Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love animals. Growing up, there was never a shortage of animals in my household; dogs, cats, an aquarium full of fish, parakeets, hamsters, mice, lizards, bunnies. And although I've never had a dog of my own since I left home at 18, I do love them and enjoy spending time with them whenever possible. This past weekend, as I strolled through the city, I met a pug named Lila, a poochie named Boscoe (yes, named after George Costanza's password, the dog's person told me when I inquired) and a pack of poodles who were super cute and super friendly. They were very charming, I must say! My affinity for the doggies is strong, therefore, today I bring you two items canine-related.

HEAVEN'S ANGELS: Tough Guys & Puppies
In Sunday's New York Times, this article described a group named "Rescue Ink" that formed in New York City. You know it's going to be a good article, with the first few paragraphs reading like this:

They met on the local hot rod scene. They saw one another at tattoo conventions around the area, comparing bikes. They looked like heavies, a band of Hells Angels, with nicknames equally tough: Mike Tattoo, Big Ant, Johnny O, Batso, Sal, Angel, Des.

They meant no harm. Clad in leather, inked to the hilt in skulls and dragons, with images of bloodied barbed wire looped about their necks, they shared something else — a peculiar tenderness for animals, and the intensity needed to act on the animals’ behalf when people abuse them.

“I’m a vegetarian,” said Mike Tattoo (real name Mike Ostrosky), a former bodybuilding champion with a shaved head, great arms covered in art and a probing clarity in his blue eyes. “And Big Ant has in his backyard three guinea pigs, a couple of rabbits, birds, cats — and fish everywhere. But just because a person has tattoos, they wouldn’t come running with us.”

The group became a little larger over the course of about 15 years, with various animal-loving, tattooed bikers in the New York area joining the conversation. One member, Angel Nieves, a 47-year-old retired city police detective, grew up in the projects on West 125th Street and remembered taking in strays from the streets as a boy, as did many of his cohorts. He owns a tiny, white bichon frisé named Cris.

Having run in crowds where animal abuse was rampant, often involving pit bull fights, the men volunteered at shelters and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Toward Animals, and they tried to solve cases of missing or abused animals that other organizations had neither the time nor the resources to address.

Next month, the bikers will begin a program in the city’s public schools to educate children about being kind to all animals, even the less attractive breeds. They will be accompanied by Elwood, a small, hairless Chihuahua mix judged in an annual California contest to be the World’s Ugliest Dog.
To read more about the efforts of these wonderful men and their commitment to the dogs and cats of greater New York City, continue the New York Times article, by CLICKING HERE. Also, be prepared for a fun slide-show of the men in action!

VOTE YES ON 3: Massachusetts Voters Can End Greyhound Racing in Their State
As if one could forget, I still urge people to mark Tuesday, November 4th on their calendars. It is Election Day! Not only do we get to vote for our next president, Massachusetts voters have the opportunity to vote to end the cruel practice of greyhound dog racing within our state. As some of you may remember, back in November 2000, we had this question on the ballot. It lost by a 1% margin. 49% of Massachusetts voters wanted it banned. 51% did not. The racetrack owners' budgets were a lot larger than the volunteer organizations' budget and they did a great job campaigning for their cause. Well, luckily, us volunteers collected enough signatures this year to get the question on the ballot again this November. Why should you vote "YES" on Question 3? Here are some reasons:

Racing greyhounds live in confinement; they are warehoused in tiny cages for 20+ hours per day. Since each racetrack needs a minimum of 1,000 dogs, they are kept in tiny warehouse-style kennels, where most cannot stand up or turn around.

They are injured while competing. These dogs suffer from broken legs, broken necks, paralysis and cardiac arrest. And then they die.

They are fed Grade 4D meat, to keep costs down. This meat is not fit for human consumption. You might think, well, what's the difference between this Grade 4D meat and the meat found in commercial dog food? Well, the difference is, the meat fed to the greyhounds is raw. Yes, RAW. That also keeps costs down. With raw meat consumption comes the risk of disease spreading pathogens, like salmonella. Would you feed raw Grade 4D meet to your pet? No, I didn't think so.

These dogs compete year-round, in all sorts of weather. As you know, New England has very cold winters. These greyhounds are thin, small dogs with very short, thin fur.

When a racing greyhound is lucky enough (and allowed) to be "rescued", adopting them out can be difficult, as these dogs are usually quite timid or very aggressive, from their past mistreatment. They've never been a pet or lived in a house before, so qualified adopters who have the time, patience and ability to help these dogs adapt, can be hard to find.

The abuse that takes place at Massachusetts' two greyhound racing tracks is documented. There is no denying it. Also, greyhound racing has experienced a sharp economic decline. People just aren't interested in it and a lot of those people have come around, because they've come to know the inhumane living conditions of the animals and have chosen to cease supporting it. And for the naysayers who complain "What about the jobs that will be lost, if greyhound racing is outlawed?" I have two answers for you: #1 If the ballot question passes on November 4, the racing would be phased out. The ban would not begin until January 1, 2010. Additionally, the Committee to Protect Dogs has promised to volunteer it's time to help the displaced workers find new jobs. They are very serious about this. #2 When slavery was outlawed in the United States, jobs were lost. But wasn't it more important to end the cruel and inhumane practice of slavery than it was to displace people who profited from the slave trade? The people in positions of power had options and other ways to make money. The people in captivity had no voice, no choice. We needed to make a law that protected them, not their captors.

These days, you see pampered pets everywhere. Dogs have their own spas and get massages. People spend money to stage mock weddings of their dogs (Earlier this week, I saw online, that The Today Show recently had a doggie wedding fashion show on, complete with doggie bridal tips). I see dogs with expensive Coach and Louis Vuitton collars. People will spend oodles of money on organic dog treats, dog walkers and anything else that they think their dog will like. In my hometown of Boston, there are doggie bakeries, yes, bakeries! Just for dogs! Why should we care so deeply and bestow so much love and affection on these dogs called pets, but completely ignore the cruelties that these racing greyhounds face every day of their dismal, lonely lives? These greyhounds needlessly suffer. You, as a voter, have a chance to change that!

For more information on why greyhound racing should be banned, please visit these websites and please, VOTE YES ON QUESTION 3 on November 4th.

PRO DOG: The Committee to Protect Dogs


Thank You!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Nod to the Olympics

Anyone who has read Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" know what kind of trouble we get into when our ego takes over. The following story, which comes from my mental_floss magazine subscription, shows what happens when people don't let their ego get in the way. From Mental Floss' Olympics issue, I give you this story:

At the 1936 Berlin Games, Japanese pole vaulters Shuhei Nishida and Sueo Oe tied for second place. The teammates were offered the opportunity to have a jump-off for the silver medal, but the two friends declined out of mutual respect for one another. For the purposes of Olympic records, Oe agreed to the bronze while Nishida took the silver.

Upon their return to Japan, the teammates came up with a different solution. The pair had a jeweler cut their medals in half and fuse them back together, creating half-silver, half-bronze pendants. The "Medals of Friendship" as they're now known in Japan, are enduring symbols of friendship and teamwork.

I thought this was a great story because it has it all; action, drama, friendship, sportsmanship, inspiration and a resolution that has now created a wonderful legacy. The Olympics bring about a lot of emotions and a sense of pride and community. To read about another woman's zeal for the Olympics, please CLICK HERE for Madness Rivera's blog.

To read my other postings about Eckhart Tolle, please CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More Inspiration via Determination

Today, while reading the July/August issue of mental_floss, an article regarding the Olympics reminded me of a story I first learned of, last summer. Last July, when I had the pleasure of seeing Jack Canfield in person at the BCA/Cyclorama here in Boston, one of the stories he told was about Cliff Young, an Australian farmer who had never run a race in his life. And in his early 60s, he showed up for the first Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon. This Ultra Marathon was 544 miles. No, that is not a misprint or a typo. Five hundred forty-four miles! Cliff showed up to the race, no, not in the latest high-tech running shoes, but in workboots and overalls! He believed he could run the race, based on his experience as a farmer, working long hours in the outdoors and sometimes not sleeping for days, due to the nature of his work. He had no training and no previous running experience, except for a few years of recreational running. But what he did have, was BELIEF. Belief in himself and his ability to do it. Well, to make a long story short, guess what? Cliff, at age 61, did complete the Ultra Marathon.

And actually, he WON the Ultra Marathon. Yes, he came in First Place. Did I mention that this was a 544 mile race? And Cliff's first? And Cliff had no training and had never run a race before? And Cliff wore workboots and overalls? And also, Cliff was a vegetarian since the early 1970s.

Jack Canfield told the story in his usual animated way. I don't think I can do Cliff Young's story justice, in my own words here. I invite you to read more about Cliff Young, who died in 2003, in his 80s. Here are two links, you can access by clicking HERE and HERE. So, remember, belief is crucial. If you can believe it, you can achieve it.

For more of what I learned in the Jack Canfield workshop, please see my prior blog posting by CLICKING HERE.

Believe it, achieve it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Inspiration from Someone Else's Determination

I read this story on MSN's website over a month ago and found it so intriguing. Sandra Welner's accomplishments are so incredible, that at first you might not believe her story. The determination that both she and her mother had just blew me away. Sandra's life inspired many people, including her boyfriend, Jeffrey Lovitky. Prepare to be amazed and inspired!

SANDRA WELNER'S STORY (as appeared on MSN)
He thinks of her every time he gazes at the painting — a blazing orange sun she drew a few years after the tragedy. It is the only splash of color in his tiny K Street office and it gives him great joy, and a stab of sorrow.

He thinks of her every time he plucks a new $5 bill from his wallet and sees the large purple numeral emblazoned in the corner. It reminds him of how he used to sort her money: $1 bills in one envelope, fives and tens in others. And of course he thought of her last month when a federal appeals court ruled on a case that could result in the redesign of the entire U.S. currency. It was one of the great legal victories of 53-year-old attorney Jeffrey Lovitky's career, and he wishes she could have been there to share it.

But had she been there, it might never have happened.

For the lawsuit filed on behalf of the American Council of the Blind was never just about discrimination or changing the currency so the blind can distinguish a $1 bill from a $20.

It was about a brilliant, gifted woman who changed so many perceptions and overcame so many obstacles that those who knew her never doubted her ability to continue inspiring enormous change, even from the grave. It was about the memory of a smile.

In his second-floor office, Lovitky sifts through a well-thumbed photo album. "Here's a Sandy smile," he says, plucking a picture from the page. "And here's one. And this is truly a Sandy smile."

The pictures show a petite brunette nestling into his shoulder under a cherry blossom tree, playfully pushing him in an oversized beach wheelchair on the sand, clutching his arm at a black tie event at which she was receiving yet another award.

His eyes mist at the memory — Sandra Welner, the brilliant physician whose dazzling smile and tenacious spirit stole Lovitky's heart.

He found her after placing a personal ad in a Jewish newspaper — or really, she found him. He remembers the letter she wrote in response — not the words, but the tone. She sounded so intelligent, so lively, so interesting, and yet there was some obscure reference to a disability.

"I really must meet this person," he thought.

Their first date was in an Irish pub in April 1994. She was already seated when he arrived, and he felt an instant attraction to the radiant young woman with the gentle brown eyes and tumble of dark curls.

They talked for hours. She told him about her practice as a gynecologist, running a clinic for women with disabilities; about her parents — Holocaust survivors from Poland who had created a new life and family in Pittsburgh; about her travels all over Europe, Australia and Israel. But there were things she never mentioned in those first few hours. He had no idea that she couldn't see his thinning hair and clear blue eyes, that she could only barely make out the shape of his face. Or that she had called the pub earlier to ask about the menu, so she could pretend to read it when she ordered.

It was only when they were preparing to leave, when she stood unsteadily and asked for help in getting a taxi, that he realized that she had difficulty walking. She held out her arm. Grasping it, he sensed they would be together for a long time.

Their dates were simple: walks in the park, petting horses at a stables near her Silver Spring apartment, takeout Thai dinners and occasional splurges on extravagant chocolate desserts at the Willard Hotel. She discussed her medical cases. He told her about his legal ones. Devoted news junkies, they often spent Saturday nights by the computer, Lovitky reading aloud the big stories of the day.

Gradually, he learned what had happened in those terrible days back in 1987.

She was almost 30, already a leading expert on fertility and women's reproductive health. She had a large circle of friends and colleagues, a thriving career as a micro-surgeon and no shortage of suitors.

Traveling alone on vacation in Europe, Welner fell ill — so ill that she checked herself into a hospital in Amsterdam. Her family is not certain what happened next except that she went into cardiac arrest and suffered a serious brain injury. Welner's mother, Barbara, 81, still sobs at the shock of seeing her comatose daughter in a foreign hospital. Even if she survived, doctors said, she would be lucky to regain the ability of a 2-year-old.

"NO!" the mother cried. Not my brilliant, beautiful daughter, who could paint portraits that belonged in galleries, who played the violin so exquisitely that she was offered music scholarships in high school, who graduated from medical school at the age of 22. This was a child who, at the age of 12, had begged not to join a family vacation to Florida because she had enrolled in college courses instead.

Now doctors were saying she should lock her away.

"Not my Sandy," the mother said.

And so, for 16 days in Amsterdam, she read medical journals and newspapers and played classical music for her lifeless daughter. She talked to her and caressed her — anything to trigger a response. She got none. "The doctors thought I was delusional," she said. Back in the United States, doctors offered the same grim prognosis. Again, the mother said no. And so Barbara and Nick Welner took their child home to New Haven, Conn. They read to her. They fed her. They bathed her. They taught her to count, to swallow, to sit up. They cried with her. Hour after hour, for days and months and years.

It wasn't a miracle, her mother says of her daughter's steady, excruciating recovery. It came of a determination so powerful that it burst from her broken body with a force that nothing could hold back.

But there were moments that felt like miracles. The day Sandy took her first tentative steps. The day a friend phoned from Israel, where Sandy had worked, and she began speaking in fluent Hebrew. She hadn't forgotten a word.

"I was in awe," her mother said.

Years later, as Lovitky heard these stories, he too was in awe. But not just of the woman he had grown to love. He was also awed by the older woman who became his dear friend. "Sandy had such spirit and such courage," Lovitky says, "but her mother did, too. Such effort, such faith."

This was a woman who had fled the Warsaw ghetto with false papers as a young girl, who with the help of the Red Cross found her way to nursing school in England and eventually married a fellow Polish refugee in the United States. Both husband and wife had families who perished in concentration camps.

The Welners raised four children, two boys and two girls. But Sandy was always the star. "There was just this sense that she would accomplish extraordinary things," says her brother, Michael Welner.

By the time Lovitky met her, Welner's vision was severely damaged, her hands shook, and she walked with an unsteady gait. But her speech and mind were clear. And her memory was better than ever.

Lovitky marveled at her defiance. She refused to use a wheelchair. Instead she would pile the chair with her medical books and push it. Or she would use a cane.

She was dependent on others — the stream of medical students she paid to help her read, and write and file, on strangers to help her catch a cab, or spend money. And yet, Lovitky says, "she was more independent than anyone I knew."

She went skydiving in Australia, alone. She climbed — inch by inch — the ancient historic site, Masada, overlooking the Dead Sea in Israel.

When she eventually moved into her own apartment in Washington, she insisted on cooking great Passover seders for her family. "If Sandy wanted to do something, nothing was going to stop her," Lovitky says.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

WATERMELON: What a Melon!

Yum! The watermelon this summer has been delicious and I've been recommending it as a healthy alternative to my clients and especially to those who have strong or frequent sugar cravings. Instead of grabbing that cookie or candy bar, consider this luscious melon! Quite frankly, it takes like candy, but a much healthier and fulfilling version! And it is also one of the more affordable fruits this season.

Here are some interesting facts about watermelon:

* They are native to Africa and date back to 2000 BC in Egypt

* Because of their high water content, they were used as a source of liquid in areas where water was limited or tainted

* They are in-season May through September

* Best to buy firm and slightly underripe

* Whole melons will typically have better taste than pre-cut melons

According to Paul Pitchford's book, "Healing with Whole Foods", watermelon is a cooling food which can reduce heat in the body. So, if you're feeling hot due to the summer's rising temperatures, watermelon is an excellent choice. Also, other forms of heat in the body would include anyone who is suffering from an inflammatory condition, such as arthritis or nephritis and the like. Watermelon is also great for the kidneys and the lungs, so anyone who has a temporary or chronic kidney or lung condition would benefit greatly from consuming watermelon, as it helps to tonify and balance. Watermelon can also be used to treat edema, urinary tract difficulties, canker sores, depression. And though most of us don't consume the seeds or rinds, they too, have benefits, which include dilating the capillaries (which lowers blood pressure), easing constipation and helps with diabetes. If you're looking for potassium, watermelon has as much as a banana. Potassium is micronutrient, necessary to human function, which helps maintain electrolyte balance in the body. Other nutrients that the watermelon provides are magnesium and Vitamins A, C and B6.

Now go enjoy some sweet, tasty watermelon. The season comes to a close in a mere 8 weeks!

I enjoy mine cut up in squares or chuncks and eaten with a fork. As you can see by my "before" and "after" photos. Eat yours however you like; just be sure to eat it and savor the sweet flavor!