Newsflash

Take the panic out of packing!

 

Do you struggle with a large suitcase on a trip but only wear half of what you’ve packed? Or, are you at the other extreme, throwing things into a suitcase just a few hours before leaving for the airport and praying you’ll have the right things to wear? Both scenarios can be maddening!
 
Panic-free packing is a result of careful planning. It’s time well spent, so you can relax and travel with confidence and ease.
 
Planning ahead is key.
My husband and I are traveling south this week – way south to Buenos Aires and the Argentinian wine country. For him, it’s to revisit the sites of his early-career business travel and taste the wines of the Uco              Valley. For me, it’s finally seeing “Paris of the South,” and tasting the wines of the Uco Valley!
 
Planning my wardrobe for this trip was a little challenging because Argentina’s seasons are reversed from ours in the U.S. Planning well ahead of our departure date was critical since I had need of a few new city-chic, yet hot-weather and comfortable pieces.
 
End-of-summer sales reaped a few nice basics, but online research and shopping resulted in bigger wins. The weather will be in the 80s and 90s, with high humidity. Light cotton gauze is a good, easy-care, easy-to-wear fabric for the casual tropics, but it’s not city-chic. I focused, instead, on lightweight, breathable and travel-friendly rayon knits and added separates from J. Jill’s Wherever Collection.
 
Easy packing is a process.
1. A week to 10 days before a trip, I set up a collapsible clothes rack in our guest room. I hang up every clothing item I’m considering taking. This rack makes coordination of separates easier (four tops can hang by one pair of pants); shoes go on the floor below, matching up with the selected clothes.
Note:  When I lived in a New York City apartment, I didn’t have a spare bedroom, so I hung a clothing rack over our bedroom door. You might use a section of your closet. The key is to see everything before you edit and start packing.
 
2.  I chart out each day of my trip on a blank calendar page, noting where I’ll be and expected activity, day and night. Glancing at the rack of clothing, I plan what I could wear each day, and make a note on my calendar. This exercise helps me edit my wardrobe.
 
Note:  The calendar also provides me with a daily wardrobe guide when I unpack at my destination. I don’t need to think about what to wear; I look at my notes, and I’m dressed and out the door.
 
3.  I try everything on, creating outfits and adding accessories that will be the most versatile with all clothing. My mantra is to “pack smart; pack light.” Each top should go with each bottom. Take more tops than bottoms.
 
Neutral colors are the most versatile. Black/white/beige are my favorites for warm weather travel (city-chic and also country smart).
 
Plan to wear each item several times during the trip (accessories are another key to versatility, and they can take wardrobe basics from day to evening).
 
Double-duty items are golden – a tunic-length blouse that can also be worn as a jacket over a camisole.
Limit shoes to three pairs, and be sure to include a comfortable, supportive pair for daytime walking.
 
4.  I check out all of my toiletries and cosmetics to be sure they are replenished and ready to pack. I collect samples of my favorite skin care products and save them for trips; others are transferred to travel-size, leak-proof containers. 
 
Note:  Most hotels have shampoo, conditioner and body lotions, so you only need to bring the toiletries that you cannot live without.
 
5.  I prep a little each day or night before I leave to spread the chore out. For those of you who tend to over-pack: Look at your rack of travel clothing frequently and use this time to edit, following the tips in #3 above.
 
Note:  Ignore the urge to keep in any “but what if…” items. Smart travelers plan what to pack based on the weather and activities, packing only for what is known and logical possibilities. (There’s nothing wrong with shopping for a suddenly- needed item when you get there, that’s part of the fun of travel!)
 
6.  I do my final packing the day before departure. Before you shut your suitcase, however, check the weather forecast again for your destination. Forecasts change daily, and if you didn’t think you’d need that extra sweater yesterday, now you might!
 
I’m ready, relaxed and off to Argentina! Follow me on Facebook, where I’ll share street scenes of Buenos Aires, shopping highlights and the beauty of the vineyards in the Mendoza wine country!
 
Leslie Willmott is the founder of Smart Women on the Go, which provides image and wardrobe consulting to women with busy lifestyles who want to polish their look, enhance their style and streamline their routine. Willmott combines her corporate experience with her fashion and travel savvy, to teach others the strategies to build a wardrobe that is flattering and stylish…anytime, anywhere. She has a degree in fashion merchandising from Florida State University and holds a certificate in image consulting from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She’s lived in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and is now based in Asheville, NC, where she “was discovered by our publisher.” For much more information, go online and visit www.smartwomenonthego.com/.
 
 
 

Brent Clanton: Rodeo Daze

My heroes haven’t always been cowboys. Contrary to Willie Nelson’s sentimentalities, my favorite cowboy flew a twin-engine Cessna T-50. Schuyler “Sky”  King named his aerial steed “Songbird” and captured crooks in the not-so-old west. 

Wonder what Schuyler King and his niece, Penny, would have thought, were they to buzz  Memorial Park last month as the Salt Grass Trail Riders converged on Houston? That trail ride ushers in rodeo season for our corner of the state and, for a few weeks, all of Houston resembles a sound stage from the movie, Urban Cowboy. 
 
Let me share with you a secret from the “Things Men Wish Women Knew” Department: I don’t like to dress up like a cowboy. Never have. The boots hurt my feet; the jeans are too tight, and the hat makes my head sweat. 
 
I realize that, for some women, the sight of a be-denimmed derriere above a sharp set of snakeskin Noconas, capped by a wide-brimmed beaver hat, is the epitome of Southern style, if not swag. There’s irony in such objectification, but little comfort.
 
Cowboy boots, as we know them, originated with Spain’s vaqueros of the 16th century. Their smooth sole and pointed toe were intended for easily stabbing into a saddle stirrup, and if necessary, the lace-less design allowed for quickly slipping out of said stirrup, if one’s mount  became unruly. Somewhere along the line, top stitching was added, the leather shaft acquired additional decoration, and the heel grew about an inch. There are some mighty pretty boots being made today, but I don’t own a pair. I don’t ride horses.
 
John B. Stetson is credited for creating what is today’s classic cowboy hat. The Stetson was wide-brimmed to keep the sun off your face, and water from running down the back of your neck whilst a-horsetop in the rain. It was made from beaver, rabbit, or some other varmint, so it would last in the elements.
 
The Stetson rim was curved upwards to stay out of the way of a spinning lasso, and the crown added a pinch in the front, so the cowboy could easily grab onto it on his way out of the saddle (see aforementioned comments on exiting a horse.) Cowboy hats are very stylish in Texas. Cowboys even wear them inside their pickup trucks, despite a king-cab roof and tinted glass. 
 
I don’t drive a truck; I drive a convertible. That Stetson likely would take off like The Flying Nun in my car.
 
Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis patented putting metal rivets into men’s denim work pants in 1873. The blue jean was born, and “Billie Jean” moon-walked across the stage in sequined glory 109-years later. The first jeans were loose-fitting and wore like iron. Today’s denim jeans often look sprayed on, and the kids prefer them to look worn-out. I like mine boot-cut and comfort-fit. No starch.
 
Rodeo fashion this year will faintly resemble the origins of western wear. Oh, all the elements will be there — jeans, boots and hats. Most real cowboys, however, will spurn the fancy stuff for practicality and comfort on the job. 
 
When I go to the rodeo, I wear jeans…with a pair of leather lace-up sneakers and a ball cap.  
 
Brent Clanton is a native Houstonian and member of Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He is now outnumbered two-to-one by his wife, Darlene, and their three-pound Yorkie, Sophie.
 
 

Legacy of Booker T. Washington

 

The most terrorizing and oppressive form of slavery in recorded history was abolished on December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment. For nearly four million Blacks, the joyous occasion of freedom from physical bondage was swiftly greeted by the enormous uncertainty of how one was to earn a living and provide for his family. Millions of illiterate, impoverished and unemployed, Blacks were thrust onto a foreign land and told to survive. One of these formerly enslaved individuals was Booker T. Washington, merely a child when he was granted freedom. 
 
Washington, like the aforementioned former slaves, was unequipped for this new reality. Due to the obstacles, he could have simply accepted the conditions of his people and no one would have found fault with this judgment. Instead, Washington worked diligently for the betterment of himself, Black people and the citizens of the South. He displayed a level of resiliency and determination that was truly a rare commodity during this time.
 
He was able to make such unfathomable strides by sticking to the core principles that he developed in his early life. Washington’s life journey is one we all can, and should, learn from. 
 
As a young boy, Washington wanted the opportunity to gain a meaningful education. These ambitions were met with the immediate need to work in the coal mines to help support his family. Despite these great responsibilities, Washington still pursued his education, which he so greatly sought after. He eventually worked out an agreement with his mother that allowed him to go to school in the afternoon if he worked in the mines in the morning and returned to work when school let out. Even as a child, Washington displayed a type of initiative foreign to many individuals. The immediate challenges he faced did not deter him from laying the foundation for his education, and he compounded these aspirations with the goal of attending the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute to greaten his future opportunities.
 
While preparing to attend Hampton, and while at the institute, he was the personification of hard work and the ability to endure difficult times. He was constantly without money, food and suitable clothing for the various seasons. He worked very diligently to earn his keep at the university as a custodian and never complained about his misfortune, but rather looked for ways to improve his condition. 
 
Upon the completion of his studies at Hampton, Washington earned a teaching position at the university and proved to be a tremendous addition to the school. Due to his terrific performance as an educator, he was recommended by General Samuel C. Armstrong to become a head administrator at Tuskegee and was offered the position. 
 
Washington was largely responsible for the establishment and continuance of Tuskegee University and made a strong commitment to help others of his race. He constantly referenced the fact that he wanted not to use his proficiencies for commercial use but rather for the advancement of people. He stayed committed to his work for decades and never strayed from the course. In this span, he rarely took time off for himself and had to be pressured from peers to take vacation. He documented that his work was very tiresome and often caused him great anxiety. He most effectively managed these complications by the efficient utilization of his time. He noted that he never wanted to carry over work from a previous day and worked meticulously to accomplish this. 
 
Along with this impressive showcase of self-discipline, Washington is a prime example of integrity and class. He showed what it means to stand by your words and own up to your personal decisions. Despite receiving backlash on a multitude of occasions for statements at his various speaking engagements, he never recanted a single word. Considering the times in which he lived in, this was a true testament to the bravery and fearlessness that he must have possessed.
 
The qualities Washington developed are ones that would greatly benefit my life. I cannot imagine having to endure the trials he faced in order to become such a success, but I, too, have faced obstacles while working to obtain an education and become successful. Although our challenges are not comparable, my time in college has definitely been faced with many financial and personal difficulties. Though I have reaped much academic success, early in my collegiate career, I had considered dropping out of school multiple times. The pressure of weekly eviction notices, constantly having my meal plan cut off and family and relationship dysfunction kept me distressed. Luckily, through resiliency and the utilization of a strong academic foundation, I was able to pull through these tough times and reroute myself towards a brighter path. I am currently excelling in school academically; however, there are a couple of qualities I must develop that are vital to my educational and professional growth.
 
The first of these qualities is the ability to efficiently organize my time. Although I am very well-intended, I have poor time management skills and often find myself with not enough time to effectively work on things to which I have committed. 
 
Secondly, I need to work on having the initiative to act on ideas and recommendations I have for professional and academic assignments, rather than  deferring to someone else.
Similarly to Washington, I too am at a crossroad in my life. I am being faced with the decision of using my capabilities for personal gains or to make an impact in the lives of others. 
As a finance major, I am constantly taught of the importance of money. A countless number of administrators at the university view the significance of career opportunities by the amount of money you have the potential to earn in that specific role...it is frowned upon if I consider anything that isn’t connected with the making of a dollar. 
 
However, being a resident of Third Ward, I see the pain, suffering and anguish on the faces of those in the community. I see the grandmothers walking miles from the grocery store with arms full of bags because there are no quality stores within a reasonable walking distance. I hear the confusion of the youth because of the mis-education and under-education that is being taught at the local schools, compounded onto the lack of meaningful job opportunities being afforded to them. I feel the hopelessness of mothers and fathers when I see them break down crying while holding their children.
 
I understand the terrible predicament our people are in, even 100 years after the passing of Booker T. Washington. 
 
With time running out in my collegiate career, I soon must own my destiny and stand firm in my beliefs regardless of where they take me. I sometimes wonder how useful it would be for me to try to improve the conditions of our people when so many have previously attempted to no avail. However, when I find these questions in my conscience, I think of Booker T. and the commitment he made to our people. The same commitment that ultimately helped pave the way for me and those I love. 
 
Money, without a doubt, plays a huge role in all of our lives. I would be foolish to say that money has no significance. However, the primary goal of life is not about how much money a single person can obtain. I want my life to be valued by the number of lives I am able to positively influence, not by the amount of money  I can gain at the expense of others. I truly believe God attributed me with this passion for the sake of building people’s lives.
 
Learning so much about a man who spent his life doing the same has definitely reaffirmed my                 belief in what my purpose is. 
 
It is important for us to collectively uphold the legacy of Booker T. Washington. However, it is even more important for us to continue the work that he began over 100 years ago. 
 
Editor’s Note: Derrick Smallwood is a student at Texas Southern University. His article is the winning entry in an essay contest on the legacy of Booker T. Washington. Caring Friends, Inc. was the sponsoring partner with the TSU Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry. 
 

Professional Mediator Talks about Art of Arbitration

Wondering how to peacefully resolve a family dispute without taking siblings to court? Need help deciding how to handle the affairs of an elderly relative? Looking for a way to end a marriage amicably without  sacrificing the value of joint assets? Barbara Sunderland Manousso, Ph.D., will tell you that arbitration and mediation are effective ways to bring all parties together for a civilized, problem-solving discussion. 

While divorce cases make up about half her business at Manousso Mediation and Arbitration, LLC  in the Galleria area, Manousso is also well-versed in elder care cases and other family issues. 
 
Mediating and arbitrating a dispute is a timely, quick and cost-effective solution –– a mere fraction of what a lawyer would charge, she said. In divorce cases, there is no reason to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees when those resources can be re-invested in the family’s future needs, such as college tuition, or “something that’s going to enhance the family –– not crush and destroy,” she said. 
 
“We teach people communication skills, and we keep them communicating,” she said. “If there are children involved, they’re going to be in each others’ lives forever. They don’t need to be confrontational; they need to look at the divorce as a business arrangement.” 
 
Successful mediation culminates in drafting a memorandum of understanding that carries the full weight of a legally binding contract and can be enforced in a court of law if parties default, Manousso said.
 
Before she entered the field of conflict resolution here in Houston, Manousso was already a successful businesswoman. In her native Rhode Island, she managed her own cosmetics company, modeling agency and finishing school, and she had been a television personality on a syndicated game show, Dialing for Dollars.
 
When she came to Houston in the early 1970s, she was involved in fundraising activities, working to build up the Houston Area Parkinsonism Society as its executive director. She also worked to raise nearly $2 million for HIV-AIDS charities, such as The Montrose Clinic,  during a time when a lot of large corporations avoided association with AIDS charities.
 
After these successes, Manousso, who already had an undergraduate degree in semiotics from Brown University, and a master’s degree in public health from The University of Texas, began studying at South Texas College of Law. Soon, mediation and arbitration seemed to her to be a much more equitable and cost-effective process than the legal system, she said, and she changed her career path. 
 
Now she’s passing her expertise along to thousands of students through mediation and arbitration classes. Students ranging from 18 to 82 have come from all over the world — the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Canada –– to receive this training.
 
Certification requires 40 hours of training initially, plus 15 additional hours every year. Add an additional 30 hours to specialize in family mediation, and another 20 for working with cases involving seniors. 
 
Mediation and arbitration skills are excellent resume boosters, Manousso said, and the skills are a complement to any career. Being a good listener, organization skills and projecting a professional demeanor that commands your clients’ confidence are part of the package a well-trained mediator/arbitrator can apply to any field. 
 
People sometimes take mediation training after their job search in other industries has not been fruitful, or they think they want a career change, Manousso said. Often, after they’ve completed their training, human resources personnel from those industries will come back and seek them out. 
 
“I can’t think of any major company in Houston that hasn’t had its staff come to us for mediation training,” she said. “Every government agency has also sent staff.” 
 
Currently, Manousso serves as the chair for Education, Research and Training for the                      International Association for Conflict Resolution, the umbrella for all dispute resolution organizations. She has also been the Texas Mediators Trainers Roundtable chair for training other mediation trainers across the state for a number of years.
 
Currently, she is president of Houston Geritological Society and has been a state commissioner for Texas nursing homes for eight years. 
 
Manousso’s doctoral degree is in conflict analysis and resolution from Nova Southeastern University, one of only two universities offering a doctorate in that discipline. 
 
 

Coloring Books for Adults

There is something  delightfully nostalgic about opening up a coloring book and willing yourself to stay inside the lines as you fill in blank spaces with bright color, just as you did in kindergarten. And it’s likely your kindergarten teacher knew this activity could calm boisterous five-year-olds, forcing them to focus quietly for several minutes.

Rediscovering that calming, stress-reducing, repetitive motion has led to an explosive  resurgence in coloring books for grownups in the past three years. If you’ve been to any book, craft or hobby store lately, you probably have come face-to-face with this hot trend ––maybe on even the “impulse buy” rack of your supermarket.
 
Today, adults who want to tap back into a favorite childhood pastime can choose from Buddhist mandalas, Mehndi designs from the East, Japanese kimonos, Art Nouveau designs, paisleys, geometrics, international cityscapes, florals, butterflies, fairies, mermaids, unicorns, birds, sea creatures, religious images, Native American symbols and Day of the Dead tableaus. Dover, one of the leading publishers of coloring books of all kinds, lists 163 different titles for adult coloring books on its website, in addition to another 229 for children.

A July 2015 article in The New Yorker called the coloring book trend just the tip of the iceberg in a larger, escapist “Peter Pan” syndrome sweeping the country. However, some coloring books cover very adult themes such as a guide to sexual positions and one irreverent title called Calm the F__ Down by Sasha O'Hara, which encourages grown-ups to “color the things you can’t say.” 
 
A lot of grownups are certainly buying the idea. The Nielsen Book Scan reported 571 million paper copies of books were sold in 2015, compared to 559 million the year before. While a leap of 16 million books seems like a big victory for print publishers in a digital world, industry experts attribute a large part of that increase to the rise of adult coloring books. 
 
Five of Amazon’s top 20 best-selling books of 2015 were coloring books for grownups. The biggest seller in this genre came from a Scottish textile designer named Johanna Basford. Her Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt, ranked number four on the list, two places higher than the late Harper Lee’s  Go Set a Watchman, the controversial sequel to her classic To Kill a Mockingbird. 
 
Basford now has sold more than 10 million copies of Secret Garden in 40 foreign editions –three million copies in China alone. With three other titles now on the market, she is widely recognized as the artist who, in 2013, opened the door for the latest wave of adult coloring titles, with many other artists rushing to cash in.
 
Even though they are hot sellers right now, these books are hardly new, having been around since the 1960s. 
 
The Anatomy Coloring Book by Wynn Kapit and Lawrence Elson, first premiered in 1977, and continues to be a bestseller among high school biology and college pre-med students nearly 40 years later. 
 
Elissa Davis, director of customer service and retail sales for the Jung Center in Houston, says that institution has carried adult coloring books in its bookstore for decades –– primarily mandalas for meditation, but current demand has prompted them to expand their                 offerings. 
 
Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung was a big believer in the power of expressive and creative arts, and he also did a lot of work with painting mandalas –– an intricate spiritual and ritual symbol in Eastern religions. Those spiraling symbols lend themselves well to coloring book designs, Davis said. 
 
“Creative activities allow the brain to work on its problems while the hands are busy,” Davis said. People who were told as children that they had no artistic talent are rediscovering there is a value to creative pursuits, and coloring books may serve that purpose, she added. 
“They absolutely force a person to slow down and focus on what’s directly in front of them,” she added. 
 
That impetus to focus may explain why some therapists offer coloring pages to help Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients. The calming effect of the coloring process is one of  many reasons people have taken to this new art form –– even if working on a computer all day has already given them carpal tunnel syndrome. 
 
Judy Reagan Hughes, a funeral director with the SCI Corporation, finds stress relief in her paisley patterned book.
 
“I concentrate on coloring each paisley differently, and it helps me forget about work or other things,” she said. “It clears my mind and the time flies.”
 
Hughes was so taken with her book that she decided a small box of colored pencils wasn’t enough. So, she bought herself a new set of 152 crayons. 
 
The Crayola company has taken note of the trend and introduced its own line of adult coloring books, along with pencils and fine-tipped markers to fill in intricate spaces. Another company, Painterly Days, offers books printed on watercolor paper for those interested in that medium. 
 
One small coloring book can often lead to larger investments in supplies, as Raequel Roberts learned. The communications manager at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston said she hoped $50 worth of new pencils would improve her coloring skills. 
 
“The books are certainly much harder than the books of my youth,” Roberts said. “Of course, my expectations of perfection are much higher, too.”
 
Roberts said striving to be perfect doesn’t add to the stress at all. Instead, she said, “It’s really fun and totally mindless.”
 
Deborah Quinn Hensel is a freelance journalist and a staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.
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