January 29, 2013

A Collective Voice Can Influence...

I often feel like I am just a mom, who goes about her day, and has minimal influence on the greater good of America.  Although, sometimes something really positive happens after taking the time to voice an opinion, sign a petition, write a blog, or all of the above.  Over the course of several months legislators, non-profit organizations, and run-of-the-mill citizens have spoken against one very controversial subject that involves many of our children.

The Boy Scouts of America have had a long-standing ban on gay participants.  For the better part of a year, thousands of American citizens and leaders have made every effort to persuade those at the executive level of the Boy Scouts to discontinue this antiquated philosophy, and embrace an environment of inclusiveness by allowing young gay men the privilege of being a Boy Scout.

This week it was announced that the Boy Scouts of America are doing just that. Well..they haven't made it official, but word on the street is that they will finalize it after a vote next week.  If the powers that be agree, no longer will there be the exclusionary interpretation by the Boy Scouts of America with regard to gay members.  Although, the overall decision regarding a troop's individual curriculum and method of instruction would give each troop the latitude to operate within their respective charter's belief system, as many troops are affiliated with a religious denomination.  Essentially, each troop still would have the power to interpret the overall mission of the Boy Scouts by the philosophy of their organization's sponsor.

For the first time in a really long time, I have that feeling of pride for taking the time to speak out against an issue that infuriates me.  Some of the loveliest, smartest, and most successful people I know are gay.  It makes me sad knowing they don't have the same privileges because of their sexual orientation.  I honestly believe that in 20 years we will look back and regret as a country that this issue took so long to embrace.

So...for today I am going to feel joy for thousands of boys who otherwise could not participate because of who they are.  I will also remember to make my voice heard in the future.  As it turns out, it does take a village and when you speak collectively you can affect change.

If you missed my earlier post about the Boy Scouts of America, it is called Maybe The Boy Scouts of America Should Emulate The Girl Scouts of America.

January 26, 2013

One Good Deed Can Change a Life!

This year Santa left me the most awesome book in my stocking.  It is a book written by a gal who I know I could be friends with.  Her name is Erin McHugh and she is the author of One Good Deed.  It is a book that was born after Erin decided to seek personal inspiration, but also use her daily output of good to inspire others. Would you not love to have coffee with her?

Anyway, she spent the better part of a year, which began on the date of her birth, to do one good deed every day for a year.  Some things small and others more significant.

I was especially intrigued by her excerpt on December 30th.  It talks about a longtime friend of hers who was seeking financial backing for a movie he was trying to complete and distribute.  He needed $10,000 so he contacted his friends to ask them to visit a website and donate if they felt inspired to do so.  The website is kickstarter.com and it is amazing!  Here's how it works.  If you are trying to generate a sum of money to get a creative venture off the ground, you can go to this site, prepare a business plan, and submit it for the review for anyone who might visit the site looking for a philanthropic opportunity.  In return for a donation, the donor may receive something in return if the goal is ultimately reached.  For example, Erin's friend had a goal of $10,000 and when all was said and done, he exceeded $30,000!  So for the $30.00 that Erin donated to his business plan, she later received a free DVD when the project was finalized.  Plus, she had the pride of knowing that she helped someone accomplish a lofty personal goal.

I took the liberty of visiting this site and it is most impressive!  It always blows me away how many talented and highly motivated people are out there trying to realize their potential in life.  How often can we say that we had a hand in changing a person's life?  If you are interested in perusing the site for the newest and the greatest, I linked the website below.


January 22, 2013

Maybe The Boy Scouts of America Should Emulate The Girl Scouts of America...

Ryan Andresen has been a Boy Scout since he was six-years-old.  As he rose through the ranks of this all-American extracurricular activity, he dreamed of one day attaining the ultimate designation of Eagle Scout.  The highest and most prestigious award within the Boy Scouts of America that typically comes after many years of dutifully fulfilling hours and hours of community service, meetings, and the accumulation of badges that are awarded after certain tasks are completed.

Ryan resides in California with his parents where he maintains an excellent GPA that places him proudly as an honor student at his high school.  He also managed to slam out an impressive SAT score to boot.

Last fall, as Ryan saw the light at the end of the tunnel of high school, he made the decision to come out to his friends and family.  He was embraced by those around him and initially, it seemed as though life would move forward as planned.  Ryan would complete high school, receive his Eagle Scout, and look forward to college.

Sadly, when the Boy Scouts of America learned of Ryan's announcement, he was informed that he would not be awarded the coveted privilege of becoming an Eagle Scout.  As it turns out, all the required elements of the final accolade were completed.  Ryan had constructed a "Tolerance Wall" as his final project.  It was essentially a collage of 288 tiles, which individually represented peace and acceptance to those who suffered from bullying.  An epidemic that we hear far too much about in today's society.  Who would ever have thought that in the end the group that Ryan had pledged 12 years of his dedication would be the ultimate bullies in this scenario.

The only remaining technicality was the final signature of the powers-that-be at the executive level of the Boy Scouts of America.  For a brief time there was hope, as his local chapter in California signed off on Ryan's submission for Eagle Scout. It was not until the paperwork reached the highest level that Ryan and his family received the disappointing news of the reversal.

As the story made its way into the local and ultimately the national media, many influential leaders voiced their support on behalf of Ryan.  Articles were written and blogs were posted.  Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom, along with 30 other legislators, composed a letter which succinctly stated, "The Boy Scouts of America are simply standing on the wrong side of history.  And in doing so, the Boy Scouts are hurting the very people that you aim to serve, the young men who participate in your programs."

Ryan's mother, Karen Andresen, established a website in hopes of gleaning support from others to hopefully influence the leaders of the Boy Scouts to retract their decision and award Ryan the honor that he so richly deserved after so many years of hard work and dedication.  To date almost 500,000 people have pledged their support for Ryan, and asked for the Boy Scouts of America to reconsider Ryan's award of Eagle Scout.  Sadly, the decision remains firm.

This story caused me to look at the practices of the Girl Scouts of America.  Both programs seem to be thought of as similar, but they are anything but the same. In fact, the founder, Juliette Gordon Low made certain that all girls would be allowed to participate regardless of their individuality.  According to the official stand of the Girl Scouts of America, they "do not discriminate on any basis."  
And this has been subsequently clarified to include the issue of one's personal sexual preference.  The Girl Scout Law reads, "I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, and resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout."

Ultimately, the decision to decline Ryan Andresen as Eagle Scout was done so because the Boy Scouts of America said that he did not meet the standards of "Duty to God."  I would argue that Ryan has done just that.  A young man who has embodied the example of dutifully meeting the standards of citizenship, hard work, and exhibiting an excellent example to others in his community.

My hope for Ryan is that even though he exits the Boy Scouts of America without the final designation, he will one day understand that awards do not define a person in life.  In some ways he has been given an opportunity to speak for those who do not have a voice, and I sincerely hope he takes this experience and uses it as a catalyst for change.  I have no doubt that we will continue to hear about Ryan Andresen and I, for one, will look back and be proud of his service and dedication to the Boy Scouts of America.

January 19, 2013

According To This Memo, We Have Come A Long Way Baby...

I found this article, which was originally printed in 1943. A time when our country was at war and reeling from the substantial loss of men in the American workforce. It was a time when a woman, who once had been relegated to caring for children, the home, and minding the needs of her spouse, had no choice but to step up and replace the empty chairs that were left behind by World War II soldiers.

Over the next several decades, we have continued to make strides. Mostly due to the independent and courageous women who forged a path for the rest of us to be competitive in a male dominated society. We like to think we have, as they say, "come a long way, baby." Although, sometimes I'm not so sure. The article makes absurd references to a woman's emotional state, her physical size, her level of confidence, and whether she is intellectually competent. While the article is blatantly insulting and highly condescending, I still hear similar references today. Women have clearly smacked down the barriers that have continued to plague the status quo, but I remain frustrated by the attitudes that are still perpetuated about women in general. I hear negative dialogue in the media, in the political arena, but more importantly by each other. Frankly, if women don't support other women, who will?  Because, here's the deal...men will always support other men. And if the women are too busy tearing each other down, then how can we continue to compete in a society that has historically been monopolized by our male counterparts.

My hope for the young women of today is that you seek out female influences that will propel you to be your best and most authentic self.  After all, what do you want the women in 70 years to say about the way women were portrayed in 2014...          

1943 Guide to Hiring Women

The following is an excerpt from the July 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine. This was serious and written for male supervisors of women in the workforce during World War II.
Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees:
There's no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage. Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from Western Properties:
1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they're less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.
2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.
3. General experience indicates that "husky" girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.
4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination - one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.
5. Stress at the outset the importance of time; the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.
6. Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they'll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.
7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.
8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.
9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can't shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman - it breaks her spirit and cuts off her efficiency.
10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl's husband or father may swear vociferously, she'll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.
11. Get enough size variety in operator's uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can't be stressed too much in keeping women happy.

January 16, 2013

Chip Kelly is teaching everyone in his path to WIN THE DAY...

For those of you who don't know Chip Kelly, he is basically a rock star in the state of Oregon and it was just announced that he will be assuming the role of head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles.  In a relatively short period of time, he has become a household name countrywide.  So who is this guy?  He is currently the head football coach at the University of Oregon.  Why do I know this?  Because you should also know that if you marry an Oregon Duck...you automatically become, what I like to call "A Duck by Marriage."  With that comes the ownership of, what my husband refers to as, "gear."  Gear is the collection of shirts, hats, and coats that represent the pride of one's overwhelming support of a group of people. Ladies, it is similar to our collection of shoes and handbags.  Although, somehow my husband has not yet jumped on board with my continued love for "Louis Vuitton gear."  But I digress...

Chip Kelly has propelled the University of Oregon to the forefront of national colleges.  He didn't do it alone, though.  His predecessor, Mike Bellotti, along with this little company you may have heard of called Nike, developed a program that handed Chip Kelly the opportunity to step into the public eye with the wind at his back, so so speak.

Little is known about Chip Kelly from his friends and family because he's a private guy and his close network respects that about him.  Here's what I did discover.  He grew up in New Hampshire as a three sport high school student, went onto college at the University of New Hampshire, where he later returned to coach their football program.  Happily focusing on his craft as a coach while influencing and demonstrating to his players the importance of  hard work, dedication, and holding those around him accountable for their actions, Chip Kelly was sought out by a guy who knew another guy who knew another guy who told Mike Bellotti that he should check out Chip Kelly's philosophy surrounding the theory of "spread offense."  Stay with me, ladies, because I have no plans to discuss the unique nuance of college football techniques.  I am just trying to set the stage for my ultimate point.  Okay, so Bellotti discovered what Kelly confidently but quietly knew to be true about his ability to motivate, and he nabbed him as his offensive coordinator.  Fast forward to the departure of Bellotti and wham bam...Chip Kelly is named head football coach of the University of Oregon Ducks in 2009.

A funny thing happened almost immediately.  The energy of the U of O shifted.  Not only within the community but throughout the state of Oregon and eventually across the country.  ESPN started showing up in quirky Eugene, Oregon, celebrities started wearing Oregon garb, and high school football players started giving Oregon a second look.  Granted, Phil Knight built a fancy schmancy stadium with state of the art locker rooms filled with hundreds of equally fancy uniform combinations.  I mean, come on, what 18-year-old boy wouldn't love to have the privilege of playing football in this high profile climate.  While all that is true, I choose to believe the evolution of the relatively unknown and undervalued football program was about so much more.

Chip Kelly spent his years as a leader on the collegiate level emulating to his players three little words.  WIN~THE~DAY.  Simple...straight forward.  A phrase that he brought with him from his years in New Hampshire to inspire his players. And he has done just that.  He has demonstrated time and time again that he would not put up with youthful shenanigans resulting in regretful trips to the police station by swiftly booting players off the team.  And we are talking about players who received national recognition for their football talents.  Basically, if you wanted to play for Chip Kelly, you'd be wise to show up, play hard, and do well academically.  Essentially, Chip plays it old school.  He says what he means and he means what he says.  And as a result, his players walk the walk and talk the talk.  And do you know why?  Because if they don't tow the line, follow the plan, and play by Chip's rules, they won't have the privilege of being part of the team. And not just any team...one of the best teams in the country.  Basically, it's worth it to rise to the standards put forth by Kelly because the end result is so sweet.  And, without realizing it, the kids who have had the honor off playing under his tutelage have received a gift that few young adults have the privilege of gleaning from such a well respected leader.  The gift of personal responsibility, achieving excellence, and doing so with grace and humility.  I predict that when graduation comes around and these young men go into the world, they are going to take with them the values that they were taught by a guy with a simple motto of excellence in his Win The Day philosophy.

So..how does the experience of college level coaching translate to the NFL.  I am a little concerned that it is like training a dog vs training a puppy.  Habits have been formed and you miss the opportunity to impart your wisdom on a group of people who may or may not buy into touchy-feely themes.  I will also be interested to watch the Philadelphia fans.  I happen to now live a stone's throw from Philadelphia, and if there is one thing they are it's gritty and they don't mince words.  So, Chip...if you need a place to feel the love, you are always welcome here for dinner.  Because in the eyes of the Meulemans Family, you will always inspire us to WIN THE DAY!

January 14, 2013

Have you ever gone swimming in Merle Haggard's swimming pool in your undies? Because I have...

First of all...I admit that the titillating title of this blog is what probably made you click on the text.  For those of you who know me well, you are saying, "there's no way!"  Half right.  I was approximately five years old and I did, in fact, swim in Merle Haggard's swimming pool in my undies.

Let me backtrack a bit.  I spent my formative years living in Bakersfield, California.  For those of you who don't know much about Bakersfield, it is home to many country western greats.  One of which is Merle Haggard.  My dad, who is now retired, was a very well-respected building contractor.  (I realize that many of you might call "well-respected" and "contractor" an oxymoron, but he was an anomaly.  Ask anyone and they will tell you that Milo Brooks is one of the loveliest most generous guys around)  And he was always proud to say that he had the privilege of building Merle Haggard's residence in the early 70's.  It overlooked the beautiful Kern River and was, as I recall, a sprawling contemporary design that incorporated an elaborate electric model train system that intertwined throughout the interior of the house.  There was also a mysterious bathroom that I was not allowed in, as the wallpaper was deemed "not appropriate for young eyes."  (Note to self: Now that I am 46, I need to get my dad on the phone and find out exactly what went on the walls of that bathroom!)

On the day the pool was finished, I happened to be visiting with my mom and into the pool I went on what was likely a scorchingly hot Bakersfield summer day.  I had no idea, at the time, who the owner was or the fact that he would later be one of the greatest country western singers our country has ever known.

As an adult, I have followed Merle's career over the years and one thing has continually struck me as interesting.  He has always been a simple man who never seemed to seek out the world of celebrity.  His early years were peppered with some criminal activity, which probably caused him to find his own why in life.  I have often written about our need to find our why before we can move onto being personally and professionally successful at nailing down what and how we want to be remembered in life.

Last year, while living in the Bay Area, I learned that Merle was going to be performing at a small venue in Napa.  A short drive from my home in Marin, I bought a single ticket and attended the concert alone.  As I looked into the audience, I found the eclectic collection of people very interesting.  There was no glaring commonality among those who waited with anticipation for the arrival of the great Merle Haggard, but when he quietly stepped on stage, the feeling was palpable.  The whole theater of concertgoers were experiencing a gift.  That, I later realized, was the commonality of the audience.  A theatre full of people, who came from near and far to glean the authentic message of a great man.  There was no great announcement of his arrival, no flashing lights or a fancy stage.  He walked on, graciously spoke, and proceeded to give one of the single best concerts I have ever attended.  Mostly, because you could feel his overwhelming why as he spoke, as he sang, and as he interacted with those around him in his band.  So often today, our entertainers go out of their way to be relevant, larger than life, and do everything in their power to be the next cover story.  I would say to them to take a page out of the Merle Haggard handbook and simply find your why in life. If it is authentic and true, you won't need the bells and whistles.  They will come because your message will be the catalyst to making you relevant to others.       

January 12, 2013

A Mother's Painful Journey After The Unthinkable Happens...

Growing up we lived next door to a very interesting family.  At the time, I thought they were way cooler than our family.  We lived in California, but they were originally from Seattle.  I always thought of them as Seattle's version of the Kennedy family.  Not because they were political.  They just seemed to always look impossibly chic in a J Crew~Lilly Pulitzer kind of way, sporting preppy haircuts and fresh faced kids that never seemed to get their Sperry Top-Siders dirty.  The mom grew up with the Nordstrom Family, which gave them major street cred in my book.  Their house was adorned with an eclectic flair that incorporated antiques and mixtures of patterns that could very well have been the inspiration of the now famous term "shabby chic."  A huge mirror leaned easily against the front entry wall with rugs tossed effortlessly over hardwood floors.  A look that surely could have rivaled any designer magazine.  There were three kids, two of whom were older than me. They went to boarding school while I attended a local private school, so we didn't know each other well like most kids who grow up together on the same street. Although, the youngest went to school with my sister and me, and we enjoyed many days playing kick the can, holding lemonade stands, and building the most elaborate leaf houses in the fall.

Caroline was the middle child.  She actually looks today very much the way she did as a teen.  Like her mother she was always petite with short hair and a huge smile.  Usually a giggle, which made her incredibly adorable.  She was always kind but because we had a cursory relationship, we did not see each other often after our family moved to Oregon in 1980.

Over the years, there were Christmas cards and birth announcements exchanged. Gifts and notes were sent in congratulations, but there were not many opportunities to see one another in the years to come.  Occasionally, we would run into each other, as they ultimately moved back to Seattle, and we would periodically cross paths if we were in the area for the weekend.

Caroline married and had twin girls and a younger boy.  She later divorced, but remarried and had two more daughters with her second husband.

In August 2004 Caroline awoke one morning to any parent's worst nightmare.  It was a knock that would bring the devastating news that Sarah, her youngest twin had been killed in a terrible car accident.  They lived on picturesque Bainbridge Island, which is a short ferry ride from Seattle.  In this quaint sleepy community that could be illustrated as anything but the hustle and bustle of Seattle, a car full of teens would be traveling far too fast and careen out of control, injuring several and killing one.

So why am I writing a blog about this, you may ask.  Because last year, Caroline penned one of the most stunningly raw yet beautiful books about the path that she and her family navigated through during the years following the accident.  The words are written with intention yet depict a story that neither sugarcoats nor exaggerates the details of their devastating loss.  I found it impossible to put down, except when I had to take a break to collect my thoughts.  While challenging to assimilate, it was heartfelt and had many chilling moments that cause you to ask if those who pass away continue to remain in our world.

I highly recommend that you purchase or download this book.  The title is Heaven's Child and the author is my friend, Caroline Flohr.  It is available through Amazon or in your local bookstore.

I trust that if you read this book, you will not soon forget the way in which she intertwines the pain of loss with the beauty of faith and family.

January 9, 2013

Call Human Trafficking What it Really is, Human Slavery...

Have you ever met a person, had a series of cursory conversations, only to later learn that you really missed out on an opportunity to learn something profound?

I met Rani Hong in 2007.  Our children attended the same school and played basketball together on a local basketball team. We occasionally sat next to each other on the bleachers engaging in polite conversation. Now let me tell you what I have since learned about this extraordinary woman that I never knew because I never bothered to ask her about anything other than the weather, upcoming school activities, and other meaningless topics.

At the age of seven, Rani lived in southern India with her family.  When Rani's father became ill, it became increasingly difficult to provide the family with food and basic necessities.  A local woman told Rani's parents that she could arrange for their daughter to be placed in a good home where she would receive regular meals and excellent educational opportunities.  Her parents also understood that they would continue to have daily contact with Rani.  Following the placement into Rani's new living arrangement the visits lasted for only a short time, as this happy and loved child was almost immediately sold to a local slave master.  And with that, she slipped from her parent's loving hands.

By the age of eight Rani's physical and emotional state had become so critical that she was near death.  Because she had no monetary worth in her disengaged condition, she was sold again.  This time, though, the transaction saved Rani's life. She was sold into international illegal adoption where she was ultimately adopted into a loving home in the state of Washington.

In 1999 Rani traveled back to India where she was reunited with her family.  And in 2006 Rani founded the Tronie Foundation with her husband, Trong Hong, who is also a survivor of human trafficking.  The Tronie Foundation was instrumental in passing anti-trafficking legislation in the state of Washington in 2002 after testifying before the Washington State Legislature.  Rani also addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 2010, and was influential in the implementation of the UN Voluntary Trust for Victims of Human Trafficking. A fund that provides monetary assistance to victims who have survived the disgusting realities of human slavery.

Today Rani's endeavors include the continuation of national and international education.  She regularly speaks before groups of business and political leaders, as well as larger platforms including the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, and a multitude of other national and international publications and televised programming.   She also remains a UN Special Advisor for human trafficking.

As I write this blog I am more inclined to call human trafficking what it really is...modern human slavery.  Some victims are sold for forced labor, but an even larger segment of the industry involves pornography and prostitution.  While we think of this unspeakable issue as something that goes on in third world countries, it actually exists internationally.  Even in our very own country.  While there are no accurate statistics for human trafficking in the United States, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimate that upwards of 300,000 US citizens are bought and sold into the system every year.  While human slavery in third world and other known impoverished countries customarily lure children with promises of a better life, US victims are largely made up of runaways, teens and tweens on the periphery of the educational system, and those in abusive situations. Although, middle and upper socioeconomic communities are not immune from this growing problem.

In 2012 an extensive study was completed by the State Department with several initiatives that have recently been implemented by President Obama.  The goals of the State Department involve education with the ultimate goal to eradicate human trafficking as we know it.  Sadly, this is a 32 billion dollar industry internationally so it is one that comes with many challenges because it is lucrative and difficult to enforce due to the nature of the crimes and the vulnerable victims involved.  However, with grassroots organizations like the Tronie Foundation and government programs, information is becoming more accessible and legislation is being passed to extinguish human slavery.

If you want to learn more about Rani Hong and the tireless work by the Tronie Foundation, you can do so by visiting their website at www.troniefoundation.org. You can also follow their progress on Facebook and Twitter for  up to date information on the issue of human trafficking.


January 8, 2013

Howard Schultz is not just serving you an expensive cup of coffee...

East Liverpool, Ohio is a small town wedged along the Ohio River near the eastern boarder of the state.  You may not expect to hear the people of this small town singing the praises of Starbucks Chairman and CEO, Howard Schultz, but that is exactly what happened.

In 2012, Schultz did something that has become uncustomary in the USA by large corporations...he decided to make something in the USA.  He sought out the small American based pottery company owned by Clyde McClellan and made him an offer that put a huge boost into his struggling business.  The company is called American Mug and over the course of many years, the locals proudly referred to themselves as "the Pottery Capital of the Nation."  Although, prior to the arrival of the white knights from Starbucks, McClellan was forced to decrease his staff due to more and more competition overseas.  You see, Clyde does it the old fashioned way.  There are no fancy assembly lines, no sophisticated machines.  Each piece is made by hand and then fired in a 30-year-old kiln.  It is a throw back to a time that we only hear about from our parents and grandparents. A time that seems so foreign to us today in our fast paced lives.  Basically, it is the concept of creating something with pride so it can later be sold and used by someone who will appreciate the workmanship that went into every intricate detail.

But alas, we have become a nation that regularly purchases our goods from China because our nation's companies seem to think we will not pay a little extra to offset the additional costs that go into a "Made In America" stamp.  I don't know about you, but I would gladly spend a little more to know that people like Clyde McClellan and those in his employ can put head to pillow each night confident that they will have a job tomorrow.

You know, after the Great Depression (not the recent one...the one from a really long time ago), President Roosevelt created a program called the WPA (Work Progress Administration).  It was funded by Congress (imagine that) and the main goal was to create jobs for the unemployed.  My grandfather was employed by the WPA at a time when he and my grandmother struggled to feed seven children. The whole premise was to simultaneously put people to work, but also expand our country's infrastructure.  The program also gave back to the country the privilege of making an honest wage for a day of work, trusting that the financial stability of the country would eventually return.  And it did.

While I do not see our Congress able to agree on anything these days, I would love to see the leaders in the private sector of this country follow in the footsteps of Howard Schultz and revisit the issue of bringing American jobs home.  In addition to reinvigorating a small town in Ohio, Starbucks donated a portion of each sale to its Create Jobs for USA Fund, which has raised approximately $12 million.  The fund has aided in the development of jobs in American towns that have found themselves struggling in difficult times.  Starbucks estimates the creation of 4000 jobs as a direct result of the fund.

I contacted Starbucks and they indicated that they have continued their partnership with American Mug.  So, Howard Schultz...you are being added to my Awesome Philanthropic Company Award! (There is no real award given.  It's basically my blogging mom seal of approval.)

I linked below a touching video of the coming together of the coffee giant and some of the residents of East Liverpool, Ohio.

Oh~by the way, the initial 20,000 mug order sold out immediately.


January 4, 2013

Scary But True...

We all have a vivid recollection of the blockbuster movie The Hangover.  One of the more hilarious flicks that we can easily watch over and over without tiring of the ongoing shenanigans that ensue after a group of four bachelors spend a few days in Vegas celebrating the upcoming nuptials of their friend, Doug.  You may recall that the hilarity began after each member of the the group inadvertently ingested a pill that by slang terms is known as a "roofie."  This term is short for Rohypnol, which is more commonly known as the date rape drug.  While the movie portrays a forgetful night of missing teeth, an unexpected marriage, and a rogue tiger, Rohypnol is anything but funny.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this tiny but powerful pill, it has sadly become more and more commonplace for these tablets to find themselves in the beverages of unsuspecting women.  While Rohypnol is illegal in the United States, it is fairly easy to score the pills on the street for as little as $1.00 per pill.

Why am I writing about this?  Because in a matter of six months, I personally know two women who, on separate occasions, had one of these pills slipped into a drink and both were raped.  One a teenager at a party and the other a forty something single mom in a bar.  Oh~ and both incidents occurred in one of the most affluent communities in the United States.  So, when you say to yourself, "this could never happen to me"...think again.  These are two examples of incidents that could happen to any one of us or our daughters.

In the last several years, the date rape drug has increasingly become more mainstream.  It is reported that unbeknownst to millions of women and girls, they will innocently turn their heads for a matter of seconds and a small odorless, tasteless pill will dissolve in their beverage.  Here's what happens.  Approximately 20-30 minutes after the drink is ingested, you feel dizzy and sleepy.  Your heart rate slows, your motor reflexes become less acute, and you basically behave the same way as someone who is drunk.  Although, once the drug is in your system you will lose consciousness and have no memory of anything that occurred.  In both situations referenced above, the women woke up hours later, naked, injured, with signs of sexual abuse, and in one situation her purse gone.  This woman literally woke up on the sidewalk.

With that said, there are positive steps being taken to combat the ugly realities of the date rape drug.   Two Israeli scientists from Tel Aviv University have developed a device that will detect even trace amounts of the drug if it has been placed in a beverage.  Here's how it works.  The device can be put into the glass itself or in a straw or swizzle stick.  The device is able to immediately discern the existence of the drug and it turns a color to flag the owner of the beverage that their drink has been tainted.  I have linked below an interview that further explains the development of the device.

A Boston-based company by the name of Drink Savvy is in the process of manufacturing and distributing products that will incorporate the device.  They are in the beginning stages of development, but have every hope of making their products available in the future.

In the meantime, there are safety measures we can take to reduce the risk of being a victim.  Please make a note of the following tips to keep you and your gal pals safe:

~Never leave your drink unattended.
~Never accept a drink from someone you don't know very well.
~Never drink out of a punch bowl.
~If someone wants to buy you a drink, accompany them to the bar and accept the beverage directly from the person making the drink.
~Always subscribe to the "buddy system" and make sure that you keep an eye on each other during the course of the evening.
~Keep an eye out for other women out there who may be unsuspecting victims.  I would hate to think that I didn't speak up about a potentially dangerous situation to later learn that it ended in tragedy.

I hope you will take the opportunity to share this information with your daughters and girlfriends.  It is devastating to think that one more woman will have to live with regret because she had a simple cocktail in any bar or party in America.


January 1, 2013

A note to Congress...

Dear Congress,

I am a non-paid blogging mother of one, who would like to reiterate what the rest of the country seems to be saying and what you seem to be ignoring.  Day after day you show up telling yourselves you are leading this country, but to me you seem to be doing nothing more than what a group of third graders do on the playground when there is one basket of balls and way too many kids who want to play.  The loudest, biggest, and strongest kids seem to always win out and the weaker sit back and hope they can score a ball tomorrow.

While my analogy may appear pedantic, I think it rings true.  You have those who are the heavy hitters of Washington.  We see them every night on CNN and Fox (depending on their political affiliation, of course), they show up on Sunday morning with the country's golden journalists, and they manage to show themselves looking important and relevant proudly photographed with other must- know leaders on the cover of the morning paper.  So here's my point...none of that is leadership.  It's smoke and mirrors and it is getting us nowhere.

I have made many comments about my admiration for the program Morning Joe. If you happen to live on the west coast, you are out of luck unless you are an insomniac and are awake between the hours of 3~6 am.  The show incorporates many players on both sides of the aisle, but the main two are Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.  Mika is a longtime journalist, who emerged from a very influential Washington family of political heavy hitters.  Her father was a National Security Advisor during the Carter administration.  So basically, she's a well-educated smarty pants, who comes from an equally smarty pants family.  Now you have Joe Scarborough.  Joe is a Florida native.  He was a lawyer turned congressman turned cable news guy.  Joe a Republican..Mika a Democrat...and the show has that certain je ne sais quoi.... On a daily basis they discuss and debate the issues and concerns of the country and the world, and they do it the way politicians and reporters used to do it.  With style, grace, and articulate thoughts.  More importantly, it is never personal, mean spirited, or ugly.  It is the kind of reporting that allows you to hear the other side without becoming offended or personally attacked.  And interestingly, by interacting in such a way, I have found myself to be influenced and sometimes swayed by the arguments of the opposing argument.  Imagine that!

With that, I say to the men and women we have entrusted to be the voice of the people, take a moment and watch Morning Joe.  Rather than grandstanding on your respective cable news shows, we want to see you debating in the two chambers of Congress.  We want to be inspired by the deep seeded conviction that caused you to originally enter the sub-culture of politics.  I truly believe that we, as a nation, want to see you belly up to the proverbial table and come away with results that have the greatest impact for all.  Sadly, we have fallen into the rut of "you're either with us or against us."  And that has only been a lucrative venture for the powers that be in cable news.

Maybe I am being naive but I can't help but believe that if you took a page out of the Morning Joe handbook, you might just be able to move forward, have respectable debates, and model to the country that just because you don't see eye to eye on an issue, the United States can continue to evolve and remain the great super power that we have always believed it to be.

Oh...and by the way...it is way more fun to play with one ball and a big group of kids than just stand around bouncing a ball all by yourself.


Julie Meulemans