Category Archives: Travel

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.

Nurturing Creativity

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You know, you don’t have to spend a ton of money in order to do something creative each day, and I think that it’s very important to do something….anything that is creative, each and every day.  We are teaching this lesson to Ingrid, who  often goes out with me for duo photo shoots.

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The object is to stroll down Division Street in Portland, and to photograph every letter of the alphabet sequentially.  These photos are then sold, via Ingrid’s own Amazon account, and are used by collage (and other) artists in their work.  While it’s nice that Ingrid can earn a little pocket money, the more important lesson for her is the art of looking.  This exercise makes her look closely at things, and to really examine and think about them.  This sign was a good example.  She read every word of it, and we had a great talk about it along our way.

Each letter forms its own complete composition.  We discuss things like color, shape, form, edges and other aspects of the design so that Ingrid can get a better overall picture of what the project is about.  She does really well, too!

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It usually takes us around 2 hours to capture the entire alphabet.  There are some tough letters, such as “Q” that can be difficult to find.  We also have a rule that once a letter is photographed from a specific window, one can’t photgraph that same letter from the same window again, so this adds more of a challenge.   I got her this little Pentax camera for Christmas.  She’s so proud of it, and takes very good care of it.

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Sometimes the letters come out fuzzy and out of focus….but that’s ok, too.

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Ta-Daaaaaaaaa!  If you are an artist and would like to use any of the photos in this post only, please feel free.  These photos are not up to our usual high standards, but some of the images are nice.  (I particularly liked the composition of the letter “B”.)

 

Good People Don’t Defend a Bad Man

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Good People Don’t Defend A Bad Man

At times in this life it can be a challenge to figure out who the bad people are, but sometimes they help you.

Sometimes they do the work for you.

Sometimes with their every vulgar, bitter word from their mouth, they testify to their personal malignancy and they make it easy to identify them.

Generally speaking, there are things that good people do and things good people don’t do.

Good people don’t refer to entire countries as “shitholes”—most notably countries that have given birth to our very humanity; ones that for hundreds of years have been colonized and poached and mined of their riches by powerful white men; countries whose people have been enslaved and sold and forced to come and build your country. 

Good people by any measurement we might use—simply don’t say such things.

Of course good people also don’t say they could grab women by the genitalia, either.
They don’t defend racists and nazis and call them “fine people,” days after murdering a young girl and terrorizing an American city.
They don’t brag about their penis size during debates, or suggest protestors at campaign rallies should be roughed up, or crack jokes about captured war heroes, or make fun of the physically disabled.
They don’t.

Good people don’t tweet anti-Muslim rhetoric in the moments immediately following a bombing in order to bolster a position.
They don’t leave American territories filled with brown skinned people without power for months upon months, after publicly ridiculing their public servants and questioning their people’s resolve.
They don’t erase protections for the water and the air, for the elderly, the terminally ill, the LGBTQ.
They don’t take away healthcare from the sick and the poor without an alternative.
They don’t gouge the working poor and shelter the wealthy.
They don’t abuse their unrivaled platform to Twitter-bait world leaders and to taunt private citizens.

Good people don’t prey upon the vulnerable, they don’t leverage their power to bully dissenters, and they don’t campaign for sexual predators.

But this President is simply not a good human being, and there’s simply no way around this truth.

He is the ugliest personification of the Ugly American, which is why, as long as he is here and as long as he represents this nation, we will be a fractured mess and a global embarrassment. He will be the ever lowering bar of our legacy in the world.

And what is painfully obvious in these moments, isn’t simply that the person alleging to lead this country is a terrible human being—it is that anyone left still defending him, applauding him, justifying him, amening him, probably is too.

At this point, the only reason left to support this President, is that he reflects your hateful heart; he shares your contempt of people of color, your hostility toward outsiders, your ignorant bigotry, your feeling of supremacy.

A white President calling countries filled with people of color shitholes, is so far beyond the pale, so beneath decency, and so blatantly racist that it shouldn’t merit conversation. It should be universally condemned. Humanity should be in agreement in abhorring it.

And yet today (like so many other seemingly rock bottom days in the past twelve months) they will be out there: white people claiming to be good people and Christian people, who will make excuses for him or debate his motives or diminish the damage.

They will dig their heels in to explain away or to defend, what at the end of the day is simply a bad human being saying the things that bad human beings say because their hearts harbor very bad things.

No, good people don’t call countries filled with beautiful, creative, loving men and women shitholes.

And good people don’t defend people who do.

You’re going to have to make a choice here.

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here

Switching to a Plant Based Diet After 50

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Numerous empirical studies have established the advantages of eating a plant based diet over one that is heavy in meats and related saturated fats.  This is old news.  A “less meat, more plants” style of eating can definitely improve the quality of one’s life, and it is better for the planet.

I’ve been a part-time vegan, and full-time vegetarian for more than 40 years now, and I still hear people comment on my high energy levels, my  nice complexion and my abundant, full hair, which are all associated with eating in this way.  I often work from 12-14 hours a day, and still manage to cook whole meals, keep my house spotless, and go out dancing at night, when I feel like it.

In addition, vegetarianism is associated with higher levels of short-chain fatty acids in the gut.  Additional research suggests that it also lowers the risk of heart disease, inflammatory diseases, and type 2 diabetes.

Vegetarianism Over 50

Can changing your diet to a meat free or low meat diet after age 50 still make a difference?  Absolutely, it can, according to experts. “It’s never too early or too late to embrace a healthier lifestyle,” says a leading cardiologist. “The benefits come quickly and continue to accrue with time.”

In one study, women in that age group who ate a mostly plant diet were 34 percent more likely to be free of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and chronic diabetes, 15 years later than women whose diets included more meat.

According to a study in the medical journal, Neurology, a  Mediterranean-style diet,  which is based on legumes,  produce, grains, and healthful oils, such as olive oil, is connected with better cognitive brain health in older adults. Those who favored fruits and vegetables in their diets, and who ate only minimal amounts of lean meats and fish, if any at all,  had less brain shrinkage—linked with a reduced risk of cognitive decline—than those who ate meat on a regular basis. Eating no more than 3.5 ounces of meat daily may also help prevent the loss of brain cells equivalent to about three or four years of aging, researchers say.

How to Make the Switch

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The beef and dairy industries have been allowed to thrive at our expense. Coverups of toxic situations weren’t report it to the public because they didn’t want to scare them! It’s time to put that fear into action for the sake of our planet and the lives of our children. As long as people continue to buy their products, these industries have the power and resources to fight reforms and pump money into the schools with educational propaganda. Let’s help the next generation just say NO to meat!

Any step you take will help, but the more plants and fewer animal foods, the better. Try these easy tips to help you design a plant-based diet:

  1. Up your vegetable and fruit intake. 

Even if you decide that you can’t give up meat altogether, increasing the amount of produce that you consume will help you develop a taste for plants, and can help you transition to a higher fiber food intake.   Gradually adding veggies in unexpected places, such as sliced tomato or avocado on toast, can help.

2.  Resign your plate.

Try filling at least half of your plate with grains, fresh produce or beans, and downsize your meat serving.  When you do choose meats, choose those lean cuts that are healthier.  Think of a stir-fry heavy on the veggies and grains with thinly sliced strips of beef rather than a big steak with a spear of broccoli.   Swap in chopped mushrooms or tofu for half of the ground meat you’d normally use in meatloaf, tacos, chili, or pasta sauce. Or try veggie-based dishes like burritos.

  1. Find your semi-veg style.

Even when you don’t eat a vegetarian diet every day, eating plant based meals once each week is a great way to start.  You can replace meat ounce-for-ounce with one of the new faux meats, such as Quorn or Fieldroast brands.

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Vegetarianism for Pain Relief

Because of the anti-flammatory aspects of a plant-based diet, many people who suffer from chronic pain have discovered the benefits of cutting meat out of their diets. Inflammation is a pathological condition underlying a number of diseases including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and chronic inflammatory diseases.

Diet provides a variety of nutrients as well as non-nutritive bioactive constituents which modulate immunomodulatory and inflammatory processes. Epidemiological data suggest that dietary patterns strongly affect inflammatory processes. Primarily the intake of fruit and vegetables as well as of whole wheat is inversely associated with the risk of inflammation.

In addition to observational studies there are also data from human intervention studies suggesting an anti-inflammatory potential of these plant foods. At the level of bioactive compounds occurring in plant foods, primarily carotenoids and flavonoids seem to modulate inflammatory as well as immunological processes. In conclusion, there is convincing evidence that plant foods and non-nutritive constituents associated with these foods modulate immunological and inflammatory processes. By means of anti-inflammatory activities a plant-based diet may contribute to the lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer. A high intake of vegetables, fruit, and whole wheat as recommended by all international nutrition authorities provides a wide spectrum of bioactive compounds at health-promoting concentrations.

Oh, What a Tangled Web…..About Those Transition Team Emails…

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Kory Langhofer, a lawyer for President Donald Trump’s transition team is accusing special counsel Robert Mueller of unlawfully obtaining tens of thousands of private emails during its investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election.   I have a close friend who has been a constitutional lawyer for more than 30 years.  He and I had a long conversation about this issue this morning, and it seems that the Trump team is wrong.  My friend backed up his claims by quoting specific statutes that I do not have on hand, but according to him, nothing untoward took place in the attainment of those emails, and it’s going to be simple for Mueller to justify obtaining them.

Mueller followed the letter of the law.  Therefore, the Trump/FOX panic is yet another of the ridiculous attempted distractions that they’re so fond of.  At this point, only that tiny 32% of remaining Trump followers, the majority of which are uneducated,  are buying it. 

Among the materials obtained by Mr. Mueller were emails, laptops and cellphones for nine members of Mr. Trump’s transition team who worked on national security and policy matters.  Here is a copy of the letter itself, and if you read it thoroughly, I think you’ll find an interesting reveal at the end:  CLICK HERE

Mr. Mueller’s investigators have used the documents during interviews with transition team officials when questioning them about calls between Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and the Russian ambassador in which they discussed American sanctions….only while they were being interviewed, they were unaware of the fact that Mueller was in possession of, and that he had already reviewed the emails.

Earlier in 2017, Trump appointed the top attorney at the office responsible for providing all the electronics and email accounts the Trump transition team used.  That attorney was Richard Backler.  This guy was a white collar criminal defense lawyer prior to his appointment.  He aided rich criminals in beating Federal convictions for  the firm of…..are you ready?….Bracewell and GIULIANI!!!

Anyway….so Trump appointed Backler, who assured Trump that he would not allow his organization (the GSA) to provide any of their emails to investigators.  Only problem was that Backler got sick and subsequently died.  Therefore, until Mueller’s team began asking Trump aides about the emails, they had no idea that he (Mueller) even had them, because they believed that Trump’s dirty guy on the inside was running interference for them.  Think about that one for a second. 

Trump and his flunkies thought their friend at the GSA had LITERALLY locked their emails away in a vault somewhere, that only he had access to.  They were wrong.  As a result,  everyone from the Trump team that was interviewed, had a false sense of security thinking Mueller didn’t know what he already knew.  They thought he was fishing, and answered accordingly.  They had no idea he was actually reeling them in.

Now, imagine the freakout that must have occurred in Trumptopia when they realized their cleanup person hadn’t actually erased the fingerprints at the crime scene!  EVERYTHING they believed they’d buried was already in Mueller’s possession in writing! 

The entire Trump orbit just realized that Mueller has a trove that entirely hangs them out to dry, AND brings them down for obstruction and lying to investigators! In other words, Trump appointed a Giuliani shill to protect him from Mueller, and then the guy died just as Mueller was honing in on him. (Trump)   Trust must be losing his mind….what little of it is left……and Jared Kushner must be in even more of a panic, because Trump’s transition told its team members that the emails were privately recorded, and they though they would be promptly destroyed right after the inauguration, but Flynn was already being investigated by the FBI before Trump even hired him.  

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”  Trump, the President with the highest disapproval rate of any President in the history of America,  is in deep trouble at this point.  Let’s see how it all unfolds.

 

 

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.

Retreats, Yoga….and

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I went location scouting for a place to hold my first retreat yesterday and ended up at a cool place in Damascus, Oregon.  Scenic location…beautiful sanctuary, dining hall, great vegetarian catering…many many good features.  This might be the place.  Still looking. screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-12-53-49-pm

Started a new yoga class last night that was unlike any I’d participated in previously.  Really enjoyed it.  The theme was focused on gratitude, which we talked a little about as participants, and tried to integrate it into our practice.   I have so much to be grateful for in this life, and it seems to just get better and better, as I settle into this heartfelt happiness.  All areas of my life have improved over the last year.  My friendships/relationships/the family I have here….all so good and better and   best.  Really. I am so thankful.

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The yoga was an hour and a half, and by the end of it, I had begun to feel slightly nauseated. Thankfully, I live nearby, so rushed home and no sooner walked in the door when I got very sick. I investigated why that would have happened after yoga, and it said that sometimes the liver is prompted to release toxins during yoga. I threw up because I was poisoned by these toxins. Today, I feel a little “meepy” (as my old friend, Peggy Spott used to say), but better.

So today was a productive day, work-wise.  I fulfilled some interesting writing orders about various subjects….”the dangers of Aspertame”, “coping with loss,” “how drones can be used in the construction industry…” Just enough to earn a few bucks and get my brain charged up.

Anyway….namaste….and until next time…be sweet now.

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

 

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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Protected: TRUMP: Pushing Democrates Toward A Solid Win

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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.

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. 😀