December 15, 2014

A Flock Of Hope For Christmas? Yes Please...


As Christmas Day draws near, the pressure of gift giving continues to cause many to stalk websites and the local mall for last minute thrills and deals that will bring their loved ones joy and happiness. Although, if you're like me, you probably could do without another blue sweater that will likely find its way to the back of the closet.

Well have no fear, your own personal Christmas elf is here. For years, we have incorporated the gift of farm animals under our Christmas tree. There are many non~profit organizations that would love to see your tax deductible donation fund their efforts to improve the lives of animals and communities. If a combo gift is to your liking, you could always make a donation, and couple it with a small gift that represents the animal you are giving or adopting. For example, one year we "adopted" for our niece Cueball, who is a seal from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. An organization that rescues and rehabilitates our struggling water friends. With the official certificate of adoption, we sent along a book about a seal. A perfect surprise for the kiddo in your life, who will be able to enjoy your gift with a nice reminder that part it went to save the life of a seal.

If land mammals are more up your alley, there are farms throughout the U.S. that offer up the same gift giving options. And then there is, of course, the international rockstar Heifer International. After quickly perusing the site, you can purchase an animal (or a portion of an animal) that will be donated to individuals in third world communities to generate income to sustain their families. But more importantly, the end result of Heifer International has been proven to change the dynamics of underdeveloped countries, provides woman and girls professional opportunities, and gives communities the pride of learning new ways of utilizing an animal as the ultimate catalyst for independence.

If you would like to visit a few sites for your last minute holiday gifts, I have linked my top three favorites below. Wishing you a lovely holiday and a super 2015.

www.heifer.org
www.marinemammalcenter.org
www.farmsanctuary.org



December 8, 2014

A Challenging Christmas Moment Can Make For Funny Future Memories...



In honor of challenging holiday moments I am reposting one of my blogs from last year. I received many comments and emails from readers about their own funny stories. Honestly, I feel for parents of little ones, who spend every waking moment from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve in search of the "it gift" of the year. In the event that you come away empty handed, please know that you will one day laugh about it...  


                                                               ~ ~ ~


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 1, 2014

I Witnessed Something That Will Stay With Me Forever...


Like many I have doled out my share of spare change, coffee, and the occasional sandwich to countless homeless Americans living life on the streets. It is understandably tougher to witness the harsh realities during the times of the year when weather conditions make it increasingly more difficult to survive against the elements.    

We recently returned from a short trip to Portland, Oregon. For those of you who have followed my blog for the past few years, you know that I am from the Northwest and spent much of my time in quirky Portland. (Side note: If you are at all curious about Portland, I wrote a blog titled A Love Letter To Portland, which goes into detail about this fantastic gem of a city)

But I digress...

The day before Thanksgiving I was walking a route that I had taken many times over the years. With my required Northwest beverage (coffee) secured tightly while navigating through the oncoming flow of shoppers, I witnessed something that will stay with me always. As the light turned green, I prepared to cross the street. A young woman caught my eye on the opposite corner. Twenties, Anthropologie~J.Crew style, and doing her best to jockey a familiar container of two grande coffees and a what appeared to be breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks. Doing an about face she knelt down to a woman sitting on the sidewalk, who was clearly flanked by all of her worldly possessions. Without an ounce of a condescending tone she chirped,"I have one pumpkin spice latte and one carmel macchiato. Your choice. I also have a sandwich if you're hungry."

Lovely, I thought. It is always nice to witness moments of generosity. Especially on chilly winter days when the rest of us are hustling to get ready for the holidays.

It's what happened next that brought tears to my eyes. As the woman graciously accepted her donation, the chic young gal plunked down onto the damp bricks below, introduced herself, and said, "So tell me your story. I want to know about you."

The women smiled in such a way that made it clear to this passerby that few had offered up anything more than the occasional handout in a really long time. As I looked back both were chatting happily as if they were lifelong gal pals.

In less than one minute, I was reminded of the true spirit of the season. While monetary donations are necessary to sustain those who are without, a personal connection is quite possibly the most generous gift we can give.


November 24, 2014

Thankful...


As Thanksgiving draws near, I am reminded of the many things I am grateful for. I have been reading the daily tidbits of thanks this month on the Facebook pages of my friends. Some funny, some heartfelt, and some just right on the dot.

The following is my own collection on this 2014 Thanksgiving ...

~Thank you to my parents, who both modeled a good work ethic. Even if the job was icky and not fun. A quote from my mother, "If work was always fun, they would call it going to fun~not going to work."

~Thank you to my husband, who has put up with my very strong (yet lovable) personality for two decades. He continues to be a guiding force with his strength of character and drive. But also a person, who is a shining example of integrity and kindness.

~Thank you to my teenage daughter. There are indeed days that you challenge me.  Overall, you continue to be a tower of strength. Enduring the physical challenges of a weak spine coupled with our family's vagabond lifestyle of moving you all over the country, you are always a source of inspiration.  A ray of sunlight on a cloudy day.

~Thank you to my adorable nieces and nephew. Three kiddos, who have lovingly been sibling equivalents for Kate.

~Thank you to my sister, who gave me a well~needed nudge earlier this year.

~Thank you to my mother-in-law for her counsel during one of the toughest choices I have ever had to make.

~Thank you to my brother-in-law, who always amuses me with is pithy humor, as well as his ability to compose the written word with perfection.

~Thank you for my two sisters-in-law. One, who persists each day through life's continued challenges. And the other, who balances the demands of a working single mother with tireless patience and grace.

~Thank you to my friends (some old, some really old, and some new).  A network of great friendships and confidants is a lovely gift.

~Thank you to my daughter's pediatrician, who called me "grandma" simply because I made the choice to rock silver locks.  A dark day, for sure.  But it later inspired an article, a blog, and hopefully the conclusion of two books in 2015.

~Thank you for the smell and sound of the ocean.

~Thank you to my dog, Vivian. A loyal and hilarious companion. Next year, my hope is to be thankful that Vivian no longer surfs the counter while I am cooking. (#notlikely)

~Thank you for websites like Vitacost and Drugstore.com. Middle America doesn't always have the stuff that I have grown dependent on, and free shipping with purchases over $49.00 makes me especially thankful.

~Thank you for the adorable children, who make my day when I volunteer at their school. They have no idea how full my heart is when I leave.

~Thank you to those who continue to be leaders in our communities and govern our country. Not the self serving ones, but the ones who still value the privilege of representing their constituents and fighting for those without a voice (or health care).

~Thank you to companies like Starbucks, TOMS, and Project 7. My hope is that others will take notice and emulate your philanthropy.

~Thank you to Eckhart Tolle. One book that changed my way of thinking forever.

~Thank you to those at Epiphany Farms for taking a risk on me.

~Thank you to Robin Sharma, who always has an inspirational thought to share.

~Thank you for the continued addition of spandex in clothing.

~Thank you for the small bits of wisdom that come with age.

~Thank you for the smile lines on my face that have emerged after years and years or laughter and happiness.

~Thank you for waking up each morning with the opportunity to do the right thing.


  

November 10, 2014

Take A Moment. Then Get Back To Work...

Last week I announced a very exciting event. Well, I am proud and incredibly humbled to report that my art exhibit was a success! Truly a magical evening full of old friends, new friends, fantastic food, and equally spectacular cocktails. The art was the catalyst, but the energy of the evening came from the overwhelming support and generosity of the community.

In order to put the end goal in place in less than a week, many people came together to create a vision. When a plan falls seamlessly into place, there is nothing more gratifying.

In a time when we are all programmed to work 80 hour weeks while juggling family and community obligations, I would encourage everyone to give yourself a gift. The gift of taking a moment to stand back, reflect, and celebrate every success. Then put your head back down, and get back to work!

If you want to see photos from Friday's event, check out my website at www.juliemeulemans.squarespace.com

November 3, 2014

Be Careful What You Wish For...




For as long as I can remember I have written, painted, cooked, and dabbled in fashion and design. Basically all of my passions allow me to create something out of nothing. While they are all different, they have one common element. Layering! Layering color, layering flavor, layering thoughts, not to mention the energy that elicits emotion and happiness. 

Am I a trained chef? Nope. An artist with a fancy art degree? Oh no! Did I attend Parsons and glean my technical skills from fashion icon Tim Gunn? I wish! Basically, I sat up, paid attention, and worked really hard to become proficient at the things that I love to do.

As our kiddos navigate their way through life trying to figure out what they are going to do, I still continue to ask,"What do you love?" Because if you follow your passion and allow yourself to dream the dream, you might just be surprised.

With that said, I am thrilled that the extraordinary Epiphany Farms and Anju above will be featuring a gallery of my paintings this Friday as part of the Bloomington Art Walk. So if you find yourself in Central Illinois, please come by and enjoy a lovely evening.




October 28, 2014

Breakfast For Dinner...


Don't you just love breakfast for dinner? For some reason preparing pancakes and eggs as the sun goes down seems to elicit a hunker down, cozy, sit by the fire kind of evening.

As many of you know, I have spent the better part of the year dumbing down my diet. Ultimately eliminating, shall we say, anything good! So...I went to work to study creative ways to satisfy my desire for things like brunch, dessert, and an afternoon snack that does not include a sad lonely stalk of celery.

Today I am sharing my decadent breakfast for dinner discovery that will also tick the boxes for those of you who are seeking gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and dairy-free options.  On the menu today will be pumpkin pancakes with berry chia seed compote and sweet potato hash cakes topped with a poached egg or two.

Pumpkin Pancakes Topped With Berry Chia Seed Compote~
  1. 1/4 cup pumpkin puree (make sure you don't get the sweet stuff by mistake)
  2. 3 tbsp almond milk (or any milk substitute of your choice)
  3. 1 tbsp honey
  4. 3 eggs
  5. 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted, plus additional for pan
  6. 1 tsp vanilla
  7. 1/4 cup coconut flour
  8. 1 tsp cinnamon
  9. Pinch of nutmeg
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
  11. 1/4 tsp baking soda
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients – the coconut flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda. Then in a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients – the pumpkin puree, almond milk, honey, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir together until just combined
  2. Heat a griddle or non-stick skillet to medium heat. Coat pan with coconut oil. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet. Cook for 2-4 minutes until the bottom is cooked through, and then flip. Cook for another 2-4 minutes until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm and enjoy. (You can keep the pancakes warm in the oven if the rest of the meal is not quite ready)

Berry Chia Seed Compote~

In a sauce pan combine four cups of berries (fresh or frozen) of your choice. I use a combination of raspberries, cherries, cranberries. Basically, whatever is on sale. As they start to cook down, add 2 TBSP chia seeds, a teaspoon of vanilla, and 3 TBSP of coconut nectar. I use coconut nectar because it is the least sweet sweetener available. You could always opt for agave, maple syrup, or even sugar. Continue to cook on low heat while you are preparing your pancakes. It takes about 20 minutes. When the compote has the appearance of jam,you can put it in a mason jar or other container and set your fancy condiment aside for dinner. The berry compote will also keep nicely in the refrigerator for later. I always try to have some on hand, using it in lieu of jam!

Sweet Potato Cakes (with an optional poached egg on top)~

1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
1 medium onion
2 large eggs, beaten 
1/3 cup flour (I use coconut flour to make it gluten-free)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Extra eggs if you decide to poach a few as toppers for your hash cakes
oil for cooking (I use coconut oil. you can also use olive oil)

In a food processor fitted with a grating disk, shred sweet potatoes and onion. Transfer to a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. combine well.

Form each patty with approximately 1/4 cup. I cooked them on my griddle, first melting a bit of coconut oil to prevent your yummy cakes from sticking.

If necessary you can keep them warm in the oven until the rest of the meal has come together. As an optional addition, you can serve your potato cakes with a poached egg on top.



Be sure to let me know if you try this yummy supper. Honestly, it takes very little time and your family will love it!

October 21, 2014

Dear Oprah...


Dear Oprah~

I am a few short years from turning 50, which means that I have grown up in the lucky generation to have had the privilege of following the inspirational wave of Oprah. The daily talk show, the magazine, Sirius/XM Radio, the highs, the lows, the overall message. A few weeks ago I received my monthly issue of O Mag. On the cover was another glossy digitally enhanced version of Oprah. Yet on the inside of the back cover I found the Oprah we know and love, passing along magical nuggets of wisdom that you are taking to the masses as you deliver your message from city to city in Oprah's the Life You Want Weekend.

Here's my problem. You have spent your adult life inspiring and challenging women and girls to dig deep and tap into our authentic selves in an effort to discover our own unique passion that will hopefully propel each of us to find our Why in life. What do I mean by Why? Basically the underlying talent, gift, or whatever you call it that allows us to contribute our purpose to the world. The deep seeded thing that makes us intrinsically special.

I get that you purposely conclude each publication in a way that gives the reader a final thought to take away.  I just wish that the last page matched the front cover. Honestly, when I look at front cover Oprah and back page Oprah, they are two different people. As a leader, who has followed her own path in life, when will back page Oprah find her way to the front cover. Your audience identifies with the woman on page 168. While the glossy image on the front continues to perpetuate the fact that women and girls should strive to emulate a photoshopped, shimmery, unattainable image.  For what it's worth, I would prefer to see page 168 greet me rather than an image that sort of looks like a version of a woman who has single-handedly changed the lives of millions.



Best,


Julie Meulemans

October 13, 2014

We All Need A Hand Up From Time To Time...



Yesterday I stood in line at Michaels for what seemed like an eternity. I had a thousand other important tasks on my list, quickly regretting my choice to redeem my soon-to-expire 40% coupon. While jockeying my purchases in an effort not to drop the whole lot, I just happened to glance to my left. The most adorable teenager was standing behind me. We inadvertently locked eyes and both simultaneously smiled. I was smiling at her terrific style. On a crisp fall day, she was sporting a super cute knit hat to match her funky outfit. She likely was laughing a me trying not to lose my load of purchases.

Out of nowhere she nervously fidgeted and said, "I hope I don't smell like smoke. My parents smoke and I hate it."

"Not at all. Love your hat, by the way!"

It was at that point that this sixteen-year-old young women sought me out for something I was not prepared for. She must have felt a motherly presence or something because she offered up the fact that she couldn't wait to leave her parents ashy den to go to college.

"What do you like to study in school?"

"I want to be a writer. I just don't know exactly what I want to write yet," she said.

"That's terrific. You'll figure it out. Be open, work hard, and you will find the path that you are meant to take in life."

"But my parents and grandmother think I should know exactly what I want to do."

"I personally don't believe that a teenager is meant to know because you have only experienced a fraction of the world in your sixteen years."

"That's what I think," she said with a huge smile.

It was at that point the next cashier was available. I turned and wished her the very best of luck in her endeavors.

"Thanks for listening to me," she said in a way that made it seem that I may have been one of few people to encourage her to follow her passion in life.

I can't help but think that from time to time we are ushered into situations for the sole purpose of empowering a stranger in line at Michaels, a child who needs some guidance, or a neighbor who needs a friend. You never know when a few kind words might just make the difference in the life of someone who was otherwise lost and moving ahead blindly in life.

Like many I am guilty of blowing through my days without paying much attention to the strangers around me. But when I slow down (by choice or because I'm stuck in a long line at Michaels) and then have an unintentional interaction like the one I had yesterday, it is a reminder that connecting to people emotionally is so incredibly rewarding.


October 6, 2014

Have You Noticed Something About The New Fall Season of Television? Could The Tides Be Turning...



Is it just me or are we seeing more female television characters assuming powerful roles, ultimately relegating their male counterparts to play the supporting partner?

Three of my top favorite shows this season are Scandal (of course), How To Get Away With Murder, and Madam Secretary. It occurred to me last night that each of the programs not only portray smart capable women masterfully succeeding in powerful positions, but the men in their lives are the caregivers, the seekers of emotional and professional support, and the underlings competing for professional advancement.  

As our media evolves and diversifies, will the end result ultimately empower our young women and girls to follow suit? Changing the vernacular, reversing roles, and accepting unconventional relationships hopefully will continue to be commonplace and not the exception to the rule.

I found the following piece a few years ago. Every time I read it, I ask myself how I will be remembered. We can all agree Olivia Pope's Epitaph would be spectacular. What about you... 



                                                           
Would it be okay if your gravestone read: “She was an exceptionally mediocre woman”?

If your eulogy went something like: “She followed every rule with precision. She rarely made a mistake and was a great champion of the status quo. She never ruffled any feathers, took any great risks, suffered any great loss. She always operated within the bounds of appropriateness. She had the love and acceptance of her community, family, and friends, though no one knew her. Her life was smooth sailing because she never rocked the boat. She contained her passion, her dreams, and her danger enough that they could call her a good woman”?
For some, that would be enough. But not for you.

Your epitaph will begin: “She redefined what it meant to be a good woman.”
It will say: “She scaled mountains, in hiking boots and in heels. She started in her own backyard and then went all the way around the world. She accepted challenges with curiosity and determination. She emerged victorious regardless of outcome, knowing both the pleasure of success and the grace of failure. She tasted long hot days and cool still nights, at home wherever she found herself. She wasn’t always popular, but she was always true. She wasn’t always comfortable, but no one can say she didn’t enjoy her life. She explored her edges, increased her capacity, and lived as big as she could dream. Moved equally by bliss and pain, she played her heart out one moment at a time. She was dialed in. She was courageous. She was turned on.”

September 29, 2014

I dare say...: What The Frack...

I dare say...: What The Frack...: This is another rerun, as I have been working tirelessly to complete a writing project that has been consuming much of my time. If you miss...

September 22, 2014

September 11, 2014

I dare say...: An Unsung American Hero...

I dare say...: An Unsung American Hero...: The following is a re-post from last year. This day will always bring sadness and memories that forever changed this country. It was also ...

September 8, 2014

Spice Up Autumn With A Slippery Elm Latte...


Slippery elm is a herb that comes from the inner bark of the slippery elm tree, which is typically found in North America. The medium-size tree produces a medicinal element that can be ingested in a variety of forms. Some prefer a pill, others a liquid, and some use the powder to achieve its benefits.

In case you are wondering why you might consider adding a new herb to your diet, it contains a vast number of health benefits. Among them are relieving a sore throat, improving skin issues, and aiding in digestion. I happen to prefer the powder form and use it as the base for my afternoon latte. It has become an afternoon treat that I look forward to, tasting more like a spiced chai latte than a boring old cup of tea!

As always there are a few things to consider when consuming any herb or supplement~the side effects and interactions. As for side effects, there don't appear to be any to speak of. However, it is recommended that you wait two hours before or after taking any other supplements, as it can slow the absorption of other herbs or vitamins. It makes sense because the intent of slippery elm is to coat and soothe. So by coating and soothing everything in its path, other herbs can't pass through as quickly or efficiently.

Today is your lucky day because I am sharing my recipe with you. I hope you like it as much as I do. Happy sipping!

Boil one cup of water in a pan. Whisk one tablespoon of slippery elm powder. Keep whisking and add 1/2 cup milk of your choice (I use coconut milk ), one tablespoon of a sweetener of your choice (I use coconut nectar), and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. When everything is combined pour it in your favorite mug and top with a little nutmeg. Less than 100 calories and just as satisfying as one of those $5.00 fancy lattes at your favorite cafe.


August 25, 2014

Silver...


I recently connected with Bay Area photographer, Vicki Topaz, who is a champion of women, aging, and the wisdom that comes after years and years of life experience. Her site is called Women on Aging and she posts daily pics and articles on Facebook. Sometimes recognizable celebs, and sometimes of a beautiful woman walking down the street. She was kind enough to feature an article I wrote a few years ago.

If you are a woman of a certain age, and share my total respect and admiration for the wisdom and beauty that come with age, you can "like" her on Facebook, too!



Writer and artist Julie Meulemans, age 47, authored an article "Proud to Be Pro-Age and Pro-Grey," published in MORE. About her silvering hair, she says,
"Since making the decision to let my locks go silver, I have not only grown as a person, but in every other aspect of my life."
Great article...
http://www.more.com/member-voices/your-stories/proud-be-pro-age-and-pro-grey



August 18, 2014

Emulating This Incredible Philosophy Is My Life Goal...



You may recognize the fantastic Iris Apfel. She was born in New York, but has been a longtime San Francisco resident, known worldwide for home decor, her beyond amazing ability to accessorize, and her specs. She is 92 years old, and still a mover and shaker in the world of fashion and home design. I came across a short snippet that gave me such a smile. I hope you enjoy this special woman too!



www.nytimes.com/.../iris-apfel-on-the-meaning-of-styl...
Dec 31, 2013
Earlier this year, the 92-year style maven sat down with T editor-in-chief Deborah Needleman for ...


August 11, 2014

Who Says You Can't Have A Chocolate Milkshake...


Over the course of the past few years, I have eliminated dairy, refined sugar, and gluten from my daily food options. Initially it was hard to find desserts that tasted rich and decadent. But recently I developed one of my most favorite treats that actually serves up a healthy dose of vitamins and other good stuff that Dr. Oz tells us we need in our diet.

Few people can say they don't love the marriage of chocolate and mint together. I also happen to love a milkshake, and finally have found just the right ingredients that come pretty darn close to duplicating the rich goodness of my favorite frozen guilty pleasure. Oh! And it's only 300 calories. Curious? I thought so. Without further ado, here's my newest craze. Indulge and let me know what you think!

1 large frozen banana (1 1/2 if you are feeling especially crazy)
1 cup almond milk
3 heaping TBSP unsweetened cacao powder
1 heaping cup fresh mint
1 or 2 TBSP sweetener of your choice (I use coconut nectar, but you can also use agave)
1 TBSP cacao nibs

In a blender combine the first five ingredients. Once blended mix in the cacao nibs. Enjoy!


August 4, 2014

Scary But True~Part II...



A year and a half ago I wrote a blog that has been read and passed along by hundreds of people. It gave the terrifying real life reality of Rohypnol, otherwise known as "roofies." Today, I am writing about an increasingly popular drug that can literally be found online or in your local gas station. Sadly, this synthetic pot substitute is both legal and passed off as an easy way to get a cheap quick high.

Labeled potpourri or incense, the herbal substance is treated with a variety of chemicals. While the small print typically states "not for human consumption", young users are ignoring the warning in an effort to seek a high similar to pot. The street name is Spice. Although, it is sometimes referred to it as K~2, and it is literally falling through the cracks. Because it is legal, the police have no jurisdiction over its distribution among minors. Some gas stations have made the decision to only sell the product to those over the age of 18, but most have elected not to comply because it is a perfectly legal product in this country.

So, why are teens so intrigued? The one thing that is known is that when it is smoked, it is virtually untraceable to a drug test. Typical users will derive benefits of calm and relaxation. Although, others will sadly suffer from the brain or their internal organs immediately overwhelmed by its toxicity. If that happens, the effects are fast and irreversible. For unlucky users, the chemicals will adhere to the brain's receptors, and anything from psychosis to death are certain.

Unfortunately, herbal substances in general have become widely accepted as a safe alternative to prescription medication. I can't tell you how many bottles of herbs and vitamins I have that clearly state that the FDA has not evaluated the claims made by the manufacturer.

This is just my two cents for today so pass it along to your own kiddos or any other tween or teen in our life. After all, it takes a village...






July 28, 2014

Don't Call Them Dropouts...


With every passing year, the global discussion about educating our youth continues to be a hot topic of conversation in the news, in editorials, and in our individual households. For many of us, it is the march to higher education, cognizant that there will always be the sliver of America's children who, for whatever reason, won't make it to their senior year in high school. They are typically referred to as "dropouts." A term coined to segregate anyone who inadvertently falls by the wayside between grades K-12.

Recently, Ed Rust, who is the CEO of State Farm Insurance Companies, spoke out about this issue. State Farm as a company has become a voracious supporter of America's Promise Alliance, which is an organization comprised of men and women, who have made the commitment to assist and supplement the needs of school age children and their families in order to remove the individual obstacles that might otherwise make graduating from high school an impossible goal.

According to Rust, he throws down the challenge to change the vernacular. Deeming the term "dropouts" as unfair when families are sadly plagued with limited options due to a variety of unavoidable circumstances. Instead of dismissing this growing sector of our youth, he embraces the idea of reaching out to empower struggling families and children. Ultimately giving a hand up to those who might simply need something as simple as a pair of shoes, a winter coat, or supplies to make learning more feasible.

It has been my privilege to volunteer for this incredible organization for the past year. If you have been looking for an opportunity to give back in your own community, I would encourage you to check out America's Promise Alliance. It is a worthy organization, and is successfully making a difference one child at time.

I have linked Ed Rust's recent speech, as well as a very inspirational video from the documentary entitled "Don't Call Them Dropouts."


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CAVvQ12AdLM

http://gradnation.org/blog/let's-change-our-language-and-our-actions

July 21, 2014

Is A Pound Really A Pound...



It seems like every other day a new study comes out on nutrition or a fitness expert declares the newest fitness craze that will change our lives forever. I have always been confused about the issue of muscle vs fat when it comes to the scale. Is it really true that muscle weighs more than fat?

A friend of mine passed this article along the other day, and I thought it contained the clearest explanation of the issue of weight. It is so much more involved than the number that pops up on the bathroom scale.  Healthy reading!


http://bamboocorefitness.com/one-pound-of-fat-versus-one-pound-of-muscle-clearing-up-the-misconception/

July 14, 2014

I Thought I Was Going Through Menopause. Turns Out I had E. Coli...


This blog is a do as I say, not as I did. For the better part of this spring, I felt horrible. My symptoms were fatigue, listlessness, cranky, unable to tolerate certain foods, night sweats, and a weird seven pound weight gain that came out of the blue. I looked at my list of complaints, and figured the time had arrived to acknowledge that I might be entering a "new phase" in my life. So I decided to do what everyone does when a pesky medical condition pops up. I pulled out my trusty iPad, and consulted the Mayo Clinic website, which sadly assured me by the list of typical menopausal symptoms that I was indeed joining the millions of women in the march toward "life part II..."

As a family trip out of country approached, I thought it best to rule out anything serious, as my symptoms were becoming increasingly invasive to my daily life. A simple test would later reveal that I had been suffering from E.coli, and not menopause. A very anxious phone call from the doctor on a Saturday evening advising me to put my dinner fork down and drive immediately to the pharmacy for a potent antibiotic was the final catalyst that got my attention. Loud and clear!

Now that I am looking at the past few months from a rear view mirror, I am reminded again of the benefits and draw backs of our beloved World Wide Web. Julie's new rule~ shopping will continue, self-diagnosing is officially a thing of the past...

July 4, 2014

Don't Let Those Pesky Fears Sideline Your Potential...



For the better part of forty years, I have had two significant fears; horses and the ocean. Horses because I was thrown when I was in the first grade after my best friend, Missy Brown, invited me to join her on an epic ride. She was an expert rider, participating regularly in rodeos and competitions. She, of course had a real cowboy hat. Mine was the felt impostor that you could buy in the toy section at the pharmacy. Regardless, I felt like a real live cowgirl, nonetheless.  As the young boys and girls cued up to enter the arena for the opening ceremony where flags blew and patriotic music blared, Missy Brown and I proudly entered the spotlight. We managed to get about a quarter of the way around. Slowly picking up speed, I panicked and inadvertently kicked the horse so hard that it started bucking. Missy, being the experienced rider that she was, managed to remain unfazed by the event. Miss Fake Felt Hat, on the other hand, fell to the ground below like a five pound sack of potatoes. Because we were basically leading the other riders around the circular stadium, I still to this day have a vivid memory tattooed in my brain of the remaining horses jumping over my paralyzed body like a mere speed bump in the road. I was not injured, just scared to f#@*ing death! Mrs. Brown eventually emerged, picking me up, trying to convince me that I would be okay. 

A few years before rodeogate 1973, I was at Pismo Beach with our family and some friends. I recall my mom asking me to please not go into the water past my knees. Naturally, I was hip deep in no time, and quickly whisked out with the strong undercurrent. My memory of  that day is being on the bottom of the ocean floor failing miserably to dig my way through the loose sand. I was luckily pulled from the water by a family friend, and never went into the ocean again past my knees.

I have happily avoided horses and dips in the ocean for forty years. Honestly, I could have continued the streak for another forty. Except for the fact that my teenage daughter recently requested a side trip on a family vacation to the Cayman Islands. The adventure involved riding horses on the beach, followed by the horse swimming into the ocean. No joke! The horse literally swims with rider teetering on its back in deep ocean water. 

After initially rejecting her request, I decided to spend the two weeks leading up to the trip changing my vernacular. Instead of using words like "no way", "crazy", and "forget it", I started saying to myself, "I can do this", "I am going to do this", and periodically phrases like, "I hope I don't die on a horse in the ocean."

Strangely, I felt calm as I began the journey. I'm not going to lie, I had a few moments of trepidation, but I am proud to say I did it! As you can see in the photos below, I simultaneously faced two lifelong fears in one afternoon. I have written on many occasions about the concept that your brain believes your words. We are conditioned as humans to tell ourselves a story. A story that becomes so ingrained in our brain that it eventually is like another appendage that we carry through life without further evaluation. 

What's your unwanted appendage?              







June 30, 2014

I Love A Good Manifesto...



I found this a few months ago, and got such a kick out of it! While my daughter is well into her teen years, I still have vivid memories of the hilarity that ensues as one prepares to become a parent for the first time. Bringing home your new little bundle of joy is a special time. It is also a time of chaos, hysteria, and becoming one with some really gross stuff.  Enjoy!



http://www.projecthappilyeverafter.com/2009/04/26-things-no-one-warned-you-about-being-a-parent/

June 24, 2014

I dare say...: Dare To Compete, Mrs. Clinton. Dare To Compete...



The following blog was originally posted last year as Secretary Clinton prepared to exit her post as Secretary of State. Six months later, we are still waiting for the Clinton hat to be tossed into the proverbial ring for the 2016 election. I thought it would be a timely blog to re-post. Thoughts?


I dare say...: Dare To Compete, Mrs. Clinton. Dare To Compete...: For the better part of a decade I have carried in my wallet an article.  I can't say exactly why, other than it resonated with me.  It ...

June 16, 2014

Who Can Say No To A Date...



If you read my blogs regularly, you know that I am always in search of finding the healthiest ways to enhance food. I said so long to refined sugar, dairy, and gluten long ago so finding options to naturally sweeten is always on my radar. My newest find is date syrup. It is simple, takes little effort, and will add sweetness to unsweetened yogurt, smoothies, or homemade granola. It's even a good way to kick up your morning coffee or tea instead of sugar.

So here's the skinny on dates. While packing a nice punch of natural sweetness, they are more importantly brimming with many rich nutrients. Among them are potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Three dietary elements that are often difficult to get enough of in our daily lives. Dates are, by no means, free of calories. But in comparison to other sweeteners, they are your best bet for an all around good option if you are looking to put a little spark into an otherwise bland dish.

All you have to do is combine 1/2 cup pitted dates, 1/2  cup water, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a covered bowl. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. The dates will eventually dissolve, becoming the most beautiful syrup. If you don't have 24 hours, you can let it sit for 8 hours and blend it. Keep it covered and refrigerated. It should last for a week (if you haven't gobbled it up already)!



Raw Date Syrup

June 9, 2014

There's Nothing Like A Well-Oiled Machine...




With all the distressing news that seems to emerge from high schools and colleges across America, I am bringing to you a little sliver of light and happiness from a Bay Area high school that has it going on! Larkspur is a charming town situated approximately 20 minutes due north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The local high school, which is also well known for producing years and years of academically stellar students, recently posted a video that includes teachers, administrators, and students from every possible sport and club in a most impressive rendition of "Let's Get It Started" by The Black Eyed Peas.  

The idea was originally inspired by a student government teacher at Redwood High, and the students took it from there. Highlighting everybody in a way that made one extra curricular activity no more important than the next. The fast moving impeccably choreographed performance ended with the whole school gathering together demonstrating collective school spirit that I haven't seen in a long time.

While the students were the clear stars of the video, I applaud the administration. Behind every well-oiled machine is a great leader. A leader that influences by example, and with high expectations. My guess is that the leaders of Redwood High are exactly that. Exceptional leaders, who empower their students to excel in every way!

Check out the link. It will make your day! Congratulations to the students of Redwood High for posting a great example of smart and creative school spirit.

http://vimeo.com/96967746

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tkj-eE99Dac

June 2, 2014

I dare say...: Scary But True...

I dare say...: 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 ...

Summer Reruns...


This summer I am going to be picking and choosing some previous blogs that I believe are important and necessary for everyone to read. There will be new ones sprinkled in for good measure, but some of the oldies should not be missed if you are a newer reader.

This week I am starting with one of my most read pieces. It is, in my opinion, one of the most critical blogs that should be read and taken to heart by all women and girls. The title is Scary But True. Please read it and pass it along to your community. I honestly believe that knowledge is power, and this is a subject that we cannot afford to ignore.


May 27, 2014

The Backstory Behind The Photo...


You may have recently seen this woman's photo on one of your favorite morning shows or passed along from a friend on Facebook, but did you ever get the story behind the woman? Me either! Until now, that is.

It's an incredible conundrum. The desire to be healthy and fit, offset by society's pressures, as well as the effort to convey to our young women that skinny and perfect are not the overall goal. I, for one, am totally impressed with Taryn Brumfitt, and her courageous steps to be an example to all women.

Thoughts?





www.upworthy.com/the-story-behind-one-of-the-best-before-and-after-photos-ive-ever-seen



May 19, 2014

Great Advice From A Terrific Woman...


Eat Pray Love was introduced to the world by none other than Oprah. She featured the longtime writer on her show, hailed the book a must-read, and ultimately propelled Elizabeth Gilbert to worldwide success. Not long after the release of the book, Julia Roberts was cast in the movie, taking viewers on an international journey to discover the true meaning of life.

You might think that given the opportunity to speak to a Ted Talk audience, Ms. Gilbert would speak about the importance of digging deep through the practice of yoga, striving for success at all cost, or some cool backstage moment with Ms. Winfrey. Nope! After a period of massive success, she talks about her subsequent failure. It is a great reminder that failing should never be the end of the story (pun intended)!


www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_success_failure_and_the_drive_to_keep_creating

May 5, 2014

A Mish Mash Of Awesomeness Part Deux...



A little over a year ago, I posted a blog about my favorite stuff. You know what I am talking about, ladies. The day in, day out, go-to rituals that get us through our busy days. I recently revisited my original blog, and decided to revise it. Some items remain tried-and-true, yet some have fallen out of favor. Ultimately replaced by a newer and better option.

Let me say this~I am, by no means, one of those overly obsessed lotions and potions aficionados, who spends pots of money on the newest and best products. In fact, I really try to find the most cost effective option; unless the more expensive product is so far superior that I cannot deny its necessity in my daily regime.

So, here it is, trusty readers. My 2014 gotta have it list! BTW~ The following opinions are unpaid and unsolicited by any of the companies that manufacture, distribute, or advertise my go-to gotta have it list. That's not to say I would be opposed to the notion of being properly thanked with an unexpected box of freebies!

~Face Wash and Moisturizer 

Murad offers up several terrific lines of washes, moisturizers, scrubs, etc. I have been using the Resurgence Line for the past five years, and it is fantastic for the forty somethings and older.  Balances hormonal skin, leaving it dewy and free of that pesky issue of midlife dry patches. It's a bit expensive, but a little goes a long way.

~Body Wash and Lotion

A few years ago my dermatologist let me in on a secret that is now over the counter. It is a member of the trusted Cetaphil line, and is so good it will make your skin as soft as a baby's tush! It is called the Cetaphil Skin Restoring Body Wash and Cetaphil Restoraderm Lotion. Trust me on this one!

Oh! For the cuticles, I have a new love. It is the Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. It took the place of my longtime love Healthy Hoof. Sadly, Healthy Hoof could not keep up with the scaly demands of my hooves.

~Hair Stuff

So, for those of you who know me, you know I am a curly girl. But, even if you're not, I highly recommend that you take a whirl on the Wen website. You've all seen it on TV. Chaz Dean going on and on about his amazing cleansing conditioner. Well, I am pleased to report that I have not used shampoo for the better part of a decade, and Wen is the replacement that has carried me through. If you want to get a real flavor of the Wen products, peruse the customer reviews on Amazon.
As for styling products, I have, and will always be a Bumble and Bumble customer. The Curl Conscious Defining Creme is my favorite, but they also offer up a variety of options depending on your hair type.

~Make up

Let me say this~I am not a make up lover. I wear the same few items every day, but they continue to serve me well. I have written on many occasions about a women, who is actually a friend. Her name is Cindy Joseph, and she created a small but mighty line of moisturizers and cosmetics. My favorite are her Boomsticks. I use them for cheek color and the shimmer on my eyes. They are easy to apply and look more natural than anything out there. If you want to purchase them you can do so by ordering directly from her website at www.boombycindyjoseph.com.  As for other favorites, I love the cheap but precise eye liner from L'Oreal Lineur Intense Felt tip (#620).  Easy to maneuver and stays where you put it. The best mascara is Benefit BAD gal Lash. Love the name, love the product.  No clumps, gets the job done. Recently, I have had pretty decent luck with some other products from Benefit. A dab of their creaseless cream shadow liner offers up a nice and easy bit of lid color. Now onto the brows. Or as I call them, my nemeses. Benefit's Instant Brow pencil and its cousin, Gimme Brow. Probably the best option out there for naturalish looking brows. Although, a tip for the young women. Don't overpluck! You might think they will continue to grow back, but they don't! For lips, I have always used the same gloss. My threshold is that I must be able to apply it in the car without looking, and this does the job. It is the ever popular Sugar from the Buxom Line at Sephora. While I prefer Sugar, there are tons of other colors, and it's not sticky and goopy like other glosses.

~Hair Removal

Let me start by saying that hair removal is by far one of the more vexing issues in a woman's life. While that may sound a tad dramatic, I know you agree with me. I went into detail in the first Mish Mash of Awesomeness blog. Some of it holds true, but I have kicked it up to a new level. So, here it is ladies. And this comes from years and years of good, bad, and ugly hair removal testing.

Face~ Only and I repeat only use Parissa Strip Free Hot Wax. You may want to buy a little plug in warmer. I have had mine for years, and it beats heating it up on the stove. Also, you will not find this at Target. You can find it on Amazon.

"Other"~ There is no better body wax than Moom Organic Tea Tree Hair Removal. You will need muslin strips, but honestly, it doesn't hurt. Plus, this is water soluble so any residual wax showers right off.

~Expensive But Totally Worth It

In the last few years, I have invested in two products that were expensive but awesome! The first is the Clarisonic Mia. A great ways to buff the icky stuff off your skin. I keep mine in the shower and use it with my regular face wash. I bought mine at Sephora, but you can find it at Nordstrom, too.

More recently, I invested in something that is still in my testing phase, but it is making the cut, nonetheless. It is called the Tria Hair Removal Laser. Naturally, my husband was utterly shocked when I told him I wanted this for my birthday. Although, after 19 years of marriage, he has finally learned not to ask too many questions, and just succumb to my must have holiday requests. Now, here's the deal. Lasers hurt, they are slow to work, and you have to be diligent. But, I am seeing a HUGE difference, and it's for life! Hairless For Life! That's going to be the name of the blog that I write when the laser phase of my life is over.        

So, there you have it. Use it, delete it, or forward it to a friend. Although, I will say this. At the end of the day, it's not about make up or beauty. It's about how you feel, how you make others feel, and working hard to contribute something positive to your family, your network, or your community every day.


oxox

Jules




April 28, 2014

Sit Up And Take Notice Because This Young Woman Nailed it...


Say what you will about our emerging youth, but an interesting phenomenon is taking shape among our next generation. Yes, the entitlement issue is a frustrating one.  And yes, our tweens and teens are moving forward and upward at a rate that far exceeds any previous generation. But let's face it, our parents probably said the same thing about us when we were young.

With the advancement of technology and digital media, we have essentially embedded the issue of rapid progress into their psyches since birth. As a result, we have inadvertently created a culture of informed, enlightened, and strong-minded individuals. Granted, with this comes the unfortunate issue of perpetual distractions like Candy Crush and selfies.  But also, they are the recipients of a constant information stream that is causing our young adults to assimilate massive amounts of information, and feel empowered to pursue it, question it, and own it.

What do I mean by this?  I am pleasantly surprised and pleased by the courage of our youth.  They are putting themselves out there, coming out as gay and lesbian, questioning what they see at home or in the world, and generally speaking their minds without first consulting the social and political opinions of their parents. Naturally, it is perplexing at times, considering the fact that their minds have not yet fully formed! Yet, it is encouraging, nonetheless.

The attached video I found to be an interesting example of the courage and conviction that is finding its way to the forefront of the next generation.  My prediction is that our current middle and high school students will be responsible for eventually changing the overall vernacular.  While they are temporarily incapable of separating themselves from their mobile devices, they are also doing something pretty amazing. They refuse to succumb to a generation that listens to familiar parental quotes like "do as I say and not as I do" or "children should be seen and not heard."

As a society, we have basically opened Pandora's box, but in doing so, we have also invited a new generation to stand firm for what they believe, speak frankly, seek acceptance, and own their true selves. The down side is that it will be done in conjunction with a barrage of  selfies and photobombs...

http://www.upworthy.com/watch-a-student-totally-nail-something-about-women-that-ive-been-trying-to-articulate-for-37-years-6



April 20, 2014

Hunger Is Often Invisible To The Rest Of Us...



I just returned home from a beautiful Easter brunch.  We dined at a chic farm to table restaurant in our town. The spread offered up anything and everything from organic omelets to the most beautiful fruits and vegetables.

Sadly, the issue of hunger looms over the heads of millions. Unlike the physical reminders of so many health challenges that people face on a daily basis, hunger is the silent and invisible reality, depleting far too many Americans of the need for simple nutrition.

We often think of the underprivileged or uneducated sectors of society primarily needing help to supplement their food sources.  While this may be primarily true, there is a growing need for those, who are no different than you and me. Basically, a few bad circumstances can result in the loss of a job, depleted savings, and the inability to provide the basic necessities for a family.

The following video documents a very real example of unexpected families facing the issue of hunger in the Denver area.  A good reminder that we must as a country continue to rally behind those who might just need a hand up.



http://www.upworthy.com/what-happened-when-some-folks-in-denver-gave-cameras-to-people-who-cant-get-enough-to-eat?c=upw1

April 14, 2014

Hey! Don't Roll Your Eyes At Me...


For the past few years, I have been on a food mission.  Mostly, my family joins me in my quest for the healthiest ingredients. But behind my back, I know they are rolling their eyes at me much of the time. Frankly, I don't care because I have never felt better, and I am in the beginning stages of staring down 50.  Still a few years away, but it's quickly approaching!

This blog is going to offer up three of my favorite recipes.  Honestly, if you try them and hate them, I will be shocked!  They are not only easy, they pack a punch with all the good stuff that keeps you well-satisfied.

If you try all three, I will gladly send you a kicker recipe.  It is my super yummy vegan cookie recipe.  And NO, they are not a tasteless styrofoam fake cookies. They are a sweet treat that would gladly compete with the likes of anything you would find in your neighborhood bakery.


Pea Pesto

1 cup basil
1 cup mint
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 cups frozen or fresh peas
1 lemon (juice and zest)
salt and pepper

Combine basil, mint, 1/3 C olive oil, and lemon juice/lemon zest in the food processor. Saute 3 TBSP olive oil, shallot, and garlic for a minute.  Add the frozen peas and continue cooking on low-medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Add half of the pea mixture to the food processor and half in a bowl.  Process the peas then add to the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy any way you like.  I like it over an avocado for lunch.

Super Power Chia Bread

3/4 cups gluten free rolled oats
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pepita seeds (pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 cup water

Blend rolled oats in a standard blender until it resembles flour.  Combine with the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add water and mix together.  In a 9x9 pan place two sheets of parchment paper (one going each way).  Put the bread batter on the parchment paper and press down.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely on a cooling rack.  Slice into about 8-10 pieces and store in the freezer or refrigerator.  I like to toast it with earth balance spread. Yum!

The Best Granola Bar (sans the refined sugar and weird stuff)

1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups gluten free rolled oats
1 1/4 cup brown rice cereal
1/4 cup pepita seeds (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup organic brown rice syrup (be sure to get organic)
1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spread the chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.  Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine oats, rice crisp cereal, pepita seeds, cranberries, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir in toasted pecans.

In a saucepan, stir together brown rice syrup and almond or peanut butter. Cook over medium heat until the mixture softens and bubbles.  Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture over the oat mixture and combine well.  It is difficult to stir so you can use disposable plastic gloves and avoid the pain of mixing with a spoon or spatula.

Transfer mixture to a 9x9 pan with parchment paper  (two sheets~one going each way).  Press the mixture down.  I wet my fingertips since it is a bit sticky.

Put the pan in the freezer for 10-15 minutes and remove.  Cut into 12 bars and return to the refrigerator or freezer.  


P.S. If you are like me, you have a tough time with the jaw-dropping prices for organic groceries at your local markets. I find most of my organic ingredients from www.vitacost.com.


April 7, 2014

Do Our Minds Play Tricks On Us...



Memory is a funny thing. Details and experiences are so ingrained in our minds that we move through life certain that we recall past events exactly as they occurred. Although, we hear time and time again that when asked, groups of people recall specifics with a completely different lens after observing the exact same occurrence. As time goes by, our experiences are reiterated with the same narrative and cadence; further solidifying the specifics in our minds. Real to the person who claims to have experienced the event, and real to those who are the recipients of the story.

Last month I came across a Ted Talk that discussed this exact issue. Elizabeth Loftus is an expert in memory. Not maintaining memory, but rather, the study of fictional memories. She specifically discusses a case that took place in Seattle where a man was wrongly accused of a crime simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And all because the eye witness thought she recalled his face and vehicle near the scene of a brutal rape. Although, it turns out that the eye witness was wrong. Initially, she said that he was the closest, while looking at her choices in a police line up.  By the time the case went to trial, she claimed absolutely positively that he was the man she saw at the scene of the crime. Why? Because the story had become factual after repeating it over and over again. By the time she took the stand as the only eye witness, she had probably repeated her statement hundreds of times. Although, as you can see by the vignette posted below, it was a fictitious account of the events as they occurred. Not intentionally, but rather a story that essentially evolved over time, eventually solidifying the details through repetition.

I was reminded of a man, who was in my high school class. I didn't know him well, but I recall that he was smart and reserved. I remember being shocked after reading that he had been convicted of a horrific crime in our hometown of Salem, Oregon. It ended up being another example of wrong place wrong time. And sadly, he spent over a decade in prison before a local journalist turned private investigator proved that he was innocent of the triple homicide.

This case was slightly different than the case in Seattle. Turns out the owner of the property where the triple murder occurred was the prosecution's star witness. Her story, which later appeared to be just that, drew the eyes of the authorities away from the actual facts, and conveniently to an innocent man.

In 2010, Dateline NBC did an in depth story on this case called The House on Murder Mountain. It was like watching a movie of the week. Yet it was an actual account of the story, making me terrified to think that inadvertently being at the wrong place at the wrong time, coupled with a viable story from an "eye witness", could change the course of an innocent life.

As the study of DNA and forensic science continues to advance, a fictitious account, whether intentional or unintentional, is oftentimes discredited. Although, sans any viable DNA, our police and prosecutors have no choice but to rely on witness statements. A task that I would not want to be responsible for as a witness or depend on from others as an innocent defendant.

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


March 31, 2014

The Vegan World Is Not As Daunting As Some Would Believe...



For a little over a year, I have eaten primarily a plant based diet.  I would say I am about 80% vegan/vegetarian.  Other than occasionally supplementing with protein sources like chicken, salmon, and maybe the occasional slice of goat cheese, I am perfectly thrilled with the options out there for those who wish to partake.

I have written before about Angela Liddon, who has created an incredible vegan empire.  Like many of us, the Canadian cooking enthusiast began her struggle with food at an early age.  Eventually discovering that the vegan lifestyle was a far more healthy and kind way to nourish the body.

Angela recently released a cookbook that I have read cover to cover, and simply adore.  Her recipes are as beautiful as they are delicious. Even to the non-vegan!

While I would never guilt anyone to follow my lead, I would highly encourage you to at least check out her blog.  She is always posting new and clever ways to prepare food, and I have never felt deprived by the outcome.  If you like what you see, you may consider ordering her book.  It is called The Oh She Glows Cookbook and I highly recommend!
   


ohsheglows.com

March 24, 2014

The Joy Of Paying It Forward...


There is something so rewarding about the concept of paying it forward.  Last fall I received an email from a non-profit organization that our family has supported since the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.  The overall goal of the Sandy Hook Promise is to fund a common sense solution to the ongoing issue of gun control in this country.

In an effort to bring light to their cause, the nail giant OPI created a special green polish, and named it Sandy Hook Green.  A limited number of bottles were produced, and the proceeds went directly to the foundation.  I happily purchased a bottle, and decided to pass it along to the salon where I get my pedicures.  I told them the story, and said that they could use it in any way they saw fit.

On Friday I was thrilled to learn that, for the month of March, my terrific pedicurist is offering a promotion, with plans to make a donation for every person who paints their nails with Sandy Hook Green.

So, OPI paid it forward by producing the limited edition.  I paid it forward by buying it and giving it away. And the generous spirit of Nikki at the Girl Friday Salon is paying it forward by making a donation and educating those, who may not have otherwise known about the continued efforts of Sandy Hook. My hope is that those who participate in Nikki's special offer will continue the chain of paying it forward in their own way.

I love this stuff...




March 16, 2014

The Harsh Reality Of Paycheck To Paycheck ...



Last month I wrote a piece on the recent release of The Shriver Report.  For those who missed it, Maria Shriver and her team composed a collection of data and stories that provide a real perspective of the millions of American women and children, who are falling desperately near or below the poverty line.

In an effort to bring the written word to life, a new HBO documentary titled Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert, gives the viewer a harsh but accurate understanding of the everyday existence of millions of women and children.  And we're not just talking about a few million. We are taking about 42 million women and 28 million children, who are struggling every single day to make it to the next.

On Monday March 17th, HBO.com, ShriverReport.org, and YouTube will stream the documentary free of charge.  You will be able to take advantage of this offer until March 24th.

I have posted the trailer, which will give you a flavor of this tough but very real subject.  Honestly, my hat is off to Maria Shriver, who is the Executive Producer of this film.  She serves up a painful reminder that we as a country cannot continue to allow this widening sector of society to remain unheard and ignored.
 

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

March 10, 2014

And Then There Was One...


Last week I wrote a blog about a couple of terrific students from Kansas City, Missouri.  They managed to exhaust the list spelling words at their county spelling bee that would ultimately determine which competitor would advance to the national stage.  After nearly six hours, the officials had no other choice but to call it a day, announcing that a runoff would take place at a later date to crown a winner.

I was especially encouraged as I followed what happened next.  Naturally,  the local and national media swarmed to report on the feel-good story of the week. But it was the collective response of the two participants, their families, friends, as well as the administrators from each of the schools that I found interesting to observe.  In a time when we are inundated with reality shows, social media, and wannabe super stars on YouTube, the folks in Kansas City spent the better part of two weeks showing respect to one another and focused only on the task at hand. In fact, one of the contestants told a reporter that it would be the final word, and not the opponent, that would ultimately beat one of them in the end.

Saturday March 8th a winner was eventually crowned after 20 rounds.  Honestly, they are both winners in this writer's book.  It never gets old when friendly competition is just that.  And there is no question that this behavior was modeled by the parents, the school, and the teachers.

Congratulations on giving America a fine example, Kansas City!