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Archive for the ‘Helping Others’ Category

September 4, 2015 EditionSucculents don’t suck. They just suffer from a lack of appreciation. However, all that is changing. With drought conditions existing in the United States, versatile succulents are rising in popularity. Sporting a wide range of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes, succulents add striking beauty to gardens. In an effort to cut back on water usage, I replaced almost all of my potted plants with succulents and I am so happy that I did. Succulents also produce spectacular flowers, like the trumpet-shaped one above that graces my front porch.

#1 – Crayon Initiative
Saving Crayons: Crayon Initiative While celebrating his birthday at a restaurant, Brian Ware learned that the crayons given to his children to occupy themselves were discarded after use. This led to the formation of the Crayon Initiative. Mr. Ware collects used crayons from schools and restaurants, melts them down, remolds them, and distributes them to hospitals throughout California for young patients to use. Says Mr. Ware, “If these crayons give them an escape from that hospital room for ten minutes, we did our job.”

#2 – Where Magic Happens
Visiting Illustrators' Studios A while back, when I chaired Author Day programs for my children’s schools, my family had the privilege of visiting the studio of Ruth Heller, children’s book author and illustrator. That is where magic happened, where her books came to life. Photographer Jake Green visited the studios of well-known illustrators of children’s books. Here’s a peek at some of his notes and photos from his visits in Where Magic Happens: Children’s Illustrators Open Up Their Studios.

#3 – Who’s the Cutest?
Who's the Cutest? Zoologists and animal experts from around the world took to Twitter to compete in a “cute-off” to determine which animals are scientifically the cutest. To see photos of some of the entrants, check out Scientists On Twitter Agree: These Are The Cutest Animals That Exist .

#4 – Propagating Succulents
Propagating Succulents Whether you plant succulents in the ground or in pots, you will need to keep them in shape. Many varieties can get “leggy” and need to be pruned back. Almost every part of a succulent can be used in propagation, so why not propagate while pruning? Needles + Leaves has an great tutorial on Propagating Succulents. You’ll be amazed at how easy the process is and how many plants you can get from one “mother” plant.

#5 – To Plant a Garden
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”
Audrey Hepburn

Now go and spread joy!

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July 24, 2015 Edition “Stop right there! Don’t take another step!” I called out to my dad. He stopped suddenly, looked around for signs of potential danger, and then looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Why?” he replied impatiently. During a walk to the beach with my family, I noticed words etched into the sidewalk. As I read the words, I saw that my dad was on the verge of stepping on them. The moment was too perfect; I had to interrupt his stride. At his feet, scrawled in the concrete, were the words, “WE LOVE YOU GRAMPA.” Surrounded by his family for the weekend to celebrate his birthday, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to capture our love for him more “concretely.”

#1 – Ageless Graffiti
Senior Citizens Learn to Graffiti According to Merriam-Webster, “writing or drawing made on a public structure without permission” is graffiti. That means the etchings in the sidewalk could be considered graffiti. Is graffiti always a bad thing? That’s not so, in sections of Portugal. In an attempt to “banish ageist stereotypes through the art of graffiti,” an urban art workshop called Lata 65 brings together senior citizens and well-known street artists. Read the article and take a look at some of the artwork that comes out of this unique creative workshop by clicking here.

#2 – The Power of One
Great Invention: Shoes That Expand Imagine buying shoes for your children that grow with your children’s feet and last for years. Kenton Lee, “a normal guy with an idea,” designed a sandal-like shoe that does exactly that. His invention The Shoe That Grows can grow 5 shoe sizes and last at least 5 years. These leather and compressed rubber shoes protect the feet of children in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Columbia, Vietnam, and Laos and prevent the children from having to go barefoot. One person with one idea is helping children around the world.

#3 – The Hubbub About BookBub
BookBub: Free EBooks BookBub is a daily email service that finds free or discounted ebooks for its subscribers. It provides readers with opportunities to sample new authors and discover new books. Since readers can specify genres of books they are interested in, BookBub sends out emails with titles matched to readers’ preferences.

#4 – You Have Today
Interview with Tom Rath Don’t dwell on the events of yesterday and don’t fantasize about tomorrow; today and the present moment need your attention. Susan Cain shares her interview with author, researcher, and speaker Tom Rath on her blog Quiet Revolution. Mr. Rath’s philosophy of life resonates with me. Click on the link above to read the entire interview. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from it:

The broader learning for me, after battling cancer for a couple of decades, is: you have to do something today that will continue to grow after you’re gone. I may have a more constant threat to my mortality than the average person, but in reality the only thing any of us can count on with extreme certainty is that we have today to do what matters most.

#5 – A Bit of Perspective
“My granddaughter came to spend a few weeks with me, and I decided to teach her to sew. After I had gone through a lengthy explanation of how to thread the machine, she stepped back, put her hands on her hips, and said in disbelief, “You mean you can do all that, but you can’t play my Game Boy?”
Author Unknown

Now go and spread joy!

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June 12, 2015 Edition Rotti doesn’t dwell on his disability. In fact, he’s a pretty darn happy guy. Despite the fact that he has a disease that caused his hind legs to become lame, his infectious joyful demeanor remains constant. Rotti runs on all fours now and the only thing that would make him happier would be for someone to adopt him.

#1 – A Home For Rotti
Rotti Needs a Home Rotti is a super cute and loveable 4½ year-old male tri-color Welsh Corgi with IVDD who is in need of a “furever” home. Rotti had back surgery and is currently being fostered by my oldest son. Being an energetic dog, Rotti’s disability never slows him down or prevents him from enjoying all the things that dogs love. Rotti recently received a set of “wheels” to help strengthen his muscles and to help improve his mobility. After watching video clips of him running with the aid of his cart, all I could do was smile and say, “Run Rotti, run!” If you are interested in learning more about Rotti, check out these links:

The Adventures of Super Rotti
Dogs of Instagram
The Daily Corgi

Rotti Needs a Family and Home And, even better, if you’re interested in adopting this adorable and affectionate dog, contact Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue.

#2 – Enabling the Future
Enabling the Future Last month, one of my friends attended the 2015 Maker Fair and came across a booth sponsored by Enabling the Future. She learned that this organization solicits volunteers from around the world to use their 3-D printers to fabricate mechanical hands for children in need. With Rotti in mind, my friend asked the representatives if they ever made prostheses for dogs. They had not, but thought it could be possible. She brought me back some literature to read. I found the organization’s website to be very inspirational. Here is a segment from its “About” page:

What originally started out as a couple of guys who created something to help one child in need . . . has grown into a world wide movement of tinkerers, engineers, 3D print enthusiasts, occupational therapists, university professors, designers, parents, families, artists, students, teachers and people who just want to make a difference.

They are coming together to create, innovate, re-design and give a “Helping hand” to those that need it – whether it is helping to print parts for them, creating a completed device for them or simply helping to guide them as they build one themselves.

There are people around the Globe – 3d printing fingers and hands for children they will never meet, classes of high school students who are making hands for people in their local communities, hundreds of Scout troops working together to assemble hands for children in underserved areas around the globe, a group of people that are risking their lives to get these devices onto people in 3rd World countries and new stories every day of parents working with their children to make a hand together.

If this project interests you and you want to give someone a “helping hand” check out the link above.

#3 – Who’s Disabled?
The Amazing Art of Disabled Artists Could you be an artist, if you didn’t have arms or eyes? Looking through the artwork in The Amazing Art of Disabled Artists, I realized that if a person is an artist, he will always be an artist, no matter what his circumstance. I am blessed with four limbs and eyesight, but never in a million years could I ever paint or sculpt anything as incredible as the work of these artists.

#4 – Touching Two Lives
Soldier's Best Friend If the dog is man’s best friend, then the pairing of a shelter dog with a wounded veteran makes for the most compelling bond imaginable. Assisting veterans and combatting pet overpopulation is the mission of Soldier’s Best Friend, a non-profit corporation. Its work focuses on “touching two lives at once.”

#5 – Are You Disabled?
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”
Scott Hamilton

Now go and spread joy!

P.S. Remember Duke, the Corgi-Dachsund-Jack Russell-mix dog I wrote about back in March? Well, I’m happy to report that someone adopted him!

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May 15, 2015 Edition Cursing myself for deciding to update my computer software on a day I normally post to my blog, I tried to relax and redirect my self-talk. While faced with an unfamiliar computer application that the update forced on me, I remembered the words on a street sign I photographed in Los Angeles last week. Immediately, I turned off the negative self-talk and told myself, “Everything will be fine. You’re a smart gal. You’ll figure it out.” Life can be stressful, frustrating, and challenging at times, but at the heart of it all is you. You are the main character in your play. You write the script. You control character development. It’s your happy ending or not. Do you love yourself enough to let your light shine and be the hero of your life story?

#1 – Love Yourself
Love Yourself To some people, self-love does not come easy. “How To Love Yourself in 17 Ways” provides introspective and empowering suggestions.

#2 – Tea and Thee
Tea and Thee “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” This quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, introduces Leo Babuta’s post Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart. The article is not so much about drinking tea as it is about recognizing the need to create sacred spaces in your heart for those things in your life that matter most.

#3 – Love That Traveling Dog
Maddie the Traveling DogA couple of things strike me as I look through the photos in Photographer Takes His Rescued Dog Maddie On Epic Adventures. First off, I admire the ability of some people to pick up and go. Secondly, I like the composition of Theron Humphries’s photos – especially the images of Maddie in front of captivating scenery. And finally, I realize how much I miss my dog and having the love of a good dog.

#4 – Before I Die . . .
A while back, I took a class on learning how to live a more authentic life. Towards the end of the class, each student was given a piece of paper and asked to write his obituary. The point of the powerful assignment was to shed light on what each of us wanted to be remembered for and to help us focus on what and who were important in our lives. The following TED Talk follows a similar premise. “Before I die . . .” is the unfinished statement that artist Candy Chang asks people to complete. In her interactive public installations, she provides space for people to write down their answers. How would you complete the statement?

#5 – Self-Love and Light
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”
Abraham Lincoln

“Loving yourself . . . does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.”
Margo Anand

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Now go and spread joy!

 

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April 24, 2015 Edition Movement caught my eye as I stood at the kitchen sink and stared out the window. Something landed on a nearby bush, sat for a while, and then flew away. I wondered if a hummingbird had built a nest there. When I went outside to look, a butterfly flew within inches of my face and landed on a leaf in front of me. She repeated the process – landing, resting, flying away – for more than 20 minutes. “She must be laying eggs,” I thought to myself. The fascinating metamorphosis of butterflies happens right in front of our eyes, but most of us don’t see it. In a larger sense, the challenges we encounter during our own metamorphosis oftentimes prevent us from seeing the transformations of others.

#1 – Proving the Butterfly Effect
Chris Rosati Since being diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, North Carolina resident Chris Rosati has become an inspiration to many people around the world. He created BIGG, Big Idea for the Greater Good Initiative, that challenges people “to change the world with just one act of kindness.” Watch the short video of how Chris is “proving the butterfly effect with a single act of kindness.”

#2 – Forge Meaning, Build Identity
Writer Andrew Solomon gives an inspirational and powerful TED presentation on “How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are.” Eloquently, he shares stories of adversity and encourages us to forge meaning from our struggles. Here’s one of my favorite passages from his presentation: When we’re ashamed, we can’t tell our stories, and stories are the foundation of identity. Forge meaning, build identity, forge meaning and build identity. That became my mantra. Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world. All of us with stigmatized identities face this question daily: how much to accommodate society by constraining ourselves, and how much to break the limits of what constitutes a valid life? Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious.

#3 – Simple Things
Small things In Life That Bring HappinessCar rides, belly rubs, walks in the park – it’s obvious that little things bring joy to dogs. What types of things bring joy to humans? A United Kingdom healthcare group surveyed 2,000 people and asked them what types of things made them feel good. Check out 50 Simple Things that Make Us Feel Great and see how many of these feel-good activities are on your list.

#4 – Butterfly Blues
Tropical Morpho butterflies have beautiful blue wings. This three-minute video shows how the structure of their wings generates their incredible iridescent color.

#5 – Transformation
Change Makes the Butterfly More Beautiful

Now go and spread joy!

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Tuesday's Thoughts The words return, recover, and regroup define Mondays. Return to routines and schedules. Recover some semblance of order. Regroup by checking calendars, prioritizing, and taking inventory. I’m not a big fan of Mondays.

On Tuesdays, however, I allow myself to breathe. I write and let my mind stretch and my thoughts wander. I call these my Tuesday’s Thoughts. Starting today, I will throw some of these thoughts into the mix of my usual Tuesday content of food and crafts. Consider Tuesday’s Thoughts as food for thought. I am pleased to present this inaugural edition.

Today, I’m going to teach an art class at the Wellspring Women’s Center. The Center “nurtures the innate goodness and personal self-esteem of women and their children” and provides “all of the services in an atmosphere of hospitality with dignity and love.” Located in an impoverished area, the Center offers many services that “bolster the dignity and hope of people under duress.” I am most impressed that alongside food, counseling, wellness, and advocacy programs, it offers a free art therapy program called Art of Being: Wellness Through Creativity. Some of you may wonder, if the needs of these women are great and many, then why offer art classes? To this point, the Center states, “Creative expression is a powerful tool to cultivate the positive qualities of mindfulness and insight. Being present in our lives can help us to tap into our inner strength and wisdom and increase our feelings of well-being and joy.” Even though these women’s lives may be difficult, they are learning through art to see the world differently, to express themselves without fear and judgment, and to share their journeys. They are learning that who they are is more than where they live.

Tuesday’s Thoughts: Take a moment for yourself and feed your soul. Let loose your creativity. Be present in the moment. Do not judge or critique your creativity, because, if you do, you negate the joy you felt while freely expressing yourself.

Now go and spread joy!

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Remembrance Box The woodworker stood back and looked at his project. While pouring his heart into the design and construction of it, his mind focused on only one thing – the purpose of it. At a recent meeting of local woodcrafters, a plea had been made for boxes. Keaton Raphael Memorial, a nonprofit organization that assists families with children with cancer, was in dire need of woodworkers to help make Remembrance Boxes. When a child being helped by Keaton Raphael Memorial passes away and becomes a special KRM angel, the organization gives the family a wooden box containing bereavement reading materials and oftentimes a grant to help with funeral expenses. The woodworker rose to the challenge and his expertly-crafted work reflects the beauty of fallen leaves, signifying, in my opinion, the short, but significant lives of young souls.

#1 – Land Art
Land Art Nature doesn’t need any embellishments. However, when man works with natural components, interesting art can result. You will be impressed by the scale of some of the projects in 21 Unforgettable Examples of Land Art.

#2 – Got Stuff?
Recycling Goods With children moving hither and yon, I am left with a garage full of “stuff.” All of it is useful – to somebody. Rather than toss everything into the garbage, I’d rather find new homes or new uses for them. If you are in the same situation of having stuff and not wanting to add to our landfills, go to earth911. Type in what you would like to recycle, add your zipcode, and a listing of local recycling centers should appear.

#3 – Easter Decorations
80 Fabulous Easter Decorations While scrolling through the ideas in 80 Fabulous Easter Decorations You Can Make Yourself, I went into creative overload. There are so many cute and clever ideas in it, I don’t which project to start first!

#4 – Fresh Eggs
How to Buy the Freshest Eggs PossibleWith Easter right around the corner, you’ll want to make sure you buy the freshest eggs possible. In How to Buy the Freshest Eggs Possible, learn how to read the Julian date on an egg carton. And here’s a tip from me: when selecting a carton of eggs in the grocery store, just don’t open the carton and look at the eggs. Always wiggle each egg. If an egg doesn’t move, there’s a good chance that its shell is cracked, causing it to stick to the carton.

#5 – In Every Falling Leaf
“In every change, in every falling leaf there is some pain, some beauty. And that’s the way new leaves grow.”
Amit Ray

Note: The beautiful Remembrance Box in the photo was made by Mr. Jim Hunt

Now go and spread joy!

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