Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Skies of Istanbul, Turkey

Summer Skies of Istanbul, Turkey

Summer Skies of Istanbul, Turkey

Posted: 21 Jun 2014 07:32 AM PDT

1) View of the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet) from inside the Hagia Sophia.

2) View of the New Mosque (Yeni Mosque) from the Galata Bridge at sunset.

Photos by Lulis Leal

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Brazil as I remember it

Posted: 20 Jun 2014 10:18 PM PDT

The World Cup 2014 in football brings back my personal memories about Brazil. Whenever I see the sport events take place (Sao Paulo, Rio, Manaus, Salvador or Fortaleza) my memories about this country come back - unforgetable and vivid once again.

Amazing and artistic people enjoying life at any moment, sensual music, sunny and hot weather, tasty and healthy food, spacious beaches, mysterious and powerful jungle, make Brazil one of its kind in the world, second to none.

I am going to share these memories with CNN viewers and visitors by showing the pictures I took a few years ago.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

$40,000 Bottle of Wine

Posted: 20 Jun 2014 03:23 PM PDT

Wine enthusiast Gary Parker talks about the most expensive thing he has ever purchased... Check out my video where Gary shows his prized possession, Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947.


Gary Parker is the Owner at The WineSellar & Brasserie in San Diego where some of the best collectors in the world store their wine.


           Check out my other CNN iReports-



More about - Ch√Ęteau Cheval Blanc 1947 occupies a unique place in the pantheon of Bordeaux - it's arguably the single most famous wine produced in the last century in the region, and many critics and connoisseurs have rated it if not the "best" (a meaningless concept at this level), certainly as the most remarkable.


Michael Broadbent, the renowned British expert, writes in his book "Vintage Wine": Unquestionably one of the greatest wines of all time...incredibly rich, fat, ripe...mammoth concentration and sweetness...huge, soft, complete, rounded, fabulous, concentration.


The French wine writer Michael Dovaz says:
The invulnerable 1947 Cheval Blanc defies the laws of modern oenology. It resembles no other wine, though it comes closest to vintage port. Generosity, suppleness, power, licorice, cedar, plum, velvety tannins, an unequalled smoothness, and an endless finale.


The editor of European Fine Wine Magazine, Pekka Nuikki writes: Incredibly pronounced chocolaty, leathery nose, resembling port wine. Rich and ripe with great extract. The amount of almost overripe fruit was so appealing that it was hard to resist and not drink the whole bottle right away. A very gentle and soft wine, almost feminine in character. At the same time so powerful and masculine. It has everything a wine can offer in such a historical and exclusive package that it is challenging to find anything as stunning as it!...And the celebrated aftertaste. We can still sense it after two long days and nights. A perfect out-of-this-world experience.


The doyenne of British wine journalists, Jancis Robinson, describes it as follows: Still bright crimson. Tingling with life and excitement. Rich but reverberating - like celestial sweet Earl Grey tea. Floral, lovely and so FRESH! This wine floats across the palate. There's the most amazing transparency to it – it's not heavy yet it makes an extraordinary impression. Then the flavours develop on the finish in a peacock's tail of complexity. I honestly don't expect ever to taste a wine better than this.


And the hyper-influential US critic Robert Parker says:
The 1947 Cheval Blanc exhibits such a thick texture it could double as motor oil. The huge nose of fruitcake, chocolate, leather, coffee, and Asian spices is mind-boggling. The unctuous texture and richness of sweet fruit are amazing.  Consider the fact that this wine is, technically, appallingly deficient in acidity and excessively high in alcohol. Moreover, its volatile acidity levels would be considered intolerable by modern day oenologists. Yet how can they explain that after 47 years the wine is still remarkably fresh, phenomenally concentrated, and profoundly complex? It has to make you wonder about the direction of modern day winemaking.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Throwing a Rock Through the Five Year Window

Posted: 20 Jun 2014 11:02 AM PDT

Our journey began about 17 years ago when my son, Zachary, was two years old. He had been such a happy baby, unlike his brother who had suffered with colic and drove all of us to tears at times. He had developed rather nicely for the first year of life and even after that he continued to show up on the pediatrician's growth chart right where he was supposed to… so we were expected to believe that everything was right on schedule. At the age of 12 months Zachary spoke about 10-12 words and was interested in the things that most one year olds enjoy. But somewhere between 12 and 15 months something changed. The little boy who always wore a smile began to disconnect. As days went by, he rather quickly sank into a world where others were not allowed to follow. His eye contact diminished, repetitive hand movements emerged, sleeping for more than two hours at a time was a commodity and gradually one spoken word at a time faded from his lips, replaced with shrieks and the screams of frequent tantrums.


Like all "good" parents, we never missed our scheduled visit to the pediatrician's office to be told to stop worrying, stop comparing him to our other child and that his growth appeared "above average" according to the "chart". It wasn't til the day that a good friend who happened to be a principal at a school that had an autism program called me, struggling with every word, to tell me that she saw things in Zachary that she sees in her students. I swallowed hard, holding back the fears that I had been burying for months, and told her that the pediatrician said to stop making something out of nothing. She told me to go get another opinion.


It took all of about 5 minutes in the neurologist's office to give us a definite diagnosis of autism. Not PDD-NOS, not Asperger's, not high functioning autism, not developmentally delayed… but full-blown autism. How did my pediatrician, or me for that matter, miss that??? Denial, ignorance, fear, avoidance? Probably all of the above to some extent. Unfortunately with autism it's something that almost every parent goes through because no one seems to have any answers.


Once my head stopped spinning and my spaceship landed on this newfound planet, I remember thinking to myself "OK, I've got a LOT of work to do!" The year was 1997; we didn't have a computer in the home, I knew no one with a kid with autism, and felt totally lost and confused. Soon as reinforcements of childcare would show up, I would be off and running to the library and Barnes and Noble to grab every book I could find to unearth the answer I was looking for. It was nowhere to be found. Friends told me I was obsessing and told me to "Give it time, he'll come out of it." And while I thought "Ok, maybe they're right," there was a sinking feeling inside of me of "What if they're wrong and I'm wasting valuable time?" Then of course somewhere along the road I heard the words "You only have until he's five to make him "normal" then that window closes." Oh My God! I was panicked.


I learned everything I could about ABA; what it is, what it does, how it's implemented and how to take data within the shortest amount of time I possibly could…. After all, I only had a 3 year window left, right? The tv went off, the toys he played with inappropriately (spinning wheels continuously for lengthy periods of time) got put away and were used as rewards, data sheets were created and the bedroom of this toddler turned into a personal therapy center. Initially I developed and ran the "therapy sessions" myself, and after about a year was able to find a teacher's aid from a local school for autism to work with Zack. He started speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, swim therapy, physical therapy and this funky special needs diet that included no gluten or casein. And WOW… things really took a turn.


The therapies were all great, but still a struggle behaviorally. It wasn't until after a trip to a nutritionist who was recommended by a friend who had a child with ADD that things began to get easier. We started a GFCF diet. Now, I know that this diet doesn't do the same thing for every child or person with autism, but within 3 days my son began to sleep 10-12 hours a night instead of 3-4. Within a week, his bowel movements went from running outside of his diaper to nicely formed little nuggets. And within a month the tantrums that had lasted for hours on end, were still happening but lasted more like 15 minutes. Which in my world was AWESOME!


I happened to receive a speech and language therapy grant for a therapist who was at the time working out of her home. During the very first session, as my son sat (well not really) in his chair screaming at the top of his lungs to escape this horrific experience of being asked to repeat sounds, I cried with him and hung onto him like a mother saving her child from an attacking leviathan. The speech therapist watched this and sat back in her chair, then with all of the compassion in the world said to me "Speaking is the hardest thing that your son is ever going to learn to do. If you coddle, cry and feel sorry for him, little to nothing will be gained." At first I thought "What? It's my job to be his champion, to protect him from the hardships of life!" Then through her amazing kindness and support, I began to walk along my own journey of development.


I got Zack into a nationally recognized preschool for autism at Nova Southeastern University, which at the time was very clinical. His ABA therapy hours in our home were around 25-30 hours a week… all run by either myself, the teacher's aid or by a teen-ager I taught myself. I managed to get his speech and language, occupational, and physical therapy covered by insurance after much debate and appeal to my carrier. I quickly learned that EVERYTHING was so difficult to obtain. Why did it have to be this way and how did families who didn't have the connections that I did make positive change for their kids? They didn't.


My life became a whirlwind of autism and special needs. The harder I advocated, the more families I saw having amazing impacts to their lives. Not just in the lives of their children and their developmental progress, but to the family unit.


I was approached two years ago to be an editor for a brand new free magazine called The Autism Notebook. Today that magazine is the light in my day as families share their thankfulness for what it brings to their life and the life of their child.


So, back to Zack…. I didn't listen to that "You only have until he's 5" comment. Thank goodness! Zachary is my hero. He is one of the most dedicated, hardworking young people that I know. Despite his daily struggle with autism (and most recent diagnosis of seizure disorder) he has managed to make it through school to obtain a standard diploma. He is now in a local college studying film and editing. And just as of a few days ago obtained the Eagle rank in Boy Scouting. Each day is a new day for him filled with the opportunity to grow and develop, experience newfound interests and define his purpose as part of a global community. And after all, isn't that what we all want?

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

We Give Everything! But UP!

Posted: 20 Jun 2014 08:31 AM PDT

Pregnancy is an exciting time. The anticipation, planning, preparing the room, sonograms, baby showers, and the much anticipated birth. Every Mom dreams of having their first born daughter. They dream of their first steps, first birthday, first kiss, first prom, first love, and their wedding day. NO ONE EVER dreams of fetal stress tests, rhabdomyomas, SEGA tumors, brain MRI's, seizures, open heart surgeries, testing, treatments, or brain surgeries. NO ONE DOES. To say that "hearing the words "Tuberous Sclerosis" uttered for the first time is a not a dream but a nightmare," would be a gross understatement. My story begins at 34 weeks of pregnancy with my first born daughter, Kierstin.
It was April 2nd, 2005 when I walked into a Level Two Sonogram feeling "On Top of the World." I left feeling an overwhelming amount of fear, stress, and pain. An indescribable, immense fear that I have never encountered before or again since that day. Before I knew it, we were being rushed to Children's Mercy Hospital for further evaluation by the Chief Cardiologist. Though his English was broken, the one thing that was abundantly clear in any language was his words "we hope it is not Tuberous Sclerosis. This is a very grim diagnosis." The words "brain tumors, heart tumors, kidney tumors, mental retardation and there is no cure" were also spoken rather clearly. I can recall leaving the hospital and seeing a mom holding a young baby girl. She was covering her head and innocently playing peek-a-boo while the baby giggled. Hearing this sweet sound made me physically ill and before I knew it I felt my knees go weak and I collapsed to the floor in complete shock while eight months pregnant. The next four weeks are a complete blur as we tried to live in a state of denial, but reality set in very quickly. Kierstin was born on 05/05/05. She was induced with the anticipation of open heart surgery given large rhabdomyoma tumor growth. Though her heart was more stable than initially expected, we quickly received the dreaded diagnosis of TUBEROUS SCLEROSIS. All of her organs were affected at birth. We were devastated beyond words!
When researching TSC and talking with other families, I remember hearing things such as "most children don't have SEGA tumors, most children do not have eye involvement or kidney involvement at birth, etc. We learned that Kierstin had two SEGA tumors, she had eye lesions at birth in both of her eyes, countless brain tumors, several large heart tumors and several kidney tumors when she was an infant. Due to relentless seizures starting at eleven weeks she had two rounds of brain surgeries to remove large brain tumors. She has been diagnosed with TSC2 which we believe was a spontaneous genetic mutation. Once the seizures were controlled, we began battling the developmental delays and behavioral issues associated with TSC. Life with TSC has most definitely been a roller coaster ride with many unexpected twists and turns. If I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me "You are such a strong person, this must be why you were chosen to be Kierstin's mom." Being strong is the ONLY option. We refuse to allow TSC to define our daughter, but sometimes the twists and turns of this roller coaster are more than even the strongest person can handle!!
Parenting a child with special needs has been the most difficult challenge of our lives, while at the same time quite possibly the most rewarding aspect of parenting. Some days I become frustrated that I have a nine year who still puts toys into her mouth, cannot bathe herself or cannot button and zip her own jeans. But that level of frustration is not even comparable to the amount of pride I felt the first time I heard her say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the National Anthem or score her first goal in soccer. Still to this day, listening to Kierstin read me a story brings on the "Ugly Cry." We were told by doctors that she would never walk, talk, run, or sing. How can she possibly be reading me a Chapter Book? She is without a doubt a true miracle and we thank God each day for choosing us to be her parents. No one chooses TSC! No one wants their children to be born with medical and developmental challenges! But at the same time as much as I loathe TSC and the challenges we face because of it, I feel blessed because of the positives. I have met some of the most wonderful people through the TS Alliance staff, physicians, parents and adults battling TSC themselves, teachers, therapists who have given so much to our family and mostly to Kierstin. I have poured my heart out and gained commitments from senators and representatives who have become invested in TSC because of our advocacy. I have provided much support to new families who are walking down the same scary, terrifying path that I did only nine years ago. Because of TSC, I am the co-founder of the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance of Greater Kansas City. We have raised nearly $200,000 collectively in the past eight years through walkathons, golf tournaments, and other fundraising events. I have learned more about the brain, kidneys, heart, tumors, Epilepsy than I ever wanted to know. I have discovered patience within me that I never knew existed. I have learned the true meaning of "paying it forward" after so much love and kindness has been shown to us because of TSC. Kierstin has taught me unconditional love to a higher degree than I ever thought possible. Though my dreams of having my first born daughter are much different than today's reality, I wouldn't change her for anything. This journey with TSC is not quite the journey of my dreams. Though Kierstin is the daughter I have always dreamed of and I couldn't be more blessed!! We Will Give Everything! But Up!!

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now


Post a Comment