Friday, May 30, 2008

Quote for 5/30/08

"I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we,
too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics,
but for our contribution to the human spirit."
John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Compassion Advocacy

Guess what, everybody. I've completed my training as a Volunteer Advocate for Compassion International. What does that mean?
It means I now have a pretty firm grip on just what it is that Compassion does, how they do it, and why they do it.
Two weeks of computer based training, with tons of facts and figures, reading material's galore, video presentations and testimonials from people who've been involved with Compassion. All culminating into a 4 hour long conference call between my Training Co-ordinator and 9 other Advocates like myself for a Q&A session and a 3-5 minute presentation from each of us.
Allow me to share my presentation, as I prepared it, along with my Training Co-ordinators comments afterwards.

"Change the world". That's a very popular phrase these days. A very popular concept. It's something we'd all like to do, or at least be a part of. But how many of us know where to start, or how?
Well, we all know that the only way to start anything is by taking that first step. And while the overall desire to change the world may seem like a daunting task, taking that first step is the most important. When we focus on the little things that each one of us can do, those small changes will eventually grow into something bigger. I want to encourage all of you to take that first step today, to make that small change, and in doing so, you can change the world forever for one child in Jesus' name.
I'm here on behalf of Compassion International and the millions of children who are living in poverty throughout the world today. I'm here to encourage you to support Compassion's ministry to these little ones by sponsoring a child. You see, Compassion is changing the world one child at a time. In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus tells His disciples that "anyone who welcomes a little child... on My behalf is welcoming Me." Compassion enables all of us to welcome a child on Christ's behalf by offering us the opportunity to become a sponsor.
For 32 dollars a month you can change the world for a child who is currently living without much of anything - including hope for their future. Because that's what real poverty is. It's not just a lack of money or material possessions, those are merely symptoms of a greater ill. Poverty is a lack of hope for the future, and a lack of opportunities that can break the cycle of that poverty. We don't really understand that here in the land of opportunity. We're used to having whatever we want, let alone anything we might need, right at our fingertips at a moment's notice. Meanwhile, many of these children are wondering if they're even going to eat today.
32 dollars a month. Does that sound like a lot? That's a little more than a dollar a day, less than you'd pay for a bottle of purified drinking water - a luxury these kids can't imagine. And it's about one fifth of what most of us are willing to pay for a cup of coffee. We have the power to give hope to the hopeless, to help to provide for the basic neccessities of life that you and I take for granted.
What Compassion does is they work with local churches in the 25 countries where they have programs to build relationships within those communities. Through those church based outreaches, Compassion is able to identify the greatest needs and then help those children who are at the most risk from their poverty of malnutrition and various diseases. Many of which result simply from not having clean water to drink. Most of which are easily preventable. These are things that none of us have to worry about.
Now, Compassion's ministry is not a quick fix. They're not just throwing money at a problem, and they're not asking you to either. Compassion is about addressing the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs of each child. And addressing these needs with the utmost dignity for these little ones, their families and their communities. They are a Christ centered ministry that focuses on the full development of each child. And they are committed to that goal.
But there's so much more to their ministry than the supplemental food and medical attention that your sponsorship provides. In addition to the educational resources your sponsored child will benefit from, you will develop a relationship with a child who desperately needs to know that somebody cares about them. You'll have the chance to exchange letters, and give your sponsored child the encouragment that he or she needs to grow in their faith. You'll be able to exchange prayer requests, and see how much this little child can care about you, and your family. You'll be a part of shaping a child's future and presenting them with opportunities they would never have otherwise. You will also find that your world will change as you open your heart to "the least of these", as Jesus called them. You will find the love of God, and His heart for the poor and oppressed, taking over in your own heart.
Before I finish I want to remind everyone of the parable of the sheep and the goats that Jesus shared with His followers in Matthew chapter 25. "For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me." These are obviously important issue for our Lord - that we take care of those in need - and this is our chance to show ourselves faithful. So, please, prayerfully consider being a part of this incredible ministry. Take a look at the information packets. Look into the eyes of some of these children and see them with the eyes of Christ's love for them. Then let the Spirit guide your heart. If you're serious about wanting to change the world, this is a great place to start. I'll be around to answer any questions you might have.
Thank you.

Michael- I like that you started right in. I love how you connect welcoming a child with the bible verse on that- I think that is really powerful. I found your presentation clear. I would encourage you to redo your ending challenge- be careful you aren’t taking the challenge away.

So, needless to say, I'm pretty geeked about how I did. I'm really psyched about my involvment with Compassion.

But now for even more information that I learned through my training;
Were any of you aware that there are over 2 billion children under the age of 15 living in the world today?
*Nearly 360 million of them are illiterate.
*Over 300 million of them are either orphans, or homeless.
*Close to 250 million children work rather than attend school, while 120 million of them labor full-time.
*Approximately 2.3 million are infected with HIV, and 15 million have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Not a very pretty picture, is it?
Sorry about being such a downer, but I do have good news.
Compassion helps.

Here are some of the good things I've learned as a result of my training;
*Compassion has projects operating in 25 countries around the world, serving over a million children who are living in poverty.
*Approximately 83% of the money donated to Compassion is used for children's services.
*Compassion has additional programs for specific, special needs for both the very young, and those who've graduated from the sponsorship program. Ask me about them, they are so cool !!!
*The majority of children who are registered to be a part of a Compassion project are sponsored within 6 months.
*Every child whose picture you see in an information packet (or online) is a part of a project. They receive many of the benefits that the sponsored children have, but they don't have the additional emotional and spiritual support of a sponsor - the unfortunate aspect of this is that the program can only take one child per family in these cases. Also, any child over the age of 9 who needs a sponsor has had the sad experience of having had a sponsor, but for whatever reason, the sponsor has ended their participation in Compassion's outreach. That's what happened to the little girl that I'm sponsoring. Which makes me feel even better about having picked her.

OK, all of that being said, I want to once again reiterate my hope that I've been able to encourage any of you to consider sponsoring a child, or at least making a donation to Compassion for the sake of these little ones. Every little bit helps.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quote for 5/28/08

"The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual
achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, 'I was wrong.'."
Sydney J. Harris


Monday, May 26, 2008

Finding memories

In respect to my earlier post today, I spent some time with my mother this afternoon. Actually I went over for dinner. Well, lo and behold, she decided to pull out some of the old family photo albums.
It isn't that I wasn't already aware of this, but mom pulled out some of my dad's old papers, photos and whatnot. As I looked through some of them I realized that I am very much my father's son. I have a writing style very similar to his. And I see the familiy resemblance in our faces. Which is something I never really paid that much attention to before. But it's there, as plain as the nose on my face...

OK, that was lame

But anyways...
It was very cool to look through some of the things that my mother has kept. I kid you not, this woman still has my report cards from first grade. She has memorabilia from multiple generations of both her's and my dad's families. Including a family history that my dad's uncle researched and wrote about their family going back to their immigration to America from Germany in 1779. Very cool.
So it's kinda funny that I should find new memories of my family on Memorial Day.

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As my 4 day weekend winds down I reflect for a moment on why I have this particular day to rest.

It is a day of rememberance for those who've given their lives for our freedom.

Let us not lose sight of this truth as we enjoy whatever festivities we engage in today. Be mindful of those who fought and died so that we could partake in the liberties that so many take for granted. Our lives, our right to live as we believe, our right to pursue our happiness in a way that we find most fitting, these things were all purchased by the blood, sweat and tears of men and women who were committed to those principles. They and their families made great sacrifices for the millions of us that they never even knew.
Remember them today.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quote for 5/25/08

"It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages Hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons."
William Gurnall

Only one of many reasons why bad things happen to good people...


Friday, May 23, 2008

Quote for 5/23/08

"Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life."
A. W. Tozer


Fat guys on bikes; Season 3

Episode 1:
OK, this is the first official ride of my third summer with a bicycle.

Ya know, it took me nearly a half an hour to figure out how to put the bike-rack back on my car. But once it was on, I was ready to roll.
Solo ride today. Started out around 10:00 this morning, which is much later than usual. The trail was a bit more crowded than I'm used to.

I know that two people on the trail ahead of me hardly constitutes "crowded", but this was after I got away from the parking area. There were about a dozen kids there with a trailer and a few adults preparing things for them all. I couldn't get away fast enough.
Anyways, since I was by myself, I didn't have to worry about anyone else's schedule. I just plugged in ear buds, cranked up some tunes on my wonderful Creative Zen media player, and off I went.

Saw these right away.

I have no idea what any of them are, all I know is I think they're very pretty. Especially these pink ones.

Took my first break at one of our favorite spots along the trail. This is the Youghigheny River.

I just like the view from this spot. It's nice from either direction, up or down stream.

Continued on from here to another favorite spot.

This is another one of those views that I absolutely love. I'm especially geeked about catching the shadow from the cloud as it passed over the hillside.

Then there are the little things like this waterfall that show up all along the ride that make it so enjoyable.

Some of them are kinda nasty looking and discolored with chemicals or mineral deposits. But I'll spare you from having to see those.

And then I saw this...

Something tells me that the weather of late has not been kind to our beloved Yough Trail. Considering that those massive tracks you see behind the machinery ran almost the entire length of my ride from this point on today, you can guess that there's been some cleaning up needed.
And here was the worst spot of all.

This pic doesn't even scratch the surface of how bad this area was. There was a huge tree fallen down just a little bit further behind where I was standing when I took this shot. There were several logs already cut up on the side. The trail itself was rough and muddy. You could tell it was recently covered with mud and debris. It was not a pretty sight. But I'm not complaining, I'm actually quite impressed with the clean up effort. They did good getting it back in shape for the new season.

I managed to get in about 15 miles or so. I can't really say anymore because the little odometer thingy on my bike is nowhere near accurate. At the first mile marker on the trail it read .94 miles. By the time I hit the 5 mile marker it was reading 5.6. So when I stopped at a little pavilion to eat an orange and drink some water, before turning around for the return ride, it was reading 7.7. When I got back to my car it was well over 16. Go figure.

Of course, after the ride I was quite hungry. so I opted for Wendy's. And it's quite funny that I should bump into someone I haven't seen in nearly 20 years. I think two of my regular readers might remember him. His name is Mark "the beaver" Landry. And I had been wondering about him and some of the other people I knew from our old youth group. It was really cool to run into him and say "Hey".

All in all, a really great day. So stay tuned for further episodes of Fat guys on Bikes coming this summer. Starring yours truly, and the usual cast of characters. But you'll have to excuse me now since I'm still feeling kinda rubber-legged. And I do have an appointment with my bed for a nice nap.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh, soooooo happy !!!

4 day weekend officially began at 2:40 this afternoon.
Not sure what I'm gonna do with my 4 days off, but I will make sure to enjoy myself. I'm thinking about getting my bike out and taking a little ride on the Yough Trail. I'm also planning a lot of naps in between whatever fun I end up having.
I hope all of you enjoy your weekend.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It's all working itself out

Had a conference with Not-So-Emo Bob, his mother and his teachers at his school today. It would seem that he's been misbehaving lately. It's nothing drastic, just somewhat inappropriate. He's been clowning around in class and being somewhat disrespectful to his teachers. But they all like him and think he's got a great head on his shoulders. They only wish he would be more consistent in his efforts, and less disruptive during class. So we've managed to get the situation resolved and I won't have to kill the Boy anytime soon.
I also wanted to post a couple of pics here, too. I took them when I dropped Bob off on Sunday and just haven't had any time to upload them since then.
This is the post office in the little town where Bob currently resides...

I think I have a closet bigger than this building.
And this is one of the neighbor's cars...

Talk about sub-compact.
Those were just for fun.

At this point, it looks as if Bob will be spending most of the summer with me. If we can find him a job, that is. I'm not going to let him lounge around all summer when he could stay at his mother's and give her a hand with Sammy instead of her having to pay for daycare all summer long.
There's a better possibility of him getting a job here in Monroeville than out in the middle of nowhere (Clune, PA). So we're hoping he can find one very soon and then he'll be able to afford a little bit of independence. And it will take a lot of the burden off of me and his mother for keeping him entertained.

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Quote for 5/21/08

"The way through the world is more difficult to find than the way beyond it."
Wallace Stevens


Monday, May 19, 2008

She is

She is...
Shimmering like satin
smooth as silk
soft as the petals of a rose;
She is...
flowing, liquid fire
seared into my mind
burning in my blood;
She is...
A misty vapor
a wisp of smoke
a vision haunting my dreams;
She is...
Here and gone again
yet ever before my eyes
dancing through my heart;
She is...
A summer breeze
carrying sleep far from me
stirring my emotions


See below, also.

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A few thoughts on it

I don't normally feel any need to explain my poetry when I post it, but I get the feeling I should say a little something about the poem I have posted above.

This is not something new. In fact, I stumbled upon this poem as I was looking through some old notebooks that I uncovered this weekend. It's actually about 6 years old. But it's not about my Ex-wife - even though we were married at the time that I wrote this.

The plot thickens...

I was not having an affair. I have never met the woman that I, sorta, describe in the poem, but I believe she is real. I wrote the poem after seeing the same woman in several dreams over the course of several weeks. And lately, I've been seeing her again in new dreams.
There are maybe 3 people, other than myself, who have read this poem before. And I'm not really sure why I felt so compelled to share it with everyone now. But if I am indeed on a particular path, to serve a particular purpose in God's plan, then I suspect this woman has something to do with the part I play in all of it. Especially since both of her appearances seem to revolve around me making active decisions to fully pursue my faith.
In any event, I hope you enjoyed the poem. I hope that you've found it to be as stirring as I have. Especially now that you have an explanation for where it came from.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quote for 5/18/08

"The glory of God is man fully alive."
St. Irenaeus

Does this sound odd to you? Read below...


Fully alive

How many people struggle with what the above Quote... really implies about our lives? Because, if that's true, then our lives should not be mundane. Nor should we be struggling just to make it through each workday. We are meant for something more, something better. Especially those of us who call ourselves Christians.
I'm not about to tell everyone that I am living a life that is fully alive. But I am getting there.
Allow me to begin by telling everyone that I am currently reading another book about Christian spiritual growth. It's titled Waking the Dead, by John Eldridge, and I will tell you all that it is a phenomenal book.
I don't want to say too much about the book, though. I'd much rather you explore it for yourself - if you're so inclined. But I do want to say that I recognize some of the things that the author addresses in the book about living a life that is fully alive. And I am proud to say that I have been learning these lessons for quite some time now, and I'm glad to see how those lessons have impacted my life for the better.
I have come to realize that over the last several months, as I've committed myself to my faith, to my spiritual gifts and to being generous with the finances, and other resources which God has blessed me with, I am seeing what it truly means to be fully alive.
I can see the direction that God is leading me in. I can see the plan He has for my life as it unfolds a little bit more each day. And I can tell that He has great things in store for me, and not only for me, but for many of those who are around me. And that makes me feel alive - that knowing - that I have a distinct purpose in the grand scheme of things. What could be more invigorating?
If I had known earlier that living a generous life meant living a satisfied life, I would've started a lot sooner...

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quote for 5/15/08

"It's very easy for me to laugh at myself and laugh at life."
Matthew Ashford


You have to laugh

In respect to the above Quote....

Had a great day at work today. Split my jeans at the start of the workday - right at the rear-right pocket. I was wondering why it felt so drafty...
I had to use packing tape to close up the tear. There was no duct tape available.

Needless to say, my co-workers had a few laughs at my expense, and I'm OK with that. I do know how to laugh at myself. I also know how to play it for as many laughs as possible. It took us nearly 20 minutes to stop laughing. And even then, we still referenced my predicament for the better part of the day with many subsequent chuckles.

And doesn't that kind of real laughter make the day better, no matter what else might happen?

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Quote for 5/13/08

"The purpose of life is a life of purpose."
Robert Byrne


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Quote for 5/11/08

"My mom just understands about stuff. We have a really good trust, and she knows I can take care of myself."
Balthazar Getty


Happy Mother's Day

I'd have to say I pretty much agree with the above Quote.
Mom may not think I can take care of myself, but she knows I do OK trying.

But Moms are like that, aren't they? Even when you can take care of yourself, they still think they know better. They like to let us live our lives as if we really are taking care of ourselves. So they're always waiting on the sidelines to pick us up when we happen to stumble. And that's OK. It was always a great arrangement when we were little. I'm sure it's still a pretty good arrangement.

Well, I can't stay on too long. I'm going over to Mom's for dinner. I offered to take her out tonight, but she yelled at me and said she'd rather stay in and make something. Go figure...

Anyways, for those of you who are mothers, I wish you a Happy Mother's Day. For those of you who still have you mother, make sure you tell her you love her. And for those of you who no longer have your mother, I trust you'll hold a fond memory of her in your heart today.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Changing the world

I just wanted to let everybody know that I am well on my way to becoming an official Child Advocate for Compassion. I had a phone interview on Wednesday that lasted for almost an hour and a half. At the end of the interview my interviewer explained that there were 6 things that they look for in their Advocates, and I expressed all of them during my interview. I'll be getting my training materials sometime next week.
Compassion is a ministry that I can really be proud to be a part of. And while it's only a volunteer position, I still see it as a great opportunity to give - since I'll be donating substantial amounts of my time to this cause. Besides, after attending last weekends event, I'm sure I'll enjoy being more deeply involved.
For anyone who might be interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion, you can go to this link:

That's my personal referal page.
Once again, I will encourage all of you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Compassion. You can change the entire world for one child.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Quote for 5/8/08

"I tell you the truth, unless you are born from above, you cannot see the kingdom of God."
Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the son of the Living God.

See below for the reason why I picked this Quote for today...


Happy Re-birthday to Me !!!

Today is my 25th Re-birthday!
Or to put it in terms which reflect the above Quote, the 25th anniversary of the day I was "born from above". Of course, the amount of time spent having been re-birthed means nothing unless I end my days living in that re-birth. And I do intend on doing that, no matter how many days I might have left.

Ya know, this sounds like a good excuse for a celebration...

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I love my kids

Ya know, sometimes it helps to hear what other people are going through in order to better appreciate how good we have it. And I've been blessed with such an opportunity lately.
I got to talk to a couple of my co-workers who have kids around my daughter Aliesha's age and I can't tell you how happy I am that I don't have their problems.

One is sending his daughter to college in New York. That's where she decided that she wanted to go. He's paying for everything because she doesn't have a job. And now she's not sure she wants to stay in that school. So after he's already paid for one year, she's thinking of leaving that school and maybe going to another. And this says nothing for her summer plans. Being without a job means he'll probably end up paying to keep her entertained all summer long.

Another co-worker has a 20-something year old son who lives at home, has no job, isn't going to school, has some medical problems and still managed to go out and buy a new truck, which my co-worker is currently making the payments on, as well as paying for the gas that goes in it.

I gotta say, I'm doing pretty good considering that Aliesha's sharing an apartment with a couple of her friends and I don't pay any of her bills.
Life is good...

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Quote for 5/5/08

"The wealth of a soul is measured by how much it can feel; its poverty by how little."
William R. Alger


Quotes for 4/2008

Sunday, May 04, 2008

What an amazing day

I spent most of my day yesterday at the Acquire The Fire event down in Oakland. I had volunteered to staff the Compassion booth for the event, and I have to say I'm really glad that I did.
It's kinda funny that as soon as I met the Compassion Event Coordinator the first question out of his mouth was "So, Michael, do you ride?". I get that occasionally since most people expect a guy with a mohawk to be a biker. Unfortunately, my answer is always "Not yet, but someday.". From there we started to get to know each other.
His name was Dave, and he does ride. Dave is actually a volunteer for Compassion, also. He's not a paid employee of Compassion, though they do cover his traveling expenses. But this saves them the expenditure of wages and benefits - which is a great thing for a charity. His "job", as it were, is to simply take the materials to whatever event he's the coordinator for, set up the booth, and make sure the other volunteers, like myself, know what they're doing.
He's an incredibly likeable guy, very funny, and he has stories to tell about so many different events, concerts and festivals that he's been to. He's been doing this for nearly 20 years, so he's had the opportunity to meet and befriend nearly every Christian music act that has ever toured. He's also a huge history buff. He's been to every Civil War Battlefield/Museum there is, more than once, and even knows about Fort Recovery, Ohio (and that's kinda obscure in American history).
But the most important thing about spending my day with Dave, and the other volunteers, at the ATF event was his commitment to the ministry of Compassion. He jokes with everyone that he has a baseball team because he and his wife sponsor 9 kids. And he's had the great pleasure of being able to travel to the countries they live in and visit each of them. Talk about a blessing. And he shared so much about what the ministry of Compassion really does. It's truly amazing.
As for the event itself. It was great to see hundreds of kids gathered with a single purpose; to express their faith in Christ. Now, of course, I do realize that not every one of the kids who were there were actually committed to Christ. Some were only there to see the bands that were playing. And that's OK. But I will say that the majority of the kids were there for their faith and that gives me hope for the future.
This was an incredible experience for me. It was such a blessing to see so many teenagers taking the time to actually sponsor kids through Compassion. Some of them would realize that they couldn't afford to do it alone, so they'd ask a friend to join with them. Sometimes entire youth groups would come up to sponsor a child and then ask if they could sponsor more later if their group got larger. And so few of these kids were being prodded by adults to do this. Most of the parents who came by were asking their teens "Is this the one you were talking about?".
Yeah, these kids were serious about following Jesus, and they wanted to show it in a much more concrete way than by simply wearing a T-shirt.

OK, now I have a challenge for all of you.
I brought home 10 of the information packages from the event. I have 10 children who need sponsors. I've already taken them to church with me today, and some of the people there are considering this. But that's not all. I'm also going to be taking the info packages to work with me, too. I want to get all of these children sponsored before the time runs out on this particular event, which is May 23rd. I'm hoping I can encourage some of you that if you don't already sponsor a child, please prayerfully consider sponsoring one of these children whose information I have here. If you're interested, you can e-mail me. My e-mail address is in my profile.
You can change the world for one child, and that's the best way to change the whole world - one child at a time. And believe me when I tell you this, you'll be changed, too.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Introductions are in order

For those of you who pay attention to such things, you may have noticed I've recently added a new blog to my list of Blogs I Visit. Her name is Aspen, and she's living with Cystic Fibrosis. I found out about her through a friend of mine who was asking me for a little bit of insight on some of the therapy available, since I work for a company that manufactures respiratory devices.
I sincerely recommend that you check out her blog, just to see what an amzing young lady she is. She chronicles her daily struggles with not only the CF, but with diabetes and an insurance company that is denying most of her claims for necessary treatments.
It is because of that last bit - the part about the insurance company - that our mutual friend, and a small handful of others who truly care about Aspen, have created a special fund to help cover those unpaid costs and to help purchase much needed medical equipment and supplies for her. I'm going to recommend that those of you who have it within your means to do so, go to The Aspen Fund to make a small donation to this beautiful young lady who is just one incredible, shining example of how we ought to live our lives, even in adversity.
I am truly inspired by her positive attitude amid these struggles. I think yinz would be, too. Please visit her and maybe pass on some encouragement.

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