Sunday, August 30, 2015

" Change that will save lives."

          Everytown for Gun Safety is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating American communities, preventing gun violence and advocating for stronger laws and gun safety measures. Survivors of gun related violence, law enforcement, local governments, gun owners, teachers, mothers and fathers, and all citizens who want to secure their neighborhoods by promoting non-violence come together to take positive action.
        Everytown is committed to serving victims of gun violence by allowing them to connect with other survivors and share their stories in order to heal. Victims of gun violence suffer from more than just physical wounds, some endure trauma for many years struggling to regain a sense of security and trust. Everytown provides support to those who have lost loved ones from gun violence and provides an opportunity for all citizens to endorse legal measures which will save countless lives now and in the future.

       Headline news, hardly a day goes by when we don't hear or read about a gun related death. You may even live in a community where children and adults you know personally have been wounded or killed  One of the most recent tragedies occurred with the senseless executions of a Virginian journalist and cameraman live on air. Escaping justice, the shooter killed himself following the double homicide. Americans have been murdering Americans at a rate which surpasses every other  industrialized nation in the world for a long time. Yet we seem to ignore this fact. How many Americans have to die before we seriously examine why the United States refuses to make the changes needed to protect innocent lives from gun violence?


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"Pathways to understanding...."

"What would happen if we spoke the truth."- Alison Bechdel, author, cartoonist

              Contrary to media reports overheard or nonchalantly glanced at trending on social media this week, Duke University students are not being forced to do anything. As part of the  incoming freshman summer reading program a graphic novel by New York Times best-selling author, Alison Bechdel (photo shown above) was chosen among other literature because it is likely to spark open conversations about life, death and sexuality. Topics that all sincere adult students pursuing higher education should be comfortable contemplating. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was first published in 2006 and has since been made into a highly successful Broadway musical. Summer reading is entirely voluntary but Fun Home offers a rich opportunity for discussion, especially about discrimination and human rights. What most people don't understand about the Duke dilemma is how students who haven't read the novel automatically dismiss it as violating their moral beliefs.

 To clarify, in a statement by Michael Schoenfeld, VP for Public Affairs and Government Relations at Duke University  

Like many universities and community, Duke has had a summer reading for many years to give incoming students a shared intellectual experience with other members of the class (you can see the most recent selections at  
The reading is selected by a committee of students, and staff, who then solicit feedback from other members of the Duke community.  Fun Home was ultimately chosen because it is a unique and moving book that transcends genres and explores issues that students are likely to confront.  It is also one of the most celebrated graphic novels of its generation, and the theatrical adaption won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and four others, in 2015.  As we have every year, we were fortunate to have the author join us on campus for a lively discussion of the book during orientation week.
The summer reading is entirely voluntary — it is not a requirement, nor is there a grade or record of any student’s participation.  With a class of 1,750 new students from around the world, it would be impossible to find a single book that that did not challenge someone’s way of thinking.  We understand and respect that, but also hope that students will begin their time at Duke with open minds and a willingness to explore new ideas, whether they agree with them or not. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Those without a voice can be heard."

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” ― Malala Yousafzai


                 This month many schools in the United States are welcoming back students from summer break. Children raised in America have access to free public education.from kindergarten to grade 12. Fortunate public school systems provide books, paper, pencils, computers or individual tablets for their students. Increasingly in the States, parents or classroom teachers are purchasing these items  out of their own pockets. Having attended and worked in public schools as well as being the sister of a dedicated public school teacher, I can assure you this is true. Public school teachers and parents care enough to realize the value of giving every child an opportunity for a good education. Many under funded schools must request grants or raise their own money to provide essential classroom materials. As one of the most prosperous nations in the world we are still unable to provide adequate supplies for all of our girls and boys: our future citizens, our future leaders.
      Despite failing federal standards and unrealistic mandatory curriculum's we are still financially head and shoulders above most countries. We provide equal opportunities for both male and female pupils which is not the case in many areas of the world. As a native of Pakistan, author, Nobel Prize laureate and education advocate, Malala Yousafzai has endured the unimaginable to speak out for the rights of women and girls to be educated. At just 18 years of age, Malala continues to risk her life standing up to religious and political extremists who attempt to silence her voice forever. “The extremists are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women.” stating perceptively with a wisdom beyond her years. Education is power.  Education gives us the tools for survival. Whether we choose to attend public, private or home school, having access to books, library facilities or the internet develops our sense of empowerment. The most meaningful aspects our of lives come from learning, sharing and expressing our own ideas. Education is a human right.

 For more information about becoming a Global Citizen

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"That light inside that drives you..."

“Creativity is connected to your passion, that light inside you that drives you. That joy that comes when you do something you love. That small voice that tells you, “I like this. Do this again. You are good at it. Keep going.” That is the juicy stuff that lubricates our lives and helps us feel less alone in the world.” ― Amy Poehler-actor, comedian, author of Yes Please

       Author, actor and comedian, Amy Poehler recently developed a new science web series for her highly successful Smart Girls project. "Experimenting with Megan " is hosted by writer Megan Amran  who is the author of a clever satirical textbook,  Science...For Her!  Her host character has been described as the female scientific researcher equivalent of Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report's narcissistic political pundit. What 's really happening before our eyes is an entertaining, educational guide to scientific knowledge and step by step experiments. Learning with laughter. Is there any better way? In the episode above Megan welcomes her guest, CalTech engineer and aeronautics professor, Dr. Beverly Mc Keon. Watch a new episode every Monday at amysmartgirls

     Amy's Smart Girls was co-created by Poehler,  current director, Meredith Walker and composer, performer and teacher, Amy Miles.(see full bio's on the website)  In addition to earning two Emmy Award nominations for her comedic role in NBC's Parks and Recreation, Amy Poehler is a humanitarian, active in women and girls issues and serves as Ambassador for the Worldwide Orphans Foundation. Amy's Smart Girls website is informative, entertaining and allows girls of all ages to contribute their own unique voice. Men and boys are encouraged to check out the site too. Find out how you can support girls in your schools and communities who are “changing the world by being themselves."

Happy Anniversary to Les & Chuck on August 15th. Wishing you more love & happiness to come.

Monday, August 10, 2015

"Masters of daydreaming.."

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life

               As a child I remember lying on soft snuggly blankets in the backyard lazily looking up at  slightly overcast afternoon skies. Few things are as relaxing or set our imaginations free as when we allow ourselves to discover shapes and new forms in the ever changing clouds. Many times we are surrounded by beauty but our awareness has tuned it out like when we are texting our friends at the beach or snapping Instagram photos of a sunset we should be absorbing in real time. We are a society obsessed with our smartphones, social media, held captive by the constant flickering flame of our own thoughts. Cloud appreciation goes far beyond childhood or adolescent daydreams, it is a practice all of us are encouraged to continue at any age. Why?
            Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society stated the reason perfectly,
"I find that sometimes by paying attention to something outside of yourself, it's just enough to find yourself centered again." In his presentation above Pretor-Pinney discusses how letting our imaginations go is a necessary part of creativity and human nature.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

"No waves, no wind."

"midnight- no waves, no wind."

midnight - no waves, no wind
the empty boat is
flooded with moonlight

                - Dogen

Saturday, August 1, 2015

" Share your strength. End child hunger."

"One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing that we as individuals can make a difference. Ending hunger in America is a goal that is literally within our grasp."
-- Jeff Bridges, anti-hunger activist and advocate for children.


           Over 16 million children in the United States or 1 in 5 struggles with hunger each day. American kids aren't getting the food they need. Hunger compromises a child's ability to focus, properly develop and maintain overall health. What's even more tragic is that the United States is one of the most prosperous countries in the world and we are allowing some of our children to starve. According to research conducted by Children’s Health Watch,  lack of food or what is now commonly termed "food insecurity" is linked to increased hospitalizations, developmental issues, headaches, stomachaches and colds. The truth is it's costing our country more to ignore hunger than to take actions to resolve the root causes. And at least in the United States we do have the ability and resources to help. So why are we allowing hungry children to suffer?

       Consider the following important points proposed by legal clerk and consumer activist,
 Erin Brocovich,

      "Most of our citizenry believes that hunger only affects people who are lazy or people who are just looking for a handout, people who don't' want to work, but, sadly, that is not true. Over one-third of our hungry people are innocent children who are members of households that simply cannot provide enough food or proper nutrition. And to think of the elderly suffering from malnutrition is just too hard for most of us. Unlike Third World nations, in our country the problem is not having too little – it is about not caring enough! Write your elected representatives and promote support for the hungry."

 Here are the facts:

             Almost 50 million Americans which includes 16 million children are living in homes with  insufficient incomes. These households lack enough resources to consistently provide nutritious meals. At some time during a school year millions of children are going without food.

             Food insecurity is most common in large cities but still exists in rural areas, suburbs and other outlying areas around large cities.

             25 % of households with children living in metropolitan areas are food-insecure.

             Federal nutrition programs play one of the most important roles in helping parents and children build and maintain health.

            So what's it going to take to eliminate hunger in the United States besides Federal programs and local food banks?  Advocate and spokesman for No Kid Hungry, Jeff Bridges stated,

 "Public charities, food banks and church pantries are doing more than ever before, but they can't keep up with the need. We can never end hunger only through the wonderful work of local charities. Like other Western democracies, we must end our national problem of hunger through national and political leadership. Charity is nice for some things, but not as a way to feed a nation. We don't protect our national security through charity, and we shouldn't protect our families and children that way either."

  For additional resources, stories, action plans, research and more visit the
  No Kid Hungry website