December 30, 2012

The Best of 2012~The Most Awesome Philanthropic Company Awards Go To...

Lately I have been a bit fixated on the issue of why.  I wrote a lengthy piece a few months ago after reading a book that caused me to ask myself about my own why in life.  I have since found others who have discovered their own why and I, frankly, have found it to be quite inspiring.

Robin Sharma, dynamic public speaker and author, and Simon Sinek, an equally skilled speaker and author, both share a parallel message about what makes a person successful in their own endeavors. While they have their own unique delivery, they both convey to their audience that the secret to success is first finding the underlying goal that propels and motivates a person to make a contribution.  Once the why is established, the what and how must follow, of course.  But the guts of a successful operation must begin with why.  From that, a person or company can find inspiration to motivate.  According to Sinek, "Great companies don't have skilled people and motivate them, they hire motivated people and inspire them."  Basically, people who believe they are a part of a team with a meaningful purpose will work harder and with more pride if they believe they are part of an integral team working toward a larger common goal.

Two companies who have impressively discovered their overwhelming why are TOMS and Gum Project 7.  As I read more about each, I find myself  blown away.  So...I am going to tell you about each because you really need to know.

Let's start with TOMS.  Not because they are better.  Mostly because I have purchased approximately 5 pairs of these shoes for my daughter and I love love love their story!  Blake Mycoskie is the founder.  In 2006 Blake traveled to Argentina and was struck by the fact that so many of the children did not have shoes.  Rather than returning home and ignoring his observation, he was inspired to start a company to do something about it.  (his overwhelming why)  So he returned home, developed a company to make shoes, and created the simple concept that for every pair of shoes he sold, he would donate a pair to a child in need.  One year later, he returned to Argentina with 10,000 pairs of shoes and to date has donated one million pairs of shoes.  Why shoes, you ask?  Simple.  Not only do shoes protect the feet from injury, but they also prevent disease.  And further, children are often turned away from educational opportunities if they do not have shoes.

Mycoskie has now moved to the issue of vision.  The lack of sight is the seventh largest disability in the world.  In underdeveloped countries, 50 percent of blindness is due to cataracts, an issue that typically can be corrected with a minor surgery.  TOMS has expanded their company to donate a pair of glasses, a surgical procedure, or treatment due to injury or disease with every pair of glasses we purchase.   Just think about how often we purchase glasses.  Imagine how you could make a contribution to someone in need simply by purchasing your eyewear through TOMS.

Now...Gum Project 7.  I was standing in line a my local Target the other day and I spotted a pack of gum that I had not seen before.  I was intrigued by the label so I bought it.  And I am glad that I did. When I got home I looked a little more closely and then checked out their website.  It is a company started by a successful business man with a big old heart.  Basically, in 2008 Tyler Merrick decided that he wanted to incorporate a more philanthropic aspect to his already successful professional accomplishments.  Merrick was quoted early on saying," If people are going to buy things then let's use those things they purchase to help change the world around us.  Let's make everyday products for everyday people to solve everyday problems around the globe."

So basically, Merrick makes stuff that we already buy and then they hook up with other non-profits to donate to seven areas around the world.  The seven areas they focus on are HEAL~ SAVE~ HOUSE~ FEED~ QUENCH~ TEACH~ HOPE.  And from their partnerships they provide financial support, increased awareness, and international education relating to their focused area of interest.

Gum Project 7 started with bottled water and has since increased their inventory to mints, coffee, gum, and t-shirts.   All products are made in the USA. (novel idea considering the fact that we don't seem to make a fu#$ing thing in the USA anymore)

So, with this said, I am awarding the 2012 Most Philanthropic Awesome Company Awards to TOMS and Project 7.

If you want to glean more information from these companies and find out how you can support their goals while simultaneously shopping, I have linked their websites below.

www.project7.com
www.toms.com







December 28, 2012

The TMZ Effect


I have admittedly been drawn into a few episodes of TMZ.  The adorable Harvey Levin stands among his twenty something California fake reporters and monitors the daily activities of the beautiful people.  You know..our country's royalty...models, actors, and other self-proclaimed celebs who have found their way into our homes through the hot tubs and smack downs that have seemed to become must-watch "reality" television.

Although, several weeks ago, I happened to hear them discussing the newest female members of Congress.  It was so bizarre to me that they were discussing these accomplished women of Washington.  And then I heard it. They were actually rating the recent females elected into Congress on their "hotness" level.   So, let me get this straight...a guy who may or may not have graduated from high school gets a gig on TMZ because he has a pretty face and surfer hair and thinks that it's okay to shred women who are legislating his rights as an American citizen because they are not as pretty as the women he regularly finds while skulking through the bars of Los Angeles at 2 a.m.  I am no prude but I, frankly, find this troubling.

If the American Vernacular has become hot or not hot, then where does personal accomplishment, education, and hard work come into play?   What message are we sending to our young women and men?  We want our girls to have healthy opinions about themselves.  But we also want our boys to see women as something other than a notch on the hotness meter of TMZ.

I struggle with the concept of simply turning the television off and banning this dialogue altogether. Frankly, I think we need to know what's out there so we can continue to have the discussions with our girls and boys about what is going on in our society. Because, whether we want to admit it or not, they are seeing these visuals daily through Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and other sources of social media that come creeping in when you least expect it.

I remember the good old days.  No cell phones, no computers, four stations on TV. If you wanted to place a call it was in the kitchen because the phone was literally attached to the wall.  Except for my friend, Kristin, who had her own phone line.  I thought she was so lucky!  But I digress... Sticking our heads in the sand will be of no benefit.  I guess we continue to pay attention and take those little opportunities to ask our kids what they think about the influx of images they see every day. Because they are seeing them whether we want to believe it or not.


December 26, 2012

In the blink of an eye we have gone from what's your sign to what's your score...


The New York Times ran an article this week about the quickly growing question singles are asking each other.  It has nothing to do with their dreams for the future or their skeletons from the past.  Simply...singles want to know the number.  The credit score number, that is.

As it turns out, this three digit number is becoming increasingly more important than ever before. After all, cell phone plans, auto insurance, and loan rates are directly linked to our credit score.  More recently, though, 13 percent of employers are making employment decisions with the help of a candidate's credit score and eight states have passed laws allowing employers to consider a credit score when assessing a candidate for a job.

So, I guess the new kick 'em to the curb line is "sorry...you just don't have the credit score I was looking for in a mate..."  

Check out the full story by clicking the link below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/26/business/even-cupid-wants-to-know-your-credit-score.html?_r=0

December 25, 2012

GQ vs Vogue


The other day I received in the mail the January issues of GQ and Vogue.  Both glossy mags came with promises of a new 2013 attitude, the inside scoop of the celebs we have become so close to through daily Twitter updates, and another series of layouts that simultaneously cause us to emulate while questioning our own reflection in the mirror.

As I looked closer at the covers I was struck by the familiar faces that greeted me. Vogue delivered rocker mom, Gwen Stefani, with her well known blood red lips and a perfectly styled ensemble.  You can tell Rachel Zoe or some edgy Beverly Hills fashionista poured hours into creating the perfect outfit that couples just enough chic with a touch of avant-garde.  On the cover of GQ you have Bill Murray.  Murray is wearing a well tailored suit and tie with a pink bra in place of a pocket square.  Funny touch, I admit.

As I looked at their faces, though, I became increasingly annoyed.  Bill Murray looked exactly like, well, Bill Murray.  You saw every line, wrinkle, pore, and sun spot.  While Stefani was wiped clean of anything but a freakishly lineless, poreless, spotless face that looked like one of those creepy dolls that have porcelain faces with eyelashes, a streak of pink blush, and the perfect red pouty lip.

Then I started looking a little further and I couldn't believe it.  There is not one single frickin' pore on one single woman in the January 2013 issue of Vogue. While GQ has proudly displayed the men in their monthly issue with crinkles and bags around their eyes, furrowed brows, and...wait for it...laugh lines.  You know...the lines that appear after years and years of happiness and laughter!

It is no wonder why women gingerly look in the mirror every morning asking themselves why they can't look like the newest cover of Vogue.  It's because nobody looks like the cover of Vogue.  Even the woman who is on the cover of Vogue doesn't look like the woman on the cover of Vogue!

So...what do we do?  Personally, I love fashion and the whole funky vibe that mags like Vogue offer to inspire and challenge us to creatively put our best foot forward. But as far as the whole alien face thing...I am continuing to call bullshit on the unnecessarily over airbrushed pics that make the faces of the women we love look like a mannequin look alike.

As I compose my thoughts on this issue, I have to ask myself this question: Am I part of the problem because I continue to subscribe to Vogue?  Am I saying with my subscription dollars that I quietly support the practice of airbrushing?  Maybe. For now I will continue to do what I am doing.  Tell myself and my teenage daughter that fashion magazines should be used only as inspiration and to keep in mind that the women photographed are a mere shadow of what they look like in real life after the editors digitally enhance and decrease the crinkles and wrinkles that make them special.            


  

December 23, 2012

'Tis The Season


This time of year can be magical and exciting.  It can also be exhausting, stressful, and downright frustrating.  I don't know about you, but I am inspired by the almighty word.   I have always found comfort in the random and profound thoughts of others.  So...I am posting a collection of quotes that I find meaningful, funny, and thought~provoking.  Wishing you all a peaceful holiday.

Well behaved women rarely make history.Strong Women rock!!!mothers and daughtersKeep CalmGood advice!  I'll try it!some slightly more than others.Eleanor Roosevelt
Another quote from Eleanor RooseveltExperience
 Today a reader, tomorrow a leader

Happiness is a journey not a destination.








December 21, 2012

Hey girls...you gotta check this out!



This is a message to the ladies out there.  I have not made my admiration for MissRepresentation.org a secret.  Today they posted on their Facebook page a series of videos that support women and girls.  In my opinion, this one was especially powerful.  So watch it.  Show it to your daughters.  Share it with your friends.  And then remind yourself and the special women in your lives that every woman is beautiful!  Beautiful..just the way you are...  



http://www.upworthy.com/finally-pictures-of-gorgeous-women-that-make-you-feel-better-about-yourself-inst

December 20, 2012

Christmas Flashback 2007...




This morning I was working on a project in my kitchen while listening to the adorable Kelly Ripa talking in the background about the must have toy of the season.  I immediately went to December 2007 when my daughter desperately wanted that year's coveted toy.  We are happily beyond that phase, but I remember all too well the pressure that a parent feels when you go from store to store only to find that dreaded empty shelf.

Not knowing what to do when I realized that I had exhausted all of my resources, I decided I only had one option.  A handwritten note from Santa with a valid explanation about why it was he could not produce the requested gift.  After all, I was fairly confident that my bright nine-year-old daughter could assimilate the issue of supply and demand.  Sadly, the note was not received well.  You should know there were tears coupled with a long discussion about what was believed to be the magical abilities of Santa and why it was that he had failed.  We managed to salvage the day, as there were family festivities that luckily overshadowed the disappointment of the morning.

I have taken the liberty of sharing with you the poem that greeted Kate as she woke up on a chilly December 25, 2007.  You should also know that Kate is now a teenager and has forgiven the events of that day.

The story begins with a girl they call Kate.  She was smart and funny and all around great! 

Her parents once adorned her with a dress and a bow.  Until one day she said, with her head hanging low,"I don't like dresses and big fancy bows!  I am my own person, if you really must know."  

Her parents stood shocked and said, with great interest, "What else do you want~for next month is Christmas."  The girl they call Kate said, "Let me see...the item I really want is a Nintendo Wii."

The investigation ensued and Santa was called, for this game they call a Wii was nowhere to be found.  The elves were amused that Santa would request a Wii so late in the season.  You surely must jest!  They thought and they thought and they thought a little more.  But it still was no use.  They were sad to the core.

"Christmas must go on", Santa said with great zeal!  "Perhaps if you wait, you will get a better deal."  So off to the mall Santa directed the elves.  Although it was tough with the dwindling shelves.  They stood in line for what seemed like days.  When at last it was time.  They had conquered the maze.  The elves promptly told the story of Kate.  And the man, half-listening, said, "Sorry, too late."  But he did have an idea, which didn't seem hard.  "What about giving her a Best Buy card?"

While it's fun to play on Christmas Day, there is simply no possible way.  But it won't be hard to use the card when December rolls away.  The Wii will be in stock and then you can flock to the nearest Best Buy Store.  Until then we respectfully suggest that you play on the one next door...


Love,

Santa and the Elves





    

December 19, 2012

Have you met Sarah?

I recently met this gal through a mutual friend.  Her name is Sarah Baldwin and she is the owner of Bella Luna Toys.  It is the loveliest website and offers educational toys that you rarely see these days.  You know...the kind that are actually made from something other than plastic and do not require batteries!  I ordered a few holiday gifts from Bella Luna Toys for my niece and I was thrilled with the quality and value.

Let me give you a little background information on Sarah.  She was a Waldorf early childhood educator for many years.  You can tell she has a passion for educating children because she offers her young customers exceptional hands on learning though the products that she carries on her website.

Bella Luna Toys carries everything from books to crafts to the most impressive selection of unique toys that will spark your child's imagination.  The site is easy to navigate and they even make recommendations for age and gender.

The best thing of all is that each Sunday Sarah makes a video blog, which you can receive via email.  For example, this week she showed her audience how to make the the most beautiful paper window stars out of kite paper.

You can find more information by checking out her website at www.bellalunatoys.com.

  


December 18, 2012

My gift to you...

If you ask any child who has been to our house they will say, "Kate's mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies."  It's kinda my thing and, frankly, there are as many adults who would ditto that sentiment.  We had one neighbor when we lived in Washington, who will remain nameless (Brian M_ _ _ _ n), who could not get enough of them and told me one time that he thought they should be illegal they were so good!  I would even go as far as to challenge one Ms. Martha Stewart to a throw down to see which of us could produce the best chocolate chip cookie.  That is how confident I am about these little nuggets of goodness.

With that said, I am feeling generous today.  The past few days have been difficult for all of us.  Trying to navigate through the events of Friday while still trying to remain upbeat about the holidays and the beginning of a fresh new year.  I have decided that I am going to give away something that I have kept close to the breast (I mean vest) for nearly 20 years.  I am giving away my recipe.  I am putting it into cyberspace because, at the end of the day, it's just a thing.  And I am really trying not to be defined by things these days.

So, from my kitchen to your kitchen...may you enjoy many batches of happiness!

xoxo
Jules


                                        Kate's Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies



1 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/8 cup sugar
1 1/8 cup brown sugar
4 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
4 cups chocolate chips

Mix butter, sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer.  Add eggs (one at a time) and vanilla to the sugar mixture.  Combine dry ingredients together and add to the sugar mixture one cup at a time.  Stir in chocolate chips with a large mixing spoon.

I like to use a small ice cream scoop so each cookie looks the same.  Bake cookies on parchment paper (I know that sounds so Martha but she's right...it makes a difference) at 325 for 16 minutes.  The cookies will seem a little under baked but never fear.  They will firm up a bit when you remove them from the oven.  Let them cool a bit and enjoy.

As a side note: The dough freezes exceptionally well.  I pre-scoop the cookies and freeze them in a plastic container.  That way you can have freshly baked cookies anytime.

You should also know that all requests to clean rooms or playrooms should be made prior to dispensing a cookie.  They have long been used as an incentive to complete tasks.  Bribery is such an ugly word.  I much prefer words like goal oriented, team player, and reward.  

December 17, 2012

Morning Joe

I have been watching Morning Joe on MSNBC for several years.  I watched it while living on the west coast when I could not sleep at 3 a.m.  Now I can watch it at a more reasonable time of the morning, as we now live on the east coast.

I respect the personalities on Morning Joe because they share differing opinions, but all are conveyed with respect and tolerance.  While the individual opinions of those involved with this morning show I may not share, they deliver their stories to me in a package that I might not have considered in my own perspective.  And the reason why I, and so many others, are able to digest their banter is because it is coming in the form of a reasonable discussion and out of mutual admiration.  Simply, they state their respective opinions, respect their differences, and agree to disagree sometimes. 

On today's show, Joe shared an especially meaningful editorial that I have linked below.  For those who may have missed it on the west coast, it is worth a look.  I don't, in any way, want to become a political blogger.  This comes from a mom who dropped her daughter off at school today after one of the most horrific shootings our country has ever seen.




http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/50222624#50222624

December 16, 2012

What can we do?

Now that we have had a few days to digest the details of Friday's horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut, it is natural for the rest of the country to say to themselves, "What can we do?"  We have always been a nation that steps up in the time of need, and I am certain this event will be no exception.

The Huffington Post wrote an article that gave three excellent nonprofit options for those interested in helping the community of Newtown.  There will be years of grief counseling for the adults and children associated with this unspeakable event, and nonprofits are dependent upon donations to sustain their services.  I am listing below the websites and a little information on each.  Donations can be made online or by check.  As always, there are no amounts too small so give in any way you can.  And, feel free to pass along this information to friends and family.


Newtown Youth and Family Services:

This is a nonprofit mental and health clinic.  All donations will benefit the families and community of Newtown.

Donations can be sent to the website at newtownyouthandfamilyservices.org
or by check to:

Newtown Youth and Family Services
15 Berkshire Road
Sandy Hook, Ct 06482


Newtown Parent Connection:

This nonprofit was established by Dorrie Carolan and Donna DeLuca in 1993 and serves the community of Newtown at times of family crisis. Their mission is to "educate, empower, and embrace."  All donations will go to support bereavement counseling.

Donations can be sent to www.newtownparentconnection.org or by check to:

Newtown Parent Connection
P.O. Box 187
Newtown, CT 06470


The American Red Cross:

As always the Red Cross is an organization that provides aid at a time of crisis and this event was no different.  They provided food, water, and initial grief counseling at the scene, as well as medical support to the Danbury Hospital.

Donations can be made to www.redcross.org/charitable-donations








December 14, 2012

How do you explain tragedy to children?

We are accustomed to checking CNN, Twitter, and Facebook throughout each day for the latest news and entertainment.  Although, lately we have been faced with the ugly reality of tragedy far to often.  In the course of one week we have been alerted to two different shootings at opposite ends of the country.  One in a shopping mall near Portland, Oregon and the most recent at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  

While senseless shootings are always mind-boggling stories to fathom, it is utterly repulsive when it involves the innocence of children.  We kiss our kids each morning and tell them to work hard and enjoy their day.  It never occurs to us to warn them of life threatening dangers that could befall them within the walls of school.

As I drove to my daughter's school this afternoon, I struggled with what to say.  She had planned to have a friend come home with her to make cookies for a cookie party tomorrow night.  As we arrived home I told the girls about the incident that occurred earlier in the day.  We watched a few minutes of CNN where a heartbroken President Obama briefed the country.  It was at that moment that I turned the news off.  While it is tempting to remain tied to the ongoing coverage, I do not believe it is healthy for children to hear the grizzly details over and over again.  I simply told them that they should not be afraid to go to school, not be afraid to go shopping, and not be afraid to go to the movies.  The only thing I advised them to do is to pay attention.  If someone says something that is out of character or if they hear someone make a verbal or physical threat, tell someone..anyone.  Even if it is done anonymously.  I also reassured them that people are inherently good even though we continue to hear about the bad.

I can't help but comment on the issue of gun control.  It is absolutely imperative that our leaders come together and legislate the issue of gun control as these deadly weapons continue to to find their way into the wrong hands.  Enough is enough and sadly it is taking the death of the innocent to move this issue to the forefront of the conversation.

So, as it stands tonight in our house, the cookies have been baked and the sound of giggling girls can be heard from upstairs.  We should count ourselves lucky and hug our kiddos a little tighter as we put  head to pillow.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those involved with the senseless events of the day, as well as the community of Newtown.



  


December 13, 2012

Your brain believes your words...

We all remember the very funny Al Franken as Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live gazing into the mirror while trying to convince his inner self that he was special by reciting the words, "You're Good Enough, You're Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You."  While we all got a kick out of Stuart's daily affirmations, he may not have been far off.

I recently heard an interview with author Forbes Robbins Blair about his book Instant Self-Hypnosis: Hypnotize Yourself As You Read.  The interview was so compelling that I downloaded the book onto my Kindle.  It was a quick read and, actually, made me consider the importance of seeking out my very own inner Stuart by using his methods to get in touch with my subconscious.

I have always been a HUGE visualizer.  I started using visualization techniques in high school while playing on the tennis team.  I was clearly the least athletic on the team so I somehow developed this daily practice of visualizing myself succeeding and, as I have gotten older, realize that I was visualizing before I really knew there was a name for it.  While visualization has always been an active part of my psyche, I have never given much thought to coupling the strategy with words.

According to Forbes Robins Blair our conscious is the part of the brain responsible for sabotaging our success.  We become accustomed to saying things like, "I would love to have my own business, but I probably could never do it.  Or, I should lose 20 pounds but I just don't have the time to exercise."  He claims that if we read aloud the set of passages that apply to the areas we want to improve on in our daily life, we can make radical changes.  Essentially, reading his pre-scripted self hypnosis passages is like having a conversation with your subconscious and the subconscious, in turn, alters the belief system of the conscious self.

Now I know that some of you are thinking, "Nut job!"  And, frankly, you would not be the first.  However, I can't help but think that the rhetoric of positivity is what generates success.  After all, I am reminded of people like Jim Carrey, who would regularly say to himself out loud that he was a great actor and everyone wanted to work with him.  He also has told the story about a post-dated check that he wrote to himself in 1983 for ten million dollars.  On the memo line he put "acting services rendered."  The check was dated Thanksgiving 1995 and he kept it with him in his wallet even when it became tattered.  Ironically, he was offered ten million dollars for Dumb and Dumber just before Thanksgiving 1995.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.  That check was later placed in his father's shirt pocket when he died since it was a dream that they both shared.

It seems to me that we, as a society, continually sabotage our dreams.  Yes, dreams do not always come in the package that we envision.   As an eternally optimistic visualizer, I choose to believe that with hard work, a healthy goal, and positive words like that zany Stuart recited every Saturday in the mirror, we all have what it takes to achieve unlimited possibilities in life.





December 12, 2012

A mish mash of awesomeness

So...here's the deal~I am a serious creature of habit.  Like most women I hold strong opinions about what I believe to be best products, services, and daily practices for the best price.

Now that I have a blog and a small handful of loyal followers (hopefully soon to be a BIG handful of loyal followers), I am going to give you my very own mish mash of awesomeness.  It is a bunch of stuff that I swear by and have come to love love love in my daily life.  Now, for the boys reading this you may be a little red in the face in some places because I call it like I see it.  And that means girlie stuff.

Let's begin with the brain.  A few years ago I asked my Gynecologist if becoming increasingly forgetful was something to worry about.  She said,"Julie, if you can't remember where your keys are that's normal. If you forget what your keys do, you have a problem."  Nevertheless, I started thinking about ways to tax my brain power everyday.  I found the most awesome game on Yahoo.  It's called "Word Roundup."  It gives you clues and then you have to figure out the word and find that word on the puzzle.  It takes less than ten minutes and so far so good.  No idea where my keys are, but I still know what to do with them when I find them!  Oh! By the way, websites like Lumosity charge you every month for new games and this one is free!  Thank you, Yahoo!

Now onto breakfast.  Everyday I fill (and I mean fill) the blender with kale and spinach and add a little milk and a few spoons of chia seeds.  Chia seeds are packed with protein, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids.  I get them at Trader Joe's but they are available everywhere.  Now blend it down to make room for the sweet stuff.  Add any fruit of your choice so you don't have that "oh crap, I'm drinking a salad experience."  Apple, pear, and frozen berries are good.  Although, pineapple and a banana are a must for me.  The banana gives it great texture and the pineapple gives it a punch of sweetness.   Plus~did you know that consuming pineapple makes everything smell better?  Yes, ladies~down there.  I told you...I call it like I see it.  But I digress...  The smoothie will fill you up until lunch and you have already consumed the majority of your fruits and veggies for the day.  So...if you fall off the wagon in the afternoon and accidentally (on purpose) hit the button for the Snickers rather than the granola bar, you don't have to feel bad!

Now.. the real nitty gritty about lotions and potions.  I am not one that has a slew of different go to beauty regimes.  I find what works for me and I stay with it.  This system seems to serve me well and really saves on the pocketbook in the long run.  I have a difficult time spending HUGE amounts of money on well packaged sweet smelling fancy schmancy stuff.  So, these are my recommendations.

For cuticles and hand lotion I use Healthy Hoof.  I buy it at Amazon and it lasts forever.  It was originally made for horses and has, as a result, been an excellent choice for my very own hooves!

For body wash and body lotion Cetaphil RestoraDerm is an absolute must.  Both are gentle but makes your skin super duper soft.

Now onto the hair.  I have used Wen Cleansing Conditioner for about five years.  I stopped using shampoo altogether and have not gone back.  Wen can be purchased on Amazon, as well, and makes my very curly and coarse hair more manageable.  It can be used for all hair types and does not have any of the bad sulfates that cause your hair to become limp or frizzy.

As for make up, I discovered Boom! by Cindy Joseph about 18 months ago.  She has actually become an acquaintance of mine through a bizarre set of circumstances.  If you read my article on More.com, you will recognize her name and her story.  Cindy is a make up artist turned model turned business woman.  Her line is all of four products but they really pack a punch.  I kicked the powdery foundation to the curb a few years back after noticing that it was settling into my lines and not giving me a very natural appearance.  If you are interested her website is www.boombycindyjoseph.com and she has a series of videos that explain her makeup line, which are cleverly called boomsticks!  I find the result to be a natural glow that lasts all day.

The next recommendation is a bit spendy but it has made such a nice difference in the texture of my skin.  It is called the Clarisonic Mia 2, a hand held rotating face brush.  I purchased mine at Sephora and I have not regretted it a bit.

I am ending this blog with a topic that creates embarrassment and frustration with most women.  I am talking about hair removal.  Other than laser treatments, we are constantly seeking ways to remove unsightly hair from face to toe.  Let me just say this about facial hair, I have always been amused by the term "lip wax."  I have never personally met a woman with hair on her actual mouth.  Let's just be honest...it's a lady-stache.  Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is but I have found the single best facial hair wax and it doesn't hurt at all.  The brand is "Parissa" and the best one for the face is the strip free hot wax for short course hair.  The box is Tiffany blue and the wax comes in a small pot. You can heat it up directly on the stove or purchase a small Parissa plug in heater so you can heat the wax in the bathroom.  Okay...now onto the nethers.  The most painful part of getting a bikini wax is paying for it.  The single best home bikini wax is MOOM Waxing Strips or purchase a microwavable jar of MOOM Wax with Tea Tree Oil.  It comes with everything you need and it is a far more cost effective way than professional waxing.

So, there you have it!  My own little mish mash of favorite things that I use regularly.  If you have your own must haves, please feel free to comment and share with the class!






December 9, 2012

A funny thing happened on the way to the East Coast~I met a professional magician, a rock star, and I had jury duty with George Lucas...

Our family has had the privilege of moving a lot.  In the last five years we have lived in four different states.  When people find out they generally think we're crazy.  We have had many ask us how we could possibly be happy moving so frequently and live so far from family and friends.  More importantly, we are asked how we could make the decision to do that to our daughter.

While moving is admittedly challenging, it has ended up being the exact opposite of what most people think.  Ask anyone and we say the same thing before each move, "We are excited!  Excited to seek out a new adventure, meet new people, and experience a new region of our country that we may have only read about or visited on a short vacation."  My husband and I decided early on that we were going to have a positive attitude and always try to look at moving as a gift and not something to dread or avoid.  We have modeled those words to our daughter and she, in turn, understands that she too has had great opportunities to meet new people and experience a broader perspective than if she had remained in the same community during her entire childhood.  We recognize that there are pros and cons to this way of thinking.  When we visit old friends it is lovely to witness the lifelong friendships that began in nursery school and blossomed throughout the teenage years.  But when we look back on the last five years, we are struck by the fact that we could not have dreamed about the amazing opportunities that we have been blessed to live, as well as the people we have met along the way.

I recently watched a very funny video (and spot on) of Shawn Achor on Ted.com.  He is the CEO of Good think, Inc. and researches and teaches positive psychology.  He has a whole host of recommendations including practicing gratitude, appreciation, exercise, meditation, and conscious acts of random kindness.  Basically, he believes that a positive brain in the present will result in future success.  Rather than the antiquated philosophy that from hard work, success and happiness will come later.

I hope you will choose to watch the video I have linked below.  It is hilarious and hopefully it will inspire you as much as it inspired me.

http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html

December 7, 2012

How Often Do We Take A Page From Our Children's Handbook?


In the past few years our daughter has given my husband and me many reasons to do just that.  At the age of nine she received the early diagnoses of Idiopathic Scoliosis, which means the spine naturally grows with a curve instead of straight.  Essentially, her spine is in the shape of a “C.”  For the past two years she has worn a prosthetic brace for 22 hours a day seven days a week, to hopefully keep her spine from moving any further as she continues to grow. 

My husband and I were initially devastated, as we could not imagine how a confident, beautiful, and wickedly smart middle school girl was going to handle the pain of being singled out for being different.  The image of a young Joan Cusack from Sixteen Candles, desperately trying to take a sip from the drinking fountain, was tattooed in my mind from the moment we received the initial phone call to the day she saw her Orthopedic Surgeon.  How would we ever, as a family, get through this painful time?

For those who know Kate, they would probably say she is a sassy girl with spunk and always manages to glide through life with a twinkle in her eye.  This period of her life has been no exception.  She has rarely shed a tear and almost never complains about having to wear the equivalent of an inflexible unventilated upper body cast under her clothes all day and all night.   

She has continued to achieve academic excellence, as well as remain active in sports and theater.  She has danced in A Chorus Line and managed to fly 20 feet in the air as Wendy in Peter Pan.  While none of it easy, she has continued to drive herself with conviction and grace. 

For that, Kate, I take a page from your handbook and salute you as one amazing kid!   




December 6, 2012

Be proud of your smile wrinkle!

A link gleaned from MissRepresentation.org shows us all in a short seven minute video that we should embrace ourselves for who we are and continue to question why the powers that be are trying to take away our smile wrinkle...



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSW8IaJMnMk

A quote we can all learn from...

Photo: Great advice!

December 5, 2012

No, thank you...


Why is it that we teach our kiddos to say, “No, thank you."  But we, as women, are not taking our own advice?  Have you ever been talked into chairing a committee or running an event because all eyes were on you?  Or, have you ever been at the market and the cashier says, “Would you like to add $5.00 for cancer research?”  You just know there are five people behind you and already you start to feel their judgment if you don’t pony up?  Why are we made to feel like we are failures if we say, “NO?”
 
So, one day I was at the market and the cashier asked the woman in front of me if she wanted to donate to breast cancer research.    She looked right at her and calmly said, “Thank you, but I think I’ll pass today.”  Oh, my gosh!  It was quite possibly the perfect response.  Clear but polite!  This lady was a pro in the art of saying, “No.” 
 
So, the next time you are feeling cajoled into doing something you don’t want to do, you are welcome to glean my favorite quote from that awesome lady at the market. “Thank you, but I think I’ll pass today.”

December 4, 2012

The angst of the holidays...


Just after the last piece of pie is served on Thanksgiving you simultaneously hear Jimmy Stewart proclaim his love for Bedford Falls while feeling that looming pit in your stomach grow as that adorable little Zuzu sweetly chants, “Look, Daddy.  Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” (Side note: if that movie were made today you know “his wings” would be replaced with “his or her wings”)  
 
It is not the regret of a 3000 calorie dinner, it is the anticipation of Christmas/Hanukkah.  Why is it that the most magical holiday of the year is often fraught with dread and general angst?   I, along with many, believe it is about the gifts.   Do we give…do we pick names…is there a limit… and if so, does that include tax…  We are a country full of stuff.  So much stuff, in fact, that we have to buy houses with basements to contain the stuff.  I am no exception.  I have so much stuff that every time we move, which is often, I take car loads (note the plural) to Goodwill.  I beg people to take my stuff from me.  I find incredible relief when the left over stuff is safely in the moving van and on its way to our new destination.  And then what do I do?  I get more f#%&ing stuff!
 
So this Christmas my husband and I decided that we are not exchanging stuff.  We have always loved an organization called Heifer International and that is all we are doing for each other.  Our teenager is not quite on board, but we are working on her.  Another great organization is Feed Projects, which is sort of stuff and giving in tandem.  Essentially, for the person who still wants give the stuff but also wants to give philanthropically.    

Both websites are linked below and are a great option for the holidays.
 
           
            http://www.feedprojects.com/
            http://www.heifer.org/

Please ...don't mock the hula hoop!

As you may or may not know, I am now T- six days until I turn 46.  So technically on December 10th, I am going to be closer to the big 5~0 than forty.  A funny thing happened on the way to 46, though.  I fell in love.  Yes...with a hula hoop. 

Last January I told my teenage daughter, who mastered the hula hoop at the age of three on her very first try, that my goal for 2012 was to spank the hoop.  (And no, that is not a euphemism)  I watched her closely as she explained the technique...I watched You Tube videos...I read articles...and I ordered what was said to be the perfect hula hoop.  This Type A overly prepared gal was ready to take on the hoop.

While it took a few days to get into the groove, it finally started happening.  And, as it turns out, I loved it!  And then it happened...the scale started doing something that I was not familiar with.  The pounds, as they say, started melting away.  While that souds a bit dramatic, it is true.  Now, I am a girl who loves to walk, do a little yoga, pilates, some light weights.  Basically, a mish mash of healthy stuff.  But, it was not until I added the hula hoop that I noticed that my knick knack shelf started to go away.  You know...that annoying layer of flab that loves to perch itself just above the waist of your jeans?  Gone.

So...my challenge to you is to jump on the bandwagon and hoop away your very own knick knack shelf! 

I have had lots of women ask where I got my fancy hoop so I am attaching a link.  I actually have two different hula hoops.  One for every day and another that collapses and can be a traveling hoop for those who frequently leave home for business or pleasure. 

Good luck!  And may the hoop be with you...

http://www.canyonhoops.com/

December 3, 2012

Miss Representation

Miss Representation is a documentary written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom that addresses the way media influences and portrays women and girls.  It is an important film that everyone should see.  The OWN Network will be re-airing it Sunday December 9, 2012 at 2 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

The following link better explains the mission of Miss Representation, which now has an amazing website full of informational articles and links.  A great way to stay informed is to "like" Miss Representation on Facebook.


http://www.missrepresentation.org/the-film/

Vogue Goes Silver...

Thank you, Vogue! The quintessential magazine balancing fashion and timely advice offers a three page spread about grey hair in the December 2012 edition.  Vicki Woods, who has interviewed the likes of Angelina Jolie, takes us on her personal journey cleverly titled "Silver Belle."



http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/silver-belle-vogues-vicki-woods-goes-gray/

Finding Your Why...



For six and a half years, I have had an article in my wallet.  I can’t say exactly why, other than it resonated with me.   The following piece has nothing to do with politics.  It has nothing to do with the ideology of Republicans or Democrats.   It has nothing to do with working women or stay-at-home moms.    It has more to do with the drive that separates the women from the girls, so to speak.

In March 2006, I vaguely recall tearing a one page article out of a magazine after it inspired me to think.  I have no idea from what publication it came, as the only identifying mark, which shows through a yellowing fold on the thin glossy paper reflects that it came from page 214 of the March 2006 edition.  There is a sizable photo of Hillary Clinton surrounded by her own words chronicling the day a young high school basketball star threw her for a loop and gave her the final nudge to run for office.   The article talks about the fact that there had been much speculation about an impending New York Senate run for Mrs. Clinton.  Turns out, though, that everyone except the soon to be candidate was convinced that she had the chops to take on an opponent as something other than a supportive wife.  The day was organized to celebrate a documentary that was being released about Title IX and young women in sports.  In attendance was the great Billie Jean King, as well as many young women, who had participated in high school or college sports.   Mrs. Clinton stood under a banner that read “DARE TO COMPETE”, which was the name of the documentary, while a young basketball star by the name of Sofia Totti introduced her.   I cannot imagine being a young teenage woman with the task to introduce the former first lady and find the confidence to do what she did next.   As Mrs. Clinton approached her following the introduction, Sofia grabbed her hand and whispered into her ear: “Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton, Dare to compete”…  Every time I read this line I can’t help but well up.  It’s because I am struck by the fact that a girl, who had not yet embarked on adulthood, had single handedly been the voice that finally convinced Hillary Clinton to find her inner strength and courage to forge ahead in the political arena. A short time later Mrs. Clinton threw her proverbial hat into the race and the rest is history.   I have often wondered about Sofia Totti and where she is today.   She strikes me as someone who might be an old soul who early on discovered her why in life.  If I were to venture a guess, I would say that Ms. Totti has probably continued to influence others along her path. 

The whole issue of the why came to me recently while my husband and I spent a sunny but wickedly cold Sunday walking on our favorite walking path near our home.    I said to my husband,” I feel like I am supposed to do something but I don’t know what.”    My husband said, “It’s not about the what, Jules.  It’s about the why.  So, what’s your why?”  Confused, I said, “What do you mean by why?”     

Basically, he went on to reiterate the premise of a book that he had recently read by Simon Sinek called Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.  He said that he found it to be very beneficial as he simultaneously focused on his own position at his company while also seeking ways to positively influence others in his daily life.

I immediately downloaded the book onto my Kindle, but started by watching a short video on Ted.com where Simon Sinek gave a snippet of his philosophy.  Basically, he said that the majority of people and companies focus on what they are going to do and how they are going to do it.  But the most successful people start by figuring out why they are going to do whatever it is that they are going to do.  It boils down to this, the part of the brain that makes us want to buy something or remain loyal to someone gravitates to the emotional connection that seduces our feeling for whatever a person or company is selling us.   Take Apple, for instance, they were not the most advanced when it came to computers or technology.  But they had a leader who had a vision to challenge the status quo and create products that were beautiful, simple, and also served a purpose technologically.  We could have, as a society, purchased less expensive and possibly more technically advanced phones, tablets, and music devices.  But Steve Jobs discovered his why early on and now you would be hard pressed to find a household in America without one Apple product. (Side note: I will be curious to see, after the passing of Jobs, if the “why” continues to be as strong a force at Apple as it was during his reign.  After all, he was known for his hard core and incredibly authoritarian approach.  It was not uncommon for him to reject everything that did not include the trifecta of perfection.  It had to include function, simplicity, and still be aesthetically pleasing.  That’s what he demanded and, as a result, we came to expect it with each new product that hit the shelves).

I gave my husband’s question quite a bit of thought.  I generally knew what my passion was so I boiled my why down to the fact that I wanted to do something that supported and empowered women and girls to strive to be authentic.  He said, “Okay..Looks like you have your why.”  But now what, I thought. 

The next evening I was cleaning up the kitchen and preparing the family for another week of school and work and I heard that familiar ping that announces, “You have mail.”  When I checked, I was surprised to learn that an article that I had written months earlier and submitted to More Magazine was going to be published on the More.com website.    It was an article that chronicled my decision to go grey and embrace a pro-age philosophy.  Don’t get me wrong-I did not write the document out of some overwhelmingly superior perspective relating to the joy of wrinkles, roller coaster hormones, and the grand descent of my breasts.  I wrote the cathartic article after an unfortunate day when my daughter’s new pediatrician asked me if I was “grandma.”  My experience turned into a quirky recount of my middle age journey, but it also went on to question why our media continues to have a double standard with regard to men and women.  Naturally, I was pleased and incredibly flattered the day that I received the email from More Magazine.  After all, to have anything published is a wonderful accomplishment.  My husband said, “You should put the link on your Facebook page.   Your friends and family would love to read it.”  And then it happened.  My story that started out a way to navigate through life was quickly being read and reposted on pages and sites that were further and further away from where it began.   I started receiving notes and emails from friends and strangers thanking me for putting to words the same frustration they had been feeling for a long time.

I remember saying to my husband that I thought it was ironic that after articulating my why just a few days before, I was actually fulfilling exactly what I set out to do.  Influencing women and girls to be their authentic self.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.

As the notes flooded in from friends and people all over the country, as well as those who only knew me as a More.com contributor, I started thinking about the strong women in our history who probably discovered their why before blazing ahead and making names for themselves.  So I did what every American woman of today does when she wants to organize her thoughts, I added a new board on my Pinterest page!   I wanted to see pictures of women I decided to call “Women to Emulate.” (Side note: Pinterest is a website that allows you to make bulletin boards adorned with virtual pictures, notes, quotes, recipes, etc.  It’s difficult to explain but very easy to figure out if you play around with it for a few minutes)   I spent only a few minutes pulling the pictures of 17 women off the internet and onto my new board.  I was surprised at the women I chose because they were a diverse group, but all have made profound contributions in their own way.  I laughed because if a stranger saw the list, they would never be able to guess my age, ethnicity, or political affiliation.

Among them are Oprah (Of course-we all know her and have followed her why for years), Marlo Thomas (A second generation fundraiser and activist with an overwhelming why that has changed the lives of children and families living with cancer), Condoleezza Rice (A why that is not glaringly obvious.  Ms. Rice, a quiet and somewhat introverted leader, speaks volumes with her actions.  Not to mention the fact that she commanded the respect of world leaders while Secretary of State), Sharon Osborne (A zany and perplexing character, but her why is true and with purpose.  She has always been a fighter for the underdog, plain and simple), Jennifer Siebel Newsom (The Stanford grad turned actress turned voracious supporter of women and girls in America with regard to the media.  Her documentary and website cleverly called Miss Representation delve into the constant subtext of images that we see every day that ultimately form the opinions and expectations of our society with regard to women), and the adorable Meghan McCain (Ms. McCain, the strong willed blogging daughter of Senator John McCain is also a tireless advocate of women and girls.  She uses her position to give a voice to those seeking guidance and strength in a society that desperately wants to put young women in a neat little box of singular thinking).  This is just six of the many women I posted to my “Women to Emulate” virtual bulletin board.  They have little to nothing to do with each other but all have discovered in their own ways the why in their lives that propelled them to the forefront of the American stage.

Days later I could not stop thinking about the article that I had carried around in my wallet and the journey that Senator Clinton had taken during the incredibly contentious 2008 primary against our now President.  While she was clearly qualified, many thought she had too much of an edge to her that made her unlikable and prickly.   That was until January 7, 2008 when, in a small coffee shop in New Hampshire, we collectively heard Senator Clinton’s why.   She was being peppered with questions and for a brief moment, her voice cracked, a glimmer of a tear was visible in her eyes, and she said with total sincerity, “I’ve had so many opportunities from this country.  I just don’t want to see us fall backwards.”  Her resounding why was palpable, and on January 8, 2008 she won New Hampshire.  I believe she won because those who were unsure felt her commitment and connected with her emotionally.  The Democrats did not often see that “vulnerable candidate” who surfaced that night.  Had she tapped into January 7th Hillary during the remaining days of her campaign, who knows if history would be different today.  After all, I think we can all agree that Barack Obama’s why seeps from his pores with little effort.   You don’t have to agree with his politics to see that he is a gregarious speaker with a sincere belief in hope for the future.  His policies might be widely disputed, but his motives and intentions are pure.  And that is the reason he has twice been elected as our President.  It’s because he firmly knows and intrinsically lives his why, and his what and how were subsequently developed along the way.

Once again, there is chatter relating to Hillary Clinton’s future.  After a successful stint as Secretary of State during a time that has been fueled with international discourse, she is stepping down from her post.  All eyes are on her, once again.  Will she run in 2016 or will she fade away and collect millions of dollars in exchange for speaking engagements while reflecting on a lifetime of controversial yet impressive accomplishments.  (Side note: I can’t help but envision a President Hillary Clinton momentarily gazing onto the south lawn outside the Oval Office as Bill toils away in Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden)  Whatever she decides to do, she will certainly be in the category of strong influential women who made their mark on this world. 

For now, I will continue to pursue my own why and look to the women around me who have forged ahead and created a path so that I have the privilege to discover my place in this world.  I still can’t say for certain why it is that I have carried a now tattered article in my handbag for the better part of a decade.  As I dig deep, though, I am inclined to think that my untapped why, which has remained under the surface for so long, finally found a place to shine.  A soapbox to proudly stand on, if you will.  I firmly believe we owe it to the emerging youth of today to cultivate our own why and, as painful and intimidating as it may be, forge a path of our own.  Just maybe we might be considered an influential person on their Pinterest Board as someone who gives them pause for thought or the courage to compete.





 

December 2, 2012

Ali Wentworth dishes on grey hair and my article on More.com

The hilarious Ali Wentworth, who has a super funny webcast on Yahoo Shine, was kind enough to give my recent article a little air time with her equally funny sidekick.  I knew lobbing Ali something like grey hair was going to be funny and she did not disappoint. 

Following the show over 750 comments flooded in discussing the personal feelings of grey hair in America.  While some were weird and creepy, others applauded the notion of embracing age.  I have to say, though, that my favorite went something like this "When men go grey they look like Sean Connery.  When women go grey they also look like Sean Connery."  As far as I know I have not been compared to the likes of Mr. Connery, but the quote had me laughing hysterically!

At the end of the day, I love knowing that I had a small part in the discussion of age in America.  The following is a link to the webcast.



http://shine.yahoo.com/video/dailyshot-forget-fountain-youth-daily-180000115.html

More Magazine

More Magazine recently published an article that I wrote on More.com.  It is a quirky account of my personal journey navigating through my forties after my decision to go grey in a society that won't have it!  Attached is a link to the article.  I hope you enjoy it!

http://www.more.com/member-voices/your-stories/proud-be-pro-age-and-pro-grey




It all began...

It all began the day my daughter's pediatrician called me "grandma"...

Let me backtrack a bit.  I am going to be 46 years old in 8 days.  I am perfectly happy growing older, showing a few lines, and going grey.  Going grey was a decision I made about two years ago when visits to the salon became increasingly more demanding.  I found the experience to actually be quite liberating.  Interestingly, the greyer I got, the happier and more grounded I felt.  And get this...the more attention I started getting from random people on the street. 

That was until I had the unexpected incident with a new doctor, which we refer to in our house as "grannygate."  It caused me to reassess why I felt so strongly about a pro-age attitude and why others, including the media, did not necessarily share my feelings. 

After my husband suggested I write about my experience, I decided to submit the article to More Magazine.  The next thing I knew, it was published on the More.com website and my quirky account of going grey was in print for the world to see.  A funny thing happened, though.  The article hit cyberspace and the next thing I knew it was being read and reposted further and further from where it began.  I began hearing from people all over the country thanking me for writing about the subject of age in America.  As it turns out, I was not the only one questioning the issue of age and the double standard perpetuated by the media.  I was shocked one day when my husband advised me that over 300 people had "liked" my article on the More.com Facebook Page.

So here I am with a blog, which is so "Julie and Julia" to me.  My hope is to navigate through with  thoughts and articles, and hopefully inspire others along the way.  I, by no means, claim to know it all.  In fact, my hope is to glean from others tidbits that will help others to achieve their own moments of inspiration and clarity.