Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Feeling confined? Tips from an astronaut

Astronaut Christina Koch, 41, recently returned from 328 days living on the International Space Station. The station is like a cluster of pressurized aluminum bubbles. It feels like living in the boiler room in the basement of a large building. She lived with a small group, and there was no way to leave. Their workspace was also their living space, and their only connection with friends was through video chat.

Today everyone is in an oddly similar situation, and Koch has some advice. She says the way to think about this new normal is to look at it as if it were "a new planet to explore. There will be things you can't do, but we're almost like a new group of people now, operating under a completely different set of rules. What are the new things people can do on this new planet?" She says we all should have objectives every single day. "What do I want to get done in the next 10 minutes? What do I want to do in the next hour?" Overcome loneliness and separation from friends via video chats, and remember -- adapting to virtual relationships means more than just chatting. It means doing fun things together while apart, in the same physical time. For example, when her friends on earth ran a 10K race one Saturday, she raced with them on her treadmill in space, punching her time at the same time they left the starting line. She advises, "We are all astronauts on planet Earth together. We'll be successful in confinement if we are intentional about our actions and deliberate about caring for our teams."

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Audit Yale's most popular course from home, free

Get ready to learn a lot about smiling. Yale University's massively popular "happiness" course, technically called "The Science of Well Being," is now available to audit online for FREE. The course offers insights from Psychology and neuroscience about what drives happiness, and then challengers viewers to experiment with behavior change exercises to help rewire the brain.

It was a campus sensation and became available online about two years ago. Here's a quick lesson from creator Laurie Santos. Happiness does not come from complex desires. "We miswant things. We think we need to change our life circumstances to become happier," she says, but "what plays a much bigger role are our simple practices, simple acts like making social connections, or taking time for gratitude, or taking time to be present in the moment."

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Another reason to love Disney

One of the many highlights of going to a Disney park is the delicious food served in many restaurants. But Disneyland in Anaheim, California, has temporarily closed due to the coronavirus. What will happen to the leftover food at the Happiest Place on Earth?

All the "excess food inventory" is being donated to Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange County. Disney VoluntEARS regulary volunteer there, supporting the mission of ending hunger. This is another reason people love Disney.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Free toilet paper for seniors

A businessman in Moline, Illinois, is temporarily transforming his awning company into a toilet paper distribution center for senior citizens. Rick Powell owns Sears Awning Company at 209 55th Street. It's been a leading awning supplier to the Quad Cities since 1843, but now it's filled with rolls of toilet paper.

Powell says he's fed up with people hoarding toilet paper and often leaving none for seniors. Since he owns the business, he is able to order it in bulk, and now he's giving it away --FREE. People 65 and older can come to get free toilet paper Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Today's crumb is from Scotland

A convenience store called Day-Today, in Drylaw, Edinburgh, Scotland, has given away thousands of dollars in free toilet paper, hand wash and tissues to customers 65 and older and those with mobility issues. If a customer cannot come to the shop for the free items, the shop will deliver them to the customer's home -- for free.

Shop owner Zahid Iqbal, 34, has already given away more than 1,000 kits, and says he wants to set an example for other businesses. He said the initiative has already cost his convenience store over $6,000, not including the cost of fuel for home deliveries.  He is also considering making food bags with pasta and tinned goods, as panic buying leaves store shelves empty and supermarkets struggle to meet demand.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Teachers parade for students

Teachers and staff at Jefferson Elementary School in Muscatine, Iowa, spread joy recently by driving through neighborhoods to say hello to students. Honks filled the air as their cars, decorated with signs, streamers and balloons passed student homes. The event was called the Jefferson Jamboree.

Maraia Sneath, a teacher at the school, had seen similar stories in the news, so she emailed the staff to set the plan in motion. Teachers hopped in their cars and drove through the neighborhood waving hello to students. Journey, 10, and Liam, 5, were waiting outside with their mother and younger sister. When asked what they missed the most about school, they said their teachers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

When an honor society is about more than grades

Shaivi Shah, 15, is in the Honor Society at Tesoro High School near Los Angeles, California. Recently she heard Gov. Gavin Newsom speak about the state's homelessness crisis. She realized most homeless people cannot afford to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

So she rallied her fellow Honor Society students into helping her give away more than 250 low-cost "sanitation kits" to homeless shelters around Los Angeles. Each kit contains hand sanitizer, lotion, antibacterial soap, and handmade reusable face masks to help homeless people stay safe.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Policeman shares pizza, and his heart

After nine years on the Greensboro, North Carolina, police department, Officer Michael Rivers has come to know those who are homeless in his community. But recently he came upon a homeless woman he'd never seen before. Her t-shirt caught his eye. It said, "Homeless. The fastest way to become a nobody." He asked her if she'd eaten that day, and she said no.

"God put it on my heart to get her lunch," he said, so he grabbed pizzas from a nearby pizza shop and sat down on the grass next to her. He said their conversation was even better than the pizza. For 45 minutes he and the homeless woman, who called herself Michelle, shared their life stories. And the heartwarming moment was captured in a photo by a passerby and shared on Facebook.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

When reel medicine meets real medicine

Medical shows including Grey's Anatomy, The Good Doctor and Station 19 have been shut down as part of a large-scale attempt to contain the coronavirus. The shows don't have real doctors, but they do use real medical equipment, which they are now donating to hospitals and fire departments.

Krista Vernoff is executive producer of Gray's Anatomy and Station 19. She says, "At Gray's Anatomy, we have a back stock of gowns and gloves which we are donating." Other shows are donating masks. "We are all overwhelmed with gratitude for our healthcare workers during this difficult time, and in addition to donations, we're doing our part to help them by staying home."

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Two crumbs for the price of one

On a rainy day in Boston, Massachusetts, Ed Oliver Bohld stood outside the window of his longtime girlfriend's room at her assisted living home. He couldn't visit her because of the pandemic, so instead he sang.

Under an umbrella, with a guitar in hand, Bohld sang, "You are my sunshine" as he beloved Mary Lou watched from inside. When he was done, she beamed and clapped. "I will see you soon," he told her. "All of this will be over eventually. I love you very much. I miss you."

Meanwhile, a family wanted to wish their 95-year-old grandmother a happy birthday, but knew she could not come in contact with them. So instead, they stood out on her lawn, with balloons and handmade signs saying "Happy Birthday."

Friday, March 20, 2020

Sports broadcaster uses voice to help others

Even if Dave Pasch can't use his voice to broadcast sports, he can still speak up for those suffering during the pandemic. The four-time Arizona Sportscaster of the Year, who is best known for his national play-by-play work with ESPN, struck a chord recently with a social media post offering to help a Phoenix family who has lost income due to the virus and cannot pay a bill.

In a Twitter post, Pasch recalled a well-known Bible verse (Acts 20:35) about helping the weak, and Jesus saying it is more blessed to give than to receive. He explained, "I just felt this is an opportunity for me as a Christian to live out my faith in a way that's real, and kind of where the rubber meets the road. Here's an opportunity to step up when you've got a lot of people who are hurting and suffering and unsure of the future. I thought it was a good opportunity to use the platform I've been given to be a good witness and certainly not take the glory for myself, but help another person."

Thursday, March 19, 2020

No one ages while baking pies

Most mornings just after 8 a.m. Mary Fannie Woodruff, 103, arrives at Woodruff's Cafe and Pie Shop to peel apples, fold pie boxes and check the ingredients for her sweet potato and buttermilk pies. It all began in 1952, when she and her late husband built a two-story cinder-block building on a rural highway near Monroe, Virginia, about 180 miles southwest of Washington, D.C.

The couple raised their five children in the apartment above the grocery store, and Mrs. Woodruff spent many busy summer afternoons pumping gas for vacationers. Woodruff's were the only children of color at the local school, and someone once threw a brick through their window to protest integration, but the kids stayed in school anyway. The shop, which is on State Road 130 in Amherst County, was turned into a sandwich and pie cafe in 1998 by Woodruff's daughter, Angela Scott. Scott was later joined by her twin sisters Darnell Winston and Darnette Hill, and Mrs. Woodruff was delighted to have her daughters together again.

Angela says, "People walk in and their eyes light up when they see the pies in the case, and then see Mama. 'Look, there she is!' they whisper. Everybody loves her." In fact, many customers stop in just to see Mrs. Woodruff, which pleases her so much that she has no plans to retire. "More than anything, I like to sit and talk to the customers,"she says.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Music is how we'll get through this

Rebecca Tien and her children, 9-year-old Taran and 6-year-old Calliope, live in Columbus, Ohio. When they heard that an elderly neighbor, Helena Schlam, who lives alone, was self-quarantined and had not left her house for five days, the children offered to play (a concert) on her porch, so she could listen through the window. Helena accepted the offer, and came out on her porch instead.

The children set up their music stands at the far end of the porch and played songs from Suzuki Book One for cello in unison. Helena sat a safe distance away, and contacted her grandchildren in Israel who were also self-quarantined, so they could listen. Then she congratulated her neighbor children for playing "their first international concert." Later, Helena remarked that "music is how we're going to get through this."

Church means more than "big Sunday meetings."

A megachurch in Cincinnati, Ohio, announced last month that it is paying off $46.5 million in medical debt for more than 45,000 families. Crossroads Church partnered with Medical Debt, a medical debt relief non-profit, to wipe out debts for people in four states, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.

According to senior pastor Brian Tome, "Churches are at our best when we are a blessing to real people in our communities. We're not here to just have big Sunday meetings." Tome told his congregation about the "opportunity to multiply our impact" during a sermon last November. He said those whose debts are paid will receive a letter that says, "Your medical debt has been paid because someone loves you and there is a God who has not forgotten about you." The church wiped out debt for 41,233 households in Ohio, 2,974 Kentucky households, 503 households in Tennessee, and 136 Indiana families.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

When a car lot becomes a care lot

Just like any other used-car lot, during the day Kiplin Automotive Group sells cars. But as night falls, manager James Charles turns on the lights and transforms the dealership into a haven for those who are homeless and living in their cars. With its well-lit lot, security cameras and welcome invitation, the dealership in Charlotte, North Carolina, offers homeless men, women and families a safe place to park overnight, without worrying if they are trespassing or breaking the law.

Since Charles first posted his invitation on January 23, about 20 families have parked their cars in his lot. Some stay for just one night. Others come back every night for weeks. As word spread about Kiplin Auto and the work Charles is doing, donations of hats, coats, blankets and even a port-a-potty came in. But when folks started sending money, he started a non-profit organization called HALO which has raised over $17,000. He uses the money to pay the security deposit and first month's rent to help those living in cars get back into apartments.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Her favorite has always been peanut butter

Ronnie Backenstoe of Wernersville, Pennsylvania, was born in 1922. Her mother allowed her to join the Girl Scouts when she was 10. She's still a troop member, and has been selling Girl Scout cookies since the Great Depression. Recently she had a table to sell cookies in Phoebe Berks, the retirement community where she lives.

Fellow scouts joined her at her cookie sale. Troop Leader Barbara Allen Perelli says that, even at 98, Ronnie's energy is non-stop. Younger scouts in the troop (none are older) say she often makes them laugh. Backenstoe believes scouting is just a part of living. "That's really what Girl Scouting is," she says. "It teaches you how to live. And her favorite Girl Scout cookie has always been peanut butter.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A virus of kindness?

Rebecca Mehra, 25, lives in Bend, Oregon. Recently she was heading into the Safeway on Century Drive when she heard someone call, "Hey you!" An elderly woman was waving from her car, so Rebecca went over to speak with her. The woman said she and her husband had been sitting in the car 45 minutes, afraid to go into the grocery store and shop, because of virus fears. She said, "We're in our 80's and have no one around to care for us." Would Rebecca shop for them? Rebecca said, "Yeah, sure, no big deal," and the woman slipped a $100 bill and grocery list through the window.

Rebecca said the list included basic necessities like toilet paper. "It was crazy being in Safeway," she said. "There was nothing in the cleaning section. But other shoppers helped her, including a woman who pointed out where the two remaining bars of hand soap were located. "She took one, and gave the other one to me," Rebecca said. When she was done shopping, she loaded the groceries into the couple's trunk and gave them their change, without ever asking their names.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Songs cannot be quaranteened

A video taken recently in the locked-down city of Siena, Italy, shows neighbors wo cannot leave their homes leaning from their windows to sing with each other during the nationwide caronavirus crisis. The song, titled Canto della Verbena (And while Siena Sleeps) is a beloved local folk song traditionally sung as a means of expressing pride in the beautiful Tuscan city.

Many viewers have been deeply touched by the heartwarming footage, which illustrates the enduring resilience and pride of the Italian people in a very difficult time. One Twitter user wrote, "Imagine the whole world singing like this from their houses. No hate, no nothing. Just unified for once."

Friday, March 13, 2020

His students will never forget him

Glen Paul Davis was a bus driver for the Grand Meadow, Minnesota, school system for 55 years. He drove multiple generations of some families, all of whom called him "Glennie." He often bragged that he never had an accident, and joked that he wanted to be buried in a school bus. To his surprise, his friend Jim Hindt actually commissioned his niece to paint a casket like a school bus. Davis was very touched by the gesture, and would often bring people to Hindt Funeral Home to show off its colorful design.

The casket drew its biggest crowd of admirers when dozens of students, staffers and other friends showed up for Davis' funeral at St. Finbarr's Catholic Church after he passed away recently at 88. His online obituary sparked an outpouring of messages and support. Even a neighboring school district send him a message that read, "May your final stop be peaceful. Your students will not forget you."

Thursday, March 12, 2020

A crumb from South Carolina

Back in January, 2019, South Carolina fast food employee Malcom Coleman lost the home he shared with his mother. It erupted into flames on his birthday. Since then the pair have been living with friends and family. Coleman works at Wendy's near the University of South Carolina, and when some students learned his story, they decided to give him the happy ending he deserved.

USC student Robert Calderoni convinced his business fraternity to start a GoFundMe to raise $75,000 to help Coleman put down new roots. Why? The fraternity members admire him because he always builds personal relationships with customers and knows exactly what to say to make someone smile. According to Calderoni, "Malcolm has gone above and beyond to care for students without expecting anything in return; now we have the opportunity to help out a friend in need."

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Celebrating "Dress as your favorite person Day"

A kindergartener in Arkansas dressed as his school's security guard on "Dress as your favorite person Day." Five-year-old Easton Blocker sees Officer Jeffery Cross as a hero and best friend. "From day one, he's always had a fascination with Officer Cross," says his mom, Lauryn. So on "Dress as your favorite person Day," he knew exactly who he wanted to be.

His mom made him his own shirt that says "Junior Security" on the back. Seeing the child all dressed up meant a lot to Officer Cross. "It makes me appreciate my job more," he said. This is the first year the school district has had armed security guards. Easton tells his mom every day, "Officer Cross keeps us safe from the bad guys."

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Gibson responds to Nashville tornadoes

Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the most beloved music capitals of the United States. Parts of the city were recently destroyed by devastating tornadoes. Gibson Guitars, based in Nashville, is providing a special kind of relief.

                                                                                                                           Associated Press
Gibson Gives, the international guitar brand's charitable foundation, is offering to replace any guitars that may have been lost or damaged during the storms. "Our goal is to get a guitar back into the hands of anyone who had their damaged," says Dendy Jarrett, executive director of Gibson Gives. The Foundation has supported other charitable causes in the past, including adding music rooms to local public schools.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Who says girls can't wrestle boys?

After placing fourth in North Carolina's high school wrestling championship meet as a sophomore, Heaven Fitch set her sights on winning the 106-pound division as a junior. In doing so recently, triumphing in an eight-wrestler bracket that include seven boys, Fitch made history as North Carolina's first girl to win an individual state wrestling championship.

In the days since, during which seemingly every media outlet including the BBC has called, the significance of Fitch's achievement has grown. "This has had a ripple effect," said Sally Roberts, founder and CEO of Wrestle Like a Girl, a non-profit which promotes wrestling as a means of educating and empowering girls and women. She added, "Yes, women can do it if they're taught and trained. Wrestling is a sport for everybody."

Sunday, March 8, 2020

We know about fake news, but a fake lap?

A couple that recently started working at home needed to find a way to keep their "super clingy" cat occupied while they get their work done. Their brilliant solution? A fake lap. Becky says their senior cat Ziggy needs human contact at all times, so he started climbing all over their desks and keyboards.

"We just had to keep her occupied for a while and we hate shutting her out of the office because she just shouts until we open the door again," said Becky. The couple tried everything to keep Ziggy distracted, but nothing worked until they invented a fake lap. The pants are stuffed with a duvet cover, and one leg has a heated mat inside of it. Ziggy found her way to the fake lap, where she will now sit peacefully for hours.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Neonatal ICU library

Anoushka Talwar weighed only 2.2 pounds when she was born prematurely at 27 weeks. Now a Girl Scout, the 14-year-old carries no ill-effects from her ordeal, but remembers stories about her birth. Babies born extremely early cannot be held by their parents, but must remain in an incubator in the hospital's neonatal ICU. In Georgia, where Anoushka lives, parents of premies are encouraged to talk, sing, or read aloud to their children.

Wishing to help other premies inspired Anoushka to go door-to-door in her Atlanta neighborhood, asking for donations for children's books for the neonatal ICUs of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Johns Creek Hospital. These books would be available for parents who wish to read to their children. She hoped to collect 100 books but soon amassed 450. This allowed her to create two mini-libraries at the hospitals, and win a Silver Award, the second-highest honor in Girl Scouts.

Friday, March 6, 2020

That's one ringy-dingy

Justine Haupt is a brilliant 34-year-old astronomy instrumentation engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, who works in technology but does not like the smart phone culture. "I don't like the idea of being at someone beck and call every moment, and I don't need to have that level of access to the internet," she says.

So she spent the last three years developing an "old fashioned" phone that can fit in her pocket. It gets good reception, and maintains its battery life for 30 hours. When she wrote about her invention on her blog, the website crashed from the sheer number of visitors clamoring to admire the retro cell phone.  Needless to say, she despises texting.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Cab drivers goes the extra mile

Rajbir Singh is a taxi driver who looks out for the welfare of his passengers. Recently he picked up a 92-year-old lady who asked to be driven to her bank right away. She told him the IRS had called her on the phone, and asked that she withdraw a whopping $25,000.

The taxi driver smelled a rat. Instead of taking his passenger to her bank, he took her to the nearest police station. She was sure Singh was mistaken and the IRS really had called her, but the police officers convinced her it was a scam. She kept her money, and police rewarded Singh with a $50 gift card. Not that he needed any payment. He said, "I'm am an honest guy, and these are old people. They need help. It just made sense."

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Eagle Scout at age 90

Racism prevented Herman Flora's drive to reach the Pinnacle of Scouting at a period of historically heightened segregation. Now 90, he was watching his grandson become an Eagle Scout when Herman got a surprise.

He was recognized for his own work as a Scout more than 70 years ago. He says Scouting prepared him for a future to defend his nation, attend Howard University and succeed in real estate. "Scouting is what made me what I am," he said.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Hospital custodian does more than expected

Ki-Jana "KJ" Upshaw changes linens in all 82 patient rooms at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio. Earlier this year, he befriended a 7-year-old patient named Cohen who was always playing with LEGOs. Upshaw then noticed another boy across the hall named Keagan who also spent spare time building structures with the toy bricks. Upshaw believed the boys were destined to be friends, but because of isolation rules, they could not visit each other's rooms.

Upshaw spent the following months helping the boys forge a friendship by swapping messages and communicating between them about their LEGO creations. The friendship helped both youngsters recover, and on the day that Keagan was well enough to go home, Cohen was healthy enough to wear a mask and walk across the hall to Keagan's door so he could give him a LEGO set as a farewell gift. Parents will soon plan play-dates for the new friends.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Newlywed police officers always on duty

It happened a few weeks ago in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Husband and wife pPolice officers Nicole and Chase McKeown were on a "date" at Raising Cain's Chicken Fingers, when surveillance video showed a robber wearing a white mask and black hoodie walk in. He pointed at the cash register and showed the cashier a handgun tucked into his shorts.

Their dinner was  very delicious, but from their booth they noticed the cashier hold up her hands. Just before jumping up with weapons drawn, the couple looked at each other. Chase said they barely spoke, but both knew what they needed to do.  When the robber saw the pair coming, he dropped his gun and ran out of the restaurant. The newlyweds chased him for a block before they were able to detain him. "There wasn't any planning it," said Chase. "That's where training takes over."

Sunday, March 1, 2020

An unexpected kiss

Not long ago, Lindsey Sheely wsa receiving a pizza delivery at her home in West Warwick, Rhode Island. Instead of waiting at the dinner table, her two-year-old son Cohen felt compelled to run outside to the driver, still on the porch, and give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek as a thank you for their dinner.

"We thought it was sweet and funny," Sheely wrote on Instagram. Then she realized the doorbell might have caught the action on camera, and it did. She posted the hug on social media and the clip ended up on the timeline of Ryan Catterson, the driver Cohen had hugged. He contacted Sheely to tell her he recently lost his teenage daughter, and Cohen''s hug meant the world to him. "After losing my daughter this past week," Catterson said, "it touched me because it was like she was there."