Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sometimes you just gotta go with it...

I know I recently did a blog on animals, but for some reason all the stories I found today that were substantial enough to use seemed to center on man's best friend. The spring-y weather has really come out in full force lately, so everyone and their sister are out walking their dogs, pushing babies in strollers or both. The whole baby thing can wait, but I am very keen to get a dog. It feels a little cruel, this seeing dogs everywhere. It's almost like the universe is having a laugh at my expense. But one day I will have a pup of my own, more probably a full-grown one since I don't fancy potty-training. 

In the meantime, I will have to settle for playing with my boys and girls at the MSPCA and reading stories like these. Britain's Daily Telegraph had a story the other day on the First Dog, Bo. The result of a much-publicized campaign promise that was actually pretty sweet, Bo is a Portuguese Water Dog and right now a very cute little ball of fluff. He is also the star of a new children's book, "Commander in Leash," about his adventures in the White House. 

I have a special place in my heart for "underdogs" (sorry, I had to) of the four-legged persuasion. Perhaps that part of my reason for adoring pit bulls. But had a story on Smiley the dog, who looks to have a little pit bull in him, and his narrow escape from death after ending up in a shelter and unplaced after a bitter custody battle. Happily, he was transferred to a new shelter and is now being trained for adoption

The last two articles are more on the reunion front. In Florida, according to, Monte, a 10 year-old, blind Golden Retriever somehow got out of his house without his collar. The dog was devoted to his 23 year-old owner while the young man was recovering from a bad car accident. Luckily a network of strangers stepped in to bring the dog home to his boy. reports on the "dognapping" and subsequent return of Pumpkin the Chow. Trapped in a car, Pumpkin was snatched when the car was stolen. Pumpkin's owners paid the ransom (yes, someone did demand ransom for the dog and not the car), but the dognapper never told the owners where the dog was. Pumpkin's new owners called the old ones after seeing Pumpkin's picture in the paper and returned the dog voluntarily

(Photo credit: Oklahoman)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good news from around the world...

Socrates once said he was not a Greek or an Athenian but a citizen of the world. The Internet, social networking and YouTube have done so much to make the world a much smaller place than it was in Socrates' day. Awhile back this blog featured a story about how one girl in America saved the life of one of her Facebook friends who lived in England when she received a suicide note from him. People all over the world are much more connected these days than ever before. Personally I think that is a good thing; isolationism is an obsolete political practice, and in order to be able to function as an interconnected global community, we need to understand how the rest of the world's citizens live. 

Our first piece of good news today comes from Afghanistan and Yes, that war-torn country that has been ripped apart since at least 1979. The government is taking steps to start putting it back together again. The nation's first environmental protection agency has recently designated the country's first national park, Band-e-Amir. It is designed to protect a chain of naturally occurring lakes as well as several species of animals, including one type of bird that is the only bird found exclusively in Afghanistan.

I came across this next story on from the state of Washington after following a link for another article. Some people are reluctant to admit it, but they can be uncomfortable or annoyed around developmentally disabled people. They don't know what to say or how to act and often get impatient because simple tasks can take longer. Greg Bading, developmentally disabled and living on his own, used his bike to get around. When it was stolen, his co-workers at a Red Robin pitched in to get him a new one

I've never really been a big YouTube fan. For awhile my Internet was too slow to make perusing the site feasible. Then, after being sent so many banal videos by friends via chain email, I decided it wasn't worth wading through the crap to find good videos. However, this morning I came across a mention of the first YouTube Symphony Orchestra. CNN reports the company decided to create a global symphony and held auditions via its website. Amateur and professional musicians were invited to submit auditions via video clips to YouTube, and 300 orchestra members were selected and asked to come to New York for a three-day workshop that culminated in a performance at classical music mecca Carnegie Hall. Not only is this a refreshingly democratic approach to classical music, it facilitated people from around the world, with a common interest, meeting and learning about each other. If you click here, you can see the performance.

(Photo credit:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Karma! ...

I'm a big believer in karma of all kinds - general, interpersonal and, most of all, parking karma. I always leave my meters with at least 10 minutes on them, so when I need to find a spot and I have no quarters, I will find a meter with time on it. It nearly always works out. I also believe that I am paid back in kind when I do something sneaky or bad. Inevitably, something equally sneaky or annoying happens to me shortly thereafter. I'm left with nothing to do but shake my fist at the universe. 

That's why I was particularly pleased to find a story in the Times Online in the UK about Estonia's Bank of Happiness. People talk about the implied karma bank where you doing a good deed for someone will come back to aid you later when you are in need of help. This bank literally acts on the premise, with a website set up to connect Estonians with fellow citizens in possession of skills needed. There are even non-monetary bank notes to exchange after, say a woman babysits for a family. The idea is not to necessarily have directly reciprocating acts; more that someone does something for someone else and knows someday someone will do something for them. reports on the "Good News Guy." Robert Mendeno is a retired Nevadan who makes musical and message tapes and CDs for soldiers overseas out of his own pocket, often including the names and messages of individual soldiers' families. Mendeno, a former Army medic, began this project simply because he knew how lonely a soldier's life can be when deployed far from home. 

There's been another report of an anonymous Recession Angel. The New York Daily News tells the story of 14 colleges around the country, run by women, who have received mysterious $5 million grants with the only stipulations being the college makes no attempt to find the benefactor and that $4 million be used for scholarships. The other $1 million is to be used at the president's discretion. 

Finally, when talking about earning good karma, a 24 year-old Bath Spa University student really takes the cake. Amy Lambert worked for eight weeks as a volunteer at a Tanzanian orphanage. According to Britain's Daily Telegraph, she was so appalled at the conditions in which the children lived, she raised 30,000 British pounds and bought it. Lambert plans to finish her degree and then return to Tanzania to run the orphanage full-time. She plans to tear down the existing building and add a school room for the children, most of whom have lost at least one parent to AIDS. 

(Photo credit:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Weird, wild and wonderful...

Good morning from a fabulously, legitimately spring day. Yesterday was wicked hot for most of the day, and I was afraid we'd skipped spring like we did last year. Today is still supposed to get to 78 but I have a nice, cool breeze coming in through my office window. I'm a happy girl. : ) 

Today's stories aren't so much strictly good news as they are just kinda unusual. Each of them caught my attention for a different reason, but the theme of the day was definitely just left of mainstream.

I was at the animal shelter yesterday, having a ball with the dogs. I took one named Ernie for a walk. He was a mix of miniature doberman and something else, and he definitely had a Napoleon complex. He practically marched around the yard with his little chest out. Fortunately, he, like several others there, had been adopted and was waiting to go to his new home. The Corning Observer tells the story of Weaver, a mutt with a special challenge, who had a similar happy ending.

The first story I found today peaked my interest from an historical perspective. I nearly majored in history in college before wondering what exactly I would do with that later...I grew up in a family that took a lot of field trips to local Civil War monuments, parks and sites, and as I've grown I've taken my own interest in that particular period of American history. I was intrigued by the story reported by CBS 3 in New Jersey of a woman who received a family bible back as a gift from a book collector 150 years after it was lost.

MSNBC's story on the successful removal of a tumor from a Saudi Arabian woman isn't exactly for the squeamish. I did pick a story with a less, shall we say, graphic photo of the woman, though. The thing is, the tumor was 40lbs and located in her pelvis. She was told she had no hope by the doctors in Riyadh, but five operations later, doctors in Berlin have erased all of the malignant growth.

Finally, CNN reported on a revival of a practice I didn't think was especially legal. Apparently small towns across America have begun to print their own currencies. Common during the Great Depression, people today have set up complementary currencies to encourage local spending and support area businesses. Printing one's own money does have a necessarily narrow scope in terms of helping the economy, but I say times like these call for creative solutions. 

Photo credit:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friends are the family you choose...

Recently I added some photos my Facebook account from Easter and a friend's birthday to an album with the same title. It rings particularly true for me as I am so far from my actual family. While regretting the fact the economy is keeping me from going home, I do need to remember I chose to move farther and farther from Maryland. And I've had some great things happen to me no matter which (part of the) country I've lived in. 

So I guess I'm just grateful I've managed to find good people wherever I am, ones with whom I like to spend holidays and weekends and random nights out. But I do see my actual family as much as possible and, as they say, blood is thicker than water.

All of the stories I found today highlight the ties between family members. The Daily Express in England had a story a few days ago on the reunion of two sweethearts separated by her mother and WWII. The woman's mother didn't want her daughter being widowed so soon after marriage since the life expectancy of her sweetheart's military assignment was less than a month. The two survived the war and lived their lives, but recently she found him after 64 years and now they're back together.  

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on the story of two siblings who lost each other during the Great Depression. Two of the four children of a migrant worker raising them alone after the death of his wife recently reunited after 73 years. The youngest son, 10 months old at the time, was given up for adoption and spent much of his life unaware of his other family. A 31-year search finally led him to his sister and her family.

This last one is more about the strength of families working together amongst themselves and with other families. Father John Lasseigne is a parish priest in a Southern California suburb hit very hard by the sub-prime lending crisis. One in every nine homes in his area is in foreclosure. CNN is hailing Lasseigne as a savior to his congregation for organizing a grass-roots community effort to help these people save their homes. 

Photo credit:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The sources and means of inspiration...

Every day in news articles I see the words "inspire" and "inspiration" used in myriad contexts. This is, well, inspiring (sorry) to me because it reminds me there are many different ways people can draw inspiration, from experiencing a different culture to seeing someone help an elderly person across a street. 

The ways you get inspired are different as well. For me personally when a creative inspiration strikes, it's usually like a lightning flash - the whole idea at once. Looking at recipes makes me wonder how I can tweak them to my specific tastes (and usually results in an continual trips to the kitchen), and inspiration for my writing usually comes over time as ideas and themes germinate. Each occurrence of inspiration brings its own excitement. 

Opening my Yahoo! this morning, the top story was how President Obama has inspired hope and positivity in the nation according to an AP poll. This story is a little more political than I like to be on this blog; in America, there seem to be fewer ways to head for unhappy thoughts than get into a political debate. But I liked the thought our citizens were a little more positive than they used to be, despite the economy.

WBNG News in Binghamton, N.Y. has a feature on its website about a triple-amputee patient who lost both legs and his right arm in a collision with a train and who travels around the country to inspire and give hope to recent amputees that life does go on. 

And has a story about Queen Rania of Jordan finding inspiration for a speech in the philanthropy of a poor Jordanian girl who worked with her mother to turn homemade jam into a source of pride and income for a disadvantaged and poverty-stricken school. 

Photo credit:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Every day should be Earth Day...

In 1969, then-US Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to have an environmental teach-in as a reaction to the degradation of the environment. He chose April 22, 1970, for very practical reasons: He wanted to have it on college campuses and figured it was late enough in the spring to have good weather, it was midweek so it wouldn't conflict with other events and there generally weren't exams or spring breaks scheduled. 

It has the added bonus of being the day after John Muir's - noted environmentalist and founder of the Sierra Club - birthday and is the actual birthday of a person many call the world's first environmentalist - St. Francis of Assisi. 

People from 2000 colleges and universities, around 10,000 primary and secondary schools and hundreds of communities across the country participated in the first Earth Day, and Nelson credited the momentum from that demonstration for the passing of the Clean Air Act in 1970 as well as the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency that same year. 

The New York Times reported on Friday that just in time for Earth Day, Congress declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping pollutants as dangerous to public health, which may lead to them being regulated for the first time in US history. Gee, it only took an act of Congress to confirm what most people already know. But it's a step in the right direction, one that should promote reforms in policy and, hopefully, a healthier Earth.

Indonesia and South Korea announced they are investing in alternative energy to turn seaweed into biofuel and reduce emissions, according to I'm not really a science person, but I think this is pretty cool. And anything that gets countries less dependent on oil and cleans up the environment, I'm all for. 

King 5 News out of Seattle has a story that's a follow up to a related post of mine from yesterday. It's all about the benefits and positive outcomes of volunteer vacations. And something I found on Facebook is a video follow up to a story I found awhile ago on Faith, the two-legged dog. This is a segment from Oprah and not only interviews her family members, but shows home video of Faith.

This one is a little random, but it is animal-related and kinda fun. China's official news outlet Xinhua reported on a pod of dolphins who foiled a Somali pirate attack on a Chinese ship. Little smarty-pants. : ) 

A last thought... the Fort Worth Star-Telegram did a big story today on a local high school science teacher who founded America's longest-running high school ecology studies program. He was recently forced to retire after being diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, but his passion for ecology and the environment has inspired generations of students

The photo above is of Senator Gaylord Nelson (photo credit: wikipedia)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday potluck...

Yesterday I took a day off work (and this blog) as it was Massachusetts' second-favorite holiday - Marathon Monday. Nowhere else I know has a sanctioned state holiday so its citizens can go out and get drunk in public under the watchful eye of the police while people in very good shape run past them. 

I don't live that far from part of the marathon route, so when I left my house on Monday I could hear the roars of the crowd before I could see the runners. This event always makes me tear up at least once - whether it's a parent pushing a child in a wheelchair down the course, someone who jumps into the race to run with a friend who needs a boost, or just strangers calling out the names written on the runners' shirts to cheer them on. The woman in the photo on the left is standing at a spot about three miles before the finish line. 

So I had a lot of stories to sift through when I returned to the blog this morning. Each of the links below touched a nerve in some way - whether by impressing me with generosity or the notion that there is a fine line between most opposites. did a piece on an Australian woman who connected with a man over the internet in need of a healthy kidney. She donated and inspired a group to promote living organ donors. The man she donated to is now leading a healthy life and watching his grandchildren grow. did a follow-up on the viral internet phenomenon that is Susan Boyle. It explores all the reasons Boyle's performance touched us

Every so often I find stories on modern-day Good Samaritans. You do hear horror stories about Craigslist, but that site (along with other social networks) can facilitate good things too. A Pittsburgh man who refused to be revealed borrowed from "Pay It Forward" earlier this month when he solicited things people needed help with then drove 1200 miles to Chicago to do them without recognition or payment (

This last story is the one that really made me stop and consider exactly how big two millimeters really is. BBC Online reported on the "luckiest soldier in the British army" who was shot through the helmet during a firefight by the Taliban...and then got back to his machine gun an hour after his near-miss. Not only is that luck but, I think, bravery.

Friday, April 17, 2009

People helping people...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say this recession/second-coming of the Great Depression happened to the people who may be the best equipped to handle it. For all the talk of "helicopter parents" and kids not learning responsibility, I think people my age have turned out pretty okay. The Yale Daily News has an article about how applications for service programs have skyrocketed and not just because of the economy limiting paying jobs. Twenty-somethings see the value of affecting change around them.

People genuinely want to pitch and help others. Maybe some of that is based in the service requirements many middle and high school students must fulfill to be eligible to graduate. The culture of service is a little more ingrained now. But as an article in points out, the current generation came of age post-September 11 and understand the need for and benefits from pulling together. The "Millennials" are now being called the "Civic Generation" - a group willing to roll up its sleeves and do the job. 

The levels of service today haven't been seen since Pres. Kennedy made his famous "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country" speech. And the fact a lot of Americans are taking their volunteering global is awesome to me. "Voluntourism" is right up there with the Peace Corps and Doctors Without Borders. Building international good will along with wells and compost pits is, to knock off Martha Stewart, "a good thing" in my book.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Okay, so I dislike Simon Cowell a little less this morning...

This blog has helped me have a more positive attitude in general, but I discovered this morning I'm still fighting with a cynicism I developed when I moved to a city for the first time. I have heard about Sally Boyle, the woman who sang on Britain's Got Talent last week. I saw all the video links to her performance, but I never clicked on them because I figured they would have a mean tone to them, especially since Yahoo! had a teaser that highlighted she was 47 and had never been kissed. But my friend Katie sent me a YouTube clip of the performance and the judges' reaction with the subject line "Watch this and I DARE you to tell me it didn't brighten your day". 

So I figured I'd click on this one. And I would be lying if I said it didn't brighten my morning. Yes, it starts out a little embarrassing for the woman, but by the end, you just feel so happy for her

And while I'm on video clips that made me warm and fuzzy, I have to include the following story from FoxNews in Detroit, Mich. Normally I don't like FoxNews since I lean in the other direction politically, and I have not seen much good news coming out of Detroit since the recession started. But this report about the return of two stolen pomeranians to their five year-old owner is great. You have to play the clip to see his absolutely precious smile

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Sorry... I just kinda had to...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Other people's happy thoughts...

When I was little and my mom and I traded happy thoughts at bedtime, we would always start with "MY happy thought...", putting the emphasis on what was important to us. Looking through the stories today, I saw a lot of what other people were grateful for and decided to feature that. posted a story about two University of Montana graduates who formed Grateful Nation, a fund that sounds the children of fallen soldiers to college in the UM system for free. Once a child who is enrolled in the program turns 12, he or she is matched with a UM professor/mentor who helps ready the child for college. The founders of the program were stunned to learn how little federal assistance the families of those killed in action receive and wanted to do something to show the American people's support and appreciation for the nation's defenders.

The Synapse, the student paper of UC-San Francisco, recently published a story about a wellness program the university is running to get its students to focus on their physical, emotional and mental well-being. Part of the "Passport to Wellness" requires the students to write down three things they are grateful for, and the story in the paper lists a sample of the responses.

This last one isn't exactly an explication of what someone is grateful for, but I had to include it. I'm still a little leery of YouTube unless someone sends me a direct link to something I HAVE to see, so apparently I missed the phenomenon that is the GratiDudes. These guys promote people finding their "inner Super Powers" and how embracing gratitude can change your life. They are so gungho about it, they've created a dance and posted a video on YouTube. My favorite part is near the middle when two guys doing the dance nearly fall out of a tree... And by the way, I found the reference to this on a NASCAR blog...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seven down, 155 to go...

One of my friends who is a huge Red Sox fan insists spring starts when pitchers and catchers report for spring training. That same person gets very upset when I tell him I don't pay attention to baseball until after the All-Star break. I just do not have the wherewithal to keep 162 games and their stats, trends and implications in my head for seven months. 

But I do have to say, the Arizona Diamondbacks are a team worth following. I have no concept of how they are doing or are projected to do this year. Not only is it way before the All-Star break, they are also a National League team, which makes them out of my loop. But a chance encounter with a down-on-her-luck fan gave the GM the wonderful idea of spreading the wealth beyond his ultra-rich players.

One more sign it's spring...I found yet another story on amphibian migration. You know, this is one of those things that you never notice until someone points it out to you then it's all you can see. This time the BBC has a brief story on a British bucket brigade taking to the back lanes to ferry a specific species of frog across the road to mating grounds. Kermit would be proud.

In a similar vein, I came across a story in the Boston Examiner that featured a retired veterinarian who provides free animal care in Tacoma, Wash. The number of patients she can see is limited, but the service is a relief to many of the area residents who are struggling and might otherwise have to give up their pets.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How is it Monday already?

This morning I'm definitely in holiday hangover mode. This weekend was a pretty great one - seeing friends I hadn't seen in a while, watching BU win the national title in ice hockey then having a terrific potluck Easter dinner with friends. I tried out a couple new recipes, but now I feel like I could use a day off to recover from my weekend. And do my laundry...

One last Easter mention - the AP has a short video on giant polystyrene Easter eggs Croatian artists have painted to show pastoral scenes from their homeland. These self-taught artists will be taking their eggs on the road as well, for exhibitions all over western Europe. 

Okay, I lied. One more Easter story. This past weekend a grateful preemie mom decided to give back to the unit who helped her sons for the first few months of their lives. She went out and bought an Easter bunny costume expressly to hop her way down the halls and bring some cheer to the children in a NICU in east Tennessee. 

I'll wrap up today with some "harder" news, if you will. The ship captain who was held hostage by Somali pirates has been rescued thanks to a daring rescue by Navy SEALS in choppy water. The Washington Post details the rescue and the crew and family reactions. And the First Family have a furry and four-legged addition to the family. Sen. Ted Kennedy gave the family a six-month old black and white Portuguese water dog Sasha and Malia have named Bo. There's a photo of the little guy in the AP's story - he's a total cutie pie

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yeah, yeah, I know...

Today's post is really about my good day. Yes, I know it's narcissistic and not really newsworthy, but, well, this is my blog. : ) 

I sold my first baked goods this morning, so I guess I'm officially a small business. Then I actually had work to do, so that was cool. It's a flat-out gorgeous day - sunny and warm and totally un-New England in April. Finally, my friend Joel is in town from far away, and I hadn't seen him since like Thanksgiving. We had lunch with our friend Stef at an old haunt and caught up. It was fabulous. 

My day isn't even over and it's already one of the best I've had in a while, so I really thought I'd just go with that for today. : ) I hope you all have wonderful weekends and blessed Easters/Passovers. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The facts of life...

Recently I had a conversation about all the old TV shows I used to watch when I was younger. While looking over stories for today, "The Facts of Life" popped into my head, particularly the theme song chorus - "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have, the facts of life..."

Ain't that the truth?

The downturn in the economy has been bad for a lot of things, but apparently it has succeeded in a small way in bringing jobs back to the US. Sallie Mae reported earlier in the week it will be bringing out-sourced jobs back into America. The company is looking to bring 2000 jobs in by October 2010, with 600 located at the Wilkes-Barre, Pa. facility. (Yahoo!)

The New Jersey Leader reported on a local success story, a man who has turned the economy into an opportunity. By lowering his rental prices slightly and connecting with tenants who also thought outside the box in terms of launching or expanding businesses now, he's generating revenue for himself and helping local residents access necessary services. 

And I know I've said this before, but the most satisfying (for me at least) good news is the kind that comes out of a bad situation. The New Britain Herald tells the story of a young military couple surprised by a large rental bill and how the town's elected officials came to their aid. Politicians can get a bad rap, but in this case, you meet some people you wish were in your town government. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Like Animals...

That is the crux of Rex Harrison's impassioned plea on behalf of animals as Dr. Doolittle in the 1967 eponymous film. His point is that animals are wonderful creatures capable of so much, and yet humans treat them as little more than beasts (while often acting beastly themselves). While I do not claim to be able to talk to animals in a coherent manner (not matter how much I coo at my cat), I do believe they are able to tell us a great deal if we'd just listen. In the following stories I found, animals play a big role in either helping out humans or bringing out the humanity in them. tells of a Chihuahua that quite literally saved its owner's life when the pair got lost on a walk in the woods and was forced to sleep outdoors. The dog kept the woman from hypothermia by sleeping on her legs. (

This short video from ABC 7 in North Dakota shows a pair of men who, in the midst of trying to combat the Red River flooding, took time to save a squirrel being swept away on an ice floe. Squirrels are everywhere and people often don't give them a second thought, particularly in the middle of a crisis. So it's a nice thought these two men would save a small little furry guy in addition to their neighbors' homes. reports on another incident that would make Dr. Doolittle proud. In Washington state, the ice on the lakes is finally thawing for spring. Unfortunately that is something a moose didn't bank on while taking a walk through the woods. A 911 call from neighbors brought in animal rescue, which worked very hard to pull the animal to shore. Through these people's efforts, it looks like the moose will make it. : ) 

A bipedal dog named Faith has conquered her birth defect to become an inspiration to wounded soldiers and now helps find unwanted pets homes. Born to a chow bred for fighting, Faith has learned to walk on her hind legs - the only ones she has. Now she tours military bases to brighten the days of soldiers who have been wounded in combat. (

One little PS... The photo above is of Legend a pit bull/American bull dog mix who lived at the shelter where I volunteer for quite some time. The shelter is not no-kill, so as time continued to go I was very worried about my little-big guy. But in some good news of my own, I came in one day to find a note "from" Legend saying he'd been adopted and now lived in Vermont. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A helping hand...

A lot of people have turned to volunteering lately. Some have said it's because people got so involved in the election that when it ended they didn't know what to do with all their newfound free time. Others have attributed it to President Obama's call for service. And some people, myself included, have started because, perhaps selfishly, it makes them feel good. For some, helping others is a part of their job. Some people get recognized and some work behind the scenes. But everyone ends up making a difference, whether for a large group or one individual. Quite frankly, I definitely think that falls into the category of good news.

In the Baltimore Sun, a story I found yesterday tells of a NICU reunion party for all the families of children who survived because of their care in intensive care. That is such a precarious time and situation, and there are a fair amount of babies who don't make it. It must be such a soul-wrenching job; to be able to celebrate with those you've helped become healthy little children must be amazing.

In the US, Christianity has extended its tenet of charity towards those less fortunate to farmers in Central America as reported on Fox News. This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, the start of Holy Week which culminates in Easter. Palm Sunday is celebrated by handing out palms to parishioners to symbolize the fronds laid down before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. This year, more churches than ever have ordered fair-trade palms, paying farmers a fair price to pick them in environmentally safe ways.. The orders for these eco-friendly palms have increased something like 400%, which is something else in this economy. 

Changing species for a second, humans in Vermont (some would say, only in Vermont) took to the streets recently to help another creature migration - salamanders. The little amphibians were making their yearly migration to mate and once again they got an assist from local scientists and environmentally conscious citizens who wanted to make sure the tiny guys didn't end up as roadkill. 

When I read the following story, the Eudora Welty short story title "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" popped into my head. A lot of people criticize social networking as a disconnect to true human contact. In the case of a suicidal teenager, Facebook (and a "friend" across the Atlantic) saved his life. (

Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day optimism...

We all know what everyone says about spring; it's a time for renewal, rebirth, making a fresh start, etc. And I guess people wouldn't say it if it didn't have in it some basis of truth. There's just something about emerging from (what was for me, a brutal) winter and seeing flowers and hearing birds again. It just makes you happier to know pretty things and longer days and vacation are coming. 

That optimism is probably my favorite part of spring. And quite honestly, nothing and no one is more optimistic in spring than Cubs fans. It's been 101 years since they won a World Series and something like 64 years since they've even played for it, but there is still enough faith left in and around the organization to let an columnist write an article about the hopes of those lovable losers in Wrigley Field. 

I will be the very first to admit this is a very thin segue, but Nebraska, home to one of the most fun events in sports - the College World Series, has been named the fiscally happiest state in the nation by, as reported by ABC News. The index accounted for all the usual financial measures in coming up with the list. The Cornhusker state headlined a group of Midwest states that landed at the top of the list. 

Moving to the rest of the world for a second, I don't think there is a situation that has called more for continued optimism than the conflict between Israel and Palestine. So much has happened to both sides that it makes it hard for anyone to make any headway. But a simple Gazan doctor has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize - a man who has lost three daughters to Israeli missiles and who continues to work for peace between the two peoples. That this man can endure what he has and still not lose hope is inspiring. (

Finally, Yahoo! is reporting on a dog who was lost overboard while his Aussie owners sailed through rough waters. He swam five nautical miles to an island where he lived for four months, Survivor-style, until park rangers discovered him. The family is overjoyed to have him back and he seems to have readjusted to being a house pet again just fine. 

Butterflies seem to be the ultimate symbol of the renewal  associated with spring. I took the photo above at a butterfly garden this weekend - I thought it tagged along nicely with the post from last week about the migration of butterflies through Taiwan...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Always look on the bright side of life..

In addition to that line coming from one of my favoritest movies ever, it's good advice. Standing on the sunny side of the street or searching for the silver lining... Whatever you call it, it means looking for the best part of a bad situation, which somehow puts you in a better frame of mind to deal with the rest of the bad than you were before you found the good. 

This theory is epitomized in the Unemployed Olympics, the brainchild of several New Yorkers who have been, in the kind words of the New York Times, made redundant. People from all over the city came to compete in several contests that put a fun spin on office tasks. Yeah, it may have done absolutely nothing for their job search, but I'm sure plenty of them now feel slightly better about life

A different medium has joined the drumbeat of good news broadcasting. Unfortunately, AM 1310 KLIX probably doesn't reach much outside of Southern Idaho, but it made a pledge to talk about only good news for 24 hours, starting this morning. The morning show took calls from people with stories to tell, and for the rest of the day, every half an hour the station will have good news updates during its syndicated content. 

It's nice to know these days when people are hunkering down and putting the cash under the mattress there are some out there still worried about the future of the non-human species on the planet. As reported in Reuters India, this month begins a migration of a rare butterfly through Taiwan, the route of which crosses a busy highway where last year there was actually enough of a butterfly roadkill rate to have to measure it. This year, the Taiwanese government took steps to protect these creatures. Yes, some of the actions taken may briefly inconvenience people now, but eventually when we come out of our bunkers and want to see the outside world again, there will still be nature to look at. 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A hodgepodge on a drama-filled day...

Today has been one drama after the other for me at work. They've kept me busy all day. I'm definitely ready for tomorrow, if for no other reason than my parents are in town. I haven't seen them since Christmas, so I'm looking forward to being spoiled just a little. : ) 

Over the weekend, I watched one of the more amazing men's basketball games I've ever seen, and that's saying a lot. But I'm happy to say my Wildcats prevailed on a dramatic last shot. I was a terrible dinner companion since I had my eyes glued to the TV, but it all worked out in the end. I was a little surprised at first blush to see Frank Tchuisi wearing the net around his neck, but an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer reminded me how special Jay Wright's program and the people he chooses to be part of it are. 

Along the sports theme, I found a story in the Washington Post about a local high school boys lacrosse coach who talks about how his heart attack last summer has changed his life for the better and the lessons he hopes he can teach the boys he coaches. 

And lastly, a story on that tags along with yesterday's post about companies doing good things for average people. Walgreens is helping people who have been laid off from their jobs with free healthcare at their in-store clinics. This one struck a chord with me with all the talk I've heard from people around me (not in the news) about lay-offs. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It's the Economy, Stupid...

So goes the famous saying on James Carville's white board in the 1990s. That could be the answer to a lot of questions these days as well. It's made us rethink a lot of our habits and patterns in all areas of our lives. I am definitely guilty of it; anyone who knows me knows of my obsession and conspicuous consumption of kitchen tools. I actually spent part of this afternoon's lunch explaining to my coworker how to use a grapefruit sectioner. To which our administrative assistant replied, "I just use a knife." 

Fair enough.

But I also have caught myself examining my habits as well. Knocking on any and all available wood, I have not (yet) been affected by the economy, so when I get the mail every day and see another letter from a charitable organization, I remind myself I do not, in fact, need a (insert latest-gadget-from-Williams-Sonoma-I'm-drooling-over here) and could instead send $10 to the MSPCA or Save the Children. The one thing I do wish they would stop doing is sending me address labels. Oh, March of Dimes, you want to offer me free address labels? Thanks, but the World Wildlife Fund, the Mass. State Troopers and the Red Cross beat you to it...

The stories I found today revolve around people who share my mind-set of remembering others before spending on myself. I am personally of the opinion that this is the silver lining to this current crisis. The Duluth News-Tribune highlights local restaurant owners who, working together with the community, sponsor once-a-week free lunches for veterans from a local rest home. The gratitude the husband and wife ownership feel for the veterans' sacrifices really come through in the interview.

The Toledo Blade appears to be doing a series on how local people are coping with the economy. This installment concerns a retired couple who are helping their less fortunate neighbors wherever they can since they themselves have not yet suffered a massive loss in the stock market. 

A volunteer writes a first-hand account in of a man she helped as he turned his life around after serving a prison term. The story, based out of a tent city in the outskirts of Seattle, reminds you that it is possible to turn things around with some hard work. 

The last story isn't strictly people reviewing habits, but I thought it was a nice little roundup. The Columbia County News-Times published a list of local good news and accomplishments. Maybe it's because I'm from a small town and I grew up in economic prosperity, so these types of things actually were news back then, but I really enjoyed just reading about all the little things the county appreciated.