Monthly Archives: December 2014

Week 20 – Mental Housekeeping for the New Year!

Happy Holidays, Celebrationists!

I hope your celebrations of the season have been filled with family (given or chosen), fun, and private moments for relaxing and recharging.  As I sit here thinking about the coming year, and procrastinating about updating my health care coverage, I keep coming across articles with titles like New YEAR, New YOU. For some reason, that phrase has burned itself in my mind, and is making me think about the following….

But. First.

1.) I am thankful for my new NutriBullet! I’d been wanting one, but wasn’t necessarily expecting to get it for Christmas!

2.) I am thankful for two very special high school friends who always make time for me when I’m home every year at this time. We’ve been friends for fourteen years, and reconnecting with them has become a really special part of my year.

3.) I am thankful that my sister is coming back to New York with me! She’ll spend New Year’s Eve in the city with me, and stay a couple of days into the new year : )


My sister and I, looking alike in our matching MaineStage Shakespeare swag : )

So. New Year, New You. *Insert GONG sound effect* I understand what these articles are aiming to accomplish, I think. They are offering the idea that January 1st is the perfect time to reinvent ourselves – whatever that means to us. A good time for setting goals, planning ambitious missions, and making changes – because the year is new and so are we.

What interests me more though, is the idea that we are constantly new. The millions of encounters, successes, tragedies, and new people we experience on a moment to moment basis make us ever-changing on an intellectual, emotional, psychological, and cellular level. To say we can reinvent ourselves beginning on January 1st is a great reminder…but I think it’s also wonderful to remind ourselves that we ARE ALREADY new, and that every day we have the opportunity to set new goals, make new missions, and choose to see the world differently. I also say this as someone who enjoys New Year’s resolutions. Just last night at dinner, I asked my family if they had been thinking about any goals for the new year, and we chatted about it for awhile.  But maybe the important thing is not to get hung up on numbers. Not get stressed out by dates, or allow ourselves to get trapped by those pesky “frenemies” guilt and shame, who beat up our insides when we don’t “achieve” by a certain deadline…a deadline we’ve set ourselves.

So my wish for all of us, Celebrationsists, as we LEAP into 2015, is this: that we remember that no one is in the driver’s seat of our lives but US. That we each have the ability at any moment to make a change, take a risk, and accept all the good that wants to come into our lives and bless us. That if we feel compelled to set new goals, that we do so for ourselves and the benefit and beauty of our own happiness.  That we remain gentle and kind to ourselves if we slip up. Because we are perfect works in progress, just as we are : )

photo 2

As we bring 2014 to a close, I want to end this final post of the year with a thank you to all the GBDs who have been a part of this first year of my blog.  All their names are listed below, with a link to their respective websites.  If you’d like to do a Little Bit of Good today, check out their wonderful work again, and if you feel particularly inspired by someone – send them a little note to tell them so : ) I think all of us, at one point or another wonder if anything we do in this life is really making a difference.  You may never know the impact you’ll have by letting someone know that they are : )

Week 1: Jacey Powers

Week 2:  Lindsay Tanner

Week 3:  Katie Berger

Week 4:  Jacqueline Raposo

Week 7: Sarah Rae Mitchel

Week 8: Rachel Handler

Week 10: Jillian Ratliff

Week 14: Pam Berger

Week 17: Sarah Cronk

Week 18: Marlana LaCivita

Week 19: Pam Smith

You can also find a the photos of these amazing all-stars in the photo section of the Little Bits of Good Facebook page!

Happy New Year to all, and see you in 2015!

Week 19 – Little Bits of Rescue

Happy Holidays, Celebrationists! I hope that wherever you might be in your seasonal preparations, you are feeling excited and at peace : ) If what you are experiencing is more in the realm of on the brink of smacking someone with a silver bell or ready to deck your neighbor with a bough of holly, I hope that the spirit of the season finds you, and you’re able to reconnect with the wonderful people, or four legged friends in the world who help you enjoy an attitude of gratitude.

There’s a delightful Little Bit of Good in the world that I especially LOVE to celebrate – animals!  As many of you are cuddled up with creatures on the couch during this season of snuggling, please join me in celebrating this week’s GBD, and the amazing animals she supports. Let’s face it, dogs make everything better.  And yes, cat-people, I’ll grant you that probably some kittens do, too… : )

But first –

  1. I am thankful for a relaxing, artistically fulfilling three months of work in Florida.  Doing Into the Woods, A Christmas Carol, and Full here, I’ve felt happier and more myself than I have in a long time.
  2. I am thankful for everyone who works so diligently and passionately to make freeFall Theatre a place I’m always grateful to return to.  If you live in Florida, go check out a show! We have 5 more performances of A Christmas 
  3. I am thankful for the sweet, generous, gracious parents of A Christmas Carol. Using their skills to tape up injured feet, throw cast parties, offer rides, orchestrate teaching opportunities, bring goodies and activities…I feel SUPER fortunate to know you, and call you friends : )

All righty, people. Let’s walk with the animals.  This lovely lady is Pam Smith, and she is the Foster Coordinator at Pet Pal Animal Shelter, in St. Petersburg, FL.


Pam and a Foster, Big Boy Blue

Pet Pal’s mission is to rescue dogs and cats from shelters, who may otherwise be euthanized due to time limitations, illness, injuries or lack of socialization and training. Dedicated to educating the public about the pet overpopulation crisis, Pet Pal also promotes the importance of spaying/neutering and responsible pet ownership. If you live in the Tampa Bay area and are looking to adopt a pet this holiday season or in the new year, consider checking out Pet Pal! Fostering is another great way to get involved, which brings me to our special guest! After four years of volunteering with the organization, Pam became the Foster Coordinator, and helps many wonderful animals find both temporary/foster and long-term, loving homes.

How did you first begin working at Pet Pal Animal Shelter? How did you find them/they find you?

  • I filled out a Volunteer Application and was told to report in the next week
  • I knew the Executive Director, Scott Daly, when he worked at another shelter and I volunteered there

How has your role there changed over the years? What do you do now as Foster Coordinator?

I started off answering phones but asked for more work and more work and then I retired so I asked for more work.  I’ve been fostering for about 10 years and Pet Pal did not have a formal foster policy.  I helped develop it under the direction of Scott Daly.

What makes Pet Pal a unique and wonderful shelter?

It starts with the top:  Scott Daly.  He is VERY passionate about his work.  It’s his life. He is on-call 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  You just WANT to get involved, help, rescue.  When an animal is adopted it is the most wonderful feeling ever!

Can you share a particular story/experience that makes you keep coming back and continuing your work at Pet Pal?

There are many but the first one that comes to mind is Lotus.  A good Samaritan came into the shelter carrying a young dog that was near death.  PP doesn’t take in strays or lost animals but this was an emergency.  She was found in a canal, tied to a chain and a long 2 X 4.  Someone had obviously tried to drown her.  She had a very bad case of mange that had developed into a deadly infection.  Her body temp was low due to the water exposure.  It took months and months of treatment and the generosity of many donors to get her well.  We all loved her and she loved the attention.  She was finally adopted to a very loving family and we still receive updates on her.

What have been some challenges or difficult moments of volunteering at Pet Pal?

It may seem strange that this is so difficult but answering calls from the public can make me sad, make me angry, try my patience and sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out.  People will give up their animals for the most mundane reasons and some people are trying everything possible to keep their animal even though they can’t take care of themselves.  We are a small shelter and many, many times a day we have to tell people that we are full and cannot help them.


The wonderful world of fostering!

Is it costly to be a foster parent? 

Not at all!  The Shelter provides food, crate, toys, towels and meds (if necessary).  You provide the space and the love.  It’s that easy!!

How can people support the shelter and get involved?

Many people think they can’t volunteer because being in a shelter makes them sad.  I say that if you are not able to enter the shelter there are many other things you can do to help the animals in the shelter:  volunteer at the Thrift Store, donate items to the Thrift Store, use the Pet Pal Vet Clinic, collect and donate items from the Wish List, volunteer at Special Events (such as Puppy Love) which are held off the shelter grounds.

What is another organization you believe to be doing Little Bits of Good?

Pet Food Warehouse (, located in St Petersburg and locally owned, houses adoptable cats for us.  They’ve built a large, fun room for the cats.  They provide the food, litter, toys, etc.  They adopt the cats out using our criteria and give us the money.  They also support many other animal organizations in the community.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?

All 9 of the Shelter’s puppies were adopted at an offsite adoption event!!


Thank you so much, Pam! For more on Pet Pal, check out their great website at  and give your own animals a snuggle, today!

Have a Happy Holiday everyone, and I’ll talk to you next week!


Week 18 – Little Bits of Infinity

Greetings, Celebrationists!  I hope your Monday is off to a warm and wonderful start. A little hard to believe that it’s December 15th, already.  Only ten days until Christmas! I’m excited to introduce you to another inspiring GBD, today – a talented, energetic, generous lady named Marlana LaCivita.  But first:

  1. I am thankful to be in, and be a witness to the first public reading of Katie Berger’s musical, Full.  Some of you may remember Katie  from week #3 of this very blog.  At one point in our interview, she referenced a “long term goal” – a musical she was writing that deals with some very important and personal subject matter. Now here we are, just 15 weeks later, about to do it for an audience. I could not be happier for, prouder of, or more inspired by Katie. If you missed her feature, go back and check out week #3.
  2. I am thankful for clean laundry. Because clean laundry is awesome.
  3. I am thankful that I get to see my friend Susan today. I haven’t seen her since Into the Woods closed, I miss her, and am thrilled to share the experience of Full with her, today.

Now back to the fierce and feisty Marlana LaCivita. I had the pleasure of meeting Marlana just a few weeks ago when we performed at an event together (The Scott and Patti Show – check them out on Facebook! ) Marlana is a beautiful dancer, and I was excited to learn about the non-profit charity she founded, called BE Infinite.


How would you describe BE Infinite to our friends out there? 

Special people in our lives who have courageously battled cancer understand that their circle of friends, family, and health care workers is what carries them through their fight. These people are woven together forever. It is an infinity of support. Help us to help them with the gift of the BE Infinite Scarf, in memory of a courageous cancer fighter, Billy Edwards. With your donation, our charity, in his honor, will weave one-of-a-kind infinity scarves for patients battling all types of cancers. It is to remind them of the infinite amount of people who encircle them with support and LOVE. Won’t you find it in your heart to let them BE Infinite – Forever.

This is how it is described on our website.  In a nutshell, people donate money, and I am then able to buy the product to make the scarves. They are handmade by one of our volunteers or myself, and then we deliver them to cancer treatment centers once a week.  Those who donate, their name is on the tag that we attach to each scarf.

What inspired you to start BE Infinite?

The reason I started BE Infinite was honestly because I used to be able to donate a lot of volunteer time to being at the centers, but with being in holiday season it was getting hard. I wanted to do something for patients that would make them smile, and not be a gift like candy or a pamphlet.  Being a cancer survivor myself I remember someone who donated some heart shaped pillows while I was in chemo and I was lucky enough to receive one. It made my day, made me smile, and I still have it now.

The reason we came up with the scarves is because we found an easy and quick way to hand make scarves quickly with the help of Pinterest and YouTube, that myself and friends really enjoy doing, and ’tis the season to stay warm!  I also really liked the idea of a never ending circle and the idea of infinity.


I understand that you’ve had your own experiences with this illness. If you don’t mind, share as much as you’re willing to.

I was diagnosed w/ Stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma on March 20 2013.  It was never something I thought would happen to me but when I was actually diagnosed it was like I knew I had it and I knew I could beat it, and I started my battle with a positive stubborn attitude! 🙂

The minute I was diagnosed I had my little cry fest and then I was on a search to find a doctor that would let me continue dancing during my treatment.  I had no idea what my treatment would entail or how hard it would be but I knew that if I didn’t continue dancing I would not make it through.  Dancing is my passion and career, my full time job is a performer at Busch Gardens.  I would not have been able to let that go.  I found the most amazing Doctor, Dr. David Wright of Florida Cancer Specialists (I would highly recommend him to anyone!)  and within 1 min of meeting him we knew we were a perfect match.  I received treatment every 2 weeks and figured out an exact schedule of the days I could dance and the days I needed off.  It was a long seven months of treatment but I owe it all to my nurses and everyone who supported me and the amazing support system I had onstage with me everyday!!!!

Can you tell us a little about Billy Edwards, and your choice to begin this organization in his name?

Billy Edwards was an Actor at Busch Gardens who I met 3 years ago.  He was an amazing man who could make anyone in the world laugh.  He had a way with words and life.  He always always always had a smile on his face and he was such an amazing soul.  Billy was in a show with me while I was going through treatment called Born to Rock, he was with me everyday while I was sick and fighting to beat cancer, and watched me through all of my ups and downs.  He would always find a way to help me laugh or stay positive or just sit next to me on the couch just for some support.  He helped me stay positive and fight my fight.  This past August unfortunately, Billy was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer which had also spread to his liver.  This was one of the hardest things for me to deal with because I knew exactly what he was about to go through, and he knew now, to seeing me go through it.  We lost Billy this past November and the least I could do was start this organization in his name so the BE part of BE Infinite is Billy’s Initials… A subtle way to forever include such an amazing person in my life.


Marlana and Billy Edwards

Where do you you find the recipients of your Infinity scarves? Do you work with a specific center, hospital, or organization?

There are no specific recipients, I of course started off with my cancer center Florida Cancer Specialists because I felt comfortable there, I know the doctors and nurses, and I knew they would be open arms right away and a great way to get the kinks out if there were any. I plan to donate to as many centers, hospitals, and organizations as possible.  I am also trying to branch outside of FL, most specifically to my Grandfather’s cancer center in OH.

The scarves are dropped off and the patients are free to pick out whatever scarf they like, whatever suits their personalities.  We make plenty of options!

How can people support BE Infinite? What is the best way to get involved?

The best way to get involved is to donate!  We have a website specifically for donating!  The address is :

We also have a facebook page (unfortunately FB wouldn’t let us capitalize the B and the E so the facebook page is Be infinite (non-profit organization)

We also have Instagram!!! @_be.infinite_


What is another organization/person you believe to be doing Little Bits of Good?

Shari Torres, she works with LLS Team in Training and is huge into Charity work.  She is helping me with the Charity Event on Tuesday! (You’ll be able to read more about this, below!)

What is the best thing that happened to you today?

I got to perform onstage for thousands of people and make them smile and help them get in the spirit for Christmas!

* I always ask all interviewees “Is there one question that I didn’t ask you, that you wish I had?” and this was Marlana’s question/ response: “Do you feel there is a reason you may have gotten cancer?”

Yes so that I would be able to do things like this, and so I could help others get through this. I am now an ambassador for the LLS and I am so very involved with a lot of organizations that help anyone with this fight and battle. I hope I inspire people to keep fighting and to continue doing what they love.  That is exactly how I got through it and I know it will help others too!


Thank you so much for sharing your story in such a candid way, Marlana! If you would like to support BE Infinite and Marlana’s mission, check out her event TOMORROW! See the flyer above for more information!

Be well, and see you next week celebrationists!

Week 17 – Little Bits of Sparkle

Happy Monday, Celebrationists! I am so excited to bring you an incredibly bright and beautiful Good-Bit-Do-er, this week! But first…

  1. I am thankful for, which allows the opportunity to rent/watch mind-blowingly amazing performances. Watched Richard Eyre’s adaptation of Ibsen’s Ghosts late last night, and it was gut-wrenchingly sad, thoroughly gorgeous, and the acting was exquisite. I also cannot recommend their A Doll’s House more, which I saw live when they brought it to BAM, with the same cast
  2. I am thankful for generous friends who give their time and energy constantly by helping make audition videos, give rides, and being thoughtful in small or large ways, every day
  3. I am thankful for a day job that allows me to pursue my dream and ensures that I can work remotely when I am out of town

All right, friends.  Join me in welcoming Sarah Cronk – Founder, President, and Creative Director  of The Sparkle Effect.  


The Sparkle Effect is a program that Sarah began developing at just 15 years old that empowers teens Nationwide to include students with disabilities in school-based dance and cheerleading programs. The Sparkle Effect provides all interested students the opportunity to shine and be themselves, in a supportive environment where athletes of all abilities practice and perform as one team.

Sarah and The Sparkle Effect have been featured on the Oprah Winfrey show in 2009 and 2010, profiled in People Magazine, and many other well-deserved accolades, which you can read more about here: 

Now a senior at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA,  Sarah continues her mission of encouraging the world to abandon perceptions of normalcy while learning to embrace and appreciate diversity. The Sparkle Effect now has teams all across the U.S. – and your school could be next!


What inspired you to create The Sparkle Effect?

Get this: over five million students with disabilities attend public schools in the United States. Yet, despite this huge number, most high school sports and extracurricular activities fail to accommodate these students. As a result, students with disabilities often find themselves sidelined — excluded from high school sports and activities and the critical social opportunities they provide.

This issue is personal for me, because my older brother Charlie has a disability that prevents him from fully understanding social cues. His transition into high school was rough, until a popular upperclassman, Jared, invited Charlie to join the high school swim team.  As a result, Charlie’s high school experience changed dramatically. So did my perspective.

My sport, cheerleading, seemed like the perfect place to start. In 2008, I created the first high-school based inclusive cheerleading squad in the nation. After experiencing the profound impact that the team had on my school and community I created The Sparkle Effect to replicate the program in other schools. To date, we have generated over 135 teams from coast to coast!

What excites you most about the work you are doing?

At The Sparkle Effect we always say that when everyone cheers, everyone wins. That’s because we be live that inclusion benefits everyone involved. Most of the high school students who step up to create Sparkle Effect teams do so to help others. They seldom anticipate how much the team will enrich their lives as well. It’s exciting to me to know that thousands of students are now experiencing the benefits of inclusion. It also excites me to think about The Sparkle Effect as sitting at the forefront of a larger movement to create more compassionate schools for students nationwide. I truly hope that The Sparkle Effect is just the beginning for inclusion.


Is there a story you’d like to share that illustrates the mission of The Sparkle Effect and the good your organization is doing? 

Last winter, I went back to my high school to see my little brother play on the basketball team. A few moments after we sat down, I saw Claire, one of the original Sparkles walk into the game with a group of girls. Claire still cheered on the Sparkles team, but wasn’t wearing her uniform. I leaned over to ask my mother if the Sparkles were performing that night. She smiled and said no, that Claire was just there to watch the game with her friends. I immediately started to get teary-eyed, because when we started the Sparkles team, social inclusion of students with disabilities was not commonplace at our school. But, in the five years since the program was created, it has become completely normal and expected of the student body. Claire was our youngest member and was only eight when she started cheering on the team. Now, as a middle school student, she will never have to experience isolation or exclusion.

How can people support The Sparkle Effect? What are the best ways to help?

The Sparkle Effect is always looking for donations. We are committed to tangibly supporting our new inclusive teams with uniform grants and customized on-site training workshops. Though we receive some support from generous corporate partners, we cannot continue without the support of generous donors.


What is another organization or individual you believe to be doing  “Little Bits of Good?”

Through the years I have had the privilege of meeting dozens of amazing nonprofit leaders making big and important changes in the world. Taryn Guerrero Davis immediately comes to mind. After losing her husband Michael in Iraq, Taryn created the American Widow Project, a non-profit that unites the new generation of military widows.  Her ability to turn a devastating situation into an opportunity to better the lives of thousands of families should serve as a shining example of perseverance and resilience for all of us. Her unwavering appreciation for every moment, person, and opportunity she encounters keeps me practicing intentional gratitude for even the most difficult circumstances in life.


What is the best thing that happened to you today?

I currently attend Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Our weather has been treacherous lately, with freezing rain leaving a thick layer of ice on all the roads and sidewalks. Walla Walla doesn’t typically experience this kind of winter weather, so the town wasn’t well equipped to take care of it. This morning, right as I was walking out the door to the library, the sun finally came out and started to melt the ice. It sounds cheesy, but it was a much-needed symbol of hope as I head into my senior finals.

Thank you so much, Sarah! To read more about The Sparkle Effect, explore the full site at

And to hear more from Sarah herself, tune in here as she talks about how The Sparkle Effect takes what is sometimes considered “the most exclusive group” and makes it the most inclusive, defying expectations and making the world take notice: (interview with Wendy Naugle, the Executive Editor of GLAMOUR)

See you next week, Celebrationists!

Week 16 – Little Bits of Christmas Crud

Happy December first, beautiful Celebrationists! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  As I sit here outside in sunny Florida, it feels even less possible to me that it is already December…and yet here we are!

  1. I am thankful that I get to see my incredible friend Kevin tomorrow! He’s in town rehearsing for the CIRCUS, because he is the coolest
  2. I am thankful that it is 72 degrees today and I am writing this outside
  3. I am thankful for the lovely audiences who came to our opening weekend of A Christmas Carol


(Opening night party. Totally happy, but also totally can’t breathe out of my left nostril)

If you know me well, you know that there are exactly 3 things that I will toot my own horn about/allow others to comment on, however jokingly and in good fun:

  1. I give a REALLY satisfying and intense back massage. If you enjoy that kind of thing
  2. Both my mother and I have some strange genetic mystery about us where we don’t “really” sweat.  I mean, we do – but only kind of. If you’ve done outdoor Shakespeare with me, you know this. I don’t know why this is so, but I don’t hate it.
  3. I don’t get sick

Now obviously number 3 is a total exaggeration, because that isn’t real life, but I have noticed that since I became a vegan (note: I really hate this phrase but can’t think of an appropriate replacement) I rarely get so much as a sniffle – I say this not because I think it’s the answer to complete wellness (I don’t) or that I think everyone should eat any kind of certain way (I definitely don’t) – but because my body has responded really well to this lifestyle/it works for me personally, and just makes me happy! However, as much as I joke that “PEKAR DOESN’T GET SICK,” I seem to have officially gotten the Christmas-Crud.  Winter time tends to be a popular period for cold-catching, and apparently this time, I’m included in that! I thought I’d take this opportunity to write a little post about my thoughts about dis-ease in the body, and how we can respond to our own illnesses with Little Bits of Good instead of guilt, shame, and total frustration.


(This little beauty, along with Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar are my two go-to beverages for kicking the crud…plus I just really like the way this one tastes…you can find them at your local health food store, or here – they are pricey but potent)

I’m a huge fan of Louise Hay.  If you don’t know her book You Can Heal Your Life, I think it’s such a great read. Her philosophy is that our thoughts are just as related to our physical well-being as anything else, and can influence our health.  She lists affirmations that coincide with various parts of the body, with the intention of promoting healing.  Now obviously I’m not touting this as an exclusive remedy to totally affirmation-away your illness, but I do think it is interesting to note, for me, the times when I feel under the weather, and how it relates to my thought patterns, at the time.

Since Into the Woods closed, I’ve noticed in myself some older, not-so-stellar thought patterns creeping their way back in. I think it’s perhaps only a partial coincidence that my body started feeling not-so-healthy when my thoughts shifted that way, too.

The interesting thing about dis-ease too, which I think I’ve mentioned before, is that…it’s kind of a neat little flashlight.  It’s a friendly (even though it doesn’t feel friendly) warning that we may need to make an adjustment in some area of our life, in order to restore balance.  In times like this, when I’ve got the Christmas Crud, I think it can be a great opportunity to take a personal inventory.  To ask myself the following questions:

– What have my thought patterns been like lately? Is there dis-ease here?

– What is my stress/work/play level balance like right now? Is there dis-ease there?

– What are the things that I’ve been putting into my body in the way of nutrition, information, and my surroundings? Only I know the levels and needs of my body, and they are not to be compared to anyone else’s. – Is there dis-ease there, for me?

I think it is key to make this assessment gentle, non-threatening, and void of guilt or judgement.  Listening to our bodies and responding with love can be challenging, and sometimes there’s nothing to do but ride it out. But I think the more we can thank out body for letting us know that something is amiss so that we can begin to restore order…it’s just a pretty great built-in gift that we have here! When we might not be willing to listen to our body’s plea to “slow down,” “clean up your thoughts,” or “get it together” in some way – it does the work for us : )


So good health to you this winter, Celebrationists! Be kind to yourselves, and check back next week for a new GBD!