Send a “Thank You” to a soldier

Now that we’ve enjoyed our family feasts and have given thanks for the blessings in our lives, how about a thank you to those wearing the uniform of the US Armed Forces? Xerox is still providing the opportunity through its Let’s Give Thanks” program. Simply click on the website and select the artwork you like best. they are the clorful creations of kids across America. Then add your name and city and choose a message. for those of you are not good at it there are some great ones all ready to choose, or you can write your own message of support. It’s as simple as that!

Xerox collects them and then prints them on postcards that are sent to the troops all over the world. When you’re having a bad day, think of how much a kind word or praise lifts your spirits. Chances are your WORST day is NOTHING compared to being in a war zone or stationed away from home and family. Spread the word- send a card! Thank you Xerox for a wonderful program!

http://letssaythanks.com/Home1024.html

Pass the gravy, it’s Thanksgiving!

It’s four a.m. and the big bird in it’s silvery tent just went in the oven. The 20 pound bird is stuffed with our family’s traditional stuffing made with ground celery, onions, cabbage (yes, cabbage) pork sausage, bread cubes, etc., so dense when cooked that it’s like the Thanksgiving meatloaf. I’ll be headed next door to my sister’s house for dinner but I always cook the turkey and make the gravy. The gravy can make or break Turkey Day so it needs a lot of attention and it needs to be plentiful. How else can you enjoy those hot turkey sandwiches for the next three days?

I spent yesterday with a sister-of-the-heart, chatting away in her Avalanche as she braved holiday traffic to run errands. We don’t get to see each other that much because because she’s always working a demanding job or off running somewhere, so face time is a treat. She laughingly told everyone we spoke with to remember that “on Thanksgiving, gravy is considered a beverage, so drink up!” No wonder we get along so well.

All over America there will be millions of people gathered together to share in the bounty, blending old traditions with new ones. Whether you stuff your turkey with cornbread stuffing, traditional celery, bread and onion stuffing or Aunt Stella’s “chestnut, giblit and dried prune stuffing,” most of us are doing what our mamas did, As her mama before did. Tradition looms large on Thanksgiving.

I love turkey, and dressing, and fluffy mashed potatoes, but it’s the gravy that is the crowning touch. It’s a layer of rich comfort poured out over all the rest of the good things. An old relative of mine used to say you could cover up a lot of so-so food with good gravy and it was all better. Real friends are just like the gravy of life, something rich and wonderful to enhance the good things already on your plate. When it comes to having good friends, my gravy bowl overfloweth.

Have a blessed holiday weekend as you break bread with loved ones and relive memories of Thanksgivings shared. However many or few the blessings in your life, they will multiply when shared!

Get box tops for your school with online Holiday Shopping!

Those of you who do online shopping can score donations for your school’s Box Tops 4 Education program. Stores like WalMart, Avon, Oriental Trading, the Gap, Hickory Farms, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and loads more will make a donation to your school. There are nearly 100 stores like Staples, Office Max, Land’s End and store with flowers, clothes, magazines, home furnishings and more. See the complete list of stores in the Box Tops Marketplace at http://www.boxtops4education.com/Marketplace/Default.aspx 

You can sign up for the e-newsletter that gives you lots of chances to win bonus box tops as well. You’re already at the computer, so drop by and check it out! Learn more about the program at http://www.boxtops4education.com

Brenden Foster’s Legacy is a lesson to all of us

Today I heard the story of an 11 year-old whose lengthy battle with leukemia was nearing an end. Doctors said he had only a few weeks to live and he could make any wish as to how to spend those two weeks. What would you want? Do you want a visit from a rock star or athlete? Do you ask to go to Disneyland or fly in a helicopter? Brenden Foster of Seattle made his choice a few weeks ago.

Brenden worried about the homeless who were starving. He asked for people to feed them and those around him made and distributed hundreds of sandwiches, put in paper bags that read “With love from Brendan.” People farther down the coast heard the story and hundreds more rallied to the cause.  Like wildfire the cause moved to Florida and a school in Ohio. Thousands of dollars and a lot of food was collected in Seattle, and ordinary people walked the streets to hand a meal to someone less fortunate- face to face. Brenden had witnessed the plight of the homeless while on the way home from the hospital one day and he decided he should give them something. Other people did it because it was the heartfelt wish of a dying boy. Brenden lived long enough to see the miracle he had begun. He died Friday morning in his mother’s arms. The lesson learned by those hundreds of people, the joy of giving shared by so many- all are the legacy of a remarkabIe young boy. He also worried that the bees were disappearing and wanted to spread wildflower seeds to draw the bees back. A pilot asked his aviator friends to all sprinkle flower seeds in Brenden’s honor. This boy just wanted his life to mean something. So many people were inspired by one innocent child.

I cried when I watched his story on the ABC evening news. I cried for Brendan and his mom, and for all those who will live long lifetimes and will never be as wise as one young boy in Seattle. He spoke with a wisdom far beyond his years. In a society where we worship and idolize the rich and famous, and the word “hero” is bandied about for every occasion, there are no bright lights or parades for those who quietly make a difference in this world. But that’s okay, they don’t care. Brenden is a hero to me. I will think of him every time I hesitate to help another. I’ll ask myself, “What would Brenden do?” God bless you, Brenden.

See the full story at http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2008/11/24/politics/horserace/entry4629915.shtml

A great tribute at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Brenden-Foster-by-Lance-L-Landon-081122-722.html

Orion is on guard- all is right wth the world.

Driving home about 9 p.m. this evening, the sight of a familiar constellation in the Eastern sky warmed my heart. Orion the Hunter is the first star picture I learned to identify as a child and has remained my winter guardian for each year since. I cannot explain why the sight of it is so reassuring to me in the starlit sky; perhaps it is the continuing reassurance that no matter how many twists and turns life takes there are still constants. The sun will always rise, the moon will go through its phases, and Orion will stand watch over my winters.

orion2

Orion is one of the easiest to find. It looks like a big box-kite high in winter’s southeastern sky. It’s on the celestial equator, meaning it’s visible around the word. It’s second only to the Big Dipper in size and I love introducing the wonder of Orion to each generation of child sky-watchers in my care. We share a view that has been shared by generations through time.

Two of the brightest stars in the evening sky are at opposite corners of the rectangle. The bright red Betelgeuse is at the northeastern corner (I winced at the pronounciation as Beetle-juice in the silly Michael Keaton movie of the same name). Rigel, at the southwest corner, is even brighter. Cinching the center is a short, diagonal row of stars that make up the hunter’s belt, and extending south is a faint row of stars in his sword. One of the objects in Orion’s sword is actually a nebula, a cloud of gas from young stars and dust, like a giant fluorescent bulb.

 Like every constellation born in mythology, Orion has many versions of his story. What I learned as a child was that Orion was a warrior in 500 B.C. in Greece. He was the son of Poseidon, God of the Seas. Orion boasted that he had such might and skill as a hunter that he could kill all the animals on the face of the Earth. Gaea, Goddess of Earth, was worried that the warrior would carry out his threat against earth’s creatures and decided he must be killed.  A giant scorpion was sent to battle Orion and the hunter succumbed to a deadly sting on the heel. Orion and Scorpios, the scorpion, were given honored places in the sky, at opposite ends of the great sky dome so that they would never battle again. 

For me, it is a sign that winter is truly coming and on clear nights Orion will shine with the bright Christmas lights below. By winter’s end, I am longing for the coming of spring but it is bitter-sweet for me because each day Orion slips lower into the western sky, soon to disappear from my view. The comforting thing is, my warrior and protector will be back to light my winter darkness yet again. Thank you, God, for the subtle reminder that You are in control and everything is moving as it should.

Is the world going nutty or is it me?

Being a news junky means you get to hear or read a lot of junk with the important stuff. After all, different things interest different people. Still, I find myself shaking my head over what makes news these days.

Nutty News 1-Pamela Anderson wrote a letter of advice to Barack Obama, advising him to legalize pot and the growing of hemp (to help our economy and children) promote vegetarianism and eliminate private heath care. Ummm, I’ll bet Obama is as interested in those opinions as I am. 

Nutty News 2- A man in Arkansas left his cell phone in a McDonald’s restaurant. It contained nude photos of his wife that made their way to the internet. He is suing McD’s for mega-millions. Just who is the REAL idiot here?

Nutty News 3- Sarah Palin pardoned a turkey in front of a camera, and continued to talk while an employee of the turkey farm took hold of a live turkey and fed it into a killing bucket. The turkey thrashed in the background as it was being readied for Thanksgiving dinner and Sarah dismissed suggestions by the interviewer that they move to another spot. You betcha! That is just too much reality TV for me!

Need I go on? Maybe now that the holiday movies are starting to re-run on television, I should stop watching the news. It’s either sad, frustrating, or too stupid to believe! Where are the stories about the GOOD news? We need a little less “Oh, no” and a lot more Ho Ho Ho!!!!

Killing yourself over the internet

One of the extraordinary things about having access to the Internet is being able to get breaking news as it happens. Sometimes the news is good, but most often it is only the sensational that warrants wide and immediate media coverage. We have all heard stories of people who have formed cyberspace relationships that were so ultimately painful the users ended their lives in various ways. Teens who have been bad-mouthed or ridiculed on social networks, those mourning unrequited love of a cyberpartner- the swiftness with which hateful diatribe can reach epidemic proportions is alarming at best; a tragedy at worst.

I just read that a young man in Florida starting blogging on a bodybuilding web site at 3 a.m. and announced that he was taking a deadly combination of drugs to kill himself. He provided a link to the webcam that would broadcast the life slipping from his body. That sure got hm a lot of attention. Some on-line users tried to talk him out of it, while others egged him on. Egged him on. Go ahead and kill yourself so I can watch?? How disgusting and immoral is that?? Sure, it could have been a joke but what if it was real? Have we fallen so low as to crave the ultimate horror show- the actual destruction of life?  Someone watching had enough concern for a fellow human being to contact the website moderator. By the time they traced the URL and went to the boy’s home at 3:50 p.m. they found him lying on his bed, in webcam view, dead of a lethal combination of drugs. 

I cannot imagine the pain his family feels. I hope with all my heart that those who watched the webcam with glee are feeling ashamed of their participation. There are many who use the Internet to find vicarious thrills beyond violent, bloody video games. They are just morally or socially depraved ghouls. But what of  those who just ignored the unfolding drama as the bravado of a guy anxious for attention, thinking he would never do it? We all have to ask ourselves “What if it is real?”

The family said that he was under medication for severe depression and bipolar disorder and one or more of the drugs used was prescribed to him. Arguably, this young man was damaged emotionally and on a self-destructive course that cannot be blamed on others. He made the choice. Or did he?

Two days ago I wrote on this blog about dealing with clinical depression- my own clinical depression. It isn’t something that one advertises because of the stigma attached, but I was diagnosed with clinical depression nearly a year after a diagnosis of Systemic Lupus turned my life upside down. Over 20 years of dealing with the shadowy darkness that can paralyze you and drain the spark out of life has taught me to never take another’s pain lightly. I believe that if I had read of this young man’s intentions, I would have raised a hue and cry to stop it. If it was a hoax, stop it immediately and punish his arrogant ass, but what if it was real? What if it was real…..

There will always be the “little boy who cried wolf” and people who should know better do stupid things that  they shouldn’t in the name of thrills or entertainment. Still, there are those so emotionally hampered that they cannot control the darkness enveloping them. Sometimes they cry out for help in subtle ways; sometimes it’s extreme. I do not pretend to know what was going on with the young man who died today but it makes me cry for him. How sad that he had no-one to talk to but the nameless, faceless shadows on the internet- some of them who watched him die.

Clinical depression is on the rise. Life is complicated and the situation is getting tougher. People are losing their homes, jobs and things they hold dear. We’ve come through the most contentious election in history, leaving us divided instead of united for the best of the country. The international media shows us starving children, nature’s fury, human rights vioaltions and war. Somewhere there’s always war. For those willing and able to help, the media spotlight is necessary. For some facing their own personal drought, it’s painful to watch devastation they can do nothing about. Some people with big hearts find them breaking while they are powerless to stop human suffering.

So what is the point of all this musing? I’m hoping that just one person reading it will wonder what they would have done in the twelve hours that the young man in Florida lay dying. I want one person to listen more carefully to loved ones, friends, even internet strangers. I want them to listen for the hopelessness, the cry for help unspoken. I want them to try to save a life or just ease someone’s burden. I want them to always, always ask… what if it’s real? What if they’re not kidding?

Yes, most depression is temporary and everyone has a bad day or week once in a while. Maybe a friendly hug or just a chat over a cup of coffee can turn their day around. We all need to know that someone cares. No one truly wants to feel alone. My heart is sad for a young man who’s life had no meaning, who orchestrated his demise so he didn’t die alone. One other thing. I pray that the person who finally contacted authorities, who tried to intervene, is not saddened because he failed. We are all better off because one person tried to stop it. Maybe there is hope for us as a society, after all.