Courage to wear a pink tutu

It takes courage to be vulnerable. Cancer patients don’t have a choice. They are thrust into it.  Bob Carey, a photographer who loves to make his wife laugh, chose to share that vulnerability as his wife worked her way through a second round of cancer treatments. His method? A pink tutu.

Bob’s courage and love for his wife make me smile.

And what better way to get back at cancer than with laughter.

One man had a very good idea to help his wife and many more battle breast cancer and he did it all in a pink tutu. New York photographer, Bob Carey posed in a tutu as a joke for a fundraiser in 2003.  Soon after, his wife was diagnosed with cancer and he began the tutu project.  He’s taken more than 100 pics of himself sporting the pink tutu in various locations. He’s launched a website to sell the photos to get donations. Carey is also compiling the pics for a book called “Ballerina” which comes out this fall.

Visit Bob’s web site at:

In honor of my amazing mother-in-law Pat, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer last week. A loving, strong and courageous woman, whom I will always be grateful to have spent precious time with.

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Long term friends

“Every morning when I wake up, I dedicate myself to helping others to find peace of mind. Then, when I meet people, I think of them as long term friends; I don’t regard others as strangers.”

Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

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Courage to climb your mountains

Manual for Climbing Mountains

–by Paulo Coelho

Choose the mountain you want to climb: don’t pay attention to what other people say, such as “that one’s more beautiful” or “this one’s easier”. You’ll be spending lots of energy and enthusiasm to reach your objective, so you’re the only one responsible and you should be sure of what you’re doing.

Know how to get close to it: mountains are often seen from far off – beautiful, interesting, full of challenges. But what happens when we try to draw closer? Roads run all around them, flowers grow between you and your objective, what seemed so clear on the map is tough in real life. So try all the paths and all the tracks until eventually one day you’re standing in front of the top that you yearn to reach.

Learn from someone who has already been up there: 
no matter how unique you feel, there is always someone who has had the same dream before you and ended up leaving marks that can make your journey easier; places to hang the rope, trails, broken branches to make the walking easier. The climb is yours, so is the responsibility, but don’t forget that the experience of others can help a lot.

When seen up close, dangers are controllable
: when you begin to climb the mountain of your dreams, pay attention to the surroundings. There are cliffs, of course. There are almost imperceptible cracks in the mountain rock. There are stones so polished by storms that they have become as slippery as ice. But if you know where you are placing each footstep, you will notice the traps and how to get around them.

The landscape changes, so enjoy it:
 of course, you have to have an objective in mind – to reach the top. But as you are going up, more things can be seen, and it’s no bother to stop now and again and enjoy the panorama around you. At every meter conquered, you can see a little further, so use this to discover things that you still had not noticed.

Respect your body: you can only climb a mountain if you give your body the attention it deserves. You have all the time that life grants you, as long as you walk without demanding what can’t be granted. If you go too fast you will grow tired and give up half way there. If you go too slow, night will fall and you will be lost. Enjoy the scenery, take delight in the cool spring water and the fruit that nature generously offers you, but keep on walking.

Respect your soul: 
don’t keep repeating “I’m going to make it”. Your soul already knows that, what it needs is to use the long journey to be able to grow, stretch along the horizon, touch the sky. An obsession does not help you at all to reach your objective, and even ends up taking the pleasure out of the climb. But pay attention: also, don’t keep saying “it’s harder than I thought”, because that will make you lose your inner strength.

Be prepared to climb one kilometer more: the way up to the top of the mountain is always longer than you think. Don’t fool yourself, the moment will arrive when what seemed so near is still very far. But since you were prepared to go beyond, this is not really a problem.

Be happy when you reach the top
: cry, clap your hands, shout to the four winds that you did it, let the wind – the wind is always blowing up there – purify your mind, refresh your tired and sweaty feet, open your eyes, clean the dust from your heart. It feels so good, what was just a dream before, a distant vision, is now part of your life, you did it!

Make a promise: now that you have discovered a force that you were not even aware of, tell yourself that from now on you will use this force for the rest of your days. Preferably, also promise to discover another mountain, and set off on another adventure.

Tell your story: yes, tell your story! Give your example. Tell everyone that it’s possible, and other people will then have the courage to face their own mountains.


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Astound yourself

“If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”

Thomas Edison (1847-1931) – American inventor and businessman

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The courage of our questions

“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.”

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science educator in astronomy and natural sciences

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Story: A heart shattered by a glimpse into autism

Sometimes I read a story that hits me so hard I just can’t stop thinking about it. I keep rolling it around in my head, looking for answers, but knowing there are no simple answers when it comes to autism.

The following story is from blogger Rob Gorski (blog Lost and Tired), a father of 3 autistic sons. His story got the attention of CNN, who shared his post on their CNN Health page.

Rob’s tender heart and compassion put him high on my list of everyday heroes.


Canton, Ohio (CNN) — As the snow started falling, I drove to Giant Eagle to pick up some groceries. With a storm on the way, I needed to stock up on supplies in case we got snowed in.

I pulled into the parking lot of the store and found a spot right in front of the entrance. I sat there for a few minutes, collecting what I needed to take in.

As I reached over to the passenger seat to grab my wallet, I glanced over at the car next to me through the passenger window and saw three people who were loading their groceries into their car. I also saw a large man standing there, reaching over the hood of their car. He was wiping the snow and ice off the car’s windshield with his bare hands.

The owner of the vehicle looked at him with an icy stare that seemed to say, “How dare you touch my car.”

She seemed disgusted just breathing the same air as the man cleaning her windshield. Instead of asking him to stop or giving him a few dollars, she quickly climbed into her car and gunned the car forward so fast the man was knocked back.

A few seconds later, the man got up, walked to my car and knocked on my window. I hadn’t even processed what I had just witnessed. Now he was coming over to me and I had no idea what to say.

“Please, not now, I just want to get what I need and get home,” I thought to myself. Where I live, it’s common for people to approach you for money. I took a deep breath and started to open the door. The man opened it the rest of the way, being careful not to hit the car next to me.

This man stood well over 6 feet and wore sweatpants, a light flannel shirt and boots that were left untied. It was roughly 20 degrees outside and he was clearly not dressed for the cold.

In a rather abrupt voice, he broke the silence by asking, “Can I have your change?”

I scooped up the change I had in the car and gave him everything I had, which was only $2.37. After handing him the money, I explained that I didn’t have any more.

“I’m cold and hungry. Can you take me to the shelter?” he asked.

I noticed his hands. They were at his side but his fingers moved silently up and down, as though he was playing an invisible piano.

He spoke with great difficulty — in a stilted, mechanical fashion and his face showed no emotion.

I never felt threatened, although he stood in my personal space about 1 or 2 feet in front of me. He would occasionally look in my direction, but never at me. Although he stood so close, he avoided eye contact.

“Can you drive me to the shelter? Because it’s warm there and they have food,” he asked me again.

“I’m homeless and very hungry,” he said. “I’m not lying to you. If I lie to you then you might not help me.”

I really didn’t know what to say, because I wasn’t comfortable driving him anywhere.

Then he asked me to buy him some food and gloves. I thought about what to say. I knew he would have a hard time understanding: I don’t have any money. My family is struggling to survive each day. I was trying to figure out how to explain to him that I couldn’t help, but I was at a loss for words.

Then something happened that shook me to the core and completely broke my heart. As I was trying to tell him no, he looked me in the eyes. All of a sudden, I was looking at my oldest son.

My wife and I have three boys with autism; the oldest is 12. Looking at the bare-handed man was like looking through some special window at my oldest son, 20 or 30 years from now.

It was like being run over by a freight train. I was washed by a wave of clarity and my eyes and heart were now open to what was happening in front of me. Suddenly I was transformed from a person trying to avoid the whole situation into a parent, filled with compassion and understanding. He again asked me to buy him food because he was hungry and gloves because his hands were cold.

Something about him was so familiar.

Yes, I would buy him some food. I would never deny any of my children food if they were hungry. He smiled in my direction and took my hand without looking at me and led me into the store. His hands were cold, hardened and chapped.

I noticed the looks people gave me as I walked with the bare-handed man into the grocery store. His clothes were old, beaten up and had a foul odor.

He asked me to buy him a gift card so he could buy food later, when he would be hungry again. So we walked over to the rack and he picked out a Giant Eagle gift card. I put $25 on the gift card. I gave him $25 in cash and asked him to please buy some gloves and a bus ride to the shelter. He asked for the receipt so “When the police stop me, I can prove I didn’t steal this.”

He told me again that he wasn’t lying. I told him I knew he wasn’t.

He turned to walk away, stopped and looked in my direction as if to say “Thank you,” but didn’t. What he did said more than a simple thank you. He showed me his eyes again for a brief moment before he turned around and left.

I was beside myself with grief. How could someone I didn’t know have such a profound effect on me? It took everything I had not to burst into tears.

I just couldn’t shake just how much the bare-handed man reminded me of my oldest son. Their eyes, mannerisms and even the way they speak were so similar. My son struggles with boundaries and personal space simply because he doesn’t understand, not because he wants to be invasive.

All I could think was, “How does this happen?” I was smacked in the face with reality.

Someday I won’t be here to take care of my children. What if this happens to them? What if they are the ones wiping off a windshield with their bare hands and almost being run over by someone who doesn’t care?

I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen.

Since that cold February day in 2011, I have met the bare-handed man on a few more occasions. Along the way, I learned that his name is Tim and that he remembers me. Tim has shown me just how much work still needs to be done.

I would like to think that my experience that day — the way people treated Tim in that frozen parking lot — was an isolated incident. Sadly, I know it’s not. Things like this happen all the time. To this writer and father of three beautiful boys on the autism spectrum, this is simply unacceptable.

We need to do what we can to help the world better understand both children and adults with autism. I’m terrified of what the future might hold for my children. I have witnessed how cruel and unforgiving the world can be to people who are perceived as different. It is an ugly reality but one I’m working to help change.

Please help spread autism awareness, even if it’s one person at a time.

Remember that the autistic children of today will be the autistic adults of tomorrow. These people need and deserve our compassion, understanding and respect. Let’s help to ensure that what happened to my friend Tim in the parking lot of the Giant Eagle doesn’t have to happen to anyone else, ever again.


NOTE: I have copied his story in full here simply because I don’t want the link to be outdated after 6 months when they change stories, but you can visit the CNN site to see the original posting here: CNN Story

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Facing autism with courage, and lots of heart

When I began writing this blog, to celebrate ordinary people who act with extraordinary courage, Lisa Ackerman was one of the first people I featured. My brother and sis-in-law know Lisa personally, and they will be the first to acknowledge that she will do just about anything to help others, and does this with incredible heart and energy (and yes, she does have a lot of energy!).  Lisa, and her son Mark, have navigated the world of autism with there own family, and are dedicated to making sure no family will face the diagnosis alone.

Since April is Autism Awareness month, I decided to dust off this blog entry and give it another run. I am also working to raise funds for Lisa’s organization since she has been such a big influence in my own nephew’s life.  Sooo…here’s the pitch (wait for it)… if you would like to help me by donating even $5 to help support TACA’s mission, I would truly do a happy dance!

While Lisa’s efforts through TACA are an incredible act of courage, I feel every child with autism, along with their parents, teach me more about courage than any hero I will ever know. Their strength and determination to move through this world with love, dignity and compassion make my heart thankful to know them all.

Always, love always, Deb


original post 9/25/2011

Lisa and Glen Ackerman are great examples of courage to me.

They may not think of themselves this way, but I’m sure I can find thousands of parents who would agree with me.  Finding themselves faced with the fact that their young son had been diagnosed with autism, they not only sought out information on ways to help their family, but they took the suggestion of their daughter to open their home to other families going through the same new world of confusing and often isolating medical diagnosis.

What started as a small group of parents in Lisa and Glen’s living room blossomed into more and more families seeking answers, options and friendship from others merely months ahead of them on the journey. Over 10 years later, the sharing continues, but now reaches over 20,000 families nation-wide with support, information and fun activities.

Pretty good for a family with a “good idea”.  Sometimes courage is the willingness to help others, even as you find yourself in need.

Find out more about Lisa and Glen’s non-profit Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) at

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Love deeply

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

  Lao Tzu  Chinese Taoist Philosopher (600 BC)

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Team Rubicon- A passion to help

Jake Wood

We all know someone with enthusiasm that is simply contagious. They have a passion that can’t be bought or sold. It’s just in them.

Jake Wood is one of those people. After serving as a US Marine, he found it impossible to stop helping others when he saw a need.

His passion to use the skills learned in the Marine Corp led him to reach out to those in need, including his fellow service members home from duty, many struggling to find their place in the world.

When news of natural disaster and human suffering hits, Jake calls on his all volunteer troupe of former military men and women, and they head out to help under the name of “Team Rubicon”.

They bandage, search, coordinate, clean-up and do whatever needs to be done with military precision. And more importantly, they are able to know they are giving back. They still matter.

Jake’s courage to continue to help those effected by unforseen disaster is inspiring.
His heart and passion draw us in. His renewed mission to help fellow veterans understand how much they are needed is a powerful lesson in compassion.

Check out the Team Rubicon website at and see how to help.


read more about Jake’s “Team Rubicon” and watch the video at:

Excerpts from: In the worst calamities, these veterans rush to the rescue

By Kathleen Toner, CNN, Thu March 29, 2012

“When Haiti suffered a massive earthquake two years ago, many people responded by donating money. Jake Wood responded with a Facebook post.

“I’m going to Haiti. Who’s in?” wrote the former U.S. Marine.

 The images Wood was seeing on the news reminded him of his tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He realized that the skills he had acquired in the service, including the ability to adapt to difficult conditions, work with limited resources and maintain security in a dangerous environment, were sorely needed.

 “Those are just lessons that you work at every single day in Falluja,” said Wood, 28. “To a veteran, it’s second nature.”

 Wood wanted to help, and he persuaded his college roommate, a firefighter, to join him. Within minutes of seeing Wood’s Facebook post, another friend and former Marine, William McNulty, signed on. Interest quickly snowballed, and soon donations poured into Wood’s PayPal account. Three days later, he and seven others were in the Dominican Republic, heading into neighboring Haiti with medicine and equipment.

Over the next three weeks, more than 60 volunteers — mainly from medical or military backgrounds — followed Wood’s lead and made their way to the stricken country to join his group. They set up triage centers in camps, treating whoever they could, and helped ferry people to hospitals. Wood estimates they helped thousands of Haitians.

They called their group Team Rubicon, in reference to the phrase “crossing the Rubicon,” which means passing a point of no return. The moniker turned out to be appropriate. Wood had planned for the trip to be a one-time mission. But during their time in Haiti, he and McNulty became aware that they were on to something.

“We realized we were more effective than many organizations that were down there with us,” Wood said. “We also realized that most organizations weren’t engaging vets on their own. So we said, ‘Let’s try to improve this.’ “

Team Rubicon became a nonprofit, and Wood has never looked back. In the past two years, he says, the group has built an army of more than 1,400 volunteers — 80% of them military veterans — who respond to disasters and help those in need.

The team has conducted 14 missions. It ran triage clinics after the Chile earthquake and the flooding in Pakistan. It traveled to Sudan and Myanmar to help people caught in regional conflicts. And last year, it removed debris and assisted in search-and-rescue missions following tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Joplin, Missouri.

Wood believes that today’s veterans enjoy the fellowship that comes from giving back.

“Being able to help people and be a part of a team once again … I think gives them some of (what) they were missing,” Wood said. “They are almost recharged.”

Wood realized the importance of this after a personal loss in April 2011. His best friend, Clay Hunt — a fellow veteran and Team Rubicon volunteer — committed suicide. Hunt had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt. It was a shock to Wood, as Hunt seemed to be adjusting well. He was literally a poster boy for returning veterans, appearing in a public-service announcement for a veterans advocacy group.

Clay Hunt

“It was tremendously difficult to feel like I had let him down, knowing that we had survived two wars together but that when things were easy and it had come to peace, that I wasn’t there enough for him,” Wood said. “That has been a very tough battle for me, dealing with that.”

Hunt’s death made Wood realize how critically important the connections are that Team Rubicon enables veterans to build with each other. It also made the group refocus its own mission: Instead of being a disaster relief organization that uses veterans, Team Rubicon is now a veteran support organization that uses disasters as opportunities for continued service.

“We’re giving them a reason to come together … and that community lasts long after the mission,” Wood said. “Right now, Team Rubicon is focused on how we can … get them involved in as many ways as possible.”

The approach seems to be working.

Nicole Green served in the Air Force for four years, working as an intelligence officer in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. For her, finding Team Rubicon has been life-changing.

“When I got out of the military, it was very stressful,” she said. “You feel alone. You meet people who don’t understand your background.”

Green volunteered for the group’s first domestic mission, in Tuscaloosa. She enjoyed it so much that she helped out in Joplin less than a month later.

“I felt that I was doing something meaningful with my life again … using a lot of the same skills, but in a way that (was) constructive instead of destructive,” Green said. “And I was with other people who understood me … focused on a common goal. That was really a great feeling.”

Team Rubicon is working with several veterans organizations to recruit more volunteers, and Wood is aiming to have 10,000 on its roster by the end of the year. The group is also working on ways to keep volunteers engaged once they sign up by doing service projects at home and abroad.

Wood believes that giving veterans a chance to give back is a formula for success, and he’s determined to bring his message to as many people as he can.

“There’s no limit to what veterans can do. … They’ve already proven that they want to serve … and when they come home, a lot of them still want to do it,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation.””


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Care a whole awful lot….

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not!”

Dr. Seuss (1904-1991), American writer, poet, and cartoonist- from The Lorax

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