Somebody Loves You

A few weeks ago, I volunteered for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention‘s national Overnight Walk for the second time. In solidarity with the walkers, I took the 12:00 to 6:30 am shift.

I walked into a disorganized situation because of the weather. It had been raining for hours and it wasn’t about to stop. In nice weather, tents are set up on a big plaza at City Hall. So most of the tables, signs, etc. had been crammed into City Hall.

The route of the walk, which is usually around 17 miles, had been shortened due to weather-related safety concerns. So when I arrived, walkers were starting to cross the finish line. I didn’t have a set job because of the turn of events, so I stood at the finish line to cheer on the walkers for a while.

The walkers were soaked. Some were excited and grateful as they approached the finish line. Others were exhausted and limping. I witnessed a marriage proposal, which was sweet.

My next task was to help a woman find her luminaria. Luminaria are paper bags that walkers can decorate with messages for and photos of the loved ones they’ve lost to suicide. Once decorated, battery-operated tea lights are put inside and they are displayed by the finish line. Some people choose to put out their luminaria before the walk, and some bring them on the walk and put them out afterward.

Because of the rain, luminaria were placed in a number of random spots. Outside, inside, 20 there, 50 there. The woman I was helping showed me a photo of her luminaria. On it she had written some inspirational thoughts in black Sharpie. I registered the second one, “Somebody Loves You.”

She took the inside; I took the outside. There were approximately 1,800 bags, so I wasn’t hopeful. Like the last time I volunteered, I was surprised by the range of people who had lost their fight against suicide. Parents, children, spouses, friends. One person had lost his fight in 1981 and another had lost his fight a mere six weeks earlier.

I didn’t find the woman’s luminaria. I somehow was able to find her again inside and offered an apology. I felt an urge to look around inside myself. Within five minutes, I found her luminaria. Holding it to my chest, I practically ran to where I had left her, and thankfully she was still there. We exchanged some happy words and a hug.

By about 4:00 am, the last walker had finished. Everyone who was staying for breakfast and the closing ceremony was sprawled across rooms and hallways on the first floor of City Hall. I spent the next hour or two on garbage duty, picking up discarded breakfast items. Exhaustion, sorrow, and relief hung like a cloud over everyone.

At the closing ceremony, a young man who had attempted suicide spoke, and a musician who had lost her sibling sang a song. The AFSP CEO announced that the walkers had raised more than $3 million in that one evening.

I left exhausted but happy that I had helped AFSP in a small way. Please read these statistics and never be afraid to ask loved ones if they feel like hurting themselves. Let’s bring mental health issues into the light.

Message at the finish line
Message at the finish line

MLK Day 2015

As MLK Day approaches, I feel mournful and ashamed—ashamed of my country. Almost 50 years have passed since MLK’s assassination, and we still haven’t grasped the concept that Black Lives Matter?

I can picture him sitting in heaven’s cafeteria with Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, etc. They are all shaking their heads and muttering to each other, “What the f***k are these people doing to each other?”

But from this shame rises a glimmer of hope. The hope that someday everyone will believe that everyone’s lives matter. OK, a lot of people will believe that everyone’s lives matter. I think that volunteering and being of service to others is a step in the right direction. When you help people who need help, you bear witness to their humanity, to your common humanity. When you just help, period, you are making an important difference and seeing the world through a different lens.

So take part in the MLK Day of Service if you have free time on Monday. Or volunteer at some other point during the month. Volunteermatch and Points of Light are good places to start looking for opportunities.

Here are some MLK quotes to kick you in the behind:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

In Case of Fire

I’ve logged my first random birthday list item for the year: touring a fire station. I always have a number of “randos” on my list = opportunities that randomly present themselves. I love the randos.

This opportunity arose through an organization I volunteer with. On Saturday morning, about 10 firefighters showed our group the six different vehicles at Cambridge Fire headquarters.

I’m still in awe 24 hours later. We were shown just about everything on the engine truck, the ladder truck, the ambulance, the dive rescue truck, the hazmat truck, and another truck whose purpose has slipped my mind.

We saw tools: different types of axes, halligans (look it up), hook tools that can tear down ceilings, some rabbit tool that can knock down a door, some jaws of life (!) , diamond-blade saws. We felt how heavy their gear is (50–100 pounds worth). We were shown a monkey suit that the divers wear and were shown where the disposable hazmat suits are stored. We were told about the different air supply packs and how the fire hose gauges work.

This particular department’s responsibilities are mind-boggling. The 250+ firefighters housed at eight stations in a six-square-mile radius are not only responsible for putting out fires, but they are also charged with handling incidents at Harvard’s and MIT’s labs, along 7.5 miles of the Charles River, AND in the subway (one of the stations is one of the deepest in the world—105 feet below ground).

One of the firefighters mentioned that a little more than half of calls are about fire; the rest are incidents such as water rescue, medical calls, etc. These brave people need to know how to respond to what seems like a million different situations.

There was much excitement when an actual call came in while we were there. Unbeknownst to me, I was standing right by the pole, and a guy swooped down about three inches from me. I hadn’t noticed the pole because the hole was covered by some plastic flaps. As the alarms sounded and the firefighters hopped into the trucks, my heart immediately started racing and all of the tour members looked at each other with widened eyes. I was relieved when the engine and ladder trucks returned in under 20 minutes.

The deputy chief also spoke a bit about the department’s role in emergency management. He and his team ensure that shelters will be ready to go when there is a big emergency, such as a hurricane. I almost cried on the spot as he went through the list of the types of trailers: He told us that after Hurricane Katrina, the federal government required cities to include pet trailers in their emergency shelter plan because so many people died from staying behind with their pets when they were told that they couldn’t bring them to the shelters.


It was a great experience that prompted me to re-learn how to use a fire extinguisher!

Cambridge Fire Headquarters
Cambridge Fire Headquarters

Baby Animals and Lion Hugs

It’s raining baby animals at the animal shelter where I volunteer and I can’t stand it! I’ll start with the most exciting baby animal:

Baby guinea pig










Yep, a baby guinea pig. Apparently called a pup. My brother and I had a guinea pig named Patches when we were kids. Unfortunately, I have a feeling she was not long for the world under our care. Mom, do you remember?











According to this website, baby rabbits are called kittens? Whaaa… We also had a rabbit, named Bunny, who either froze to death in her outdoor hutch or Grandma left her hutch door open so she escaped. Mom and I remember different final chapters of Bunny’s life.

THESE are kittens.
THESE are kittens.










Kittens! So cute, but so much work. We had two kittens while growing up, Tiger (whom we immediately started calling Kitty after we named him Tiger) and Kiwi. I don’t remember all of the work, probably because Mom was doing all of it.

THESE are pups.
THESE are pups.










There are three or four other pups hiding in the back there. So adorable. Well, I seem to have turned this post into a history of my childhood pets, so might as well mention Pooka. I didn’t know her when she was a pup. She was middle-aged by the time I was old enough to understand what a dog was. She was cute, but I don’t remember playing with her much. All I recall is her limping around the house and peeing on the living room rug a lot.

Soooo…while we are on the topic of animals, let’s look at some videos of lions hugging people. Just because I am obsessed with the story of Christian the Lion.  If you haven’t seen the viral video of Christian the Lion, grab some tissues. Every time I watch this video, I practically break down in sobs.

Recently, a friend showed me this video of a lion hugging a woman who rescued him and nursed him back to health.

And then I came across this lion whisperer chap, Kevin Richardson:

Isn’t it incredible to watch these huge predators return the love they received from these humans? You needed the tissues, right??


Stop and Look at the Roses

The weather is dreary and gloomy, and I’m turning 40 in exactly eight months. Time to stop and look at the roses to cheer myself up.

I volunteer at the Kelleher Rose Garden a few times each summer. Because it’s surrounded by tall hedges, it reminds me of one of my favorite children’s novels, The Secret Garden. And I really enjoy working with the staff and other volunteers. It’s a beautiful and relaxing way to spend a summer evening.

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A view from the garden
A view from the garden
The garden at sunset
The garden at sunset