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Boston Bombing Victim, Going Home After Amputation

KATY, Texas (AP) — A woman injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing who had several surgeries before having part of her leg amputated recently was discharged from a rehab facility Saturday and has vowed to run the race next year.

Rebekah DiMartino said she looks forward to getting her stitches out in early December and being fitted for a prosthetic left leg. “The prognosis is great. I chopped off what was holding me back,” DiMartino said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press as she packed up to leave. “The prognosis, is you’ll see me running the Boston Marathon next year.”

DiMartino had more than a dozen operations but still dealt with lingering pain. She had surgery Nov. 10 at Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital to remove her left leg below the knee. She entered rehab Nov. 14 and was going home Saturday to nearby Richmond.

Rebekah Gregory was watching last year’s Boston Marathon when bombs exploded. Her son, now 7, and her then-boyfriend, Peter DiMartino, were also hurt. The couple wed last spring in Asheville, North Carolina.

Their Houston-area home still needs some modifications for accessibility, she said.

“I have been wheelchair bound for the last 18 months basically, so when we built our house we built it with wider doors,” said DiMartino, 27.

She does not expect her loss of a limb to adversely affect the rest of her life.

“This is about to be Rebekah unleashed. They haven’t seen anything yet. This is the good part of the story,” DiMartino said. “Not only am I moving on, I am trying to do my part in changing the world while doing it.”

A suspect charged in the bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, awaits trial. His older brother, Tamerlan, was killed in a shootout with police after the bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260.

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A Mom’s Thanksgiving Story of ‘Will’ and ‘Grace’

Sometimes the word “thankful” is inadequate; yet a better, stronger, more perfect word does not exist to define feeling completely overwhelmed with gratitude. The story below, from several Thanksgivings ago, illustrates just that.

My heart pounded as I beheld the Long Island Sound from the tiny slice of rocky shore. To an outsider, I looked like a stock photo mom, ruddy from the exercise and the cold, energized by the hike with my family. But the tears pooling in my eyes weren’t from the stinging wind. My body was letting go of the stress that had been manifesting inside of me for weeks. Today could have gone so differently. That realization was hitting me. Hard.

Hiking makes my heart sing. It doesn’t, however, do the same for my husband or our three boys. For them, it’s less soaring aria and more dull, bellowing, why-does-mom-make-us-do-this thud. So, together, we hike on my birthday and one other day if I am persuasive enough. Today, the day before Thanksgiving, was that day. For that, I was thankful.

We went to the Rye Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, NY, for what was more nature walk than hike, but no less magnificent. It was cold, so we bundled up the boys in colorfully-patterned fleeces and hats, jackets and mittens. Actually, we bundled up Jason, 7, and Judd, 4. Will, our “spirited” 5-year-old, insisted, to no one’s surprise, on his well-worn and beloved purple and gold Lakers warm-up suit. But he agreed to a hat. For that, I was thankful.

The trail started in a wooded forest, emptied into a tall-grass meadow, wound its way through protected marshlands and ended on a tiny, rocky beach of the Long Island Sound. The boys were entranced by the tranquil family of deer we spotted in the meadow. And I was entranced by the breathtaking view that met us as we approached the shore. It was near dusk, sailboats dotted the distance, and the water was silvery blue, the color of my favorite butterfly. The boys skipped stones, and it was perfect. For that, I was thankful.

I stood there and thought about how differently the day could have gone. That morning, I had taken Will to the pediatric neurologist. He had been complaining about headaches for weeks. Initially, we thought it was nothing. Fatigue. Too much chocolate. Eye strain. After one particular week when he visited the school nurse repeatedly and decided to skip his beloved gymnastics class because his head hurt too much, our pediatrician suggested we call a neurologist to rule everything out. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long to get an appointment. For that, I was thankful.

As we sat in the waiting room, with its itchy chairs and old issues of Highlights, Will busied himself with the wire and bead activity table. I busied myself with worrying, even though my gut told me, urged me, not to. When it was our turn, the doctor, an older man with years of experience discovering unimaginable things in the perfect heads of babies and children, was thorough with his testing, his questioning, his assessment. And after he told me that Will’s optic fundi were lovely and beautiful and fine, which meant there was no pressure on the brain which meant there was no worst-case scenario, he told me my gut was right. I sobbed with relief. An act of grace. For that, I was thankful.

Lately, I have been overwhelmed by the stubborn impenitence of serious disease. How it seems to strike friends and family powerfully and at random. Lives are forever changed. What used to be the unthinkable becomes the new normal. That could have happened to our family today. For some reason, we were spared. For that, I was thankful.

Life is fragile. Children are hardy, yet their existence is capricious. Always threatening to turn our worlds upside down and our hearts inside out. Sometimes the enormity of the responsibility to care so much for my children makes me cry.

But now, I stand on the shore, staring at pure beauty, and my family is intact.

Healthy. Sturdy. Happy.

And for that, I am thankful.

Susie Orman Schnall is a writer and author who lives in New York with her husband and three young boys. Her award-winning debut novel On Grace (SparkPress 2014) is about fidelity, friendship, and finding yourself at 40. Her second novel, The Balance Project: A Novel (SparkPress 2015), is about work-life balance and is inspired by her popular interview series The Balance Project. Visit Susie’s website for more information.

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Letters Left in London By Anonymous

For over a year now I have been writing letters to strangers anonymously and leaving them around London for someone to find in the hope that I will bring some warmth, comfort or encouragement to that person. Why, you may ask?

I’m something of a lone…

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See a Need, Fill a Need

Medical bills were mounting. Kids needed glasses, cars needed repairs, and the dog needed surgery. On top of that, Christmas was almost upon us so presents needed to be purchased.

But all of that was forgotten when he overheard the tire salesman warn …

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floating school bangladesh

Floating School Proves That Even Natural Disasters Shouldn’t Deprive Kids Of Education

Across the globe, 57 million children are deprived of education for a host of unrelenting reasons. But a school that floats on water has proven that innovation can combat almost any obstacle that stands in the way of learning.

Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which set the precedent that kids are human beings deserving of innate human rights. To continue making inroads for the world’s most vulnerable citizens, UNICEF and other aid organizations are urging innovators to develop more creative solutions — like nonprofit Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha has done — to make sure that children get access to the resources they need to thrive.

floating school bangladesh

Poverty, war and cultural clashes are some of the leading issues that keep kids out of the classroom. But in Bangladesh, it’s the unending rain.

During monsoon season, a third of the country floods as the continuous rainfall causes rivers to swell and overflow onto land. In some areas, roads are impassable from July to October, when rivers rise as high as 12 feet, according to The New York Times.

floating school bangladesh

With the monsoon season, comes inevitable school closures.

In 2007, more than 4,000 schools closed at some point because of flooding, according to IRIN News.

But some of the hardest-hit areas have never even been privy to having a school because governments and NGOs are reluctant to get involved in such hard to reach areas.

But where most aid groups are disinclined to go is where Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha focuses its efforts.

floating school bangladesh

In 1998, armed with just $500 of his own school scholarship money, Mohammed Rezwan founded the floating school to put an end to the injustice.

Rezwan had grown up in the northwest where his school would be closed for months at a time, he told IRIN News in 2008.

After studying architecture, Rezwan considered focusing his efforts on building schools and hospitals, but realized those institutions would likely be submerged under water, according to the group’s website. That’s when he devised a plan to start a floating a community that would bring learning, books and electricity to stranded children.

floating school bangladesh

He has since gotten funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Fund for Children. Rezwan now operates a 54-vessel fleet of floating schools, libraries, health clinics and floating training centers.

The boats are outfitted with solar panels that power computers, lights and other equipment.

floating school bangladesh

The organization serves nearly 97,000 people in flood-prone areas.

In these areas, more than 40 percent are considered landless and at least 31.5 percent live below the poverty line.

“Our floating schools are combination of school bus and school house,” he told The Times.

The group employs more than 200 staff members, which includes 61 teachers and 48 boat drivers. There are also 300 volunteers who pitch in.

Rezwan plans to add 100 more boats in the next five years to reach an additional 100,000 people.

“The best solutions to our toughest challenges won’t come exclusively either from the top down or the grassroots up, or from one group of nations to another,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said in a statement on Thursday. “They will come from new problem solving networks and communities of innovation that cross borders and cross sectors to reach the hardest to reach – and they will come from young people, adolescents and children themselves.”

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Lauren Hill Surprises Devon Still With Jersey From Her First Game

On Thursday, Cincinnati Bengals player Devon Still was given a surprise gift by his friend Lauren Hill, a college freshman who plays basketball for Mount Saint Joseph University in Ohio.

Nineteen-year-old Hill, who has terminal brain cancer, presented the football star with the jersey from her first college basketball game, which she played Nov. 2. She scored four points. Hill isn’t expected to live past December.

(Story continues below).

Just was surprised after practice by a really good friend, Lauren Hill, and she brought he… http://t.co/7BEtykDM35 pic.twitter.com/didaVQXIPW

— Devon Still (@Dev_Still71) November 20, 2014

Hill and Still first connected in October. Still’s 4-year-old daughter, Leah, is also battling brain cancer.

“She’s a fighter. As a parent, you always expect your child to look up to you. But honestly, since June 2, I’ve really been looking up to my daughter,” Still said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” in October. “She’s way stronger than I ever have been. For her to be able to continue to smile through all this, and continue to still have that same personality, it’s amazing. And it’s definitely inspiring to me.”

Still has been similarly inspired by Hill. He called her strength “beyond inspirational” when they met in October.

A huge amount of money has been raised in Hill’s honor. According to Indystar, Hill has helped bring in $324,000 for cancer research, with funds going to the International DIPG Registry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

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UN Expert Calls for Action To End Violence Against Women in Afghanistan

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women Rashida Manjoo returned last week from a nine-day official visit in Afghanistan with a call to the Afghan Government and the international community to continue its focus on creating sustainable solutions to reduce violence against women. This was Manjoo’s third visit to Afghanistan, and the Special Rapporteur noted many positive developments since her travel to the country in 1999, during the Taliban regime, and in 2005. In particular, Manjoo cited the creation of the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law (EVAW) by presidential decree in 2009 as “a key step towards the elimination of violence against women and girls.” EVAW criminalizes 22 acts of violence against women – including rape, child and forced marriage, domestic violence, trafficking, and forced self-immolation – and specifies punishment for perpetrators. Although enforcement of EVAW has remained a challenge, the law was recently used last month to convict and sentence a local mullah to 20-years imprisonment for the rape of a 10-year old girl in Kunduz. Despite this success, Manjoo noted with concern that many women and girls continue to lack access to the formal justice system. Her investigation also found problems with corruption within the justice system as well as distrust concerning the ability of the […]

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She Collapses In Agony Every Time She Runs A Race, But This Teen With MS Refuses To Stop

“My legs. Where’d they go? Please help me. Please help me find my legs.”

Every time Kayla Montgomery crosses the finish line after running a race, she endures several minutes of extreme distress as she struggles to regain feeling in both her legs.

Montgomery is one of the top young distance runners in the U.S. She also happens to have multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease in which disrupted nerve signals in her body cause her to experience complete numbness in her legs when she runs. Only when she stops to rest and her body temperature returns to normal do her MS symptoms subside.

In “Catching Kayla,” a moving ESPN feature on Montgomery’s life released online this week, the young woman’s courage and indefatigable passion in the face of such seemingly insurmountable odds are thrown into sharp relief.

As the video shows, Montgomery has, over the last few years, transformed herself into a star athlete. Thanks to her unwavering dedication and hard work, she went from being just an average competitor to the best long distance runner at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., before eventually making a name for herself as one of the fastest distance runners in the state — and in the whole country.

Earlier this year, Montgomery clinched the North Carolina state title in the 3,200-meter race. “Her time of 10 minutes 43 seconds ranks her 21st in the country,” the New York Times wrote in March.

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease and for now it’s unclear how Montgomery’s condition will progress. But the young woman — who’s currently a student at Lipscomb University in Nashville where she runs for the women’s cross-country team — has vowed to continue running for as long as she possibly can.

“[Running] makes me feel normal, and whole,” she told ESPN. “It’s difficult to live with a disease where your own body’s fighting against yourself; so when I’m running I feel like I’m battling that, I feel like I’m safe from myself. As long as I’m running, everything’s fine.”

Watch ESPN’s coverage of Kayla Montgomery in the video above. We suggest that you watch it till the end; it’s a powerful portrait of a truly remarkable young woman.

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Fifth Circuit Court Refuses to Reconsider Ruling Blocking Mississippi TRAP Law

The full US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Thursday refused to reconsider a panel decision blocking enforcement of a Mississippi law that threatened to close the last remaining abortion clinic in the state.

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Lost Kitten From New Mexico Turns Up In Maine

WESTBROOK, Maine (AP) — A New Mexico woman’s missing kitten has been located in Maine, although exactly how the feline made the 2,300-mile trip remains a mystery.

The female kitten, named Spice, was turned into the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook earlier this month by a man who found her inside a duffel bag outside a Portland thrift store.

Spice’s owner was tracked though an implanted microchip to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Jennifer Brown of the Animal Refuge League tells the Portland Press Herald (http://bit.ly/11BCJJc ) she talked to the owner, who said Spice bolted on Halloween when she opened her door for trick-or-treaters.

The owner, who didn’t want to be identified, said she’s never been to Maine and doesn’t know anyone from Maine.

Spice, meanwhile, remains in Westbrook because the owner can’t afford to fly her home.

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Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

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Family Volunteer Day is Saturday, November 22

Family Volunteer Day is a day of service that demonstrates and celebrates the power of families who volunteer together, supporting their neighborhoods, communities and the world. Family Volunteer Day is held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to kick-off the holiday season with giving and service. To get your family ready, read a three-part “Families and […]

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