Friday, July 26, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Guide Dogs for the Blind

Did you ever wonder how dogs learn to be guides and get partnered with people in need? Well, I did. Today, Feel Good Friday goes to San Rafael, CA to visit Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Don and Lois training dogs.
According to their website, they provide "enhanced mobility to qualified individuals through partnership with dogs whose unique skills are developed and nurtured by dedicated volunteers and professional staff."

The school was incorporated in 1942 by Lois Merrihew and Don Donaldson who believed dogs could be trained to help wounded servicemen returning from World War II without their sight.

Today there are two campuses, the first in San Rafael, CA and the second in Boring, OR. Training is provided for the dogs, as well as for the people who are going to work with them. As of today, Guide Dogs for the Blind has graduated more than 10,000 teams of dogs and people!

Betty White wants you get involved and who doesn't want to do what Betty White says? To see for yourself what it's all about you can either tour the San Rafael campus Monday through Saturday at 10:30am or 2:00pm or schedule your tour to coincide with a graduation. If you live outside the area you can watch the 4:25 minute video Soul Mates.

Other ways to get involved - volunteer to be a puppy raiser, donate some cash or like their Facebook page to keep up with current events.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Estonia's Bank of Happiness

Yesterday, I heard a story on NPR that screamed Feel Good Friday. Well, given that it was NPR it was more of a polite assertion rather than a scream.

Estonia is near the top.
It was about the Bank of Happiness, founded five years ago in the Estonian capital Tallinn. The great news is that you don't have to live in Estonia to participate. In fact, people connecting through this forum live in countries around the world.

In the words of their founder, Airi Kivi, "We were inspired by the clear understanding that there is a gap in the society between humane caring and economic well-being. We were then and are today convinced that the formula of happiness lies in noticing others. We feel that people want to help others, but often don't know how. On the other hand, we know that there are people who need help in solving their daily problems but don't know whom to address. This led to the idea to bring these two parties together and create a website for it.

Founder, Airi Kivi
The name "The Bank of Happiness" gave the structure to the idea. In our eyes, all people can be the clients of the Bank. Everyone could think a little and find something that he or she can do well or is fond of doing. We believe that by dedicating one's personal time it is possible to experience positive emotions. It can be advice on a computer issue, lawn mowing or teaching German. In the Bank of Happiness every good deed is worth one Star of Gratitude or a friendly smile!"

Whether or not you ever participate in the Bank of Happiness, you can certainly take inspiration from their values and try to apply them to your daily activities.

  • We notice others around us.
  • We believe that every person has something to give.
  • We know that every person is valuable and can do good.
  • We acknowledge and respect all who contribute to other people's well-being.
  • We care about each other and about the world around us.
  • We give special attention to the weak ones and help them.
  • We take part in life actively and encounter other people.
  • We have an open heart and positive thinking.
  • We create and develop the gratitude economy.
  • We smile and we are happy.

You can click on the link to listen to the original NPR story and stay connected with them by liking their Facebook page!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Beth Terry: My Plastic-free Life

As you enjoy this Feel Good Friday and get ready for your weekend to start, I hope you are sipping some water from your own, reusable cup. Why? Here's why.

In 2007, Oakland resident, Beth Terry read an article about plastic in the oceans that was accompanied with a picture of a dead bird whose stomach was full of plastic bottle caps, cigarette lighters and other items. That week she made a commitment to buy no new plastic which, over time has become a crusade.

Her blog, My Plastic-free Life, explains Beth's story in greater detail, shares valuable resources for living plastic free and invites all readers to take the Plastic Trash Challenge. In it, you collect the plastic you use in a week, take a photo, write down what all of it is and then answer questions about what could be reused or replaced with a non-plastic alternative. Your results are posted on her site to help keep you motivated and on track.

I kept track of my plastic use for two weeks (sorry no photos) and was properly horrified. From spinach in a bag, to yogurt in a tub to virtually everything in my bathroom - and ladies, I do mean everything - the amount of plastic in my life was shocking. And I thought I was pretty environmentally aware. I bring my bags to the store, have a reusable cup for my water and try to avoid items with excessive plastic packaging (Trader Joe's nectarines, I'm talking to you).

Awareness is the first step, but what comes next? Her book, Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too is full of stories and tips geared towards people at all stages of plastic usage. But what difference does one person reducing their plastic make? More than you think. Check out her talk about why personal changes matter: TEDx.

Beth and Britta
In it she'll let you know that Brita water filters are recyclable in Europe but not the US. When she called Brita to ask them to make it possible for people in the US to recycle their filters she was told Americans don't care. After starting a campaign and website then submitting a petition with 16,000 signatures, those of us living in the US and filtering our water with a Brita system now can recycle the filters.

This makes me think of a quote from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

So, you thoughtful, committed citizen you. What's next? Take the challenge, make a commitment to reducing the use of plastic in your life or just recycle your water filter. You'll help the oceans, the marine life and yourself!

You can find out more about Beth at her press page: and stay in the loop by liking My Plastic-Free Life on Facebook.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Mama Hill

I'm short on time today so this Feel Good Friday comes straight from the website Take Part.

It's the story of a 73 year old woman in Watts (Los Angeles) who has opened up her home to neighborhood kids to give them structure, love and a safe place to be after school.