Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Best Mother’s Day Present Ever

Sunday, May 6th, 2012 Weekly Promotion! Save on $25 Gift Certificates!



Mom. She does so much for everyone else. Isn’t it time she took care of herself for a change?


Fourteen years ago I became a mother in April, and for my first Mother’s Day in May I asked for a membership in an all-women’s gym. I worked full-time. My baby kept me up all night. I was a walking zombie most of the time. I was not sure I would have the time or energy to actually go to a gym. But I needed Me Time. We got a three-month membership to The Spa, Fitness for Women in Upland just to try it out.

What a Godsend the Spa became! When I stepped through the doors I left the hectic world behind. When those doors shut last year due to financial problems, I was devastated, as were hundreds of other ladies who had been going there for years. Some of us started a Facebook Page to connect. We were thrilled when we learned that a former owner was taking back the facility and was going to renew the place and open it up as Shirlee’s Fitness Club for Women.

Workers have been busy for four months improving the place inside and out, and Shirlee’s will be opening soon. The wait has been excruciating for many of us, as we want our exercise oasis back! (You can see pictures of the new Shirlee’s on Shirlee’s FB page.)

My baby girl turned 14 in April, and is now old enough to join the gym herself. When Shirlee’s opens, (hopefully soon), she, too, will be a member. High school brings overwhelming stress for girls her age: grades, extracurricular activities, and social life in the age of FB, for example. I am hoping that Shirlee’s become an oasis for her as well—a place where she can relax, recharge, and be inspired by women of all ages, shapes, and sizes supporting each other.

If you know of a mom who needs some Me Time, let her know about Shirlee’s. Maybe she can ask for a Shirlee’s membership for Mother’s Day.



Spa for Women to Re-Open in January

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Spa for Women to Re-Open Under Former Owner

When the Spa for Women unexpectedly shut its doors last month, hundreds of Inland Valley women were left without a gym. As I posted here, many of us grieved the loss of a low-key, all-female gym that felt like home.

Spa owners shut down the place with no warning to employees or members and with no communication afterwards about whether the gym would re-open and if so, if our memberships–many of which were paid years in advance–would be honored. The Spa did not update its website or give any of us the means to communicate with each other. That’s why I started a Facebook Page, Bummed About the Spa for Women in Upland Closing.

I am happy to let you know that the answers to many questions Spa members have can be found in posts in this FB group. The biggest news is that Gary, the owner of the building and equipment, has announced that he will be re-opening a new and improved Spa in January. The FB page also has lots of offers from local gyms for free trial periods. Some of the Spa instructors have let us know where else they teach as well.

Gary says he cannot afford to honor our existing membership cards at face value as his investors need cash flow, but he is offering discounted rates, depending upon how many years you had left on your card and whether you had pre-paid for other services, such as training etc. He seems sincere about trying to offer members the best deal possible, and he seems committed to re-invigorating the Spa. He is also making an effort to reach out to members to let them know what is going on and to solicit their input. His outreach is a welcome relief after weeks of no information at all about what was going on.

The FB group has lots of information about the Spa’s closing and reopening and about your options. It also offers a way for you to communicate with other members. To join, go to the group  Bummed About the Spa for Women in Upland Closing then ask to join. I think any existing member of the group can also add other friends.

I hope this information is helpful.


Related post: Spa for Women in Upland Shuts Doors: Now What?

How to Stop Ads Based on Your Browsing

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011



Do you think it is super creepy when you computer seems to know what you’ve been up to? Let’s say your 4th grader is doing a book report on, say, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa,  He spends a few hours Googling using keywords relating to the mission.  Next time you use the computer to buy something, you see in the checkout recommendations on books relating to the mission!   How did that happen?  Then you notice about a bazillion ads for wrinkle cream popping up. . . . how did the computer know you are a middle-aged woman?

Turns out it’s cookies: digital tracking beacons fed to your browser by websites you visit. These cookies allow a company you never heard of to keep track of you and market to you.

No, you never signed up giving permission to be tracked.  Who would?  But to get it to stop, you have to opt out.

About a month ago, I figured out how to opt out–it is super simple–and magically, the creepy Big-Brother marketing stopped!  What a relief.

Today’s LA Times article “Ad Companies Have Their Hands, or Cookies, in Your Browser,” gives a great overview on how these cookies work and how to get rid of them.  The article recommended checking back periodically to make sure your opt out is up to date

I went back to the opt-out site today, and sure enough, I found a few more ad networks I needed to opt out of.  A few clicks and I turned off all those nasty behavioral tracking cookies again.

Seems silly we have to opt out rather than opt in.  But it is easy to do.  I recommend it.

Bad enough that all the retail stores now have loyalty cards that track everything we buy, and Facebook keeps track of God-only-knows what about us.  We don’t need Big Browser giving away secrets to marketers as well.

Save with coupons! They really do work and you can save over half off at a restaurant near you!

What to Wear to the Revolution?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

It didn’t take long for the masses to try to make money off the movement.


Print-on-demand (POD) sites like Cafepress and Zazzle now have a bazillion versions of “I am the 99%” t-shirts and other power-to-the-people products. What to make of all these people trying to cash in? Are they crass capitalists undercutting the whole ethos of the Occupy idea? Regular folks (out of work? underpaid?) trying to pay the rent anyway they know how? Or creative artists supporting the message while supporting themselves?

Maybe a little of each. But I’ve decided the marketing of Occupy is OK as long as the t-shirts and bumper stickers and cups are coming from individuals, not corporations with highly compensated executives. In fact, I’ve whipped up a few Occupy designs myself.

One thing I like about buying off the POD sites is that at least you don’t end up with a huge corporate logo all over your chest. What’s with that anyway? T-shirts should belong to the proletariat, shouldn’t they? T-shirts started out utilitarian in the early 1900s when the Navy issued them to sailors. By the time the Depression rolled around (the early one, not this one) the comfy, cheap shirts were de rigueur for farmers and others who worked outside.

The plain white t-shirt look became popular with guys after World War II (Think Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire). In the 60s hippies discovered the tee made a perfect canvas for tie-dye, and in the 70s it became popular for slogans.

Brooke shields jeans pic

But by the 1980s companies were plastering their own logo on the outside of clothing. This unfortunate trend started with stitched crocodiles and polo ponies on the chests of preppy men. When Calvin Klein’s name famously appeared on the jeans pocket of young Brooke Shield’s butt, retailers learned consumers would pay double for the “status” of conspicuous designer labels. No matter that flaunting your wealth is gauche, logos quickly found their way onto purses, sunglasses, flip flops and especially, t-shirts.

Nowadays it’s impossible to buy a t-shirt without a logo on it. And that’s a drag. As my son put it: “Why would I want to be a walking billboard? They should pay me to wear the shirt if they put their logo on it!” A brilliant marketing idea, really, for them to con us into being an unpaid part of their advertising campaign. But it’s time for the free ride to stop.

The more radical Sans Culottes in the French Revolution were working class who wore long pants.

So, if you like one of these “real people” designs, go ahead and make a statement by buying one. In the French Revolution, the radical militants of the working class were known as the “sans-culottes” because they wore long pants, not the fancy shmancy silk knee-breeches of the more moderate bourgeois. Maybe today’s Occupy crowd can be known as “sans-logo” for eschewing brand-name t-shirts. Instead of being a walking billboard, they can be a walking protest sign . . . and at the same time support a real live artist. The hyper-PC can even pick t-shirts made-in-America of all-organic cotton from POD sites . . . all designed by some regular guy. Wearing one of these masterpieces, you can put down your cardboard sign and still broadcast your message.

Of course, you could just go out an buy plain white beefy T’s and a Sharpie and write your message on your chest.

I put up a list of my favorite Occupy t-shirt designs (some my own, some by others) on a Squidoo lens. Stop by and let me know which ones you like best.

You can check out my designs by clicking on the panel below. You can FB “Like” the one you like best. Or just buy it.

Look for a personalized gift at Zazzle.

If you want to make your very own design, click on the banner below and try out Zazzle. Very easy to use. For a limited time, I have a coupon for $10 a Zazzle product.

Custom T-Shirts

Lots of deals on OWS merchandise at Amazon.

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


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.


Turning 50 in the Caribbean

Monday, April 4th, 2011


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.


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

How to Save Big with Groupon

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Join the Rush to Save with Groupon


By now you’ve probably heard of Groupon, the company that grew ridiculously fast selling local coupons on the web.

Groupon ads pop up on Web sites like dandelions spring up in grass after a good rain. Even if you ignore Groupon ads on your screen, You can’t ignore the news about groupon.  Groupon just rejected a multi-billion takeover bid from Google. Groupon’s hype is so hot that last week it has raised almost $1 billion on its own, money it will use in its quest to expand all over the world.

What is all the noise about? And should you be signing up for their deals?

Groupon negotiates huge discounts—usually 50-90% off—with popular local businesses all over the country, and increasingly in other countries as well. Businessess scramble to offer deals through Groupon because they hope to gain new customers. Often companies are willing to give a product away or even take a loss to increase customer base. But Groupon’s local deal for the day is only good if enough people sign up for it.

How do you learn about Groupon special coupons in your area? Head on over to Groupon and sign up. Pick the location you want deals in. Then sit back and wait for the deals alerts to come to your inbox. If you see something you like, buy it fast. The offer is usually only good for one day. You can also sign up to see Groupon offers in your Twitter feed or Facebook feed.

You do not have to pay anything to sign up and Groupon does not sell your name all over the place either.

I recently bought my first Groupon coupon and found it really easy.  Groupon lets the average Joe leverage collective buying power in his own neighborhood for all sorts of things.

Last year, Groupon expanded its subscriber base 2,500 per cent! It went from in 2010, from two million to over 50 million. Check it out.

A Political Companion to Walt Whitman

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

A Political Companion to Walt Whitman, a collection of essays edited by John Seery, is out.

Cover of John's new book.

Cover of John's new book.

A Political Companion to Walt Whitman is an edited volume of essays by prominent scholars covering Whitman from a political lens. It is part of a series, Political Companions to Great American Authors.

Here is the lowdown from the publisher:

A Political Companion to Walt Whitman

The works of Walt Whitman have been described as masculine, feminine, postcolonial, homoerotic, urban, organic, unique, and democratic, yet arguments about the extent to which Whitman could or should be considered a political poet have yet to be fully confronted. Some scholars disregard Whitman’s understanding of democracy, insisting on separating his personal works from his political works. A Political Companion to Walt Whitman is the first full-length exploration of Whitman’s works through the lens of political theory. Editor John E. Seery and a collection of prominent theorists and philosophers uncover the political awareness of Whitman’s poetry and prose, analyzing his faith in the potential of individuals, his call for a revolution in literature and political culture, and his belief in the possibility of combining heroic individualism with democratic justice. A Political Companion to Walt Whitman reaches beyond literature into political theory, revealing the ideology behind Whitman’s call for the emergence of American poets of democracy.

John E. Seery is a professor of politics at Pomona College. He is the author of America Goes to College: Political Theory for the Liberal Arts; Political Theory for Mortals: Shades of Justice, Images of Death; Political Returns: Irony in Politics and Theory from Plato to the Antinuclear Movement; and coeditor of The Politics of Irony: Essays in Self-Betrayal.

Blurbs from Back Cover:

“Whitman is indeed one of the great theorists of democracy, but is not often taught as part of the canon of American political thought, an oversight that this volume goes far to remedy. ”—George Shulman, author of American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture

“For so long we have reveled in the music of Whitman’s songs and the beauty of his language. Now we have the definitive political Whitman whose moral courage takes us into the heart of Democratic theory. These essays glisten in the Whitmanesque sun!”— Cornel West, author of Democracy Matters

“Democracy’s history, says Walt Whitman, ‘remains unwritten, because that history has yet to be enacted.’ And yet political theorists have paid remarkably little attention to this great thinker and poet. Until now. This volume brings Whitman into conversation with political theory by way of examination of his major works. The authors, several of whom argue with each other, exhibit the wonderful diversity of contemporary political theory, moving from humanist to post humanist appreciations of Whitman, and from seeing him as a thinker of solitude committed to individual rights to one of erotic connection.”—Bonnie Honig, author of Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy

“A Political Companion to Walt Whitman gathers an extraordinary group of scholars who, like Whitman’s leaves of grass are at once singular, remarkable, independent and beautiful in their unity. Like the poet it honors, the Companion (comrade, comarado) speaks eloquently of men, women and the mestizo, sun and warmth and sight, of work and friendship and love, of America and the democratic.”—Anne Norton, author of Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire

“Seery has assembled in this book a powerfully persuasive collection of essays showing that Whitman should be first and foremost understood as a philosopher of democracy. The essays deal with all aspects of Whitman and with all of his works. We have here not only a political companion to Whitman but a book showing us that Whitman is our political companion and that we do well to listen to his voices.”— Tracy Strong, author of The Idea of Political Theory: Reflections on the Self in Political Time and Space

Essays included in the book:

Democratic Vistas Today
John E. Seery

Walt Whitman and the Culture of Democracy
George Kateb

Strange Attractors: How Individualists Connect to Form Democratic
Nancy L. Rosenblum

Mestiza Poetics: Walt Whitman, Barack Obama, and the Question of Union
Cristina Beltrán

Democratic Desire: Walt Whitman
Martha C. Nussbaum

The Solar Judgment of Walt Whitman
Jane Bennett

“Mass Merger”: Whitman and Baudelaire, the Modern Street, and Democratic Culture
Marshall Berman

Promiscuous Citizenship
Jason Frank

Walt Whitman and the Ethnopoetics of New York
Michael J. Shapiro

Democratic Manliness
Terrell Carver

Whitman as a Political Thinker
Peter Augustine Lawler

Whitman, Death, and Democracy
Jack Turner

Morbid Democracies: The Bodies Politic of Walt Whitman and Richard Rorty
Kennan Ferguson

Democratic Enlightenment: Whitman and Aesthetic Education
Morton Schoolman

Yep. You can get it at Amazon. And his other books are there, too.

John’s bio on Huffington Post, where he blogs on occasion.

John’s bio at Pomona College, where he teaches.

Announcement of winning national Phi Betta Kappa Award.

If you are into Whitman, here’s Amazon’s Complete Selection of Whitman’s Books.

If you are really really into Whitman here’s a couple cool items on Amazon: one-of-a-kind jewelry with Whitman inscription “We have circled and circled till we have arrived home again, we two,” or canvas art of Whitman.

Bryce Hike in Hoodoo Heaven

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I learned a fun vocabulary word this summer when we took a hike through Bryce Canyon: hoodoo. That’s what they call these bizarre spires of rocks that make up Bryce Canyon. As we trekked a three-mile trail, I felt like I was walking through a Tolkien book  . . .  or on another planet. We kept making up stories about dragons or other supernatural creatures that must come to life at night in these totem-pole-like rocks.


Look at the bottom right and note hikers making their way through these weird rock formations.

Hoodoos form strange sculptures that look as if they could topple over any minute.

Hoodoos form strange sculptures that look as if they could topple over any minute.


Many of the hoodoos seemed to have faces.


It was hot.

Dramatic and eerie at times.

Dramatic and eerie at times.

We hiked with just water bottle, a couple apples, some nuts, and a bad map. Yes, it was hot, and after an hour I was praying that the loop really did loop back.

We hiked with just water bottle, a couple apples, some nuts, and a bad map. After an hour I was praying that the loop really did loop back.



Tunnels and caves at times.

Tunnels and caves at times.


Shea in the hoodoos.

One tunnel made the wind blow.

One tunnel made the wind blow.

Tall hoodoos make you think of a higher power.

Tall hoodoos make you think of a higher power.

Hoodoos made us think of castles you make at the beach by dripping sand.

Hoodoos made us think of castles you make at the beach by dripping sand.

Hoodoo windows.



We made it back alive after hiking through all this!

One of my fav hoodoos: a head about to roll off.

One of my fav hoodoos: a head about to roll off.


Hues of the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park print
Hues of the Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park by ElainePlesser
See other Print Posters

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