Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lights Out for Mother

Yesterday, March 26, 2011, was the day we globally recognized Earth Hour 2011- from 8:30 pm to 9:30pm all over the world people shut their lights off in a stand against climate change. It is an annual event that started in Australia back in 2007, and I have been aware of it for the last two-three years.

Last night, as it neared 8:30pm, my husband and I shut off all our lights, I unplugged as many wall warts as I could find, and we met on the couch with the two dogs at our feet...
Our brightest light
We had a plan. We would take this hour to share a story together... and to make it even more fun, it would be a children's story!
Book 1 of the Famous Five by Enid Blyton.
My husband had purchased the Famous Five book for me months ago on Amazon forgetting that reading printed word puts me in a world of pain with my new limited vision. It was a surprise as we had both found out that Enid Blyton was one of J.K. Rowling's influences and neither of us had ever read her stories before - we said we would have to check her out - what I didn't know was that he went straight away to obtain the book for me! I had practically forgotten about it when, through my StumbleUpon group, I was reminded by a blog post all about Enid Blyton! I made a request after reading the post, "Can we read the book during Earth Hour on Saturday?"

It was an easy yes - after I read the blog post about Ms. Blyton to my husband he was just as ready to get into the story as I was!
He got under the light...
and read...
and read...
And the story was so much fun. Three kids going off on holiday to their strange uncle's house by the sea, where they would meet their strange cousin George (who is a girl, but doesn't really like that so much!) who has an island all her own! What fun?! What an escape!

Made all the better when the story is read aloud, shared together at the same time. I got a little jealous of my read aloud hubby, and headache-be-damned, I decided to read a little aloud myself (one chapter only, but somehow I made it through!).
I found the words...
and I read them...
I shared what I could...
I forgot how much I miss books, not just reading, but books. It was really nice. I wanted to go on forever, but the headache had started after the first page, so I conceded defeat when I reached the goal I set for myself: one chapter.

When my husband picked up the reading again, I decided it was time for a reward (also a little caffeine always takes the edge off a headache!).
Yummy! Although, for Earth Hour, I think DARK chocolate would have been more appropriate!
I had two blocks of the bar as my husband read to us about Timothy, a dog that was sounding a lot like our former beagle, Chewy. We both paused when he reached a line that touched us both:
Timothy was described as "an awfully chewy kind of dog."
I had my husband show me the line because I didn't believe him. Our dog Chewy did earn her name, (although it was also a nod to my Star Wars geekiness!) so it seemed as though this Timothy character was turning out to be exactly like a dog we once knew!

The hour passed quickly. We barely scraped the surface of the Famous Five book, but we are curious enough to want to know what happens next. We had a wonderful Earth Hour, but you may be asking one really big question:

How Did Your Participation In Earth Hour 2011 Help Climate Change?

It is a salient question, and one that I was left asking myself as the night came to a close. After all of that what difference did we really make. For one, I was disenchanted by my surroundings:
Lights may be out in my house, but the street lights are always shining brightly!
When I saw that it was actually kind of difficult to experience dark in some places in my house, I really began to wonder how much electricity is being used here ALL OF THE TIME? And, with that, as a perfect segue, let me tell you how this made a huge difference in my lifestyle, which may, in the long run, help make a dent in climate change:
  • I recognized the complete addiction I have to electricity and how unnecessary it is in many instances.
  • I began to think about what power is needed and when power is wasted.
  • I started a mental (and the preliminaries of an actual written) inventory of power users in my home.
  • I have begun to question my need for so many of these things.
  • I felt more relaxed last night after operating in candlelight alone for a little over an hour (I actually prepared dinner by candlelight as well to test the effectiveness of the candles I had as light sources) than I have in years.
  • I had an amazing sleep last night.
  • Due to the last two bullet points I am thinking about incorporating more candle time and less light bulb time in my nights.
  • Climate change is on my mind.
These may not be the wide-sweeping answers you were hoping for, but, for me a thought in my mind is always being tended to - it gets air, water, and just the right amount of fertilizer - some thoughts grow into little seedlings that need time until they bear fruit, other grow into invasive grape vines, spreading across every aspect of my thinking and life. Who knows which kind of thought Earth Hour has planted in my mind? I can guarantee only one thing: a seed was planted and it will grow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Donut Daydreams

Delightful surprise
On a Wednesday
Night. Maybe Daddy will bring them
Upstairs from his poker game
To share with us.

Don't talk about them!
Oh! Why does everything delicious have gluten in it?
Nicole, you don't need it... you don't even want it
Until someone mentions a French Cruller!
Temptation at its peak! Will I crumble???

This post was writ­ten for the Red Writ­ing Hood Prompt: This week's Red Writing Hood assignment is to write a piece, fiction or non-fiction, inspired by the delicious shot. (picture above)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I LOVE Ninja Warrior!

Ninja Warrior is awesome, it always makes me want to defy the odds and do incredible feats of my own. However, I just found something that might be even better than a Ninja Warrior rerun - this brand new Ninja warrior commercial!!


To get the latest Ninja Warrior news as you prepare for May, check out the G4TV Ninja Warrior page.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I Forgive You

Do you remember that day?

It was just like today. It was Spring - sunny, but still a bit breezy. Mom brought you outside. I knew exactly what she was going to do, so I went with her.

We talked about those fantastic peaches we used to get off our old peach tree. How juicy they were, how delicious, and how numerous. We couldn't believe such a fruitful tree could be destroyed by an overgrowth of Lamb's Ear! We had the damn tree for so long, even dad got to enjoy the peaches when he was alive.

We sat there over a pot of soil, just like we used to do when I was a child. It was a beautiful moment. We prayed together over the soil as we dropped in the last remaining seeds from the fruit of that tree that she had secretly been saving. As we placed the soil, so carefully, over each one of you with our blessings and all our hopes to share in your fruit once again I had a morose realization - Mom didn't believe she would ever have one of your peaches.

Do you remember what happened next?

She thanked me for helping her, she gave me a kiss and, weakly, rose to her feet to go back inside. Then we were alone - you and I. I bent back down, real close and I told you, "Prove her wrong!" (I told God, too, but He is not a part of today's conversation). And then I asked you for something much simpler, "Just give her hope... just sprout for her."

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

I'm asking because it seems my requests fell on deaf ears. Not only did all five of you lay dormant throughout her suffering, but you continued to lie lifeless in the ground when I needed hope in the days, weeks, months and years after Mom died. As if it was not enough to go to the cemetery to visit both my parents in the ground, I then had to have my heart broken again each time I would squint into that pot, remember that day and see that there lay death as well.

For a long time I was angry with you. You, too, abandoned me and my family. But lately I had stopped thinking of you all together. Of course, as this is the unpredictable play of life, it was today, when you were far from my thoughts, that I found you.
As I selected a neglected pot in my backyard to use its soil to contribute to the beautiful life cycle of earth in my first ever compost bin, there you were... all five of you. Once I stumbled upon the first one, my hands instinctively knew where to pluck the others. Not one of you had moved. Not one of you had changed. And not one of you had a single sign of life. And yet...

I forgive you.

Your turn to watch ME grow.
Here's why:

No matter how delicious your fruit might have been, I understand now, that, to me, they would forever taste bittersweet (I imagine you knew that already). 

Your presence in the pot, for much longer than it should have, gave me hope.

    Perhaps most importantly:

    Your lack of growth shall never steal the times or memories I gardened with my mother, shared fruit with my family or laughed under a tree. But planting you that day with Mom did remind me how important each of those little things are.

      This post was written for a RemembeRED Prompt. This week's prompt is about forgiveness.

      Friday, March 18, 2011

      Support for Japan

      One week ago, my husband woke me up to because he was so struck by what he was seeing on the morning news. Japan had been hit by an enormous 8.9 earthquake, but what was worse was the incomprehensible tsunami that followed. Both of our brothers have spent a lot of time in that country - my brother was stationed there for over two years while enlisted in the Marines, and my brother-in-law not only studied abroad in Japan, but he just completed a job interview the previous week for a position that would take him back there!

      As I spent the entire day watching the footage, I felt helpless. I posted a blog post It Can Just Get Washed Away... on my food blog, but I knew that still wasn't enough. Here's my problem, I currently have zero money to donate, so I really felt like my hands were tied, until I saw this video:

      How to Help Japan FOR FREE:
      For every time this guy (Victor Kim) gets 1,000,000 views of this video, he will donate $600 to the Red Cross (if you don't know why it is $600, then you didn't watch the video!!). As of this writing, he has exceeded 2,000,000 views - LET'S KEEP IT GOING!! Watch the video and share it with your friends!!

      How to Help Japan if You have Some CASH:

      If you have some cash of your own to donate, then you, too can donate to the Red Cross yourself! If you would like to give some monetary support and wear it with pride, then you might be interested in a offer from the company I am an affiliate for called We Add Up. They created a super-cool t-shirt for the cause:
      We LOVE Japan t-shirt
      Here's the details of the $25 t-shirt, from the site:
      Show your love for the people of Japan. All of our hearts go out to the Japanese, as the earthquake, tsunami, and now nuclear crises unfold. 100% of profits from this "We Love Japan" shirt will be donated to the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the Salvation Army for relief efforts in the wake of this tragedy.

      The "We Love Japan" shirt is also available in a Kid's Tee and Baby Tee/Onesie! Get your whole family counted in.

      The Japanese symbol on the back of this shirt means "Love." Each 100% certified organic t-shirt is custom printed with a unique number, representing your position in our global count of people adding up to make a difference. All shirts are printed sequentially in order. Let's show the world that We Add Up! *Please check out our size guide and note that our Women's Tees run quite small. Thanks!
      I am looking forward to rocking one of these after my tax return comes in!!

      Do you know of any other ways to help Japan in their time of need?

      Does Japan NEED our support???

      A recent piece in the NY Times just came to my attention and is definitely worth a mention in a post about giving support to Japan. Here is just one excerpt to give you an idea of what you need to think about:
      The Japanese Red Cross, for example, has said repeatedly since the day after the earthquake that it does not want or need outside assistance. But that has not stopped the American Red Cross from raising $34 million through Tuesday afternoon in the name of Japan’s disaster victims.
      Roger K. Lowe, a spokesman for the American Red Cross, said his group had sent $10 million to Japan on Tuesday, and had spoken with the Japanese group, which had expressed gratitude for the support.
       ...The American Red Cross keeps 9 percent of any money it raises, which means that as of Tuesday afternoon, it had raised more than $3 million for itself through the Japan campaign. It also plans to cover the costs of the shelters it opened in California and Hawaii when there were warnings that a tsunami might hit there, estimated at somewhat less than $100,000.
      That is definitely something to think about as you consider sending your support to the American Red Cross. However, I think taking the advice provided by AIDWatch, the blog that brought my attention to this matter, is best whenever thinking twice about donating:
      Our best advice for people who feel moved to give by the tragedy in Japan: Give generously, in cash, to an organization that you trust, and don’t restrict your donation. This way, your charity can use the funds for Japan if it turns out they are needed. If not, then it is free to use your donation for another purpose, like the dozens of under-reported, large-scale disasters that CNN isn’t featuring today.

      Thursday, March 17, 2011

      Help Hailey Be Heart Hopping Hero!

      How many people do you know that have been affected by heart disease? Everyone knows someone. I lost my father to a heart attack when I was only twelve years old. Well, Hailey, only five years old, already knows how important our heart health can be. Stories of both of her grandfathers have taught her.

      Hailey's maternal grandfather passed away before she was born, at the age of 58, from a heart attack. Her father's father, who she has had the pleasure of knowing had his own heart health scare with a quadruple bypass surgery which saved him and his heart to continue to shower grandfatherly love upon all of his grandchildren!

      Hailey will be participating in American Heart Associations' Jump Rope for Heart in honor of both of her grandfathers at her school. She starts jumping on Monday, March 21st. This is Hailey's first year in school, so I feel this is great opportunity for her to learn about how easy it is to have fun while helping others when participating in a school-wide event. Her school is also providing a pretty funny motivator that any 5 year old would have to enjoy: the student who raises the most money for the heart association gets the opportunity to throw a pie in the face of two of teachers (two of the teachers volunteered for this great "gift"!).

      I think it would be AWESOME if Hailey got to throw the pies! I think she would find that absolutely hilarious! So, if you are with me, or you are just a big fan of the American Heart Association (a very worthy cause) and you would like to support in her first fundraising event for the Heart Association, then here is the link to her fundraising page: Help Hailey Be a Heart Hero.

      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

      Off My Trail

      It was summer. I don't remember what year, but Mom was still alive and cancer wasn't on anyone's mind. I was getting back into the swing of things - I was getting back to my run.

      The "run" has never been an intense one. It is three miles from my kitchen door, to the baseball field and back. It's my route. It's what I do when I am ready to get back to me. I had a good routine going, but as it was getting warmer, I realized it was time for me to get up a little earlier to ensure my continued success.

      I woke before my mother, grabbed my iPod, put my sneakers on and told my dog (Chewy, at the time) that these sneakers were not for her this time.

      Out the door, ear buds in, pick the pace. One - two - one - two - one - two... there it is. Breathing is steady and the early morning dew helped the air coat my lungs. I thought, "Getting up early was a great idea!" The music blared in my ears, but the neighborhood still slept.

      As I turned toward home I felt like a well-oiled machine, I was at one with every muscle in my body, with the air around me, with the ground below me. It was a beautiful morning, a magnificent run, and I didn't want it to end. It is for this reason, I chose to take a slight detour off my regular route just over a quarter of a mile from my home. I had reached the block that borders the Greenbelt Natural Reserve. I decided on this morning, I should complete my run with dirt beneath my feet instead of asphalt. I wanted to feel the Earth.

      I jogged in, at first watching my feet closely, fearing I would trip on a fallen branch or slip on a muddy patch. Then I stopped and realized I needn't worry if all my senses were attuned. I grabbed my ear buds and, as the silence of the world enveloped me, I looked up into his eyes.

      He was five feet in front of me and entirely too comfortable with my presence. I was a gawky, bumbling two-legged human who had mistakenly believed she captured grace during this morning run until I was caught in his gaze, looking upon his majestic antlers and witnessing his regal stance. Without understanding my own movements, I bowed to the young buck and backed out of his realm. He watched me take a number of steps before continuing to graze.

      As I emerged from the dense woods, the sun seemed much brighter than how I had left it and, with my ear bids out of my ears I could hear that the neighborhood had risen. The magic of my morning had already passed. I looked over my shoulder, squinting back into the woods to see if the buck was still there, but he was created to be unseen in such situations... The physical evidence of my beautiful moment was gone, all that was left was a euphoric feeling throughout all my limbs.

      I stepped back onto the the asphalt, put my ear buds back in and picked a new pace. I floated home as the neighborhood continued to dream away in a reality that missed the natural beauty in their midst.

      This post was writ­ten for the Red Writ­ing Hood Prompt: This week's Red Writing Hood assignment is to write - fiction or non-fiction - about a time when you took a detour.

      Wednesday, March 9, 2011

      Are You Reading Read Aloud Dad?

      From the first time I first read a blog post by Read Aloud Dad I have been a faithful follower. I love reading, I love family and I simply adore the fact that this blog focuses on the unification of both. Read Aloud Dad takes his role seriously as dad, as reader and as a children's book reviewer. I love his policy on reviewing books:
      "I review only the best children's books available - I buy what I review.

      In the beginning I considered whether to accept books for reviews, then ... after a long think ... I decided against it.

      Read Aloud Dad's - "I review only what I buy" policy - provides more freedom and I can be true to my opinion."
      In my most recent reading of his blog, I am happy to report that Read Aloud Dad has revealed his origin story in How Reading Aloud Made Me A Better Father. I believe this post is a must read for all who have some relationship with young children. Read Aloud Dad takes us through the steps of his realization of the power of reading with his children
      "Children's books almost magically opened up the the channels of communication. They broke down all the walls. "
      How many of us have experienced this same idea - either through being read to or by sharing the reading experience with a child ourselves?

      I highly recommend that everyone check out this blog. Read Aloud Dad's recommendations are so fantastically thought out (I have already purchased his Pinocchio book of choice for my cousin's daughter) and filled with the best intentions. Within each post is the outpouring of one man's love for his two children - this blog and the work he does to inspire each post is, undeniably, a labor of love.

      Monday, March 7, 2011

      My New Role As A Contributing Author

      Last week I was greeted with a pretty exciting e-mail. It was an offer to join the team on The IH Brain Pain Blogs. While I had never collaborated like this via the Internet before, I was exciteed by the invitation - I am always hoping I can find a way to help raise awareness about my disease, Intracranial Hypertension and blogging seems to be something I can do safely on days that I am feeling well. I accepted the offer and am happy to say I am part of the team!

      This afternoon I posted my first post on the blog entitled 5 Ways I Have Kept My Sanity as an IH Patient. I would love it if you would come check it out! It will give you an idea about IH, tell you just a little bit more about me and, once you are there you can check out what my fellow authors are up to as well!

      Thursday, March 3, 2011

      A $10,000 Opportunity for Nonprofits

      A company in Texas, Community TechKnowldge or CTK, has launched their 2011 Heart and Soul Grant Award Program which will award over $25,000 USD to registered nonprofits, charities and other voluntary organizations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. When I read about this earlier this morning, I thought that this was an amazing opportunity that needs to be shared, but the first thing I wondered was who are these wonderful people?

      What is Community TechKnowledge?

      While it is the CTK Foundation that awards the grant, this all starts with a company, CTK, that was founded in 1999 by Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, the former Vice President of Community Development at United Way.
      CTK was the first software company of its kind, made to fulfill new technology needs unique to nonprofits—including comprehensive, centralized client and funder data collection and sophisticated inputs and outcomes reporting.
       The tagline of the company is "Technology with Heart," and this Heart and Soul Grant Award Program, seems to be directly in line with that.
      The CTK's Foundation 2011 Heart and Sol Grant Award Program

      I will lay out the details of the program below, but first, here is a clip from CTK outlining the program and its motivation:

      One major benefit of participating in this project is the opportunity to revisit the mission statement of your nonprofit in a more creative way. To win, you have to channel your creativity to write an original four- to eight-line poem or stanza that reflects the work or mission of your nonprofit. I absolutely love the foundations recommendation to, "Ask your supporters to write a poem for you."

      To be eligible for a grant from the CTK Foundation Fund, organizations must be registered 501(c)3 nonprofits, charities or voluntary organizations.

      The winning nonprofits will receive one of the following awards:
      • 1st place award is a song inspired by their submission(written and recorded by songwriter Bill Dillon -- who was recently exonerated after 27 years in prison thanks to Innocence Project of Florida -- and produced by Jim Tullio of Butcher Boy Studios), plus a cash grant of $10,000 (US) or it's value in foreign currency
      • 2nd place award is a cash grant of $5,000 (US) or it's value in foreign currency
      • The 2011 Blogger's Choice Award, where a randomly selected blogger participating in spreading the word among nonprofits about the H&S Grant Award Program will choose a nonprofit applicant to receive a $1,000 cash grant or it's value in foreign currency
      • 2 steel-stringed guitars, signed by all members of Los Lonely Boys (which you can auction for fund-raising)
      • Up to 20 technology grants, valued at $10,000, to nonprofits that indicate an interest
      You must submit an application by midnight on March 28, 2011, and you'll be notified if you've won on April 10. Visit the online application to apply.

      So GET STARTED nonprofits and GOOD LUCK!!
      (Personally, I am really hoping IHRF takes advantage of this opportunity!)