Saturday, May 10, 2014

Million Dollar Tree

Million Dollar Tree

Million Dollar Tree

Posted: 10 May 2014 01:11 PM PDT

Usually I visit the San Diego Zoo for the animals. This time I explore the wealth of the Zoo's accredited botanical collection during their 21st annual spring Garden Festival. The San Diego Zoo has more than 700,000 plants and over 900 different types of orchids!


Check out my video!

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To That Special Woman Called 'Mom'

Posted: 10 May 2014 09:15 AM PDT

It  was April 13, 1937 in Indianapolis, Indiana that Luther and Mary Powell  welcomed into the world a little girl, Sharon Lynn. That baby would  grow to be the woman I am proud to say is my Mom.

Yeah,  I know this Sunday is called Mother's Day, but mother just seems so  formal. A mother reminds me of someone aloof and removed. But a that's a woman that is warm, loving, understanding even if she  doesn't always agree or can't always fully accept all aspects of one's  life.

So it is with my Mom.

It  was just 17 short years after her birth she gave birth to a child of  her own, a boy. That boy grew to the man penning this report in  dedication to her.

Now  much more that a half century later, she is still very much a Mom to  me. She has been through a lot in her life, not just with me, but with  my 2 brothers who were born within 3 years of my birth, but also with my  sister who came along 20 years after me.

As  a son, it seems that we are always expected to get the cards, flowers,  candy or maybe a knick knack or whatnot. It has not always been easy  trying to come up with something different or out of the ordinary on  Mother's Day.

One year I did manage to find just the right gift. A gift that Mom to this day says is the best gift she ever received.

I wrote her a song and performed it for her in church one Mother's Day. The song was titled, "Mother, You Will Always Be a Saint to Me".

Not to make this too long, I will just share the chorus.

Mother, you will always be a saint to me

More fonder as the years go by

Then when I shall hear the call to cross on home

Mother you'll be there by my side!

The  smile of pride on Mom's face, the tears that Sunday morning at the  LightHouse Chapel in Dugger, Indiana while I sat at the piano and sang  to her gave me a feeling that I had finally given back just a little for  all that she has given to me.

From the Cornfield, that's the way we look at Mom each year with gratitude and appreciation filled with a heart of love.

To  all you Moms out there...this Sunday, my wish to each of you, "Happy  Mother's Day!" May your day be filled with love, joy and peace.

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First or Second. Does it matter ?

Posted: 10 May 2014 03:15 AM PDT

My biological Mother passed away when I was 11. Back then it was only my Dad & I.


You would see in children based storybooks that the stepmother is always the evil one. The one who would starve the child. The one who gives no attention. The one who is cruel and puts her 'own children' above her step daughter.


But the Mother who I have now is nothing like the storybook. She came into my life 10 years back. Instead of leaving me at a relative's house for their honeymoon, they took me with them as a family holiday.


I still remember, we were in the car during our long drive in India and I was getting awfully tired and I would eye her lap. Finally I mustered the courage to ask her if I could sleep on her lap & the rest is history.


Our years together so far included anything & everything. She has seen me during my good & bad times. In fact I am more close to her than my biological Dad. It's that powerful. For us, it wasn't a matter of acceptance but it was more of automatically getting involved in each other's lives without any force.


Sadly that particular storybook perception I mentioned earlier is still evident especially in India. I wish people can understand that step mothers do a lot for their family despite not being a biological one. In Indian culture, no one seems to accept a father & child unless the father marries a 'defect' woman as in widowed or infertile. They find it astonishing that a woman who hasn't been married prior and is in her late 20s marries a man who has a child. But she did it. Soon our family grew. I have two brothers now and she keeps everything in place & cherishes us equally. We run our family just like everyone else.


I know what my mother has done. She has evolved me into a woman with class. She has only wished me nothing but the best. And for that, I want to tell the world that these women are not 2nd class nor should they be regarded as one.


I do have a lot to say but at times feelings just can't be put into words. It is a hard process because I as I am writing this, I am reminded of the memories created between her & I for past few years. And I only wish to make more memories with her.

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Waiting for Waffogato

Posted: 10 May 2014 01:18 AM PDT

Yesterday, Dominique Ansel, pastry chef, bakery owner and creator of the Cronut™ launched his new creation to the public: The Waffogato, just one day before the one year birthday of the Cronut™. It's basically a waffle made of ice cream with espresso poured over it. And like everything in Dominique Ansel's Bakery, it's delicious!


What I learned in my hour and a half at Ansel's bakery is that the people who wait hours for cronuts or waffogatos at dawn aren't necessarily foodies or sweet tooths even. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes it's just something to do - at least once anyway.


The Cronut™ Project used NYC's hunger for Cronuts™ to help feed NYC's hungry - and raise over $5000 in just six days.


The Cronut™ is the unique pastry creation by Chef Dominique Ansel that many have described to be a croissant-doughnut hybrid. After its launch on May 10, 2013, Cronut™ fans spanned the world from Berlin to Singapore, making it the most virally talked about dessert item in history. Today, May 10, 2014 marks its one year birthday with no dip in popularity since day one.

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Hidden Depression Killed My Daughter

Posted: 09 May 2014 12:47 PM PDT

I have recently discovered that May of this year has been declared by our president as National Mental Health Awareness month. This is a great step for our country. There is so much that we as a society need to do in order to help decrease the stigma of mental illness and provide more teaching, programs, funding and education for those who teach and those who suffer from mental illness of any kind. I believe that calling awareness to mental illness in this way will move us into a direction where mental illness will no longer carry a great stigma and enable those who suffer to not fear getting help due to that stigma. But we have so far to go with this.


But I have a story to tell. A story about my youngest daughter Kaitlyn that cries to be heard because it so sadly shows what can happen to someone when they don't seek help for their depression for whatever reason, be it stigma, the fear that they will be seen as weak, the fear that having depression is seen as anything other than what it is….a disease, a disease that if not treated can end in death.


Just a little over a year ago, I was able to form the words and put into print a short piece about my daughter. I would like to share it with you now.


On April 11, 2013, I got the most dreaded call that any parent could ever get, a call from the police in the town where my 23 year old daughter Kaitlyn was starting her 3rd year of medical school at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. He said he had to talk with me about my daughter and that I had to go there to be told what he had to say. I begged this man to tell me then, as I would have a 3 and a half hour drive to Winston-Salem. My initial split second thought was, "Kaitlyn is in trouble! She's never been in trouble in her life," then my thoughts turned to other things and the blood left my body as he told me what happened.


He said that she was deceased.


I envisioned her getting into an auto accident and when I asked him what had happened, he said that she had taken her own life. My world and everything I've ever known came crashing to an end at that moment.

How could this have happened? My daughter seemed to be the most together person I have ever known in my life. She graduated valedictorian from Whiteville High School, graduated summa cum laude from Campbell university in 2 and a half years and got accepted to medical school where she could pursue her lifelong dream of being a doctor and she was doing extremely well in it. She had friends; she had just taken a Step One medical board exam that she felt she did well on. She was an artist, a writer, a poet, avid runner, she had common sense and was wise well beyond her years. She was excelling and seemed to have the world in her grasp.


I had just seen Kaitlyn the weekend before as she had come home for a few days for Easter. We had a wonderful mother/daughter day and we went shopping, out to eat and the movies. We had a wonderful time and she seemed totally happy. How could this have happened?


She wrote my husband and I a two page suicide note, (as well as letters to some of her friends and her sister Stephanie.) In this letter she stated that she had been sad all of her life and had worked very hard all her life to hide it and protect us from it. She said that she knew she would have been a successful doctor, wife and mother, but that she was exhausted from the weight of the sadness she has had all her life, could not go on, and this is what made sense to her. She stated that I might wonder why she had not sought help and that she did not know how to explain why she did not.


She was a high achiever, but we never put any pressure on her to succeed because she set these high goals for herself.


The reason I am writing this letter is to tell all parents, friends, or spouses, that no matter how happy someone seems to be, there may be a devastating depression within that they are hiding. Parents, ask your children from time to time, "how are you really doing" and make them talk about their feelings. As you do this, I hope that they are forthcoming with you, my daughter was not and we had a very good and close relationship.


I'm devastated by her loss, lost in a sea of "what could have been", the wonderful life that she could have continued to have had. But I celebrate her life, thanking God that I had the honor of having this beautiful being in my life for 23 years. But I wish I had more.


If this letter helps at least one person to come forward with their depression, or a loved one to ask about it and have that child open up to them, then it is worth it.

Rest in peace my beautiful daughter, the peace that I thought you already had. And as I've always told you, I love you bigger than the universe.


I wrote these words about a year ago now and since that time I have been thrust into a level of disbelief and grief that I did not know existed. In all my studies in nursing school, my experience in working as a registered nurse, and my own personal experiences, none of them taught me that severe depression could be so well hidden and that the person could be highly functioning until the day they took their life, which is what happened to my daughter. I knew all the signs of depression very well. I never saw a single sign in my daughter. My life went from thinking I had a daughter who was the happiest person on this earth to having a daughter that had taken her own life in a split second.


In my grief I began writing about her and developed a blog to help me release my feelings about her loss. I also did research trying to find out how anyone that showed no signs at all of depression could kill themselves. It was a hard search because all I mostly found was stories of suicide where the person showed definite signs before taking their life. I thought my daughter was unique in not showing signs but I soon found out that I was wrong. Slowly but surely I came to find out that there are many intelligent, highly functioning young people that are depressed and no one ever knows it until it is too late. Many times it starts in childhood.


My quest to find out answers resulted in my writing a book that has just been published, "My Bright Shining Star: A Mother's True Story of Brilliance, Love & Suicide." I wrote this book to honor my daughter and to give a warning to all parents, teachers, counselors and young people that depression can be hidden and that it is so important to seek help.


Here I am a year later after losing my daughter to suicide. I am just as devastated as the moment I learned of her death. It is my sincere hope that the Mental Health Awareness month and all that is supposed to be implemented with it will help our young people know that it is ok to seek help, that mental illness is a disease just like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer is a disease and if not treated as such, can kill you. It's not a character flaw, it is not a weakness, it is a disease and must be treated.


We need to keep pushing until the stigma that surrounds mental illness is totally stamped out for if it is not there will continue to be many, many more losses from suicide. There are already more suicide deaths in the US than deaths from automobile accidents.


My Kaitlyn would want this story told because for many possible reasons, she could never tell anyone about her own depression. My daughter's story cries to be heard to help others that suffer the way she did…to save lives.


Please tell someone if you are depressed. Parents talk to your children about depression whether you think they are depressed or not. You may very well save their life and not have to suffer and be lost in a sea of heartache and disbelief as I and many others are doing.


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I have been to all 50 States!

Posted: 09 May 2014 12:02 PM PDT

I set myself a goal of visiting all 50 states years ago when my family started traveling. We moved several times when I was a kid, so by the time I was 15, I had lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Georgia and California. With all the road trips involved in moving and family vacations, I picked up a bunch of "visited" states that way.

Then, as an adult I got a job that involved a lot of business travel. I racked up the states quickly, then got "stuck" at 45. I lacked Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and South Carolina. I moved to a different job and was no longer traveling on a company expense account. Bummer.

I waited a few years to visit those last remaining 5 states in the normal course of travel, but that didn't happen. It's not like you can drive through Hawaii on your way to somewhere else. I decided I had to be proactive.

First, I signed up for a cruise to Alaska. We flew to Juneau (check!), got on the ship and had a great time. The next year my husband turned 60 and told me that visiting Pearl Harbor has always been a bucket list item for him. Ha! I got tickets for Honolulu, reservations in Waikiki and off we went to Hawaii (check!).

In the meantime, we visited relatives in South Dakota, went to Mount Rushmore, and did a quick border run to Montana (check!). I don't really like border runs as I prefer to visit a state in a bit more depth, but since Idaho was still on my unvisited list, I figured I'd see more of Montana later.

In 2011 we went to Charleston, South Carolina (check!) and had a great time touring that beautiful and historic Southern city. We drove over to Greenville, via Columbia, and spent some time with a woman we knew in college. It was a great visit and we had a wonderful time. After South Carolina, we went to North Carolina, had dinner with a cousin I had not seen in years and visited a state that I had previously visited only by means of an airplane change at Raleigh-Durham. Now I was able to say I had visited North Carolina properly, as we went to Greensboro, Raleigh, Asheville and points between.

Now, I had only one unvisited state left: Idaho.

I have no particular reason to visit Idaho. No relatives, no long-lost college chums, no business contacts, no cruise destination, no historic battle scenes. I heard about a nice place near Lake Pend Oreille called Sandpoint, and reserved a hotel right on the lake. We flew to Spokane, rented a car and drove east. On May 19, 2012, we crossed the border into Idaho and I got my 50th state!

And, yes, we did drive into Montana and spent a day enjoying the beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers of Western Montana.

Some people think that state-counting is crazy. I don't. It has got me out of my house and given me a motivation to see places I've never seen and do things I've never done. I've also counted visited nations (40) and last year made it to my last unvisited German state Saarland.

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Save Georgia State University's student-run station, WRAS, from Georgia Public Broadcasting

Posted: 09 May 2014 11:24 AM PDT

In early May 2014, Georgia State University announced a partnership between GSU and Georgia Public Broadcasting. This partnership will split the programming of WRAS, GSU's 100,000 watt student-run radio station, in half. During the day, from 5am to 7pm, the station will be talk radio programmed by GPB. From 7pm to 5am, the station will be programmed by the university students.


This partnership was crafted without the input of any current or alumni DJs, and was announced very close to graduation, when the shift in station management would be at its most chaotic.


As a former WRAS DJ, this decision deeply saddens me and I'd like to share my story.


My first experience with WRAS was as an awkward outcast teenager in the middle of Barnesville, Georgia. A tiny town with no record stores, music venues, or any other places for a weirdo like myself to find her people. I'm sure my sister remembers me forcing her to listen to One Step Beyond as we were going to bed on Sunday nights. Ska was so cool! WRAS helped fuel my love for music and gave me something to latch onto in that awkward teenage phase. I grew to love it so much that it directly contributed to my decision to attend GSU. As soon as the first opening for DJs was announced during my freshman year, I signed up and did my first sit in with a veteran DJ. She let me pick one of her U-Picks which I promptly screwed up by selecting Bad Religion which was already in rotation.


This was the beginning of 4 years at WRAS and I loved every minute. I hosted The World Won't Listen, Cowtipper's Delight, Quintessential College Show, The All Request show, and probably a million hours of regular rotation. In fact, I delayed graduating by a semester so I could stay at the station just a little while longer. I became the PSA Director (the job everyone else hated) and between that, and the amazing grassroots community at the station itself, I was completely drawn into supporting community based, collaborative organizations. This directly led to the founding of MINT, a community based arts nonprofit that I have run for the past 8 years. WRAS gave me the confidence, the experience, and the wherewithal to do my own thing because we as DJs were doing our own thing (and succeeding!) every day.


Aside from the professional experience, I met many dear friends at WRAS. My boyfriend and I would not be together if it weren't for the station, and I count myself lucky to have met so many incredible people during my tenure there. While we all now live in different parts of the country and don't see each other nearly as much as I'd like, I love that these people occupied such a special time in my life. They say you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. If that's the case, then I was at my best during my time at WRAS.


I know the arguments for this agreement include the belief that it will be beneficial for the students in the long run. I STRONGLY disagree with this position. If WRAS' analog signal is limited to evening hours, it will no longer be a force to be reckoned with in the music community, both regionally and nationally. This agreement will effectively be the death of the station, and with that death, hundreds if not thousands of individuals will lose all the opportunities that I was so lucky to have. This "partnership" with GPB is simply a power grab from the students GSU should be training to be effective leaders. Great institutions beget great people, and I'm afraid that WRAS is one of the last bastions of greatness at GSU.


WRAS is so much more than a radio station. It's a community where people like me, the awkward small town kid, can find their feet, grow as human beings, and can make real contributions to the culture of the city. I hope that GSU decides not to honor the agreement with GPB. WRAS has shaped so many lives and has the potential to shape so many more.

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