Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Free your mind.

Happy Juneteenth! My favorite holiday, Juneteenth, celebrates the 19th of June, 1965, when enslaved black folks in Arkansas and Texas finally found out about the Emancipation Proclamation, even though the document had theoretically taken effect more than two years earlier on January 1, 1863. I wrote before about my great-great-granddaddy, Griffin Henry Belk, and how he responded to the news of his freedom. His actions - immediately walking off the plantation, freeing the mule, and going to search for his parents - suggest he was, in fact, already free. He needed no official Proclamation to free his mind. Neither do we. We too can live our lives striving to be free.

* Free yourself from fear.
* Free yourself from guilt.
* Free yourself from anger.
* Free yourself from worry.
* Free yourself from shame.
* Free yourself from blame.
* Free yourself from jealousy.
* Free yourself from insecurity.
* Free yourself from frustration.
* Free yourself from oppression.
* Free yourself from judgmentalism.
* Free yourself from other people's expectations.
* Free yourself from other people's issues and baggage.

And if you need some help, check out these resources on

* Faith and spiritual health
* Mental health
* Addiction
* Love

On this Juneteenth, free your mind. Who knows what wonderful things you'll be able to accomplish! Happy Juneteenth!

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." - Johann Wolfgang van Goethe
"Free your mind, and the rest will follow." - En Vogue, paraphrasing George Clinton of Funkadelic

Monday, June 11, 2007

Write an ethical will.

Last weekend, Kwadjo at I watched Emmanuel's Gift. It's a documentary about a Ghanaian athlete, Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. He was born with a severely deformed right leg, a challenge in most every society. Disabled people in Ghana (and many other places) are generally expected to beg, but Emmanuel's mother expected better for him. And on her deathbed she talked to her teenage son about her hopes and expectations for his life. The conversation had a profound impact on Emmanuel's life; he called it her 'gift' to him.

Emmanuel Yeboah is now a leading advocate for disabled people in Ghana. His organization offers scholarships for disabled children and stipends for physically challenged athletes. His work also led to the passing of the Persons with Disability Bill in Parliament on June 23, 2006. Great work!

The film reminded me of a recent show I hear on NPR about ethical wills. These are documents that are either separate from or integrated with traditional wills that express your fundamental beliefs and allow those beliefs to be shared with the people who love and care for you. According to, ethical wills often center on the following themes:

* Love
* Great life lessons
* Asking and giving forgiveness
* Core personal values and beliefs
* Core spiritual values and beliefs
* Hopes, dreams, blessings, and expectations for future generations

For help creating your ethical will, contact your attorney and peruse these books:

* The Wealth of Your Life by Susan B. Turnbull
* Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper by Barry Baines

These are also important themes to talk about while you're alive. Preparing for the end of life can be difficult and uncomfortable, but there are many resources to make the process easier. Learn more about

* Organ donation
* Living will preparation
* Burial alternatives
* Body donation

And don't forget to check out Emmanuel's Gift (ideally with someone who can supplement the translation from Twi - thanks Kwadjo!). It is an inspirational film that will encourage you to make the most of your life. Then you'll definitely have something to share in your ethical will.

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference." - Elie Wiesel

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Give soles for souls.

If you're like me, you have lots of shoes in your closet that you never wear. They're too good to trow away, but, for whatever reason, they never seem to make on your feet. Here's the perfect solution: Donate your new or gently worn shoes to Soles4Souls. This nonprofit organization collects shoes to send to people who need them all over the world. There are several ways you can donate:

* Donate your shoes. They should be new or gently worn so that other can use them. Send them the shoes you only wore once, the ones that are too tight, or too big.
* Buy shoes for donation. These are specifically designed to be very affordable (from $2 to $17 per pair).
* Donate time to assist in shoe drives, warehouse work, relief trips, and more.
* Donate money by check or credit card. Funds are used to support the work of Soles 4 Souls, and donations are tax-deductible.

Call Soles 4 Souls at 1 866 521-SHOE to get information on planning your organizations shoe drive. This is a great way for congregations, companies, schools and civic groups to work together. And if you have well worn athletic shoes you can no longer use, send them to Nike Reuse-a-Shoe.

"Shoes are made to walk in. I think they're really neat. Have you ever seen shoes of tin? They really hurt your feet!" - Karama Neal, age 7

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Reduce, renew, offset. (A guide to carbon offsets)

So you're concerned about climate change. You have every reason to be. You do your part by composting. Perhaps you've changed all the light bulbs in your house to compact florescent bulbs. You're car is a hybrid or maybe it runs on biodiesel, vegetable oil, or E85. Even better, you take transit or walk. You recycle plastics and ink cartridgesand everything you can think of. You are living your life in the most environmentally responsible way you know but you still want to do more.

On average, every American generates about 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year from personal transportation, home energy use and from the energy used to produce all of the products and services we use and consume. Want to know much you generate? Use a carbon use calculator to make an estimate. When you are doing all you can to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, consider buying renewable energy credits to offset the rest. Here's how to get started:

* Read The Consumers' Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers (a PDF file).

* Review this cost and performance comparison of carbon offset providers.

* Purchase your offsets. Consider one of these providers:
--> NativeEnergy is Native American-majority owned and offers "traditional renewable energy credits and offsets from operating new projects."
--> Green Tags offets support solar and wind power projects across North America.
--> The Climate Trust is a nonprofit offset provider.
--> TerraPass uses offsets to fund wind, biomass, and energy efficiency projects
--> Atmosfair focuses on offetting air travel.
--> Co2 Balance will calculate your carbon footprint, advise you how to reduce it to the minimum and then help you offset the rest.

Carbon offsets often take the form of renewable energy projects, energy efficiency programs and reforestation efforts. It's important to remember that your offset purchase must mean that something new happens (for example, a new windmill is constructed) that would not have happened without your purchase. Also, the action that you're buying must actually actually offset your carbon production. Here are a few organizations that certify carbon offsets:

* CDM Gold Standard
* Green-e
* Chicago Climate Exchange
* Environmental Resources Trust
* Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management

Carbon offsets aren't the only solution; we'll all have to make lifestyle changes because we can't buy ourselves out of the climate crises. But offsets can help. Remember, reduce your carbon emissions through decreased usage and increased energy efficiency, renew by choosing renewable energy sources like wind energy or biodiesel, and for the rest, offset. So check out renewable energy certificates. They make great gifts, for yourself, for others, for all of us.

"The greatest pleasure I have known, is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident." - Charles Lamb

Friday, June 08, 2007

Use E85.

Did you know that there are over 6 million flex fuel vehicles on the road in the US? Flex fuel vehicles are designed to run on either gasoline or an 85% ethanol/15% gasoline blend called E85. Although flex fuel vehicles may seem like a relatively new concept, the first one was a 1908 Model T Ford. So they've been around a while. Unfortunately, many people don't even know they own a flex-fuel vehicle so you can bet they're not using E85.

Using E85 in your car or truck creates less pollution and decreases reliance on imported and domestic oil. So if you have an flex fuel vehicle, consider fueling up with ethanol. "But where can I buy E85?" you ask? Just visit, select the alternative fuel you want, enter your location, and you'll get a list of the stations near you. There are almost 700 of them around the country. Learn more at

And if ethanol's not your thing, try fueling with biodiesel or WVO, or drive a hybrid. Whatever vehicle or fuel you choose, remember to drive gently. There are lots of ways you can help reduce air pollution. Happy travels!

"There's simply no two ways about this fuel question. Gasoline is going - alcohol is coming. It's coming to stay, too, for it's in unlimited supply. And we might as well get ready for it now. All the world is waiting for a substitute to gasoline. When that is gone, there will be no more gasoline, and long before that time, the price of gasoline will have risen to a point where it will be too expensive to burn as a motor fuel. The day is not far distant when, for every one of those barrels of gasoline, a barrel of alcohol must be substituted." - Henry Ford, 1916

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Choose pink, or not.

Last time I went grocery shopping, there were pink products everywhere. I'm not sure why because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But there was pink soup, pink yogurt, even pink laundry detergent. Well, the products weren't pink but the packing was - all in support of breast cancer detection, research, prevention, and treatment. It can be easy to just buy all the pink products, but is that really the best way to support your favorite cause?

As it happened, I just bought the laundry detergent. It was the brand and kind I get anyway, so it made sense. But instead of buying a bunch of products you don't normally use, just send the money you would have spent to a charity that focuses on the cause you care about. They get more money to do good work, and you get a tax write-off.

So next time you see pink products, or any products who makers will support a cause you care about, choose carefully. And don't forget to support the cause directly.

"A good reputation is more valuable than money." - Publilius Syrus