Inspiration or Ableism? How to Tell the Difference


Some thoughts on distinguishing true inspiration from exploitation. When I was in eighth grade I was recognized publicly at my middle school’s annual awards assembly. My parents came to the school gymnasium to see me receive accolades, and my friends cheered loudly as I walked up to the stage. But I didn’t feel proud of the award. In fact, it actually evoked a sense of shame in me, for one simple reason: I had no recollection of what I’d done to earn it, apart from being born with a degenerative eye disease that rendered me visually impaired. The Curtis White Award was given annually to a student who succeeded despite adversity. The previous year, I had cheered enthusiastically as an eighth grade boy, who was bald from chemotherapy, accepted the award. I don’t recall the exact wording my teacher used as he introduced me for the honor, but I do        …read more

27 Malala Yousafzai Quotes to Empower You to Raise Your Voice

Malala Yousafzai

On Malala Yousafzai’s 21st birthday, read the young activist’s most inspiring quotes. There aren’t too many recognition days dedicated to college students — but Malala Yousafzai is hardly your average young adult. The UN has designated July 12, which is Yousafzai’s birthday, Malala Day in honor of the young woman who has been a prominent activist for female education since her early teens. Yousafzai’s humanitarian work came at a near-fatal cost. At age 11, inspired by her father’s activism, she began writing about life in her native Swat Valley, Pakistan, under the new rule of the Taliban. Knowing she was endangering her young life, she began publicly advocating for girls’ education. The Taliban retaliated on October 9, 2012, targeting then-15-year-old Yousafzai on a bus that was taking her and two other girls to school exams. The assassination attempt left Yousafzai critically injured with a gunshot wound to the head. A Taliban        …read more

The Rise of Pot Churches in the United States

pot churches

With cannabis as sacrament, pot churches bring together people of all spiritual backgrounds and send good vibes into the world. The legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use has opened the door for participatory events. You can, for example, do yoga with it, dispensary-hop, or attend an infused dining experience. Perhaps the most surprising of developments, though, are cannabis churches, which consider the flowering plant their sacrament. These “pot churches” aren’t a passing fad for members. Founders and parishioners take cannabis as sacrament very seriously. And their intentions for their congregations and communities are admirable: they want to send positive vibes into the world. Cannabis as Sacrament Colorado has become synonymous with marijuana — it was one of the first states in the U.S. to legalize recreational use, after all. And it’s home to the International Church of Cannabis. The church’s congregation of Elevationists come from different cultural and        …read more

20 Weird Laws That Actually Exist, Apparently

weird laws

Every state has its fair share of weird laws. You could be breaking one of them right now. Most of us try to follow the law. If not for the sake of a good conscience, we at least want to avoid fines or a trip to jail. The laws on this list, though? Well, it’s possible you’ve done the deed. And unlike laws that we’re all familiar with, you’ve probably never even heard of most of these. Many are absurd, some might not even be true, and rest assured, in most cases, breaking these laws will certainly not lead to jail time. As it turns out, laws that have been on the books for centuries often get buried rather than getting a formal appeal. Getting even the silliest of laws off the books costs legislative money and time. Every state has at least a handful of laws that read as        …read more

Missing Children: Learn the Risks and How to Help Bring Kids Home

missing children

Learn the most common reasons children go missing and how to help bring them to safety. National Missing Children’s Day is May 25. Almost exactly four years ago, on a sunny June day in a beautiful Atlantic beach town, I thought my life was ending. My son, Raymond, who was just a few weeks from his third birthday, disappeared on a crowded boardwalk. We’d just gotten off the Jolly Trolley at the boardwalk — Raymond, his two older sisters, my husband and I. For less than a minute, my husband and I took our eyes off the kids while we discussed where we wanted to eat dinner. Less than a minute. How many times have you taken your eyes off your child in a public place for a few seconds? You dig through your purse at the grocery store. You text your spouse. You crane your neck, searching for the        …read more

5 Less Flashy Endangered Species That Need Our Help

endangered species

We’re rooting for pandas as they make their big comeback, but here are five lesser-known endangered species that need our support too. In sixth grade science class, I was assigned a report on an endangered species. The idea was simple: each student would research an animal and report on why it was endangered and why it was important to save them. In practice, students competed over a handful of very popular animals, scarcely even bothering to look at the rest of the list. I was on Team Giant Panda, and our teacher eventually relented and let a whopping three of us tackle the majestic black-and-white creature. The details I learned about giant pandas stunned me and stayed with me. The experience also left me with questions about how we interact with endangered animals: Are the animals who need the most help getting the most attention? An endangered species is a        …read more

It's Not Just Millennials: Why We Love (And Love to Hate) Pink

color connotations

It’s the color that divides us, but why? Growing up, I told anyone who would listen that my favorite color was green. It wasn’t untrue. I’ve always been obsessed with color, and the color green appealed to me on a fundamental level because there was so much of it outside. But claiming green was also about something else: the color connotations of pink were too much for me. As a little girl growing up in the ’90s, surrounded by Barbies and My Little Ponies, it was important to me to reject the color pink. By asserting that I didn’t care for pink, even at the age of seven, I tried to tell the world I was not that sort of girl. In a perfect example of internalized misogyny, I understand pink to be the color of “girly girls,” of Barbie Dream Houses, of blush and lipstick and weakness. I couldn’t        …read more

5 Obscure Religions Practiced Today

world religions

Beyond the world religions you’ve heard of, here are some lesser-known belief systems that might surprise you. While more than half of the human population follows one of three world religions — Christianity, Islam or Hinduism — there are thousands of religions in practice today. World religions like Buddhism, Judaism and Chinese folk religion are well-known and account for a significant portion of the population. But what about some of the lesser-known religions? What are they all about? Take a look at five obscure religions currently in practice. 1. Servants of the Light Founded in 1965 by W. E. Butler, a British occultist, Servants of the Light is part of a long line of organizations and groups that believe in the teachings of mystical Qabalah (very similar to Kabbalah, which Madonna has been known to practice). Basically, Servants of the Light espouses that humans can harness psychic powers and accurately        …read more

Intuition Is Key to Innovation in Creative Business

creative business

Kim Chestney, founder of CREATE! Festival, says a thriving creative business depends on intuition. In 2017 roughly 3.5 million people in the United States were employed in the Creative Industries by over 674,000 businesses, ranging from museums and symphonies to design and advertising firms — and this is an extremely conservative approach to documenting those currently employed in creative fields. In contrast, the political and economic juggernaut Walmart employed only 2.3 million people globally in that same year. Still, why should we care about the Creative Industries at all? Because as we move from the information age into an age of imagination, creative businesses and artist entrepreneurs may become the driving force behind an automated and mostly digital economy. And the key to harnessing this power comes down to our intuition. At least that’s how Kim Chestney, the founding director of Pittsburgh’s CREATE! Festival and recent addition to the advisory council        …read more

Why Does My Cat Look Like That? Adventures in Cat Genetics!

cat facts

Impress your friends with these cat facts based on genetics research. I come from a whole family of cat people. A month after moving into my first solo apartment, I walked into my local Humane Society and scooped up an orange-and-white kitten, a male, out of a pile of otherwise all female kittens who looked just like him. When I told people the story, more than one responded with “I thought all orange cats were boys!” I was soon fielding questions about Jonah’s (yeah, that’s my cat’s name) family of origin. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable of cat facts, but there was an area of feline culture where I was severely lacking: genetics. A little digging plunged me into a fascinating world of cat genetics. It turns out that cats, especially their coat colors, have been used as an example to teach genetics for years. And because cats are        …read more