Women's March in Santa Cruz

The cloudy skies gave way to blue skies over Santa Cruz to welcome the 1000s of enthusiastic, peaceful people for the WOMEN'S MARCH in Santa Cruz today. I loved reading the clever posters demanding to be heard and watching little children, tweens, teens, college students, parents, seniors, and disabled people wearing bright colors and marching from City Hall to the Louden Nelson Center today.

With my friend Julie Monroe, posters, and my Go-Pro, we felt HOPE and EMPOWERMENT from what seemed like 15,000 marchers!

Check out my video clip!


I first saw the potential of aquaponics when I was at Disneyworld/Epcot on Living with Aquaponics ride (check out this YouTube video). They had a tomato TREE that grew year round and produced 100s of big beautiful tomatoes. That year, we built a greenhouse for our mini-aquaponics system that included 2 fish tanks, 1 filter tank, and 4 media (rock) beds for veggies.  This unique growing system uses NO DIRT, just water to raise fish and grow plants. The fish poop creates a natural fertilizer for the plants, which in turn, cleans the water for the fish.  It’s really remarkable that you don’t need any fertilizers or chemicals at all!

This year, Merit Academy’s aquaponics class added a floating raft bed to the aquaponics system.  Instead of plants growing in rocks and water (media beds), these plants grow in Styrofoam beds that float on top of the water.  We’re excited to compare the media beds to the floating raft beds to see which systems produce more veggies. Teaching students innovative food production techniques inspires them to solve world hunger and sustainability problems that we face today and in the future.

Protecting the Affordable Care Act

Being snowed in for 3 days with my daughter Nicole gave us the opportunity to talk about political issues that we hadn’t had time to discuss with our busy lives. I was proud to hear about her marching and activism to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Yup! She and her fellow ER docs have been advocating for the sick and the poor who have benefitted from the ACA during the Obama Administration.  At Harbor UCLA Hospital, most of her patients have utilized the ACA (aka ObamaCare) for their medical care, and without the ACA, the people who need medical assistance most will not be able to afford it.  Only the young, healthy, and wealthy benefit by repealing the Affordable Care Act.  

Many Americans don’t know that “ObamaCare” IS the Affordable Care Act.  Can you believe it? Nicole says that some of her patients are confused by the rhetoric and state that they want to get rid of ObamaCare! She is surprised that she has to explain to her low-income patients that they need ObamaCare and that without it they would lose medical care, medications, and treatment. 

Dr. Trevor Wilson, one of Nicole’s co-residents at Harbor UCLA, wrote a letter that you can sign to join their movement to save the Affordable Care Act.  Click here to sign and be added to the list of supporters.

Who Kills More Americans? Terrorists or Americans with Guns?

My kids call me a softy because I go out of my way to get my bug catcher to remove spiders from my house without killing them.  Because I don’t like touching creepy crawling critters, I’ll devise contraptions to pick up worms on the driveway and ladybugs on my desk to put them out of harm’s way.  Yet, I muse about how I (we) flinch when we hear about a school shooting or any mass shooting – for a few hours, or even days, then we move on. We have become so de-sensitized to gun violence that we don’t do what we need to do to STOP PEOPLE FROM SAVAGELY KILLING ONE ANOTHER.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard the media and watched the victim’s families sob after each mass shooting episode, but did you know the real statistics about gun violence?  I didn’t, and I’m dumbfounded by it.

US deaths by guns caused by TERRORISTS since 2002 = 17

US deaths by guns caused by AMERICAN WITH GUNS since 2002 = 11,101

We have spent nearly ONE TRILLION DOLLARS and lost civil liberties and personal privacy in the name of stopping terrorism, when Americans with GUNS is clearly our real problem. Check out this BBC article “Guns in the US: The statistics behind the violence” to see how outrageously blinded we are as a nation. It seems obvious to me that we need to lock up the guns and make it difficult to have possession of any firearm but a hand gun. 


Should We Treat Sugar Like a Drug?

I just read an interesting article about how sugar is the world’s most popular drug. Those of us who are health conscious and try to eat less-processed food, carbs, and sugars, know that the food industry has been putting corn syrup and sugar into our foods for decades.  We know that we have to read the labels to understand what we are ingesting because what we eat affects our health.  Ever since processed sugar was introduced into our diets back in the 16th century, its intoxicating effects have created addictions to pastries, candies, and other sweets. Some claim that they need sugar to overcome caffeine and nicotine addictions.  Even babies and children prefer sugar and go through withdrawals when they come down off of sugar highs. 

While it’s difficult to prove that we are addicted to sugar and that this addiction is also a contributing cause of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, removing it from our diets can change how we feel. When I was in my early 20s and 30s, I remember becoming addicted to sugar around Halloween.  I would have bags of my favorite candies in the kitchen and I couldn’t help myself when I passed them.  I just HAD to have 1 or 2 pieces – after all, they were small.  Right? And, I would have another couple of pieces the next time I walked into the kitchen, and then I would make trips to the kitchen just to get the candies.  And, then I’d raid my daughters’ Halloween candies that they kept in their rooms.  This would go on until after Thanksgiving because I would start baking apple pies, pecan pies, and pumpkin cakes.  Yup, it was a tradition, therefore it was okay. 

It wasn’t until after Christmas that I realize I had gained weight and felt bloated.  Then, like the rest of the nation, I went on a diet.  When I stopped eating candy, desserts, and carbs, I lost weight and I felt so much better.  Strangely, I also noticed that I stopped craving sugar.  So not eating sugar made me need it less. Hmm.

Now that I know that processed grains (flours) are really sugars, it makes sense to me that when I eat bagels, croissants, or pastas, I feel the same highs and lows as if I ate a candy bar. So, yes, I was addicted to sugar, and I never thought of myself as an addict because I don’t drink or do drugs. So no more sugar or grains for me!


UC Updates!

UC UpdatesIf you’ve applied to any of the UC campuses for 2017-2018, here is an update on your application. 
• UC will admit 2,500 more Californians this year!
• Decisions will be announced starting in March (undergrads) and April (grads)
• Transfer applicants’ new deadline is Jan 31st (not Nov 30th, 2016)
• Send SAT or ACT scores to just one campus (UC will distribute scores to other UCs)
• Send IELTS scores to all colleges
• Do not send transcripts unless asked to
• If you were asked to verify information on your UC app, do so by Jan 31st
Good luck to you all!  And, if you’re worried about your prospects of getting into a UC, you still have time to apply to many private colleges in California and across the US.  Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!  

Why Are College Application Deadlines So Early?

Why so EARLY, Colleges?I still can’t fathom why college application deadlines are during the fall and early winter of the senior year.  The UC and CSU (California state universities) deadlines are on Nov 30th – that’s only 3 months into 12th grade and just days after Thanksgiving.  I don’t believe seniors are really ready to select each of the colleges to which they will apply this early in their last year of high school. Every year I see students cramming and stressed out to meet that deadline.  Most haven’t yet visited the colleges and end up making decisions based on what their friends are doing or parents recommend – not what’s best for them.  

Then, most private college application deadlines are on January 1st.  What cruel person(s) came up with New Years' Day? Knowing that the majority of students wait until the last minute, that means that New Years Eve plans for the students – and their parents, mentors, and friends – are ruined. What’s worse, colleges aren’t open on January 1st because it is a legal holiday! So students can’t get answers to their last-minute questions, and stress levels are off the charts!

I believe that students really aren’t mature enough and ready to make college admissions decisions until the end of their senior year.  Why don’t colleges accept students after their graduation so they can include the students’ senior grades in their overall GPA?  Most students, especially boys, don’t realize the seriousness of their GPA and course selections until their junior year when it’s really too late to make a difference in the college application process.  And, most importantly, students could apply to college when they are completely free of high school pressures and make smart choices about where they will spend the next 4 years of their lives. 

Rain on a ski trip!

What do you do when it RAINS on your ski trip?

Make rain gear out of kitchen supplies!

How would MacGyver stay dry while skiing in the rain?

It was pouring RAIN when we arrived in Tahoe for Nicole’s annual birthday ski trip.  Really? For 5 days prior to our arrival it dumped over 5 feet of fresh powder. We were so excited to hit the slopes and ski the powder. Our ski gear and powder pants are water RESISTANT, which is not the same as waterproof.  We could ski in any conditions (subzero temps in Spain, blizzards at Northstar), but NOT RAIN.  So what do you do when you’re in your condo and the roads are closed due to FLOODING? Ask MacGyver… Plastic and duct tape!

First I grabbed some oversized kitchen dishwashing gloves and placed elastic on the wrists to keep the rain out.  I placed duct tape over the seams to seal the elastic in place.  Then I placed my ski gloves inside the large dishwashing gloves so they would keep my hands dry and warm.  When Nicole woke up, she liked my design so I made her a pair too.  I thought she would think they were too embarrassing to wear, but she was intent on staying dry, too.

Then I took Nicole’s pair of plastic pants to use as a pattern to make plastic pants for me.  I wasn’t about to wear my ski pants and get soaked.  I grabbed 2 trash bags and duct taped them together.  I cut out the pant legs with a scissor and then duct taped them together.  I even put elastic to create a waistband!  They certainly weren’t a fashion statement, but I stayed dry all day! 

While indulging on overpriced burgers and fries at the lodge, Nicole commented on how everyone was soaking wet and wringing out their gloves and parkas. Then some young guys gave Nicole a thumbs up and said, “Those are great pants!  We thought our stuff was waterproof, but they’re not!”.  Everyone loved our solution to skiing in the rain!