That last statement of the pitch was what really hit home. As a long-time blogger, I receive countless pitches from PR folks about their various products, causes and ideas. It is rare that I respond to one, mainly because a good story is really hard to find amongst the massive onslaught of commercialized messages.

But this one is a story worth telling.

Christy Turlington Burns, Every Mother Counts

It is a fact that when women are healthier, societies overall are healthier.

Global health advocate and former model Christy Turlington Burns is participating in the ING Marathon on November 4 along with Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter, World Renowned Tattoo Artist Scott Campbell, The Smile Co-Owner Carlos Quirarte, Oiselle Founder/CEO Sally Bergesen and 45 other runners, to raise money and awareness for her non-profit organization, Every Mother Counts (EMC). To expand the reach of this effort, Every Mother Counts is calling on supporters everywhere to create their own team, and participate in a 5K run/walk in their town on November 4 while the EMC team hits the pavement in New York City.

Did you know that 5k is less than the average distance a pregnant woman in the developing world must travel to receive the basic health care she needs to deliver her baby?

Let’s face it. 5K is simply too far to walk for a woman who is 9 months pregnant, in labor, and has no access to transportation.  By walking or running in communities across the country, Every Mother Counts aims to raise awareness of this simple but devastating barrier and empower people everywhere to get involved in helping women to overcome it.

How to join: It is as simple as grabbing a couple of friends and going for a 5K run/walk during the official ING New York City Marathon. Make a sign, tell friends on social media about your efforts. Then share your photos and stories with Every Mother Counts on our facebook page or by email at info@everymothercounts.org.

Three additional ways to help support the un-official run:

1.       Purchase the official Every Mother Counts marathon team shirt for your team and all proceeds will go to EMC. This year, team EMC will be outfitted by Oiselle, a growing women’s apparel company dedicated to female runners and EMC’s official athletic apparel sponsor. You can purchase team jerseys from the “EMC Collection,” on oiselle.com, and 40% of the proceeds will go to Every Mother Counts.

2.       Join our Team by setting up your own CrowdRise page here and have friends and family sponsor your run by making donations through CrowdRise. All proceeds will go to EMC.

3. Please use Charity Miles, a free app that enables you to earn 25¢ per mile for Every Mother Counts, whenever you walk or run. It’s a free, easy way to raise both money and awareness for Every Mother Counts.  And you can use it any time you walk or run— even if you’re not doing a full 5K.  Please download the app to your iPhone or Android today. Every Mile Counts!

I’ve downloaded the app, which is based on your GPS so it is best to use outside (and not indoors where I tried to log exactly how much distance I run up and down the stairs all day).

You win through exercise. Pregnant women win through the help they need.

Let’s run/walk so others don’t have to.

The other night I attended a Twitter party. For those of you unfamiliar with such things, it is a gathering on the microblogging social media platform Twitter to discuss a particular topic. This time we were a group of bloggers that convened on Twitter using a particular keyword to follow the conversation for thirty minutes. The topic was, of course, blogging, one of my favorite subjects.

One question the moderators posed was what’s more important: grammar or getting the point across. I have to admit I love grammar and respect all its rules because language is something I highly revere. And I am traumatized even now, thirty years later, by my English teacher Ms. Willis whose smoker’s voice and steely glare still permeate my brain when I even consider saying “There’s two things” instead of saying “There are”.

But language, like anything else, is a compilation of sounds that is fluid and ever-evolving. We bend the rules sometimes to fit the situation. Being a Southern girl, I respect rule-bending. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, ya”ll. It gives life to new possibilities and ways of expressing ourselves.

You may have noticed I bend the rules on this blog a lot. Suddenly adjectives become nouns. Slow is one example. It is this very juxtaposition that challenges the reader to think in new ways.

So while good grammar is something to be preserved, let’s leave a little room for imperfection. After all, it is in that very place that we grow the most.

P.S. To my embarassment, I wrongly attributed yesterday’s image as Lower Elk Canyon, Arizona. It’s Lower Antelope Canyon. Apologies to all wildlife that has been offended. Imperfection at its best!

Dwell in Possibility

August 24, 2012

Surmounting seemingly impossible tasks is an essential part of life. When I took my very first written exam at German university, I was scared out of my wits. All kinds of ‘what if’s’ floated through my head. ‘What if I can’t formulate my thoughts in the time that I have?’ ‘What if I fail?’ ‘What if I forget all my German and draw a complete blank!?’ ‘What if!?’ ‘What if!?’

So my mother, being the fabulous person she is, sent me a T-shirt with Emily Dickenson’s quote “I dwell in possibility.” She asked me to entertain the possibility that I would succeed.

Stumbling into the exam room wearing the T-shirt as my guide, I wrote the exam non-stop for two hours. And you know what? I did succeed despite my doubt.

It was a pivotal moment in which I realized, at the tender age of twenty-three, how much our thoughts dictate pretty much every choice we make, if we let them. Or we can take a more heart-centered approach in which we seek out the joy in every situation (and I mean every one!) despite the thoughts swirling in our heads, screaming the opposite to what our hearts are saying.

What are you thinking is impossible today? What if you were to entertain that it could be possible after all? Would you see things with different eyes? Would you succeed?

Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.”

Yes, you are. Start with your vision of what you’d like to see in the world, then create it. You might be amazed at who shows up to help you once you are clear about what you really want.

If you are fed up with the pace of your life, you’re in luck because there’s a new book out dedicated to hard-working folks like you.

Susan Lipman, the brilliant blogger over at Slow Family Online, just penned a book aptly called Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.

In it she provides parents a fail-safe guide to slowing down to offset the frenetic pace we all seem to be on. It’s a gentle invitation to get off the carousel and step back with doable activities that often require nothing more than our imagination.

The book is divided into Slow Activities, Slow Games, Slow Crafts, Slow Kitchen, Slow Garden, Slow Seasons, Slow Celebrations, Slow Travel, Everyday Slow and finally, Slow Parenting. My favorite section is the slow garden one because I love the outdoors and the simplicity of sending the kids outside to explore their backyard (I am reminded of the intention behind TurfMutt, a plant science curriculum for which I also work).

Fed Up with Frenzy gives readers very doable ways to reclaim family connection with simple activities that are also low-cost solutions. It’s every parent’s answer to “Mom! I’m bored!”

I swear I’m keeping it within arm’s reach during the kids’ summer vacation (which just started by the way. Yeah. Bavarians are weird like that).

Run, do not walk, to your nearest online or bricks and mortar store to get this guide. You, and your sanity, will be glad you did.

Pluto, the smallest of planets in our solar system, was demoted to dwarf planet status in August 2006 when the astronomy community redfined what it means to even be a planet. Since then I’ve developed a particular fondness for Pluto, perhaps because I typically root for the underdog with an overarching empathy usually reserved for animals and small children.

And now Pluto is back in the news [in German], triumphant and with an admirable constancy that inspires. The Hubble telescope discovered that Pluto has a fifth moon that is between 10 and 25 kilometers wide.

The news made me smile. That lovely demoted celestial body flying through space with its expansive posse in tow. And by the way, the Earth only has one moon. So take that!

Can you tell I once wanted to be an astronomer?

Take the Pluto quiz. [in English] How well do you know it?

In Deep Water

July 14, 2012

The other day I read a great saying: “If you get into deep water, dive.”

That says it all.

Courtesy of Orlando Family Magazine

Sometimes we get into situations in which we feel we are over our heads. Last year I was commissioned to write a full-length statistics-laden report for a client. For those of you who know me, I’m a wordsmith, not a bean counter. So when it came to analyzing, dissecting and evaluating all that data, I felt like a fish out of water. Or a person in the deep. Waaaaaay too deep!

So I dove into it with everything I had, asking for help when I needed it and coming out alive at the end. It was, needless to say, one of the most intellectually stretching experiences of my life.

And I got to do it all over again this year. But because I had already been equipped with a level of experience, the deep dive felt a little less taxing. My lungs didn’t feel like they would burst as I scrubbed the ocean floor, mining for meaning in a sea of percentages. We altered the graphics to make it more appealing to readers and I built an overarching narrative to make it more readable (once a writer, always a writer. I couldn’t help myself!).

If you are confronted with a new situation that feels less than comfortable, put on your wet suit and plunge into it with eyes wide open. What do you see? What fears arise? Allow them to be there because they want to be heard. Love them to ease their pain, then let those fears go like water between your fingers.

If you are in deep water, you won’t sink unless you let panic take over. Trust that you have everything you need to make it through. The Universe offers us so many opportunities to grow. So dive right in and give it a try. You might just surprise yourself at what you are truly capable of!

When learning a new language, you are bound to make mistakes. It’s expected and normal. But when you are in a world where you don’t understand a thing without an interpreter to help you find your way, you might become dazed, confused and a tad irritated after a while.

Such is the language of computer programming for me. Product Key IDs, Windows Installer corruption and the inability to update applications such as Skype, a lifeline for me in so many ways, are things that put me in a tailspin.

And so it was this week. That is, until Mumbling Microsoft Man came to the rescue. The support guy on the other end of the line spoke so quickly and unclearly that I literally only understood the first and last word of every sentence.

“It……….again. So…….,okay?”

Right.

For the record, he told me I could use his last name here, but since we got on a first-name basis over the course of an intense three hour on-again, off-again mobile phone conversation, I decided to create a pseudonym for the purpose of this post.

It only seems fair.

After repairing what at first seemed like a minor missing link, Microsoft has gained enormous respect in my eyes. Admittedly, like a college student dabbling in drugs, sex and rock-n-roll, I have been known to dabble on the Dark Side (read: Apple products). Their graphics rock, the look and feel of them are appealing and the store itself makes me want to take my shoes off at the door and speak in hushed tones as I admire, well, everything. I love Apple products for their cutesy nature, their instantaneousness and their speed.

Yes, even in a blog about slow, speed is valued. But when push comes to shove and I really need to write, my PC stands like a lighthouse in the dark: solid, stark, simply there.

You can imagine my frenzy when my PC rejected any type of updates whatsoever. To make a long story short, an old registry sweeper application I stupidly downloaded had eventually erased an important product key that unlocked the mystery that is Microsoft-based computer programming.

Microsoft Man patiently began our session with a kind request for the Product Key ID. I gave him the wrong one. He patiently asked me to look on my computer tower, not my Home Office software packet. I got down on my hands and knees, owing him my own set of patience as I scanned all four dusty corners of it. Finally, with a shriek of delight, I found what he was looking for. After discovering how dirty my floor was, I pulled myself up from under my desk and waited for Microsoft Man’s next intelligent command. He logged into my computer via some secret remote program and I watched him whip around my computer screen like Super Geek trying to find the solution.

Forty minutes later, I was a liiiiiiittle less patient, understanding only half of what he was saying. What first came out of my mouth as, “I’m sorry. Might you please repeat that?” later morphed into, “Huh?” accompanied by a glazed look of the truly defeated.

But Microsoft Man would not be beaten. After an hour and ten minutes, we took a break. I headed for the kitchen, he to a colleague’s desk. I’m not certain whether he beat his head against it, but he came back to the second conversation sounding as even-keeled as ever.

I threw him a bone.

“Would you like to take a lunch break?” I suggested, secretly muting every time I took a bite of my Thai food.

“Not until this is over,” I heard him say.

What commitment!

He manually added some gibberish into an additional screen and by the third hour, we were speedily updating, reinstalling and generally smiling at the amazingness of Microsoft Man himself.

He kindly suggested I fill out the customer satisfaction evaluation form that would inevitably pop into my inbox in a few days.

You bet I will, MM. Somehow I feel like we speak the same language now.

What’s your computer repair story? If you have a PC, I know you have one. Now Apple, well, that’s another story!

Lessons from the Iceman

June 14, 2012

The season of Ötzi’s discovery (Fall 1991) was a very impactful time in my life. Just three days after stepping off the plane in Vienna, Austria, I heard the news of a married couple who had found a man, frozen in a glacier between South Tirol and Austria, near the Ötztal. The story of the oldest man on earth tore through the media. While I perfected my German that fall, the rest of the world was uncovering the mysteries of man.

A confluence of events led to his discovery. The glacial ice melted away just at the point where the Iceman was found. His belongings, as well as his body, were so well preserved that we were able to learn that the Copper Age started a full 1,000 years earlier than scientists had originally thought. And the married couple? They spontaneously decided to take the route they did.

Fate? Fortune?

In my view, everything unfolds exactly as it is meant to. The magic of life requires nothing other than to simply dance to the unfolding. Why resist new ideas? Brilliance may be just one ice cube away.

New scientific discoveries are exciting and serve as a reminder that we must frequently reconsider our own belief systems. Gallileo and Einstein are two major paradigm-shifters that come to mind.  Challenging the status quo takes courage, but if you know something to be true, then there’s no denying it.

So good Old Ötzi had to wait 5,300 years to be discovered. Obviously, he’s a patient man. And a frozen one. On view at the Ötzi museum in Bolzano, Italy. It’s well worth a visit, if you’re interested. And don’t miss the artist’s sculpture of what they think Ötzi must have looked like. It’s hauntingly realistic. If you peer closely, you might just see him wink!

“Have you ever heard of Richard Louv?” My friend’s eyes were bright with possibility. I admitted that I had not, but then again back in 2005 I was also knee-deep in preschooler chaos. That’s when he told me about Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods and the author’s efforts to solve the nature-deficit disorder so many children have begun to exhibit. That was two years before the first iPhone hit the market. According to Martin Nielson, CEO of E-Waste Systems, less than 20% of electronic gadgets get recycled in the US every year. That’s up to 300 million gadgets tossed in landfills. While e-waste only represents 2% of the overall trash in landfills annually, it equalls 70% of  all toxic waste. Thirty million computers alone were tossed last year.

In light of those stats, the need to save the environment and to get outdoors has grown since Louv first penned that book.


As a result, Richard Louv has written another one, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. This time he addresses adult nature deficit disorder without forgetting the impact our actions have on children. He takes an enjoyment approach, not an admonishing one. He speaks little about recycling per see and views conservation as a troublesome term. He speaks more about nature creation and about allowing the Earth to do what it does best – live.

Louv has a delightful way of informing without lecturing, of inspiring without scaring people into action. At times I teared up while reading his latest book, simply for the passion and direction he shows.

“…nature simultaneously calms and focuses the mind, and at the same time offers a state that transcends relaxation, allowing the mind to detect patters that it would otherwise miss (page 28).”

In other words, nature is the stage upon which we return to self on a cellular level. It demands nothing of us. It simply is. As he writes, humans were meant to live in a natural environment and did so for five million years before divorcing ourselves virtually completely from the outside.

We choke the lives out of ourselves to somehow prove we are better than animals, yet we treat ourselves much worse than animals do. Trees take time to grow, yet we somehow demand that our children “just grow up!” Being a little adult is somehow a badge of honor, instead of simply being a kid who makes mistakes, gets messy and simply is. We could learn from nature by viewing it as teacher and guide in a world speeding out of control.

At a recent Disney Kids and Nature Celebration held April 13-14, 2012, at Walt Disney World Resort, Richard Louv, now chairman and co-founder, Children & Nature Network, is quoted as saying:

“People who identify themselves as conservationists…environmentalists had some transcendent experience with nature when they were kids. What happens if that virtually fades away? Who will be the future stewards of the earth? The true stewards? Conservation will always exist but if we’re not careful, conservationists will carry nature in their briefcases not in their hearts and that’s a very different relationship, and I don’t believe it’s sustainable.”

The Nature Principle focuses on the heart connection between humans and nature. We need to have a love of the land, parks, open spaces and greenery to establish, then preserve, a relationship with the outdoors. TurfMutt.com, a web portal that offers up green tips and fun outdoor activities for kids, has been designed, in conjunction with Discovery Education, to encourage children grades K-5 to learn about plant science in their backyard and in public green spaces. If those spaces dwindle, they won’t learn about them through experience, but through Internet apps that explain what has since been extinct due to our carelessness and speed.

What Earth Day activities do you have planned? A few ideas:

  • have a picnic with our family,
  • seek out a new park in your area,
  • fly a kite,
  • recycle those batteries rolling around in your junk drawer
  • volunteer to pick up trash. Ask your community center how you might help.

In truth, every day is Earth Day because it is where we live. What will you do to create nature, not only in principle, but in real life too?

Books. They are my passion. They make me weep. They dropkick loneliness to another planet. Books have meaning, make meaning, build meaning. Books are the cornerstone for life.

While my editor at St. Martin’s recently astounded herself by actually going to a physical bookstore to buy one made of paper, I have to admit that I love trees just about as much as the books that trees surrender their lives for.

Therein lies the dilemma of this author. I want you to buy books. Lots and lots of books (preferably mine). And I want you to plant a tree in the name of the books you’ve bought to replenish what got lost when you bought those books. The Lorax will thank you. And so will I.

OR: you can go to Better World Books that is committed to libraries and literacy and the well-being of both the read and the reader.

“We only do well by doing good.” ~BetterWorldBooks.com

In name of Earth Month, I hereby provide you with the top ten green reads to fill your soul (and possibly your tearducts). I always know I’m in close proximity to the truth when I cry after reading something that moves me. Give your spirit a jiggle with Better World Books’ top 10 green books:

  1. Natural Capitalism
  2. The Lorax
  3. An Inconvenient Truth
  4. Silent Spring
  5. Moral Ground
  6. The Better World Shopping Guide
  7. Hot, Flat and Crowded 2.0
  8. Farm City
  9. The Responsibility Revolution
  10. The Great Paper Caper

If you’re not familiar with this social enterprise, Better World Books collects and sells books online to donate books and fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than 8 million new and used titles in stock, it’s a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value.  To date, the company has raised over $10 million for libraries and literacy, and diverted millions of books from landfills.

Books in landfills? That’s book blasphemy!

How many of the above have you already read?

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