Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm Angry...

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know of my connection to Haiti and my passion for the orphans there.  Prior to the earthquake, most Americans were blissfully unaware of Haiti.  The quake has put the country on everyone's radar and I have been thrilled to see the outpouring of the generosity of the American people.  So many people have donated their time, their money, their resources - many have offered to open their homes to the children who have been orphaned as a result. 

What hasn't come to light is the fact that there were about 490,000 orphans prior to the earthquake.  Many experts predict that another million or so children will be orphaned or separated from their parents as a result of this tragedy.  In order to assist the Haitian people and the Haitian government, the United States and several other nations expedited paperwork for children who were in the last stages of adoption in order to 1) get the children safely out of the country; 2) unite them with their adoptive families (many of whom have waited years); and 3) make much needed room for the new orphans.  As a result, many other families who were waiting to adopt and many children who were waiting for families had hopes of being matched up and united.

The story should end there, with a happy ending.  However, the United States government, the Haitian government, and several large international agencies have intervened, stating they are afraid of human trafficking and have put an end to issuing humanitarian visas for the orphans.  Right now, 10 Americans are in a Haitian prison after being charged with human trafficking because they attempted to take Haitian orphans across the Dominican border without appropriate paperwork.  Practicing human traffficking?  No, they were practicing love and compassion.  As you will see later in my post, thousands of Haitian children cross that border on a regular basis, never with the appropriate paperwork, always for nefarious reasons.

Another excuse the powers that be are giving is that they are afraid that many children are not orphans but merely separated from their parents and that the parents wouldn't want to lose their children.  First of all, as Soledad O'Brien (who truly "gets it") said on CNN recently, the definition of orphan in Haiti is not the same as in the U.S.  In Haiti, children in orphanages often have one or both parents living; the parents surrendered their child because they could not FEED him.  Oftentimes, Americans report being offered children on the street because the parents know if they remain in Haiti, they will die.  However, before nongovernmental agencies ever need to begin placing these newly-orphaned children with families, there are thousands that are already living in orphanages and are eligible for adoption.

The organizations that are trying to have orphans removed from Haiti to the U.S. are talking about children who were living in orphanages prior to the earthquake.  And being placed in homes that were already approved as foster or adoptive homes.  These are not child traffickers.  One thing the big wigs have not explained is how on earth the country of Haiti will feed, clothe, house, and educate an additional million orphans when they weren't even caring for the ones they already had.  It's the lucky child who is taken in by a private organization where they are fed, clothed, and loved.  These organizations are not funded by the Haitian government; they are funded by compassionate individuals.  The cynic in me believes the large child aid organizations see this as an opportunity to increase child sponsorships and add to their coffers.  And the governments are using it as a way to advance political agendas.  All at the expense of the children.

This little boy is 3 years old and weighs 11 pounds.  His photo was taken by a missionary we know who is in Port au Prince trying to rescue children to take back to her orphanage to care for them in the wake of the disaster.  The problem with this photo is that this child did not become this way as a result of the earthquake.  He was slowly starving to death under the watch of the government who say's it wants to stop the humanitarian visas for orphans because it's dangerous for the children.  How much more dangerous can it be? 

Another way Haitians care for the children is by allowing them to be "restaveks."  This is a practice whereby families send their children to live with wealthier families (often paying for the privilege with hard-earned money) with the promise that the children will be fed, clothed, and educated in exchange for doing chores.  The reality is that these children are turned into slaves (and girls often become sexual slaves) in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  This is real human trafficking that has been going on for decades right under the watch of the Haitian government that is now pretending to protect their children.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend a fundraiser for Mercy and Sharing, an organization that funds, among other things, the Abandoned Babies Unit at the public hospital in Port au Prince.  Yes, you read that right, the Abandoned Babies Unit.  Babies are regularly abandoned on the streets in Port au Prince.  Sometimes the mother has died, sometimes she just cannot feed the baby, sometimes the baby is unwanted.  Regardless of the reason, these babies are left to die.  Some of the babies end up in this unit at the hospital where they often live for years...yes, I said years.  Susie Krabacher, the founder of Mercy and Sharing, works tirelessly to ensure that these children are loved and cared for - to the extent that the Haitian government allows.  At the fundraiser I learned that often the government will not issue a death certificate for a child from the unit; this prevents the child from receiving a proper burial.

For those of you who are moved by the plight of the children in Haiti, I urge you to call the United States State Department, your elected representatives, UNICEF, World Vision, Compassion International, and even Oprah or any person of power and influence you can think of.  Tell them that this shameful situation is unacceptable.  Children should not be used as pawns.

Quote for the Day

Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering.

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, January 24, 2010

So Little Time

This past week I haven't been blogging because I've been up to other things.  Like starting grad school.  I put off doing that for a semester because I wasn't certain I was up to all that it requires.  But I kept feeling that tug and last month finally registered for classes.  I'm taking a virtual class and it's a whole new learning environment for me.  Online learning involves discussions via message boards and I'm slowly getting used to that venue.  Another new aspect of this environment is doing research using the university library's portal where I have tons of professional journals literally at my fingertips.  My memory of college research required hoofing it to the library, digging through the stacks, and photocopying from books and journals (and ponying up the money to do it).  I could get used to this kind of research.  In addition to the online library resources, I stumbled upon a new tool offered by Google - Google Scholar, which also provides a way to access professional and academic material.

Although being back in school is a bit stressful right now, I'm enjoying the challenge of it all.  It's the deadlines that I dread.  So, if I'm a bit absent now and then, you know why.

Quote for the Day

Our truest life is when we are in our dreams awake.
~Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Inspiration for the Day

Be careful what you water your dreams with.
Water them with worry and fear and you will
produce weeds that choke the life from your dream.
Water them with optimism and solutions
and you will cultivate success.
Always be on the lookout for ways to
turn a problem into an opportunity for success.
Always be on the lookout for ways to
nurture your dream.

~Lao Tzu

(Thank you to Kaileenelise for sharing this)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anniversary and Award

Sunday marked the first anniversary of my blog!  Never did I imagine when I wrote that inital post that I would still be blogging one year later - and enjoying it!    A great big thank you to all my readers who have supported me and read my blog over the past year.  I appeciate you all.
In the meantime, Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green and Deanna at The Well-Groomed Hippie both gave me this award:

Please check out their blogs.  They write blogs that make me happy and, if they hadn't nominated me, I would have sent them this award.

The rules upon receiving this award are:

First, copy the award image in your post.  

Then, list 10 things that make you happy, try to do at least one of them today:
  1. Spending time with my husband
  2. Watching a movie with my children
  3. Having my pets around me
  4. Drinking a big glass of iced tea
  5. Holding a newborn goat
  6. Traveling
  7. Being an advocate for people and animals in need
  8. Summer-time
  9. Connecting with friends - both near and far
  10. Enjoying a good book
Next, tag 10 bloggers who brighten your day.   I'm tagging:

(Ok, I know.  I cheated and tagged 12 - there's just too many to choose from!)  Visit their blogs - I hope they make you happy, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Live Green or Die

Please forgive me but this will be a very emotional post as I am an advocate for Haiti and for the environment.

Today I heard that missionaries discovered a fruit tree was cut down at the House of the  Lambs of God Orphanage in Ouanaminthe. This was done by villagers to make cooking charcoal.  In addition, some cassava and sweet potatoes were stolen out of their garden.  Pastor Daniel and his wife run this orphanage where they house over 25 children.  (To the left is a photo of Pastor Daniel, his wife Clynie, and some of their children.)  Pastor Daniel is a college-educated agronomist and has established a garden at the orphanage in order to feed the children and sell the surplus at the market.  The tree was cut down to provide charcoal for cooking.  Since the earthquake, the price of charcoal has skyrocketed.  People are desperate.

I need to provide a bit of background in order for you to understand where I'm heading with this post.  Haiti shares the same island as the Dominican Republic.  Often, both countries are struck by the same tropical storms and hurricanes.  Typically, the D.R. suffers minor damage as a result; Haiti is usually devasatated.  In 2004 and 2008, Haiti was struck by storms that killed thousands, destroyed homes, and created more orphans.  They were still staggering from the results of these storms when the earthquake hit.  Haiti suffers more from the storms because of environmental degradation.  In 1923, 60% of Haiti was forest.  Today, it is less than 2%.  As a result, it is estimated that 15,000 acres of topsoil are washed away each year.  Many efforts have been made to reforest the land.  However, due to the demand for cooking charcoal, the trees don't survive.

This morning I was struck by the thought that Haiti is microcosm of the world.  Many of us in the western world are concerned with the environment and living green.  However, there are also a number of individuals who say we are exagerating our case.  When I look at Haiti, I imagine the nation 80 years ago when it was a lush paradise,  I'm sure its leaders and citizens never envisioned the degradation that ensued over the past few decades.  They simply wanted to live the "Haitian way."

Today the world is dependent upon fossil fuel.  Like charcoal, it is a finite resourse.  Rather than seriously exploring alternative resources, we continue to extract fuel from the earth, even waging wars in order to insure we have our share.  We want to continue to live the "American way."  How is this different than the quest for charcoal?  And why do we believe we will have a better outcome?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Quote for the Day

"Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid."

~Albert Schweitzer

Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Help Haiti Over the Coming Months

Many people have been asking how to help Haiti.  I've seen many sites with a variety of links to aid organizations, especially the Red Cross.  Although the Red Cross is a wonderful organization, I hesitate to recommend it for people who want to ensure their donations go directly to assist the Haitian people.  The reasons are two fold:  1) The Red Cross is a first responder organization.  This means they go in, do triage, then move on to the next disaster.  The Red Cross already has money in it's coffers from past donations.  According to Charity Navigator, the American Red Cross has over $2.5 billion in assets.  Most of the donations now going into the organization will take weeks to process and by the time it makes it's way to the "front line," they will have moved to the next disaster.  2) It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to get supplies into Port-au-Prince at this time.  Commercial flights have been suspended and the port has been damaged to the point that cargo cannot be off-loaded. 

However, there are organizations already on the ground in Haiti, with connections to the Dominican Republic.  An organization with a connection to the Dominican Republic is able to obtain supplies through the "back door"; that is, supplies can be purchased there and brought over land to where it's needed.  Partners in Health, founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, UN's Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti, is one such organization.  On Wednesday, PIH issued the following statement:

"We have already begun to implement a two-part strategy to address the immediate need for emergency medical care in Port-au-Prince. First, we are organizing the logistics to get the medical staff and supplies needed for setting up field hospital sites in Port-au-Prince where we can triage patients, provide emergency care, and send those who need surgery or more complex treatment to our functioning hospitals and surgical facilities. To do this, we are creating a supply chain through the Dominican Republic. Second, we are ensuring that our facilities in the Central Plateau are ready to serve the flow of patients from Port-au-Prince. Operating and procedure rooms are staffed, supplied, and equipped for surgeries and we have converted a church in Cange into a large triage area. Already our sites in Cange, Belladeres and Hinche are reporting a steady flow of people coming with medical needs from the capital city. In the days that come we will need to make sure our pharmacies and supplies stay stocked and our staff continue to be able to respond. Currently, our greatest need is financial support"

Another organization, Danita's Children, located in the border town of Ouanaminthe, Haiti, next to Dajabon, D.R., is mobilizing to receive additional orphans.  This organization needs financial assistance to allow them to make room for these children.  Their location on the border and their 10 year relationship with the officials in both countries allows them access to clean drinking water, food, clothing, and medical supplies necessary to care for the orphans.

Both Partners in Health and Danita's Children are efficiently run, reliable organizations that have received four stars from Charity Navigator, the highest rating.  I highly recommend these organizations for individuals looking fo a way to make a difference in the lives of Haitian people.

Greening Valentine's Day

Lisa at Retro Housewife Goes Green is hosting this month's APLS Green Carnival.  The topic is how to green Valentine's Day.  How I green Valentine's day won't appeal to everyone. 

My huband and I have been married for almost 22 years (our anniversary is right after Valentine's Day).  I was fortunate to have married my best friend and the love of my life.  We not only love one another, we are still in love.  (Sorry to get so mushy!)  The first few years of our marriage, it was almost torture for my husband to find a gift for me.  He would agonize over what to get me and then run out at the last minute and *settle* on something he thought I would like.  Sorry to say, it was hit or miss.  Sometimes I liked and/or wanted the gift, other times not.  One year it dawned on me what a waste it all was.  So that year, for our Valentine's Day/anniversary, I gave him his gift ahead of time.  My gift?  I told him he was relieved of the burden of buying anything for me.  We've continued this practice for other special dates and we've never been disappointed. 

Not to say that we're Scooge's.  When one of us actually needs or wants something that is within our means, we make sure to get it (sometimes as a gift).  It just seemed that the stress and the waste was pointless.  Occasionally, we'll go out to eat but not always.  We try to focus on the relationship rather than the *stuff* and that seems to work for us.

So, our solution seems green in many ways:  there's no wrapping paper issue; no toxins used in raising flowers; no fuel consumed to ship goods; no need to worry about chocolate harvested by slave labor.  It might not work for everyone, but it works for us.

For those who feel the need to exchange gifts, I suggest a return to the 19th century tradition of exchanging handwritten notes and cards.  Those who have a sweet tooth, can bake their own treats for loved ones.  Two very green practices.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Just a quick update on the earthquake in Haiti.  First of all, thank you to everyone who inquired about friends living there.  We have heard that everyone in Ouanaminthe, which is 9 hours from Port-au-Prince, is fine.  The missionaries at Danita's Children were able to contact Pastor Alteese and he, his children, and staff members are fine.  However, many of those living in Ouanaminthe have friends and family in the capitol.  Pastor Daniel has a brother-in-law who went there to purchase books for the school; Pastor Alteese, whose wife passed away about eight months ago, has a son living there.  They have not heard from their loved ones and pray for the best.  It seems no one in Haiti is untouched by this catastrophe. 

Despite this grim situation, a little light shines.  The world has once again come together during a time of tragedy.  To quote my church's motto, "Love Wins."  

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Imagine a population the size of New York City in a depression worse than the Great Depression.  So bad, in fact, that unemployment records are not kept; estimates put it at 90%.  Then imagine the city is below sea level, and the levees break.  On top of that imagine an earthquake comparable to the one that struck San Francisco in 1906.  This is essentially what has happened to Haiti. 

Haiti is a desperately poor nation; most live on less than $400 a year.  It's the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.  There is very little infrastructure in the country; what little existed was in Port-au-Prince.  Most Haitians do not have access to clean drinking water, sanitation, medical facilities, or emergency services.  In 2008, the island was devastated by four hurricanes that struck back-to-back.  Now this. 

The news this morning is chilling.  The above photos are the before and after pictures of the presidential palace.  According to CNN, most of Port-au-Prince has been leveled and the death toll is expected to be in the thousands.  The building housing the U.N. workers has collapsed.  In the best of times, the capitol barely functions (and then mainly for the elite who live there).  Haiti is our neighbor and it needs help.  Many NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) have plans underway to deploy aid workers to assist in this catastrophe.  For those of you who are able to help, I urge you to do some research, and locate a worthy organization to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts.  The Haitians are, after all, our neighbors.

For those of you familiar with my connection with Haiti, I've heard from one of the missionaries at Danita's Children (located on the north east corner of the nation).  Everyone at the orphanage and school are fine and the surrounding neighborhood seemed unaffected.  In addition, another missionary has spoken with Pastor Daniel Paul at The House of the Lambs of God Orphanage and all is well there.  We are still waiting to hear about Pastor Altese at the other ophanage in Ouanaminthe.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Quote for the Day

“Do or do not... there is no try.”


Friday, January 8, 2010

On the New Year

As I settle into the new year, I find myself reflecting on how this year began and the things that transpired during the year:

At the beginning of 2009, I was recovering from a (minor) health problem (underactive thyroid) which left me feeling drained and tired most of the time.  I rarely got any exercise and I found myself gaining unwanted pounds.  I felt lonely and isolated.  In an attempt to pull myself out of the funk I was in, I began blogging; I joined facebook; and I began doing more volunteer work.  I went in search of myself and applied to grad school.

Oh, what a difference a year makes!  Through my blogging, I've connected with a variety of amazing women, some of whom have greatly influenced me and I'm happy to report, I have even had some influence on others.  Facebook also helped connect me with the world outside my little ultra-conservative community.  I've made some new friends and reconnected with some old ones. 

Even within my community, I've found ways to make a difference in others lives and in turn, my life was changed.  My husband and I had the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and travel to Haiti, a place I had felt a connection with but never dreamed of visiting.  As a result, it changed not only our lives but the lives of people in our church and our community.  Then I had my 15 minutes of fame:  I had a big piece written up on me in our local paper about my heart for Haiti.  This in turn brought awareness to the plight of the Haitian people and got much needed publicity for Danita's Children

In the fall, I made a commitment to run a 5K, joined a gym, and began my training.  I completed that 5K with a sense of success and a determination to improve my time in the NEXT 5K!  I now run at the gym on a regular basis and, althogh I've slacked up some, I continue my yoga practice.

This coming year I'm going to have a chance to reconnect with the women in my interfaith women's group.  In the past, we've chosen to do studies of women in the Old Testament.  Although the subject interested me, I realized I'm not a bible scholar.  I've read the bible (mainly the New Testament) and feel like I get the gist of it.  I'm not one to cite chapter and verse.  However, beginning in January, we're going to be studying the book "The Faith Club" about three women, a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian, who got together to share their faith and beliefs.  Now this is something I can get into.  So often, I hear people demonize other faiths and, although I know what is being said isn't true, I have no knowledge to back it up.  I'm also looking forward to getting to know more of the women in the group.  In this community, it's so rare to find a group of women who are open to learning about other belief systems.

At the end of the monthy, I'll be a grad student.  I'm hoping that studying human services will enhance my volunteer efforts.  I do work with the women in the city jail and with our local domestic violence/sexual assault shelter.  Studying human services should give me the tools to better serve these women.

Phew!  There's so much more I'd like to write about but I don't want to become a bore.  Needless to say, I'm looking forward to what the year 2010 has in store for me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Little Church that Could

For a few years now, I have often found myself angry with (or embarrasssed by) the "Church."  By Church, I mean all those who profess to be Christians.  As Christians, we're supposed to be the body of Christ as he's not here on earth to do His work.  However, many times the face of that body is represented by people like Pat Robertson.  Whenever I see his name on the news, I cringe at what new and embarrassing statement he's made.  I clearly remember how he said we should "take out" Hugo Chavez.  More recently, he said Islam is not a valid religion; that it's a political system "bent on world domination."  Clearly, at least in my mind anyway, these are not statements that have been approved by Jesus. 

However, there are also those times when I see the Church doing what it's supposed to do. 
This week I got to see the body of Christ as it should be.  I have to brag about the church I attend.  It's not a very large church, nor is it very wealthy.  However, lately I've been amazed by how generous and loving the members are.  For Christmas, our church participated in the Advent Conspiracy.   Church members chose to spend a little less on Christmas gifts and then donated the savings to several worthy causes.   And this week was the most incredible example of Christian behavior.

Here's the story:  Our youth pastor and his wife were expecting a child at the end of this month.  As part of their preparations to bring him home, they had begun desperately needed renovations to their home.  Sadly, their baby was delivered early and did not survive.  Many members of our church realized that in addition to their tragedy, they would be returning home to chaos.  Rather than allow that, people came forward and did an extreme home makeover.  This link is for the detailed story and the accompanying video.

That is what we all should be doing.  Instead of judging and condemning, we should recognize needs and fulfill them as we are able. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Time Wasters 2

Does't thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.
~Benjamin Franklin

So, the squandering of time is not a modern affliction.  Yesterday's post seemed to really resonate with a number of people so I though I'd continue the topic today.

I love the internet.  So much information, so little time; but I often find that I've frittered away far too many hours.  Now I'm working on making better use of my time while still enjoying the internet.  One tool I've decided to enlist in my quest for efficiency is Google Reader.  There are many that I like to read but it can be time consuming.  And it's especially time consuming when I visit each blog and discover they haven't been updated.  With Google Reader, you subscribe to your favorite blogs and can read all the new posts in one place.  You can peruse the titles and decide whether or not you want to read the posts.  It's kind of like one stop shopping.

Another thing I love is my ipod, which I also use to focus my time and energy.  Aside from the obvious use for an ipod - listening to music - the ipod offers a variety of entertainment options.  For book lovers, iTunes offers audio book downloads.  If you're not inclined to spend money on audio books, you can always get books at your public library and upload them to your ipod.  iTunes also offers a variety of free podcasts that can be entertaining and/or educational.  Personally, I like to listen to Coffee Break French, a great podcast to help me with my French studies.  The reason I'm mentioning my ipod in this post is that I just cannot sit still while listening; I must be doing something.  Unlike a television show (or even a book), I'm not glued to the sofa.  On the contrary, while listening to an audio book, I can be doing household chores or running errands.  A great use of my time.

Recently I began to look at the emails that arrive in my inbox.  It occured to me that many are advertisements from sites where I've made purchases in the past.  I don't really want the updates, I don't want to know about the specials.  For a long time, I just put up with them and would go through and delete them.  Now, however, I'm taking a little bit of extra time to unsubscribe; it's been well worth having a cleaner inbox.  Unsubscribing is very easy.  Just go to the bottom of the email and you'll usually find a link that says, "Unsubscribe."  Simple.

One blog that I've found helpful for time management and goal setting is Zen Habits by Leo Babauta.  This blog often contains little gems on simplifying and enjoying life to it's fullest.  (Of course I now read Zen Habits through Google Reader.)

If you have any tips for eliminating time bandits from your life, I'd love to hear about them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Time Wasters

Although it's not one of my goals for this quarter, I've been thinking a lot about time bandits.  You know, all those little things in your life that add up to a lot of wasted time.  Several things seem to drain away hours in a week, hours that I could be using to actually work on the goals I've set for myself.  One biggie is what I call junk emails.  Those emails that tell you that you'll be blessed if you pass it on to 5 of your closest friends or that promise the email contains something you don't want to miss.  Sometimes you have to wait for a download (photos or slide shows) or you have to click on a link.  Some of these emails are just *thinking of you* emails from a friend who received it from a friend...and then forwarded it to everyone in their address book.  And these almost always come from well meaning people.  But. I. Hate. Those. Emails.  Sorry...but it's true.  I don't want to see a cute picture (if I wanted to, I'd go to Google Images).  I do appreciate emails from family and friends, telling me that they're thinking of me.  But I don't want a form letter.  So now, I'm just automatically deleting those as soon as they appear in my inbox.

Another time bandit is social networking sites like facebook (and the email notifications I receive).  I've realized that if I don't personally know the person making a comment on a facebook thread, 9 times out of 10 it has nothing to do with me.  Those also will be deleted.  In fact, I've decided to take a temporary break from facebook.  Then I'll decided whether or not I'm missing anything or if I'm putting my time to better use.

Television sometimes becomes a time bandit for me.  I'm not a huge TV viewer, but I like to watch the news and occasionally like to watch a crime drama.  However, I've discovered that while watching the news, which is condensed into 30 minutes, I end up watching the same stories over and over.  I become a news junkie.  Same with television shows.  I tend to watch repeats of shows and the networks tend to run them back-to-back.  What happens is I intend to watch one episode and I find myself glued to the sofa for three or four.  And I've realized I don't really get that much enjoyment out of it.  After that many episodes, they all seem to run together.  One would be enough.

My hope with this new *revelation* is that I'll have happier, more productive days ahead for me.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Quote for the Day

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.
~Helen Keller

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all my readers.  January 1 is always a good day for me - a day to reflect and relax.  It can be the beginning of a fresh new start.  I've already set my quarterly goals and today I'm going to take concrete steps to achieve them.  Although I won't be posting them, I will be tracking my successes and set backs (as there are always some) in my personal journal.  I encourage everyone to use this day as a gift - to begin life anew.