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Category Archives: Journalist

Colored Sand

This past weekend I visited my family in South Carolina to celebrate my Dad’s 75th birthday. It was one of those trips where you re-connect with family, friends, and many people you have not seen in years. One of my best friends in the world joined us because we met during our first year in college so she knows my family very well. She and I started out as sorority sisters, then became roommates, and over the years have traveled the world together, been through her divorce, the birth of her son, my crazy career moves, death, and much more.

Driving in the car together she shared with me that she and her 11 year son had attended an event in her hometown the day before. Buddhists were in town to create what’s called a Mandala at the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, SC.
sandmandala-1

The Buddhists spent days meticulously creating the work of art with colored sand. They often meditate while doing it and visitors can watch the creation come to life. I had seen this done before in North Carolina years ago. I always thought it was incredible.

While that was cool, what she shared with me next made me stop and think. After the Buddhists create the Mandala, they destroy it. You may ask “Why would they do that to something so beautiful? Why would they destroy something they have invested so much time into?”

Since reading the explanation and seeing the picture below, (click on picture to enlarge) my friend and I are applying the principles to many things in our lives. We are looking at relationships, our favorite possessions, even an old sentimental t-shirt she could not let go of even though it was stained beyond repair.

My hope is that you take a minute to look at your life and what you consider your prized possessions, and just for a moment, realize, none of it is ours to own. The people in our lives are there because they want to be. If they leave, you have to let them go. The beautiful objects like jewelry, cars, even golf clubs do not make us happy. It is only a temporary thrill. We will want something else beautiful tomorrow. Letting go of our attachments, living in the now, and accepting that change is inevitable might help us live each day with just a little more gentleness.
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Honeymoon & a moment

John Lennon
Like many of us, I have always been fascinated by Beatle legend John Lennon. I love his music of course, but the way he lived, and his artistic expression has always grabbed my attention and heart.

Now his artwork, part of a series called “Bag One” goes on display this weekend here in Los Angeles. I wish I could own the lithograph called “Honeymoon.” It’s neat to think of the moment in time he and Yoko Ono experienced with one another. She is now 80 years old, and has set up a business called Bag One Arts in an attempt to keep her late husband’s legacy as an artist alive.

Here’s an article from the LA Times about Lennon’s sketches

See you there!!!!

Two of my favorite quotes by J.L.

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

“You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are!”

 

Really?

WATCH MY STORY BY CLICKING HERE

There are few things that shock me, but this information stopped me in my tracks: Each year 70 thousands dogs are tested on in facilities located here in the United States. I am told the preferred breed of dog is the Beagle.

According to Peta and Beagle Freedom Project, the dogs are tested on because of their kind, docile nature. The tests include experimental surgical procedures, toxicology tests, and over the counter drugs. I am also told that most of the dogs are actually bred to be a “lab rat.” They live in a cage their entire lives never seeing the sunshine or stepping on grass, (much like Puppy Mill dogs).

It is legal to test on dogs in the United States, just as it is legal to test on cats, rabbits, primates and rats, but animal activists that I have interviewed and discussed this issue with are fighting back. Their reports claim some of the facilities beat and kick the dogs, and leave them living in deplorable living conditions. In fact, just last week, a North Carolina grand jury indicted four facility workers on 14 felony cruelty to animal charges. It is the first time in U.S. history that workers have faced felony cruelty charges for their treatment of animals in a lab.

There is not much we can do about it. Believe me, I have tried to figure out how this madness could be prevented, but there are choices we can make as consumers. We can make these choices daily, and encourage our friends and family to do the same.

Please learn more and educate others about these practices. Together we can make a difference.

Click here for: GREAT ONLINE GUIDE TO WHAT COMPANIES DO/DON’T TEST ON ANIMALS
Click here for: IPHONE APP/GUIDE

 

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The Best Day of the Week

One of the reasons I love my job is that I am blessed to be able to meet extraordinary people, and tell their stories. Luis Carlos Montalvan is one of those people. He is a decorated 17 year veteran, who has written a book entitled Until Tuesday. It is about his experiences during two tours in Iraq, but he also shares the story of a dog who he says has saved his life.

The dog’s name is Tuesday. The four year old has trained since birth for the job of K9 Service Dog. He, like hundreds of other dogs are helping veterans like Montalvan heal from the physical and psychological scars of war. It’s an intimate relationship that bonds warrior with man’s best friend.

Statistics show that nearly 18 veterans commit suicide daily here in the states. Many of them suffer from what’s called PTSD-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and many are afraid to seek help. Montalvan tells me he encourages fellow veterans to “Be brave at home like you were taught to be brave in war, and seek the help you need.”

Another man who is making a big mark on not only this issue, but many others is filmmaker and philanthropist Charlie Annenberg Weingarten. Explore.org is Annenberg’s outlet to the world. The website includes videos, pictures, and information that educates and inspires. When you meet Annenberg, you get the sense this guy has his pulse on the world. His true love though is Lucky, his 14 year old Golden Retriever, a dog that has traveled to nearly every corner of the country with him. The two have visited schools, the elderly, the aftermath of Katrina, and even death row.

Annenberg created www.dogblessyou.org and tells me the response has been overwhelming. War veterans and those currently serving are sending in pictures of themselves with dogs at home and at war.

I was honored to interview both men whom I believe have a message that is incredibly powerful, and an intention that is simple and pure.
WATCH MY STORY HERE

 

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Why a Red Bucket?

A Stallion Named Finbar


It’s a story of love and commitment. Not human to human, rather human to horse. I saw the process up close recently, and cannot seem to shake the thought of what I witnessed.

The horses I met through the non-profit called Red Bucket Equine Rescue, based in Huntington Beach, California all have a story. The majority of those stories are not ones you want to hear. They include abuse, neglect, starvation, even death.

But Susan Peirce, the woman behind Red Bucket tells me she is ready to fix the problem. In the last two years, the group which is 100-percent volunteer has saved 80 horses from slaughter, and has found 32 of them forever homes. Part of their mission is to restore trust in humankind and to find the horses safe, loving homes. They use positive reinforcement, compassion and consistency to bring these horses back to life.

But of course, every group needs our help. Red Bucket Rescue has been told they have to move from their current location. That means they have dozens of horses that need to be moved to a new location nearby that has land, but no shelter. It costs approximately 400 thousand dollars a year to keep the rescue running. The costs add up due to medical bills, shelter, food, and training. Red Bucket needs your help.

For more info on what you or a local business can help out with, please visit Red Bucket Equine Rescue.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE STORY ABOUT Red Bucket Equine Rescue

 

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Makes Me Very Sad

This week, I received a call from a group entitled Animal Defenders International. Within 48 hours I would be covering a story about alleged elephant abuse.

As an animal advocate myself, I feel like I am pretty educated on animal issues, but this story was an eye-opener for me. As I logged each frame of the video, I was pained. It was so difficult to watch and re-watch the images, but I knew I had to tell this story.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE STORY

No matter the outcome, or the allegations, or the statements, elephants were hit. Baby elephants were hit for no apparent reason.

Animal Defenders International says the practices are not illegal, and will likely never stop unless there is a public outcry, or the media steps up to share the stories. For more information, and to get educated on the facts visit Animal Defenders International

This is a bull hook. It's similar to what's being used in the video.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Journalist, opinion, Uncategorized

 

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A Moment

I love moments that take my breath away, and lucky for me, one of those moments happened this week at an event in Los Angeles. It’s no secret that I often attend events here in the city that honor many extraordinary men and women. I have met Presidents, tons of celebrities, and other fascinating people. This time it was different.

While attending the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s National Tribute Dinner, which honored actor Tom Cruise, I was introduced to a man named Luis Alberto Urzua Iribarren. You may not know the name, but you surely know his heroic story. Urzua was one of 33 Chilean miners trapped inside a cave below the surface of the earth for 69 days back in the summer of 2010. When the mine ceiling collapsed, the miners were believed dead, but after 17 days a note that was brought up through a drilled hole notified rescuers that all of the miners were alive.

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera holds the letter from the trapped miners.

During the first 17 days, Urzua, the 54-year-old shift supervisor rationed food, giving one spoonful of tuna to each of the miners every 48 hours. Once the rescue effort began, Urzua was also the man who volunteered to stay behind until all his men were safe. The father of four would wait and watch as each of the men were pulled to higher ground. Imagine what each of these men must have gone through physically and mentally. Imagine how grateful they must be every single day to be alive.

I was only able to spend a few minutes with Urzua, who doesn’t speak English well, but because I have been studying Spanish, I was able to get a few nods and a smile from him. It was such a moment for me! I could tell this man, while tenacious, also has a kind and happy soul. Even though we couldn’t communicate verbally very well, I could feel his good energy just being next to him.

With Luis just after he made his speech

In October of 2010, I reported the rescue on television as it happened live. While in the newsroom, my colleagues and I watched with bated breath, as did millions around the world. One by one the men were pulled to safety. One by one, we sighed a bit of relief for them. I still consider those historic moments, and our coverage as one of my most memorable as a journalist.

Miners underground


Just after the rescue

So as many extraordinary people were being honored that night, including Tom Cruise, I found myself enthralled with Urzua’s message of strength and calmness. When he was introduced on stage, I couldn’t resist, and was the first out of my seat to stand. What an honor! During Urzua’s speech, he praised his fellow miners, and pointed to God as the 34th miner. Amazing!

I am grateful that I was able to meet Urzua, and will always use the experience to remind myself that no matter our hardships and struggles, we always deal better with calmness, strength, and knowledge that we WILL eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

WATCH THE FINAL RESCUE HERE

Order of miners rescued:

1. Florencio Ávalos, 31,
2. Mario Sepúlveda, 39,
3. Juan Illanes, 52,
4. Carlos Mamani, 23,
5. Jimmy Sánchez, 19,
6. Osmán Araya, 30,
7. José Ojeda, 46,
8. Claudio Yáñez, 34,
9. Mario Gómez, 63,
10. Álex Vega, 31,
11. Jorge Galleguillos, 56,
12. Edison Peña, 34,
13. Carlos Barrios, 27,
14. Víctor Zamora, 33,
15. Víctor Segovia, 48,
16. Daniel Herrera, 37,
17. Omar Reygada, 56,
18. Esteban Rojas, 44,
19. Pablo Rojas, 45,
20. Darío Segovia, 48,
21. Yonni Barrios, 50,
22. Samuel Ávalos, 43,
23. Carlos Bugueño, 27,
24. José Henríquez, 54,
25. Renán Ávalos, 29,
26. Claudio Acuña, 44,
27. Franklin Lobos, 53,
28. Richard Villarroel, 23,
29. Juan Aguilar, 46,
30. Raúl Bustos, 40,
31. Pedro Cortez, 24,
32. Ariel Ticona, 29,
33. Luis Urzúa Iribarren, 54.

 

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Hunger is a Workaholic

I am sad, and here’s why. Just last week I learned about an alarming statistic. One out of every six children in the U.S. is at risk of hunger. (12.4 million children) I also learned that many students leave school on Friday, and are hungry until they return to school on Monday. There is simply not enough food at home.

Blessingsinabackpack.org is trying to change these numbers. The unique program is simple and designed to feed the elementary children who need help the most. Better test scores, positive behavior, increased attendance, and improved reading skills have all been linked to the success of the program.

Actor Omar Miller, from the CBS show CSI Miami, introduced me to Blessingsinabackpack.org. Fans also know Miller from the films Transformers and Spike Lee’s Miracle on St. Anna. I met up with Miller at a local elementary school in Los Angeles recently, and we both stepped in to help stuff backpacks for over one thousand students. It was an eye-opening experience.

At Normandie Avenue Elementary in Los Angeles, volunteers, parents, and teachers work for hours preparing the bags that are filled with non-perishable items like granola bars, soup, cereal, popcorn, and pudding. Every other Friday the students line up to get their bags. I saw the kids come in with their backpacks open. They were not bashful or ashamed. In fact, they were proud and excited. One teacher even told me she saw one child eating out of the bag soon after getting it, and she said to him “The food is for the weekend.” The child quickly responded, “But I’m hungry now.”

It’s simple. We cannot let our kids go hungry.

Miller agrees, and tells me it is exactly why he got involved. He has also started his own 501c3, The Omar Miller Foundation which takes left over food from television and movie sets, and provides it to needy families.

Blessingsinabackpack.org is currently feeding nearly forty thousand students in thirty-two states, but here in Los Angeles, the program is in only one school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. We can help change that because this program is easy to implement. Parents, teachers, community activists, and corporate supporters are finding they can implement the idea quickly. We just have to take that first step.

Children are our future, and as cliché as that may sound, they need our help and our hearts, and they need it fast. Spread the word.

FACTS:

$80 feeds one child every weekend for the entire school year.

Data shows that hungry children are sick more often and have lower academic achievement.

Over 62% of children in the U.S. Public School system are on the Free or Reduced Meal program.

Hunger makes it difficult for children to pay attention and learn.

With Photographer & Editor Carlos Cortes and Omar Miller

 

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Good Kid in a Mad City

Growing up is hard enough. Imagine having to worry about being shot at while walking the streets of your neighborhood. It was a reality for Kendrick Lamar. Now 23 years old, he’s sharing his story of keeping an upbeat attitude in an often-dark place.

Born and raised in Compton, California, a city where violence, drugs, and gang activity looms, Lamar knows what he must do to make it out. He’s found his voice on the microphone as a hip-hop artist, and people are beginning to listen.

Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenberg, first took notice of Lamar late last year. Rosenberg tipped off rapper Dr. Dre, who gave Lamar a shout-out while on a Los Angeles radio station. Now things are moving fast.

This past January Lamar had his first sold out show at the Key Club in Los Angeles. Dr. Dre has included him on his much anticipated release Detox. Equally impressive, Lamar has landed on the cover of one of music’s most respected magazines, XXL. It’s a sign that the industry is watching and waiting.

Lamar tells me he began singing about his city, his struggles, and his survival at the age of 13. Now years later, he has nearly 300 songs, and must narrow it down to 12 for an album release. When asked which are his favorites, song titles like “The Hard Part 2,” “Cut You Off,” “Average Joe,” and “Faith” roll off his tongue. According to Lamar, all the songs have a message. Whether it’s about the ills of negativity, or the senseless loss of his uncle to prison, Lamar sings with a raw, honest, and sometimes angered voice. Many of his lyrics come from what he’s seen and experienced growing up in Compton.

His parents, who are still married, moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in the 1970’s. Lamar says his dad was always there for him, and admits the tight relationship likely saved his life, and gave him security to fall back on when he pushed the edges and lost focus.

While there has been a big drop in homicides in the city of Compton in the last couple of years, (some say due to better communication between police and residents), Lamar believes it is still not perfect; calling himself “a good kid in a mad city.”

I got a chance to spend the day with the young man who is, by the way, very charming. He and I walked the streets of Compton, visiting the Social Services building where he and his family collected welfare back in the day. We drove by his family’s first apartment, a building where he says he saw drug deals go down on a daily basis. We even stopped by his high school, a place he admits he “actually misses.” I also wanted to see Lamar in the studio. When we arrived, we found a small dark disheveled room in the back of a small house. It has been his place to record for years, and while it is not perfect by any means, sort of like the city of Compton, Kendrick Lamar hopes to help change that with his music.

 

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I get it now.

5 year old Conner donates to the animals. Thanks!

When I created Lu Parker Project I didn’t really know what to expect. After yesterday, it became very clear to me that it was the right thing for me to do. I still sometimes get anxiety because I want to be able to do more and more with the organization, but I am starting to see how volunteers with LPP are taking charge and helping me.

For the last month or so, Beth Brown and Kim Rodgers have stepped up big time creating a Holiday Collection for homeless animals that will benefit Los Angeles Animal Shelters. Yesterday was the final day for people to donate. We gathered on Main Street at PEETS Coffee, and watched as person after person stopped to give us dog beds, cash, dog & cat food, dog bowls, blankets, towels, and leashes. It was a beautiful sight!!!!

We all understand that events like these don’t fix the homeless animal problem, but what they do is bring awareness to the problem. One day at a time, and one volunteer at a time, we can begin to make that change.

Yesterday, volunteers took carloads to the South Los Angeles Shelter, and they tell me they walked away with a FULL heart ready for the next project. What a beautiful thing!

Stay tuned for a Valentines Day special, coming soon. Plan to get roses for someone? You will want to hear what we will offer you!!!

My dog Monkey represents