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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Category: History

What you can do right now

Like you (I presume), I feel sick. And sad. And helpless. And like I just want to find everyone affected by this attack and squeeze them, and let them cry and tell me all about what they’re going through.

But I’m not helpless, and neither are you. Here’s a list of things you can do today – right now.

1) Contact your representative and tell her/him what you want done. It’s fast and SO easy. Think about your stance on gun ownership (Should getting a gun be easier than getting a fishing license? Should it be easier to sell a gun than sell lemonade?), and make it heard.

Contact your Representative

2) Donate to an organization focused on safe gun ownership and gun control. Did you know donations to the NRA spike after mass shootings? Think about that.

Brady Campaign


Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

3) Help the Orlando LGBTQ community process, grieve and recover by donating to one of their organizations.

Equality Florida

The Center Orlando

Zebra Youth

Orlando Youth Alliance

*Update: The Pulse Tragedy Community Fund has been set up by The Center Orlando, expressly for victims and their families.*

4) Share what you know. What other actions can we take today? Please leave your ideas and resources in the comments.

Hearts by Wendy MacNaughton

Hearts by Wendy Macnaughton, @wendymac


Day 235: Beautiful and Heartbreaking

We live in an extremely complex country.

We are the same, in that we live here. But we are different in nearly every other way. We think differently and look different. We seek different opportunities and see success in different ways. We are protected under the same laws and enjoy the same freedoms, but we experience them differently.

And some of us are racist. Incredibly. Loudly. Publicly. In blog comments and on Twitter feeds. Sometimes we don’t care whether or not anonymity separates our words from our names. We know if we put our racism out there, someone, somewhere will agree.

But even more of us will disagree. Determinedly. Passionately. At our jobs and in our coffee shops. On our Facebook walls and in the laws we pass. We’ll have the conversations and remind ourselves that this is a complex country and we don’t all think the same way.

And isn’t that beautiful and heartbreaking.

P.S. A video:

Day 150: My Weekend with Oliver Sacks

Over the weekend, I attended Live Ideas: The Worlds of Oliver Sacks in New York. It. Was. Wonderful.

Live Ideas was a five-day festival of dance and discussion exploring the mind-body connection through Dr. Sacks’ work.  You may know Oliver Sacks as the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, or the semi-fictional doctor portrayed by Robin Williams in Awakenings. He’s a neurologist and writer known for his in-depth case studies of people with unusual neurological disorders.

I’ve read three of his books (I’m currently mid-way through a fourth—Hallucinations) and have been mildly obsessed with his work for the better part of a decade. The way he writes and thinks about his patients is fascinating, kind and brilliant. So when I heard about Live Ideas (thank you, Erin), I booked a ticket and signed up for the events in three minutes flat. Dance + neurology? Sold.

In the brief weekend I spent listening to Dr. Sacks, watching footage of his patients, listening to his publishers and peers, watching dance and generally being inspired, overwhelmed and delighted, a small window into his world emerged. This is potentially a much larger post, but in favor of sharing my excitement immediately, below are a couple of things I took away from the weekend and some quotes from the man himself.

Hospitals are non-narrative. They’re built to collect metrics and provide diagnoses. But as Lawrence Weschler, a panelist in Sacks the Writer: Process & Influence pointed out, neurology is all about narrative. “The brain secretes stories,” as he says, and tells the doctor how it is functioning and what might be amiss. Dr. Sacks’ way of collecting and recounting his patient’s stories is part of the treatment. He has somehow always understood that to know a person’s brain is to ask them how they are.

It’s possible to be empathetic and academic. Dr. Sacks’ care for his patients is compounded by his interest in the way the brain functions. The stories he writes read almost like poetry, but they are precise and based on systematic observation and careful listening. Dr. Chris Adrian, one of the other panelists, brought up the question of empathy within the medical field. He said, “Can one person participate in and truly understand another person’s suffering? In reading Sacks, I think the answer is no. But he shows us that we can—and should—surely try.”

Straight from Dr. Sacks:

“Human beings’ capacity to forget is very, very great.”
With regard to forgotten diseases, such as encephalitis lethargica, the “sleepy sickness” that attacked the nervous system and left its sufferers catatonic and mute in the 1920s. Dr. Sacks worked with survivors of the disease in the 1960s and, at the request of those who could speak, documented their stories in Awakenings.

“No one got more disappointed with the stem cell situation than my patients with Parkinson’s, who thought their lives were being sacrificed for fetuses.”
Reflecting on the way Parkinson’s disease kills dopamine-generating cells in the mid-brain, and that there is no known cause or cure.

“Any physical activity will work. Exercise of any sort calls on the executive functions of the brain, which takes patients out of dysfunction.”
Answering a question about how dance and physical activity can positively combat brain disease.

“What I did then I would surely be imprisoned for now.”
Telling the audience his experience with administering L-Dopa to catatonic patients in the 1960s and how he ignored the DEA’s mandate to perform a blind study in favor of treating everyone. 

“Oh, there’s nothing overwhelming about me.”
After I asked him for a photograph and nervously admitted being overwhelmed by meeting him in person.

Day 104: Weekend Watching

Sir Ken Robinson is a creativity expert, an author and an international advisor on arts and education. While you’re juggling ballet classes, naps, farmer’s markets, shows, errands and absolutely nothing this weekend, get comfy in your favorite chair and watch his presentations from the 2006 and 2010 TED Talks. You’ll be so glad you did.

He makes a compelling and humorous case for an education revolution—a new way of thinking about learning that exposes and nurtures children’s natural talents, rather than squishing them into linear and not terribly creative systems.

Without innovative children, we will lack innovative adults. And without innovative adults, our species is sort of screwed.

TED 2006: Do schools kill creativity? 

“We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children. There was a wonderful quote by Jonas Salk, who said, ‘If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.’ And he’s right.”


TED 2010: Bring on the learning revolution!

“…education, in a way, dislocates very many people from their natural talents. And human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep, you have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”

Day 58: Letters from Camp

When my mother was but a wee Girl Scout camper, her younger brother Craig wrote her a letter from home, keeping her apprised of the latest home happenings. It’s a lovely letter—especially when he tells her about all the pets who either died or ran away in her absence (namely Snoopy, the rabbit).

Here it is:

Dear paula
Are you having fun without
Two Brothers to Bug you around.
The Bird Died Monday,
I miss you to.
The porch is pretty.
The fish and gurbles are ok
Snopy is gone.

In the spirit of camp letters, here is my letter from camp (Australia) to my friend Michelle, who is watching Brian Boitano for me while I travel:

Dear Michelle,

Australia is great. I’ve met a lot of nice people and eaten lots of mangoes. I also touched a jellyfish (accidentally) and a turtle (purposefully). I’m okay.

If Brian dies while I’m gone, don’t worry. I’m sure it wasn’t something you did.




P.S. I swear that jelly came out of nowhere.