Friday, February 28, 2014

Writing ideas

You might think I would run out of writing ideas after doing this blog every day for so many years.  No so!  I still have tons and tons of ideas!  (Oh and I guess that I should confess that we have missed a few days here.  I didn't write anything for a few days after Mom died last year and I also briefly limited this to six days, taking Sundays off from blogging.  I found that I missed it though and there is so much to say)!

I can tell you that I plan on writing very soon about the fourth installment in the Go Inspire Go 50/50 videos. I'm told we're about to find out how hiphop is saving lives and creating young humanitarians. It's a story from New York City that I am really looking forward to, and of course I'll tell you all about it here.

I will certainly share some more stories of other hometown heroes too. I love sharing those heartwarming tales when I come across them.  Oh and the suggestions about how we can all give back.  There are so very many ways, and so there is always something to write about there.  Women's History Month is coming up and I will write about that here too.
 
What I did want to mention once again today though is YOU.  This blog has never been about me - it's about making a difference in the world.  That making a difference is something we all can do and so many of the suggestions and ideas are ones that I'm sure you have too.  Would you like to share some of them?  Do you have a few writing ideas you want to pass along?  Is there a story you'd like me to tell?  Let us hear from you.  Please share your comments below!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Little Dresses

This is such  a great idea and such a wonderful organization, that you may have already heard of them.  There mission is a pretty simple and straightforward one that you may have figured out from just their name.  Little Dresses for Africa distributes dresses to schools, churches, and orphanages to Africa (47 countries there so far), and to girls in need in other countries like Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Thailand,  and even parts of the this country.  They do also make pants for boys too.
 
Some folks sew.  Some people help with things like shipping.  Some donate money.  The involvement though is huge with people participating here in the United States and Canada and also in other parts of the world.  Some places even have sewing parties where many people come together at a time and produce multiple dresses to send in.  Little Dresses for Africa is a Christian organization, but that doesn't restrict who can volunteer or donate funds.
 
Want to know more?  They have a very good website with lots of information and even pictures.  Go to http://www.littledressesforafrica.org and you can also watch their video HERE.  Very uplifting!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Paying it forward

In his 1841 essay Compensation, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody."  In other words, instead of paying back the person who did this good for you, pay it forward to someone else.


The idea isn't a new one but it can certainly be extraordinary.  In his movie, Haley Joel Osment, tries to make a huge difference in the lives of others after his teacher assigns the class to think of something to change the world and put it into action. Osment begins a movement that is responsible for some pretty incredible actions.


We're not just talking here about RAKs (random acts of kindness), although sometimes they are the same.  There may be another movement these days because I have certainly been hearing a number of heartwarming stories. Back in October of last year, three men from Give Back Films tipped a waitress at an International House of Pancakes $200 and then filmed her reaction.  Recently, a patron at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Nebraska left an 18-year-old waitress a tip of more than $6,000, enabling the young woman could remain in Bible college. In Knoxville, Tennessee, a family left a $1,075 gratuity for the $29.30 their check, after overhearing the waitress speak of her personal financial troubles.
 
Of course we may not all have the funds to be this generous, but we can still help.  Sometimes a group o people will get together for a cause.  Several people working together will lower the cost.  The cost does not have to be high either.  Next time you are in a restaurant and you see a waiter heading to someone's table with their check, intercept that server and pay the check yourself.  Paying it forward will really make you feel wonderful.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Celebrities granting wishes

When busy celebrities take time to do nice things for others, it really warms my heart.  Yes, some do it for the publicity, but even then it can be nice because it helps someone else.  John Stamos has done several nice things like this.
 
Not long ago the former Full House star lifted the spirits of a 19-year-old quadruple amputee by visiting her at the hospital and promising to take her on a visit to Disneyland. He later sent out a message that he did it simply because she asked!

There is an organization called Project Cuddle which is dedicated to preventing baby abandonment, working with pregnant women in distress to provide shelter and to give them guidance. John Stamos is also the spokesperson for them.

Of course John isn't alone. NBC newscaster Brian Williams, San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sergio Romo, and even youtube sensation Ryan Higa have all taken the time to brighten the lives of people who are ill or in need.
 
One of the San Francisco Giants' stars, Tim Lincecum, provided smiles to a young boy too.  His story his HERE.
 
I should point out that granting wishes or making people feel good, isn't always being done through an organization or agency.  Most of the cases I cited here are stars just responding to a need.  May they be an inspiration to us all!

Monday, February 24, 2014

There's been a death among the sisters

Late last night Edward Huser, better known as Sister Barbi Mitzvah, ended earthly life, passed through the Veil,  and joined the Nuns of the Above.  One of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Sister Barbi Mitzvah certainly was a giver in the truest sense of the word.  Ever since they formed back in 1979, this order of queer nuns has devoted itself to truly making a difference in the world with their ministry and outreach to the marginalized and those on the edge, to promoting human rights, performing community service, and respecting the diversity of the community.  Certainly Sister Barbi Mitzvah was a shining example of the order!
 
From his early days in New Richmond, Wisconsin through those college years in Minneapolis, Minnesota Ed was touching people's hearts long before coming to San Francisco and becoming a Sister.  There was no stopping him when it came to how many lives he would touch. When you touch so many people and die so unexpectedly, there is bound to be great sadness, and I am certain that folks all over are going to be profoundly sorrowful as the learn this news today.  Messages of thanks will likely come from all over for all Sister has done at the Folsom Street Fair and at so many other activities here in and also, Portland, the Russian River and other parts of the world.  I personally will remember those Pink Saturdays and also Sisters Bingo.
 
It's too soon to know of plans for memorial services, but certainly there will be remembrances.  A donation to The Sister of Perpetual Indulgence would certainly be welcome and you can easily give by clicking HERE.
 
 
 
 

 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The beauty of the hyacinth

Look at this pretty pink hyacinth.  I can just imagine the glorious fragrance!  These bulbous flowering plants are native to the eastern Mediterranean (from south Turkey to northern Israel), and are signs of spring in Iran and Iraq.  I can remember when I lived in snow country, seeing them poking up through the late winter snow storms as they heralded the coming of Easter and springtime.
 
I often think of them at this time of year, although it is a wee bit early.  It really can never be to early to think about the beauty of the hyacinth!  They are so pretty and that smell is like none other.
 
Oh my!  Imagine how much greater our world might be if we would only slow down and occasionally smell the flowers and enjoy the beauty of these wonderful parts of nature.  Beauty is all around.  Enjoy it!  Share it!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I'm gay

When Ellen DeGeneres publicly came out and announced that she is gay back in 1997, it was a big deal. Gay celebrities lived in the closet most of the time fearing that their careers would be hurt. Ellen even had her tv sitcom character come out. When Lance Bass came out nine years later it wasn't as big. There already were some openly gay musicians and Lance was not currently doing that much performing. As more and more people came out it became easier for the next.

Neil Patrick Harris plays a non-gay role on his hit television show, so you might expect him to be the last to tell the world he is gay, but tell he did, around the same time as Lance.  Did is popularity go down?  Nope.  Not a bit.  In fact he seems to have become more popular.

Rosie O’ Donnell, Cynthia Nixon, Victor Garber, Meredith Baxter, and George Takei and just a few of the dozens who in recent years have said "I'm gay." Each time someone says it there seems to be a little less surprise and a little less controversy.  Gay people exist.  Some of them are famous.  It's really no big deal.

One area where there has still been a lot of hesitation is in the world of sports.  Yes, there have been exceptions, but seldom do we see those who play team sports come out of the closet. Even that is beginning to change.  In a weekend interview with ESPN's Outside the Lines, Michael Sam, the AP's SEC Defensive Player of the Year, said that he is gay.  That really is a big deal because Sam is eligible for the NFL draft in May, and assuming that he is drafted, could become the first openly gay player in NFL history.
 
Closets are really just for clothes and so more and more people are being open about who they are.  People are being honest and the honesty is being rewarded in the form of more acceptance and more equality.  It's about time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Be water smart

Last month, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought.  It might be difficult to remember that right now here in the San Francisco area where today is the fourth straight day of rain, but we really have had a long dry spell.  Yes, Marin County just got twelve inches, but that isn't gong to erase the drought conditions by itself.

In times of shortage - any kind of shortage, it is good to think about conservation.  We can always treat our resources with more respect.  In the case of water, we all need to do our part.  One very obvious thing we can do is take shorter showers, not request water in restaurants unless we are actually going to drink it, and don't hose down the sidewalk every single day (and certainly not on a rainy day).

If you have a large lawn or a garden, try placing water collection barrels or large buckets to collect rain water and use that water to water your plants. A bucket in the shower to catch the excess water also helps. Consider landscaping with native plants adaptable to your climate's conditions, and water the lawn only when necessary.
 
We all need to think ahead and not wait for drought declarations.  Being water smart really can make a difference.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

who benefits?

AIDS Walk San Francisco is a major annual fundraiser of HIV/AIDS organizations.  You may have taken part in the past.  Every year I walk and many of those who read this know that I take great joy in raising a higher total each year.  Where though does all the money go?

According to the official AIDS Walk press release, "For 2014, 37 HIV/AIDS organizations have already signed on as co-beneficiaries of AIDS Walk San Francisco in order to support essential, direct services and advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS. Many also wage innovative and targeted HIV prevention efforts."  The logos of these organizations are above and you may recognize some of them.  Project Open Hand and API Wellness Center have long been favorites of mine, but each of these groups does wonderful things.

There is also a lead beneficiary of AIDS Walk San Francisco, and that is Project Inform. This is a 28 year old organization which you can find our more about by simply going to http://www.projectinform.org/about-us/what-we-do.  I'll tell you more about those other organizations at another time.
 
Last month I told you here about LifeCycle and today just a bit about AIDS Walk's beneficiaries.  Here are two great ways to get involved though.  You can register to participate.  You can come and cheer on your friends.  You can donate money or help with a fundraiser for another participant.  Think about it.  It's fun AND it helps others!
 
 

Monday, February 17, 2014

end the ban on gay blood

Several times here I have written about the importance of donating blood.  My late Aunt Dee was both a regular blood donor and a blood bank volunteer and she reminded me how important it is for there to be donations from all blood types and that men and women, young and old, all kind of people can donate.  If you never have done this most wonderful thing, do it.  You will be helping others, and you will have a sense of having done good.
 
Now last August I wrote here that gay men are banned from giving blood.  The 30-year-old blanket ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men continues in place despite numerous efforts by politicians and activists, including Campbell, CA Mayor Evan Low who currently is a candidate for the State Assembly.  The online petition that he started has received 62,435 signatures.  A college group started another petition on whitehouse.gov and it too received many signatures.  Still though if you are a gay man, you cannot donate blood.
 
It is true that thousands contracted AIDS back in the 1980s from blood tainted with HIV, and this gave the FDA a solid reason for their lifetime ban on gay and bisexual blood donations.  That was then though.  Testing is much more accurate since then and the elimination of any male who has had sex with another male since 1977 simply doesn't make sense.
 
It takes all kinds.  Everyone should be able to donate.  Yes, of course we want disease free blood, but it certainly isn't determined by someone's sexual orientation!  So to those of you who can legally donate, I hope you will, and to all of you, I hope you will join me, Mayor Low, and all who seek equality, in ending the ban on gay blood donors.  It's the right thing to do!

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Visit to API Wellness

Every Friday I have been writing here about HIV and AIDS and I certainly couldn't leave out one of San Francisco's treasures, the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center.  I've written about them several times before and there really is much to say because the work they do is enormous. They provide free and confidential HIV testing, treatment, and case management, and also mental health and substance abuse counseling, and on-site primary medical and psychiatric care, client and treatment advocacy, and group and individual support for Asians and Pacific Islanders living with HIV/AIDS.

A&PI Wellness Center was formed in 1996 out of a merger of Asian AIDS Project (which began back in 1987) and Living Well Project (which was formed in 1988) and it became the largest A&PI-focused HIV/AIDS organization in North America. I have been fortunate to know many f the volunteers, board members, and staff of this great organization over the years and I haven't just read about their accomplishments, I have seen them firsthand.  It seems that each year they do more and more, but of course it takes money and it takes people to make it all happen.  Donations help.  Volunteers can help a lot too!  Although we certainly are doing much better than in the 80s, AIDS is still with us and organizations like this one are vital.
 
Find out more about them at their website:  http://www.apiwellness.org - you can also easily donate by clicking HERE.  You can send checks too.  Their address is Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, 730 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109.  Interested in volunteering?  There are a variety of opportunities for that as well.  Check out the info on their website and get involved!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine correctness

When I was in school, kids would bring in Valentine cards to exchange with other kids in their class and sometimes with other classes as well.  There was a problem though.  It ended up being a popularity contest.  A new kid who wasn't known or the students who weren't as popular might not get any cards at all.  Instead they would have hurt feelings and would go home crying at the end of the day. 
 
These days some schools have a policy that if you bring Valentine cards in to exchange, there must be one for everyone.  Is it fair though to tell a child who he must give to?  Should the school even get involved?  What do you think?
 
It isn't just about the kids either.  There is s much pressure to remember Valentine's Day that some people try to outdo each other.  If there are four women in an office and one gets a huge bouquet from her husband, will the other three feel bad?  Will they think that their own partners have let them down because no gift comes or it there is one perhaps it is not as "showy."
 
Are you doing anything special for Valentine's Day tomorrow?  Has Valentine's Day become too commercial?  Is there something we should change?  How would it be if we celebrated love every single day?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter of Love

Marriage equality was unheard of ten years ago when then-mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom ordered the City and County of San Francisco to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Even when told it is a bad political move, Newsom would not back down. At that time, gay couples could only wed in The Netherlands, Belgium, and two Canadian provinces.   Today is the tenth anniversary of what came to be known as the Winter of Love.

It wasn't smooth sailing of course.  There would be numerous court battles, a ballot proposition, legislative attempts, and finally late last year a Supreme Court ruling before same-sex marriage finally became legal for good in California, but it was Newsom who got the ball rolling. Same-sex couples can legally marry in sixteen states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington), the District of Columbia, and several Native American tribes, but there are those who will argue that it was Gavin Newsom's act ten years ago that brought us to the point we are at today. There is marriage equality now in numerous countries as well.

The first wedding was of LGBT icons and pioneers Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin. That marriage was ruled void but they were married again (with Newsom officiating) when a state court ruled it legal later on.

This afternoon there will be a gathering at the base of the Grand Staircase in the Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall and the events of ten years ago will be remembered. First, a group will proceed to the Clerk's office where in years past there has been a protest in the fight for marriage equality. This year though the group will thank the clerks for marrying so many. The City's official celebration of the 10-year Anniversary of the Winter of Love will then continue in the Rotunda through the evening with special thanks to Gavin Newsom.

Newsom, now California Lieutenant Governor, was not the only love warrior of course and other brave souls will be honored as well. The fight still goes on in so many places, but ten years ago things were set in motion by people who truly made a difference!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You've gotta have Heart

While Friday is Valentine's Day, as you know, and folks will be giving and receiving heart shaped boxes of candy and celebrating love, this is also the month that we focus on another heart. A vital organ in our bodies, and not shaped at all like those candy boxes, the human heart in an adult is the size of a large fist and it functions as a pump, providing a continuous circulation of blood throughout our bodies. We can have serious problems if our hearts are not healthy.

In the United States today, over 25% of all deaths are caused by heart disease. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.  The American Heart Association is one of many organizations working to change this and every February they, and other groups set out to raise funds for research and treatment and to also raise awareness.
 
Go to http://www.heart.org for a host of information about the human heart and how to be heart healthy.  You can also click HERE for information from the Centers for Disease Control.  Know your own body too and get regular check-ups and ask questions of your doctor.  Your heart is important.  Take good care of it!

Monday, February 10, 2014

12 yr old protects animals

Telling you about Go Inspire Go is one of my favorite things because I really believe in them and am personally inspired by the stories they share.  They feature stories about regular people who do some pretty incredible things and I really like that at the end of all their videos, they tell you how we all can get involved and give back.  I am particularly enjoying their 50/50 stories where they are bringing us fifty stories from all fifty states.  They have just released the third of those stories.
 
Now this all began when GiG founder Toan Lam had an idea to spotlight fifty hometown heroes from each state.  To get there required money and so he set up a fundraiser.  Thankfully that was successful, and so they were off.  The first story they told was of a young man in Arizona who started the Be O.N.E. Project, to stop bullying in school even before it starts.  The next video introduced us to a generous man in Los Angeles who gave up his house for a year to a homeless family of five.  Now we come to the third story, and this one tells us of a youngster who at the age of twelve is inspiring people to protect animals and has founded an organization to aid this. 
 
To see this latest GiG 50/50 video, click HERE and to find out more about the organization Lobby for Animals that he founded, click HERE.  You of course an always find out more about Go Inspire Go too.  Their earlier stories are very inspiring too!  Check out their website at http://www.goinspirego.com/ and if you have story ideas, let them know.  If you can make a donation to help out with their wonderful mission, you can also do that through their website.
 
Go Inspire Go is such an inspiration with every single story they tell.  Telling wonderful stories is such a wonderful way to give back!

Friday, February 7, 2014

A true pastor

We generally think of clergy as people who make a difference in the lives of others.  Holy men and women who are called to minister sometimes are even placed on a pedestal and we expect more from them then is humanly possible.  Occasionally you come across an exceptional clergyperson.  This week I said goodbye to one.
 
My policy here has always been to respect the privacy of others and so I write about public figures and people who have already received news coverage.  The person I am writing about today is neither of those.  He is a simple parish priest and therefore I won't mention him by name or the church where he has been serving, but I will say that it is a wonderful thing to know him!
 
Conducting services he truly excels at because he knows liturgy, has a wonderful clear speaking voice, can preach on virtually any subject and make it interesting, and his singing is like a foretaste of heaven.  A priest must do more than conduct services though and this one does all kinds of marvelous things, like getting his parish involved with their neighbors, reaching out to the homeless, and becoming better connected with the wider Church.  He is also pastoral - I know that first hand.  He went with me to the hospital during a medical emergency I had several years ago and he stayed with me there in the emergency department through the night.  He was also there for me when my mother died last year, and I have seen him minister in a similar fashion to others.
 
Sunday was his last day with his current parish and he has already arrived in his new city on the other coast.  I hope that he will remember us with love, as we shall remember him.  This man is a true pastor and he has made a difference in the lives of many!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

filling the gap

So many times I have said, when you see a need, fill it. That's exactly what Lacuna Giving Circle is. There was a need in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities and so a group of friends - a circle of interested API philanthropists, came together and formed Lacuna.

Lacuna, according to my Oxford dictionary, means an unfilled space or interval; a gap. The circle came together to fill a gap. What a great idea! They raise money, as I understand it, and then present grants to deserving API organizations. Their website (HERE) probably explains it better.
 
It's pretty hard to go it alone, so it's really great that this organization came into being.  They're only a few months old, and I'm sure they could use your support. Perhaps others could use this model too and help fill some other gaps.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

San Francisco hero Stu Smith has passed away

Yesterday I had been up for a few hours, when I heard some sad news. Stu Smith had passed away from cancer on Monday night. I decided to wait until today to write about him, hoping I would have information on memorial plans, but I simply had to write about Stu. Although I have never written about him before, he was the kind of person this blog is all about. He was a giver! His heart was bigger than San Francisco. His smile lit up every room. His soul will be with us forever. 

He was known for his love of community and his love of hamburgers (on yelp he was called "Burger Guru"). Stu was involved in so much for the community here in San Francisco. His life of volunteering included time with Saint Anthony's, Tin Pan Alley, the Positive Resource Center, San Francisco Firefighters Toy Drive Program, the San Francisco Publicity Club, the Castro Country Club, and Applied Aquatics Institute. He was currently serving as president of the Board of Shanti. He also wrote a column for the Bay Times. Oh yes and he had a couple of cable television programs.

Stu Smith had been HIV-positive for 25 years and had suffered heart attacks, had bone disease and osteoarthritis, but none of this really slowed him down. He kept giving and giving and giving. Even his advancing years didn't stop him. He was well like all around town and seemed to always be willing to lend a hand.
 
How wonderful that this man was recognized too. For his volunteer work at Shanti, he was awarded The James C. Hormel Community Spirit Award a few years back. He also received The Mugsy Mareclino Award for his advocacy for accessible transportation services for the disabled. Last year, Stu was awarded the KQED Local Hero Award for leadership and advocacy within The LGBT Community. Talk about making a difference in this world - that's what Stu was all about!
 
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adjourned its meeting yesterday in Stu's memory. Last night candles, pictures, and flowers sprung up at a spontaneous memorial at 18th Street and Castro in San Francisco, but that is just the beginning of the tributes. His husband William David Earl says more formal arrangements are being planned. Rest in peace Stu and thanks for all you did!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

World Cancer Day

Just eleven months ago my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and ten days later, she passed away.  Mom had already been living with a blood cancer, leukemia for a number of years.  Human beings can be affected by over 200 different known cancers.  Today is World Cancer Day and it was established to encourage more awareness along with prevention, detection, and treatment.
 
So where do we start?  In terms of early detection, regular checkups are vital.  Also, get to know your body and be aware of unusual changes.  Learn about the most common cancers too and what you can do to prevent them. 
 
Don't be afraid to ask questions too.  If your doctor gives you information that you don't understand, say so.  Also, feel free to see out additional sources of information too.  For 100 years your American Cancer Society has been leading the way and you will find all kinds of information on their website.  Just go to http://www.cancer.org/
 
The biggest focus of World Cancer Day is to reduce death and illness caused by cancer significantly by the year 2020.  It is not likely that there will ever be a single cure for cancer, as cancer is an umbrella term for many diseases involving unregulated cell growth.  Take a moment today though to think about friends and loved ones that you have lost to various forms of cancer, and then vow to do something about it!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Celebrating Black History

Black History Month is celebrated every February in the United States and Canada.  Now there are those who don't like that such a commemoration exists. The wonderful actor Morgan Freeman, said: "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."  Yes, but isn't it wonderful to spotlight different groups of people and highlight their history and heritage?  We celebrate LGBT Pride Month, Irish-American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, and even Filipino American History Month. I think the more we know about ourselves and the more we know about others, the better we can all live together and get along.

February is then the month for African Americans. It was officially recognized by the US government back in 1976 thanks to President Gerald Ford and has been celebrated ever since. Most school kids have special programs during the month and local libraries, government groups, and museums and other businesses offer various lectures, plays, and presentations to highlight the history of African Americans. There are a number of special television shows highlighting Black History Month as well, particularly on Biography and on the History Channel. Click HERE for some of the tv information and even more HERE
 
Regardless of your own heritage, take some time to look at the history of the great men and women who happen to have been African American.  Morgan Freeman is quite that Black history is American history and that is a very good reason for us to know it!