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Virtual Music Program Helps Children Discover And Hone Music Skills





Zoom and Skype have brought together 52 children and teenagers of the Gary Sinise Foundation Snowball Express in musical harmony quite literally. These kids from various regions of the world have honing their musical skills this summer with the help of trained musicians, including members of the Lt. Dan Band and Gary Sinise. 

Training and lessons on one of many instruments including the trumpet, piano, drums, guitar, violin, and so on, started at the end of July. Some vocal lessons were also thrown into the mix. 

The search for instructors to virtually teach musical lessons once a week to kids living across multiple timezones wasn’t as difficult as it sounded. James Stuckmann explained that he only had to reach out to network of musicians, including the Lt. Dan Band. 

Stuckmann has been with the band since 2004. He worked with the foundation’s events and Snowball Express teams in organizing the six-week-long program.

The program was a life-changing one for many of the students, but for Vlada Golin, it helped her discover a natural talent in playing the guitar. Her father, Mihail, a Green Beret lost his life in Afghanistan, 2018 when she was only six years of age. 

“She’s so focused and so determined on doing it and doing it well,” explained her teacher, Gina Gonzalez, “I told her, ‘If you really stick with it, I think that you could have a nice, long career playing the guitar.’”

Alongside Vlada, Gonzalez taught lessons to seven others in either the guitar or vocals. She’s been singing with the Lt. Dan Band since 2004, and like her fellow band members, has been teaching music to students for many years.

One Wednesday evening session in particular, Vlada was trying to learn how to strum several chords together, but she kept on running into trouble with the C chord and her fingers were hurting.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Gonzalez said to her. 

Vlada continued strumming four chords, one after the other, at moderate tempo- and soon enough, she reached harmony. 

“I get used to it, and I get the hang of it,” Vlada said about learning tricky chords. At the end of the day, she wishes to attend the School of Rock and start a rock band.

The wave of the pandemic has forced a nationwide shutdown of K-12 schools and the onset of online education, with some taking a hybrid approach involving both virtual and classroom classes on different days of the week. 

The global economy has taken a heavy hit due to the pandemic, which has led many administrators to cut costs in order to stay afloat, but at the expense of arts and music education.

New York sixth grader and trumpet player Michael Hansen opted for online classes instead of the hybrid approach offered by the sixth, which means he hasn’t had access to band practice since March. 

Michael’s father, Dennis Hansen suffered fatal wounds from an IED explosion during a tour in Afghanistan in 2009. Sadly, Michael has no memory of him since he was young when the tragic incident occurred. 

Michael developed some anxiety ahead of his first lesson. He was scared of heavy criticism of his playing abilities from his instructor, as well as, impossible homework activities. 

But to his surprise, his instructor, Kirk Garrison wasn’t all that he feared. The jazz musician and composer had an exquisite sense of humor that made it easy for both parties to connect instantly. “When you teach these young people you want to get that bond,” Garrison said. He spent nine years playing in the United States Air Force Band, and has been touring with the Lt. Dan Band since 2005. 

According to Garrison, virtual learning with private lessons is just as good as physical lessons for students to become better at their craft, which include reading music and harmonizing rhythms. 

“They’re on their own now, and this teaches them to do that and get the answers for themselves by actually reading the music and imagining the sounds and then making the sounds without having someone else spoon feed it to you or teach you by ear.”

“He doesn’t care if I mess up,” Michael explained about Garrison’s teaching style. “He encourages me not to get mad if I make a mistake.”

Some students took the music program as a way to retrace their steps back to a passion that had withered away. 

James House was only a few months old when his father, John Daniel House, a Navy corpsman, died in a helicopter crash in Iran back in January, 2005. 

Currently a high school sophomore, he began his journey to guitar mastery two years ago, with his grandfather playing musical instructor for the basics. He picked up a few things about playing the guitar, but lost passion along the way due to lack of inspiration. 

James possesses a few treasured items from his late father, including homemade videos of John playing impromptu concerts for his family with the same guitar he now uses in his virtual sessions with instructor Gina Gonzalez. 

“I don’t have quite a lot of things that I can look at say, ‘this was something that he loved and held and played as well,’” James said of the guitar’s significance. “It’s a really special experience having that guitar that was his and knowing that he played just the same as I am now.”

His grandfather’s birthday is just weeks away, and he has a special surprise in store for him to honors his father and the connection they all share playing the guitar. James is now close to mastering Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” the song his grandfather tried teaching him years ago.

“Him seeing me play,” James said of his grandfather, “will really mean something to him.”



Amethyst Found In The Shape Of A Heart Has Everyone Smitten

Danielle S



The discovery of an amethyst, shaped like a heart, naturally, has been causing a stir, not just in the world of gems and minerals but among the romantic at heart.

The precious stone was discovered by miners on the border of Brazil and Uruguay just as they were beginning some excavation work.However, that was the last thing they had on their minds, a heart ‘staring’ right at them, from the midst of a rock.

Finding a gem already molded in a design that depicts love is such an extremely rare discovery that many people are rushing to get a real view of it.

Others are hoping to make the highest bid in order to own it. Either way, whoever ends up with this gem that will be priced at the whim of the owners will certainly have one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts ever.

Why? Mainly because amethyst is deemed as a jewel representing peace. Many people believe that the amethyst’s pacifying existence generates calming dreams by taking the dreamer to a level where he or she is more connected with the Divine.

This translucence and tranquility also expand to your mind as you awaken and allows you to remain in that mindset.

Amethysts are even believed to assist with the mind being able to progress unhindered in both cognitive and supernatural proportions.

Additionally, amethyst’s, among other minerals, are frequently given as indications of affection, which the giver believes will help to establish a connection between them and the receiver.

In the meantime, this particular spotting of the naturally occurring amethyst geode requires no assistance of any kind in conveying love due to the fact that it is already formed like a heart!

The company, who’s miners made the find is Uruguay Minerals, which is an entity devoted to processing and exporting semi-valuable stones.

The gems are taken straight from the world-class craters of Artigas in Uruguay, where the miners made this remarkable find at the boundary of Uruguay and Brazil.

It happened when the miners cracked open a rock that disclosed a heart on both sides of it, which means the gem was split open.

The miners had no inkling that they were about to uncover this gorgeous geode; in fact, they were having difficulty as they attempted to get the excavation process underway.

Basically, they were opening up the mine to begin a typical day’s work, the miners claimed. They emphasized that the particular section of land that they were digging proved to be a daunting task.

They were hoping that all the issues they were faced with would end up being rewarding. However, what they came upon far exceeded what they had been anticipating.

The heart-shaped jewel was something most miners could only dream of in their lifetime. The men believe the find was more reward than they could ever dream of.

The oddly shaped geode grabbed the nation in such a whirlwind that it went viral, enchanting major social media sites and beyond.

Uruguay Minerals sells its findings through its website—including the most recent discovery called “The New Treasure.”

If you are interested in owning it, you can contact them via their website. Smaller amethysts, which are polished and shaped to resemble hearts, are also available through different online vendors.

In the meantime, the most important amethyst deposits in the world are typically found in fractures and cavities of igneous rocks.

In Brazil and Uruguay, massive quantities of amethyst are present in basalt flow craters. Hundreds of pounds to numerous tons of amethyst crystals are usually contained in large craters.

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Stroke Survivor Launches Pandemic Pet Project, Draws Adorable Portraits For Rescue Groups!

Amanda J



At the beginning of 2020, we really didn’t know what the world had waiting for us. By the time that March rolled around, the entirety of the planet was consumed by discussions surrounding the coronavirus as well as its impact. Over a full year later, with almost 90 million confirmed infections, the pandemic has become part and parcel of our daily life’s experience. With that being said, one resident from California did his best to make the pandemic as productive and pleasant as possible for rescue animals around California.

Ed Attanasio was the owner and operator of a small advertising agency in San Jose. As a local artist, Ed had seen his work featured at the Kaleid Gallery where he performed as an artist-in-residence. Ed was known at the time for his eclectic drawings and unique caricature work, something that would put him on the radar of a family friend during the quarantine. 

At the time that the pandemic shut everything down, Ed recognized that he was pretty much going to be locked down and furloughed for the remainder of quarantine. After sitting on his hands for a while, Ed would receive a phone call from a friend that changed everything. The family friend had been quarantining with their own family while struggling to keep their kids entertained. Ed offered to send some artwork over and the friend was more than happy to take him up on the offer. 

It didn’t take long for Ed to find his muse at the other end of his pen. Ed began doodling and before he knew it, Ed was drawing unique cartoonish portraits of pets belonging to his friend. Attanasio sent the pictures over whereupon they were received quite well by the family. One of the children said, “This is abstract art. Ed is like Picasso!”

And that was that.

Word quickly began to spread about Ed’s affinity and talent for caricature work. Soon Ed was thinking of using the momentum and attention to help others. Ed said, “I should turn this into a charity model. Why not?” Ed went on to say that he had always believed in supporting children and pets as they are among our most vulnerable. Ed said, “Kids and pets have always been my causes.”

After finding a receptive crowd for his work, Ed would go on to launch the Pandemic Pet Project on Facebook as a charity initiative. Ed would offer to compose Post-it Note Portraits of pets for customers from anywhere in the world. Ed asked for donations in lieu of payments and he has since drawn more than 900 portraits. Through his work, Ed has created llamas, blind raccoons, ferrets, birds, snakes, cats, and dogs. Ed said, “There was supposed to be a two-pet limit but I am a pushover.” 

Of course, Ed has been well rewarded for his efforts. At the time of this writing, Ed has personally helped to raise more than $40k for the Pandemic Pet Project to help shelters and at-risk pets all around the country. His work was well received and warmly embraced by a man from Bend, OR, who was so satisfied with his pet’s portrait that he donated $1,000 to the Pandemic Pet Project. 

As Ed continues to work on amazing portraits for his happy clients, the Pandemic Pet Project is pushing forward and into the future as one of the brightest spots of 2020. Ed says of his portraits, “I am always thinking that I want them to look different. Different color (combinations) shapes, different ears, different noses — It’s original art.”

Ed had previously worked as a journalist and stand-up comedian until he was afflicted by a stroke in 2009 at the age of 50. Ed weighed 350lbs at the time and has since focused on turning his health around, too. Since 2009, Ed has lost more than 120lbs and his new mindset was matching his rejuvenated body.

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Cleaning Out The Attic? Look To See If You Have These Valuable Items

Sarrah M



Most households in the U.S. have a collection of stuff that’s been bought over the years, whether it’s music, clothing, toys or books and just about everything else. However, something happens after an item reaches 30 years from when it was first sold. A couple of those products actually become extremely valuable. Call it nostalgia or collectability or plain old silliness, Americans have a serious connection to their past with things, and this list of valuable throwaways proves the case. You might even find one or two you had yourself growing up.

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Honest Man Bikes 3 miles to Return Lost Wallet

Sarrah M



Losing a wallet can be absolutely anxiety-ridden and frustrating. Most people don’t realize their wallet is gone until long after it has been lost, usually hours after the fact. By then, the imagine, every credit card in the wallet has been used and they will be lucky to head off the damage if they can get a hold of their financial accounts services beforehand. However, for one mother in Hawaii, that was not the case. Instead, her wallet was personally returned to her.

Chloe Marino was a having a typical challenging day, trying to manage her 5-month old as well as get groceries in a hurry when she was at her local market in Kahului. The Foodland grocery provides their shoppers grocery carts like most markets, and Chloe had stuffed hers in the cart as she was loading food and goods to purchase and take home. Unfortunately, while she was unloading the cart to her car, she forgot her wallet in the process. However, the sharp eye of the local security guard, Aina Townsend, saved the day.

Townsend happened to see the wallet in the shopping cart left behind before anyone was able grab it. He protected it until his workday was over, and then he got on his bike. The wallet had Chloe’s information and home address, and he knew where the location was based on her data. So, traveling on his personal bike, he covered 3 miles to get to her home. He knew what it was like to lose a wallet himself, so Townsend wanted to make sure this one got back to its owner safe and sound. As he told the news later on, it just felt like the right thing to do.

When Chloe and her husband answered the door and realized what Townsend had done for them, they were floored. The effort in travel and just making sure everything was protected completely surprised them. Chloe still had no idea her wallet had been missing earlier in the day until Townsend showed up and handed it back to her. She had never met him before, had no connection to the security guard, and has noted repeatedly how Townsend went more than the extra mile for a total stranger.

Chloe’s husband, Gray, was so moved by it, he put the story on Facebook, giving full credit to Townsend for his bike ride and how it embodied an Aloha spirit Hawaiians espouse as an ideal. The local community was so amazed and impressed by Townsend’s efforts and behavior, they triggered a GoFundMe account to give the young guard a really big Christmas present, a car of his own. Townsend was completely humbled by the efforts and the fund drive. For him, a car would be like scoring the big winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. Beyond just transportation for himself, a car would mean wheels to help is family out as well. Yet even with all the thanks, Townsend’s humility still comes through. He doesn’t believe he did anything special aside from just doing right by the owner of the wallet getting it back to her safe and sound.

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One Twin Went To Space For a Year, When He Came Back The Changes Were Compelling

Sarrah M



Science loves twins. The ability to take one twin as a placebo and the other as the change factor works incredibly well since the twins are practically identical physically. No surprise, science goes bananas studying all the differences that can occur. That’s what happened with the Kelly twins, when Scott and Mark both became astronauts. Scientists decided to send one into space to study what physical changes happened — they were not disappointed with their findings…

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