Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Take a Break: Draw a Stickman/Enjoy Apples

While you can easily doodle a stick figure on a scrap of paper, check out the very fun Draw a Stickman on line.

Apple season is now in full swing in the Northeast, so it’s a good day to do something with apples. Try the following:

Apple Shrunken Heads

Apple Recipes

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Life’s What’s Happening When You Are Making Other Plans/Giving

I continue to blog about the aftermath of Hurricane Irene because it is still very much a situation I deal with daily. It has highlighted for me many of the issues that people with chronic conditions deal with but in spades. Regardless of what may be happening to you, life continues.

As if to prove this point, on Wednesday, one of the Air Guard, working on recovery efforts in my town, died suddenly from a heart attack. I knew Master Sgt. Stocker as a very fit and able man, who was very dedicated to the purpose of helping others, whether it was through his relief efforts in many parts of the world or in his job in corrections. Many of us who knew Stocker, as he has been with us since the beginning of September, were stunned and shocked. “How could this be?” was the initial response from just about everyone. This was followed closely by “what should we do?”

The “what can I (we) do” question is one I here all the time and in many situations. In the initial phase of the disaster, few people asked that question because it was very clear what was needed. However, as time went on, and routines were established to deal with daily issues, not only did I hear this question repeated frequently, but it was added with “let’s do a fundraiser.”

My response of “who is the beneficiary” was not appreciated.

Crisis brings out the best and the worst in people. Many want to give. While many are in need, they are not comfortable receiving and unfortunately, there are those who want to take advantage of the situation for their own gains.

In July I wrote two posts related to giving to those in need:
How to Respond When Someone is Ill or Injured

Unique Gifts for Hospital Patients

While both posts provide very practical answers to “what can I do,” they do not address the issue of fundraising in response to crisis. So here are some basics to consider before launching into this arena:

• Is the money raised for an individual-such as a person who needs a bone marrow transplant? Hospitals that provide complex procedures, where individual fundraising often occurs, can provide some guidelines. Since this is a very complex topic, I will blog about it specifically next week.

• Are there existing organizations in your community that could benefit from a fundraiser? If your community has a food shelf and/or social services agency, this may be a good choice for your donations.

• The Red Cross does an incredible job in disasters and can definitely benefit from donations. The sound of their helicopters circling over our shelter was music to my ears. They not only worked with us to identify needs and how to fill them, but they provided much needed information such as how to work with FEMA, getting people to accept help and providing us hugs when we needed them.

• Local churches and civic organizations (such as Rotary, Lions Club) will often have small funds that they distribute. Many will give to anyone in the community and have less stringent guidelines then social service organizations. These groups will have the appropriate certification to make donations tax deductible.

• Be very wary of newly formed groups. While some may be legitimate, others can be scams. Learn who is behind the organization (who are the board members) and what are the guidelines and timeframe for distribution of money raised.

• Condition specific organizations, such as the local chapter of your Parkinson’s Disease Association, may appear to have nothing to do with the disaster. However, their constituency has been impacted just like everyone else, and because they are already dealing with difficult situations, the crisis significantly multiplies issues.

FEMA has a good handout on donating during disasters. The one thing I would add to that is start with your neighbor. Can you help them? Keep in mind that gifts cards, be it for gas, the metro, to the local department store so they can purchase their own underwear, or to a restaurant they like are very helpful.

Remember to take care of those who are the caregivers. One of the things I will always remember was a woman, who I did not know, bringing me a lemon meringue pie. I was blogging daily from the shelter to keep our community informed, (these can be read at and made a comment about how I was so tired of brownies and would really appreciate a lemon meringue pie. Once the work of the day began, I didn’t think twice about what I had written. When she arrived with the pie, I was finishing up a meeting with one of the work crews. It was a wonderful boast for all of us who had been working many hours at that point.

I’d like to end this post with a special note of thanks to Sgt. Stocker who gave so willingly to our town. I will never forget our chats in the chaos of the shelter and your beliefs about giving. Peace.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Take a Break: Design Your Own TV Show

How many times have you watched a TV program and thought, “If they had just done x, y or z, it would have been a lot more interesting.” I’ve spent more than one late night waiting for food at a diner discussing “brilliant” ideas for game shows, reality TV worth watching and a sitcom that would be a sure fire hit.

Today’s “take a break” is all about jotting down the TV show you’d like to watch or you think others might enjoy.

Use whatever format interests you. It could be a documentary for PBS, talk show, cooking demo, an adaptation of your favorite novel, a new series for the Science Channel, or even what you think Oprah should really be doing with OWN.

Once you have your idea, you can share it with friends and keep on kicking the idea around, or you can do something with it. Many people aren’t aware that many public access channels are always looking for new and creative ideas. If you don’t know the local public access channel for your community, go to Your local PBS channel might also be interested.

Finally, there are ways to submit your idea for consideration by one of the larger networks. Check out the following links and happy brainstorming.

The TV Writers Vault

How to Sell Your Idea for a TV Show

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Power of Purpose

Since my town is still in major recovery mode from Hurricane Irene, I’m very aware of the impact of the flood has had on some of our older residents.

About the third day the shelter was open, a friend stopped by and I asked her how her folks were doing, since they lived in a fairly rural part of town with dirt roads. She broke into a big smile, “My Dad is running the crew that’s putting the road back together.”

From sun up to sun down, this 80-year-old man was on his tractor, overseeing men half his age, and reconstructing roads. Not only was he being complemented on his skills, he was welcomed as a hero as various neighbors were getting out for the first time. His daughter couldn’t help but note the change in him, “he’s having a great time and looks ten years younger.”

Because people were cut off, one of the primary ways we were able to find out who was in need of help, were social networking sites like Face book. Many people in my town have generators as well as “smart phones.” Even if it was for 10 minutes twice a day, people fired up their generators to check e-mail and to report on the recovery operation in their area. Among my best e-mailers was an 86 year old woman who e-mailed daily to let me know how things were going. She was such an inspiration, it wasn’t long before her sister, also 80 something, was e-mailing to let me know what they had to donate to the relief effort.

About a week after the flood, I saw my friend’s Dad and there was no way you would have thought of him as elderly. He had purpose, his skills were recognized and he was actively engaged in something he enjoyed.

Again and again I saw the older members of our community coming to the shelter to cook, drop off items for the relief effort or serve food. They had smiles on their faces that stretched from ear to ear. They were making a difference and they knew it.

Among the keys to a good quality of life, which does impact longevity, is having purpose and interests, particularly ones you share with others. While there are lots of websites, books and articles about “finding purpose,” the advantage of a crisis is that it rapidly defines purpose for just about everyone.

Since it’s preferable not to have to be dealing with crisis on a regular basis, below are some tips on finding purpose and making a difference

• Volunteer: No matter if it’s your local church or organization, volunteering helps many find purpose. If you are limited in your ability to get around, there are many things you can do from running an on-line support group to making “friendly calls.” Check your paper for local opportunities or try one of the following websites:
Volunteer Match

United We Serve

UN Volunteers

• Look around and see what your community, family, neighborhood, support group might need. It could be as simple as taking care of the neighbor’s dog during the day while they work to organizing a support group where one doesn’t exist.

• Do what you love. What have you tried that makes you fully engaged? What are you most passionate about? What are you good at? What do you like to talk about or learn about? Whatever it might be, do it whether it’s income producing or not. Call it “following your bliss,” or whatever term you choose, but know that when we are fully engaged, we experience happiness and contentment.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, regardless of our age, talents or abilities, we all have something to give and share. This means that we all must be willing and open to receive the gifts and purposes of others.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Take a Break: Palm Reading/Mazes

Halloween is about six weeks a way, so what better way to get yourself in the mood than to learn how to read palms? Well I suppose there are lots of things you can do, like carve a pumpkin, but for some reason, I found it fun to learn how to read palms. So whether you want to be the palm reader at a Halloween party, or you just want to know what those creases in your hand mean, check out the following links:

How to Read Palms

How to Read Palms Video

If palm reading isn’t working for you this week, what about mazes? If you can walk a corn maze, check here for locations, they are lots of fun. If you don’t have one nearby, check out KrazyDad’s Free Printable Mazes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Things I learned from Irene

As I noted in Wednesday’s Take A Break, I live in one of the “island” communities of Vermont that were heavily impacted by Irene. For 10 days I was manning the relief shelter in our town. So this is what I learned from that experience, which I think has direct bearing on living with a chronic condition:

1. You have to be willing to receive as well as give. Yes, there is that adage that it is better to receive than to give, but I think that means that if you are giving you are most likely not in crisis.

2. The 1, 2, 3 Rule needs to be followed even in a crisis
a. First take of yourself. If you aren’t strong, you can’t be at your best to help others.
b. Second take care of your family and close friends
c. Everything else comes after that.

3. You have a much better perspective on things if you have: slept (take a nap); eat or gone to the bathroom (even if it is in a porta pottie). Take breaks.

4. When you are upset, you may want to eat all the time or not at all. Have healthy foods. Better to pick at carrot sticks, nuts and grapes then brownies. When someone is in crisis, bring healthy snacks. If I never see another brownie it will be too soon.

5. Ask for what you need.

6. Facebook, blogs, e-mails are critical tools to network and keep people informed. Use them wisely though.

7. The brain is an amazing thing. Left to its own device, it will begin the healing process so that within a week to 10 days you will have adjusted to the “new normal.”

8. People have natural inborn compassion, which shows itself in wonderful ways in a crisis. Yet, once the initial crisis passes, people quickly forget and it’s business as usual for many.

9. Crisis happens. It can change us and the way we live. Don’t miss the lesson. Good things can come from hard times.

10. When the immediate phase of a crisis ends, the longest and hardest part of the process begins. People and support are needed throughout. Just because someone wasn’t there for the crisis phase doesn’t mean they may not be more helpful in the longer phase.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Take a Break: Art from Plastic Bottles

I live in what is now being referred to as an “island town.” We were hit pretty hard by Irene, making it difficult to get in or out of our town. It’s not a good sign when the governor, the National Guard, FEMA and the Red Cross are checking out your neighborhood in a helicopter.

For the last 10 days, I’ve been at working at the relief shelter. If it’s of interest, you can read more about it at While I wanted to set up an arts table, I was being pulled in many different directions and didn’t have a chance to do so. However, a local art therapist did just that. It made a big difference to everyone when she took the many empty water bottles lying around and gave a workshop on what you could make with them.

She cut the bottom of a bottle and then made cuts so that it folded back like a flower. With a bit of paint and glitter, it looked like an exotic piece of beautiful art. You can also make a bracelet by cutting out the center section of the bottle, and then gluing tissue paper

Below are some other ideas for turning plastic bottles into art:

Lava Lamp and other ideas

Water bottle crafts

Recycled Water Bottle Bead Bracelet

14 Ways to Make Water Bottle Crafts