day...
I searched diligently for comforting words but I have none because I am in need of the same comfort. I look to people I trust to help me determine where to go from here. They remind me we should stand tall, bringing the United States together under a loving God for the good of the world. They tell me we should continue to pray for the victims, their families, and the tireless rescue workers. They also remind me of the most difficult concept of all...that I am called by Jesus to forgive. I am to remember that nothing happens in this world outside of a Divine plan. And most of all, good things and miracles will not end because we have been wounded.
Seven years later I want to pass on again that good things and miracles will not end, have not ended because of our loss. The world is filled with danger but it is equally filled with love. We do not need to tighten our ranks, see enemies around every corner, and lock our doors against the world. The opposite is true...if we only believe it is so.
The glass memorial at Logan is a beautiful reminder of our capacity to heal and learn from our past. I guess my biggest question on this day is what have we learned and how have those lessons shaped our present? And what about the future?
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Here's how I would describe it...it is the world's confessional, it is a place to purge your darkest fears, it's a chance to share without judgement, it's an art project, it's therapy, it's fun, it's heartbreaking, it's freeing, and once you've visited you go back again and again.
In a 2007 interview with the Torontoist, Frank Warren, the creator of PostSecret, characterizes the phenomenon this way, "I think a secret is something that, when you’re keeping it, you think nobody would understand. But as soon as you share it, it doesn’t just connect you to your humanity, it connects you to the larger community in a way that’s very meaningful, I think."
Six years ago Frank Warren gave out 3,000 postcards and asked people to write a secret on it and mail it back to him. He asked two things - the secret must be true and the writer has to have never shared it before. He received about 300 cards back and used them in an art exhibition.
Then something miraculous began to happen. He'd find postcards in his mailbox, beautiful postcards that strangers decorated and wrote their deepest, darkest secrets on. The project took on a life of its own. Frank decided to create PostSecret, a blog where every Sunday he posts a selected number of the anonymous cards to share with the world.
How does this relate to suicide prevention?
One of the leading causes of suicide is a feeling of isolation. PostSecret allows people to free themselves, to lighten their burden, and see that they are not alone. By reading and sharing they see that everyone feels as they do or they are not so weird or they don't have it as bad as they thought.
Also, PostSecret has grown into a community of readers that is over one million strong and one million people make for a powerful voice. Last year when the suicide prevention hotline 1-800-SUICIDE was in danger of closing down, Frank posted a call to action on his blog. PostSecret readers sent over $30,000 in donations directly to the hotline to keep it going.
Frank believes strongly in what he is doing. He respects the people who send in their secrets and they trust him. So far he's published 4 books filled with the postcard collections and he tours college campuses giving presentations about the tranformative power of sharing with others.
Frank says, "Free your secrets and become who you are." Sounds profoundly simple but aren't most truths that way?
Monday, September 8, 2008
The AAS website is filled with information to help you determine if someone you know and love is at risk. Use these resources to educate yourself and help prevent a needless death. After you are armed with the facts, trust your gut instincts. If someone is acting differently that normal, is severely depressed, or you are worried about their safety, please act. Isn't it better to tell someone and be wrong than to have noticed and kept quiet and find out your instincts were right?
I want to share a very personal piece of writing with you so you will know you are not alone in fearing for the well-being of someone you love. The pressures of our world are great and suicide is on the rise among young people. Be the one who sounds the alarm.
by Lisa McGlaun
My young friend, why do you cut yourself?
I found you bleeding, red-slashed and dazed in the corner of your room.
I thought I'd thrown away the glass, the metal, and the sharp razors you're so fond of.
How was I to know you'd shatter your favorite CD and
Use it to let out your pain.
Do you feel better now?
Did it work?
Did you find ecstasy in the ripping of your flesh?
My young friend, why do you do this?
I hold a towel to your wound and rock with you on the floor.
Let my love for you be the razor, slicing open your memories.
Let the ecstasy be found in releasing your sorrow in drops of words.
Words won't drip like your blood but the pleasure will be just as sweet.
Do you feel better now?
Did it work?
Do you feel lighter, letting your heartache flow out in tears and screams?
My young friend, I don't want to find you dead.
Next time I fear you will slash
And leave your beautiful arms untouched.
You move closer to your jugular each time you cry out.
Would you feel better then?
Would it work?
I can promise you there is not release in your death.
Only a young man ripped and bleeding, left to die by his own trembling hand.
If you know someone in this situation Do Something. Tell Someone...NOW.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Women gained the right to vote in 1920 by the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution. Our female ancestors fought long and hard to be granted the same privileges as men in our free society.
They protested. They rallied. They petitioned, marched and met in groups slowly changing attitudes during the 70 year struggle. They were beaten, jailed and starved themselves for their cause.
A few of the movements loudest voices actually died before seeing a clear resolution.
Since then a long line of women have paved the way up the political ladder. I am proud to watch their rise and feel that their presence brings a much needed balance to power. I've enjoyed the jolt of energy I've felt seeing local and state offices fought for and won by responsible women here in Nevada...not to mention the women who've made it (and almost made it) to be part of the highest political ticket in our land.
Sarah Palin is a current example. She and I differ vastly on most every issue and I won't vote for her party's ticket just because she is a woman (that would be irresponsible), but I applaud her efforts and the torch she carries in honor of our gender. Because of women like Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Stanton, and Lucy Burns, Palin stands before the electorate asking for our vote.
Here is the text of the speech Susan B. Anthony gave in order to win women like me and Governor Palin the right to vote and access to all the important steps that followed. Remember, this was 1873 and she died before the 19th Amendment was passed.
Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.
The preamble of the Federal Constitution says: "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people - women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government - the ballot.
For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity.
To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household - which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.
Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.
The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes.
See, Governor Palin...words are powerful, words are inspiring, words matter because with words come a call to action and with action came a change from which you and I have benifited greatly.
Please, as you represent the women of this country, remember that mockery is not your friend and the shoulders you are standing on are many and diverse.
Monday, September 1, 2008
In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.
O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wresting. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.
O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his great trouble.
"Great Waves is your name," the teacher advised, "so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land."
The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.
In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler's shoulder. "Now nothing can disturb you," he said. "You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you."
The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.
I discovered this story on 101 Zen Stories. Go there to read the remaining 100.