Category Archives: People

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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A Guide to Converting a Tub to a Shower

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My husband and I both renovated houses before we knew one another.  In fact, when we lived in Houston, we were both doing it at the same time, within 3 blocks of one another, without any knowledge of the other person.  We didn’t meet until years later, when he taught a Shakespeare class that I enrolled in at the University of St. Thomas, where I did a lot of my undergrad work.  Anyway….we are both into do-it-yourself home projects, so I wanted to share some information about that with you.

It can be a fun project to convert an old bathtub or tub/shower combination into a nice walk-in shower. A conversion of this nature can come in handy for people with mobility problems, or for anyone who would simply like the convenience of a shower rather than a tub.

Each tub-to-shower conversion offers many different choices, such as the type of shower door that will be used, if any, and whether to use a fiberglass unit or to waterproof and tile the walls.

Generally speaking, the following steps are entailed, but may differ from job to job:

  • Removal of the original tub
  • Removal of faucets and other plumbing, adjustments to supply lines and wastewater drains
  • Shower base installation
  • Wall repair
  • Re-installation of plumbing fixtures
  • Waterproofing of wall installation
  • Shower door installation

    I  have put together a handy guide to converting a tub to a shower to help owners make all the right decisions.

Relocation

The job of completely tearing out a tub in favor of building a new shower is not necessarily an easy task, but it is one that can pay off later on by increasing the value of the property.

Ideally, a professional contractor should be called in initially, to help assess the space, to devise potential solutions and to determine the best place for the shower’s location. It is also advisable to get a formal bid this time for price comparison purposes if one is considering a do-it-yourself project.

The main issue with relocating a shower lies in the underlying drains and pipes. Even doing something as simple as relocating a toilet by only a few inches can entail a major plumbing overhaul. There are also very specific physical limitations dictated by local building codes.

If the conversion is to take place in a ground floor bathroom with a raised foundation, new pipes can be run under the floor joists. The joists are easily accessed through the bathroom’s crawl space or basement.

If the conversion is to take place in a ground-floor bathroom that is built on a concrete slab, things can be moved around. However, the concrete will have to be broken up in order to install the new drains. Doing this, of course, will incur additional costs.

Second-story bathrooms are a whole different ballgame. New pipes can be run under the floor joists. However, this entails ripping up sections of the first floor ceiling, which will then have to be rebuilt, again, incurring additional costs.

In the majority of cases, the place where the tub stands originally will provide plenty of room for a shower. However, a solid surface curb will have to be built to prevent the water from splashing out onto the bathroom floor.

Another thing to consider is the choice of a shower door. If a door is to be used, there should be room for it to swing open without hitting something like a sink or the toilet. There are many types of shower doors, but having one is not necessary.

There are also partial  panels made of glass that can keep the water contained. They have the disadvantage of letting in cold air, however, so should only be installed in a bathroom that has a good heat source.

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A real disadvantage to tearing out a bathtub to replace it with a shower is the house’s potential resale value. Many prospective homeowners prefer a tub for bathing their small children, especially if the room being remodeled is a space shared by the whole family.

A retrofit of the existing plumbing is the less invasive remedy for creating a shower. The wall will need to be opened up (typically from the adjacent room) and plumbing will have to be brought up to code. A water-resistant, concrete dry wall, Hardibacker or Wediboard will need to be bought, along with tiles for the walls.

Regardless of the chosen solution, the conversion of a tub to a shower also affords the perfect opportunity to upgrade venting, lighting and other built-in amenities that improve the area, such as shelving, a bench or built in niches for shampoo and other shower items.

The conversion of a tub into a shower involves many variables and a lot of planning, regardless of the size of the bathroom, but especially if the room is a small one.

The preliminary stages of a tub-to-shower conversion do not begin by ripping out tiles and buying paint. This type of project should start by writing all the proposed changes on paper. This is one of the most crucial steps, as this information will be referred to time and again throughout the process.

The area to be converted should be measured, the final design decided upon and research conducted before anything else happens. Then, a to-scale blueprint should be drawn.

Costs

When planning a renovation, the costs of a tub-to-shower conversion can be tricky. Generally speaking, the fewer changes made, the lower the cost will be.

A plumber may charge up to $3,000 to remove the original tub and associated plumbing to install new wall surfaces and a new receptor. The cost will be considerably higher if the homeowner decides to upgrade the shower enclosure material to a ceramic tile or solid surface.

DIYers with carpentry and plumbing experience can dismantle and tear out the original tub and fixtures and purchase a receptor and wall surround kit for around one third of a plumber’s cost. The installation, in this case, is free, saving a considerable amount of money.

The size of the bathroom can be a major determining factor in figuring costs. Fixtures come in a wide variety of prices, as do tiles, dry wall and other things needed in the conversion. Roughly speaking, a shower installation can cost as little as $250 and as much as $10,000 or more.

One-piece, curbless shower enclosures cost between $2000 and $4000. Shower kits with fiberglass sides and hinged doors average from $250 to $2000.

Hiring a plumber tends to be the more expensive option. However, doing so can be the more economic plan, time-wise. An experienced plumber is also much less likely to make costly mistakes. However, the costs of raw materials and the sweat equity involved in producing a do-it-yourself job will cost, in most cases, considerably less money.

The decision on which way to go should depend on the homeowner’s level of remodeling expertise, and the amount of time he or she wishes to take working on the project. The homeowner should also check local building license requirements. However, his is an area where a professional plumber is most knowledgable.

Tips Before Remodeling

What to measure

In most cities, building codes dictate that the shower floor should measure at least 30″ x 30″. The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends, at minimum, a 36″ x 36″ shower stall. Using these standards will probably require a tub alcove modification. For example short wall partitions may be added to result in a shower space that is 36″ deep.

Other important measurements:

  • A ceiling height of at least 80″.
  • The distance between the center of the toilet to the wall should be at least 18,” and the distance from the toilet’s side to the shower wall should be a minimum of 15″.
  • Calculating the distance from the front of the toilet to the shower or any wall should be a minimum of 21,” and ideally, at least 30″.
  • Calculate the swing of the shower door, making sure that it is clear from all obstructions. Pay particular attention to the vanity cabinet and toilet. If there is a problem, sliding glass doors or the simple addition of a shower curtain and no door can solve the problem.

Types of Showers

Showers are available as full showers or as shower-tub combinations. If the resale value of the house is a consideration, the latter choice is the better one for a house that only has one bathroom. This compensates for the possibility of a family with children eventually buying the house. This demographic tends to lean toward having at least one tub in the house. So long as there is another bathroom that has a tub, the choice of a shower alone should be fine.

A regular shower is the better choice for a small bathroom. They are more room efficient and can look quite impressive with only a few simple upgrades. A tub/shower combination is easier to replace with a shower, since the shower uses less space. The other option costs more because of the extra plumbing requirements.

Curbs or No Curbs

The shower floor makes a definitive statement about the style and cost of a tub to shower conversion. Showers with curbs tend to be simpler and less expensive to install than curbless installations. The common curbed shower has a 6″ step at its entrance. People who are seeking a more sophisticated, streamlined bathroom seldom take into consideration how that curb will stand out when the job has been completed.

People in wheelchairs can have great difficulties getting in and out of a curbed shower. A curbless or “zero threshold” shower was once thought of as a convenience for people who had mobility issues. Today, they are considered stylish additions to any home.

A zero threshold shower is a fairly easy project for a new home. However, it can be less simple when remodeling an older home, as structural issues often come into play. In some cases, the floor structure will need to be reworked to achieve the needed recess for proper drainage. This type of shower can improve shower accessibility considerably.

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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Who Are the Real Americans ?

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I have been watching the Republican convention, because I believe in keeping one’s mind open. Before I cast a vote….any vote…I listen to both sides, even when I am already fundamentally opposed to one side’s perspective.  A close relative is there.  She is a big Trump fan  and an official delegate. I’m happy she can be there, because this obviously means a lot to her.

I am always open to changing my mind, if I receive a compelling intellectual motivation to do so. In the case of the current Republican nominee, however, it is difficult to even take him seriously.

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It is hard for me to take this self-agrandizing former game show host  seriously when hs uses such as Chachi  with his dubious distinction as star of “Happy Days” as an endorsement….or that moronic Duck Dynasty guy who claims that  only 20% of Americans are REAL Americans.  What IS that….the Duck Dynasty thing?  Are those even real people?  They belong in swamps.

There has  been a plethora of this talk about “real” Americans and “regular” Americans from that whole ilk  and how THEY are the only ones who make America great. Blah Blah Blah …. When these statements are not focused on the media, they are usually directed at Hillary Clinton. (yawn)

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As deluded as these self-described, “real” Americans are, they are certainly no more American than anyone else legally living in this country.  They are not more American than the 3.3 million Muslims legally living here.  They are not more American than the millions who are not religiously affiliated.  They are not more American than the low-lives in prison cells who have committed crimes.  They are not more American than the millions who believe that game hunting is morally wrong.  They are not more American than the millions who are in favor of gun control.  These rednecks…the uneducated ones who refer to being a “real” American as a membership card to their own private universe are, in fact, not the only “real” Americans.

This country is a melting pot.  We legally accommodate people from all walks of life, all religions, all non-religions, all races, all beliefs, all sorts of habits and ideas….and they are all Americans.  WE are ALL Americans.

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In my protestations against Donald Trump, I do not come from a narrow minded perspective. I do not “not get it,” as one of my friends claims.  I get it.  I totally get it.  I totally get why his primary demographic feeds on fear, is largely uneducated and has little hope because the majority of Trump supporters  were too damned stupid and lazy to work their way through an educational system that would have the power to enlighten them.  I get why they cling to lies and false hopes.  It is because THEY have no hope.  You can lie to them over and over and over…and even when they KNOW you’re lying, they will still cling to every word because they are insecure.   They have screwed up their lives and mired themselves so deeply in their own hapless BS that they are convinced that this man, Trump, this GAME SHOW HOST, is somehow qualified to be President because he has swindled his way into billions of dollars.  To these poor souls, money is the end all and be all of existence…..and most of them don’t have any.

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I know that if Donald Trump were a democrat, he would have been drummed off the podium by now for cheating on his first two wives and bragging about his infidelities.  Any Democratic politician…ANY Democratic politician who openly admitted to buying politicians from both the Republican and the Democratic side, would have been hanged by now, but not Trump.  He is the (false) golden one.  They believe he will make them rich or help them somehow.  They think he is tough, when what he really is, is a boorish, small-handed  narcissist who does not know when to keep his mouth shut.

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Donald Trump has openly and loudly praised Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-il, two of the most dangerous and corrupt leaders in  the entire world.  Trump hosted Gadaffi in New York, fed him lavish meals, brought in entertainment, and rented the tyrant his luxury apartment. He has openly praised Saddan Hussein for something that Hussein didn’t even do, in an effort to convince his hapless followers that he is TOUGH.

Donald Trump isn’t tough.  He is a bully.  Bullies are weak.  He is very insecure….and he has small hands.  How could this man possibly defend what happened at Tiananmen Square?  That incident lead to the slaughter of thousands of innocent people. Thousands.

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Donald Trump is the equivalent of the redneck who gets all of her information from Fox News and Facebook memes or cosmic blogs written by paranoids or people who are in it (feeding on the fear)  for kicks.  Trump has openly quoted the NATIONAL ENQUIRER, which like Fox News, isn’t even a legitimate news source!!!

Trump openly lied about Senator Ted Cruz’s father being a co-conspirator of Lee Harvey Oswald in the killing of John Kennedy…and even though I can’t stand Cruz, I was so happy to see him put the Orange Cheeze Doodle in his place.   Trump  told a major whopper about President Obama’s not having been born in Hawaii.  Don’t believe me?  I’m going down the list from two different fact checking organizations…both non-partisan, and both offering complete, traceable substantiation for every word published. There’s a whole list, I tell you, and I’ve only touched on the top few.

I am against Donald Trump because he draws dangerous conclusions.  He makes dangerous decisions.  For instance, he thinks the US should allow ISIS to handle the Syrian problem.  He doesn’t understand the Nuclear Triad. He has flip-flopped on his positions on health care over and again.  He openly and loudly lies….time and again.  I won’t be voting for Mr. Trump because he has demonstrated to me that he is not a good person and that he is incompetent and dangerous.

Then, there are his own “unAmerican” statements…statements that indicate he is a traitor to this nation…. such as his denial that Senator McCain is a war hero because he was dumb enough to get caught.  Really?  Even though Senator McCain is a Republican, he is not a dumb person, nor a bad one, nor an incompetent one….and especially not in comparison with Trump.

Donald Trump is a man who could cruelly ridicule a reporter who was physically challenged,  and then laugh about it.  He ridiculed women about their physical appearances and even about menstruation.  He objectifies women like some uneducated creep from the 1970’s, calls them “flat chested” or talks about how pretty they look when they’re down on their knees.  No self respecting mother of ANY daughter could possibly vote for this man to lead our country.  Not unless she is simply an idiot and doesn’t care about her daughter.

I read the story of how he raped  Ivana because, according to her, he was upset about his hair or something. While, I, too, would be upset about my hair if mine looked like his, I would not physically assault someone for it. He sexually assaulted her, but because of the way the law was written at the time, a man could not be convicted of raping his own wife, so technically, even though he did, according to his ex, commit the act, it wasn’t technically called “rape” back then in the eyes of the law …but it would be today. Regardless, according to her, it was still forcible sex….it was still rape. And now, Federal charges are pending for his rape of a 13 year old, and yesterday, another woman stepped forward with assault and rape charges against him.  So yeah.  I have daughters.  I am not going to vote for a man who does not view the world in a way that is in their best interests.  This is a man who stood in front of the entire world and bragged about his penis size!

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Mexico

Trump referred to our beautiful neighbors to the South as “murderers and rapists” and seems to have deluded himself into believing he will be able to deport 11,000,000 of them by constructing  a “deportation force” should he be elected President.  Oh, and he is all for killing the families of his enemies….their daughters…their wives…their little babies.  This is a war crime, but hey.  Donald Trump is wealthy.  He thinks that can buy his way into ignoring the law.  Of course, when pressed, he back peddled, which has become his habit. The man will say anything to anyone, so long as it will make the cards fall in his favor.

Is Donald Trump a “real American” when he, himself, dodged the draft up to five times?  I don’t think so.  Even then, he still boasts  about his prep school giving him more military experience than the actual military!  His claims about his IQ are also insane.  The rumor that his has an exceptionally high IQ are false, and come from a projection of what it would take to get into Wharton.  Fact is, Trump got into Wharton because the guy who interviewed him knew Trump’s older brother.  He was not an exceptional student.  He was, in fact, quite unremarkable.

His father gave him millions, with which he had the potential to make honest and wise investments. He didn’t, because he didn’t know how.  Instead, he took the low road, repeatedly filing bankruptcy so he wouldn’t have to pay the workers who labored so hard on the jobs that they did for him. I personally know a New York architect who is on this list. His fortune could have been much greater than it is….but even his fortune is a lie.  He has been espousing his billionaire-hood when he isn’t even a billionaire. THAT is why he won’t release his tax records.  More on that below…

Trump claimed to have seen “thousands of Muslims” merrymaking just after the tragedy on 9-11, yet there is absolutely NO corroboration of this.  Muslims were KILLED when the twin towers were attacked.  I’m not just talking about the 19 hijackers.  I’m talking about people who worked in the towers…a bank vice president, a stock trader, a cook, a waitress…and the list goes on and on.  There was nothing for American Muslims to celebrate on that day, and his statements about celebrations were absolute lies.  This has been proved many times over.  He made it up!

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A lot of people are in favor of Trump because of his FALSE claims that he is  ‘self funding’.  Not only has he accepted donations in the millions of dollars, he put a donation button on his website.  This is a man who has  filed bankruptcy  as many as FOUR TIMES,  resulting in thousands of workers being short changed and not paid at all for their hard work.

Donald Trump has lied to the American people about his net worth, claiming it is $10 billion, even though his  FEC filing shows he is only worth $165 million! 

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Donald Trump has ridiculous proposals for economic policies, such as the imposing of tariffs on China, Japan and Mexico.  These tariffs could cost Americans thousands of dollars each year.

Oh….and despite the most prominent scientists in the entire world presenting indisputable substantiation that Global Warming exists, the Donnie claims that it is a conspiracy theory by the Chinese to steal our jobs.  PLEASE!!!  The stupidity is overwhelming!  It’s like a quote from “The Patsy Cline Story” in which Patsy’s mama said, “You make me want to scream and claw my face.” Even after making this absurd claim, he filed for a permit to build a giant wall at his Irish gold course because global warming is causing erosion.  See?  When it comes to making money for HIMSELF, the man will say anything.

He taunted and criticized Mitt Romney about releasing his tax returns, claiming that it was the right thing to do…and Romney did it….but Trump?  No way.  He won’t release his because they will reveal even more, what a liar he is.

My list of complaints against Trump go on and on and on.   He is preying on the simpletons, the losers, the uneducated, the rednecks, the conspiracy theorists, the religious fanatics.  These people ARE real Americans.  They just aren’t the ONLY real Americans as they claim.

I think my number #1 reason for my disdain for Trump is his bizarre call to make America great again.  This just in:  AMERICAN IS ALREADY GREAT!   What the hell is he talking about?   *I*, Stacy Alexander, am a REAL American….and I denounce the fraud that is Donald Trump.  Trump is dangerous…and there is nothing American about him.

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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…

 

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.

Empowering Women Everywhere

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Here is a little blurb from the new show, “Empowering Women Everywhere, ” which is hosted by my friend, Nann Gill.

Watch it on Channel 23 (TWC) at 7:30 ET, or on line at empoweringwomeneverywhere.tv.

Become part of the Empowering Women Everywhere Community!

Click HERE.

Membership is FREE!

Read more about the 2 Left Feet Blues Festival HERE.   <clickity click click click….

“Empowering Women Everywhere” is produced by the Academy of Film, Television and Stage Performing Arts, a 501c3 corporation.

The program reaches over a million households twice a week!

For a tax-deductible donation you can become a sponsor of the show.

Sponsorship packages are individually designed to best fit your giving criteria.

Please call 845-294-8444 to discuss your particular requirements.

Life is a Balance

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Life is a Balance

Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.

Things have changed.

I used to walk into a room and wonder if the people there would like me.  Now, when I walk into a room, I wonder if I will like them.     The need for external validation is not important to me, at this point in life, and I don’t have to actually like someone for them to have value in my life, nor to have value in theirs.  If there is a job to be done, I simply do it.   I have optimized, categorized and am moving full speed ahead.  I am letting go of the negative and embracing those positive relationships that are good.

The relationships that remain are solid.

 I have learned to let go of the people and things that do not serve my best interests…the ones that hurt and deceive me ….and this has really helped me to stay focused and to do  good work.  This has freed up a tremendous amount of emotional and physical energy.   It can be difficult when one lets go of family members or of  people who were once close friends…..but as things turn out, letting go of those with whom your values, ethics, morals and beliefs do not align, can help propel you forward and free you to do what you are best suited to do in life.

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The people that *really* matter to me are functionally in my life, although I am forced to use that  term  (“functionally”)  loosely when referring to one significant person.  That is an unfortunate situation that I cannot talk about here.

The solution was simple.  I let go of the drama and embraced all of the many good things that I hold so close to my heart and things have never been better.  I now sing about my happiness to other audiences and I go to bed every night with a smile on my face, knowing that I am loved.                                   

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My husband has returned to Portland, full time, from the Bay Area and we have immersed ourselves into a plethora of creativity.  His health is much better than it was, even a year ago.  He attributes this to our being together so much of the time now.  I am watchful over is health, feed him good, home-cooked food and make sure he gets lots of exercise.  He seems so happy, and I’m glad he is home. He is writing plays and working with a partner on creating original musical scores for his plays.  I have the biggest art commission of my life,  am working on my novel every day.  I have successfully completed the composition of two country and western songs that will soon be ready to shop.  I  and am putting a new business together and am also spending lots of time with Ingrid in these last days before she is immersed into French school.  I am thoroughly enjoying the wonderful city where we live.  John and I are reorganizing our home and getting rid of possessions that we no longer need.  Everything is about moving ahead and being happy.

Everything that we are doing,  together and individually, can be either directly or indirectly attributed to making the best choices about letting go of the dead weight of the crazies.  I cannot believe I ever hesitated.

Life is so uncomplicated now.  Why didn’t I make these decisions years ago?

Ann Coulter, the Vile Spewer of Hatred, Gets Taken Down a Notch or Seven

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After Ann Coulter referred to President Obama as a “retard” in a tweet during Monday night’s presidential debate, Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens penned her this open letter:


Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow. So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult? I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow. I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you. In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night. I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child by people like you, but rose above it to find a way to succeed in life as many of my fellow Special Olympians have. Then I wondered if you meant to describe him as someone who has to struggle to be thoughtful about everything he says, as everyone else races from one snarkey sound bite to the next. Finally, I wondered if you meant to degrade him as someone who is likely to receive bad health care, live in low grade housing with very little income and still manages to see life as a wonderful gift. Because, Ms. Coulter, that is who we are – and much, much more. After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me. You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV. I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash. Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor. No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much. Come join us someday at Special Olympics. See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

A friend you haven’t made yet,
John Franklin Stephens
Global Messenger Special Olympics Virginia

The Sexiest Thing I Have Ever Seen in My Entire Life

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I kid you not.  I almost fainted when I watched this the first time.  It is divine….in every possible way.

On Being Politically Correct

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It’s Official! 

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There is no greater feeling in life than accomplishing a goal that one has worked hard to achieve….well, maybe seeing my daughter receive HER masters degree was a greater feeling, but this is a significant personal milestone and I’m feeling pretty good about it today.  Congratulations, me. 😀  

Day #28 – Looking In

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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 #21-Wet

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