A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

“It is not what we get. But who we become, what we contribute… that gives meaning to our lives.”
-Anthony Robbins

Inspirational Woman Of The Day

Inspirational Woman Of The Day

Inspirational Woman Of The Day

Arianna Huffington, the columnist behind widely read political blog huffingtonpost.com, was born in Greece July 15, 1950. A naturalized US citizen, she married Michael Huffington in 1986, who was then appointed to the US Department of Defense, they got divorced in 1997. Arianna now lives in Los Angeles with two daughters.

Huffington left Greece when she was 16 to go to college in London. She graduated from the Girton College at Cambridge University with M.A in economics in 1972.After her graduation she worked in London as a columnist, critic and a television host.

Arianna Huffington rose to fame after she decided to run the California recall election in 2003 to replace then Governor Davis. She dropped out of the race; some say the reason was the dismal response from the public. Arianna leads the Detroit Project which promotes energy efficient cars, needless to she is not much of a fan of Hummer driving Governor Arnold. But no matter how much she loves mother earth, Huffington still own and uses a private jet, which uses much more fuel than those often criticized SUV’s. Seems like practice what you preach is something rich and famous choose to forget.

A co-host of “Left, Right and Center”, a political program, Huffington’s books include: “The Female Woman” 1974, “After Reason,”1978, “The Woman behind the Legend,” 1981, “The Gods of Greece”, “Picasso: Creator and Destroyer,” 1988, “How to Overthrow the Government,” 2000.This year she published “On Becoming Fearless…. in Love, Work, and Life”. In 1981 when she wrote a book about Picasso’s wife and later about Picasso himself, the ghost of plagiarism came to haunt her. Smartly she settled the case of court. She has appeared on various television shows including Larry King Live and Real Time with Bill Maher.

Huffington who started as a registered Republican, moved closer to the Democrats during the 1990s Balkans conflict. In 2005 she was a panel speaker at the California Democratic Party Sate Convention.

Last year Huffington started the Huffington Post, blog featuring news and views, from politics to celebrity culture. In a year, it has grown to be a must read to understand the “blog culture” and the liberal view on issues. Contributing bloggers include: John Kerry, James Zogby, Alec Baldwin and Rep. Diane Watson.

Want to contact Huffington? Email her at arianna@ariannaonline.com or snail mail at: Arianna Online, 1158 26th Street, P.O. Box 428, Santa Monica, CA 90403.



Local Inspiration

Local Inspiration

Local Inspiration

Johnnie Seastrunk, a retired teacher, was honored for her philanthropic efforts, along with eight other women at the Rose Garden Center in Tyler, on Thursday.


Women Recognized For Helping Community

Family, friends and other community members gathered Thursday at Tyler Rose Garden Center to honor nine women known for their philanthropic efforts and giving hearts.

The women this year exemplified what it means to give selflessly. Audiences heard each woman’s life story before watching a video tribute to them.

Emcee for the luncheon, Daye Collins, said Janet Hills’ passion for giving dates back to her teenage years. She has served on most of the major nonprofit boards in Tyler and has been a past president of the Junior League of Tyler, where she has been a member for 34 years.

Ms. Collins said Ms. Hills always has been concerned with the human condition, noting that she helped a friend during an end of life experience at a hospice.

Sharon Howell has come a long way from her first job at Long John Silver’s. She made a career change 27 years ago, when she went into the travel business. Ms. Howell started Travel Masters and it has become one of the leading travel agencies in East Texas.

She used her resources to organize trips for auctions at every major event, raisingmoney to help victims of disease, disaster or neglect. She serves her church, the chamber of commerce, CASA, the Women’s Fund and numerous other charitable organizations in Tyler.
Finding purpose

A common thread for the women being honored is they sought to find their life’s purpose. It is Mechele Agbayani Mills’ job as president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas to promote truth, fairness and marketplace best practices.

Mrs. Mills moved to the United States from the Philippines when she was 8. Her parents, both nurses, instilled in her a strong work ethic. She has a diverse working background, which included owning a donut shop, before entering The University of Texas at Tyler at the age of 33.

“I spent a lot of years trying to figure out what my purpose was, which is why I worked in so many different places and tried to do so many things. I still do a lot of things today but I do know today that my purpose is first, to love God and to love his children so I try to live that out every day.”

Mrs. Mills says there is still so much more for her to do to live up to her honor.

“I feel honored but I feel very, very humbled and I really don’t feel I’m deserving compared to all of the wonderful things all of the other ladies have done,” she said. “I still feel like I have a lot of work to do.”

Johnnie Seastrunk, a beloved retired teacher and piano player, was pleased with the honor and visibly excited about the video montages.

“I just didn’t expect ever to have people appreciate me as much as they have today,” she said, with a wide smile.

She was glad to see some of her former students in the audience.

“That made it nice.”
The daughter of a musician and barber, Mrs. Seastrunk started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She didn’t learn to read music until high school. She went on to obtain a master’s degree and taught music for 40 years until she retired.

Following the ceremony’s photos and greeting opportunities, she made a bee-line to the piano in the foyer, doing what she knows best.

At 80, she radiates with joy and it comes from loving what she does.

“Since it goes back to what I have done, you should like you’re work, you should enjoy what you’re doing,” she said. “I loved teaching. Whatever you’re into, put your heart into it and do your best. If you teach you need to love it. It takes work, but it’s worth it.”

Vennie Jackson, 93, has witnessed many historic milestones in her life, from World War I to the election of the first black president. Dressed to the nines in a pastel blue suit with matching hat, she listened intently as her achievements were recited at the event.

After retirement, Ms. Jackson continues to serve several organizations and her church.

Bettye McDonald-Mitchell is nationally recognized for her expertise in aging, protective services and elder abuse. She has served as director for the Adult Protective Services Program for the State of Texas and then became the deputy commissioner for Long Term Care with the Texas Department of Human Services. She is now president of National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, which has coalitions around the country as a partner in the National Center on Elder Abuse. She also serves as CEO of Life Span Care Consulting Group.
A daughter of a civil rights advocate, she has long fought for seniors who have been physically abused and neglected. She’s also known for taking employees to clothing stores to buy appropriate work attire, and she has cared for an employee’s family who’d lost their job. In her personal life, Ms. Mitchell is caring for her mother and a sister who suffered a massive stroke.

She is proud of the nephew she took under her wing, who is a second lieutenant in the Marines, now serving in Afghanistan.

“Caring is her thing,” Ms. Collins said … “Her giving never stops.”

Jan Jones, who was being honored posthumously, died in September. She enjoyed a career as Robert E. Lee High School’s theater director for 32 years.

Visibly moved by the tribute to Ms. Jones, her friend Judy Gross, said she was pleased beyond words.

“It’s amazing that the outpouring of love that Jan continues to receive, seven months after her death,” Ms. Gross said. “Her legacy is all the lives that she has touched in teaching and the love of theater that she’s given to so many people.”

With each woman’s story there is a lesson to be learned, as noted by Ms. Gross.

“Never stop giving and never stop loving,” she said.

Chasing dreams
Affectionately known as “Dr. V,” Sasha Vukelja is a noted physician in Tyler. Her respect as an oncologist did not come easily. Born in communist Yugoslavia, she and her mother escaped from a prison camp when she was a girl. In America, her mother, fearful of being caught, moved every six months. Her past did not stop her from dreaming big.

“Yes she faced obstacles: poverty, language barriers and discrimination,” Ms. Collins said. “But she refuses to see obstacles. She doesn’t give up and today she is one of America’s most respected oncologists.”

Dr. Vukelja is a sculptor, painter and an author of two books. She and her husband are noted philanthropists and honored members of the Tyler community.

Lisa Lujan and her husband, Michael, quit their day jobs to found Mentoring Minds, a company that develops and publishes educational material focused on creating a successful learning environment for children.

They maxed out credit cards and worked late into the night, but their dreams were on time, as public schools were transitioning from TAAS to TAKS.

Amidst the newfound business, the family suffered a loss, their second daughter, Melissa.

“The experience taught her what’s important in life,” Ms. Collins said.

The family later created “glory babies” through a support group and a statue was dedicated to baby Melissa’s memory in the Children’s Park on Broadway Avenue. Mrs. Lujan also serves on the boards of several organizations.

“She’s been helped so much in many ways,” Ms. Collins said. “She’s now paying it forward, both in money and volunteer time.”
a cross section

Arleta Farmer, a member of the Women in Tyler committee for 13 years, said what makes the organization great is that it recognizes women of varied ages, races and backgrounds.

“It’s a cross section,” she said. “It reaches all across the city to get people that have contributed and done outstanding works for the city.”

Women in Tyler was established in 1999 to celebrate Women’s History Month while also honoring Tyler women who have contributed to their community. Excess funds from the proceeds of the luncheon are donated to the Women’s Fund — a nonprofit organization established in 2007 through the East Texas Communities Foundation.

The Women’s Fund has granted nearly $400,000 to other nonprofit agencies since 2008, and the Women in Tyler committee has been instrumental in supporting their efforts. They were the new organization’s first life members.

The Women’s Fund makes it possible to feed hungry families, to train local youths to be responsible citizens, and to educate and protect children from abuse and neglect by funding other nonprofit agencies.

Inspiration Of Motherhood

Inspiration Of Motherhood

Inspiration Of Motherhood

By Pamela Sitt

Military mom ‘proud’ of breastfeeding in uniform, despite criticism

Is breast-feeding while in uniform conduct unbecoming to a military mom?

The debate over nursing in public got a new layer recently, when photos taken on an Air Force base began to circulate online. In the series of tasteful professional photos showing beaming moms as they nurse their kids, one jumps out: the photo of two servicewomen with their uniform shirts unbuttoned and hiked up to breast-feed.

“A lot of people are saying it’s a disgrace to the uniform. They’re comparing it to urinating and defecating [while in uniform],” says Crystal Scott, a military spouse who started Mom2Mom in January as a breast-feeding support group for military moms and “anyone related to the base” at Fairchild AFB outside Spokane, Wash. “It’s extremely upsetting. Defecating in public is illegal. Breast-feeding is not.”

It was Scott’s idea to ask photographer Brynja Sigurdardottir to take photos of real-life breast-feeding moms to create posters for National Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August. One of the moms photographed in uniform, Terran Echegoyen-McCabe, breast-feeds her 10-month-old twin girls on her lunch breaks during drill weekends as a member of the Air National Guard.

“I have breast-fed in our lobby, in my car, in the park … and I pump, usually in the locker room,” she says. “I’m proud to be wearing a uniform while breast-feeding. I’m proud of the photo and I hope it encourages other women to know they can breast-feed whether they’re active duty, guard or civilian.”

She said she’s surprised by the reaction to the photos, which also feature her friend Christina Luna, because it never occurred to her that breast-feeding in uniform would cause such a stir. 

“There isn’t a policy saying we can or cannot breast-feed in uniform,”  Echegoyen-McCabe says. “I think it’s something that every military mom who is breast-feeding has done. … I think we do need to be able to breast-feed in uniform and be protected.”

The Air Force has no policy specifically addressing breast-feeding in uniform, according to Air Force spokesperson Captain Rose Richeson, who added, “Airmen should be mindful of their dress and appearance and present a professional image at all times while in uniform.”

Robyn Roche-Paull has been advocating for such a policy since she left the U.S. Navy 15 years ago. Her challenges in breast-feeding her son while on active duty – she recalls her “flaming red face” upon being reprimanded for nursing in a medical waiting room – prompted her to write a book called “Breastfeeding in Combat Boots” as a resource for military moms. She is now an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who remains close to the military through her active-duty husband and her blog for military moms.

“If you follow the comments on my blog, a lot of the comments are that the breast-feeding mothers are the ones who need to be covered up. Nobody sees anything wrong with bottle feeding mothers or fathers,” she says. “Asking mothers to feed a baby by bottle when they are together, simply because they are in uniform, can both affect the mom’s milk supply and her willingness to keep breast-feeding or stay in the military. It’s simply one more barrier they have to face.”

The criticism of the photo goes beyond the usual nursing-in-public debate, though. One commenter on Roche-Paull’s website who identified herself as a retired captain in the Marine Corps said she advocated for breast-feeding moms in the military and now, as a civilian, she nurses freely on base. However, she writes:

“I would never nurse in uniform. I took my child to the bathroom or a private office when her nanny brought her to me …. Not because I was ashamed of nursing, nor of being a mother. All the guys knew I pumped. The military is not a civilian job. We go to combat and we make life or death decisions, and not just for ourselves but for those we lead. The same reason I would never nurse in uniform is the same reason I do not chew gum, or walk and talk on my cell phone, or even run into the store in my utility uniform. … We are warfighting professionals. Women before us have worked too hard to earn and retain the respect of their male peers. I don’t want my Marines to look at me any other way than as a Marine. When I am asking them to fly into combat with me and do a dangerous mission, I do not want them to have the mental image of a babe at my breast. I want them to only see me as a Marine. Let’s be a realistic folks. We give up many freedoms being in the military…Breastfeeding in front of my fellow Marines was one of them.”

Another commenter on the blog replies:

“There is N-O-T-H-I-N-G more authoritative than a strong mother standing tall breastfeeding as she barks orders. It’s AWESOME that you’ve worked so hard promote breastfeeding, but I think you *might* be selling yourself short.”

The women in the photo have given some thought to the whole question of military versus maternal duties. To those who believe breast-feeding in uniform undermines the authority of a female officer, Echegoyen-McCabe says:

“I guess my thoughts are, if you don’t want to breast-feed in your uniform, you don’t have to. But you should have respect for those who do. … If anything, it should make people look at you as someone who is able to multitask.”

What do you think? Sound off on our TODAY Moms Facebook page.

Pamela Sitt is a champion multitasker who lives in Seattle. She blogs about motherhood on her website, www.clarasmom.com.

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