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10 Things Solo Travel Taught Me About Relationships

Thu, 2014-12-04 12:06

This summer, my four-year relationship ended. So naturally, I booked a two-and-a-half week trip to Croatia and Iceland. By myself.

At the time, there was a part of me that thought I could run away from my heartbreak (spoiler alert: I couldn't) and come back healed and unscarred (spoiler alert: I didn't).

When asked, I'd explain the purpose for my first solo trip by telling people that I wanted to reclaim a self-reliance and take back a dependence I had on a man for the past four years.

I went on this trip with a void in my heart, exposed and constantly feeling like something was missing because my other wasn't around. I mean, solo traveling as a mid-20-something female is scary in itself, and I knew that I was adding an extra, heavier layer of emotion by doing it heartbroken and confused.

I expected to spend the majority of the trip alone, I expected to have my breath taken away from the beautiful countries I was visiting and I expected to have brief interactions with people along the way. Beyond that, there were no expectations -- mostly just anxiety and fear.

What I found was that the void doesn't make me less whole or less myself. Losing a loved one didn't take my existence, my half of the relationship, away. No matter what my intentions and expectations were when exploring the world, I never expected to discover myself through the eyes of strangers in foreign countries.

Thanks to my solo adventure, I was able to explore myself, the world and my place in the world.

With that said, here are 10 things I learned about relationships:

1. Everyone has a story (or stories) worth hearing, you just need to be open to listening to them.

When I was on my very first flight (one of seven), I was annoyed that the guy next to me was trying to engage in conversation. I wanted to wallow in my anxiety while frantically texting and Facebook-ing. I was even too busy checking to see if there were any updates on my exe's social media sites. Once I was forced to put my phone away, I learned more about the guy next to me. He was a 50- to 60-something Frenchman, born and raised in Prague, who lived in New York City and has been in Paris for a few years where he manages a language school. He was en route to Paris before going to Kiev to explore Ukraine. He told me some stories from his lifetime of travel and taught me a little bit about the world. This connection was incredible, foreshadowing what was to come, and to think I almost missed building this relationship because of fear (of missing out and leaving my comfort zone).

2. You're not going to hit it off with everyone, and that's OK.

On my very first day in Dubrovnik, Croatia, I decided to fight jet lag and do one of the most touristy things there -- walk the city walls around Old Town. There are only two entrances to walk the wall, so if you enter with other people, you are more or less walking together the whole way around. I ended up with three guys from Spain, visiting only for the weekend. We talked, we joked and they were kind of enough to take pictures of me since I forgot to pack my selfie stick. After we were done, I mustered up the courage to ask them to grab a drink or dinner together. One instinctively said no followed by no explanation, while another politely declined and the third just stood there looking in the other direction. I was so embarrassed and immediately decided I wouldn't ask to hang out with people on this trip. I later went back on this promise to myself, and I'm glad I did.

3. Language barriers only hinder verbal communication, not connection.

In Dubrvonik, I was staying in a couple's guesthouse, and their daughter, Vedrana, who happened to be my age, was in town from school. She invited me to go out with her and her friends on my second day, and I reluctantly agreed, not knowing what to expect. While she, her friends and her cousin were all fairly good English speakers, some things definitely got lost in translation, and one of the girls who went to college in the U.S. had to middle-man translate here and there. But ultimately, connection transcends language. We were able to find commonalities (like dancing) and build real friendships from there. I spent two days in their company, bonding over gelato, swimming in the Adriatic sea and teaching them American games.

4. Getting lost is good for the soul.

Five days, two cities, a table for one. Before this trip, I never had the confidence to sit at a fancy restaurant with a glass of wine and smile, because I was content with my own company.

In Hvar and Split, I ate meals, sat at cafes and explored the touristy sites by myself. I've never been able to draw from my own strength without someone cheering me on, but at one point, I went bike riding to the top of a very desolate mountain in Hvar (13 kilometers one way). It was physically and mentally strenuous, but I pushed through to see the lavender fields pictured above. In Split, I literally got lost; I was scared, I pulled myself together and I was able to find my way again... all alone. It was all very metaphoric. A metaphor for life... for heartbreak. Remember when I said there was a part of me running away from my feelings? Well, it was during these solo experiences that they surfaced, that I was forced to re-evaluate my relationship with myself. I learned so much about being a healthier individual and having a more loving self-awareness on these scary, yet exhilarating, adventures by myself.

5. As Rumi put it, "What you seek is seeking you."

I left Croatia having spent a lot of time exploring myself. I very much accomplished learning and building a self-love and self-reliance I sought before the trip.

With these newfound discoveries and a growing love for myself, I traveled to Iceland expecting more or less the same lessons. However, I had an entirely different experience. I wasn't aware consciously, but I was seeking a community and a community is definitely what I found.

From the minute I walked into Kex hostel in Iceland, I immediately hit it off with a handful of people, all from different countries. They were all vivacious, light-hearted, smart, witty, adventurous, and we all fed off each other's similar energy, because after all, you attract people with the same energy you exude. The most amazing thing is that we were all individual solo travelers, with a desire for a shift of perception and change that pushed us each out our doors. To say I took this trip only because of my heartbreak wouldn't do the truth justice. I took this trip because of a perpetual heartache I felt, a lack of connectivity with myself and with the world.

I needed to step out of my comfort zone and decided to do that halfway across the world. And there is where I found a tribe of individuals who felt exactly the same way.

6. How you make a living doesn't necessarily relay the life you live.

Work is naturally one of the first topics touched when you meet someone new. But I noticed that the combination of being in a strange land and with strangers, very quickly what is important to you and what drives you take precedence over your job. How you make a living doesn't necessarily relay the life you live.

When I think of the people I met in Iceland, the family that I made, I instinctually think of my favorite movie, The Breakfast Club. People know us, in our respective communities and lives, in a very certain kind of way, and they have seen us the way they have chosen to. But there, in Iceland, in a foreign land with only our hearts (some scarred) and our zest for life, we were, in some weird way, in a self-imposed detention -- exploring each other and ourselves with much more depth. It's there that we realized we were more than a writer/editor, a behavioral therapist, an accountant, a wandering guitarist, a beverage technologist, a student, a consultant and more.

7. We all want to belong to something that's greater than us.

The world is really big, possessing so much to be seen and learned, but the beauty of it is that it's made to feel smaller when we're lucky to be a part of something that's greater than us. For some, it's finding a tribe of like-minded people where you can feel at home. For others, it's a pursuit of a passion or career that provides a sure sense of purpose. No matter what it is, or how you currently feel... we all have the engrained desire to know that we belong. Fortunately, I was welcomed with ease in Iceland, and I felt a deep sense of belonging with the other misfits and mischiefs. The home really is where the heart is, and I found a home in Iceland (and subsequently in nine other countries).

8. Never lose faith in humanity.

I, along with four others, spontaneously decided to go for a hike one day in Iceland, but we missed the bus and couldn't afford a cab to the mountain. A young couple from their Serbian donut stand nearby asked us if we were trying to get to the airport. We kindly say no, we wanted to go hiking at Mount Esja but we missed the bus. We walked away, defeated, only to get yelled back five seconds later by them. The girl, Tara, handed her keys over and said, "Here, you can take my keys and my car. I'm going to be here all day. Just fill up the gas and have it back by 9." The man proceeded to drive us to the girl's car and apologized for not being able to take us to the mountain himself. We returned the car later that day, bought some delicious donuts, made new friends and were incredibly grateful and lucky to have met this couple. It's this kindness and trust that not only restores faith in humanity, but also absolutely started a cycle of kindness that we each passed on to other people.

9. Being present should be a priority.

I was sad the first few days of my trip; I was alone and in a strange city and heartbroken, but through my experiences and the bonds I made, I realized that whatever was important would still be around when I got back from my trip. I started to think less about the life I temporarily left behind in New York, and filled up that mind and heart space with the people and places I was with in the moment. I realized that worrying about my ex or my life in New York was only keeping me from maximizing my trip and fully committing to the relationships I was making, both with the countries I visited and the people I met.

10. Soul mates come in different forms.

I've always been a strong believer that a soul mate isn't just a romantic partner. This trip only confirmed that belief. I made a number of soul mates, and they each share different parts of my soul with me, some overlapping with others.

Alex, the strawberry-blond-haired girl, perfectly mirrored my love for life and the importance of transparency. We spontaneously danced in the streets while walking to dinner; tried fermented shark together; stood under the Northern Lights until our fingers were numb; talked about our families and heartbreaks and career pursuits. We were direct and honest and challenging with each other, but offered an unconditional support for each other's choices. And since the trip, we've already reunited in San Francisco.

Then there were the boys. My brothers. As a solo female traveler, who was staying in a hostel for the first time, I felt nervous and wary of boys. But I honestly couldn't have met and built bonds with kinder, funnier, sweeter, more inspiring or more adventurous gentlemen.

These newfound soul mates reflected back to me my own beauty, helping me fall in love with myself. And as easy as it was to be loved and love each of them, I was reassured that true, real, raw love exists. It didn't matter that none of it was romantic, I knew my heart was going to be OK.

College Football Playoff, Bowl Projections Before Selection Committee Picks Top 4

Thu, 2014-12-04 12:00
By Dave Miller, National Football Post

This weekend will be a memorable one in the world of college football, as a 12-person selection committee will unveil the four teams that will play in the very first College Football Playoff.

There's been a lot of discussion as to why Florida State slipped to No. 4 in the latest rankings, how TCU is ahead of Baylor despite losing to the Bears and whether Arizona can get into the top four with two losses if the Wildcats beat Oregon again.

As we look ahead to Championship Saturday and the final week of the season (with the exception of the great Navy-Army game the following Saturday), let's take a look at how the College Football Playoff could look in its first season as well as how the rest of the postseason could shake out in my latest bowl projections.

Below is how I slotted all of the teams for each and every bowl game. Yes, all 39 of them.

And, as always, these projections are subject to change — especially because it's still not entirely clear how the College Football Playoff will ultimately come together and it's common for some conferences to not always be able to fill all of their bowl tie-ins.


* Replacement team for a conference that cannot fill its bowl slot.

— If bowl-eligible, Army will play in the Armed Forces Bowl, Navy will play in the Poinsettia Bowl and BYU will play in the Miami Beach Bowl.

Note: One team from the so-called Group of Five (American Athletic, MAC, Mountain West, Conference USA and Sun Belt) will get chosen for either the Cotton, Fiesta or Peach Bowl.

The College Football Playoff

Semifinal—Jan. 1 Rose (Pasadena): No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State

Semifinal—Jan. 1 Sugar (New Orleans): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 TCU

Championship—Jan. 12 (Arlington): The winners of the two semifinals meet

The CFP Selection Committee bowl games

Dec. 31 Peach (Atlanta): Ohio State (At-Large) vs. Mississippi State (At-Large)

Dec. 31 Orange (Miami): Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten/SEC/Notre Dame)

Dec. 31 Fiesta (Glendale): Arizona (At-Large) vs. Boise State (At-Large)

Jan. 1 Cotton (Arlington): Baylor (At-Large) vs. Wisconsin (At-Large)

The rest of the bowl slate

Dec. 20 New Orleans (New Orleans): Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt) vs. *Temple (MWC)

Dec. 20 Idaho Potato (Boise): Utah State (MWC) vs. Western Michigan (MAC)

Dec. 20 Las Vegas (Las Vegas): Colorado State (MWC No. 1) vs. Utah (Pac-12 No. 6)

Dec. 20 New Mexico (Albuquerque): Air Force (MWC) vs. UTEP (C-USA)

Dec. 20 Camellia (Montgomery): Central Michigan (MAC) vs. South Alabama (Sun Belt/ACC)

Dec. 22 Miami Beach (Miami): Memphis (American) vs. BYU (BYU)

Dec. 23 Poinsettia (San Diego): San Diego State (MWC) vs. Navy (Navy)

Dec. 23 Boca Raton (Boca Raton): Marshall (C-USA) vs. Toledo (MAC)

Dec. 24 Bahamas (Nassau): Rice (C-USA) vs. Bowling Green (MAC)

Dec. 24 Hawaii (Honolulu): Fresno State (MWC) vs. Western Kentucky (C-USA)

Dec. 26 Quick Lane (Detroit): Boston College (ACC Nos. 7-9/MAC) vs. Illinois (Big Ten Nos. 8-9/MAC)

Dec. 26 Bitcoin (St. Petersburg): UCF (American) vs. NC State (C-USA/ACC No. 10)

Dec. 26 Zaxby’s (Dallas): Rutgers (Big Ten Nos. 8-9/Big 12) vs. Louisiana Tech (C-USA)

Dec. 27 Military (Annapolis): Virginia Tech (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Cincinnati (American)

Dec. 27 Independence (Shreveport): Pitt (ACC Nos. 7-9) vs. Texas A&M (SEC Nos. 9-10/C-USA)

Dec. 27 Pinstripe (New York): Duke (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Penn State (Big Ten Nos. 5-7)

Dec. 27 Sun (El Paso): North Carolina (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Arizona State (Pac-12 No. 5)

Dec. 27 Holiday (San Diego): Iowa (Big Ten Nos. 2-4) vs. USC (Pac-12 No. 3)

Dec. 29 Russell Athletic (Orlando): Louisville (ACC No. 2) vs. Kansas State (Big 12 No. 3)

Dec. 29 Liberty (Memphis): West Virginia (Big 12 No. 5) vs. Tennessee (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Dec. 29 Texas (Houston): Texas (Big 12 No. 4) vs. LSU (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Dec. 30 Belk (Charlotte): Notre Dame (ACC Nos. 3-6) vs. Georgia (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Dec. 30 Foster Farms (Santa Clara): Nebraska (Big Ten Nos. 5-7) vs. Stanford (Pac-12 No. 4)

Dec. 30 Music City (Nashville): Miami, FL (ACC Nos. 3-6/Big Ten) vs. South Carolina (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Jan. 1 Citrus (Orlando): Clemson (ACC No. 2) vs. Missouri (SEC No. 2)

Jan. 1 Outback (Tampa): Minnesota (Big Ten Nos. 2-4) vs. Auburn (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Jan. 2 Armed Forces (Fort Worth): Houston (American) vs. *Florida (Army/Big 12 No. 7)

Jan. 2 Alamo (San Antonio): Oklahoma (Big 12 No. 2) vs. UCLA (Pac-12 No. 2)

Jan. 2 TaxSlayer (Jacksonville): Maryland (ACC/Big Ten Nos. 5-7) vs. Ole Miss (SEC Nos. 3-8)

Jan. 2 Cactus (Tempe): *Nevada (Big 12 No. 6) vs. Washington (Pac-12 No. 7)

Jan. 3 Birmingham (Birmingham): Arkansas (SEC Nos. 9-10) vs. East Carolina (American)

Jan. 4 GoDaddy (Mobile): Northern Illinois (MAC No. 1) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.

These Therapy Mini-Horses Brought A Whole Lot Of Happiness To A Hospital

Thu, 2014-12-04 09:37
CHICAGO (AP) -- Though it may sound like one, this is no joke: Two miniature horses trotted into a hospital.

Doctors and patients did double-takes when the equine visitors ambled down long corridors in the pediatric unit at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center. Wide-eyed youngsters hooked up to IV poles stepped into hallways to get a glimpse, and kids too sick to leave their rooms beamed with delight when the little long-lashed horses showed up for some bedside nuzzling.

Mystery and Lunar, small as big dogs, are equines on a medical mission to offer comfort care and distraction therapy for ailing patients. It is a role often taken on by dogs in health care settings - animal therapy, according to studies and anecdotal reports, may benefit health, perhaps even speeding healing and recovery.

Mini-horses add an extra element of delight - many kids don't know they exist outside of fairy tales.

"I want one," said 14-year-old Elizabeth Duncan, stroking Mystery's nose from her propped-up hospital bed.

These horses and two others belong to the animal-assisted therapy group Mane in Heaven, based in Lake in the Hills, a suburb northwest of Chicago. They have visited nursing homes and centers for the disabled, but this November visit was their first-ever inside a hospital. It was also the first horse-therapy visit for Rush, and more are planned.

"We have long had animal-assisted therapy here at Rush and just seen the enormous benefits that animals can have on most children - just the joy that they bring, the unconditional love," said Robyn Hart, the hospital's director of child life services.

Mini horses "are something that most people whether kids or adults have never seen before, and so that builds in a little more excitement and anticipation. They almost look like mythical animals, like they should have wings on," Hart said.

Some people confuse these horses with better-known Shetland ponies, but minis are less stout, with a more horse-like build. The therapy they offer contrasts starkly with the austere high-tech hospital environment - soft ears to scratch, fluffy manes to caress, big soulful eyes to stare deeply into.

"They're so nice and they don't judge and they're so sweet," said epilepsy patient Emily Pietsch, 17, after gently tracing Lunar's heart-shaped muzzle with her fingers.

Mane in Heaven's owner, Jodie Diegel, a former obstetrics nurse, says the minis bring "smiles, joy, love and laughter and that's the true healing in action."

Some research has suggested that animal-assisted therapy may reduce pain and blood pressure, and decrease fear and stress in hospitalized children. But much of it is based on patients' reports.

A review of 10 years of studies about in-patient therapy using dogs, published in April in the Southern Medical Association's journal, concluded that it's safe and can be effective. Dr. Caroline Burton of Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, a co-author of the review, owns seven dogs, four regular horses and a donkey, and strongly supports animal-assisted therapy.

Burton acknowledged that skeptics dismiss it as "touchy-feely" and lacking hard evidence of any meaningful medical benefits. She said studies are needed on whether animals in hospitals can shorten patients' stays and reduce readmission rates - something her hospital is looking into with dogs and heart failure patients.

While some worry about animals bringing germs into hospitals, Burton's review found no associated infections in patients.

Guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that animal-assisted therapy in health care settings stems from evidence that having pets at home helps some patients recover more quickly from medical procedures. The guidelines focus mostly on infection control procedures and hand-washing for patients and hospital staff.

Diegel, Mane in Heaven's owner, and her horse helpers carry lots of hand sanitizer and a pooper scooper on therapy visits. Diegel doesn't feed the horses beforehand, to help avoid accidents. Even so, one of the horses pooped in a hallway during the Chicago hospital visit, but the volunteers cleaned up in a flash and no one seemed phased.

The horses were "a smashing success," Hart said. "We're looking forward to having them visit monthly."

(AP Photos/M. Spencer Green)

More information about Mane in Heaven:



Mane in Heaven:


American Veterinary Medical Association:

Flu Vaccine Doesn't Protect Against This Season's Most Dominant Strain

Thu, 2014-12-04 09:34

NEW YORK (AP) — The flu vaccine may not be very effective this winter, according to U.S. health officials who worry this may lead to more serious illnesses and deaths.

Flu season has begun to ramp up, and officials say the vaccine does not protect well against the dominant strain seen most commonly so far this year. That strain tends to cause more deaths and hospitalizations, especially in the elderly.

"Though we cannot predict what will happen the rest of this flu season, it's possible we may have a season that's more severe than most," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a news conference Thursday.

CDC officials think the vaccine should provide some protection and still are urging people to get vaccinated. But it probably won't be as good as if the vaccine strain was a match.

Flu vaccine effectiveness tends to vary from year to year. Last winter, flu vaccine was 50 to 55 percent effective overall, which experts consider relatively good.

The CDC issued an advisory to doctors about the situation Wednesday evening.

CDC officials said doctors should be on the look-out for patients who may be at higher risk for flu complications, including children younger than 2, adults 65 and older, and people with asthma, heart disease, weakened immune systems or certain other chronic conditions.

Such patients should be seen promptly, and perhaps treated immediately with antiviral medications, the CDC advised. If a patient is very sick or at high risk, a doctor shouldn't wait for a positive flu test result to prescribe the drugs — especially this year, CDC officials said.

The medicines are most effective if taken within two days of the inset of symptoms. They won't immediately cure the illness, but can lessen its severity and shorten suffering by about a day, Frieden said.

Among infectious diseases, flu is considered one of the nation's leading killers. On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC.

Nearly 150 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed for this winter's flu season.

Current flu vaccines are built to protect against three or four different kinds of flu virus, depending on the product. The ingredients are selected very early in the year, based on predictions of what strains will circulate the following winter.

One of the vaccine components chosen last February was a certain strain of the H3N2 virus. About a month later — after vaccine production was underway — health officials noted the appearance new and different strain of H3N2. "This is not something that's been around before," Frieden said.

Health officials said they weren't sure if the new strain would become a significant problem in the United States this winter until recently. Lab specimens from patients have shown that the most commonly seen flu bug so far is the new strain of H3N2. Specifically, about 48 percent of the H3N2 samples seen so far were well matched to what's in the vaccine, but 52 percent were not, the CDC said.

This news follows another problem recently identified by CDC officials, involving the nasal spray version of flu vaccine.

At a scientific meeting at the CDC in October, vaccine experts were told of preliminary results from three studies that found AstraZeneca's FluMist nasal spray had little or no effect in children against the swine flu strain that was the most common bug making people sick last winter.

Because this year's version of FluMist is the same formulation, experts said it's possible the spray vaccine won't work for swine flu this season, either.

However, CDC officials believe H3N2 will be the most common flu bug this winter.



CDC flu Web page:

Luis Gutierrez: It's 'Fantasy' To Think U.S. Can Or Should Deport 11 Million People

Thu, 2014-12-04 09:14
WASHINGTON -- House Republicans are fooling themselves if they think it's viable, smart or moral to deport more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Wednesday evening.

The House is set to vote Thursday on a bill from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) that would prohibit the president from taking executive actions to exempt groups of people from deportation. The bill is Republicans' first attempt -- but certainly not the last -- to stop the executive actions on immigration that President Barack Obama announced last month.

"What we are sending to the floor of the United States Congress is yet another symbolic and superficial bill supporting the fantasy that every single undocumented immigrant should be deported," Gutierrez said at a House Rules Committee meeting. "The Republican majority is planting its flag firmly on a myth."

Under Obama's new executive actions, parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents who can pass a background check and have been in the country for five or more years could apply to stay and work legally. Obama is also expanding his existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, that gives similar relief to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 16. The policies could protect up to 5 million people from deportation.

House Republicans have voted repeatedly on measures to end DACA -- effectively demanding that young people who came as children be put back at risk of deportation. They are set to do the same for parents on Thursday.

Republicans have said both measures are needed because Obama is overstepping his constitutional authority by exempting groups from deportation.

The Obama administration and many legal experts have argued the programs fit within the principle of prosecutorial discretion, allowing them to focus on criminals, national security threats and recent illegal border-crossers rather than law-abiding people with longstanding ties to the U.S. Since both programs are applied on a case-by-case basis, the administration argues it is not the blanket amnesty Republicans claim it to be.

Gutierrez laid out some of the costs of deporting every single undocumented immigrant. For one, it would mean millions of U.S. citizen children being put in foster care, taken in by family members or taken away from a country they have a legal right to reside in, he said. He said it also could put hundreds of thousands of houses on the market and leave farms lacking the workers they need.

He said the courts would be overburdened -- as they are already -- and unable to quickly deport high-priority offenders.

"Sorry murderers and rapists, you have to wait your turn for deportation because we want to arbitrarily round up and kick out all the moms and dads who were working at the car wash and playing ball with their children, and now the courts are full, so you will just have to chill," Gutierrez said.

There's also the cost. Gutierrez said the government would need to pay for 550,000 airplanes to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Unless Republicans are willing to raise taxes, that wouldn't be possible, he said.

The longtime advocate for immigrants said Congress should take up immigration reform instead.

"That is the way forward, and all the rest of this is incredibly wasteful theater that makes the American people say, 'What are those people in Washington doing? Because they sure are not taking action to help Americans and their families,'" he said.

Watch his testimony above.

This May Be The Biggest Upside To Aging

Thu, 2014-12-04 05:59
Ever since I was in my early 20s, you could set my mood-ometer to the fall weekend when we changed the clocks back. Losing an hour of daylight at the end of the day pushes me into the SAD zone -- I suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I know this because multiple doctors have told me so, as they through the years have had me sit under high-voltage sunlamps, take walks outside in the sun during lunch breaks, and yes, consider taking anti-depressants to stabilize my mood.

SAD affects about a half a million people every winter. You probably have heard of it by its colloquial name: The winter blues. More people in colder climates suffer from it than those in warmer climates, but those who suffer from it all say the same things about how it impacts them: you withdraw, stress eat, don't feel like socializing much, and would prefer to stay under the covers.

But the good news is that once you hit 50, many report the seasonal disorder to diminish. And WebMd says the likelihood of the onset of SAD passes by the age of 55. Finally, something that improves with age besides fine wine, right? As for me, well, I'm still waiting.

Still it's good to know that eventually, I may be able to get through the winter feeling more like I do the other nine months a year. Moving to the sunnier climate of California helped a great deal -- or maybe it was just landing my dream job 25 years ago out here that made me feel better, not the leaving behind of New Jersey's perpetual grayness. I would like to get to the point where I don't run around the house opening shades and curtains as my husband closes them. I would like to be able to sit at a desk in the office that isn't right next to the window -- where the first thing I do every morning is raise the blinds. But I know that to keep my moods stable, I need to do those things.

For me, SAD feels pretty much like what I imagine any other low-level garden-variety depression to feel. But I know for some, it is not so low level. With SAD, you'd rather curl up in bed than go out to the party and socialize. The shower isn't just where you bathe, but serves as your "safe place" for crying jags. You feel friendless and unloved even though you can't keep up with the 9 zillion texts and emails you get a day from friends who love you. Sometimes, you snap at people and wish you hadn't.

What makes SAD so damn difficult is that it overlaps with holidays that expect greater socialization from us and make greater demands on our time. Stress is no friend to SAD sufferers; it just amplifies the condition. There was one year when I felt like a NASA rocket about to be launched -- with the stress and obligations mounting steam each day as we inched closer to New Years. My blastoff came on Christmas Day that year; I stayed on my couch all day watching old movies and feigning the flu. I was single at the time; having a family now would preclude any such hibernation, but I remember how I gave in to it back then. And still didn't feel much better.

SAD is real. It isn't just about being overwhelmed by your to-do list or not making enough time for yourself in the busy holiday season. So to my fellow-sufferers: Don't suffer through the season in silence. Seek help. Spring is not really just around the corner.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

In Wake Of Eric Garner Decision, One Cop Still Faces Trial For Killing An Unarmed Black Person

Wed, 2014-12-03 18:19
When Chicago Police Detective Dante Servin heads to court next January for the fatal shooting of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old unarmed black woman, he will be the first CPD officer in more than 17 years to be tried for a shooting death.

Servin appeared Wednesday in a Cook County court, where his case was delayed until Jan. 21, 2015 -- more than a year after his indictment on charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct in connection with Boyd’s death. Earlier this year, the city paid Boyd's family a $4.5 million wrongful death settlement.

A police officer facing trial over a fatal shooting is historically rare in Chicago -- or the rest of the country, for that matter. Servin’s case bucks the trend of police ducking indictment for the deaths of civilians, especially blacks.

Also on Wednesday, a grand jury declined to indict a New York City Police Department officer in the death of 45-year-old Eric Garner, a black man who died after being placed in a chokehold. A little more than a week earlier, on Nov. 24, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, chose not to indict the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown.


In July 1995, Joseph Gould, a black 36-year-old homeless Chicago newspaper vendor, was shot and killed by Gregory Becker, a white, off-duty Chicago police officer. Becker served four years in jail after a jury found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter and armed violence in 1997, though an Illinois appellate court later overturned the conviction, claiming the two charges were inconsistent.

That was the last time a Chicago police officer was tried over a shooting.

“It’s a systemic problem that the prosecutors are part of the justice system which does not value African-American or other people of color’s lives when they’re taken by the police,” Attorney Flint Taylor of the Chicago-based People’s Law Office told The Huffington Post. “There’s an extreme double standard when it comes to prosecution of police officers regarding murder, torture or anything like that.”

Taylor, whose office specializes in cases related to police violence and civil rights, said it's rare for police officers to face trial for shootings deaths because prosecutors are often closely aligned with the police.

"In essence, they don’t want to prosecute. They rely on police for testimony, so it’s difficult to get a prosecution,” Taylor said. “There’s an old saying lawyers have that 'a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich,' meaning if [prosecutors] want an indictment, they can get it."

“But it’s very unequal in who they prosecute and why they prosecute,” he added. “At the very bottom of the ladder is police who kill poor people of color.”


Though the officers connected to the deaths of Garner and Brown were not indicted, Taylor said there are three key factors at play that distinguish Servin's case from other police-involved killings of unarmed black citizens.

“Boyd was a 'perfect victim’: She had no gun, she wasn’t threatening cops and they didn’t think she had a weapon,” Taylor said. “It's hard for cops to make a bad story [about her] out of that."

Boyd was shot in the back of the head in March 2012 while she was with a group of friends near a park in Chicago's South Side.

Witnesses said Servin and a man from Boyd’s group got into a verbal altercation over noise. From his unmarked car, Servin then turned the wrong way on a one-way street and fired five rounds over his left shoulder out the window; one struck a man in the hand, while the other struck Boyd in the back of the head. She would die less than 24 hours later.

Police initially claimed a man in the group approached Servin with a weapon, which prompted Servin to fire, "fearing for his life." The Independent Police Review Authority later stated they found no weapon at the scene and that the man was reportedly holding only a cell phone.

In the case of both Becker and Servin, both detectives were off-duty at the time of the shootings, something Taylor said is a second important factor.

“An off-duty nature doesn’t implicate police activity,” Taylor said. “Therefore, the prosecutor may be more apt to pursue a case if the cop was off-duty."

The third factor distinguishing the Servin case, according to Taylor, is alcohol.

Witness Antonio Cross, the man Servin shot in the hand, claimed the off-duty detective was drunk when he fired on the group.

“Sometimes they don’t do an alcohol blood level test on cops,” Taylor said. “If a cop wasn’t arrested on the scene, he may just go home. And then there’s only testimony. They may only face an administrative investigation.”

Taylor warned that despite the fact that Servin faces a trial sometime in 2015, "when they do bring charges, they often undercharge."

In Illinois, involuntary manslaughter is a class-three felony. If convicted of this offense, Servin could be sentenced to two to five years in prison.

A Grand Jury Did Indict One Person Involved In Eric Garner's Killing -- The Man Who Filmed It

Wed, 2014-12-03 17:51
On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to return an indictment for the police officer who put Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in a chokehold shortly before his death. A different Staten Island grand jury was less sympathetic to Ramsey Orta, however, the man who filmed the entire incident.

In August, less than a month after filming the fatal July 17 encounter in which Daniel Pantaleo and other police officers confronted Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes, a grand jury indicted Orta on weapons charges stemming from an arrest by undercover officers earlier that month.

Police alleged that Orta had slipped a .25 caliber handgun into a teenage accomplice's waistband outside a New York hotel. Orta testified that the charges were falsely mounted by police in retaliation for his role in documenting Garner's death, but the grand jury rejected his contention, charging him with single felony counts of third-degree criminal weapon possession and criminal firearm possession.

In Garner's case, on the other hand, jurors determined there was not probable cause that Pantaleo had committed any crime. A medical examiner ruled Garner's death homicide in part resulting from the chokehold, a restraining move banned by the NYPD in 1993.

The use of grand juries in high-profile police killings has attracted increasing scrutiny after such juries declined to indict both Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this summer, and now Pantaleo. While the famous saying goes that a grand jury could "indict a ham sandwich," it's become clear that they also give much more leeway to police officers.

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch's objectivity was regularly called into question throughout the Brown case. Critics argue that the close cooperation between law enforcement and prosecutors may make them more hesitant to bring charges against police officers.

In addition, in the Brown case, Wilson was allowed to offer hours of testimony in his own defense. For this and other reasons, critics accused prosecutors of abusing the grand jury process to achieve a outcome that would be favorable to law enforcement. It's not yet clear what role, if any, Pantaleo played in the grand jury proceedings.

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It Might Not Take A Concussion To Change A High Schooler's Brain

Wed, 2014-12-03 17:37
The debate about the longterm dangers of playing high school football typically centers around concussions -- but a new study from the Radiological Society of North America could suggest it may not take a concussion to alter a young player's brain.

Researchers studied 24 players, ages 16 through 18. None of the players was reported to have a concussion. Despite this absence, brain scans taken after just one playing season showed significantly decreased fractional anisotropy, which is associated with brain abnormalities. It is also associated with unhealthy white matter, which connects regions of the brain to help transmit messages.

"Similar brain MRI changes have been previously associated with mild traumatic brain injury," Christopher T. Whitlow, the lead researcher, said in a statement. But, he added, "it is unclear whether or not these effects will be associated with any negative long-term consequences."

To collect data, the researchers equipped players' helmets with Head Impact Telemetry Systems, which monitor helmet impacts and how hard they are. From the group, the players categorized as "heavy hitters" had more significant changes in their brains than the "light hitters."

The study comes as concussions in football continue to make the news. This week, a class-action lawsuit over concussions was filed on behalf of former high school football players against the Illinois High School Association.

Similar lawsuits have been filed against the NFL and NCAA, but the suit in Illinois is the first major concussion-related lawsuit on the high school level. A "fairness" hearing was held in November over a tentative settlement.

Joseph Siprut, the attorney on both the high school and the NCAA suit, told The Huffington Post he plans on filing cases similar to the Illinois case in other states.

Meanwhile, examination is being done to look for traumatic injury on the brain of Kosta Karageorge, an Ohio State University football player who may have committed suicide this weekend. Karageorge had had several concussions.

Here's Where To Protest Eric Garner's Death

Wed, 2014-12-03 14:56
A grand jury declined on Wednesday to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. Garner's death over the summer sparked protests around the city following the circulation of a viral video showing Pantaleo putting Garner in a chokehold and Garner screaming "I can't breathe!"

The decision came shortly after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri declined to indict a police officer in the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown, which led to large protests across the country.

Protests and vigils are expected in multiple cities in the coming days. Check below to see if there's an event near you. This map will be updated.

Know of an event we missed? Let us know on Twitter.

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Note: All times are local.

Here's Where To Protest Eric Garner's Death

Wed, 2014-12-03 14:56
A grand jury declined on Wednesday to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. Garner's death over the summer sparked protests around the city following the circulation of a viral video showing Pantaleo putting Garner in a chokehold and Garner screaming "I can't breathe!"

The decision came shortly after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri declined to indict a police officer in the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown, which led to large protests across the country.

Protests and vigils are expected in multiple cities in the coming days. Check below to see if there's an event near you. This map will be updated.

Note: All times are local.

5 Reasons Companies Should Fight To Keep Older Workers Instead Of Pushing Them Out

Wed, 2014-12-03 14:28
You know how dogs do that stiff-legged resistance thing when you try to drag them through the door to see the vet? Well, older workers are apparently doing the same when it comes to retirement. They are digging in and not budging, much to the chagrin of companies that would like to be rid of them and their higher salaries.

A recent Towers Watson survey of 457 U.S. companies with retirement plans found that 84 percent of them plan to increase their efforts to educate employees on saving and investing over the next two or three years.

But before you jump to any conclusions about the benevolent nature of this corporate gesture, let's just get real for a minute: These companies really just want to encourage older workers to get off their payrolls sooner rather than later.

The author of the report, Robyn Credico, Towers Watson's Defined Contribution Practice Leader, North America, told The Huffington Post that it's not that older workers aren't valued but more that companies want "workers to move through the work force at a reasonable pace." How does Credico, who is 56 -- yes, we asked -- define "reasonable pace?" Depending on the organization and the type of work, it's 65, she said. It can be anywhere from 62 to 67.

And then there is the other reason: Companies don't want to hold back younger workers from advancing, so older workers need to move out of the way, she said. And yes, older workers are more expensive. So there you have it.

As columnist Richard Eisenberg wrote in Forbes about the study, corporate kindness has little to do with companies being willing to encourage older workers to save more for retirement. "Indeed," he wrote, "the survey found that 53 percent of employers are concerned about their older workers 'deferring' retirement and 82 percent said they believe retirement readiness 'will be an issue'."

Yes, retirement readiness is an "issue." It's an issue complicated by the fact that boomers are living longer, are in better shape than previous generations were at 65 in every which way except maybe financial, and we just may not want to quit work at the age our fathers did. And the desire to stay professionally engaged notwithstanding, we still like to eat. The lingering damage of the Great Recession still haunts our financial readiness. Some would say that lingering damage also haunts our adult children who still live with us. Retirement? It's just not in the cards for many -- no matter how much companies want us to save.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, 32.2 percent of Americans age 65 to 69 are in the labor force -- meaning they are working or looking for work. This is up from 21.3 percent two decades ago, so the percentage of older workers in the labor force has climbed. Which is why I'd like to reframe the discussion away from why companies may want to get rid of older workers and instead offer a few reasons why employers should be looking to keep us around:

1. We have institutional knowledge.
This doesn't mean we start every sentence with "In the old days, we did it this way." It means we know what's been tried and what failed. We have experience to share. We also care about spelling, pay attention to detail, know how to write and communicate, and yes, can upload a video to YouTube.

2. We are reliable workers.
We show up in the rain and snow. We have always worked hard. And we aren't going anywhere: We don't spend half the day networking for our next job because there's an excellent chance that the job we presently have will be our last. So we are focused on the task at hand. We also have been around the block a few times and know how to navigate difficult office personalities; so less drama.

3. Diversity is a beautiful thing.
We need to start including age diversity in that rainbow spectrum. Just like having workers of different races and faiths provides different perspectives, so does having workers of differing ages. If your office consists of only entry-level recent college graduates, the only perspective you hear is that one voice. What about the rest of the universe? Your workforce should mirror the population you serve, not the cheapest labor you can find.

4. Age discrimination is illegal.
You can't fire or not hire someone because they are too old. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. But ask any mid-lifer looking for work right now and they'll tell you how toothless the ADEA is. AARP notes that age discrimination claims have been on the rise since 1997, when 15,785 reports were filed. Last year, 21,396 claims were recorded.

5. Some companies are bucking the trend with great results.
CVS Caremark transfers several hundred pharmacists and drugstore workers from Northern states to pharmacies in Florida and other warm climates. It's their own "snowbird" program that appeals to older workers who might otherwise have retired. Vita Needle, a manufacturing company in Needham, Mass., is famous for employing older workers. The median age of its workforce is 74. Why? Because older folks have a tremendous work ethic.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Kobe Bryant: What It Means To Me To Pass Michael Jordan On NBA's Scoring List | Bleacher Report

Wed, 2014-12-03 13:51
All the reasons that others have to diminish this, an upcoming accomplishment that most definitely resonates with Kobe Bryant, are the very reasons he cherishes it.

Bryant is set to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time NBA scoring list in the next week or two. Yes, it has taken him more games, more years, more teams and more tries than it took Jordan to get here.

If Mike Royko Were Here

Wed, 2014-12-03 13:36
It's a story that just begs for legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko to help us out. At least in spirit.

The story? Robocalls to election judges blasting out bad information. A deliberate attempt to disrupt the election of November 2014. Did it make a difference in who was elected? No one knows. The story faded away after the usual calls for an investigation.


Mike Royko died young in 1997. But it's when real stories like this one about the robocalls bubble up from the political stew of chicanery, comedy and crime that is Chicago---that Royko inspires. Like he inspired this.
If Royko Were Here

"It's simple Roger. No one's found the body."

We were at the old wooden bar in McNamara's. A corner joint on the northwest side in the shadow of the expressway. November with the first nice chill. Like Nelson Algren wrote, "toward nightfall in that smoke-colored season between Indian summer and December's first true snow."

Lester Lapczynski, faded madras jacket and tattered scarf, left hand gripping his ginger ale and right hand poking at the air like some belligerent polka band conductor. "Pay attention smart boy. The story has no legs. You're already at 250 words. You only get 800. And did I miss the 'who what, why, when and where part?"

Lester and I were alone at the bar, so I could easily dodge the spray from the protruding lower Lip. The bartender, a blonde with welcoming eyes that made the smile real. In the deepest back corner of the bar, a man in an open trench coat, face in shadows, sitting at a table and every so often quietly tossing up and then catching a 16-inch softball. Royko?

"But Lester! How can people ignore election fraud! Somebody sends robocalls to election judges talking about extra training and wrong addresses and just confusing everything!"

"OK Sherlock Holmes. The name of one person who was confused?"

"Well, I can't give you a name . . ."

"Uh huh. So do you know exactly how many judges didn't show up? More than usual?"

"I don't have exact numbers. But they know who made the calls."

"That's because he said his name on the calls, junior. A republican committeeman. That should have given you a hint."

"Why? Hint about what?"

"Who would wear the jacket, Roger. The patsy or hero or working stiff, however you want to spin it. He's the guy who takes the blame. And besides," Lester started laughing, "if this jamoke gave his name, then he knew he'd be covered by a boss, so he don't give a flying. . . ."

"But doesn't it help to know who did this?"

"Roger, are you sure you ain't from Schaumberg or something? You should know that a story about a republican committeeman in Chicago getting his hand slapped on the table and maybe a nice little consulting contract under the table--or maybe not--ain't exactly news. Listen carefully suburban boy, no one cares."

"So does anybody care that Governor Moneypants used to own 10% of one of the newspapers? Maybe that had something to do with the story being buried with no one caring."

"Pay attention Roger. The answer is 'No!' Who do you think would care? The Mayor? Course he has called for an investigation. I'm sure that some high placed official will get right on that. And when they don't, there is always those 2 guys in the Free Newspapers who take the shots at the Mayor. They might talk about this for awhile. But I doubt it."

"Lester, we got a ½ a story that's maybe being buried and maybe not. I'm confused!"

"Of course you're confused Roger. Besides not being the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, you also missed my first question. Didn't get it. Zipped right on by your pointy little head. Now, the story is dying. Everybody is denying. They got a guy to wear the jacket. But the one thing they don't have, like I told you, is a body. Without a body, no one will care. And there ain't no body here."

"What 'body?' are you talking about Lester?"

"Here's what I'm talking about Roger. A VICTIM! Who was hurt!

Maybe all of us Lester. Maybe the other guy would now be the governor. Maybe Governor Moneypants wouldn't even be in office!"

"Well Roger, then you need to answer one very simple question. Who paid for all those robocalls? Find that answer and you have a body and then you have a story. Got it?"

"Who paid for the robocalls? That's what you're saying?"

"You got it smart boy."

"I should follow the money?"

And at that, Royko stood up, tossed the softball once again and nodded as he walked off into the cold November rain.

Interesting Illinois: 10 fun facts about the state

Wed, 2014-12-03 13:30
Sometimes it feels like living in Illinois is all doom and gloom: cold weather, corrupt politicians and a looming pension crisis.

But guess what? You can fall in love with this great state again! Illinois has a lot to offer, and I will help remind you with these Illinois fun facts. Do you have a fun fact about Illinois? Be sure to share it with us in the comments below!

1. The University of Illinois Extension shared this interesting fact about farming in Illinois!

2. This Illinois fun fact is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

3. It's no wonder why Charles Lindbergh was nicknamed "Lucky Lindbergh!" His first crash was in Rutland Township, and the second was in Covell.

4. The Australian Lungfish named Granddad arrived at the Shedd Aquarium during the 1933 World's Fair.

5. This Mount Pulaski law only applies to boys. Girls are allowed to hurl snowballs at trees.

6. The modern silo was invented and built in 1873 by Fred Hatch on his father's farm. Hatch was also a graduate of Illinois Industrial College, which later became the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

7. In 1990, Gov. Jim Thompson signed into law a bill designating the Square Dance as the American folk dance of the State.

8. Can you believe this weird law from Galesburg?

9. Dr. Bernard Fantus, a Hungarian immigrant and University of Illinois graduate, coined the term "blood bank."

10. Jane Addams, the co-founder of the world famous Hull-House in Chicago, was born in Cedarville.

Check out 20 more Illinois fun facts at Reboot Illinois to find out which tallest farm animal calls the state home and where in Illinois Twinkies were invented.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date on all things Illinois politics.

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Man Allegedly Punched Woman On Chicago Train After She Refused To Give Him Her Number

Wed, 2014-12-03 12:34
Story by Erica Demarest, courtesy DNAinfo Chicago:

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — When a Bridgeport woman riding the "L" refused to give a man her phone number Monday, he followed her to another train car before putting her in a headlock and trying to steal her phone, prosecutors and witnesses said.

The incident unfolded shortly before 9 p.m. Monday when Denzel Rosson, 24, asked a 21-year-old woman to give him her number, according to Assistant State's Attorney Lorraine Scaduto.

Read the whole story at DNAinfo.

Illinois' minimum wage questions cause political headaches for business operators

Wed, 2014-12-03 11:19
With the Chicago City Council's Dec. 2 approval of a $13 minimum wage and the Illinois General Assembly still debating what to do with the state minimum wage, opinions from all sides abound. Some support a higher state uniform minimum wage, some want it even higher in Chicago, some don't want it to go up at all.

Patrick Hughes of the Illinois Opportunity Project believes the Illinois Restaurant Association's support of an $11 statewide minimum was more an example of political damage control than an act of genuine advocacy.

From Hughes:

Predictably, the Sun-Times failed to capture the lamentable truth that fueled the Restaurant Association's decision to take a position that directly contradicts the interests of their industry. Years of uncertainty borne of political games, corruption and misguided policy choices - including high taxes and heavy regulation - have taken their toll and forced the Restaurant Association's hand.

See why Hughes thinks a higher minimum wage in any capacity doesn't help Illinois restauranteurs at all at Reboot Illinois.

With some small business owners considered about the ramifications of a minimum wage increase, Elliot Richardson, president of the Small Business Advocacy Council of Illinois, says the U.S. Cogress can act now to support Illinois small businesses.

From Richardson:

As the year comes to a close and small business owners begin to plan for 2015, Congress must immediately extend the $500,000 expense limit allowed under Section 179 of the tax code. This extension will permit small businesses and entrepreneurs to continue expensing the purchase of capital assets such as machinery, equipment, furniture, vehicles and fixtures in the year they are purchased as opposed to depreciating them over their useful lives.

Read his explanation of how these tax policies could help Illinois business owners at Reboot Illinois.

These Are The Spots Where You're Using Instagram The Most

Wed, 2014-12-03 11:14
Let's face it: Traveling isn't #traveling without Instagram. It's practically a must-do: Head off on your trip, take copious photos and upload the prettiest ones (with filter, of course) to Instagram.

To send this year out right, we thought we'd take a look at the 50 places (plus D.C.!) that were geotagged the most in 2014.

Consider this the United States in Instagram.

Bryant–Denny Stadium (at the University of Alabama), Alabama

Million dollar band #Alabama #auburn #rolltide #ua #ncaa #football #sec #band #bryantdenny #ttown #tuscaloosa #milliondollarband

A photo posted by Mikey (@peachcobbler91) on Nov 11, 2014 at 7:12pm PST

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Trekking on top of Mendenhall Glacier before we went into the ice caves beneath. Maybe we'll just stay here... *sigh*

A photo posted by Alex Rodgers (@alex_rodgers) on Aug 8, 2014 at 4:31pm PDT

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Made it and feeling extremely blessed to be here! So many awesome colors here! ______ #holidaylmt #sanchezhittheroad #grandcanyon _______ #outdoors #wanderlust #roadtrip #travel #mountains #outdoors #hiking #nature #nationalpark #grandcanyonnationalpark #isistemple #shivatemple #lemoderntrinket #christinasanchezhairdesign

A photo posted by Le Modern Trinket - C.Sanchez (@lemoderntrinket) on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:16pm PST

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Arkansas

#CrystalBridgesMuseumofAmericanArt #Bentonville #Arkansas #Arkansas_Traveler #arkansas_livin #arkmophs #thesoutherncollective #thenaturalstate #naturalstateofmind #naturalstate #igersarkansas #igarkansas #letsgosomewhere #Neverstopexploring

A photo posted by Shannon (@missrazorbackfan) on Jul 7, 2014 at 5:32pm PDT

Disneyland, California

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Happy December! ❤️

A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀T R A M (@lovetram) on Dec 12, 2014 at 8:21am PST

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Colorado

Short trip to Colorado #latepost #colorado #redrockamphitheater #redrockspark #vacation #picofday #photoofday #nature #iphoneonly #likes #igdaily #instadaily #nepali

A photo posted by Nikesh Shrestha (@neekesh569) on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:54am PDT

Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut

Great shot by my boy @nbldrums tonight. 10,000 people showed up at #MoheganSunArena to hear us back up the great #Engelbert. Exhausted but happy

A photo posted by @johannfrank on Apr 4, 2014 at 7:59pm PDT

The White House, Washington, D.C.

#thewhitehouse #washingtondc #whitehouse

A photo posted by Lexie_Wen (@lexxxxxxie) on Nov 11, 2014 at 7:01am PST

Rehoboth Boardwalk, Delaware

A trip to the boardwalk isn't complete without some salt water taffy #beachtreats #rehobothboardwalk

A photo posted by Rachel Link (@rachel_link) on Aug 8, 2014 at 12:43pm PDT

Disney's Magic Kingdom, Florida

First time at Disney world!!! I'm so worn out right now, but it was so much fun. #disneyworld #magickingdom #disneysmagickingdom #fun #tired #sky #cloud #florida #firsttime #whereihavebeen #photooftheday #iphoneonly #ig_select

A photo posted by Pinya's Memories (@pinyasmemories) on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:48pm PST

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Georgia

2014-09-23; A Walk Through Atlanta History in Plane Train Corridor, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, College Park GA #hartsfield #internationalairport #airport #atl #atlantahistory #movingsidewalk

A photo posted by Anthony Coley (@muzikbynature) on Nov 11, 2014 at 9:58pm PST

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, Hawaii

Morning in Waikiki

A photo posted by @jv_la on Dec 12, 2014 at 9:29am PST

Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

#LakeCoeurdAlene almost #Sunset

A photo posted by Eric (@e_foster) on Oct 10, 2014 at 6:33pm PDT

Wrigley Field, Illinois

This place is a ghost town. #wrigleyfield #cubs

A photo posted by Rachel Levitin (@rhlevitin) on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:37pm PST

Lucas Oil Stadium, Indiana

#gocolts #nofilter #lucasoilstadium #fofree

A photo posted by @gym_tan_peter on Nov 11, 2014 at 11:28am PST

Iowa State Fairgrounds, Iowa

Newest Art Addition at the Iowa State Fairgrounds

A photo posted by Connor Nystrom (@connornystrom) on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:36pm PDT

Royals Kauffman Stadium, Kansas

#KansasCity #Royals #KauffmanStadium #Roadtrip @brandiprice0517 @cmgramling25

A photo posted by Zachary Price (@zachary.price) on Nov 11, 2014 at 1:19pm PST

Churchill Downs, Kentucky

Race Day with the fam at #ChurchillDowns #louisville

A photo posted by Charring15 (@charring15) on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:53am PST

Café du Monde, Louisiana

I que n'és de fàcil fer-me feliç!! #feliçcomunanís #NOLA #cafédumonde #vacances

A photo posted by Anna E. A. (@escurymovie) on Oct 10, 2014 at 5:24pm PDT

Ogunquit Beach, Maine

Yet another thing to be grateful for....Happy Thanksgiving! #Thanksgiving #Ogunquit #Ogunquitbeach #Maine #Beach #Sunrise

A photo posted by Ali Ehrlich (@rightupyourali1) on Nov 11, 2014 at 5:35am PST

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Maryland

Just one more from yesterday's #game2 of the #ALDS where our beloved #Orioles used #oriolesmagic to win again. Rick Dempsey was probably one of my top two players of all time #Dempseys #Orioleparkatcamdenyards

A photo posted by steve roth (@sjroth) on Oct 10, 2014 at 6:31am PDT

Fenway Park, Massachusetts

At #FenwayPark #Redsox #レッドソックス #Baahston #Boston #ボストン #野球観たかった #オフシーズン

A photo posted by Issei Oshima (@issei0316) on Nov 11, 2014 at 2:45pm PST

Mall of America, Michigan

'Tis the season to go #shopping at the #mallofamerica #MOA #minnesota #happy #holidays

A photo posted by @ic2010 on Nov 11, 2014 at 5:40pm PST

Target Field, Minnesota

Looking through my photos from this past summer and found this one of Target Field in Minneapolis. I can't wait to be here next summer. See you soon, @twins!

A photo posted by Connor Nystrom (@connornystrom) on Oct 10, 2014 at 2:49pm PDT

Davis Wade Stadium at Mississippi State University, Mississippi

#BTHOmississippistate #gigem #hailstate #daviswadestadium #whoop !

A photo posted by @akmoltz512 on Oct 10, 2014 at 9:08am PDT

Busch Stadium, Missouri

I just want yall to see the world #stl #buschStadium

A photo posted by Dustin Fox (@dannysbastardson) on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:02pm PST

Glacier National Park, Montana

"Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place." - Kurt Vonnegut

A photo posted by Lenore Ludlow (@angelshoes) on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:02pm PST

Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Nebraska

Zoo trip with Jess today #zoo #tropicalfish #henrydoorlyzoo #omaha #nebraska #herefishyfishy

A photo posted by Jaclyn Schaefer (@ratherbeatthegym) on Oct 10, 2014 at 10:44am PDT

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Nevada

This is what I call "A room with a view" #awesome #LasVegas #VivaLasVegas #thecosmopolitanoflasvegas #travelwithkids #travel #reisen #reisenmitkindern

A photo posted by Tabitha (@nani_leilani) on Oct 10, 2014 at 3:29pm PDT

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

Random beach visits - I could never move far from the ocean #hamptonbeach #sandyshores

A photo posted by Kata (@katorade21) on Oct 10, 2014 at 3:21pm PDT

Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey

en el plano de california #raindrops #intheplane #newarkairport #ewr #airplane

A photo posted by @va.nessa.e on Nov 11, 2014 at 5:56am PST

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico

Mass Ascension

A photo posted by David Iwane (@davie8thebaby) on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:23pm PDT

Times Square, New York

Welcome to #timessquare #ny ... #concretejungle #LivingInAZoo #lightattack

A photo posted by victoria (@vick_iii) on Dec 12, 2014 at 10:23am PST

Charlotte Douglas International Airport, North Carolina

Another sunset painted across the autumn sky | my view | #sunset #autumnsky #myview #ramplife #faatower #clt #sky #crj900 #e20 #beautiful #autumn #novembernights #charlotteairport #carolina #carolinasunset

A photo posted by Benblake (@theblakemanguy) on Nov 11, 2014 at 2:55pm PST

Fargodome, North Dakota


A photo posted by Jenna Vosseteig (@jvosseteig) on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:12pm PST

Cedar Point, Ohio

Ceder Point for days… #millenniumforce #endofsummer #cederpoint

A photo posted by Ren Beynolds (@renbeynolds96) on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:53pm PDT

BOK Center, Oklahoma

Thunderin' Up with @sslaconsello #WeAreThunder #ThunderUp #OKC #Thunder #Tulsa #BOKCenter

A photo posted by Gerrad Roach (@gerrad_roach) on Oct 10, 2014 at 4:21pm PDT

Moda Center at the Rose Quarter, Oregon

Blazers win! #blazers #rosegarden #modacenter #portland #ripcity

A photo posted by Aaron Thomas (@aaron_not_arron) on Nov 11, 2014 at 8:26pm PST

Citizens Bank Park, Pennsylvania

Day 4: Citizens Bank Park ⚾️ #citizensbankpark #phillies #baseball #Philadelphia #MikeSchmidt

A photo posted by Melanie Irene (@melanieimassa) on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:28pm PST

Brown University, Rhode Island

Brief Post-Ride Tour de Brown. Nostalgia. #bike #providence #ri #brownuniversity

A photo posted by Jenn Blazejewski (@jennblazejewski) on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:30pm PST

Charleston Historic District, South Carolina

#CharlestonSC #CharlestonHistoricDistrict

A photo posted by El Ha (@ellie3h) on Sep 9, 2014 at 1:32pm PDT

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

More hot spots today #mplstosf

A photo posted by Alie Sobczak (@aliesobczak) on Nov 11, 2014 at 9:43am PST

Bonaroo Arts and Music Festival, Tennessee

A photo posted by Troy Hooper (@highcountrydrifter) on Jun 6, 2014 at 8:11pm PDT

AT&T Stadium, Texas

A photo posted by Mario Roa (@marioroa) on Nov 11, 2014 at 10:44am PST

Salt Lake City International Airport, Utah

Look at this view!!! #FrelowWedding! #PowerCouple! #VegasBound!

A photo posted by Lance Frelow (@iblu_phi1914) on Nov 11, 2014 at 3:47pm PST

Lake Champlain, Vermont

Obligatory Vermont landscape insta #lovermont

A photo posted by ejbutler (@ejbutler) on Oct 10, 2014 at 12:42pm PDT

University of Virginia, Virginia

This picture needs no adjusting. If today wasn't rainy and dreary I would take a photo myself of this beautiful place. #rotunda #uva #virginia #charlottesville

A photo posted by Michael Herndon (@paramagic1561) on Nov 11, 2014 at 7:11am PST

Pike Place Market, Washington

Pike Place with a cameo by Cygne

A photo posted by Peter Cooper (@pete.cooper) on Nov 11, 2014 at 11:55am PST

Snowshoe Mountain Resort, West Virginia

#crabisland #Beach #browsedestin #Destin #whitesand #destinrealestate #forsale #realestatesales #destinbridge #propertiesforsale #luxury #realestateexperts #sunsets #florida #beachlife #destinflorida #norreigapoint #boatersworld #fishing #vacationspots #luckiestfishingvillage #30a #seaside #beaches #beauty #highway30a #earth #palmtrees #condos #luxuryhomes

A photo posted by Destin Real Estate Sales (@destinrealestatesales) on Dec 12, 2014 at 8:15am PST

Lambeau Field, Wisconsin

A photo posted by Peter Mullen (@pbmullen) on Dec 12, 2014 at 5:46pm PST

Old Faithful, Wyoming

Old Faithful! Even though she isn't quite as faithful as she once was, she's still a spectacular force of nature.

A photo posted by Gregg Valley (@deathvalleyman) on Nov 11, 2014 at 12:30pm PST

Mike Ditka 'Embarrassed' For Rams After Ferguson Protest, Upset By 'This Hands-Up Crap'

Wed, 2014-12-03 10:51
Mike Ditka admits he doesn't know exactly what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, but the former Chicago Bears coach seems pretty certain about what didn't happen.

In response to five St. Louis Rams players taking the field while making the "hands up, don't shoot" gesture before their game on Sunday, Ditka told the Chicago Sun-Times: "I don’t want to hear about this hands-up crap. That’s not what happened. I don’t know exactly what did happen, but I know that’s not what happened."

The "hands up, don't shoot" gesture has come to symbolize solidarity with the protests in Ferguson. It's modeled after the position some witnesses said Michael Brown was in when he was fatally shot by then-Officer Darren Wilson.

Before going on to say he felt "embarrassed" for the players, Ditka blasted the reaction to a grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson: "The shame of it is, I’m not sure they care about Michael Brown or anything else. This was a reason to protest and to go out and loot. Is this the way to celebrate the memory of Michael Brown? Is this an excuse to be lawless? Somebody has to tell me that. I don’t understand it."

The 75-year-old NFL legend and current ESPN analyst has spoken out about other sports controversies in the past.

After ex-Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice was suspended by the NFL following the release of a video that appeared to show him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious, Ditka said: "I don't know Ray at all. I'm sure he's not a bad guy, but he made a bad mistake." Ditka then lamented that Rice's "earning power is destroyed."

In August, Ditka declared the debate over the Washington Redskins name "so stupid it’s appalling." The former coach went on to call critics of the Redskins name "silly" and "asinine."

Read more about Mike Ditka's reaction at the Chicago Sun-Times.

U.S. Postal Service Responds To Needy Kids' Letters To Santa Claus

Wed, 2014-12-03 10:32
NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Postal Service in New York City has launched its 102nd annual "Operation Santa" letter-writing program — with security measures in place to protect the mostly needy children.

At Manhattan's James A. Farley Post Office on Tuesday, members of the public started responding to letters from children describing their holiday dream list — often just necessities. Volunteers must bring an ID and fill out a form that allows them to read mail addressed to Santa.

Twenty major U.S. cities are participating in the program, with kids asking Santa for warm coats, food, clothes, and shoes — plus toys. The gifts are then mailed to families. Names and addresses are not visible to donors.

One desperate mother wrote: "I would be very grateful if you can help us out by sending my children's some gifts, so they have something to open on Christmas Day."

In another letter, a 13-year-old named Franklin says he has two sisters and a brother. "I just wanted to ask if you can help my mom with some presents for my family," the teen writes.

Children's Santa letters may be picked up at postal branches in 20 U.S. cities this year, including New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Boston, Orlando, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles.

In addition, a website dubbed Be An Elf offers information.

"There's no middle man or charity," says the site. "It's micro-philanthropy, direct from you to a child, when you volunteer in this way."

The Postal Service in New York City gets at least 300,000 requests each year, but only about 10 percent are answered, officials say.