A New Day, A New You

A New Day, A New You

2018.07.16

Pentecost 2018

 

Here I sit, thinking about the present and the future after having celebrated the first anniversary of the passing of my mother. The death of a family member brings not just grief but necessary action – all of the very real physical and legal requirements that accompany death.  Death was not on my calendar so my schedule required a detour in order to carry on and be proactive in the present. While the death of my mother impacted my living, it also made me think about not only today a year later but also about the future. Who am I today and who will I be tomorrow?  Who are you?

 

Today history will be written. Because of and in spite of the past, new stories will be created. Today we will not spend time in rehashing old living. Today is for living the here and now. It us, after all, the inly door to the future. Bold words, huh?  Perhaps they are also a little bit scary to you. Tomorrow life will return to its normal schedule but today….. today I am asking that you take time for the legend of you, the story of you that you yourself will write. Today I invite you to join me as we create our future.

 

The future is a blank canvas. Your story is yours to write. Interact with the world today and live!  Be the hero or heroine of your own wonderful, magical myth, the story of you today. How do you start?  Share a smile. Give a hug. Hold the door for someone, not just the elderly or infirmed. “One of the secrets in life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.”  Lewis Carroll knew that each day we fall down the rabbit hole called life. He became the legend known as the author of many poems and the childten’s classic “Alice in Wonderland”.  Charles Lutwidge Dodgson famously penned: “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”  Yesterday he was Charles Dodgson. Today ge was Lewis Carroll.

 

Yes, I realize that Lewis Carroll is not a woman and this month is about women. Alice, his most famous character, is a female. At some time we all have felt, women and men, like we have fallen down the rabbit hole. Last year I certainly did when my mother passed away. She was almost one hundred years and it still seemed as if she had died too young.  She was a firm believer in living each day to the fullest and she encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone whenever possible.

 

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your iwn gift you can oresent every moment wuth the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half pissession. That which each can do best, none but his/her Maker can teach him.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson knew the value of the individual. So did my mother.

 

Today write your own story. Maybe one day we will read it; maybe not. What matters is that you live the life you want. This is your day to become what you desire so travel down the road of life boldly. Today is for writing the story of you. Today the person making a difference is you.

A Mother’s Love

A Mother’s Love

2018.07.15

Pentecost 2018

 

We often think of “separation of church and state” as a means of keeping politics and religion separate.  Recently in India it has become a way of one faction’s campaign of lies being used to usurp power and gain control.  West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted on Thursday, July 12th, that the religious order founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta – more popularly known simply as Mother Teresa – is being targeted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is affiliated with a Hindu nationalist group.  Although the state government is run by the BJP, the state has a large proportion of India’s marginalized tribal people, who exist outside of Hinduism’s traditional caste system, and many of them have become Christian as the Christian church has done much to improve their quality of live, standard of living, and educational opportunities.  Jharkhand has a Christian population double the national average.  The BJP has even gone so far as to accuse nuns of the Missions of Charity of illegal and wrong doing.

 

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was born August 26, 1910 was an Albanian-Indian descent in Skopje (now the capital of Macedonia), then part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman.   After belonging to many different empires throughout history, Skopje today is the capital of an independent Madeconia.  After living in Macedonia for eighteen years Anjezë, then anme’s English equivalent being Agnes, moved to Ireland and then to India, where she lived for most of her life.

 

The youngest child in her family, Agnes’ father died when she was eight years old.  He had been involved in local politics but the young girl was fascinated by stories of the lives of missionaries and their service in Bengal.   She decided by age 12 that she should commit herself to religious life and this resolve strengthened in 1928 at the shrine of the Black Madonna of Vitina-Letnice, where she often went on pilgrimage.

 

Agnes left home in 1928 at age 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland, to learn English with the view of becoming a missionary. She never saw her mother or her sister again.  She arrived in India in 1929and began her novitiate in Darjeeling, in the lower Himalayas.   She learned Bengali and taught at St. Teresa’s School near her convent.   Teresa took her first religious vows on 24 May 1931. She chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries, opting for its Spanish spelling (Teresa).

 

On 10 September 1946, Teresa experienced what she later described as “the call within the call” when she travelled by train to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling from Calcutta for her annual retreat. “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.”  Joseph Langford later wrote, “Though no one knew it at the time, Sister Teresa had just become Mother Teresa.”

 

Teresa wrote in her diary that her first year was fraught with difficulty. With no income, she begged for food and supplies and experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during these early months: “Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today, I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then, the comfort of Loreto [her former congregation] came to tempt me. “You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again”, the Tempter kept on saying … Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.”

 

Teresa received permission to start her order from the Vatican in 1950.  In her words, it would care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone”.[43] By 1997 the 13-member Calcutta congregation had grown to more than 4,000 sisters who managed orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centres worldwide, caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless and victims of floods, epidemics and famine.[44]

In 1952, Teresa opened her first hospice with help from Calcutta officials. She converted an abandoned Hindu temple into the Kalighat Home for the Dying, free for the poor, and renamed it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart (Nirmal Hriday). Those brought to the home received medical attention and the opportunity to die with dignity in accordance with their faith: Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received extreme unction. “A beautiful death”, Teresa said, “is for people who lived like animals to die like angels—loved and wanted.”

 

She opened a hospice for those with leprosy, calling it Shanti Nagar (City of Peace).  The Missionaries of Charity established leprosy-outreach clinics throughout Calcutta, providing medication, dressings and food. The Missionaries of Charity took in an increasing number of homeless children; in 1955 Teresa opened Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart, as a haven for orphans and homeless youth.

The congregation began to attract recruits and donations, and by the 1960s it had opened hospices, orphanages and leper houses throughout India. Teresa then expanded the congregation abroad, opening a house in Venezuela in 1965 with five sisters.  Houses followed in Italy (Rome), Tanzania and Austria in 1968, and during the 1970s the congregation opened houses and foundations in the United States and dozens of countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.

 

The Missionaries of Charity Brothers was founded in 1963, and a contemplative branch of the Sisters followed in 1976.  Lay Catholics and non-Catholics were enrolled in the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, and the Lay Missionaries of Charity. Responding to requests by many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa founded the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests and (with priest Joseph Langford) the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in 1984 to combine the vocational aims of the Missionaries of Charity with the resources of the priesthood. By 2007 the Missionaries of Charity numbered about 450 brothers and 5,000 sisters worldwide, operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries.  In 1982, at the height of the Siege of Beirut, Teresa rescued 37 children trapped in a front-line hospital by brokering a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas.

 

A friend of mine from India told me of meeting Mother Teresa as a boy of eight years.  His class was on a school trip to one of the orphanages for which they had donated goods.  At one point during the tour, he said, he heard someone approach him from behind.  He thought it another student since the person was not much taller than he.  “I felt a hand on each shoulder,” he said “realized the strength and weight of those hands.  I thought surely it must be a giant because they were so strong.  I dared no move or squirm.  Suddenly a sweet voice spoke and I turned.”  Mother Teresa was standing with her hands on my young friend’s shoulders. It was over thirty-five years later that he told me this story and still, he assured me, he could feel the imprint of her hands on his shoulders.

 

Mother Teresa resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity on March 13, 1997 due to her failing health and died on September 5th of the same year.  At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters and an associated brotherhood of 300 members operating 610 missions in 123 countries.  Teresa once said, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.” According to former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, “She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world.”

 

In the 19 years since Mother Teresa’s death, the Missionaries of Charity have not only grown in faith and service, but in numbers around the world.  Teresa of Calcutta once described the reason for her being to accomplish what she did:  “My secret…I pray!”

Turning Tragedy into Advocacy

Turning Tragedy into Advocacy

2018.07.14

Pentecost 2018

 

In her early school years she was the quiet one.  She had a sharp sense of humor and keen intelligence the few times she spoke but usually she just stayed to the side.  If asked who in the class was an introvert, her name would have been in the top three.  Life is funny, though, and sometimes it is in our darkest hours that we discover our voice and just how loud and effective our voice can be.

 

As the years passed, Cynthia became a teacher, excelling well in college and earning a master’s degree in education.  She spent thirty-five years with classroom experience working with early childhood and elementary classes.  Living in a large metropolitan area afforded her to chance to also teach at a local community college.  Her passion, besides her husband, was literature and her pets.

 

Like many of us, though, Cynthia’s life revolved around what she knew and she never really had any experience with the pets that were homeless, lost, or abandoned.  Never until one night left her feeling just as abandoned.  It was a fairly regular night like so many she had lovingly shared with her husband but it suddenly turned into a nightmare.  Her husband suffered a massive coronary.  Paramedics rushed him to the hospital where he passed away shortly thereafter.  Just that quickly Cynthia’s life changed.

 

Retiring just as she and her husband had always planned gave Cynthia a sense of somehow still having him in her life.  The reality was, though, she was lonely, even with family nearby and her two older cats.  She began writing for an internet publication, the Examiner.  Suddenly Cynthia became an advocate for animals about 6 years ago because of some rumors about a local animal shelter.  It started with the event with two dogs named Buck and Bill that led her curiosity to learning about her local animal shelter.  Cynthia explains:  “Bad events were getting some notice in the community and I decided to use my job with the Examiner back then to put this shelter in the spotlight.  The city paper refused to shine a light so I started to do it.” 

 

Most households in the United States have at least one pet. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet include decreased blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, decreased triglyceride levels, decreased feelings of loneliness, increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, and increased opportunities for socialization. 

 

Half of all wives are widowed before age 60.  Cynthia became an unfortunate statistic in that Seven out of ten baby boomer wives are going to outlive their husbands.  Those are daunting statistics for women and men alike and few are prepared for the reality of life on their own.  That reality can be very overwhelming, especially in the beginning.

 

Life often throws us curveballs and how we react makes all the difference.  The unexpected death of her husband was a crushing blow to Cynthia.  Facilitating the local animal shelter in her area gave her a renewed sense of life.  “Helping these dogs in this shelter has been a huge blessing to me to keep me going as a widow.  The crowning event was looking into the eyes of an old German Shepard that was about to be euthanized and I said ‘Heck no they are not going to kill that dog.’  We found an adopter at the 11th hour.”

 

Cynthia today writes about children’s books as a reviewer as well as continuing her animal advocacy.  You can read her reviews at www.hubpages.com/cindyhewitt and I strongly recommend them to anyone involved with children.  She is a shining example of turning tragedy into a life of advocacy.  When we help others we often help ourselves.  Mahatma Gandhi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  For Cynthia, this is true when helping people and pets.  She is a great example of a woman making a difference!

 

 

 

 

 

An Unstoppable Spirit

An Unstoppable Spirit

2018.07.13

Pentecost 2018

 

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education advocate who, at the age of 17, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Born on July 12, 1997, Yousafzai became an advocate for girls’ education when she herself was still a child, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her.

 

Yesterday Malala turned twenty-one and celebrated by helping girls in Rio learn how to stay in school and overcome violence in the world around them.  This is not an unusual occurrence for Malala, though.  Her thirst for knowledge had led her down a path that even a horrendous attack could not stop.

 

Nine months after being shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai gave a speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday in 2013. Yousafzai highlighted her focus on education and women’s rights, urging world leaders to change their policies.  Yousafzai said that following the attack, “the terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”

 

t Malala Yousafzai’s 2013 speech at the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pronounced July 12th – Yousafzai’s birthday – ‘Malala Day’ in honor of the young leader’s activism to ensure education for all children.  “Malala chose to mark her 16th birthday with the world,” said Ban. “No child should have to die for going to school. Nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn. Together, we can change the picture.”

 

Malala Yousafzai was born in Mingora, Pakistan, located in the country’s Swat Valley, on July 12, 1997. For the first few years of her life, her hometown remained a popular tourist spot that was known for its summer festivals. However the area began to change as the Taliban tried to take control.

 

Yousafzai attended a school that her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, had founded. After the Taliban began attacking girls’ schools in Swat, Malala gave a speech in Peshawar, Pakistan, in September 2008. The title of her talk was, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”

 

With a growing public platform, Yousafzai continued to speak out about her right, and the right of all women, to an education. Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. That same year, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.  Malala and her family learned that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her because of her activism. Though Malala was frightened for the safety of her father — an anti-Taliban activist — she and her family initially felt that the fundamentalist group would not actually harm a child.

 

On October 9, 2012, when 15-year-old Malala was riding a bus with friends on their way home from school, a masked gunman boarded the bus and demanded to know which girl was Malala. When her friends looked toward Malala, her location was given away. The gunman fired at her, hitting Malala in the left side of her head; the bullet then traveled down her neck. Two other girls were also injured in the attack.  The shooting left Malala in critical condition, so she was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar. A portion of her skull was removed to treat her swelling brain. To receive further care, she was transferred to Birmingham, England.

 

Once she was in the United Kingdom, Yousafzai was taken out of a medically induced coma. Though she would require multiple surgeries—including repair of a facial nerve to fix the paralyzed left side of her face — she had suffered no major brain damage. In March 2013, she was able to begin attending school in Birmingham. 

 

In March 29, 2018, Yousafzai returned to Pakistan for the first time since her brutal 2012 attack. Not long after arriving, she met with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and delivered an emotional speech at his office.  “In the last five years, I have always dreamed of coming back to my country,” she said, adding, “I never wanted to leave.”  During her four-day trip, Yousafzai visited the Swat Valley, as well as the site where she nearly met her end at the hands of the Taliban. Additionally, she inaugurated a school for girls being built with aid from the Malala Fund.

 

n October 10, 2013, in acknowledgement of her work, the European Parliament awarded Yousafzai the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

In April 2017, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Yousafzai as a U.N. Messenger of Peace to promote girls education. The appointment is the highest honor given by the United Nations for an initial period of two years.

Yousafzai was also given honorary Canadian citizenship in April 2017. She is the sixth person and the youngest in the country’s history to receive the honor.  Also in 2017 she was accepted as a student at Oxford University, continuing her education in spite of still being targeted by the Taliban.

 

Malala continues to advocate and encourage world leaders to spend their money on books instead of bullets and military budgets.  “The shocking truth is that world leaders have the money to fully fund primary AND secondary education around the world – but they are choosing to spend it on other things, like their military budgets. In fact, if the whole world stopped spending money on the military for just 8 days, we could have the $39 billion still needed to provide 12 years of free, quality education to every child on the planet.”

 

Immediately after the attack on her in 2012 to yesterday’s celebration, Malala has urged action against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism:  “The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women… Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons.” 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat It – Part Three

Eat It – Part Three

2018.07.10

Pentecost 2018

 

This is the third and last segment of my post about eating and how we can make a difference by eating.  The first part centered around how we can help ourselves, be our own hero in our own lives by eating responsibility.  The second featured a wonderful organization called Dining for Women.  Today, we are going back to college  and focusing on a college pre-med student.

 

Columnist Jillian Kramer wrote about today’s woman making a difference in a January issue of Food and Wine Magazine.  “Fourteen-year-old Maria Rose Belding skirted past the block-deep line of hungry people, and launched another box filled to the brim with expired macaroni-and-cheese into the dumpster. It wasn’t the first time she’d tossed food into the trash at this particular food pantry—Belding had begun volunteering at the Pella, Indiana location when she was just 5-years-old—but this time was different: this time, she was really, really, really angry.  “I remember really thinking: how have we not done better than this?” [Belding explained to Food & Wine writer.] “And it was really frustrating because it was very clear there wasn’t someone to be mad at—it didn’t appear that someone had screwed up and that’s why we were in this situation. The donor who gave us all of that macaroni-and-cheese had done so out of the very best of intentions. The food pantry director had worked incredibly hard trying to move it and place it within other communities and organizations. The volunteers had done everything they could do. I was so angry, but there wasn’t an easy person to get mad at.”

 

The fourteen-year-old knew there were other hungry people who would have jumped at the chance to eat the food being discarded.  She wondered at the lack of communication between food pantries serving this demographic and was frustrated by it.  Kramer’s article continues:  “The tech-savvy teen figured there had to be some sort of online communication system on which food pantries could communicate with one another about their stock—a system that her local pantry simply had to sign up for. She searched and searched—and found nothing. 

 

“I thought it was real because I would watch [the pantry director]—who is a saint of the woman—make so many phone calls to landlines, and she would get calls back weeks later to try to move this macaroni-and-cheese,” recalls Belding. “It was so incredibly inefficient, and I remember standing there going, but we have the Internet. But we have the Internet.”  Five years later  a fellow college student Grant Nelson, Belding helped her create MEANS, a nonprofit communications platform for emergency food providers and donors.

 

After three years, MEANS has reached people in 49 U.S. states and territories, and boasts some 3,000 users and partner organizations. The organization has recovered 1.6 million pounds of food, food that has reached hungry people instead of over-crowded dumpsters headed for the garbage dump.  Let those numbers sink in and think about how they have impacted living, breathing people and crime statistics.

 

“We get everything from fresh vegetables to 5,000 pounds of pizza sauce in individual one-ounce packets,” Belding says. “There are so many stories where you just go: what? How did this happen? But we are so grateful that it ends up with us [MEANS] and more importantly, the people who need it.”  They even had a donation of 42,000 pounds of milk that MEANS staff had to help relocate.  They were successful and the milk went to grateful recipients.

 

Quoting again from Jillian Kramer’s article:   “Belding, now 22, runs the organization full-time—while attending American University to one day become a doctor. Her staff is also impressively young: “We are 16 to 25 [years old], we’re from a host of different backgrounds and gender identities and races and religions and socio-economic backgrounds,” says Belding. “But one of the things that we all have in common is the same kind of sense of …  a collective dumbfounding that hunger is still such a prevalent problem and how we have so much food waste, when this is so, so solvable.”  If you are interested in joining MEANS—or know someone else who is—you can visit the program on its website, call the staff at 202-449-1507, or email hello@meansdatabase.com.”

 

Pentecost is a season during which the ordinary can become extraordinary.  As I mentioned in Part One, one of the most ordinary things many people do is eat and it benefits everyone when we turn that ordinary meal into something extraordinary.  Maria Belding and her staff, like the members of Dinging for Women we discussed in Part Two of this blog post are using food to offer a hand up, not just a hand out.  Life is all about making choices and you can turn your ordinary meal into a super-charged extraordinary gift to your health by making wise choices and then turning those choices into effective actions.  That will make you our hero for tomorrow!

Eat It – Part Two

Eat It – Part Two

2018.07.10

Pentecost 2018

 

Dining for Women is a global giving circle dedicated to transforming lives and eradicating poverty among women and girls in the developing world. Through member education and engagement, as well as the power of collective giving, Dining for Women funds grassroots organizations that empower women and girls and promote gender equity.  Most of its members are not wealthy, donating around $35 USD, the amount they might spend dining out at a restaurant.

 

Dining for Women celebrates the power of the individual to see an injustice and act to change it; to see need and act to fill it. Dining for Women’s members are deeply involved in the grantees the organization supports and the problems they seek to address. The education component is equally as important as their fundraising.  The collective-giving model is proving that small contributions, aggregated together, can make a huge difference. This is especially true in the most impoverished areas of the world, where some subsist on less than $1.25 a day.

 

Former First Lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stated when discussing Dining for Women:  “The efforts that Dining for Women have undertaken … all across the country over the past 13 years provide a powerful example of how individual acts of giving, when aggregated, can make a deep and transformational impact.”

 

Their website explains how the idea of eating a meal can help someone on the other side of the world become a reality.  “Dining for Women chapters meet on a regular basis – most monthly – and share a meal together. It may be in someone’s home, in a college cafeteria, an office break room, a church hall, or a local watering hole. Members share camaraderie and learn about that month’s featured grantees through videos, educational documents and presentations, and free and open discussion. Funds raised each month go to fund the featured and sustained grantees, as well as support the entire mission of Dining for Women.”

 

You see today’s woman making a difference is really a group of women, those in Dining for Women chapters all over.  By sharing a meal, they are making the world a better place for all of us.  The organization’s grant selection committee vets scores of organizations every six months, ultimately choosing 12 a year to whom grants of up to $50,000 are awarded. The process is strenuous and organizations must meet stringent selection criteria to move along in the process. Once selected, organizations must provide regular progress reports and updates as part of our monitoring and evaluation process.

 

Why do they do this?  “We don’t just give money, we invest in futures. The organizations and projects we support educate girls, teach women a skill, help develop markets for their products, and fight the prevalent gender inequality in the world. We give a hand up, not a hand out.  We fund grass-roots projects in education, healthcare, economic and environmental sustainability, safety and security, leadership and agriculture. These projects are aimed at improving the living situations for women and their families, by providing the tools they need to make changes in their lives, in their communities and in their children’s futures.”

 

Something that most of us do three times a day can become the means by which others eat, improve healthcare, create jobs and increase education.  Through their years of grant-making, Dining for Women (DFW) has done amazing work to support on-the-ground projects in more than 40 countries with 150+ grassroots organizations. This work has been guided by a simple truth: investing in women and girls can pull whole families, communities, and even countries out of extreme poverty.

 

DFW members will advocate for policies that align with our mission of empowering women and girls in the developing world and promoting gender equality. Our advocacy efforts will encompass a range of U.S. funding and legislative initiatives — from support for gender equality in the U.S. foreign aid budget, to specific policy areas such as protecting girls’ access to education, preventing violence against women, or advancing women’s role in peace and security. We also expect to support policies that make it easier for nonprofits to operate and be effective.

 

This movement is a big, non-partisan tent. DFW’s grant-making brings together people from across the political spectrum, and advocacy will do the same. The need to advocate for ending extreme poverty and ensuring gender equality transcends political affiliations.  After all, we all live together on our planet and what benefits the world ultimately benefits the individual.  Tomorrow we will conclude this three-part blog post and go back to college.  Stay tuned!

Eat It – Part One

Eat It – Part One

2018.07.10

Pentecost 2018

 

If you are lucky, your day began with a meal of something that passed for it.  Breakfast is considered one of the most important meals of the day if not the most important because it helps wake up the body.  Seldom do I post things on this blog that are just for one specific group.  This month we are discussing women who are making a difference and who have stepped outside of their comfort zone. 

 

This is the first of a three-part post on eating and how two women are making a difference by all of us eating.   Hopefully, you are lucky enough to have regular meals.  However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that one of the most ordinary things many people do is eat and it benefits everyone when we turn that ordinary meal into something extraordinary.

 

Eating is something that in industrialize nations has become something of the enemy.  Very few people are completely satisfied with their weight.  While we could debate the peer pressure society places and how weight is intricately a part of culture, one basic fact remains.  Very few people are completely satisfied with their weight.  I do not want to encourage anyone into an eating disorder but chances are you might already have one.  The interesting thing is that eating is also the enemy in many third world nations but for a much different reason – the lack thereof is a leading cause of death.

 

First, let me address the issue we have we making our ability and access to food a problem.  We have all heard about anorexia and binge eating.  One involves regurgitating food once it is consumed and the other starving one’s self and then eating enough for ten people at one setting.  When we are born, we tend to eat instinctively, much like animals do.  We eat to satisfy a hunger.  No infant in a crib leans to crawl at the age of ten days in order to following the smell of a bag of popcorn or hot apple pie.

 

As adults we also eat to satisfy a hunger but now that hunger has very little to do with a need for hunger as it did when we were that ten day old infant.  As adults, we are hungry for what is trendy so we make sure to frequent popular hot spots when vacationing.  What we eat and where has become a status symbol and people post pictures of their ordered meal on social media to prove something, not to satisfy the body’s need for food.

 

Food is the body’s fuel.   Very few of us would consider throwing mud pies into the gas tank of our vehicles and yet we often do the metaphorical equivalent to our bodies.  This creates dissatisfaction, poor health, and the resulting mental conditions.  The bottom line is that we become obsessed with out own feelings of poor health and are unable to care about others.

 

There are some basic foods that most can eat which provide health in every bite.  Refined carbohydrates like white rice and many types of pasta do not fall into that category.  Quinoa, however, does and is the perfect substitute.  One of the so-called super foods, quinoa is a true grain whose seeds are eaten.  It is a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.  Unlike some foods that are said to be good for us but taste otherwise, quinoa is both light and fluffy while retaining the ability to fill a person up with single servings.

 

Another food in the superfood category is broccoli.  One cup of broccoli has only thirty calories but three grams of fiber.  It is also high in Vitamin C, iron and calcium.  Eating one cup of broccoli each day will aid blood flow to your muscles, increase your body’s natural immunity to ward off disease, and support healthy bones.  We all need a healthy foundation and broccoli gives our bodies just that.  Greek yogurt is also a good choice to use either as a breakfast meal or as a substitute for sour cream.  One of the oldest foods around, it is very portable.  It will need refrigeration, especially in the summer months so keep that in mind.  Many varieties contain 18 grams of protein per every seven ounces so if you are looking to invest in good health, Greek yogurt is a great option.

 

Blueberries and asparagus are also great foods to incorporate into your diet.  Asparagus is a natural diuretic which means that, while the Greek yogurt is helping your intestinal track, asparagus will get rid of excess fluids that might be causing body bloating.  Blueberries are just sixty calories a serving and are full of antioxidants to contribute to overall great health as well as fighting some fairly common diseases.  New evidence suggests they also are effective in getting rid of stubborn fat.  Blueberries have also been found to be beneficial to women in helping regulate body cycles.

 

It is not just about what we eat but also about what we drink.  Few cocktails parties are going to host a green tea bar but they should.  While you can add blueberries and Greek yogurt to a smoothie and reap some wonderful health benefits, green tea might just be the drink to have all day. Exchange it for your morning cappuccino, throw in a couple of blueberries into an iced green tea for lunch and then slowly enjoy a restful cup of steaming green tea before bedtime.  The catechins within Green tea, which are another form of antioxidants, seem to encourage fat burning within the body as well as help speed up the body’s metabolism.  Peaches and vinegar also contain forms of catechins as do apples and dark chocolate.

 

Life is all about making choices and you can turn your ordinary meal into a super-charged extraordinary gift to your health by making wise choices.  A cup of Greek yogurt with some blueberries and a cup of Green tea might not go viral but your body will thank you.  Living extraordinary lives might be just a matter of watching what we put on our fork.  Everyone deserves the right to eat smart and feed a healthy hanger, not give into peer pressure.  After all, charity does begin at home.  And that is where we pick up our story tomorrow…. Stay tuned for part two!

 

If You Love Me – Lizzie Chantree

“If You Love Me…” – Lizzie Chantree

2018.07.09

Pentecost 2018

 

Doing a series on women who have made a difference often becomes a historical exercise in biography.  Today’s featured woman, though, is alive and well and living in 21st century England.  Moreover, she qualifies for this series on several levels.  Her name is Lizzie Chantree.

 

Today is the world launch of Lizzie Chantree’s novel “If You Love Me, I’m Yours”.  I received an ARC – advanced reader’s copy – and found it to be a delightful read.  In fact, I plan to order several copies for a local book club.  Chantree’s newest novel is a great book with relatable characters.  Love’s course seldom runs smoothly and we all have our own baggage that we bring to any relationship.  This book acknowledges both of those facts in a delightful yet meaningful way without being pedantic.

 

Lizzie Chantree is an award-winning inventor and author who started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000.  [Her invention was a spray that stopped hosiery runs, often called ladders.]  Chantree discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little.  Her titles include “Babe Driven”, “Love’s Child”, “Finding Gina”, “Ninja School Mum”, and today’s release with Crooked Cat Books, “If You Love Me, I’m Yours”. 

 

Chantree is a Creative Mentor and as mentioned before, an award winning inventor (BFiY), as chosen by Fair Play London and The Patent Office.  Her paintings have been exhibited and sold across the U.K.  She is also a judge of Shell LiveWIRE’s Grand Ideas Award.  Additionally, she is the host of a creative networking hour on Twitter: #creativebizhour Monday evenings 8-9pm (GMT). Her Twitter handle is @Lizzie Chantree.  Creative businesses, writers, photographers, and designers share and offer advice and support to each other.

 

When asked about the hardest thing in becoming a published writer, Chantree responded:  “The hardest thing is how much time promoting your work takes.  It’s sometimes difficult to fit in writing hours alongside marketing commitments. I am lucky that I really enjoy talking to readers, but giving author talks and having book launches makes me quake! Standing in front of people and talking about my work is not my natural environment. I’m happiest with a pen in hand and notebook on the table.”

 

Chantree considers an optimistic nature to be paramount in achieving success.  Readers of this blog will know I agree with that!  “I’m a very positive person who is full of ideas. I write books to hopefully make people smile, as I became an author after my own child was unwell for seven years and I needed a career change to be at home with her. From this dark time blossomed a completely new career, so it’s never too late to try something different. I’m also fascinated by people and love to hear about their lives and experiences.”

 

Life often throws us a curveball or two or twenty.  How we respond is the key to personal and professional success.  This is reflected in Chantree’s new book.  The characters are not perfect and how they navigate around their curveballs and imperfections makes for a delightful and satisfying story, complete with a surprise twist at the end. 

 

Chantree follows the advice she writes for her characters.  “The best piece of writing advice I was given was that you can’t edit a blank page. Get those words onto paper and you can change them later. If the page is empty, there is nowhere to go. With life in general, I would say try and be kind to yourself. Everyone gives so much of themselves to others, but if you don’t look after yourself, there will be nothing left to give.”

 

A cancer survivor herself, Lizzie Chantree lives with her family on the coast in Essex and spends her creative time in her rooftop studio. Her energy and creativity are proof that, although women often wear many hats in the 21st century, one really can live life to the fullest and share their energy with others, making the world a delightfully better place for all.  After all, if you want to love your life, you’ve got to own it.  The universe is speaking to us and echoing the title of Chantree’s new release:  “If You Love Me, I’m Yours!”

 

Preview of this book:

‘If you love me, I’m yours…’

Maud didn’t mind being boring, not really. She had a sensible job, clothes, and love life… if you counted an overbearing ex who had thanked her, rolled over and was snoring before she even realised he’d begun! She could tolerate not fulfilling her dreams, if her parents would pay her one compliment about the only thing she was passionate about in life: her art.

Dot should have fit in with her flamboyant and slightly eccentric family of talented artists, but somehow, she was an anomaly who couldn’t paint. She tried hard to be part of their world by becoming an art agent extraordinaire, but she dreamed of finding her own voice.

Dot’s brother Nate, a smoulderingly sexy and famous artist, was adored by everyone. His creative talent left them in awe of his ability to capture such passion on canvas. Women worshipped him, and even Dot’s friend Maud flushed and bumped into things when he walked into a room, but a tragic event in his past had left him emotionally and physically scarred, and reluctant to face the world again.

Someone was leaving exquisite little paintings on park benches, with a tag saying, ‘If you love me, I’m yours’. The art was so fresh and cutting-edge, that it generated a media frenzy and a scramble to discover where the mystery artist could be hiding. The revelation of who the prodigious artist was interlinked Maud, Dot and Nate’s lives forever, but their worlds came crashing down.

Were bonds of friendship, love and loyalty strong enough to withstand fame, success and scandal?

 

 

Through the Eyes of a Child

Through the Eyes of a Child

2018.07.08

Pentecost 2018

 

New York City has always been a port of entry for those immigrating to the United States.  Even in the midst of the War Between the States, five ships docked carrying those hoping for a better life in the New World at least every three days.  In the middle of a civil uprising, this country has always seemed to offer new hope.

 

Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. as the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. Ellis Island was opened January 1, 1892.  Two years after its closing, a six-year-old child stepped onto American soil for the first time.  The week-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean had been made on a personal troop carrier with several families sharing a room.  Our young girl slept in one bunk bed with her two sisters while her mother slept in another.  The men were in the enlisted quarters and slept in hammocks stacked three or four high.  Rather than excitement, seasickness colored their days.  The quest for freedom, though, was the ultimate prize because even a small child knows a life lived without fear is worth some discomfort.

 

It is an often overlooked advantage but those born in the United States are automatically considered American citizens.  This is not true in many countries.  Our young child had parents who had met during World War II in a relocation camp.  She herself was born in a part of Germany controlled by Americans after WWII but her nationality lay with that of her parents, natives of Estonia.  German was her language in public and at school while Estonian was spoken at home.

 

Her first impression upon arriving on US land was the strange language she heard spoken.  “It sounded like bees buzzing”, she once remarked.  Arriving at a time that saw many immigrants arriving, her school system assigned her one-on-one tutoring with a teacher to learn English.  Her mother would pretend not to understand store clerks so her children would have to translate for her in an effort to facilitate them learning the language of their new home.

 

Our new arrival grew up in a community of immigrants and valued her ability to move around her neighborhood freely.  While most of us have grown up never thinking twice about running down the street, many immigrants relish such an opportunity.  They have lived in restricted environments and under fear of disobedience that often results in jail or death.  Something as simple as walking to a corner store for many became a new adventure, something to be treasured and enjoyed.

 

An immigrant child is seldom allowed to forget they were not born here, though.  Even in a community of immigrants, some discrimination can exist.  We all, regardless of national origin, tend to fear the unknown and different.  We tend to look for the two percent of our DNA that denotes ethnic differences instead of seeing the ninety-eight percent we have in common.  Our young Estonian was called a Nazi even though her family had been victims of them rather than supporters.  A neighbor’s son even threw a rock at her head in the name of patriotism. 

 

When an immigrant becomes an American citizen, it is always day remembered.  At a time when our young high school coed could not have enlisted or been asked to serve in a combat military setting, she was required to swear allegiance to “bear arms” to protect the United States of America.  She became a US citizen one morning and later that day, graduated high school.  Like most immigrants afforded the opportunity, she excelled in school and earned two college degrees.  Over eighty percent of all US Nobel Prize winners have, in fact, been immigrants.

 

I once asked the heroine of our story today what she valued most about being an American.  It was at the end of a long day and I had spent most of the day running errands.  Her answer humbled me.  Without hesitation, when asked the best thing about being an American she replied:  “Freedom of movement.”

 

The country of Estonia was under Soviet rule after WWII for almost half a century and the parents in this story were uncertain of the life they faced if they returned home.  They braved a transatlantic crossing with strangers to give their three young daughters a better life.  Today the families seeking to cross our borders are doing the same exact thing.

 

It is indeed ironic that today, many immigrant children will be taken out of their cages to eat and then return to them to spend the rest of their day.  They have been brought here just as our little girl was by their parents.  Some are seeking opportunity, but most are braving the relocation in order to survive and give their children the same chance to survive.  Hopefully, one day, these children will be able to say they experienced freedom of movement in a country that eventually welcomed them as it has everyone else who ever lived here.

 

We are a nation of immigrants. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants.” We should not forget that.  Just like the little girl in our story, someone in our family underwent great struggle and trials to afford their children (who eventually became us) a chance at freedom.  The American dream, Declaration of Independence, and US Constitution can be summed up in this quote from Senator Robert F Kennedy.  “Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.”  Hopefully the children of today will continue to live and experience that belief.