Friday, November 30, 2007

We Are All Unique

Inspirational thought/read for the day. I copied this from something I came across online. I took out some of the corniness though!

Think what a remarkable, unduplicatable, and miraculous thing it is to be you. Of all the people who have come and gone on the earth, since the beginning of time, not ONE of them is like YOU.

No one who has ever lived or is to come has had your combination of abilities, talents, friends, acquaintances, burdens, sorrows and opportunities.

No one's hair grows exactly the way yours does. No one's finger prints are like yours. No one has the same combination of secret inside jokes and family expressions that you know.

The few people who laugh at all the same things you do, don't sneeze the way you do. No one prays about exactly the same concerns as you do. No one is loved by the same combination of people that love you - NO ONE!

No one before, no one to come. YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY UNIQUE!
Enjoy that uniqueness. You do not have to pretend in order to seem more like someone else. You weren't meant to be like someone else. You do not have to lie to conceal the parts of you that are not like what you see in anyone else.

You were meant to be different. Nowhere ever in all of history will the same things be going on in anyone's mind, soul and spirit as are going on in yours right now.

If you did not exist, there would be a hole in creation, a gap in history, something missing from the plan for humankind.Treasure your uniqueness. It is a gift given only to you. Enjoy it and share it!

No one can reach out to others in the same way that you can. No one can speak your words. No one can convey your meanings. No one can comfort with your kind of comfort. No one can bring your kind of understanding to another person.

No one can be cheerful and lighthearted and joyous in your way. No one can smile your smile. No one else can bring the whole unique impact of you to another human being.

Share your uniqueness. Let it be free to flow out among your family and friends and people you meet in the rush and clutter of living wherever you are. That gift of yourself was given you to enjoy and share. Give yourself away!

See it! Receive it! Let it inform you and nudge you and inspire you!


Monday, November 26, 2007

Taking Time to Give Back During the Holidays

Christmas is fast approaching.

As we all know, the holidays are designated to giving that extends far beyond wrapped gifts under the tree. It’s a season where we *should* reach a hand out to help those who are less fortunate in an attempt to make their holidays a little brighter.

If you want to make that kind of contribution and brighten someone's day locally — it's not tough. One of the most obvious things out there are the Salvation Army bell ringers who have recently taken up their annual vigil in front of all major stores. When you come out of the store with bags full of gifts, make sure to drop your change or a few bills into the red kettle. If you want to go above and beyond, take a turn at ringing that bell yourself by calling your local Salvation Army or for those in southeast Michigan, visit the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Web site. It's cold and tiring to stand out there, but for the (few) people that take the time to drop a few cents in and smile at the ringer, it's worth it.

If you are in Michigan and hate the cold, another great nonprofit organization that needs help around the holidays is United Way. Check out your local United Way Web site for volunteer events such as delivering gifts or food to the elderly or sorting children's toys for those in need. Click here for volunteer opportunities with UW of SE Mich. Many of the events only require a few hours of time.

Another thing to consider while out shopping is gifts that "give back." I am hoping to write a blog entry in the next few days about such items... But one gift that gives back that I've come across and am smitten with is by and is part of the “Path to Peace” collection of Rwandan baskets (see photo above). These have been created in partnership with four Rwandan widows’ organizations. They truly are beautiful pieces of hand-woven artwork that puts sustainable income into the hands of the weavers, helping to change their lives. Each design symbolizes its own thing, whether friendship, unity or peace.

Shop smart, think of others and remember what the holidays are truly about - giving back in some way.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Give Thanks 365 Days A Year

Hard to believe it's the last day of Thanksgiving weekend already... it went by so fast. I hope everyone had a great, tasty, family/friend-oriented Thanksgiving, and that the leftovers will be gone before you get sick of them.

What should not go away is the thankful, blessings-counting spirit that Thanksgiving urges us to feel. Look around you... don't you have things you are thankful for?

I know its cliché, but I like to list out the things I am thankful for each are my top picks:

Being American. Not everyone in this world is able to rant, rave and express ourselves the way we can. I'm thankful for those they have come before us that helped to pave the way to freedom and those that continue to do so in our nation's military - we enjoy our freedom and they earn it for us.

Hard Lessons. I am thankful for life's "trials" that I have been faced with. They have shaped me into the thankful person I am today.

Family and Friends. Those who are always there and those who are just a phone call away and it doesn't matter how long its been since we last talked to each other.

Never being hungry. I can list out the wonderful foods I am in love with... Thanksgiving sides, Taco Bell, sushi, pickles, wine...too many to list. I'm thankful to be in a place when all those things are readily available to me.

Happy people. There's no technology that can ever replace great customer service, whether it's someone who let's you go ahead of them in the grocery line or just an overly friendly cashier. Hearing "have a nice day" from a stranger who sounds like they really mean it makes my day.

Considerate Drivers. Everyone is in a rush. Nobody wants to be stuck behind someone going less than the speed limit in the fast lane. Wave and smile at those that let you go before them in traffic.

The moral of my list is to make sure I pray for our troops, drive how I'd want you to drive, look to the future in a positive way, tell my family that I love them and be thankful for making it through yet another day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cuddle Alert: New Site to Benefit Local Charities

Many people sink into a deep depression during Michigan's winter months... we don't want to go outside unless we absolutely have to, the sunshine turns to gray and driving is an icy nightmare. In fact, I can't think of many reasons winter is much fun at all. However, one thing does come to mind and that’s cuddling. Who doesn’t like to do that?

It's a good thing to do too, especially for your health. According to research, along with hugs (see earlier post on hug health benefits), cuddling increase hormones that can decrease the risk of heart disease. And since heart disease is the number one killer in America, I’d say it’s safe to say we can all use some cuddling in our lives.

With this in mind, Chuck Gadica, a well-known weatherman from the Detroit area, has launched a new Web site called, based on the phrase he coined more than 20 years ago. The site currently sells clothing, hats, blankets and baby items. There's also Cuddles the bear and Cuddle Alert bumper stickers in which proceeds benefit our local children's hospitals.

The best part of this new site according to the Great Lakes IT Report, is that Chuck has indicated that the site has a potential opportunity to raise funds for a worthy charity or provide a way to donate products to those in need. He said he's investigating organizations to be the beneficiary of the Cuddle Alert concept.

That means potentially great news for all my non-profit friends out there.

So Michigan: bring on the cold. We're ready for cuddle alerts. But Chuck, please turn up the heat on your Web site and raise some dough for the area nonprofits in need!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Life Lessons: Chapter 1 - Patience

Today my patience was tested.

I didn't feel well and was out running a work errand in a relatively unfamiliar area when I realized the entrance ramp to get back on the expressway was closed. I figured I'd just go back the way I came. No such luck. Thinking I had found my way, I turned up my tunes and enjoyed the scenery and then out of no where, I was on a dirt road. In the middle of metro Detroit. How could that have happened? I'm looking at my Michigan map in the 5 p.m. darkness, trying to weave through traffic and squinting with my bad eyes to see the road signs ahead and I have no clue where I am. I can't even tell if I'm going east or west. I scold myself - I should have gotten directions to get home, not just to get there... I feel my eyes well up with tears... it's a frustrating feeling to be lost when you're only 25 miles from your home. And all I wanted was to be home with a bowl of soup.

Just as I was approaching all-out rage, I was reminded of a story I read this week in a Catholic magazine called "Faith." The story, written by Father Bill (who is marrying Jason and I actually), discussed how patience truly is a virtue and gives us the ability to endure many things, including life's little inconveniences (like getting lost).

Here's the story in my own words:
There's a woman who took care of her husband who was suffering with Alzheimer's disease. She had to keep a close eye on him in case he wandered off and forgot where/who he was.

The disease had taken a toll on her, but it was important to her to keep her vows she had made to him many years ago - "I promise to be true to you in good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part."

One day, her husband, not thinking clearly, got into some magazines and books she had just organized. Frustrated, she got angry and yelled at him and stormed out of the room to cool off.

Moments later, her husband wandered in to where she was stewing with her anger and said, "There you are my dear. It's so good to see you. Hey, if you go into the den, be careful. There is a strange woman in there and she is mad!"

She immediately was hit with a sense of his love and forgave him. What a humorous way to be reminded of the importance of patience. Her husband didn't recognize her as the “angry” woman. He remembered her as his patient and loving wife.

Recalling this story while I was frustrated driving was a blessing. Crying or getting ticked off wasn't going to help me navigate – just like anger wasn’t going to cure the woman in the story’s husband from his horrible disease. I just needed to take a deep breath, laugh at myself for not being armed with better directions, turn up my music and enjoy the scenery.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Article of the Day: A Life Lesson Learned at the Stop & Shop

My favorite part about diving into the latest issue of Newsweek is a section called "My Turn," which features an essay told by the voice of a "real" person (not a journalist). Each week, there is a story of tribulation, triumph or a lesson learned that is told from a unique perspective. Each one is truly a pleasure read!

I read one today about a man who was obsessive about managing his time until a small act of kindness slowed him down. It's a great reminder to all of us that Ferris Bueller made a genius statement when he said, "Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." Read it here and think about it - it's deep.

Monday, November 5, 2007

This Day in History: Susan B. Anthony Breaks U.S. Law to Vote

Attention ladies: Today is a very important day for us.

It was this day in 1872 that Susan B. Anthony defied U.S. law and voted in the presidential election, asserting that the 14th Amendment entitled her to do so. She was arrested and fined, but her actions drew great attention to the women's rights movement.

It was her actions that have enabled all of us future sisters the right to vote - something we often take for granted.

It's a shame Susan didn't live to see the 19th amendment brought to life (it ratified in 1920, 14 years after her death). She really did start a revolution and deserves our thoughts on this day.

Here's an exerpt from the words that made her famous:
''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 tranquility, 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."

Thanks Susan B. You really are a shining example of true girl power.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Happy Birthday, Faygo!

According to the Detroit Free Press, Faygo is officially 100 years old as of today.

The Detroit-based pop maker has been celebrating its centenary for several months, but Nov. 4, 1907, was the day Ben and Perry Feigenson founded the company, whose name was shorted from the original Feigenson. The brothers used their cake-frosting recipes from Russia to brew a carbonated soft drink.

The first flavors were fruit punch, strawberry and grape. Headquartered at 3579 Gratiot since 1935, Faygo has been credited with helping spread the use of the word "pop" for soda in the Midwest.

It has attained minor cult status, too, as the Detroit rap duo Insane Clown Posse uses Faygo as a prop in its act, spraying fans from the stage and mentioning the beverage in its songs.

Thanks Faygo for helping my minor obsession with Red Pop through the years. You are always there for me when I need a mid-afternoon boost, and for that I am forever thankful. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Words That Hurt: Stop Using That "R" Word

I usually try to keep this blog strictly optimistic, but I just found something powerful that I wanted to share...

The days when "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me" are long gone. I have a few words that I despise and refuse to use, however the one that sticks out and is the most prevalent in my life is the word "retarded." Maybe I've become sensitive after working for Special Olympics Michigan, but please don't say it around me -- it is hurtful to my heart because of the negative connotations that come with it.

The reason this fire is in my soul is because of an old Op-Ed from The Boston Globe that I came across. The writer is asking the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation to change its name. Please read it below and maybe you will understand where I am coming from and choose to use your words more wisely.

Let's not use words that wound
BEVERLY BECKHAM - March 25, 2007

I like to believe that it's a lack of thought and not meanness that makes people use words that hurt. That they're going with the flow, following the crowd, saying what everyone else is saying with no intent to wound. But words do wound.

My granddaughter Lucy is 3 years old. She has dark blonde hair, green eyes, and Down syndrome. Even before she was born, I bristled at the use of the word: "That outfit looks retarded." "He's a retard." "I'm not driving all the way over there. That's retarded." It was mostly teenagers who said it then, and twenty somethings.

Now the word has gone mainstream. It's on TV. In movies. On the radio. In books. In music. It was the title of a Black Eyed Peas hit song, "Let's Get Retarded," which was changed (because the ARC of the United States, formerly known as the Association for Retarded Citizens, wrote and objected?) to "Let's Get It Started."

The word is also all over the Internet.

Retarded has even spawned new words: celebutard, a famous stupid person; debutard, a rich stupid person; e-tard, a stupid Internet user -- stupid being the common denominator, and "tard" a suffix and a word in itself. ("Tard: Adjective used to describe one so retarded, they do not deserve the 're' " -- Urban Dictionary.)

Which is why the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation must change its name. And soon.

Originally known as the Division of Mental Retardation under the Department of Mental Health, it kept "mental retardation" in its title when it changed its name 20 years ago.

Even then, retarded was a word with too much baggage. But now it's worse, bringing back movie images of wards full of dull-eyed people with mismatched clothes, bad teeth, and shuffling gaits. The village idiot, mocked and scorned.

Hollywood gave us these pictures of the mentally challenged. Maybe they were accurate at the time; maybe they weren't. What is unarguable is that they are not a picture of the cognitively disabled now.

Now is different. Now is a better world for all people with any kind of disability. Now there's inclusion and handicap access and Braille and aides and closed caption TV and community support and group homes and amazing amounts of empathy and understanding.

Which makes the use of the word retard by people who should and do know better, curious. Why the surge in use of this word now?

Lindsay Lohan has used it. Paris Hilton. Britney Spears. Courtney Love. Bill Maher. It's out there being said by the rich and famous. Two steps forward, one step back.

Words matter.
Come back.
Go away.
It's benign.
It's malignant.

Learning disabled. Special needs. Intellectual and developmental disabilities. Cognitively challenged.

Words change the way we think. Everyone knows someone who is challenged in some way -- who has autism or cancer, who is head-injured or depressed, who has war wounds, who is old -- people who need extra time or help or support to get along in the world.

And in our world today, we assist these people. We -- most of us -- do not mock them. There are exceptions.

On the Internet, when you Google "retarded" up comes a picture of a boy with Down syndrome. He has dark hair and a big smile and he's running a race, his feet in the air, his arms out straight as if he is flying. The picture is sweet. The boy looks happy. But the words on the picture are toxic: "Arguing on the Internet is like running in the Special Olympics. Even if you win, you're still retarded."

The word is a throwback and a setback. It's insulting, demeaning, and hurtful, and it is all over the place. Legislation to change the name of the Department of Mental Retardation has been filed, and Commissioner Gerald Morrissey supports it. "This is an issue about dignity and respect," he says. "About all citizens of the Commonwealth being treated with respect." Call it a euphemism. Call it political correctness. Call it superfluous, getting rid of a word.

Call it whatever you want. Just don't call it the Department of Mental Retardation anymore.

Very well put, Beverly. I admire you for telling it like it is!

* Update on this story: It is STILL called the Mass. Department of Mental Retardation, even several months after this article was printed. Several other states have similar state department names (Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama to name a few). There is only one way to bring about change: don't use the word and voice your opinion to governmental leaders.

If you get the opportunity, feel free to sign the pledge to not use the "R" word. You can sign it here. Make sure to read Jenna's story and the letters that accompany it too… and remember Ghandi’s words: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."