Thursday, August 30, 2007

Volunteer Opp: Team Up with United Way and Panera Bread of SE Michigan

Here's a great volunteer opportunity that's going to be taking place around the metro Detroit area. It's with United Way of Southeast Michigan and Panera Bread and is called "Impact Your Neighborhood." The program is series of various volunteer events and are just a one-day (just in the morning) commitments.

I'm super excited about this program because not only is a great way to help out, but it's a perfect opportunity for us people out there that don't have a whole lot of extra volunteer time to devote to a single organization.

Here's the line-up of events through December:

Saturday, September 8, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. @ Vista Maria, an organization dedicated to helping at-risk girls (ages 11-17) based in Dearborn Heights. Volunteers will meet at the Dearborn Heights Panera location.

Saturday, October 27, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. @ Lighthouse PATH in Pontiac. This organization helps out homeless mothers and children. Volunteers will volunteers will participate in a Halloween craft activity with the organization’s women and their children and will meet at the Bloomfield Hills Panera locations.

Saturday, November 10, 10 a.m. – Noon @ First Step, a domestic violence shelter based in Plymouth. Volunteers will assist with an outdoor and indoor beautification project and will meet at the Plymouth Panera location.

Saturday, December 8, 9 a.m. – Noon @ Gleaners in Taylor. The volunteer activity will be to sort and pack donated food items for delivery to homeless shelters and other area non-profit organizations -- perfect for the holidays! Volunteers will meet at the Southgate Panera.

To sign-up to volunteer, visit the United Way website at or call (313) 226-9200.

All you people, let me know if you can make any of these events, I'd be happy to go with you!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Seeing a Rainbow within Hurricane Katrina

I write this blog with a heavy heart because today is the 2-year anniversary of hurricane Katrina -- one of the costliest ($40 bill+) and deadliest (1,000+ people, not to mention lots of animals too) hurricanes in the history of the United States.

I was fortunate enough to go on an Alternative Break trip my senior year of college in which I spent a week helping with disaster relief a few months after the mess occurred (photo by yours truly). My team was able to help to rebuild a garden served by the developmentally disabled at the ARC-GNO, among other things. The people we met and everything we saw in that week touched us all deeply and reminded us of what incredibly lucky people we all are.

So, what POSITIVE things have been done since the disaster struck? A little investigating helps me to get to the bottom of this...

Not only have many lives been restored, but thousands of volunteers and families have come together as a result. After a bit of digging, I came across this awesome blog developed by a NOLA Web site called "Touched by an Angel." I recommend you all take a look to see some of the incredible, positive things that have come as a result of the tragedy:

Here's one story that speaks volumes to me:

Soles for the soul
Posted by Mike Gamble August 29, 2007 2:20AM
My story is one of compassion and generosity. My wife Alison and I spent two weeks in Destin, Fl. in Sept. 2005. We were put up by FEMA at a small motel on Hwy. 98. We had breakfast most mornings at the Destin Church of Christ, just a few blocks away.
Several members donated their time and talents every morning to cook and serve us a wonderful hot meal. On our last morning there we were asked if we needed any clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc.
I had evacuated Lakeview with only the pair of sandals I was wearing, so I asked if there were any size 9-1/2 shoes available. We were taken to a storage room with many shelves of mens and ladies shoes separated by size.
I found a pair of relatively new Sperry Topsiders that were my size, and asked if I could have them. I was told that, yes they were now mine. I was also told that they belonged to a church member named Tom (I forget his last name).
When I asked how in the world she knew who donated these particular shoes, she related this story. At service a few Sundays prior to our leaving she was asking members as they left the church if they had any size 9-1/2 shoes for donation (they had run out of that size).
When she asked Tom he took off his shoes and gave them to her right there on the spot. He then walked to his car in his stocking feet and drove home. I still choke up when I think of his generosity.
I wore those shoes for several weeks and finally got around to buying a new pair. I have those shoes in my closet and some day would like to personally return them to Tom. They still have a lot of life left in them!
Maybe things aren't quite perfect in NOLA and may never be, but something did come of this mess: HOPE for a better tomorrow.

Thanks to Mike for sharing his story and making us all realize how small acts of kindness can result in a big change in a person's perspective on life.

(NOTE: This blog is dedicated to my dear friend Sarah, my AB team and of course, Ms. Jane our favorite NOLA person!)

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Little Dolphin That Could

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Ghandi

What a great quote. It's funny how in return, the animals will treat us well. Here's some snipets to this amazing "tail" I read about in the Freep yesterday.

About Winter (dolphin pictured)
Winter lives at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, a nonprofit marine animal-rescue center in Clearwater, Florida.
She was a frail, dehydrated 3-month-old when she came to the hospital in December 2005. A fisherman had found her tangled in the buoy line of a crab trap in Indian River Lagoon near Cape Canaveral. The line cut off the blood supply to her tail, and it slowly fell off like shreds of paper as the aquarium team worked to save her life. Both Winter's tail flukes and peduncle, a wrist-like joint that allows her tail to move up and down, were lost.

Winter learned how to swim without her tail, which is used for propulsion -- amazing her handlers with a unique combination of moves that resemble an alligator's undulating swimming style and a shark's side-to-side tail swipes. Winter uses her flippers, normally employed for steering and braking, to get moving.
Enter prosthetic specialist Kevin Carroll who worked to re-create a tail for Winter.

Amid concentrating on Winter's unique situation, lessons were also learned that will benefit human amputees. For example, Carroll found that the gel sleeve he developed to cling to what's left of 18-month-old Winter's tail without irritating her sensitive skin also soothed a painful prosthesis for Air Force Senior Airman Brian Kolfage, who lost both legs and his right hand in a 2004 mortar attack in Iraq. The sleeve sticks to Winter's tail with suction the same way a rubber surgical glove grips a human hand.

Carroll, who like the others on Winter's team volunteers his time and resources, began by brainstorming elaborate vacuum attachments, then settled on the simple silicone gel sleeve.

Handlers slide the sleeve over Winter's stump and move her tail up and down, teaching her how to swim like a normal dolphin when the prosthesis is attached.

After rescuing sea turtles a few years ago on an Alternative Break, I've learned the importance animals have -- not only to our food chain, but to our overall quality-of-life. Lesson for all: report the cruel Michael Vicks of the world, commend the people that help our animals to survive and take time each day to appreciate our earth's creatures that don't have their own voice to be heard.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sarah McLachlan - World On Fire

I cannot get enough of this video. Everyone needs to watch it at least once and take it all in...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I found this to be very interesting and thought I would share...

It's an index of happiness around the world.

Green = Happiest
Red = Least happy

Canadians, Norwegians and Swedes, what's your secret pray tell?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Green is Sexy

One of the biggest trends as of late are post-recycled material grocery bags. Let me tell you, these are hot, handy, and all-purpose items!

Owning one not only makes you feel good about not contributing to a landfill packed with plastic, but they have great, fashionable photos and can hold a heck of a lot! I got my hot pink one for 99 cents - at Farmer Jack (RIP), but I've seen them everywhere. Now that's a steal that's both sexy and green. Just please don't go out and buy one of the expensive designer ones... that's ridiculous. It's for your groceries, not a poddle. Puh-lease.

Other "green" ideas? Check out tips @:
It's a very cute Web site with lots of great tips and products that do the earth good.

Here's one great product posted on the site:
Preserve toothbrushes are made from recycled plastic (mostly yogurt cups) and are 100% recyclable themselves. When your Preserve toothbrush is ready for retirement, the company sends you a postage-paid mailer to return it to them for recycling. Preserve converts your old toothbrush into plastic lumber, which is used for things like picnic tables in parks! For more info on Preserve toothbrushes, including where to buy them, go to:
Saving the earth and avoiding cavities... now that's productive.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Campaign for Real Beauty - A Site Not to be Missed

This is a link all women out there need to go to. Not only will it inspire you, but it will empower you to always do things that display your true beauty -- outside and in. Yay for serious Girl Power!

The Story of Miles Levin: A Teen Sharing Cancer With the World in a Beautiful Way

Miles Levin, an inspiration to many around the world – and especially in Metro Detroit -- passed away yesterday. This is devastating news because he was so young and talented, but it is also beautiful news because we all know he's in a better place and in his short life he was able to teach us so many lessons on the value of life.

I came across the 18-year-old's blog a few months ago after reading a story in The Detroit News. I quickly became intrigued by reading the blog, which was written from a sobering perspective – he was living with Stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and deadly type of cancer. I felt guilty reading about someone else's pain, but thankful that I was granted yet another reminder of life’s preciousness.

My heart broke as I learned about his life and how he had to watch as friends in high school live “normal” lives, thinking ahead to the days of college, marriage and children, meanwhile Miles didn't know what was procedure was next or what was going to happen the next day or when the cancer would consume him for good. But he didn't let those thoughts faze him.

I found him to be amazing.... I didn’t know him, yet I felt so inspired by him. He was literally an 18-year-old trapped with a mind that some 80-year-olds don't even posses. His lust for life was undeniable and he easily was a magnet to many people searching for inspiration.

Here is just one of many thoughtful and inspiring excerpts from his blog:
"I went to the driving range the other day and I was thinking... I was thinking how you start out with a big bucket full of golf balls, and you just start hitting away carelessly. You have dozens of them, each individual ball means nothing so you just hit, hit, hit. One ball gone is practically inconsequential when subtracted from your bottomless bucket. There are no practice swings or technique re-evaluations after a bad shot, because so many more tries remain. Yet eventually you start to have to reach down towards the bottom of the bucket to scavenge for another shot and you realize that tries are running out. Now with just a handful left, each swing becomes more meaningful. The right technique becomes more crucial, so between each shot you take a couple practice swings and a few deep breaths. There is a very strong need to end on a good note, even if every preceeding shot was horrible, getting it right at the end means a lot. You know as you tee up your last ball, "This is my final shot, I want to crush this with perfection; I must make this count." Limited quantities or limited time brings a new, precious value and signficance to anything you do. Live every day shooting as if its your last shot, I know I have to. I found out today 5 year survival rates are just 20%."

Miles has a lesson we all can/should learn -- stop and smell the flowers, feel the grass beneath your feet, bask in the sun and love and be loved -- you never know what tomorrow may bring.

RIP Miles. We all know yesterday was a day for another angel to get *wings.*

If you get the opportunity, check out his blog via Beaumont hospital's CarePages Web site at (you have to register, then type in "LevinStory" in the search bar).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Random Ramblings for the Day

Quote to think about
"It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living."
--Oliver Wendell Holmes, writer
Well put, Oliver!

Fun outing for the day
McDonald's is giving out FREE coffee in metro Detroit on Wednesday's (not sure for how long). The best part is, we're talking flavored iced lattes too, not just run-of-the-muck icky blackness!

It's true, corporate America can have some heart too... and as a lover of both coffee and all things free, it just made my hump day go by that much quicker!

The glass is half full in the world of Google
When running a Google search for the word "optimism," I found 17,500,000 results.
When I ran a similar search on "pessimism," I found 4,070,000 results.
Funny how that really makes me feel optimistic about the world.

I also learned that your iGoogle homepage can be made into a creative expression of your personality... all you have to do is click on the "add stuff" link. Where have I been with this one, folks?

I went a little crazy and added several quotes of the day, a daily "this day in history" factoid, USA Today headlines, NPR briefs and hot CD releases + more. Man, I am going to become the queen of everything hip now. I honestly learned about five new useless facts, its great!

Some other favorites that can be added: funny cat photos, words of Christ, date ideas, a body fat calculator, beer news, a daily water tracker and a Chuck Norris fact generator (I'm totally adding it now).

Check it. Keep the creativity alive, Google! Soon you'll have me more hooked than Facebook...maybe.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"CNN Heroes"

I was watching CNN today and heard about a great special reporting segment they are running called "CNN Heroes."

The story that was highlighted was about a former soccer star in Haiti who has decided to dedicate his life's work to promising athletes that are growing up in Cité Soleil, the country’s largest slum. He founded L’Athletique d’Haiti, a program that offers after-school sports and tutoring to 1,300 children a day.

What a great man. Makes you thankful there's still some genuine hearts out there.

Kudos to CNN. It's about time the "real" people start getting some recognition for their efforts from persuasive media.

There's a bunch of great hero stories from all kinds of real people making a difference on the site. Keep it up, ya'll.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Miracles A-Plenty

Tiny miracle baby survives war-torn Iraq... isn't she precious?

Reviving One Life in a War Zone
Baby Girl Found Near Baghdad Home After Mother, Uncle Shot to Death

Staff Sgt. David D. Highsmith takes his turn with little Fatima Jbouri at the American military's 28th Combat Support Hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Aug. 2, 2007. Jbouri was found under a metal sheet after her mother was killed.

One of the littlest survivors in Baghdad is 10-month-old Fatima Jbouri, who is now in the care of American medical personnel after gunmen killed her mother and uncle in their Baghdad home.

After the murders, Jbouri was dumped — literally — outside in the garbage on a day when the temperature hit 118 degrees.

Iraqi police found her in the rubble and handed her over to U.S. soldiers, who brought the severely underweight baby to the combat support hospital in the Green Zone. She then gained 3 pounds in less than three weeks.

"When she first got here, she looked like this little alien child," 1st Lt. Katie Van Beusekomon told ABC's Miguel Marquez. "Now she's just like this cute little baby that … screams at us when we don't feed her."

She said finding this baby was a "miracle," given what is going on in Iraq.

And, among all the severely injured casualties of war, Jbouri has been a gift for those in the hospital.

"She can get fussy, but it's very pleasant to have her and not have to deal with all the blood and gore, and she's just doing well and healthy, and to see that is very, very pleasant," said 1st Lt. Hattie McDowell.

To escape the noise and chaos in the trauma ward, the nurses have set up Jbouri's crib in a quiet and cool supply closet.

Although she won't be a permanent resident in the hospital, the staff would like to find relatives to take care of her, and reunite her with her five brothers and sisters who are now in an orphanage.

But saying goodbye will not be easy for her caretakers.

"It's hard being a health care provider in an American hospital, because we take care of these kids, we send them out, and we're left wondering," said Beusekomon.

Source: ABC News

Baby Fatima has suffered all she can. Let's make sure to keep her in our thoughts, she's an inspiration to all of the fighters in the world.

A Wise Man

I just read something profound and beautiful...

A Wise Man
As Ghandi stepped aboard a train one day, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track.

As the train started to roll, he was unable to retrieve it. To the amazement of his companions, Ghandi calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first shoe. Asked by a fellow passenger why he did that, Ghandi replied, "The poor man who finds the shoes lying on the track will now have a pair he can use."

I've decided to start a blog displaying a collection of stories/ideas/expressions like this that show the bright spots of life's intracacies. This blog is going to be for my people out there looking for meaning beyond measure in simple everyday things, just like myself.

Each day I read something that makes me feel, whether it's stories of countries far away or right here in the D. It's time to share a little piece of my brain pie with the world.