Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recommitting to the Commitment

Some of you may remember my motto for 2010 from a previous post. I have to be honest, I had forgotten it for a while. But, the other day, I suddenly remembered the words and vowed to recommit to them for the remainder of the year.

"I have been waiting for so long to finally admit to myself that I am amazing, and I really am. Everyone is beautiful in their own way and they get even better when they decide to be powerful and they decide to rock." ~Girls Rock Movie

I hope you have a most amazing, beautiful and powerful day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry

The article below was in the NY Times recently. I just had to share it.

Message to Muslims: I’m Sorry

Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.

That’s reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I’m going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.

I’m inspired by another journalistic apology. The Portland Press Herald in Maine published an innocuous front-page article and photo a week ago about 3,000 local Muslims praying together to mark the end of Ramadan. Readers were upset, because publication coincided with the ninth anniversary of 9/11, and they deluged the paper with protests.

So the newspaper published a groveling front-page apology for being too respectful of Muslims. “We sincerely apologize,” wrote the editor and publisher, Richard Connor, and he added: “we erred by at least not offering balance to the story and its prominent position on the front page.” As a blog by James Poniewozik of Time paraphrased it: “Sorry for Portraying Muslims as Human.”

I called Mr. Connor, and he seems like a nice guy. Surely his front page isn’t reserved for stories about Bad Muslims, with articles about Good Muslims going inside. Must coverage of law-abiding Muslims be “balanced” by a discussion of Muslim terrorists?

Ah, balance — who can be against that? But should reporting of Pope Benedict’s trip to Britain be “balanced” by a discussion of Catholic terrorists in Ireland? And what about journalism itself?

I interrupt this discussion of peaceful journalism in Maine to provide some “balance.” Journalists can also be terrorists, murderers and rapists. For example, radio journalists in Rwanda promoted genocide.

I apologize to Muslims for another reason. This isn’t about them, but about us. I want to defend Muslims from intolerance, but I also want to defend America against extremists engineering a spasm of religious hatred.

Granted, the reason for the nastiness isn’t hard to understand. Extremist Muslims have led to fear and repugnance toward Islam as a whole. Threats by Muslim crazies just in the last few days forced a Seattle cartoonist, Molly Norris, to go into hiding after she drew a cartoon about Muhammad that went viral.

And then there’s 9/11. When I recently compared today’s prejudice toward Muslims to the historical bigotry toward Catholics, Mormons, Jews and Asian-Americans, many readers protested that it was a false parallel. As one, Carla, put it on my blog: “Catholics and Jews did not come here and kill thousands of people.”

That’s true, but Japanese did attack Pearl Harbor and in the end killed far more Americans than Al Qaeda ever did. Consumed by our fears, we lumped together anyone of Japanese ancestry and rounded them up in internment camps. The threat was real, but so were the hysteria and the overreaction.

Radicals tend to empower radicals, creating a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and anger. Many Americans believe that Osama bin Laden is representative of Muslims, and many Afghans believe that the Rev. Terry Jones (who talked about burning Korans) is representative of Christians.

Many Americans honestly believe that Muslims are prone to violence, but humans are too complicated and diverse to lump into groups that we form invidious conclusions about. We’ve mostly learned that about blacks, Jews and other groups that suffered historic discrimination, but it’s still O.K. to make sweeping statements about “Muslims” as an undifferentiated mass.

In my travels, I’ve seen some of the worst of Islam: theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God’s bidding.

But I’ve also seen the exact opposite: Muslim aid workers in Afghanistan who risk their lives to educate girls; a Pakistani imam who shelters rape victims; Muslim leaders who campaign against female genital mutilation and note that it is not really an Islamic practice; Pakistani Muslims who stand up for oppressed Christians and Hindus; and above all, the innumerable Muslim aid workers in Congo, Darfur, Bangladesh and so many other parts of the world who are inspired by the Koran to risk their lives to help others. Those Muslims have helped keep me alive, and they set a standard of compassion, peacefulness and altruism that we should all emulate.

I’m sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Today marks four years since Christi gained her wings. I can't believe it's been that long. And while I talk/write/think about Christi often, I wanted to take a moment, on this day especially, to honor this remarkable soul, Christi Thomas.

I "met" Christi in the winter of 2003, a few months after she had been diagnosed. I adored her from the start. Can I be honest? One of the very first things I loved about Christi was her love for school. I remember her mom talking about how much Christi loved school and learning and reading. And I thought to myself: "Oh my goodness!!! There is someone else out there in the world like me!!! She just gets it!!!" (And yes, the exclamation points are no exaggeration. I was that excited.) There was also the little fact that her birthday was the day before mine. And that was just the beginning.

It took only a short time to realize that Christi had not only a brilliant mind, but she also had a most beautiful soul. Christi was known for saying, "I'm not sick, I just have cancer." She held lemonade stands to benefit Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, blood drives to raise awareness about the importance of blood/platelet donations and she always comforted the other children undergoing cancer treatment-- by reading them stories, giving them homemade gifts or helping them decorate their hospital rooms. Christi lived with a mind full of wonder, a heart full of love and a soul full of faith.

I was inspired. I still am. A friend said to me today, "I hope you're having a very Christi day!" And as I was sitting here trying to figure out how best to honor Christi on her "angelversary", I realized that every day is a Christi day. Knowing Christi changed my life and shaped so much of what I do and who I am. I wake up (almost) every morning to go for a "Christi" run. My 4:30am madness where I get myself out of bed and on the treadmill and imagine her next to me as I prepare for my next Christi Thomas Memorial Run. On mornings when I am feeling particularly lazy, I picture her whispering into my ear: "You need to get up NOW! You can do this." And, she's always right. If she, and so many other brave warriors, could wake up each day and fight childhood cancer, then I can get up every morning to train for a race to raise money in her honor. Because of Christi I am now a regular platelet donor at MSKCC and I started volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House as well; it's where I met Ylaria. Through Christi I have met the most beautiful people who are now some of my dearest friends-- her family, Jennifer, Traci, Lisa, Irene, Shirley, Ylaria.

My life has been deeply blessed because of Christi. And while I have said bits and pieces of this in some way, shape or form in the past, I felt the need to honor Christi here today, to share her here with you, to put into words all that she means to me. And to thank her, for all of the moments she has inspired.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Ok, I know I have been delinquent lately. I sort of forgot I had a blog (or more to the point that I need to post on it) and I sort of didn't know what to write about.

I have been doing well. It's starting to feel like Fall here in NYC and I am so excited. I love the Fall. I love feeling the cooler air on my face and the way the leaves crunch under your feet and how everything just feels so much crisper. Not to mention the yummy foods like pumpkin and squash and apples and lentil stew. Tasty! I also love how Fall, for a reason I can't quite put my finger on, makes me feel a little more like a kid. Maybe it's the Halloween thing. And the "the holidays are coming" thing. The point is, I love Fall.

And this Fall is full of fun things! I am running in my 4th Annual Christi Run which will raise money for one of my very, very, very favorite organizations: Kids Cancer Crusade. I have been training a lot for this run and really trying to get in good shape for it. I know you'll think I'm nuts when I tell you that I get up at 4:30am to run on the treadmill, but I love it. I call it my "Christi time" and having that perspective really does make all the difference. I couldn't ask for a better running buddy at 4:30am.

I am also SUPER (and I do mean SUPER) excited about my Halloween weekend plans to visit my friend, C. A weekend with one of my best friends is always great and I am looking forward to our NCIS discussions, baking, outdoor hikes/walks and haunted prison adventure. We're even planning on going trick-or-treating! Could a girl really ask for more?? (C. has young siblings, so it's completely acceptable to trick-or-treat. When you're little you need adult supervision. Apparently, I qualify.)

And, of course, the Fall would not be complete without the annual Nunez family apple-picking trip.

I've got loads to look forward to. I hope you're all doing well and making some fun Fall plans of your own!

~ Olivia

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Be Happy

I absolutely love this video. What a beautiful message. I've watched it over and over today and every single time it feels like a giant hug.