Category Archives: nature

The Oregon Coast

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There are simply not sufficient words to describe the beauty of the Oregon coast!  Even “stunning” undermines its graceful beauty and breathtaking scenery.  John recently surprised me with an unexpected getaway, and I put together a little slide show to show what we’ve been up to over the last 48 hours with our dear friends, Peter and Toni, in Newport and Depoe Bay, Oregon.  Enjoy this slideshow, and my other Arte California posts!   Subscribe for regular updates.                                       Rene Best guitarist

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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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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D- Cisisions

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If you make an appointment with your doctor to  complain about  a backache or joint pain, chances are, you will end up with a prescription for a potentially-dangerous painkilling drug.  Oftentimes,  your doctor may recommend surgery.

If you have risk factors for heart disease, as my husband has, you will probably be told to take a statin drug for the rest of your life.  The side effects of taking the drug will most likely  be downplayed.   And what about depression?  Has your doctor prescribed some massively dangerous antidepressant for that?

Do you have weak, brittle  bones?  Oh, there’s  pharmaceutical “solution”  for that as well.  Trouble with retaining memories?   Your friendly  Pharma has a pill for that too.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 12.47.05 PM Granted these are real issues that go along with many other common “age-related” health issues.  However, the possibility exists that they are also just symptoms of a common vitamin deficiency, so if you see a doctor, make sure that it is one who has had thorough nutritional training, because the majority of doctors do not.  Most medical schools only require 3 hours of nutritional training, and some don’t even require that.

Vitamin D  deficiency can lead to all of the above-mentioned symptoms.  They can all  be corrected very  easily, quickly  and inexpensively.  Before you stop reading because you’re under the impression that you are getting sufficient D, please consider this.  According to my own doctor,  an amazing 75% of adults in the United States have insufficient vitamin D levels.

Too few doctors monitor their patients’  vitamin D levels.  As previously mentioned, learning about nutrition in med school and, therefore, gaining the ability to accurately diagnose nutritional deficiencies is an almost a non-existent part of their medical  training.

Vitamin D deficiency has reached epidemic proportions for one simple reason:people don’t get enough sun exposure.   Our bodies can only produces vitamin D in response to ultraviolet rays.  The human body is designed to spend most of the time outdoors, yet most people spend the largest percentage of  our days inside.   Additionally, public health officials declared war on the sun decades ago, urging people not to go outdoors without first slathering themselves in sunscreen.   The truth is, moderate sun exposure is actually good for you.  While sunscreens do protect the skin, they also block 100% of vitamin D production.  Also, most brands contain toxic chemicals that do more harm than they do good.   A solution?

I only use Pangea Organics cosmetic  products that contain an excellent all-natural sunscreen.  Additionally, I take 10,000 IUs of Michael’s brand of Vitamin D3 with Vitamin K2.

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Now I’m not recommending a dosage for anyone because I am not qualified to do so.  What I do recommend, however, is that you do seek out a nutritionally cognizant physician or Naturopath and discuss this matter and ask for a recommendation about how much you should take for your specific body type and weight.

My own life has changed exponentially since I increased my dosage….for the better.

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.

 

 

 

On Being Politically Correct

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Lavender for Migranes

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Lavender has been studied recently for several purposes including treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, as well as a number of other things. Its analgesic effect, however, its painkiller effect, is one of the widely studied properties. Surprising, then, that there hasn’t apparently been a single documented clinical trial to study lavender for the treatment of migraine headaches that affects tens of millions of Americans every year. Until now: “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.”

Migraine sufferers were asked to—at the early signs of headache—rub 2–3 drops of the lavender essential oil onto their upper lip and inhale its vapor for a 15-min period of time and score the severity of their headache for the next two hours. In the control group they did the same thing except they used drops of basically unscented liquid wax. Neither group was allowed to use any painkillers. In the lavender group 74% of patients had an improvement in their symptoms, significantly better than placebo. Though in the study lavender wasn’t directly compared to more conventional treatments, lavender appears to stack up pretty well compared to typical drugs. Lavender helped about three quarters of the time, high dose Tylenol only works about half the time, and Ibuprofen 57% of the time. The #1 prescription drug, generic imitrex, is effective 59% of the time, and then the hardcore treatment they use in emergency rooms where they inject you under the skin, 70%. All of these work better than the original migraine therapy, known as trepanning, where doctors drilled a hole in your head to let the evil spirits escape.

Conclusion: The present study suggests that inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.

You can buy pharmaceutical grade lavender for $21 HERE.

Day 23 – Good Times

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Day #16- Clean

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Day #9 – Peaceful

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Day #4-Today I Saw…

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Day #1- Want

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Original photography by Stacy Alexander.

© 2015 – All rights reserved. 🎸

Day #29- I Walked Here

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Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

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Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

I’ve heard that Steve Jobs used to spend hours walking around the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.  It is located right across the street from his beloved Reed College.  It took me 6 minutes to get there by car from where I live.  I took a quiet walk there this morning.  I’d never visited prior to today.  After  my daughter sent a text yesterday saying that she was there and that I should go because it was so beautiful, I decided to get up early this morning and oblige.  She was right.

The entrance to the park is situated on a ridge.  As soon as I entered the gates and began to descend the small incline, I could hear the sound of water gurgling down the rocks. It was a cheerful sound, a welcoming one, and my heart felt peaceful as I walked and this lovely scene came into sight.

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Each time I rounded a bend, there appeared a scene more breathtaking than the one before it.

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This is another of Portland’s “gentle places,” of which there are many.  However, few are this beautiful.  I am forever discovering new people, places and things in Portland that make me love the Rose City even more.  This truly is a gentle city.  The people in this park spoke quietly this morning, in soft voices, as if they were showing respect to the serene beauty of the gardens.

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The path wove back and forth across the terrain, up and down small hills with rhododendron spilling over in shades of pink, white and purple.  There were my favorite weeping willow trees and pedestrian bridges, and the sounds of the little crystal spring dancing over the rocks.

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My heart felt so peaceful as I enjoyed the crisp, clean air and the gentle breeze that caused the willow trees to wave at me. I felt so thankful to be alive, and to have the honor and privilege to live in this stunningly beautiful city.  I know how lucky I am to be able to have moments like these and to visit places such as this that are only a few minutes from where I live.  I found myself smiling, and noting that the other visitors were as happy.  I can’t even tell you how many people told me to have a nice day.  I stopped to chat with another photographer, then, with a young father and his toddler son.  I sat on a bench with two nuns and spoke to them about St. Mary’s convent and the weather and the beautiful flowers.  Friendly place, Portland….and beautiful.

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In addition to the manicured areas that make up most of the gardens, patches of less orderly shrubs, upland forest, marsh vegetation, and submerged logs attract wildlife, especially waterfowl, most prevalent in winter. The Rhododendron Society has counted 94 species in the garden, including grebes, herons, ducks, Canada geese, wigeons, gulls, thrushes, nuthatches, hummingbirds, and others.  A few of the ducks said hello to me, but most were too preoccupied with the beautiful morning to notice their human friends walking by.

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There was beauty everywhere!  I sent some of these pictures to people that I love, as I walked.  I wanted to share this place with them.  Sometimes, I found myself wishing I could walk these paths with my parents. I know how much they would love it.  The climate is mild.  There are few, if any, mosquitoes, no cloying heat, no fire ants, no chiggers.  It is a place that says, “Welcome.”

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Visit this place.  You will be glad you did. Take care of the earth.  You will be glad you did.  So will your grandchildren.