Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Help Save Walter!


...And so they did!

Everything I write about obviously impacts me in one way or another, but this story took my thinking to another level. I’ll explain later…

As a previous dog owner of a German Shepherd, I often had a hard time differentiating him between dog and human. He was just SO smart and SO great and I still miss him today. I think many pet owners feel like I do and my guess is that when Walter was tossed out of a car on Easter Sunday in Brooklyn, NY – people were simply ready to help. In fact, if it wasn’t for one person in particular, Alex Darsey, I’m not so sure this poor little Pit Bull would still be here.

When Alex found Walter he was scared, dehydrated, malnourished, and suffered a horrible case of mange...he was left for dead. Alex took him to the emergency room with some friends that night and it was then that they decided they would help Walter get better together. After a short time, they realized that Walter was going to need continual emergency care and they didn’t know for how long. For that reason, they decided to reach out and ask for financial help. They began a blog and this is just one piece from the initial post…

Over the course of the last few days we have had to ask ourselves whether it is in Walter's best interest to continue treatment...He is not in pain, and he is fighting to survive. The doctors feel that with time and care he can beat the infection. Unfortunately emergency care is very expensive, and we simply don't know how long he'll have stay there. As long as he is fighting to stick around, we will fight with him. Any help you could offer would be immensely appreciated. There is no shortage of people to care for this little man and he does have a home waiting for him, we need to get him strong enough to make it there.
Read More Here

Who would have known that this little blog called Help Save Walter would be the miracle he needed. Donations from ALL OVER THE WORLD started to flood in and really haven’t stopped. Walter’s Facebook page currently has over 16,000 fans and I couldn’t believe all of the loving and supportive comments being left. I couldn’t believe what he attracted. I had to stop and think about this and I had to ask Alex a few questions too. I always wondered what someone in this position would feel like…

1.Do you think Walter fell specifically in your hands for a reason, or do you think you were just at the right place at the right time?

I'm not sure if Walter and I were cosmically preordained to meet, but I know that it certainly feels like we belong together. I can't imagine him being with anybody else.

2.If it wasn't for your compassion and generosity, Walter may not be here today. Have you ever done any type of rescuing in the past?

This was my first experience as a rescuer. I'm usually depending on people to rescue me.

3.It was noted that once you and your friends started the online campaign, Walter's spirit turned around instantly - curious to hear your thoughts on that?


Well, Walter was getting the very best care and received a huge amount of love at the emergency room he was staying at. He pretty much had round-the-clock care and attention and I'm sure that helped him want to fight. He went from basically flat-lining to showing small signs of improvement every time we would visit. I think his spirits were really lifted by all of that.

4.I believe you and your friends started a non-profit because of this, can you please tell us more?

Yes. Because of the help and generosity of all the people who decided to give to Walter's cause and the incredibly wonderful (and unexpected) decision of the hospital director to funnel the majority of the money we raised into a fund that helps strays and abused animals, we were able to start a non-profit in Walter's name run through VERG.


5.What have you learned throughout this entire experience?


I think the most important thing I've learned is that people are pretty good. Some times in day-to-day life you lose track of that and get caught up in all the selfishness of the world and compassion kind of goes out the window. Then, something like this happens and you become just overwhelmed with people’s kindness. It was quite an incredible thing to experience.


6.How is Walter doing today?


Walter is maybe the happiest dog alive now. He splits his time between me and my great friends (the couple that helped with all of this) and they own Walter’s best pal, a French Bulldog. He is dealing with a weakened immune system that needs monitoring and also had a couple of staph infections that were treated, but beyond that he couldn't be better!

I mentioned that people’s love for their own animals may have been the reason they decided to help, but when I mentioned that it made me stop and think on another level, I was thinking about this…

•Are we constantly given situations to remind us of the “true” human spirit?
•Did all of the combined healing and praying energy at the vet and around the world significantly help to save Walter?
•Was it to remind us that when we join together, the possibilities are endless? Unimaginable?
•We see situations of hope, great compassion and love – what if we all saw and felt that every day, every minute, what would the world be like?

I can go on and on and keep asking questions, but the one thing my intuition is telling me…in spite of faith, religious or spiritual beliefs…it’s all about love.

So happy for Walter, and for his new family too!

Good job Alex & Friends!

Good Job World!

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm Just Walkin'

So I read about this man, Matt Green that walked around 3100 miles from New York to Oregon. That’s right, walked. He wasn’t doing it for a cause or for media attention; he was just doing it for the sake of walking. I had to learn more and immediately went to his site - imjustwalkin.com – and I think I was there for…um…forever!

I was drawn to how he wrote and what he wrote. He provided a short answer and a long answer as to why he was doing this; but I’ll give you a piece from the long answer that resonated with me – “A couple years ago I started a walking group called Hey, I’m Walkin’ Here! in New York City, and my love for walking really blossomed over the course of our adventures. Moving through the world at three miles an hour, you can fully take in your surroundings. There’s nothing separating you from your environment. You notice things that go completely undetected by people zooming by in cars. It’s such a rich experience: you can see, hear, and smell everything around you, and even touch and taste things if you feel like it.”

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m reading the Power of Now and I thought it was interesting how this story found its way to me. It was just another reminder that when you fully take in your surroundings, you’re essentially not missing out. Many of us become engulfed in past or present thoughts, or completely bury ourselves in a fast-paced world and we miss what’s happening right in front of us. It made me think that this would be a good exercise for everyone on the planet, among many other things…

Matt shared his route, timeline, equipment and supplies for this trip and provided descriptive pictures along the way. We all know pictures speak a thousand words and I love that he chose this format. Some were beautiful scenery shots- some animal shots- accidental shots- funky shots- many supporting people shots, etc. etc. When I have more time, I really want to continue where I left off.

He also shared two lessons that he learned:

1. Have some faith in this world.
2. There’s beauty everywhere.

He did elaborate, so you should really read more here; however, I wanted more. I wanted more of his insight and more of his experience. I always say people learn from each other, and I couldn’t wait to read his responses to my questions…

1. Did you have any predetermined notion of what this trip would be like?

I didn't really know what the trip would be like, as I had never done anything similar before. I also wanted to keep my mind open and experience the country and the adventure without preconceptions coloring what I was seeing and feeling, so I tried not to set up expectations about the trip.

2. How did the first step compare to the last step?


Surprisingly, the first and last steps didn't feel all that different. I guess there was more relief and less nervousness in the last step, but this trip had a way of evening out my steps, of making each one feel equal to the last, more or less. I'll get to this a little more in question 4.


3. You finished on August 30th and stated that you’d need months of contemplation and reflection, but shared two obvious lessons. Can you please share more that you’ve learned since your initial lessons?


Those two most important lessons are still the main things rattling around in my head. I just can't believe the contrast between the kindness and generosity that I encountered, on the one hand, and this dangerous and scary world that seems to exist in people's heads, on the other. I feel like baseless fears are eating away at so many people's lives, all in the guise of "playing it safe". When something scares me now, I try to make it a point to think about whether it is a justified fear or not, and make sure I'm not missing out on something wonderful because of something irrational.


4. What is the one moment you will never forget?

This question ties in with the second lesson I referenced above, and the comment about my first and last steps above that. I used walking directions from Google on my trip, and basically just blindly followed them from one side of the country to the other. I didn't try to see anything in particular along the way; I just wanted to see what lay on my arbitrary route and challenge myself to discover the beauty in wherever I was. In this sense, I was traveling without destinations, which is very much the opposite of most sightseeing-oriented vacations. The benefit of doing this is that I was never just counting down the miles and idling away the hours until the next Big Attraction, because there were no Big Attractions. This put each step on an equal footing, so to speak. When you drive five hours to see something, your experience and perception of that thing are colored by the expectations that such a long trip entails. But when you are just out walking for the hell of it, without any particular destination in mind, no step carries any more expectations than any other. They're all equal. Everything you see is a mere step away from the last thing you saw; you haven't built up expectations about what you're experiencing, and I think that gives you the opportunity to more fully appreciate things for what they are, and not what you expect them to be. In my walk, I found that this opened up a hidden world of beauty to me, the beauty of the things all around us that we can't normally see because we're looking for something else. But I wasn't looking for something else because I didn't know what else to look for. This approach to my trip, combined with the slow speed and immersive nature of walking, allowed me to see the world in a way I never have before.

So... there certainly were more and less exciting moments on my trip, but I don't like trying to compare them against each other. I think to try to hold one experience above the others goes against the lesson I learned about just taking in whatever is around you and appreciating it for what it is, and not worrying about how it stacks up to anything else.


5. Did you experience any kind of awakening or new life path because of this?


The closest thing to an awakening that I had was my answer to the last question, that I need to do a better job of appreciating and not taking for granted the beauty that is all around me. Whether this leads to a new life path or just a richer experience of the one I'm currently on remains to be seen.


I told my boyfriend I love this man after reading what he wrote…is that wrong? :) In all seriousness, I just think his lessons are sincere and powerful. In actuality, they are quite simple and I think many of us just miss the simplicity of life. We tie so much “happiness” into money, jobs, possessions, significant others, etc. and it will never fulfill anything we personally lack. And many live in fear - fear of inadequacy, fear of death, fear of others, fear of living - and it would be a commitment to do otherwise. This story somewhat reminds me of the movie, Peaceful Warrior, and if you haven’t seen it, I’d suggest doing so. I can go on and on about this subject, but one day, I actually hope to fully live it myself; until then…

Thanks for sharing Matt!

Has anyone attempted something similar to this, or plans to?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beads4Dreams

I mentioned in a recent post that inspirational people just keep showing up- most likely because of what my focus has been on, but I love it. Recently, I walked past a booth at a local fair and it was filled with jewelry and pictures from Africa. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, so I stepped in. The booth was very welcoming and so was the woman running it; her name is Susan Cannarella.

I quickly learned that all of the jewelry was handmade by Susan and the paper beads within each design were made by women in Uganda. The pieces were beautiful, but the fascinating part was how it all started, the 100% donations and where it is today.

I’ll let Susan explain in her own words…

1.What made you start Beads4Dreams?

The company I work for, Aspen Re America, has a partnership with the ISIS Foundation which helps fund projects at Kiwoko Hospital in Luwereo, Uganda. In Sept 2009 I traveled there with some colleagues to see what our money was accomplishing at the hospital. I was so moved by what I had seen that when I returned I felt I had to personally do something to help. I started purchasing paper beads from Uganda from two different non-profit organizations- Paper to Pearls and Beads of Love. On Thanksgiving weekend 09 while with my husband’s family in VT, I started creating bracelets. My family started buying them as I was making them. Next, I set-up a table in the cafeteria at the corporate center where my office is and sold all 60 bracelets in less than an hour…I felt I might be onto something. From there I’ve just been selling anywhere I can-even out of the trunk of my car. To date, I have raised just under $14,000.

2. Can you explain how it works?

I now get the paper beads directly from the woman's craft group at Kiwoko who make crafts to support their families. I create jewelry using the paper beads mixed with pewter, glass, crystal, wood and ceramic beads. I then sell them and send 100% of the proceeds to the ISIS Foundation for Kiwoko Hospital.

3. Did you have to overcome any fears or insecurities to really put this into action?

I did have to overcome my fear of speaking to strangers. I am pretty insecure and self conscience so talking to people at fairs or shows and relating my story and being a "sales person" was just uncomfortable at first.

4. How has it impacted your life?

Being able to go to Uganda twice now has impacted my life greatly. I feel so connected to the people there and want to help in any way I can. I have met so many incredible people through this project. For example, I was at the Glastonbury Apple Festival (in Connecticut) a few weekends ago and this lovely African woman came to my booth. She was looking at all of the jewelry and information I had set out. She finally said to me that she was from Uganda and knew of Kiwoko Hospital! She was here because three years ago she came to visit and got very ill. It ended up that she had cancer and needed treatment. She is now a survivor and is going to return to her home in Uganda. She kept thanking me for what I am doing and even wanted to take my picture. What a small world. I hope I am impacting the lives of the people at Kiwoko in a positive way.

5. What is your long-term goal for Beads4Dreams?

My goal is to continue with this project and try to get others to think about helping those less fortunate.


This is such an inspirational story for me because ALL of her efforts are done from sheer kindness-she does not make a cent. She travels to different fairs and invests her own money and is willing to give up her valuable time to fully support the ISIS Foundation. As she said, she sells anywhere and any way she can and I know that recently she started doing house parties as well. So if you live in Connecticut, make sure you book a party.

When she was telling me her story she was so warm and down-to-earth and even though she mentioned the issue of becoming a “sales person” -I must admit, that will never be her style. Not because she isn’t good, it’s because she is so authentic. When you meet someone like that, it sends a message right to your core and there is no sale involved. It’s hard to explain, but I have a feeling many will know what I mean…

I asked Susan why she does this for the people in Uganda and she said she gets asked that question a lot. But she also said it’s because they are just so grateful and know how to live with joy. They do not expect anything and yet, they are so happy with very little. I remember thinking that this type of attitude would really make others want to help them and then I thought I need to learn how to live like that. In fact, my sisters joke with their kids and say go to Africa and you will see what nothing means. Now that I think of it, they may have even said that to me once or twice in the past. I would love to witness that kind of spirit and seeing as how my name is Kenya, I’ll have to visit one day and experience it first-hand.

Susan is also a photographer and takes amazing photos when she is in Uganda. You can see more of her work and more of her jewelry here - http://on.fb.me/cmVxnK- And be sure to become a fan and help support this wonderful mission. By the way, I love the earrings I bought…and I believe she takes phone orders too.

Stories like this are necessary in today’s world and I know they always lift my spirits. I hope it does the same for you…

Susan is a wonderful reminder of what giving really means!

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