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Guest post: When You Come To a Fork in the Road, Take It.

Today we have a guest post from a friend of mine who recently won the OPHA essay contest! The topic was health and the environment and her essay really helps you to take your health into perspective and find the little ways you can make a positive difference for yourself! Thank you Vera for all of the great ideas and information. Enjoy!

When You Come To a Fork in the Road, Take It.
By Vera Vos

The Queen Alexandra Birdwing Butterfly lives in a small strip of coastal rainforest in Papua New Guinea. Its entire range is about 100 square miles. With a wing span just over 1 foot, the female Birdwing is the largest butterfly in the world. Their niche within the jungle ecosystem is very specific. Eggs are laid on the leaves of the pipevine plant which the caterpillars consume vigorously for about 1 month until they enter the pupa stage. Pipevine is poisonous and by eating the leaves the caterpillar incorporates poisons into its body making it, as well as the adult butterfly, toxic to most predators – a handy adaptation. Adult butterflies live at the top of the tree canopy seeking nectar from specific flowers that are large enough to hold their weight and breadth.

Unfortunately, three specific things have happened which has placed the Birdwing on the endangered species list. In 1950 nearby Mount Lamington erupted changing a large portion of their former range to a more diverse rainforest with fewer pipevines and fewer high canopy plant species bearing large flowers. Birdwings were not adaptable to these changed conditions. In the last several decades, many acres of their current range were converted to palm plantations, further depleting their habitat. Thirdly, because of its large size and rarity, the species is prized by collectors, adding a unique and very resourceful predator to the mix.

Coyotes are a very different kind of species than Birdwings. Despite habitat destruction and intense hunting pressure by humans, or maybe because of it, coyotes have expanded their range from mainly the southwest to almost the entire North American continent. They are predators with excellent hunting skills and the ability to learn new tricks to capture prey. But they also do fine eating spoiled meat left by other predators, plants, nuts or whatever their particular area has to offer. If their current habitat changes and no longer meets their needs, they move on. Where the Birdwing sees certain death outside their specific niche, the coyote sees opportunity. They are very adaptable.

As a species, humans are like coyotes, adaptable. We thrive on every continent in the world except Antarctica. If our current habitat no longer meets our needs for whatever reason – politics, religion, depleted soil, boredom, weather – we seek new lands to explore and inhabit. We also have an ability, unique to our species, to change our habitat to fit our needs. For example, early Americans burned the prairies to stimulate growth of young, nutritious grasses which increases game species. All over the world humans have converted a myriad of ecosystems into farmland to grow crops. Our ability to harness the environment to our benefit has led us from living in nomadic tribal communities to permanent villages, towns and cities. Read More…

Random Acts of Kindness Weekend

Last weekend was a weekend full of random acts of kindness. It was a weekend that left me with a lot of hope and a large drive to pay it forward.

My boyfriend’s parents were in town and on Saturday we decided to go to the Mariner’s baseball game. We didn’t have tickets or expectations, it was just a nice day in Seattle and it would be a nice thing to do outside. We had lunch outside and arrived to the game a little late (which was ok because the Mariner’s were loosing, no surprise there). We drove around for a little bit trying to find a cheap parking lot, but they were all $20 or more! We drove down a back street and as we started to approach, someone pulled out of a spot that was in the shade! And not only that, it was a free sport, which is pretty much unheard of down by the stadium. Perfect.

We started walking to the stadium to buy our cheap nose bleed section tickets out in the back field bleachers when a car drove past. Stopped a few feet back. Rolled down the window and shouted back at us, “Are you going to the game?” We acknowledged with a “Yes” half expecting them to say that it wasn’t worth it because they were loosing so badly, but to our surprise they replied, “Do you have tickets?” “No,” we said, “we were just about to go to the booth to get some.” “Here you go,” the woman replied, passing us four unused tickets. We thanked them about 100 times. I tried my best to think if I had anything in my purse I could give them to say thank you. A chocolate? A pack of gum? No, that would be weird. A gift card? Nothing. They drove away, all of us were full of smiles and the four of us danced our way to the game singing about our great luck and fortune.

The game was quick and fairly uneventful. Well, for the Mariner’s that is. The White Sox, Philip Humber, pitched a shutout, making him the 21st person to throw a perfect game. Now, if you think of all the major league baseball games, throughout all of the years baseball has existed, between all of the team, that is pretty amazing that he is the 21st. And we were there to see history. Amazing.

The sun was out. The skies were blue and we were happy.

With so much good fortune all I could think about was paying it forward. All of these great things happened to us, so now it was our turn to pass along the good to others that crossed our paths. So, that is exactly what we did and continue to do. This Mariner’s Saturday reminds that everyday is an opportunity to pay it forward and make someone else’s day as bright as that other family made ours.

What have you done to pay it forward today?

Evening of Reflections

The other night I had an evening of reflection from what I watched on TV.

First up was the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. First of all, great movie. Just know that if you are a cryer, you will diffidently shed some tears. The movie is about a boy’s struggle to understand the world again without his fathers guidance. His father, played by Tom Hanks, died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the boy searched through the world to find the message his father left behind with a key he found in his fathers closet. Basically, I cried a lot. It brought back so many memories and pain. The movie did such an amazing job portraying the feelings of that day through one family and their healing process. After this movie ended, I thought I should watch a happier show to boost my mood before bed.

Next I watched an episode of Say Yes to the Dress. No I’m not getting married any time soon, I just really like to see the happiness,  joy and hope on each bride-to-be’s face. However, the bride that was looking for her dress in this episode had just gotten out of the hospital from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her accident happened when she was walking across the street with some friends and was shot in the back. Just a random shooting and now she is paralysed from the waist down. She is only 22. One could say how lucky she is to still be alive, which is very true, but she will never be able to walk again. In that split second her whole life changed. At one point in her interview, she talked about how people get up hundreds of times a day and don’t think anything of it. Just stand up and walk away and that is something she will never be able to do again. Our health is often something we take for granted. You never really know what you have until it is gone.

Needless to say, it was an evening of crying. So much sadness and pain and loss. Yet, there is always a lesson in everything we do. What I really took away from that evening was a reminder of how unpredictable life is. How uncertain each of our days are and how quickly everything can change. These are all good reminders to appreciate what we have today and if you want to do something, don’t wait until tomorrow to do it. Do it now because you never know what tomorrow will be. Also, to live every day to its fullest because each day is a gift.

All of this relates to this weeks 52 Weeks of Good campaign theme: to tell the people you love, that you do indeed love them. Earlier I said it was because we often forget, but another reason is because we never know what tomorrow will bring and a day shouldn’t go by that the people we love don’t know how much we love them.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Sunday, February 26 through Saturday March 3 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

As this month’s theme is awareness, we have a guest post from my co-worker Cal Ledbetter. He has spent a lot of his time volunteering with eating disorder awareness organizations and would like to share some information that may surprise you.

Eating disorders are devastating. Awareness of eating disorders is so important because it is an issue that commonly gets brushed under the rug. Men and women with eating disorders are often times marginalized. Men are marginalized as having a “woman’s problem”, and women are marginalized for being too “looks” obsessed. Both of these ideas are untrue. Over 8 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, one million of them are men. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. It is reported that 5-10% of people with anorexia die within ten years of contracting the disease. The mortality rate is 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females 15-24 years old. This is why it’s important to know the facts about eating disorders and where to get help.

  • People do not have eating disorders because they are “vain.” Eating disorders are usually a by-product of anxiety, depression, or feeling out of control
  • It’s not as easy as convincing someone to eat, or to not purge. These diseases are not easily recovered from. Telling someone they “look better bigger,” or “don’t need to worry about their weight” often does not help.
  • Teenage girls are not the only people who have eating disorders. Middle-aged and elderly women can also suffer from eating disorders, as well as men of all ages and children as young as five.
  • People can fully recover from eating disorders. The early it is treated, the better.

More information about eating disorders can be found here.

Help raise awareness during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. For more information, click here.

If you know someone with an eating disorder, look into getting them help, here

Music on a NYC Subway

There are many ways you can affect someone’s life and most of those things start with how you can change someone’s day. Watch this video someone captured on a NYC subway ride:

Everyone was in their own world on that ride. Thinking about their day and not interacting with one another. As if the person sitting right next to them didn’t exist. Yet, from these two strangers, playing some music for a few minutes on a subway ride brought the train together as a community. Changed the course of the passengers days and added a little brightness to it. In that one act of sharing their talents and their passion for music, they altered the passengers days for the better.

Top 3 songs of today

Something Good Can Work, by Two Door Cinema Club –

One Day, by Matisyahu Featuring Nameless –

We Are Young, by fun –

Spark a Change: Pay it Forward

When I think about how we can change the world, I think about the little things we can do to make that difference. I’m not talking about donating your life savings or taking a year off from work and life to devote yourself to the starving children in Africa. While those would be really amazing ways to create change, those options are not practical for the vast majority of us. What is possible for everyone to do is to focus on their day to day activities. We interact with hundreds of people a day, whether we realize it or not, and it is time to put attention to those interactions. Acknowledge their presence, create a positive interaction and spark that change so the hundreds of people you run into will spread positive impacts to the hundreds of people they meet that day, too.

Here is a video that displays a great example on the impact of paying it forward. Watch it. Then do it.

Follow my blog for easy examples of ways to create change and stories of change makers every week.

You can also follow me on Twitter for daily tips and positive reminders @SprkChange.