Meeting humanitarian needs in Egypt

Regardless of what part of the world we live in, we each can do our part to make it a little better. That's what a friend dear and near to my heart, who presently lives in Egypt, has done. Elena wrote telling me of the human needs she had discovered since moving there,

"Having been in Egypt for only a short time has definitely had its share of adventure, adjustments and discoveries. One discovery that is evident all around us is the great need of funds for this region to alleviate the poverty, improve the heath care system, provide basic education for the young and so much more."
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) tells us that, "the number of poor people continues to increase as the population grows. Egypt has about 10.7 million poor people... About 80 per cent of girls are taken out of school before the age of ten to do farm work."

To do her part, Elena teamed up with CARE International and BG Energy Challenge to help meet some of these needs. An added bonus is that BP matched whatever donations were given to this particular fund raising effort. After completing the event, Elena wrote,
"To all my sponsors, Thank-you so much for your generous sponsorship in the CARE event. It was such an excellent experience and challenge for me to do the hike. There were 25 teams that participated and your contribution helped in raising over 100,000 dollars. One of the pictures below shows the estimated amount BG will be giving to CARE. Our team received the best "all ladies team" award. It really helped that we were the only all ladies team that participated. LOL. Here are some pictures of the event and our team. Love, Elena."

It's wonderful when we can have fun team-building moments while helping others less fortunate than us. I must confess that I'm not always as involved in meeting humanitarian needs as I feel I should be. But I'm trying to do what I can when I can. How about you? What humanitarian endeavors are you involved in? What organizations do you endorse and support? Write back and tell me about them.


Arlington Wreath Project

I'm patriotic...obnoxiously so. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I came from a land ruled by a totalitarian and oppressive government. Living in the United States is, for me, both a privilege and a gift from God, and one I do not take for granted. I realize the USA is not perfect. I'm not blind to its weak spots, though I choose to dwell on what's good and honorable about this great land.

With that in mind I'm sharing with you what one man, who's not even a veteran, is doing to honor this country. The Arlington Wreath Project is for real. I checked them out at Snopes.com, where we read,

Morrill Worcester initially brought 4,000 surplus wreaths from the holiday decoration company he owns to adorn gravesites at Arlington in 1992. Every year since then he has set aside several thousand wreaths especially for that purpose, driving to Arlington in December with a trailer full of decorations and dozens of volunteers to distribute them throughout the cemetery.
Since 1992 Worcester Wreath has donated 75,000 wreaths. Mr. Worcester has now expanded the Arlington Wreath Project into Wreaths Across America. For as little as $15 you can sponsor the placing of a wreath on a lain soldier's grave. Your gift is tax deductible. The website lists the closest participating locations where wreaths will be placed this year.

I loved reading what Mr. Worcester has to say, "it takes a lot of hands and a lot of hearts to make this happen each year. It is our way of giving something back, because without the sacrifices of our Veterans, and their families, we wouldn't be in a position to do any of this. The Arlington Project and Wreaths Across America is about the spirit of appreciation for what we have, and a determination to give something back."

That pretty much says it all. All I can add is a heartfelt thank you to our Veterans and to one man's vision of how to honor them.


Falalala Lifetime Speaks To Me

I've got work deadlines to meet and a house to pack for our move back east, so why am I spending time watching the Falalala Lifetime's holiday movies? Because they speak to my heart. They wake up all that is beautiful and empowering in me. They infuse me with the hope and vibrancy needed for me not just to survive whatever the day brings but to overcome it victoriously!
Falalala Lifetime announcement showing Carson Kressley and Melissa PetermanI love everything about Falalala Lifetime holiday movies lineup, including the commercials announcing them. Carson Kressley and Melissa Peterman are adorable as they invite viewers time and again to enjoy holiday movies every day and evening right up to Christmas day. However you celebrate the holiday season, adding a sprinkle of what Falalala Lifetime is offering would brighten it even more.


Name dropping

rollodex or phone file with cards I'm calling some very important people in the publishing business my friends these days. What? You don't believe me? How else would I know that Brian A. Klems, Online Managing Editor of Writer's Digest, is now the father of a precious baby girl? How would I know the moment a new title comes down the pike for Harper Perennial, including the title they sent as a review copy to CCF? How could I just ask Nathan Bransford, "a literary agent with the San Francisco office of Curtis Brown Ltd., a New York based agency that has been representing writers since 1914," to post an article to the CCF site under his name? Need I say more? These and several hundred other very important people have accepted my invitation to be listed as my friends under myspace profile.

Are you on myspace? If so, visit my profile page and send me a friend request. At the same time send me a message letting me know you read my blog so I know to accept your friend request. If you have not set up a profile page on myspace, why haven't you? Write me either way and let me hear your thoughts on myspace and other social networking sites.



After watching the award-winning film Bella I have mixed feelings about it. Am I glad I saw it? Yes. Would I recommend it to others? My answer would be a qualified yes. I like the movie but not the manner it is being presented, or rather misrepresented, by the media campaign surrounding it.

I prefer storylines that tell us what it is we're signing up for. Disney's "Enchanted is a film just as mushy, gushy, and lovey-dovey as Bella is. The difference is Enchanted asks its question from the beginning: "can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?" It then proceeds to show that it can. There is hope. Individuals can make a difference.

Even though we're told Bella is "a love story that goes beyond romance," Bella is, above all, a movie "about a cause that matters." I would have preferred knowing beforehand that the cause was abortion. Is abortion such a divisive force that its part in the film needed to be kept under wraps in the advertising copy? It is true that Bella deals with the abortion issue. It's also true it goes beyond the rhetoric and into the humanity surrounding it, both that of the unborn baby and that of those close to its mother. The movie is a good vehicle for delivering truth in a caring and sensitive manner and deserves to employ truth in advertising in its media campaign.

Bella, directed by Alejandro Monteverde, won the People’s Choice Award at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, considered to be "the most influential film festival in the world." Even though it deals with a particularly controversial issue in America today, it also deals with mistakes we make that can haunt us for the rest of our lives. It's about how things that happen can kill the passion in us, the passion for living, for engaging life in all its fullness.

Bella is about family and friendship. It's about options and consequences surrounding decision-making. It's about hope and healing. It's a movie about everyday heroes and the ability they have to make humanity hopeful, beautiful and uplifting.

When you Google "Bella the movie" you'll find most folks, but not all, raving about it. Stephen Holden, of the NY Times, gave it a scathing review,

It is not hard to see why Bella, a saccharine trifle directed by Alejandro Monteverde, won the People’s Choice Award at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. This is a movie that wears its bleeding heart on its sleeve and loves its characters to
distraction. Nothing—not even significant plot glitches and inconsistencies—is allowed to get in the way of its bear-hugging embrace of sweetness and light. [Stephen Holden/NY Times].

A film uses its artistic components to evoke a particular emotional response from audiences. Plot glitches and inconsistencies do make it hard for viewers to suspend disbelief and embrace the storyline. I'm not sure which plot glitch or inconsistency Holden is referring to. For me the movie's storyline worked. It was straight forward.

In his review, Holden brings out a point worth noting, "If Bella...is a mediocre cup of mush, the response to it suggests how desperate some people are for an urban fairy tale with a happy ending, no matter how ludicrous." This is good news for writers to create other such stories. I love to read books or watch movies with that type of ending. Based on the endorsements, awards, and reviews Bella is receiving, I'm not the only one who feels this way.

In addition to its #1 message on the topic of abortion, that there are options one can take besides aborting a human being, the other themes woven throughout the storyline are what would make this a movie worth watching and recommending. You won't be disappointed if you go prepared to see a slow and melodious story rich in values, hope and love. Know beforehand that it'll ask you to think about abortion and much more. Bella will ask you to consider what is true and beautiful and worth doing today in order to make this a better world for us all. Watch Bella and tell me what you think by posting your comments to my blog.


I'm a mean spam fighting machine

computer throwing out lots of spam emailI do hate Spam. Not the (to me) delicious canned luncheon food product the Hormel Foods Corporation makes, but the seemingly unending number of electronic Spam, unwanted and unsolicited emails that inundate my Inbox. Add to that the junk mail the postman delivers daily and the telemarketing phone calls and I'm ready to become a hermit, throw away my computer (gasp!), crawl into a cave and shut out the world.

I've spent countless hours fighting spam over the years, reporting spamming domains to my server, setting up spam filters at the server level and within my Outlook email program, and feeling that it was mostly a losing battle. The more time I spent fighting the onslaught, the greater the number of spam emails I was receiving. Not anymore! I'm now a lean mean spam fighting machine! These days I look forward to receiving spam. Why the change of heart? Because I'm no longer a victim. I'm fighting spam with the help of spamcop.net, a free service where you have the option of upgrading to their premium services if you want to avoid getting ads.

Here's a blurb on SpamCop's history, as stated on their website, SpamCop.net - Free spam reporting - Filtering - Information
"SpamCop is the premier web-based service for reporting and blocking spam...it processes over one million spam complaints a day and is supported by hundreds of thousands of users, a knowledgeable volunteer community, and a professional staff. SpamCop streamlines the process of determining the origin of spam emails and reporting them to the relevant Internet service providers."

stick figure holding up a flag that says don't give up the shipThere are ways to stop folks from sending you unwanted mail, whether through the U.S. Postal Service or via the Internet. Just because cyberspace is cluttered with junk doesn't mean you need to give up and either stop accessing the wonders of cyberspace of become a recluse. Don't give up the ship! Instead fight back and fight hard.

In addition to SpamCop.net, I found a website provided by, of all people, the DMA, the Direct Marketing Association. At first I thought it was like watching an anti-smoking commercial sponsored by a cigarette company but in many ways it makes sense that the DMA would want to empower consumers and help them keep unethical marketing firms out of the loop.

At the DMA's Consumer Assistance web page you'll find links to how to opt-out (remove your name) from lists marketing firms use to send electronic spam to your inbox and junk mail to your mail box. In addition, the DMA's Consumer Assistance page also has links on how to protect your identity from being stolen and how to safely shop online. Here are some of the links they provide:

Much of the information on the DMA's web page I was familiar with but some of it was new, like how to remove deceased individuals names from marketing lists. It's sad enough to have a loved one die...sadder still to see credit card offers delivered by your postman in their name.

This is how I've become a lean mean spam-fighting machine! I aggressively report spam to SpamCop, and have opted-out of mailing lists, telemarketing lists, and e-mail lists.

Knowledge is power. The more information we have and use the better we'll be at fighting spam. Let me know what works for you and what you're doing to become a lean mean spam fighting machine!


Cuba, Naturally

My uncle from Miami sent me this URL for a beautiful slide show on Cuba from National Geographic. It's called "Cuba: Naturally."

I learned a few things I didn't know about Cuba...the fact that they think the island was a land-bridge zillions of years ago between North and South America? That would make sense looking at the photo they show you. I'm a Geologist and studied Plate Tectonics but had not heard this about Cuba before. Enjoy the virtual visit to our island paradise, courtesy of National Geographic. :-)