The Angry Asteroid

Imagine you’re an asteroid, minding your own business, and out of nowhere… KaBlam!

All things astronomical tend to intrigue me. I find nothing more comforting than looking up at the night sky and realizing that all my cares and concerns don’t even amount to a grain of sand on the celestial beach. I also enjoy the fact that there is still so much to learn about our universe. For me, as long as there is the potential for knowledge, life is worth living.

So imagine my joy when I learned that NASA was once again attempting something that had never been done before, and we’d be able to get an unprecedented view of their efforts. They were experimenting, for the first time, with a type of planetary defense system that, if successful, might one day save us from Armageddon in the form of an asteroid impact.

DART, or Double Asteroid Redirection Test was, in essence, a suicide mission for this unmanned craft. The scientists wanted to see if crashing DART into an asteroid at the speed of 14,000 miles per hour would alter said asteroid’s trajectory in any significant way.

This was an impressive feat indeed, because at the time of impact the asteroid Dimorphos was roughly 6.8 million miles away from earth. And we managed to pull off a direct hit. Granted, they were able to make a few course corrections along the way, but still, what are the odds of that?

One of the reasons for course corrections is the fact that we couldn’t even see Dimorphos until we were about an hour away from impact. Didymos, the much larger asteroid that Dimorphos orbits, was too bright to allow us to discern its little companion. It was only discovered because of radar echoes and optical light curve analysis.

To make sizes and distances more comprehensible, I asked NASA for a simile back on October 1st (really, I did), but they have yet to get back to me. If they ever do, I’ll be sure to update this post. Meanwhile, I did a little sloppy math and came up with this simile for you:

DART hitting Dimorphos at that distance and speed would be like me standing in Melbourne, Australia and throwing a walnut at a dodgeball in Odessa, Ukraine. And that walnut would have to go 18 miles per hour for a little over three weeks before its fateful crash.

Course corrections notwithstanding, that’s hardly a piece of cake. The fact that I was always last to be picked for any sports activity throughout my years in school will tell you just how improbable my success in that endeavor would be. The idea that anyone could pull off such a caper blows my mind.

I was relieved to see that it was a kinetic impact, not some sort of a bomb, like they would use to save the day in the movies. First of all, since there’d be no atmosphere, the force of an explosion would dissipate into space rather than blowing the thing to smithereens. (Think path of least resistance.) And I’d rather not launch nuclear bombs from earth, for fear that there’d be some malfunction during liftoff that we’d be regretting for centuries. And who knows what impact nuclear waste would have in space.

When I saw this footage, the impact looked like everything Hollywood tries to achieve with nuclear warheads. It was spectacular. I must confess that, while still intact, Dimorphos looked to me like a chocolate ball crusted in chopped nuts. It looked delicious.

There will probably be months of analysis before we know how effective the impact was. Apparently NASA had no idea what Dimorphos was going to look like, and the impact was bigger than they expected. Those unknowns kind of make me nervous. That inspires me to take you on a flight of fancy away from my science-loving brain and crash us right into my fiction-loving brain. Conspiracy theories are bound to follow, but remember, you heard it here first:

If we never actually saw the thing we planned to crash into until an hour previously, and the resulting impact was larger than expected, do we actually know what we have done? Yes, NASA chose an asteroid that has no chance of hitting earth, but, what if it was a living thing, minding its own business, and out of nowhere… KaBlam! Or what if the Little Prince was living there? Oh, the humanity!

Either way, somebody would be pretty darned annoyed. I know that if something intentionally crashed into me or into my home, I’d be irritated and want answers. I’d be taking off my earrings, preparing to throw down.

So we better keep an eye on Dimorphos. If it suddenly goes out of orbit and starts making a beeline toward Earth, we might be in trouble, because hell hath no fury like an asteroid scorned. Or maybe its anger would have dissipated before it got here, and it would therefore just drop a shower of chocolate balls on us. You have to admit that both theories are equally plausible.


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Loving Someone through Depression

There is help out there.

When I’m clinically depressed, I pretty much can’t work up the energy to care about anything. It feels as though the air is as thick as chocolate pudding, and because of that it takes a lot more effort to do even the most basic of things. All I want to do is get fetal in bed with the lights off and the sheets drawn up over my head while I weep and beat myself up mentally.

This is my tried and true pattern, and it has been something I’ve struggled with my entire life. Yes, I’ve seen therapists, and they really do help, but they’re hard to find thanks to this pandemic. But I hope you’ll still find the strength to try. There is help out there for you, in the form of psychologists, psychiatrists, support groups, and suicide prevention, and it is said that 90% of the people who seek this help find that it does make them feel better.

No two people have the exact same type of depression, so I hope you won’t use this as some sort of yardstick. It’s a moot point, though, because today my focus is not on me, but on the people I suck into my depressive undertow. This is not something I could effectively contemplate in the throes of depression, because I can barely focus on self care, so stretching the old compassion muscles is a bridge too far. (And trust me, I beat myself up about that, too.)

Frankly, I’ve never really had to think about how my depression impacts others, because most of the people in my life are also prone to depression, so they get it. They get me. I do derive a small bit of comfort from that. It is such a relief to be understood even if you feel like you can’t be helped. There are no atheists in foxholes. Or something. Whatever.

It’s been my experience that those who have never suffered from depression seem to have a whole host of incorrect assumptions about it, such as:

  • You should be able to snap out of it.
  • You’re doing this to get attention.
  • You’re doing this to manipulate someone else.
  • You’re lazy.
  • You aren’t even trying.
  • You just need to toughen up.
  • You are just selfish and don’t want to carry your own weight.
  • You’re being a baby/brat/b!tch.
  • You’re making a big deal out of nothing.
  • You’re using it as an excuse to do nothing.
  • You’re whiny.
  • You’re Needy.
  • You’re acting like a victim.
  • You’re weak.
  • You’re irrational.
  • You are trying to make me miserable.
  • You just want an excuse to take pills.
  • You just don’t want to go to work.

Let me start off by saying that none of these statements, not a single one of them, improves the situation when they come out of the mouth of someone you love. In fact, they make you feel a million times worse, because you know they don’t understand. And there’s nothing quite so draining as trying to justify yourself to someone who doesn’t get it.

Loved ones who say these things don’t get that you’d love, love, love to snap out of it. You’d give anything to not bear the insurmountable weight of being the you that you are when you are sucked into a depressive spiral. You know that they view you as broken and f**ked up, and deep down you can’t really argue with them, because you feel broken and f**ked up. But it still hurts like hell to see the pity and disappointment and irritation in their eyes.

It never occurred to me that someone could find it impossible to comprehend depression until I met a “normal.” (And it’s rather interesting that it took me 50 years to meet one.) They can no more understand depression than they can relate to the persistent ache of a badly healed broken bone if they’ve never broken a bone themselves. They must think that if you slap a figurative splint on your depression, you’ll be as good as new in no time. Easy peasy. Cheer up. Get over yourself. And then you get to spend what little energy you have trying to convince this normal that you aren’t a freak, and instead you convince yourself that that’s an impossible task, right along with all the other impossible tasks that define your life-in-downward-spiral. But there I go, focusing on me again.

It’s got to be pretty awful, living with the human equivalent of a black hole. It’s got to be exhausting. It’s got to be irritating. “Oh, here she goes again. Great. I guess I’ll cancel all our reservations for the next two weeks.”

If it’s any comfort at all, deep down, depressives know the crap they’re making you put up with, and they feel horrible about it, and genuinely want to make you happy and be happy themselves. But these tools just aren’t in their toolbox at the moment. Most of us can’t even express how we’re feeling while it’s happening. But inside we scream, “Please don’t leave me. Please just listen. Please be comforting, not critical. Please. Stop telling me how messed up I am and just hold me while I cry. Please make it stop.”

It’s like we’re begging for a lifeline, but the message doesn’t quite make it to its destination. Our nerves are on the surface of our skin, so any judgment, any implication that we must not be doing something right if we “insist” on feeling this way, any impatience or frustration, no matter how justified, just piles pain on top of pain on top of pain until we are crushed flat from the sheer weight of it all. Sometimes we get angry and cruel, in an attempt to protect ourselves. We are the epitome of a wounded, cornered animal.

Many of us are not always this way. Depression, for me, tends to come in waves. I’m old enough now to truly understand that, and know that it’s just a matter of time. I can do this. I’ve come out the other side a million times before. I can be pretty darned fun and optimistic when the wave isn’t washing over me. All I can do is hope and pray that the person who means so much to me is willing to weather the stormy seas and remember the person I am when the sailing is smooth. I hope he or she can learn not to see “broken” as my primary trait, because there really are some good qualities mixed in there amongst the detritus.

But I know that’s asking a heck of a lot. I really do know that. And yet here I am, asking. And in response you might ask, “How do I help without getting sucked under myself?”

I wish I knew what to tell you. Bleh. I’m not explaining this very well. But if you are reading this far along, it’s probably because you genuinely love the depressive in your life, and you want to learn how to cope and help without losing yourself. That’s a legitimate, perfectly normal desire, and nothing to feel the least bit guilty about. So I urge you to check out the following resources.

First, I suggest you see the movie Nell, starring Jodie Foster. Not only is it a great movie, but you get to see how the Sheriff in the story deals with his chronically depressed wife, whom he loves very much. He leads with compassion and validation and support without judgment, and for that, he’s my hero.

Then, check out one of my favorite songs to listen to when I’m overwhelmed. It’s called “Tomorrow.” Maybe if you listen to it, your depressed loved one will overhear it and take it in on some level.

After that, I urge you to hop on over to an online game called Depression Quest, which is, frankly, no fun at all. But it might give you some insight into depression that you have been lacking heretofore. Knowing what you’re dealing with is the best way to deal with it, in my opinion.

And there are a whole host of helpful articles online. Just a lazy Google search yielded some interesting articles that explain things much better than I ever could. So check out “21 Things to Ask When Your Partner Is Depressed,” “Is Your Partner Depressed? How To Tell and What To Do About It,” and “How to Help a Partner Living With Depression.” I’m sure there are many more good resources out there, but when I read these three, I wanted to shout, “Yes! What they said!!!”

I can’t speak for depressives the world over, obviously, but if I were in my right mind while depressed, the things I’d most like to say are, “Please be patient with me. Please know that I’m scared and that this sucks, but I will get past it. I always do. Please believe I’m trying. Please let me cry without shame. Please hug me unless I want to be left alone. Please don’t think I’m irredeemably weird and not worth the effort.”

And most of all, “I’m sorry.”

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through this hotlink, or by calling the new short dial, 988, that will be available all across the USA, effective July 16, 2022.

Books vs. eBooks

The bottom line: Read.

Recently, I posted a message in my community Facebook group that I have a little free library. I invited everyone to stop by and check it out. I thought it was a fairly innocuous post. Silly me. It seems that trolls abound.

A lady actually responded, “That’s not good for the environment. Get a kindle. We got one and we love it.”

It took everything in me not to fire back, “Okay, Karen. Not everyone can afford a kindle.”

But I was relatively good. I did politely point out that recirculating locally sourced used books is the ultimate form of recycling. It reduces the number of new books purchased, which hopefully causes publishers to reduce the number of hard copies they print. It also reduces the number of books heading for the landfill, as most books never get properly recycled, and if they’re printed on glossy paper, they can’t be.

I also mentioned that there are multiple studies indicating that reading a physical book helps you retain the information much better. And let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like cuddling up with a physical book. In particular, I think children get a lot of benefit from touching and feeling and gazing at the artwork on the page.

And it really is true that not everyone can afford electronics. Many people don’t have reliable access to the internet to download books even if they do have a kindle. These libraries get books into the hands of people who can’t afford them or otherwise don’t have access to them. They encourage people to read who may not have even considered it before. I am proud of the service my little free library provides to the community.

I’m not Kindle bashing, here. Every debate has its pros and cons. I know someone who has severe arthritis, and she finds the reduced weight of a kindle to be much less painful. Plus, you can increase the font size. And you can read a Kindle in the dark without needing a flashlight. And they certainly take up much less space. So there’s that.

But then, not all books are available on Kindle. And sometimes they mysteriously disappear. Or you run out of power while enjoying your eBook on the beach. And staring a screen for long periods has been found to disrupt your sleep cycle and cause depression and cognitive issues in children.

The environmental impacts of both formats is debatable, and comes with a lot of ifs. Lithium mining for batteries oftentimes employs slave labor, and it’s an environmental nightmare. And destroying Kindles causes toxins to enter the atmosphere and the ground water.

As far as carbon emissions, according to this article, it really depends on the number of books you actually read electronically as opposed to buying brand new hard copies. Books have a carbon footprint, too. They’re made from trees, and the production process for paper and the gas used in delivery and the number of books that get burned before ever being read… all that takes its toll.

But if, like me, you’re more inclined to borrow books from the library, whether it be public or little and free, that reduces a book’s impact exponentially. And if you don’t replace your Kindle every time a new version comes out, that helps, too. It’s all very complicated.

I guess for me, the bottom line is that everyone should read, as much as possible, in whatever format feels best. Just read. A literate and educated population is much more apt to save this planet, don’t you think?

I’m proud to say that my book is available in paperback, kindle, and deluxe color edition!

The Waste of a Perfectly Good Little Old Lady

Be a force for good.

If I make it to the age of 72, if I’m in relatively good health and if I have the good fortune to be able to retire, I hope I’m doing something with that amazing extra time. I hope I’m using myself as a force for good. I hope I’m volunteering for a few hours a week, and/or keeping up with my little free library and/or mentoring someone and/or cultivating a healthy organic garden. Something positive, no matter how small.

I believe that everyone makes some type of impact on this world. Only you can decide what kind of an impact you will make. There’s a wide spectrum that can range somewhere between dedicating every waking hour to some form of service, or, at the opposite extreme, being a completely toxic waste of space that everyone secretly wishes would hurry up and die already. (Harsh, but true.) I’d like to fall on the more positive end of that spectrum, but I doubt I’ll be too radical. I’m not Mother Teresa. Even in my 50’s I do cherish my spare time and my naps. But I hope that if I’m capable of acting at all, I’m able to be an asset, not act like a despicable liability.

Here’s what I will not do, under any circumstances. I will not cause my neighbors to fear for their lives, as Jan Myers, 72, of Shoreline, Washington has done. According to this article, she has been charged with one count of malicious harassment, but in essence she has made the life of one of her Vietnamese-American neighbors a living hell.

Apparently this toxic woman has been hurling racial slurs at her neighbor for years, but recently it escalated into actual threats. She started driving her car up and down the road, yelling for her neighbor to come out, calling her names, and saying that she (the neighbor) wasn’t going to live very long. Myers, of course, is denying everything, but that contradicts the multiple cell phone videos that her neighbor showed the police.

I feel so sorry for her neighbor. No one should be made to feel unsafe in one’s own home. It should be a sanctuary. It should be the one place where you can count on feeling secure, unjudged, and completely yourself.

I wish I knew who that neighbor was so that I could go over and befriend her, take her flowers or cookies or something, and let her know that not everyone feels the way Myers does. I’d exchange contact information with her, and tell her that if that evil old bat threatens her again, just call me and I’ll come over and stand by her side, and that my home would always be a safe place to come to as well. I hope that if her other neighbors see what is going on, they have done so. We all need to take care of one another.

If you haven’t learned how to be a decent human being by age 72, you are wasting your gift of longevity. If all you can do is hate, and make the people around you be afraid and miserable, you are doing nothing but taking up space in this world and making it a much worse place. Is that really the hill you want to die on? I wouldn’t want that to be my legacy at any time in life, but especially not in my later years. I want to make those years golden, not sh** brown.

Just sayin’.

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On Being Impactful

I’m rather addicted to the feeling.

I have a long bucket list. Most of the items on it are related to travel. Needless to say, this pandemic is not doing good things for that bucket list. But there is one item on there that I’ve been focused on quite a bit of late. To wit: Have a significant impact on someone’s life.

I understand that that statement is a little bit vague in terms of accomplishment. But when I wrote it, I knew exactly what I meant, because I’ve had it happen to me a time or two. What I mean by “significant impact” is being the catalyst for a major, positive turning point in someone’s life.

There are several points in my life that I can look back on as having changed my trajectory entirely, and often those points wouldn’t have come about if not for the actions of someone who may or may not have even been aware of their import. Whether these things were intentional or not, they turned out to be momentous for me, and I’ll never forget them. I’d love to pay it forward.

This bucket list item has turned out to be a lot more challenging than I anticipated. It is exceedingly difficult to determine what another person wants or needs. And I have sometimes had to resist the urge to be pushy, because it’s easy for me to convince myself that I know best. Fortunately, I have managed to avoid being a significant negative impact on anyone, as far as I can tell.

Without going into great detail, though, I’ve been fiddling around with fate in subtle ways in the past several months, and, after several false starts, I can say that I’ll be checking that item off my list now, times two. And I’m feeling rather high from the satisfaction that that check mark is giving me. In fact, I’m rather addicted to the feeling. I highly recommend it. I want more of it. I’ll have to get awfully creative to keep feeding this addiction, but yeah, I want more of it.

If you ever get the chance to raise someone up, do it. Do it, and don’t look for thanks. Believe me, the feeling that you’ll get is thanks enough. And chances are, someday that person will pay it forward. So it’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving.


The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library!


I’ve never understood the instinct to demolish and destroy.

Barely a day goes by without some young fool putting graffiti on my drawbridge. I’ve also noticed that if something is breakable and it’s accessible to the public, it will be broken. Signs are defaced. Stickers appear everywhere. Human beings seem to love to trash things.

I’ve never understood this instinct to demolish and destroy. It makes me angry. I don’t see the point of it.

When discussing it with a wise friend of mine recently, he said that he thought it was people’s way of making their mark. Everyone wants to be able to say, “I was here.” “I existed.”

Okay, I can understand having that instinct. It’s why I blog. It’s why people have children. It’s why we create art. Everyone wants to have a legacy. We want to have something to show for having lived on this planet.

When it comes to youth, I suspect they feel as though they will never have an impact, and therefore this petty destruction is their only outlet. They don’t realize that they’ll grow up. They don’t comprehend that there will be other opportunities, but that some of those opportunities will take hard work and sacrifice. Graffiti, on the other hand, happens right here, right now.

I think it’s really important that we teach young people to be positively creative. We should give them projects and outlets for their energy. They should be taught to build their communities. They need to learn to problem solve, not problem create. And dare I say it? The worst, absolute worst educational trend is that of defunding art and music programs in schools.

Producing beauty is essential for everyone who wants to make a mark on this world. Otherwise, ugliness will prevail.


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The Dark Side of Festivals

How hard is it to clean up after yourself?

In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that I really enjoy festivals. Since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve attended several a year. The Tulip Festival. The Folklife Festival. The International Film Festival. Dragonfest. The Solstice Parade. Pride. Seafair. Salmon Days. Viking Days. The Wooden Boat Festival, Fourth of July Fireworks. Julefest. The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition. The Parade of Lights.

I love soaking up culture, eating unusual food, hearing unique music, and checking out the amazing crafts. I never fail to have fun at these events. It’s also a great way to hook up with friends who live in other parts of town.

But something has been eating at me ever since I saw this article after the last Fourth of July Fireworks here in Seattle. The day after the fireworks, which are launched from a barge in Lake Union, a cadre of volunteers used kayaks to clean up the toxic debris floating in the water. They apparently clean up 200-400 pounds of trash every year from that one event alone. Much of that is chemically treated fireworks casings. This last time around they also found an unexploded ordinance that the bomb squad had to deal with.

Salmon run through Lake Union. Peregrine Falcons nest there. There are a wide variety of birds that transit this lake. Canada Geese. Osprey. Eagles. Polluting their habitat so that we humans can have a few hours of fun seems kind of extreme to me.

Ever since reading that article, I’m looking at festivals not just in terms of enjoyment, but also in terms of impact. We need to learn to celebrate more responsibly. We need to stop acting like this planet is disposable.

The reason I’m thinking about this today is that I came across another article that made me cringe. It’s entitled What Happens to All Those Beads After Mardi Gras?  It’s lead sentence is, “The city of New Orleans pulled 93,000 pounds of beads from just five blocks of storm drains in 2018”

That is horrifying. It goes on to say that 45 million pounds of plastics come to New Orleans every year for that festival alone, and that the beads in particular contain trace elements of lead. Oh, joy! That’s just what we need. Lead leeching into the Gulf of Mexico.

There are some limited attempts at recycling, and this one guy invented biodegradable beads. These efforts are a step in the right direction, but they’ve barely made a dent in the problem. And let’s face it. Mardi Gras is a money maker for this city. It’s not like this celebration of debauchery, gluttony and environmental selfishness is going anywhere. We need to start thinking out of the box for more earth-friendly revelry.

For example, in lieu of fireworks, how about a laser light show? Several cities have considered this, but have gotten a lot of blowback from citizens who want the traditions to remain unchanged. Well, lest we forget, bloodletting used to be a tradition. Slave auctions were a tradition. Human sacrifice was a tradition. Killing millions of birds each year to adorn ladies hats was a tradition. But we’ve matured and evolved since then. It’s time to take more steps forward.

Will I stop attending festivals? No. Probably not. But I’ll forever look at them differently. And I certainly won’t be dropping beads in the street. But then, I never did that before, either.

For heaven’s sake, how hard is it to clean up after yourself?

Laser Light Show

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The Source of Ripples

Ripples emanate from the stones we cast into the pond of life.

I have no idea why I’m remembering this now, but when I was little, maybe 7 or 8, we got a long-term substitute teacher in my classroom. I was young enough to where that confused me a great deal. Teachers, to me, were like monoliths. They shouldn’t budge in any way. I didn’t think they could be substituted, one for another. Teachers were the school, for me. And the school is made of bricks.

And yet here she was. She was nothing like our other teacher. She had impossibly long, straight hair. That made me think she was too young. But she was nice, and it was exciting to see that there was more than one way of doing things.

What fascinated me most about her was that she only had one hand. I don’t remember why. I think she told us about it. She didn’t try to pretend it wasn’t a thing. But she also didn’t act as though it was such a thing that she lived her life differently.

There’s this image of her frozen in my mind, drawing out and cutting two foot lengths of yarn for a project we were doing, and she used the crook of her elbow to do so. I remember that she also had a hook that she could use, but she said she didn’t like it very much. The hook kind of gave me the creeps. She was a kind and gentle person, and the hook was so cold and hard and industrial. It looked like a weapon. I tried not to stare. But I’m sure I did, quite a bit.

And then, one day, just like that, she was gone, and our old, much less exotic teacher was back. I don’t even think we got to say goodbye. I’ve wondered, over the years, what happened to her. I don’t even remember her name. She’d be in her 70’s now. I think that was the first time I remembered someone disappearing out of my life without a trace. It was very strange. (I had no memory of my father ever being there in the first place, so I never thought of him as having disappeared.)

Before she left, she had us do a project where we chose a children’s book to read, and then sent a letter to the author. I can’t remember what book I chose, or what I said to the author, but I got a really nice letter back. It wasn’t from the author, though. It was from the editor, telling me that she was sorry to say that the author had passed away, but that he would have really liked my letter a lot, and she thanked me for taking the time to write it.

It made me sad. It confused me. I didn’t know what “passed away” meant. It had to be explained to me. And then there was the whole… “but… but… I just read the book. How could he be dead?” concept to get past.

How do you explain to a small child that even though someone has died, they can still have an impact on you after the fact? You can still read their words, or see their good or bad deeds, or benefit from their inventions, or even see them walking and talking on your television, and yet they’re gone. Gone. How is that possible?

Even though I understand the science behind it now, it still feels strange to me. Ripples emanate from the stones we cast into the pond of life. They might be cast by those who are no longer living or, at the very least, are no longer present. And yet they are still rocking our boats. The energy lives on, even when the generator thereof is long gone.

What a concept.


Hey! Look what I wrote!

Clicking Your Way to a Better World

I must admit that I spend entirely too much time on the internet. You do, too. Don’t believe me? What are you doing right now? Tiptoeing through the tulips? I think not.

(Not that I’m not happy to see you. I’d miss you if you weren’t here. I really would.)

Sometimes I think I really should make a permanent, all-encompassing change in my life and reduce my screen time to, say, an hour a day. But gimme a break. I’m as likely to do that as I am to give up pizza, and I have the thighs to prove it.

I do try to do the next best thing, though. There are quite a few sites out there that allow you to have a positive impact on the world simply by clicking a button. That’s amazing. I can save the world while staying comfortably potatoed on my couch. (Yup. Potato is now a verb. Because I say so.)

What follows are some of my favorite “positive click” sites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

  • Ecosia. This is a search engine, similar to Google, with an important difference. For every 45 searches you do on Ecosia, they will plant a tree. They’ve planted more than 20 million trees so far. That makes me incredibly happy. So Ecosia is now my default search engine.

  • Free Rice. This is a fun site. You can feed the world while learning things. Basically, you choose a topic, such as English Vocabulary, or World Landmarks, or Language Learning, or SAT Test Preparation, or Human Anatomy, and you’ll then be asked a series of questions. For every question you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program. 10 grains of rice doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly. So learn stuff and feed people. It’s the ultimate win/win situation!

  • The GreaterGood. I cannot say enough about this site. Everything you do there will have a positive impact. They have various categories, such as Hunger, Breast Cancer, Animals, and Veterans, and if you go to those sections of the site once a day and click, you will be helping these causes, and it won’t cost you a penny. But beware. They also have a store, and it has the coolest clothes and shoes and jewelry that you have ever seen in your life. And when you buy an item, more donations kick in. For example, I bought an awesome jacket, and because of that, they donated 50 bowls of dogfood to an animal shelter. I think about that every time I wear that jacket, and it makes me feel even warmer.

There are all kinds of websites out there that have positive side effects. You just have to look. If you can suggest any other sites of this type, by all means, include them in the comments section, below! And keep on clicking!

make a difference

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On Having an Impact

On the day I wrote this, I was told by one friend that he learned about because of me, and that he and his daughter have been making microloans through them ever since. Another friend chimed in and said it was the same for her. This gave me a lump in my throat, because it means that I played a small part in improving the lives of people in other parts of the world without even realizing it. And some day those people whose lives have improved will go on to improve other people’s lives, and so on, and so on. In its own quiet way, it’s immortality. We are all so interconnected in ways we don’t even realize. It’s miraculous when you think about it. What a gift!

And then, less than an hour later, I was contacted by Mariah, one of my favorite readers, who told me that not only has she read my book, but she also printed out the blog post that I wrote about her several months back, and it hangs on her wall. Okay. Happy tears. Somewhere in South Carolina hangs one of my blog posts. Wow. Just… wow.

Learning that I’ve had an impact on people means so much to me. It’s more precious than gold. It tells me that my life is worth living, and that all the challenges and all the potholes in my path have been worthwhile. It’s validation. It’s uplifting.

If someone in your life has had a positive impact on you, dear reader, I strongly encourage you to tell them so. They may not realize it. And hearing it, I guarantee, will have a positive impact upon them.

See? It’s easier than you think.


A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving!