Category Archives: Texas

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.

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: My Happy Campers

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Happy Leap Day…well, I think…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes sense to me.

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

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No, Jimmy Carter does NOT endorse Trump!

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

It isn’t true.

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

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

Jeeze! Ain’t lack of education purty?!

Read the whole story HERE.

George Carlin says it best…

 

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.

New Blues Guitar Hero?

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

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

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

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

Check it.

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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The Goddess Kring Featured in Documentary

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The Goddess Kring Featured in Documentary

I love it when my friends prosper in their careers and begin to get public notice. It makes me feel very happy for them.  It is my distinct pleasure to promote them, which I do with abandon (in those cases when I can publicly do so.)  😉

That said, I am happy to promote my very talented friend, Shannon, a multi-disciplined performance artist and good friend.   Channeling Yourself presents: The Golden Age of Seattle Public Access, featuring Goddess Kring and Kelly Hughes. Saturday June 20, 7-10pm.

Scarecrow Video and the producers of the upcoming documentary Channeling Yourself invite you to join them for an evening with Shannon Kringen (Goddess Kring) and Kelly Hughes (Heart Attack Theatre!). Watch highlights from their shows and stay for a Q&A with the stars in Scarecrow’s video screening room.

June 20th is the first in a series highlighting The Golden Age of Seattle Public Access.

Channeling Yourself is a locally produced documentary that explores the people who produced programs on Seattle Public Access television and its ongoing influence on how we watch media and challenge freedom of speech.

The Seattle Public Access Preservation Series is currently on display at Scarecrow Video, world renowned home for VHS, DVDs and home to film lovers and community involvement. Find our shelf in the locally produced section and join us for future events at Scarecrow.

Channeling Yourself will be released in 2016.
More info visit http://channelingyourself.com/

Day #8 – Sadness

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Original photography by

Stacy Alexander © 2015.  All Rights Reserved

Day #7-Forgotten

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