Wednesday, September 28, 2016

To protect and serve, and drive 100 miles

In the middle of the night, Matt Ross of Indiana got a call that his 15-year-old sister had been killed in a car accident. His grieving mother was back home in Detroit. Distraught, Matt convinced a friend to drive him to be with his mom.

Problem one. The friend had a suspended license. Problem two. The car was pulled over by Ohio State Highway Patrol for speeding. Problem three. The friend was arrested and the vehicle towed. Problem four. Matt himself had an outstanding warrant in distant Wayne County.

The Wayne County police didn't act on the warrant because of the distance involved, which was a relief. But filled with grief and without a way to get to his mom, Matt sat alongside the road and wept. Sgt. David Robinson saw the young man's pain and sat beside him. He prayed with Matt and offered to drive him to Detroit, a trip of over 100 miles.

Matt accepted the officer's generosity.

Monday, September 26, 2016

He fled, then turned around to help

Ramon Lopez was at West 23rd and Sixth Avenue when a pressure cooker bomb exploded in that Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan about 10 days ago. He told USA Today, “It felt like a building was coming down.” 
Adrenaline kicked in, fight or flight. He ran from the blast. 
He only got about a half-block away before reason and compassion took over. Lopez did the right thing. He turned around and ran back to the scene to help. There, he talked to the injured and worked to keep them calm until ambulances and police arrived. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

It's your chance to win!

Who doesn't love a give-away?!

Click here to enter the Goodreads giveaway of my new picture book, Mikey and the Swamp Monster, fully illustrated by graphic designer Michael Rausch. Five print copies are up for grabs in the US.

I can personalize the inscription for the lucky winners.

The little monsters in your life will love this "read-it-again!" favorite, so enter today!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Creative recycling - plastic bags to sleeping mats

You know all those plastic shopping bags that end up in your kitchen drawer? The ones you forget to drop off at the recycling bin at the grocery store? Well, these folks have found a way to recycle them creatively.

The bags can be cut into strips and tied together to make plastic yarn or "plarn." This plarn can then be used as yarn would be, crocheted into items that are strong and resistant to moisture. Pinterest is (of course!) chock-full of ways to use plarn to crochet laundry baskets, sandals, tablecloths, and any number of items. Full instructions, including videos, are available on various websites.

A number of groups have taken to using plarn to help others. This group of women from Second Baptist Church in Union City Tennessee crochets plarn into sleeping mats for the homeless in their community and for flood victims in Louisiana. Another group from the Pittsburgh area has sent them all over the world for use by soldiers. They also make a smaller size for use as sit-upons. This Iowa group has been making the mats at their church since 2013.

Each sleeping mat, about 3 ft. by 6 ft., is made of plarn from over 600 bags. The mats are resistant to moisture, don't attract bugs, and can be rinsed off with a hose or a quick swish in a river. Plus, they're practically indestructible.

Environmentally-friendly AND kind to our fellow man. Win-win!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Extreme couponing to feed the hungry

So how's this for a goal - before her 30th birthday next year, Lauren Puryear wants to deliver 30,000 meals to hungry people. 

And Lauren is well on her way. This young lady with two Masters degrees and a PhD founded a non-profit  called For the Love of Others, LLC. It provides services for people who are homeless, who need help providing for their children, or who have mental health needs. And when it comes to food, Lauren is ingenious at stretching her agency dollar. Food donations from major grocery chains are a huge help, plus, like many of us, Lauren has taken to clipping coupons.
A lot of coupons.

She has become an extreme couponer. She clips and compares and buys from a number of different stores. Many of the items she buys now are free or nearly free, which places her well on her way toward her goal. 

The impact this woman makes is breathtaking.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Free for Kindle!

Through Friday only, Mikey and the Swamp Monster is FREE for Kindle!

This humorous picture book has garnered 5-star reviews and parents tell me it has become a "read it again!" favorite with the 3-6 year olds.

The talents of graphic designer Michael Rausch are there to enjoy. And yours for free. What more could you want?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This teen says, "Sit with us"

For Natalie Hampton, a high school junior from Sherman Oaks California, lunch periods back in seventh grade were dismal. She ate lunch alone the entire school year and felt embarrassed that her classmates could see how lonely and vulnerable she was. Her status as 'the girl with nowhere to sit' left her open to bullying.

Natalie eventually changed schools, made friends, and is now thriving in her new school. But the experience haunted her. She decided that no other student should ever have to endure that kind of torment.

So this 16-year-old developed and released an App called Sit With Us available free in the iTunes store. App users can, privately and without well-meaning adult interference, locate 'ambassadors' within a school's lunch period. Those student ambassadors have agreed to allow anyone to sit with them at lunch. Natalie hopes this gives all students a chance to connect and make new friends.

This young lady saw a problem and did something about it. Well done, Natalie.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

One graphic designer is part of the solution

When graphic designer Katherine Young saw this cover on Girls Life Magazine, she was disturbed. Obviously the image and the headlines perpetuate the stereotype that girls are defined by beauty and fashion. When that cover was contrasted with the September issue of Boys Life, the conflicting messages horrified Young. She decided to do something about it.

She used her skills as a graphic designer to create an alternate cover and posted the comparisons on her blog. The image went viral. 

Young's cover empowers girls to be their best selves, to define themselves as healthy individuals, full of potential to mold their community and shape their future. I say Amen to that. 

The media needs to listen. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Empathy for the loser - a lesson from kids' sports

Celebrating after a win is easy and natural. The team crowds together for group hugs, pats one another on the back, all high energy and enthusiasm. The losers each stand alone, individuals feeling their individual defeat.

Typically the opposing teams then line up and walk past each other for the 'good game' hand slap. That's considered good sportsmanship.

But when we're celebrating, it's not easy to put ourself in the shoes of the loser. Showing empathy for the losers and offering them comfort is, well, unusual.

Empathy was clearly on display at the conclusion of this international Youth Soccer tournament. 

The winning team from Barcelona went above and beyond the expected line of polite hand slaps. These kids showed true empathy for the defeated Japanese team through genuine hugs and obviously encouraging words. Even through the language barrier, I bet the Japanese players knew exactly what was being expressed.

We adults have a lot to learn.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Update - #FillTheSeats

The target of $300,000 has been reached! The #FillTheSeats campaign was a success.

 Now thousands of Brazilian kids who could never afford to watch world-class athletes in action will do exactly that. Now thousands of world-class athletes who get little media attention and might have otherwise competed in front of nearly empty stands will enjoy cheering crowds to support their efforts.

The Paralymics in Rio are a better place to be because one man saw a problem and decided to do something. Kudos to Greg Nugent and to those who helped him. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fill the seats at the Paralympics

Yesterday marked the opening of the Paralympic Games in Rio. The 11 days of competition between world-class athletes are notoriously under-reported in mainstream media, especially given the hype of the Rio Olympics last month. And yet the athletes' personal stories of sacrifice and struggle to reach their elite competitive status are just as compelling as their able-bodied counterparts. More compelling, I would argue, because these individuals do it all with a significant disability.

So I was disheartened to hear that ticket sales to watch the Paralympic events in person were slow - only 12% had been sold as of mid-August. That would mean empty stands and sparse crowds to cheer on the efforts of these incredible athletes.

Greg Nugent decided to do something. A former marketing director for the 2012 London Olympics, he created the hashtag #FillTheSeats and set up an account to receive donations through Generosity on IndieGoGo. Nugent plans to use the money to buy tickets for Brazilians, especially children, who could not afford to attend otherwise.

As of this writing, the campaign has raised over $200,000 of their $300,000 goal. Because of Nugent's decision to do something right, the athletes will receive the enthusiastic support they deserve, and thousands of people will see events which may inspire them to achieve their own goals. Because one person decided to act, everyone wins.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Blast off! A new picture book has launched!

Drum roll, please... my long-awaited picture book has launched! Mikey and the Swamp Monster is my cooperative effort with talented graphic designer Michael Rausch. Available on Amazon in print and e-book!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Cruelty, inaction, and a pro-active project for change

An outstanding college student and musician, Tyler Clementi had just begun to open up to loved ones about being gay. Then his roommate at Rutgers captured an intimate video of him on a computer's webcam and shared it online. Others who saw the video didn't report this cyber-bullying, and Tyler became a target of ridicule. When he learned of this invasion of privacy and the rampant hate-speech against him, Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge.  

Like the rest of Tyler's home community, 10th-grader Christopher Rim was devastated by the news of Tyler's suicide. But Christopher didn't want to just sit back and be sad; he decided to act. He formed It Ends Today, a group of 18 students from his high school who traveled to different middle schools and high schools to educate teens about the importance of bystander intervention and the dangers of cyber-bullying.

The project grew and attracted the attention of celebrities including Lady GaGa and her Born This Way Foundation. Within a few years, It Ends Today operated 26 chapters in six countries with over 350 volunteers.

When Christopher went to Yale, he connected with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. They paired with Facebook and created InspirED, "a portal where educators, community leaders, young people, parents, and government officials can connect to positively impact school climates and the overall well-being of teens in the U.S."

Christopher's original project has expanded to now reach tens of thousands of people every year.

All because one teen decided to act.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

More than a dozen people did the right thing

Twenty-year-old Jonathan Janzen was on his way to work on a Tuesday in July. As he drove 70 mph along a stretch of Interstate 20, he was momentarily distracted. He swerved, overcorrected, and lost control. 
His car flipped two or three times, and landed upside down in a ditch. 

Then the amazing happened. Over a dozen strangers stopped their cars and raced to help Janzen out of the wreck. Working together, they flipped his car over and freed Janzen. Check out the slide show and the video of their cooperative effort.

Janzen's injuries were minor.  “I was not expecting to see that many people standing there…then people [were] giving me hugs…” he said. “Thank you so much every single one of you, just thank you for your concern.”