Archive for April, 2011

Best Gift I Ever Gave

Friday, April 29th, 2011


Here’s a riddle for you: what do you think was the best gift I ever gave?

Some clues:

did not cost me a cent
was given to a complete stranger
was a gift from both me and my daughter
I can never give again, but my daughter might be able to

The answer: umbilical cord blood.

My daughter recently turned 13. Thinking back on her birth reminds me of my decision to donate her cord blood. Back in 1998, cord blood donation was unusual. I learned about it from a friend whose little boy had cancer. He was treated with chemotherapy and was well for a while but the leukemia came back. His prognosis was not good, and doctors tried what was then an experimental treatment with cord blood. He recovered and is now enrolled at UCLA. He is an aspiring filmmaker.

A couple years after my friend told me about her son’s cord blood treatment, I got pregnant with Shea. I researched how to donate cord blood, found a place to accept the donation, and told my doctor how to do it. Now I feel a connection with all other mothers who made a similar decision. I know that together, we helped a doctor someplace searching for cord blood to match a patient in need. For 10 years I worked in PR at a medical school, and I got to know a lot of doctors and medical students. Donating cord blood helps doctors and patients in a way that no one else can, not even big drug companies or brilliant scientists. Cord blood, like bone marrow, is rich in stem cells. Cord blood even has unique qualities that can make it preferable over bone marrow for some patients. Researchers are still studying cord blood to learn about why it is so special and how it may help in other ways.

Donating umbilical cord is so easy–it is collected after the cord is cut so you do not even feel it! But because banking and storing cord blood is expensive, not that many places accept it. If you are pregnant or know someone who is, please read my hubpage on donating umbilical cord blood. It will answer your questions and help you make a decision.

My baby daughter soon after her cord was cut. We donated our umbilical cord blood.

My baby daughter soon after her cord was cut. We donated our umbilical cord blood.

Sculpey as Stress Balls

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011


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Polymer Clay Lets You Relax While You Create

Sculpey is kinda like a stress ball that lets you make beautiful things. Stress balls are those little bags full of a sand-like substance that you can’t put down without squeezing it a few times. They are often given out as promotional gifts and have smiley faces or silly designs on them. Massaging them supposedly reduces your stress and can even be used in physical therapy to strengthen muscles.

Sculpey is a brand of polymer clay, which isn’t really “clay” at all, but rather a concoction of polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and liquid plasticizer. It’s only called clay because you can mold it like clay and then “fire” it in your oven.

Sculpey and other polymer clay brands have long enticed me because they come in these appealing little 2 oz packages in beautiful colors. Over the years I would buy a couple packages and try it, but the clay always seemed so hard to manipulate. I’d get frustrated and give up.

In the last couple months though, I’ve become a big fan of polymer clay. I’ve made my first bracelet and pair of earrings with it, and I am thrilled. Now I can’t stop thinking of things I want to make out of Sculepy. The trick, I learned, is that before you try to mold anything, you have to condition the clay. This is why Sculpey is like a stress ball. To condition it, you have to knead it.

The warmth of your hands combined with the process of stretching and compressing the clay changes its texture, making it pliable. You must be in the right frame of mind to condition polymer clay because it requires patience. If you are in a rush, you are just going to get more stressed! But if you put yourself into a zen-like state of acceptance, you can work out the pressures of your mind as you work the clay.

Plus, after the clay is conditioned, you can make something cool! Manipulating the clay into art requires creativity and concentration, which can also be stress-reducing.

Here’s some images of my first attempts at making art with polymer clay. Credit is due to all the polymer clay artists who share their tips and tutorials on Youtube and websites.

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Turning 50 in the Caribbean

Monday, April 4th, 2011


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Turning 50 wasn’t so bad after all.  It’s hard to be bummed about anything when you are on a beautiful Caribbean island with warm sun, soft sand and crystal-clean turquoise water.  Especially after five months of freezing your butt off in freezing New Jersey while on sabbatical in Princeton.

caribbean20We decided to go to St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, for my birthday when I looked at the calendar and saw that it was the same week that Shea wanted to go back to California for Brooke’s Bat Mitzvah. I came up with the brilliant idea of putting Colman on the plane to CA as well, and John and I could go celebrate on our own.

(Poor Ginger had to go to a kennel. But we put her in the exclusive All Good Dogs kennel: costs twice as much, but no cages, no loud barking, no stink, and the dogs are actually happy there.)

Snow was falling as drove to the airport. We loved our week in the sun. This So Cal girl needed relief from the constant cold. Our cottage did not get cell phone reception and did not have wi-fi, so we got a break from the buzz of technology as well.  It was also our first real vacation without the kids, and we felt so blessed to know they were in good hands with trusted friends.

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We loved the vibe on St John and the beautiful turquoise water. The snorkeling was not on par with Hawaii, but still fun. My underwater camera bag did not leak, and I got pics of a stingray and a shark. We lucked out and stayed in a charming cottage owned by an artist.

What a great way to turn 50.

Pics of our trip are up at flickr.

If you are thinking of going to St. John, see my tips:

How to Find a Vacation Rental on St. John

How to Avoid Crowds at Trunk Bay

All About Coral-Safe Sunscreen


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