Category Archives: culture

Fake News. Oh, Really?

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Part of donald trump’s strategy to divide and conquer, is to keep everyone and everything around him in chaos and disarray, creating distractions that will divert attention from the current Federal investigations that are being conducted into his misbehavior, both before and after the election.  There are sexual assault and rape allegations against him. Russion collusion allegations, misappropriation of funds, and many other Federal investigations going on right now.

At this point, trump’s followers only consists of a scant 30%, give or take, of the American population. In fact, no other President has ever sunk so low in popularity as the current one.  This demographic is largely uneducated, fundamentalists and generally not very bright, as indicated by their poor reasoning abilities, limited vocabularies and redneck proclivities.  They are very easily swayed, and rather than weighing actual facts, they turn to only trump-sanctioned news outlets for their misinformation.

One of trump’s most highly touted manipulative devices, is to attack what he terms the “lame stream media,” which calls him out for his many misdeeds.  If he can convince the rednecks that they are being lied to, they’ll follow him anywhere.  However, there are problems with trump’s claims.

Donald trump is the person who falsely propagated the following lies, or fake news.  The following list contains a number of his better known lies.  These things have all been debunked over and again, and are things that he placed in the news, which can be termed, “Fake news”.  Mind you, these things are but a few of many, many more lies this man has told.

 

  • 3 million illegal votes were cast in the election
  • Ted Cruz’s father helped kill JFK
  • Mexico is going to pay for his border wall
  • Thousands of Muslims cheered in the streets right after 9/22
  • He was against the Iraq war
  • The unemployment rate is at 42%
  • Crime is reaching “record levels” in America
  • Global warming is a Chinese hoax
  • Obama was born in Kenya

 

When I was younger, I worked for two different major news outlets. At no time, during that period of time, was  I asked by my editors to lie about any politician, nor any person in general.  I had to thoroughly research everything that I wrote, and like all major news outlets, my writing had to pass the scrutiny of my editors and fact checkers.  I had to empirically substantiate every single word that I wrote.  As a person with first hand experience, I can say without hesitation, that donald trump’s claims about the “fake media” or “fake news” are nothing but lies.

As Noam Chomsky pointed out in “Manufacturing Consent.” all of the major news outlets do trace back to a number of corporations, and each one has an Editor in Chief, who makes the final decisions about what does and does not appear in print.  Someone has to.  However, to make the claim that despite trump’s lies and bizarre behaviors, he is being discriminated against because of a biased news media is simply not true.  His negative behaviors are frequent, severe and are newsworthy.  I know that if trump stopped behaving like this, the news about his behavior would change drastically.

About That Kneeling Thing….

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The REAL Patriots are the protestors.

Donald Trump says that he supports a peaceful protest because it’s an American right….but not the protest about black oppression and racism…..and this is the problem.    Any protest that he, or any conservative, does not agree with, is, according to conservatives, a protest that should be stopped.

Martin Luther King should have marched across a different bridge.  Young black Americans should have gone to a different college and found a different lunch counter, and college kids in the 60’s had no right to protest an immoral war.

People who served in the military during the Vietnam war ….some of them with injuries that our President would have claimed disqualified them from doing so.  They served anyway, because they loved their country.  Their friends were killed in combat….their brothers. Those people did not die so that you could decide who is a patriot and who loves America more.

The young black athletes are not disrespecting America nor the military by taking a kneel during the anthem.  They are respecting the best thing about America.   It’s a dog whistle to the uneducated, racist rednecks among us to say otherwise.   They, and each one of us, should protest how Black Americans are treated in this country.  And if you don’t think white privilege is a fact, you simply don’t understand America.

The comedian, Chris Rock, says it best.  There’s not a white man in America who would trade places with him….and he’s rich.  It has not gone unnoticed that trump has spoken out against the Mexicans who want to come to America for a better life, against the Muslims, and now, the great black athletes.   However, he keeps his mouth shut for days, about the white men who marched under a Nazi flag in Charlottesville, except to remind us, there were “good people” there.   And when he finally tried to say the right thing, NOT ONE of them was called an S.O.B., nor did he say they should be fired.

We have white men in America who wave the Nazi flag or the Confederate flag, and he’s concerned about taking a knee because it “disrespects” this flag.  We use that flag to sell mattresses and beer. We wear it as swimsuits, and wrap our bald heads in flag bandanas, and stick it in our pants, because we disrespect that flag every single day.

Perhaps we all need to read the Constitution again.  There has never been a better use of pen to paper.  Our forefathers made freedom of speech the first amendment.  They listed 10, and not one of them says, “You have to stand during the anthem,” and I’m pretty sure that those men respected the country that they fought for and founded, a great deal more than the self-proclaimed patriots who are simply ignorant hypocrites, because they want to deny the basic freedom of this great country, a country they supposedly value and cherish so much.

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Here Are A Bunch Of Ways Americans Disrespect Our Flag Daily–And No One Complains About It

CLICK HERE

Pegi Young, and Women Who Can’t Live Without Men

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You know the type.  Even though he cheats on her….even though he bashes her behind her back…even though he is a serial liar, she clings to him, because she can’t live without a man to accompany her. Regardless of what he does, she HAS to have a man beside her or she doesn’t feel worthy or complete.

However, if  you’re in a relationship with someone who used to make you happy and no longer does, what keeps you there is not love, it’s fear, so don’t talk to me about being soft-hearted or forgiving, because you’re a fool, if this applies to you, and everyone who knows the two of you also understands this.  They just don’t have the heart to tell you.

If he has cheated once, he will do it again…and HAS…and still continues to.   You think by staying in an unhappy and unfulfilling relationship you are doing the right thing.  You convince yourself that things will get better, that he’ll change and that it’s not that bad, you can live with things the way they are. But the truth is you can’t and you know it.   Pegi Young is a woman who has said, “To hell with it…” and has forged a whole new life for herself, despite the public humiliation of her former husband’s infidelities.  I admire her for this.

Pegi Young turned that negative experience into a positive one.  She turned it into art.

This morning, NPR did a show about how Neil Young had dumped his wife of 36 years for the younger, prettier Daryl Hannah, shown here relaxing in France.

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But this story isn’t really about Neil Young.  It is about his ex wife, Pegi….the woman who was jilted….because she didn’t ‘just crawl into a hole and go away.  She embraced what happened to her in a way that puts Neil to shame.  Yes, “the best revenge is living well,” or so they say, and Pegi Young is doing just that.

I’ve heard a lot of people criticize her for putting out this album and drawing attention to herself at “this age” but I love it that she did this. Her album is not necessarily my cup of tea, and I have been a Neil Young fan forever, but I admire Pegi for taking the reigns and being in command of her own destiny regardless of what he did to her. Making this album demonstrated tremendous inner strength, and it doesn’t matter how old she is, what she looks like, how “jilted” she was when she did it.  She did it to heal, and I admire her for it.

Her new album is called, “Raw”….and it is.  She said that writing the songs that are on it is what got her through, i.e. saved her life. Each of her new songs deals with one of the seven stages of grief.  In this song, “Trying to Live my Life Without You,” Pegi wrote, “We regretted the changes that brought us to now. I’d take it all back if I only knew how. You can drive on away with the weight of demand. And the road keeps on going until you find where you land….”

She has made a statement that makes HER look like the better person. She has taken a pile of shit and turned it into gold.  I have so much respect for a person who does something like this instead of deciding to wallow in the shit as their lives go by with disrespect from their partners.  Pegi Young is a strong woman.  A REAL woman, and she has my respect.

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The Excitement of it All

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This is, perhaps, one of the most exciting times in my entire life.  I am paving the way to begin walking an entirely new path toward new goals and it feels great.  I am probably busier than I’ve been since my children were little, but I have stores of energy, and tons of enthusiasm that keep me going each day.  I have a supportive partner….two supportive partners, really….and I feel like a million bucks.

One thing that I’m doing that might seem a little wacky for a woman my age, is I’m taking a singing masterclass from Christina Agulara.  Yep.  You read that correctly.

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While I do have a strong singing voice and I do sing, from time to time, I do not aspire to be a famous pop star.  Instead, I am taking the class to learn her teaching approach and methods. Virtually everything I do these days is to prepare for my new business, and this is far from all I am doing .

I have found a dedicated business partner who complements those areas that I lack, and I complement hers as well.  We are planning our first workshop/retreat for next April, and it is exciting indeed!  I’m running around like crazy looking at venues, working on marketing, taking pictures, writing curriculum, developing products, writing …writing…writing…networking…making new business connections.

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A lot of my workshops will be centered around music and musicians  (as this  is an important, special  part of my life,) so I am learning the inner bones….the when, where, why and how of the technical aspects.  Those things, combined with my background in psychology are what have me so geared up and ready to go with these workshops.

While I do have my masters in psychology, I am now actively working to enhance that with life coaching certification classes from the Integrative Wellness Academy.  I feel that the two credentials integrated will help me with my workshops. Should take a few months to earn my certification.

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In other news….my songwriting efforts are progressing in leaps and bounds, as is my guitar playing. Taking classes for both.   I have really had a breakthrough and feel as though I am soaring.  I am so happy.  I love my life.  Honestly.  It is a good life, one that is far from perfect, but that is filled with and operated by love.  I could not ask for a better and more supportive family-family AND family of friends. Being confident in my love is a wonderful feeling.

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I have signed up for a new yoga program that will also be integrated into our workshops.  I am making art by the hour.  I am on a roll…..like butta.  Man, this is good.  I have never felt happier.  Love helps. 😉   It is what I live for.

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Which Airline is Best for Flying Pets?

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Traveling with pets requires its own set of logistics. Each airline is different, and each has its own pet policy. What works well for one trip might work better with a different airline for another. The individual airline determines whether it will allow pets inside the passenger cabin of the plane, or whether it is necessary to check the animal as freight.

If in-cabin pet travel is allowed, it should be noted that pet containers are often considered to be carry-on baggage that, like regular carry-on baggage, must be sized to fit beneath the seat in front of the pet owner. In some cases, an extra fee is required.

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In most cases, a health certificate is also required for any pet prior to be shipped as cargo. Some destination states may require a health certificate also. Veterinarians or the U.S. Department of Agriculture should be able to provide all the necessary details.

The United States Humane Society does not advocate pets traveling in cargo: “We strongly discourage having your pet travel by air in the cargo hold of a plane,” its policy states. “It can be dangerous and stressful.”

To find out additional information, one should call the airline in advance of the trip. Only a certain number of pets are allowed inside a given plane cabin at one time, so it is important not to wait until the last-minute to make pet reservations.

What are the Top Airlines for Pet Travel? It all depends on the specific requirements of the traveler, the airline policies and which airlines makes the best match for a particular situation. Here is a rundown of some of the highest rated airlines for traveling with pets, their pet policies and safety concerns, followed by notes that may be particular interest:

Delta Airlines

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Pets are permitted to travel on U.S. domestic Delta Airlines flights. Because of high numbers of pet deaths prior to 2015, Delta stopped accepting pets as checked baggage, but does allow in-cabin transport. Exceptions are made for individuals who carry permits for service dogs, or for military animals.

The airline also accepts shipment of pet birds and warm-blooded mammals or exhibition/show animals in the cargo hold as freight. Prices for Delta Cargo shipping range from $193 to $1,481, depending on the animal’s size and other factors.

Dogs, cats and domestic birds are able to travel with their owners (or a designated handler) in a Delta Airlines cabin for a one-way fee, which is collected at check in, to/from the following destinations:

  • Virgin Islands: $125 USD/CAD
  • U.S./Canada: $125 USD/CAD
  • Outside the U.S.: $200 USD/CAD/EUR
  • Puerto Rico: $125 USD/CAD
  • Brazil: $75 USD

Household birds are not permitted on international flights.

Of particular interest:

Delta’s new pet policies were put into place in the wake of a large number of pet deaths between May of 2005 and September of 2015, and have shown great improvement since. The airline has taken measures to assure safer, more successful travel for pets since March of 2016, and is now receiving high customer reviews.

Delta has banned snub-nosed dogs and cats on their flights, as these animals are more prone to respiratory distress than other animals, while flying, as this type of animal made up a large percentage of the number of pets who perished on Delta flights.

American Airlines

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According to BringFido.com, a travel review website, American Airlines is now the only United States-based airline to allow cats and dogs only to travel in the checked baggage compartments of its airplanes. This is allowed only on flights that stay within the 48 contiguous United States, St. Thomas, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix. Dogs and cats are also allowed in-cabin to or from the United States and Central America, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico and certain South American destinations, depending on the country.

American Airlines will not accept pets on flights more than 12 hours in duration, or on flights that travel to the United Kingdom.

As do most of the airlines that allow pet travel, American requires a health certificate prior to flying. Checked pets will only be able to connect through a hub city. Certain dog breed restrictions apply. Checked pets are not accepted when the forecast or current temperature is higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit or lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit at any location on the itinerary.

The fees for checked pets are $200 per kennel or $150 to and from Brazil. Carry on pets are $125 per kennel. Service pets, including military animals, do not incur charges for travel aboard American Airlines.

Of particular interest:

American Airlines has very high customer reviews for pet handling, and is considered by many to be the best airline for traveling with one’s pet. The airline is noted for its helpful staff and friendly assistance. However, an American Airlines baggage handler made news in 2011, when he stacked a United Airlines animal crate on top of another. The crate fell, the cat who was confined inside, escaped and ran free in a New York airport for 61 days. Every airline has isolated incidents that happen from time to time. American Airlines is noted overall for its excellent pet-handling practices.

Alaska Airlines

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Alaska Airlines has high customer satisfaction ratings for its pet accommodations. The airline takes pride in advertising “great care” for its passengers’ traveling animals, both with and without their handlers. The airline has a special Pet Connect program that also flies pets separately, if desired.

Like most other airlines, Alaska no longer accepts brachycephalic, or short-nosed pets, such as pugs and boxers, and certain cat breeds. The fee for pets both traveling in the airplane’s cabin, as well as those in the cargo bin, is $100.

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Passengers must be a minimum of 18 years or older to fly with a pet in the cabin. Passengers with pets cannot occupy an emergency exit row seat, bulkhead, or any seat with an airbag safety belt. Passengers may travel with as many as two carry-on pet kennels in the airplane’s main cabin, so long as the same passenger purchases a ticket for the adjacent seat.

Pets allowed in the passenger cabin include dogs and cats over the age of 8 weeks, rabbits, domesticated birds, and tropical fish.

Of particular interest:

Consumers recommended Alaska Airlines for taking good care of their pets during travel, and for keeping their dogs in the travel kennels for as short a length of time as possible. The airline is noted for its courteous, friendly staff that is available to answer pet owner’s questions and to assist in getting their pets settled into their crates for departure.

As the nation’s ninth-largest carrier by passenger traffic, Alaska Airlines has one of the industry’s most pet-friendly policies of any airline. Unfortunately, prior to 2013, it had a high number of incidents of pet deaths on route. This could be attributed to its allowing brachycephalic animals prior to that date. Today, the airline has high customer ratings and is noted for its caring attitude and competency in flying domestic animals.

Southwest Airlines

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Southwest Airlines allows passengers to fly with small, vaccinated, domestic dogs and cats, in-cabin under the seats in front of them. The airline requires that pets be carried in an appropriate carrier. Southwest does not allow pets to travel in-cabin on international flights, or on any itinerary that includes an international flight.

A maximum of 6 pets, all over the age of 8 weeks, are allowed on a given flight, and are checked in on a first-come, first-serve basis. The fee charged per pet, per carrier is $95 each way. The company has an optional, specially designed pet carrier available for $58, or passengers may use their own, provided they meet measurement criteria. No flying without owner or handler is allowed.

Of particular interest:

A large number of customers rated Southwest Airlines as the best airline for overall pet travel, due to its seamless processing and courteous overall services. However, it should be noted that in case of an emergency, Southwest has a policy against administering pets any type of special assistance, including oxygen, so pet owners might want to take this into consideration.

And the winner is…

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Each airline offers a unique travel experience for pet owners/handlers and their animals. It is best to compare all airline policies individually to come up with the best match for a given situation and animal.

by Stacy Alexander

 

Summer Breeze – Makes Me Feel Fine

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We hopped in the car yesterday for a spontaneous trip to the coast.  It was as close to perfection as a day can get. Ingrid just finished up French camp for the summer and is with us full time during the days for the next three weeks.  All of us needed some R&R, not that we really needed an excuse.

We went to Cannon Beach first.  Since it was such a sunny, beautiful day, we expected a lot more people than actually showed up there.  The beaches and the town were sparsely populated for this time of year.

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John wore the wrong shoes and wasn’t up for as much walking as Ingles and I were, so he sat in the shade and watched us as we played on the beach.  She was so happy to be there.  We buried her legs in the sand, chased one another, ran into the waves and out, and generally had fun.  In the following photo, she is running down a stretch of beach made famous by the film “The Goonies”. Remember that one?

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Soon the entire beach was inundated by tiny clear jellyfish, so we decided to leave a little sooner than expected.

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We left the beach and walked back to the village.  John and I stopped into a wine shop and bought some nice flatbread and cheese to go with the picnic we’d packed before we left home.  We sat in front of the Cannon Beach theater on their nice benches and had a good chat while we ate…and laughed…and generally enjoyed being where we were. John forgot his pocket knife and had to struggle with the cheese. 😉

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Ingrid was such a delightful girl…so polite and friendly.  John and I just can’t get enough of her.

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After our trip, we went to a local glass blowing studio.  Here are some of the delightful pieces we saw there.   (My sweet friend usually sends me glass hearts for my birthday, for Christmas and for other occasions, so my own heart went pitty pat when I saw this one.)

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And this one….

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This vase was my favorite.  Don’t you think this would look great in my house?  😉

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We left the studio and picked up our annual bag of the best salt water taffy ever.  This soft, gourmet variety is locally made, and comes in virtually every flavor imaginable.  I got so much that I had to put a lot of it in the freezer.  We don’t eat stuff like this often, but when we go to Cannon Beach, we make an exception.  I got some extra so I could send some to my friend.

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Next, we headed to Ecola Park.  This is a magical place….really beautiful. I had John let me off a few miles down the rode while he and Ingrid drove on ahead.  I met them there later, after my wonderful hike through the woods.

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When I got to the top of the cliff, I met up with John and Ingrid and the three of us walked to the lookout point.

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The view was impeccable.

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We met a couple who had their long haired chihuahua with them. They were nice and we hung with them for awhile.  We didn’t take the Beebs, because we felt she would be more comfy at home….but we missed her!   We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out in this beautiful spot.  Ingrid recited spontaneous poetry and danced for us.  It was nothing but pleasantries, one right after the other.  We had such a good time!

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If you ever find yourself in Oregon, I highly recommend the coast.  It is one of the most gorgeous coasts you will ever see.

Boutonniere Inspirations for a Wedding

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Long ago and far away, I worked as a freelance wedding planner.  My specialty was economical weddings in dramatic settings, such as beach weddings, foreign destination weddings and weddings in authentic Texas locations.  I once planned an elegant wedding in an old Austin Texas  barn, attended by some famous C&W musicians.   As they invited me to participate in the wedding celebration, we all had the times of our lives. The juxtaposition of elegant finery contrasted with the rustic elements provided by the barn was just perfect, and I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts.

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As part of my promo literature at the time, I gave tips about wedding attire, honeymoon accommodations and other useful things.  What follows is some advice I had for boutonniere inspirations.:

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Nothing can quite add the panache to a groom’s wedding attire  like the classic style embodied his boutonniere. This traditional symbol worn on the lapel of the groom’s jacket is a gesture brimming with meaning that reaches  far beyond the flower itself. Boutonnieres symbolize beauty. They symbolize the fragility of life, and love undefined all captured in a single blossom.

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Classic Wedding

A classic wedding calls for a classic symbol. A single red rose boutonniere with, perhaps, a tiny spray of baby’s breath embodies all of the characteristics any bride could wish for in a groom. The red rose symbolizes courage, sincere love, respect and a hearty congratulations to the happy couple. The baby’s breath symbolizes everlasting and undying love.

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Beach Wedding

Keeping things natural at a beach wedding is the way to go. Tiny white lily boutonnieres trimmed with raffia and miniature seashells can add a nice touch, or for something more ornate,  earthy boutonnieres with lavender, green blueberries, wax flowers and rosemary can add a subtle, yet beautiful touch the blends right in with a stunning ocean environment.

Western Style Wedding

A sunset wedding on the ranch, or at the beach, calls for shades of yellow with a boutonniere made from dusty miller, billy balls and handmade wooden button flowers tied with twine. This is a winning combination that can dress up any groom’s lapel without going over the top.

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Castle or Mansion Wedding

Any  groom can  look like a prince in a beautiful purple boutonniere made of royal ranunculus buds and rose hips that are wrapped with white or purple velvet ribbon.

High Desert Wedding

Ranunculus and rice flowers in soft desert pinks, corals and yellows are a perfect combination for a high desert wedding boutonniere. An alternative choice is silvery brunia and tiny, mint green succulents wrapped in a pale pastel ribbon.

Elegant Cocktail Lounge Wedding

Imagine the beauty of an elegant cocktail lounge wedding atop a skyscraper overlooking the glittering lights of the city. What better boutonniere could adorn the groom’s lapel than one inspired by the fresh ingredients and herbs found in the fine spirits that are served there. An aromatic boutonniere made from cinnamon sticks, Douglas fir, hops, bay laurel, grains, juniper and rosemary will be the highlight of the groom’s suit.

Hawaiian Wedding

Hawaii is one of the most popular destination wedding locations in the world. The groom will fit right in with a simple orchid boutonniere, or, for a little more flare, a boutonniere made of astrantias and jasmine blooms against a background of local foliage.

Remember, a successful wedding celebration is all about the details.  The marriage?  That’s all about the couple.

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Bitten by the Mosaic Bug…Again

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This year, I have again been asked to participate with a plethora of other international mosaic artists, in the 2017 Beyond Borders auction.  All proceeds go to benefit Doctors Without Borders , an organization that helps people in third world countries receive medical care to which they would not otherwise not have access.

For Doctors Without Borders, the ability to respond quickly to medical humanitarian emergencies is crucial to saving more lives. Unrestricted funds allows the organization to allocate their resources most efficiently and where the needs are greatest.  This is a good cause, my friends. I hope you will attend the virtual auction and find something you like, because the money really helps a lot of people.  Plus, there are some incredibly talented artists and many pieces from which to choose.

As I anticipate the design of this year’s piece, I am mindful of the fact that I have a whole lot on my plate right now with opening my retreat business and continuing my writing business…but I cannot function properly without art.  I have to have it, at some level, which is  why my sketchbook never leaves my side when I’m lounging in the evenings.   I miss working in mosaic, and am going to get back into it. It is hard work, but it is something that I truly love.  I love glass especially.  I love its properties.  I love the way it cuts, and how the light dances across its surfaces.

I have one project started already, which I can probably finish up fairly quickly.  I am building it on a wooden substrate and it is already extremely heavy.  After it is finished, it will probably weigh up to 12-13 pounds.

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Other than the round “globs” (as they are called…..those white, round pieces that you see on the tips of the wings…) each piece of glass was hand cut and placed by me.  I am now working on the body, and haven’t quite decided what approach I’m going to take with it.  I may end up painting part of it, because the surface is so uneven.  The underside is all gold  and blue tiles, and is very sparkly!  The grout will unify all of the sections and pull the piece together.

The wings are asymmetrical, so getting a balanced look was difficult to achieve.  The OCD in me hates the fact that the dark blue colors aren’t symmetrical, but after it’s all grouted, it will look better.

I really hate to grout, but after one applies the mud and begins to wipe it off, that is when the magic happens, and that is what transforms the piece into a work of art.  I am excitited bout this one.

I am getting ready to begin a couple of other pieces as well.  One celebrates a new life, and the other,  honors a life ended.  My cousin, Daina, is getting ready to become a grandmother on Juy 3rd, so I am making the new baby a small mosaic for his or her nursery.  I’m thinking about a white star….or a pastel colored heart.  Still considering what I will make.  It will be something simple, fast and easy.

The other piece will be for my friend, Sarah Beth, who left this world recently, in a tragic, tragic way.  Her loss is a tremendous one, and weighs heavily on my head and heart. She was my friend for more than 40 years.   I am, at this time, working on a design for a three dimensional encasement for her ashes.  She always wanted a home with children, so I might do a house-shaped piece. Not sure.  This is a tough call. I need to get past the point of crying every time I think of her death, before I can proceed, but I feel that working on this particular piece will help the healing process.   (That theory was the foundation of my thesis when I got my masters in Psychology.)

So….today is another day.  I am working this morning.  John and I are getting ready to go out for a long walk with our puppy.  Then, my friend, Baranna, is coming over for a few hours this afternoon.  Anticipating a good day….because, after all, life goes on…with us or without us.

 

 

 

 

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Protected: My Happy Campers

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Happy Leap Day…well, I think…

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On this, the last day of February, I recall how I used to pity those poor kids who could only celebrate their birthdays on the actual date, every couple of years.  I felt uncomfortable about the ambiguous nature of the leap year birthday. I mean, those poor kids had to hesitate and figure out an understandable response to the question, “How old are you?”.

I have always had a distaste for ambiguity.  Therefore, I ask a lot of questions.  (Liars HATE it that I ask a lot of questions.  I catch them off guard, it seems…)  I ask people a lot of questions, not because I’m nosy but because when I have all the facts about a given situation, I can make better decisions for myself.  It isn’t a judgement issue.  It’s more like:  “If you’re going to do this….then I’m going to do that.”   “If you are going to call back later, I’ll leave my phone on.  If not, I’ll turn it off so I won’t be disturbed while I work.”  It isn’t that I’m asking someone TO call back.  Whatever their decision about this is, will be fine with me.  I just want to know one way or the other so I can take action accordingly.

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Turns out that science has now substantiated why ambiguity bugs me ( or all of us) as much as it does.   The phenomenon  actually screws with our heads.   According to a study published in the Journal of Science, the reason lies in how the brain responds emotionally, and sometimes, even illogically, when forced to make decisions based on conflicting or little evidence.   These so-called ambiguous decisions are different from decisions that we think of as risky decisions.  No wonder the person who is being lied to, for example, appears so nutty to the rest of the world. That person is being fed conflicting information.   The heart hears what it wants to hear, but the head says, “Um….hold on there just a minute….That doesn’t make sense!”

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Wait….If it looks like a duck…then, it IS a duck….but it also looks like a rabbit.  Which do I choose?

When faced with a risky decision, one  is not sure about the outcome of a particular choice but can have a notion about the probability of success. In an ambiguous decision, a person is ignorant of both factors.  Thus, the uncomfortable feeling….the uncertainty, and sometimes illogical and absurd behaviors.

Brain specialists  would say ambiguity is the discomfort from knowing there is something you don’t know that you wish you did.  This probably stems back to the fight or flight area of the brain, the hippocampus, and is a matter of survival.   In the previously mentioned experiment,  subjects were given the opportunity to place  ambiguous bets while their brains were scanned using a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI).  In this part of the experiment, participants  were given the choice between placing a monetary bet  on the chances of drawing a red card from a “risky” deck that had 20 red cards and 20 black cards…that is, where the probability of choosing either color was 50-50, and making the same bet with an “ambiguous” deck where the color composition of the cards was unknown.

In the majority of  cases, the participants  decided  to place the risky bet. Logically, however, both bets would have been equally good because in both cases, the chance of pulling a red card on the first draw was 50-50.

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The brain scans taken during the experiment revealed that ambiguous betters were often accompanied by activation of the parts of the brain known as the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).  These are  two areas of the brain that are involved in the whole emotions processing thing.   The  amygdala has been found to be closely associated with fear, which, again, harkens back to being in survival mode.   If you think about it, a correlation between aversion to ambiguous decisions and activation of emotional parts of the brain makes  perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view.  Do I go into that dark cave or don’t I?  Well, first, I need to know if a saber toothed tiger is in there, right?  And I’m going to be a little nervous about it until I find out.  Should I leave my boyfriend or not….Well, first, I need to find out if he really IS cheating on me.  In the modern human brain, this translates into a reluctance to bet on or against an event if it seems at all ambiguous.

The results of this study could help those of us in the field of Psychology,  understand how humans make decisions in the real world, because the choices people make are often based on very limited information.  (i.e…..All signs point to cheating, but he denies it….or I’m not going to walk into that dark cave if there’s a tiger in there, because it will eat me alive. )

Makes sense to me.

Anyway….Happy Birthday, Leapers…er…Leap Yearlings…um…people whose birthdays are on leap year.  Here’s a nice mug.  Have some coffee.

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No, Jimmy Carter does NOT endorse Trump!

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I opened Facebook this morning and saw about 6 claims from  right wingers, saying that Jimmy Carter now endorses Donald Trump.

It isn’t true.

Jimmy Carter was asked which he would vote for, Trump or Cruz, if he were FORCED to vote for one or the other. He said that under those circumstances, he would go with Trump, because Trump is the more malleable (easily influenced) (as opposed to Cruz being so rigid.)  This was not intended as a compliment toward Trump.   It was meant to infer that Trump is so wishy washy and wants so badly to give the appearance of “winning” (when he actually isn’t winning…) that he refuses to take a firm stand on any issue.   He does back and forth, depending on the demographic to whom he is addressing a given statement.

So NOW, the right wingers have taken those words, twisted them and are misrepresenting what Carter said as an ENDORSEMENT of Trump. Jimmy Carter does not endorse Trump, my friends. I am amazed by the stupidity of the many claims to the contrary that I am seeing across the Internet this morning.

Jeeze! Ain’t lack of education purty?!

Read the whole story HERE.

George Carlin says it best…

 

A Six Year Old Impersonates Sarah Palin

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This is six year old, Ingrid.  She worked very hard on her impersonation of Sarah Palin.  I hope you enjoy it, and that you will share it if you do!

 

Thanks for watching!

The Writing Life

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The Mills Brothers  released their hit  “Too Many Irons in the Fire” in 1946.  70 years later, this song could be designated my theme song. Yet, how many irons are too many?  I suppose that much is subjective.

I live a multi-faceted existence and always seem to have a lot of irons in the fire.  With the onset of the new year, however, I find myself busier than ever, but I am also happier than ever, and with great hope for the future.

I am working on opening a new business and have been developing workshops and programs for that, gathering partners and finances, and creating a dynamic endeavor that may take a couple of years to get off the ground, so  I continue to work on other things as I focus on getting this done.

A friend, who is a former celebrity client from a decades-ago stint I did with an entertainment law firm, contacted me over the holidays to ask if I would be part of a $25 million capital raising campaign with a view toward producing 5 new independent films.  I will be working in the capacity of a consultant, designing social media promotions and campaigns, but won’t know many details until some time next week. This will be my first MOIP-related, salaried work I have done since I received my masters degree, and while I’m excited about the work, this is not what I’ll be doing professionally, in the long run, but that is another story for another time.

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In addition to my art work, a large part of my vocational time is spent writing.  I have my various creative writing projects going on….my cookbook, my novel, my poetry and short stories, all of which take the back burner too often in favor of the writing work that I get paid for.

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Over the last 48 hours, I have written essays on the world-renowned Monte Pascoal cigars, Missouri fly fishing, eyeliner, the Bakken oil fields, Maternity photo shoots and the merits of portable ballet barres.  I have written essays for a graphic design company, two criminal law firms, a judge, an artist and a physician whose specialty is the treatment of diabetes.  I have a long list of articles to complete today, and another list of articles that I will have to complete from our retreat at Lake Tahoe.

I have honed article writing down to a fine art and can knock out what my editors designate as “high quality” writing in a very short period of time.  My research skills were honed to perfection while I was in graduate school, and I am able to produce many articles in a short period of time.  All this, is in addition to writing the Chinese fashion catalog that provides an endless stream of work.

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Admittedly, I do not feel a lot of passion about the paid writing that I do.  My heart lies with my creative work, but the paid work provides a good income, and I rather enjoy it.  It isn’t what I intend to do over the long run, but for now, it is fine.

I work through a number of different agencies.  Over the years, my ranking has risen to the top with many of these agencies, and I have received a more noteworthy status than I once had as a hack writer.  Today, I am frequently notified by editors and former clients, so that the majority of the work I do is for private clients or special projects.

My work involves long hours and intense concentration, and, therefore, results in my having to make a special efforts to exercise and stay healthy.  This work can be all-consuming, and it is as easy to forget to eat and exercise as it is to breathe.  There have been days when I have started work before the sun came up, and ended it well after midnight.

In this new year, I shall endeavor to moderate my writing into a more manageable enterprise.  I vow to place my health first, and to exercise twice a day, beginning each morning with  yoga and a long walk, and doing a concentrated aerobic effort each afternoon. I have been doing this three times a week, but I am going to up the ante.

This freedom to arrange my schedule as I want it is the primary reason I continue to pursue the writing life.  This freedom to travel.  This freedom to begin and end work when I want.  The freedom to take off a half hour when my best friend calls, or the freedom to stop what I’m doing to pick Ingrid up from school.  These are the reasons that I write.

Tomorrow, as my friends go to their offices and get snagged in rush hour traffic, I will be departing for Reno/Tahoe.  THIS is why I engage in the writing life.  This freedom to leave when I want or to sleep as late as I want …..although I am an early riser….this freedom is why I write.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me

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We celebrated my birthday two days ago with a beautiful array of activities and interactions with friends and family.

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The day began with a beautiful 3 a.m. text  message greeting that made my heart sing, accompanied by a funny, musical phone message so garbled that I could barely hear it, because of the bad connection, but it still made me smile.   Things just kept getting better and better throughout the day. Phone calls….gifts….beautiful gestures made by various people.  I truly felt loved.

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John had arranged a beautiful brunch cruise along the Willamette River aboard a yacht.  The weather was cold and overcast, but the sun broke out from time to time, making the trip absolutely perfect.  The yacht was three stories tall, and we periodically strolled from deck to deck, enjoying live jazz and beautiful scenery.

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Here is a little video of the cruise:

Ingrid , shown below with her glass of sparkling apply juice, was the star of the show when she sang happy birthday to me.

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I cried from the sweetness of this gesture, which was something that she cooked up herself.  As you can see, the crowd was also touched by this.    I love how she bends that note at the beginning of the song.  So cute!

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John enjoyed the gorgeous scenery as much as I did.

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The food was exquisite, and we had delicious, fresh mimosas to go with.

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The whole trip lasted around 2.5 hours.  It was peaceful, beautiful, and much appreciated by this birthday girl….and by a little piggy (shown below).

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Afterward, we attended an awesome art show, which I found wholly inspiring.  Then, we went to my daughter’s house for a traditional dinner.  She baked the most delicious coconut cake for me, which Ingrid decorated with pretty gold candles.

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I felt truly blessed this year….truly loved and deeply happy, knowing that those who took the time out of their lives to acknowledge my birth really love me.  Sometimes, I feel like the luckiest woman alive.   This was one of those perfect birthdays that I will never forget.  Many thanks to my family and to my friends who made it all possible.

How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body

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This is so, so good….and I’m really proud of my daughter, Sarah, an excellent mother herself, and of my son-in-law, Nate, one of the best fathers ever,  for taking this approach with Ingrid….who is a strong, dynamic child. However, as a grandmother, I can’t help but tell this child that she is beautiful…frequently….because she is. Inside and out….but I do try to stress her intellect and personal strengths over her outward appearance.

Nothing wrong with feeling pretty, but when women are made to think that this gives them their primary  value in life, that is where the problems begin.

Read this and think about it carefully….

The Cosmic Dancer's photo.

How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one:

Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

Or how about, “You’re looking so strong.”

“I can see how happy you are — you’re glowing.”

Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say, “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture.

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.

Sick All the Time…..

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Sick All the Time…..

Have you ever known someone who was sick virtually all the time?  Not REALLY sick…such as an illness caused by a life threatening disease such as cancer or kidney failure …but someone who spends most of his or her life in bed complaining of unspecific symptoms?  It could be a headache…or a backache….or a sore thumb….or heart palpitations.  It could manifest as allergies or cold symptoms or low energy or even a mild fever.  This is what is known as Somatic Symptom Disorder or Hypochondria.   These people are often anxiety ridden, fearful, angry or all three, and they do not know how to remedy their situations, so they take to their beds with virtually every symptom under the sun. The illnesses and symptoms frequently shift from one thing to another, all in the name of avoiding something in their lives that is unpleasant…whether past, present or fear of something in the future.

While the symptoms of Hypochondria are not, in and of themselves, dangerous, convincing oneself of an illness that doesn’t exist can actually lead to that or other diseases occurring.  A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, suggests that the anxiety associated with Somatic Symptom Disorder can actually lead to the physical manifestation of the malady being imagined.

What causes Somatic Symptom Disorder?  Well….There are many causes, and many of them go hand-in-hand.  For example the person in a bad relationship where there is physical violence, verbal abuse, threats, public humiliation, embarrassment can fit into several different categories and can manifest the symptoms of Hypochondria in various ways.

Here are some of the causes:

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  • A History of Physical and/or Sexual Abuse Observing or experiencing physical and sexual abuse, particularly as a child, but also as an adult, can result in a heightened sense of physical vulnerability and lead a person to suspect serious health issues when they are not present. A history of abuse can also lead a person to feel a sense of insecurity in their interpersonal attachments, which causes them to engage in compensatory care-seeking behavior.
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  • A Bad Relationship  Hypochondria can occur when someone is part of an abusive relationship, especially if one is does not have strong coping skills.  People who have difficulty expressing their true emotions, whether it is due to the way they were raised to behave or to traumatic past experiences or fear of their current abusive  situations may develop symptoms of feigned illnesses as a coping mechanism.  The illnesses they manifest take them out and keep them under cover (literally) until they can feel safe again
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  • Unhappiness   Chronically unhappy individuals can also manifest symptoms of Hypochondria to take their minds off of their problems.  For instance, a person who is unhappy in her job, or the man who is hooked up with a woman he doesn’t want to be with can convince herself or himself that a true illness exists as a means of coping with his or her unhappiness.
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  • Serious Illnesses or Deaths of Family Members or Friends Seriously ill family members or friends can create an environment, for a child especially, where love and attention are directly linked to illness. Observing this, the child may assume that they must be ill to deserve love and attention, and continue to hold this belief subconsciously even into adulthood. When a close family member or friend dies, at any point in a person’s life, the shock and grief related to the death can easily trigger fear and obsessive concerns about personal health.
  • Difficulty in Expressing Emotions People who have difficulty in expressing their emotions, whether it is due to the way they were raised to behave or to traumatic past experiences that caused them to feel “safer” at an emotional distance from other people, may find that the only way to connect emotionally with others is to provoke concern in them regarding potential health problems. A person who does this may not even realize they are doing it, apart from being aware on some level, perhaps even subconsciously, that being sick and having people worry about them makes them feel better.
  • A Hypochondriacal or Overly Protective Parental Figure or Spouse   Learned behavior from a hypochondriacal caregiver is a prominent cause of hypochondria. Behaviors taught to a person during childhood are likely to persist into adulthood by helping to form their beliefs about the world around them.  A child with a hypochondriac as a caregiver is likely to believe that it is healthy to constantly question one’s health, and that a primary feature of the world around them is that it is a highly dangerous and unhealthy place. An overly protective caregiver instills many of the same lessons into a person during childhood, while also teaching them the notion that people who care about them ought to worry constantly about their health and be highly receptive to their health complaints, even when they are minor.

Learning the specifics of the cause behind a person’s hypochondria is the first step towards addressing their core beliefs about why illness “needs” to be a part of their life and cultivating healthier beliefs to replace them, so that eventually they can be healthy, happy, and even happy to be healthy.  If that doesn’t work, antidepressants might.

Happy Birthday to our Darling Maya

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Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.44.24 AMDearest Maya,

19 years ago today, I received an early morning phone call from your Auntie Sarah-Lynda who informed me that you had been safely born and that you and your mom were healthy and happy.  That was a life-changing moment for your G’pa and I, and it has been with sheer delight that we have watched you thrive and grow into one of the most beautiful souls we have ever encountered.  Thank you for being you.

I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with you.  Even as a tiny child, you had a very sophisticated and rich sense of humor that never failed to make us laugh.   Remember when we rented the beach house in Neskowin?  I made this video when you were only 3.5 years old.  What a cutie!

I cherish the memories of our shopping trips, the trips to the ocean and to the mountains.  I loved shopping with you in San Francisco, and was delighted to find this picture of that day.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.48.28 AMI had so much fun when we stayed in Scotts Valley surrounded by all of that amazing art and those wild turkeys and the hammock that you and I managed to BREAK together! 🙂

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The best memory of that time, however, was when I taught you to drive.  As you can see,  I was all smiles.  That was so much fun!  Oh, and remember the time we let you and Maddie drive the Mini Cooper convertible?  Man!  You guys thought you were sooooo grown up.  🙂

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.47.38 AM I loved going to your graduation and meeting your awesome friends.  It was so much fun attending that talent show with you and hanging out with all of you.  Thank you for that, and for all of the wonderful memories that you have given us through the years.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.46.16 AMYou are a beautiful, gorgeous person, inside and out.  We are so proud that you are a part of our family, and we are thrilled that you are living in the PNW again.  Seattle just wasn’t the same without you….and neither were we!

Thank you for the gift that is you.  The earth is a better place each time you wake up to a new day on it.    Always here for you, with love in my heart.  You’re the best, sweetie.  I love you.      ~ Gams

New Blues Guitar Hero?

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Whoa….It looks like we just may have a new blues hero here!  Teen guitarist Chase Walker is being referred to as “the new Stevie Ray Vaughan”, or “the new Kenny Wayne Shepherd.”  American Blues Scene calls him one of the top 10 musicians under 18 you should know.  After I watched this video I knew why.  Wow.

Walker, who is from Riverside, California, was born in 1998 and didn’t start playing guitar until 2010. His influences include Vaughan, Warren Haynes, the Black Crowes and the Black Keys.  Since I knew Vaughan a little bit, I’m excited about this.

To quote the Big Bear Grizzly, the Chase Walker Band formed in 2012 and includes Matt Fyke on drums and vocals and Randon Davitt on bass and vocals. In 2013, Walker’s song “Too Many Days Ago” was a finalist in John Lennon International Songwriting Contest.

The band released its debut album, Unleashed, last year.

Check it.