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Facetime Instead of Facebook: 36 Hours in Honolulu

The Sunday New York Times had a feature in its Travel Section today on how to spend 36 hours in Honolulu.  It singled out some of my favorite places like Kapiolani Park, Chinatown and the drive from Hanauma Bay to Waimanalo with stops at Sandy Beach and Makapuu.  With no disrespect to the author, Jocelyn Fujii, I would like to suggest my own itinerary based on recent travels and a reunion with Na Kani Pela, a choir I sang with in high school that represented Hawaii for the Bicentennial celebration.  I guarantee you will have a magical time.

Na Kani Pela choir gathers for 35th Reunion in Honolulu.

First, start by bringing in the people who made your high school years memorable.  Collect them all on Facebook then invite them and their families for a big reunion bash.  Bug them until they say yes, as showing up for a reunion 35 years later gives people considerable angst.  Get people warmed up with a small gathering at the Ground Floor on Richards Street in downtown Honolulu and listen to some Hawaiian music.  Hold a pot luck at the home of your calabash mama who looks just like she did 35 years ago.  Watch the spark of recognition in her eyes with each arrival and the tears of joy as she gives you a huge ohana hug.  Realize you are older now then she was back in 1976.  Shudder!  Celebrate as each of your high school friends walks through the door.  Sing the songs that were the soundtrack of your youth.  Take photos.  Hug alot.  Talk story.  Bring tons of food and pig out.

Stay in room 1431 of the Waikiki Beach Marriott with a view of Honolulu that will make you never want to leave.  Spend time with your sisters for the first time in three decades on your island home.  Bring your sons along as dates.  Let them roam around Waikiki like you did when you were teenagers.  Get up early every day and walk around Diamond Head.  Discover the Farmers Market at Kapiolani Community College.  Have inari sushi, fried green tomatoes and shave ice for breakfast.  Talk to a homeless man named George on Kalakaua Avenue who reminds you that “just because you don’t have a roof over your head, doesn’t mean you don’t have a home.”  Visit your favorite beaches on Oahu.  Eat plate lunch at Zippy’s, L & L, Kaneke’s and Ted’s Bakery.  Have breakfast at Wailana.  Char siu omelet.  Ono!

Na Kani Pela picnic in Waimanalo

Have a picnic on the beach at Sherwood’s in Waimanalo.  Make Kukui Nut leis with your buddies and talk more story.  Watch your children play in the surf and get stung by Portuguese Man of Wars just like you did when you were a kid.  Be baffled as they stay in the water even though the pain makes them want to jump out of their shorts.  Realize that if your son was growing up in Hawaii today it would be a perfect fit just like it was for you so many years ago.  Have a banquet at the Elk’s Club and watch 4th of July fireworks in the distance.  Ooh and aah!  See all your friends in their muumuus and aloha shirts.  Realize you are all older and a few pounds heavier but you can still sing and raise the roof like you did when you were teenagers.  Watch two generations of hula dancers and tell your friends just how much they meant in your life.  Hug some more, this time holding on tighter, as you say goodbye for now.

Sunset on Waikiki Beach

There is no place like Hawaii, and to me, there is no place like Honolulu, where I grew up and still continue to call home.  The only problem is that you eventually have to leave.  36 hours go by quickly.  This time when I flew back to the mainland over the lights of Waikiki I took so much more with me.  I carried my friends from Na Kani Pela, I took a tropical sea of memories and the music that played in the background of my youth.  I came back to Colorado with a full heart and a sense of how lucky I was to be a kid who grew up in a place like that, with friends like that, surrounded by love like that.  That’s how you spend 36 hours in Honolulu.  Now we’ll have to stay in touch on Facebook.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

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Rocky Mountain News Retrospective

Two years ago the Rocky Mountain News ended publication after 150 years.  The Colorado newspaper was a casualty of a changing media environment which saw the bankruptcy of dailies across America.  Recently former Rocky editor and publisher, John Temple, sent out a survey to his former staffers to see how they were faring in their careers.  Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio sat down with him to crunch the numbers and have an enlightening conversation on the state of the newspaper business and how things are going in his current job as editor of the EBay backed local online news source, Honolulu Civil Beat.

http://www.cpr.org/article/Rocky_Journalists_Two_Years_Later

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.


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Blaine Harrington’s Photo Exhibit

My friend, Blaine Harrington, is one of the most accomplished travel photographers in the world. He will be the featured photographer in an exhibit called “Unifying the World through Color” at the Denver Photo Art Gallery (for those of you in Denver it is John Fielder’s gallery at 833 Santa Fe Drive) starting on Friday, January 7 and running through Wednesday, March 2. This is just one small sample of his beautiful work. He will display photographs from his travels through Burma, Bhutan, Fiji, India, Namibia, South Africa, Thailand and the United States. Here is a photograph from Rajasthan in India with an explanation of how he got the shot.

Blaine Harrington's Rajasthan Woman

Blaine Harrington: One of my favorite things to do while traveling around the world is to watch people moving in their environment, going about their daily routine. Even better is watching women walking in India, wearing saris that are every color of the rainbow. I loved the motif of the wall in this scene and so waited for a woman in the right color sari to walk through. The bright red of this woman’s sari complemented perfectly the colors the floral background. As she walked the woman held a huge broom in front of her face to shield herself from the sun. The broom added just the right amount of mystery and made the photo less about her face or more about the shapes and colors of the scene.

Every year he invites me and many others to help him pick his portfolio for the Society of American Travel Writers competition. The pictures are stunning. If you love to travel, take photographs or just want to see artistry with light and color I highly recommend this exhibit. Blaine is a huge inspiration as I work on my photography. He has many more images from all over the world on his website. To see more of Blaine Harrington’s travel photography visit http://blaineharrington.com.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Benchwarmers Bails

Benchwarmers Tavern and Grill opened about a month ago in my Centennial, Colorado neighborhood then just yesterday the restaurant, which was an anchor of the retail complex at Arapahoe and Peoria, closed down.  Apparently they stiffed all their employees as they shut the door.  I heard about it on 9News.  It’s all very puzzling but I wonder if something I witnessed might have been part of the reason they ran out of money.  When the restaurant opened I took my 12 year old son to eat there.  Immediately I saw it was kind of a Hooters of sports bars.  The waitresses wore short shorts that climbed up their butts and tight referee tops that were cut low so you could see their red push up bras.  You understood right away what kind of a crowd they were going after.  What really offended me though was that I sat at an adjacent table while the 50 something male manager was doing a job interview.  A lovely young woman came in looking for a waitress job.  She apparently was being mistreated by the boss she was working for and was looking for something else.  The Benchwarmers manager spoke to her and the only thing they discussed (besides her woes at her job) was how she needed to go to see this group of women that would make her model the uniform and see how she looked in it.  Then if they approved of her she could get hired.  I mentioned that I overheard this to the manager.  He kind of shrugged it off then returned to the table a few minutes later to reassure me he talks to them more in depth when they return after their audition.  He also told me it was like he had 30 daughters.  I immediately decided that I did not want my money to flow through Benchwarmers and I would not be returning.  I am not a prude by any means but I felt the restaurant was exploiting women and was not appropriate for a family neighborhood.  I don’t think my high school aged son or husband agree but as a mom I found the place distasteful.  I wonder if other women had the same reaction and that is why Benchwarmers is failing.  My heart bleeds for the young women that were not only exploited but also screwed. Shame on you, Benchwarmers!

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Politics and Plagiarism

Middle school and high school students are taught to never plagiarize.  When you turn your paper in it better be your work.  My then tweenage son forgot the rules and got a big fat zero once.  Apparently Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis missed class that day.  Or maybe he thinks politicians should be held to a lesser standard.  He is being accused of virtually lifting word for word essays on water policy, speeches to Congress and various and sundry columns.  He never attributed anything to The Washington Post or now-Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs who actually were the authors of his work.  He even had the temerity to blame it on his researcher Rolly Fischer.  The Hasan Family Foundation which paid him the handsome stipend of $300,000 for his “original” work on water issues is demanding their money back and the heat is on for McInnis to get out of the gubernatorial race.  When asked by Adam Schrager of 9News about the controversy he said unapologetically “voters don’t really care about this issue.  They care about jobs, getting back to work.”  Hello?  Are you kidding me?  Of course we care about jobs but we also want our politicians to be honorable.  Hearing our politicians lie and cheat is usually something that comes out after they are elected to office.  Why would we put this guy in the statehouse when he already has this kind of baggage and bad judgement.  His opponent Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said the reports of plagiarism “create a cloud” over McInnis.  That’s a politically correct way of putting it.  Talk about the understatement of the year.  I really don’t know much about McInnis as a public servant and there are much bigger problems that we face then plagiarism but at this point I think it would be difficult for him to have the kind of credibility and good sense Coloradans deserve from their governor.  And you can quote me on that.  Just put it in quotes.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com


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Toy Story 3: A Mom Reflects

I guess it was inevitable. Andy in “Toy Story” would grow up just like little Jackie Paper in “Puff, The Magic Dragon.” To this day I cry when I hear Peter, Paul and Mary sing the song so I wasn’t surprised that I got sentimental when I saw “Toy Story 3” last night. What I wasn’t prepared for was the complete welling of emotion. I had been warned by a friend on Facebook that this was a tearjerker but I didn’t see it coming through Woody’s antics and Buzz Lightyear’s Spanish speaking tango romp. Then I became a blubbering mess. My 12 year old said I was crying louder than anyone else in the theatre. You see, in two years I’ll have my own kid heading off to college and I’m already filling with nostalgia. My baby, the one who was photographed in his diapers and cowboy boots, the one who poured flour all over himself, who cried in the closet when he missed the ball that could have won the game, then years later played on the team that won the championship, will head to college too. And like Andy’s mom in “Toy Story 3” I’m not prepared to let him go and be left standing alone in a cleared out room.

This sophomore year has been a difficult one and there have been many times I’ve wished he would grow up, but when I actually stop to consider it, like I did last night, I realize how I’m dreading this rite of passage. It occurs to me that it probably hit my parents like a load of bricks too. I was the only one in our family to go to college. My dad only completed 8th grade, my mother dropped out of nursing school to get married, and my sisters chose not to go. My father was immensely proud to have a college student but I know when he wrote the check that guaranteed my spot at the University of Colorado he had a difficult time signing his name. Everything he dreamed of and dreaded would come to pass with the misty eyed stroke of a pen. My mom took it hard too when she brought me to Boulder and I couldn’t wait to run out with my new found friends. Now as my son hurtles towards adulthood (he’s 16, has a license, a truck and his first job) and passes through the house for food and showers, I can’t help but wish I had hung on to his playthings. I wish I hadn’t been in such a rush to send them to Goodwill. They’re gone, and soon he will be too, and I’ll be missing him in a room without toys and my boy.

Kyle Ewalt

Kyle Ewalt at 22 months old

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Favorite Friends I’ve Never Met

Several of my friends and even my family think social networking is a waste of time.  They won’t Facebook, Twitter or read blogs and can’t really understand what I get from it.  I’ve found the most vehement opposition from my tango dancing mother and my friends who are cyclists.  These are not ladies who exercise casually, but rather women who compete on the dance floor, do 100 mile bike rides in the Rockies and think it’s fun to race up Mt. Diablo in Northern California.  Their buff bodies speak to their passion.  My flying fingers speak to mine.  They are my bricks and mortar relationships.  But because of social networking I have a new circle of virtual friends who I enjoy and respect, even though we have never met or for that matter, may never meet. 

First there is Susan MacCaulay.  She is a Canadian living in Dubai.  I stumbled across her website Amazing Women Rock (http://amazingwomenrock.com) when it was quite new.  What seems to have started out as a place to go for moderate Muslim women has morphed into something much larger and universal.  She is a champion of women around the world and has a large following now.  The first thing you notice about her is her passion for pink, her platinum blonde hair and her trendy get ups.  On one occasion she turned the camera on herself in a Riyadh hotel room and talked about how strange it was being a woman on a road trip to Saudi Arabia.  Then she posted it on YouTube and endured the threats from those who felt they were disrespected.  She has an elderly and opinionated mother who she adores somewhere back in Canada who reminds me of David Lettermen’s mom.  I am such a fan of hers I even contemplated a trip to Africa through Dubai just so I could meet her.  She hollers about injustice towards women and celebrates their achievements.  Susan rocks! 

Second is Dr. Qanta Ahmed.  She is a striking British national whose family came from Pakistan.  What’s interesting about virtual friendships is you often forget what brought you into someone’s universe.  I think I crossed her path doing research on a story for HDNet’s World Report but I’m not sure.  She had written an article about her transformative relationship with a rabbi who made her fall in love with Judaism while she lived in Charleston, South Carolina.  The irony came at the end when you found out she was a Muslim.  She is one of the most articulate voices for connection between people of all faiths.  She told me about her book “In The Land of Invisible Women.”  I ran out to buy it.  She wrote about the time when she couldn’t renew her visa in the United States and had to leave the country even though she was a doctor practicing medicine.  She moved for two years to Saudi Arabia and tells the story of the culture shock for a professional woman under the kingdom’s repressive laws.  Even so, she had a remarkable journey, had great stories about Riyadh and the Hajj, and got in touch with her Muslim faith.  I was stunned by her writing ability.  She has an amazing eye for detail and there was an extraordinary richness in her voice.  I still don’t know how she finds time to practice medicine with so much social networking.       

Third is my filmmaking friend, Zippy (is that the greatest name or what?) Nyaruri.  I met her via email when I needed a fixer for a story on the monetization of food aid in Kenya.  A fixer is a producer on the ground in a foreign country who helps set up a story and takes care of arrangements.  Without a fixer it is next to impossible to handle all the logistics and relationships.  Our story fell through but we have kept in touch through Facebook.  Through Zippy I see Africa.  When I first was introduced to her she was bouncing back and forth between Kampala and Nairobi.  Now she lives in Capetown, South Africa and recently she posted pictures of herself in Namibia.  She is developing a documentary about one of the few women truck drivers in Africa.  She introduced us to a fellow filmmaker named Godwin Opuly who runs sound and second camera for us when we are doing video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  Even though I have never met Zippy, when I considered visiting Capetown for the FIFA World Cup, she invited me to stay in her home.

Fourth is Caroline Jones.  She actually found me when she saw a story I produced about an acid attack victim called Juliette.  She was so moved she asked if she could use a photograph of her as the foundation for a painting.  Caroline’s ambition is to help others through art.  Her inspirations are women facing obstacles and the book “Half the Sky” by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn.  Caroline has created a body of work she calls Nguvu http://nguvu.artworkfolio.com.  Nguvu means strength in Swahili and her exhibit is this August in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She will donate 50% of the sale from each work to the organization selected by the photographer.  She also builds boats, has a daughter and is a vegan who blogs about tasty recipes for other vegans.  That’s all I know about her.

Finally there is Karen Daniel.  She is a freelance television producer just like me who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.  She’s loves NASCAR and drives a truck.  She idolizes Dolly Parton and Linda Ellerbee.  She is the kind of person that you recommend even if you don’t know them because you know she gets it.  She’s been described as fearless and like me she wished she moved to New York City right out of college.  She has grey hair and the last time we chatted I told her that models dye their hair grey now.  It’s the new hip thing.  We also have a mutual acquaintance.  I met Ashton Ramsey trying to book Neil Wanless for the Today Show.  He’s the impoverished young cowboy who won a 200+ million dollar lottery in Winner, South Dakota.  Talk about a small world.  Both Ashton and I know Karen Daniel.  Once again, I can’t recall how it came up but imagine my surprise when I’m sitting in a small town bar and we both know my virtual friend.

Of course my virtual friendships aren’t anything like the ones I have with those who I grew up with, break bread with, go to book club with, and take Sunday walks with.  Those are the lasting friendships of my life.  But my virtual friendships are enriching my life and broadening my circle and I’m learning and pondering things that I never would have considered if I weren’t running across these amazing women around the world.  My college friend, Margaret Hoeveler’s mother, Griff, used to say at the end of the day you can count your true friends on one hand.  I think that’s wise but I also have a circle of special social networking friends I can count on one hand and they assure me the energy I spend doing this is not a waste of time.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Politics with my Cappuccino

My barista leaned over the counter today.  “What do you think of the MSNBC host who said she hoped it was a Tea Party member rather than a Muslim who set the car bomb in Times Square?”  His colleague at the cappucino maker edged closer to hear what I had to say.  “Well,” I replied, “I wish it was someone from the Tea Party.  It actually kind of makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear it’s a Muslim because I think the large majority of them aren’t radicalized and it just gets more difficult for law abiding Muslims.”  My barista rolled his eyes and got back to work.  My barista and I have been sparring politically for a while now.  It has become a regular occurrence. 

Standby for the great irony here.  My youngish, handsome barista who drives a sporty car (he says he married well) is wildly conservative.  Not what you’d expect.  Consider your barista.  Hip?  Trendy?  Teva Sandals?  Mine is a supporter of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and is sick of all these bailouts.  Me?  I’m the middle aged suburban mom in an upscale Denver suburb, as liberal as they come, who believes government has a financial obligation to its people and coming to the rescue is necessary now and then.  His eyes light up when he sees me come in for my daily nonfat dry cappuccino fix.  “Vicky, what do you think of this?  Vicky, can’t wait to hear your opinion on this one.  Vicky, how are you going to feel when your taxes go up?  Vicky, come over here.  I need to ask you about something.”  Politics is part of my coffee ritual now. 

At first I was a bit surprised by his forwardness.  I couldn’t imagine our discreet back and forth was good for business or that his company or customers would approve.  After a particularly intense exchange, which lasted about five minutes and had his colleagues calling him back to work, I got downright uncomfortable.  We were discussing President Obama and Congress and health care reform.  He made sure I understood that my taxes were going up and soon my income would be shrinking.  I didn’t articulate my position succinctly.  Race came up.  I walked out of the store replaying the discussion in my head.  I talked to my friends about whether I should say something to him or stop visiting.  After thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that this exchange is good for both of us, but in measured doses.  Kind of like one cup of coffee a day.  After all, discussing politics at the local coffee shop is what we do in America.  Right?    

A while back I was listening to NPR and there was a discussion about Melinda Blau’s book “Consequential Strangers.”  These are the people on the periphery of our lives that matter.  They are not friends or colleagues, but rather the people who we intersect with over the course of our lives that have an impact nonetheless.  They are the lady at the bank who greets me when I come in, the woman I sit and talk to on the airplane, people I’ve never met on Facebook who intrigue me with their posts.  Our interactions make a difference in my life.  My barista is a “consequential stranger” and even though I think his politics are strange, I walk through the world more knowledgeable because we talk out our differences.  He knows what I drink, greets me by name, has my coffee ready before I get to the cashier and now he knows my politics and I know his.  I doubt we’re opening each others minds or mellowing each other out.  Most likely we’re just agreeing to disagree and entertaining the staff.  I’m hearing about the Tea Party with my cup of joe.  He’s hearing what I like about our President.  We’re not shouting each other down or holding up signs.  It’s rather civilized.  Like meeting over coffee.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Some Thoughts on Home

This month’s “More” magazine has a series of essays, by influential women authors, about the meaning of home.  “A Wanderer’s Retreat” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni really speaks to me.  Her writing is flavorful and evocative as chai.  Her story about first loving her grandfather’s home, connecting with landscapes after his loss, then finally finding home in her own heart resonates with the wanderer in me and perhaps would even have meaning for my parents who shared her immigrant experience.  When I was getting ready to leave Vancouver and the Olympics people would ask if I was excited to go home.  It’s a complicated question.  Of course I was more than ready to see my family and be a part of my community again, but I have never considered Denver, Colorado to be home.  There are memories in every house, but I’m not attached to any of the abodes I’ve lived in as an adult.  On the other hand, each time I think of Waa Street and see the skyline of Honolulu, and the lush landscape of Hawaii that’s what fills my soul.  Folks say “home is where the heart is” but maybe as Chitra found out “heart is where the home is.”  For all of my footloose friends and readers who, like me, have moved to chase dreams around the world, perhaps this is what home really looks like.   

A WANDERER’S RETREAT by Chitra Vanerjee Divakaruni

     My father was a footloose man, so as a child I was shunted from town to town in India, a different one almost every year. Our houses blur in my mind. What I remember most is the smell of new paint and the nervousness in my stomach as I got ready to attend yet another school where I knew no one.  Home to me was my grandfather’s house in our ancestral village of Gurap, in the eastern part of India.  To my child’s eye, it was the biggest house in the world and the best (though on returning as a young woman, I realized that it was, in fact, quite ordinary.)

     The two story brick house had a long veranda that looked out on jasmine trees and gardenia bushes.  My grandfather, a retired doctor, was an avid gardener and whenever I visited him, I helped enthusiastically.  Behind the house was a mango orchard that was exciting and scary.  Rumor was, people had seen cobras there– and ghosts.  My days at grandfather’s were filled with freedom and wonder.  I went with him for long walks in the fields of mustard flowers and listened at night, in his cool, tiled bedroom lit by a kerosene lamp, to stories of gods, heroes and demons with the snarling heads of animals. 

     My family left for the United States when I was 19.  My entire first year in my new country, I wept for that house, knowing instinctively that by the time I went back to visit, it would not be the same.  And it wasn’t.  When I was 22, my grandfather died, and with him much of the house’s magic passed out of this world. 

     I must have inherited my father’s footloose nature, because I too have moved around, sometimes for my husband’s career, sometimes for my own, to Illinois, Ohio and a succession of cities in California.  Now we live in Texas.  Perhaps my willingness to relocate comes from being an immigrant: Once you give up your first home, once you suffer through that initial heartache, giving up one more house doesn’t seem to matter so much.  I lost faith in man-made structures and became attached to landscapes: the windy expanse of Lake Michigan, the wide flowering of buckwheat trees, the ancient redwoods and the curve of the Pacific, the water oaks bordering shady bayous that harbored egrets.  Yet I couldn’t hold on to them either. 

     As I grew older, I began to yearn for a permanent home.  Even after we’d been in Texas for seven years, I still wondered if permanence could exist in this sublunary world. 

     One day, by fortunate blessing I discovered meditation.  Through it, I began to feel the quiet center within, filled with light and the deep comfort of belonging and being loved.  This is what I’d always been searching for in all those houses and gardens and all the illuminated beauties of nature.  And all this time it had been in my heart, waiting patiently for me to turn to it: the home of all homes.    

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Meeting Aron Ralston

Aron Ralston

It’s hard to wrap your head around what Aron Ralston had to do in a slot canyon in Utah in 2003.  While hiking he dislodged a boulder and his arm was pinned beneath the huge rock for six days.  To escape certain death he amputated his own arm then rappelled down a 65 foot wall and hiked eight miles before he found help.  The act of courage sent him into the stratosphere of fame and inspiration and earned him a spot on Today’s “Buzziest Stories of the Decade.”  Six years later he is married, house hunting in Boulder, Colorado and expecting a son around Valentine’s Day.  His story, which he chronicled in the book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, is the subject of an upcoming movie by “Slumdog Millionaire” director, Danny Boyle.  Ralston told NBC Today Show host, Meredith Vieira, “I especially like talking to groups about responsibility and being the author of your life.  We get to create this life, and I think that our mental mindset is a lot of what goes into that, seeing things that could have been a tragedy, and seeing them as a blessing and maximizing the opportunities that come.” 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/34324703#34324703

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com