Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Essential Oils

Bennie Willis of doTerra Essential Oils came and gave us a short course in essential oils and how they are mankind's first medicine. These oils are pure and from nature, not chemicals manufactured in a lab. The over 400 compounds in lavender shows that it is a multi-useful oil, in fact, they call it the Swiss Army Knife of essential oils because it can help the body heal itself in so many ways.

Here are some oil blends and how they can help the body heal itself:

Lavender - headache, burns, better sleep, improve immune system, cure muscle spasms
Frankincense - this is the father of all oils - depression, cancer deterrent
Myrrh - this is the mother of all oils - circulation, menopause
Peppermint - sinus, oxygenating, alertness, digestion, cooling
Engard - sore throat
Melissa - cognitive support, anxiety
Melaluca - antibacterial (pink eye and ear ache)
Lemon - detoxification

Monday, August 25, 2014

Discover Costa Rica

Back Country Expeditioning or KINE 1172 was why Professor Ronnie Nespeca took ten intrepid students to Costa Rica in May. Costa Rica is the most diverse geographical area on earth. We at LIFE were spellbound by all the adventures these students had in Costa Rica: swimming in a volcano crater, kayaking the river, harvesting sugar cane and processing it, tagging and cataloguing bats, eating local fare, and living the pura vida. Those were ten very strong and athletic students who had an experience of a lifetime. It's great Ronnie is so organized and talented to be able to do a study abroad with nary a hitch. Thank you for coming to LIFE to give us our vicarious thrills. We especially loved the way Ronnie imitated the howl of the howler monkey. Wish we had that on tape. There is an unsolved mystery in Costa Rica. See the huge sphere in the picture? These multi-sized spheres have existed in Costa Rica since before the 1500s, but no one really knows where or how they exist. They are a symbol of wealth and power.

Cristina Loreto, one of our attendees, took this photo in
Costa Rica in 2007.

The library and Friends of the Library are psyched that Ronnie had
his students take one of our tote bags along for the ride.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Laughter Yoga

Certified laughter yoga instructor and founder of Houston, We've Got Laughter, came and gave us all a workout through breathing deeply from the lower belly and acting out all sorts of childlike emotions such as flying like a bird, growling like a lion, feigning anger and sadness, yawning and relaxing, and basically making fools of ourselves (oops, shouldn't have said that). "Laugh every day," says Lainie, who is also a mezzo soprano.

Benefits of laughter yoga are many: it relaxes you, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, strengthens the immune system, and much more. Learn more at

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dirty Tricks, Mudslinging, and October Surprises

One of our all-time favorite presenters, Professor Alex Smith, filled us in on Part II of his series on dirty presidential campaigns. With his surprising anecdotes and spot-on presidential impersonations, our LIFErs can't get enough of Alex's presentations and were asking him to come back for Part III. Here are the campaigns covered today:

1928: Herbert Hoover vs. Al Smith
These two rags-to-riches millionaires couldn't have been more different. Hoover's monotone voice and failure to engage with people drove his campaigners to create buttons that read "That Man Hoover - He's Human". On the other hand, Al Smith's man of the people personality and engaging speeches sometimes made him too energetic to sit still for radio addresses. However, Al Smith's admittance that he drank during this prohibition era and his Catholicism were factors against him. Some detractors even managed to spread the rumor that Smith had built a tunnel between Washington, D.C. and the Vatican. As we all know, Hoover was the winner in this election. To add something not often remembered about Hoover, he provided a great deal of humanitarian aid and food relief to families in Eastern Europe during World War I.

1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt vs. Wendell Willkie
In this campaign, FDR was "reluctantly" running for his 3rd term in office, which he actually wanted very much. Roosevelt's situation was quite different to that of Wendell Willkie's, who had never held elected office. In this election, each party had some powerful material on the other candidate, but it was believed that FDR and Willkie had some sort of agreement not to disclose the information on the other. FDR's Vice President, Henry Wallace, had written letters to Nicholas Roerich that expressed unusual religious interests, and Willkie's supporters threatened to publish these. Willkie also left himself open to attack however, with the information that he was having an affair, and so both sides decided not to disclose this compromising information about the other.

1952: Dwight Eisenhower vs. Adlai Stevenson
At this time, Eisenhower was a beloved American war hero who actually had to pick a political party in order to run for president, so he chose the party that spends more money on the military. Adlai Stevenson was championed by the previous president, Harry Truman, and was actually reluctant to run with his support. TV had grown in popularity during the campaign, and Stevenson's rambling, 30 minute addresses stood in stark contrast to Eisenhower's down-to-earth 20 second TV spots. As rumors spread about Stevenson, one long-kept secret came to light--Adlai had killed another teen when he was thirteen years old and he and some friends were playing with a rifle. No one knows how this information was discovered, but it could have helped lead to Eisenhower's landslide victory.

1960: John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon
The Republicans caused problems for themselves in this election by having just passed the 22nd Amendment, which limited a president to serving two terms. Had this law not been in place, Eisenhower could have easily won a third term. Instead, they chose to select the next best option, Vice President Richard Nixon, who touted his experience. This proved a problem when Eisenhower showed only lukewarm support of Nixon, and expressed the view that Nixon had done very little in office. Despite the claims that JFK was too young and just a spoiled rich kid, his popularity grew quickly. The first televised debate didn't do Nixon any favors either. It took place soon after a two week hospital stay for Nixon, who stood on stage with a 100 degree fever and appeared to be melting as his sweat mixed with the makeup he was wearing on-screen. In polls conducted afterwards, radio listeners would say that Nixon won the debate while TV watchers claimed that JFK won. The results of the election were about as close as they could possibly be, and there were some very shady operations in Texas, where many dead people seemed to have voted, and Illinois, where the votes just didn't add up right. In spite of all this, Nixon accepted his defeat and even put a stop to a series of exposé pieces being written on voter fraud in the election.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Experience the Chelsea Flower Show

Freddye did a great job photographing this 11 acre event.
Master gardener Freddye Kelly went to London in May for the annual (five day) Chelsea Flower Show and competition. This year's theme is World War I since it has been 100 years this year. These are not just pretty flowers--they have a purpose. There was a ten foot tall mural of Nelson Mandela made of flowers. Flower dresses worn by models. Arrangements to make you see the world in a different way. A pottery shed abandoned by a soldier as he went to war. These are showcases for artists/designers worldwide.

There are three major parts of the show: show gardens, artisan gardens, and fresh gardens. A history of the show is attached. Freddye's favorites are the iris and the peony. There are so many varieties from all over the world that even Freddye did not recognize half of the flowers.

Visit the Chelsea Flower Show website for more information:

Also check out The History of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


A fun, hands-on time was had by all today at LIFE, where Patsy Brautigam showed us how to make our own beaded bandanas. These stylish accessories are easily made with a bandana, some beads and Patsy's step-by-step directions. There are so many different colors and styles of bandanas and beads--this is a great way to put your craft skills to work and express your own style!


  • Bandana
  • Beads
  • Tape Measure or Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Stitch Witch (or other fusible bonding tape)
  • Craft Glue

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Tour of Texas State Parks

Numerous side canyons drain into the mighty Rio Grande and the carved-out landscape is surrounded by a beautiful desert wilderness.
Photo of Seminole Canyon State Park from
Our original speaker wasn't able to make it to LIFE today, so the wonderful Cheryl LeJune stepped up to introduce us to all the amazing things our State Parks have to offer. Cheryl is the chairperson for the Academy for Lifelong Learning here at CyFair, and she frequently volunteers with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

There are over 90 State Parks across Texas that offer a wide variety of activities and programs. If you plan on visiting any parks a few times a year, Cheryl recommends getting a Texas State Parks Pass, which grants unlimited free entry to any of the State Parks for you and your guests and only costs $70 for a year. The parks offer so many activities throughout the year, including birding, camping, hiking, and geocaching, to name a few. Cheryl has had the opportunity to visit many of our State Parks, and recounted recent trips to Big Bend, Seminole Canyon, and Bastrop. Bastrop State Park is still recovering from a wildfire in 2011 and while many of the Lost Pines have been destroyed, the park is open and welcoming visitors, and it's fascinating to see how nature is rebuilding itself.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife web site is a fantastic resource to discover more about the parks and make reservations, check it out here:  Many thanks to Cheryl for stepping in on such short notice and inspiring us to get out there and discover what all our State Parks have to offer!