Ten Ways to Boost Your Immune System During a Pandemic

The current world seems to be extremely polarized into two different groups of people: those who believe the Covid-19 pandemic to be as deadly as the media depicts it to be, and those who feel it’s being blown way out of proportion and therefore creating overhyped panic and fear. This division seems to come from deep-rooted fear among both groups: one is in fear of the horrific ramifications of illness and death, and the other has a fear of the horrific ramifications of giving up our civil liberties and freedom of choice.

No matter what side you stand with, there is one important thing I believe we can ALL agree on: a strong, robust immune system is absolutely vital for human health and survival.

One could argue that our immune system is the single most important component to thriving as a human being, as it shields your body from thousands, if not millions, of harmful pathogens on a daily basis.

This is why it is so important to oftentimes quarantine someone who is immune-compromised, as their weakened “shield” doesn’t adequately protect them from these pathogens and could therefore lead to serious illness or death, even from something as trivial as the common cold.

I am continually amazed at just how resilient the human body is when it is equipped with a strong and healthy immune system, which is why I’ve chosen to study this subject for so many years.

From the moment we are conceived, our bodies start developing this protective system. It begins in the womb with healthy bacteria that is present in the placenta. Once we are born, we immediately receive antibodies from the colostrum and breast milk from our mother, which start the building blocks to our immune system in some pretty miraculous ways.

We now know that a new mother can smell the head of her newborn baby while breastfeeding, and through her olfactory nerve, she can innately sense the nutritive needs of her child. These newborn pheromones communicate to the mother what specific, individual needs the baby has, and the mother’s breastmilk will instinctively alter to accommodate those needs. This is the very beginning stages of building a healthy immune system, and it is simply fascinating to me!

When a baby starts to grow into a toddler, have you ever noticed how often the baby will put things in his or her mouth? This is not just to ease the discomfort of his or her gums while cutting teeth. It’s also an instinctive way to expose themselves to pathogens, viruses, and bacteria, to build a variety of healthy microbes in their gut as a foundation for their immune system.

It has been proven that the majority of our immune system lies in the microbes in our gut. A strong immune system is dependent on balanced levels of bacterial flora, which is built through constant exposure to various microbes. A diverse microbiota is much more likely to bounce back from unhealthy fluctuations and withstand outside intruders, which means a more tolerant and well-regulated immune system.

Studies have shown that when animals are raised in a sterile environment, thus never having been exposed to beneficial microorganisms, they have incredibly weakened immune systems and are more susceptible to harmful viruses and pathogens.

With all of these findings, it makes sense that if you’ve ever taken an antibiotic throughout your lifetime, you have inadvertently stifled your immune system. While sometimes taking an antibiotic is necessary for extreme circumstances such as streptococcus or Lyme disease, they should not be taken for every little ailment or sniffle, which has unfortunately become the norm in Western society. Chances are, all of us have been over-saturated with antibiotics and are missing the adequate number of healthy bacteria our immune systems need to thrive.

On top of being overly inundated with antibiotics, we are also saturating ourselves with antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, which destroy even more of the friendly bacteria that would provide us with a powerful “shield” against harmful pathogens.

Now, factoring in the current stay-at-home lockdown orders that have been mandated due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we are putting ourselves at a much greater risk for incredibly weakened immune systems. Lack of contact with an environment outside of our own homes, coupled with the increased use of anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners, we are much more susceptible to getting sick once the lockdown orders are lifted.

This is why it is of great importance to start building our immune systems now before we congregate with others once again and are exposed to pathogens that we have been hiding from for several months.

I’ve compiled a list of ten things that will help you do just that, and hopefully build a resilient shield to help protect you and your family as you ease back into society:

1. Take a high-quality probiotic every single day, preferably one with a potency count of 50 Billion or higher. Make sure they are not made with bioengineered ingredients and are manufactured while following current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). It should contain multiple strains including Lactobacillus acidophilus and plantarum, and Bifidobacterium lactis, longum, and bifidum. Try not to use the capsules that need to be refrigerated, as the product may be too fragile and could’ve been compromised during its commute. Most non-refrigerated brands are freeze-dried and protected from damage.

Here’s a great brand I would recommend: https://amzn.to/2WkQLim

2. Incorporate fermented foods regularly into your diet. These foods are rich in naturally-occurring bacteria and are highly beneficial to consume regularly. Some of the fermented foods I recommend are kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, miso, and kombucha, to name a few.

One of my favorite brands of high-quality fermented veggies is Pickled Planet: https://amzn.to/2LkXmD3

3. Take a high-quality multivitamin that contains high doses of vitamin B1 (thiamine), C, and zinc. I would suggest taking a separate B complex formula as B1 works best when taken with other B vitamins. Here is a good B-complex formula: https://amzn.to/2Lh1Yu3

Through my research, I am convinced that liposomal Vitamin C is the best kind of supplement since it is absorbed much more thoroughly than capsules or pills. Here is a Vitamin C supplement I highly recommend: https://amzn.to/3boTDig

A great overall multi-vitamin that is made by a fantastic company I have grown to love is here: https://amzn.to/2WmoKXx

4. Increase Vitamin D levels. Countless studies have shown that Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for optimal health but is the one vitamin that most people are deficient in. This is because Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, it is a hormone that the body produces when exposed to the sun. Since you cannot get Vitamin D from food, it is imperative to supplement if you do not get daily sun exposure. When supplementing, Vitamin D should also always be taken with Vitamin K2, so make sure to read the labels. Most high-quality supplements will contain both.

Here’s a good Vitamin D/K2 I would recommend: https://amzn.to/3co1ezf

5. Include high-quality Mushroom powders and/or tinctures in your daily regimen. Mushrooms are the fruit of mycelium, which is a cobweb-like cellular network within the soil. Mushrooms contain long-chain polysaccharides, particularly alpha and beta-glucan molecules, which are critical in maintaining a healthy immune response. Make sure to choose organic mushroom powders and tinctures that include a variety of mushroom strands such as reishi, chaga, and lion’s mane.

One of my favorite mushroom brands is Host Defense. You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2Wo2VHp

6. Consume antiviral foods such as coconut oil. Coconut oil is a well-known superfood, but it also has natural antiviral and antifungal properties. It is incredible for the immune system, and it’s high in medium-chain fatty acids that help to balance cholesterol levels and can even help you lose weight. I add one or two tablespoons to my daily protein shakes and I also slather in on my hair and body. Make sure you only get organic, non-GMO extra virgin coconut oil.

Here’s a brand I like: https://amzn.to/2yOkas7

7. Boost nitric oxide with 30 minutes of daily exercise. Nitric oxide production is essential for overall health because it allows blood, nutrients, and oxygen to travel to every part of your body. Regular exercise also helps the body to sweat and release toxins that might be stagnant in your blood. Infrared saunas can accomplish with this as well.

8. Get plenty of fresh air and oxygen. Continuously breathing stale, recycled air in an enclosed room can ultimately hinder your immune system. Try to go outside and breathe fresh air whenever possible. If you cannot go outside, open your windows daily and allow fresh air to circulate in your home. Deep breathing exercises like those found in many yoga practices can also help to stimulate your immune system and relieve stress.

9. Regularly practice grounding, or “earthing” whenever possible. Research has revealed that electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth produces intriguing effects on physiology and health. Such effects relate to inflammation, immune responses, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. It makes sense that people who garden and grow their own food seem to experience fewer health problems than those who do not, (although there are probably multiple reasons for this outside of just being in contact with the earth).

There is an incredible book that explains the “Earthing” phenomenon. If you’d like to read it, here it is: https://amzn.to/2LjoLWb

10. Last but certainly not least, maintain a positive outlook! Release any negative feelings or thoughts when they surface and try to stay as joyful as you can, even during trying times. Studies have shown that optimism, happiness, and joy stimulate the immune system almost as much (if not more) than a healthy diet and supplementation.
Our brains are extremely powerful. If they weren’t, then there would be no such thing as a “placebo effect.” Every single thing you choose to focus on will ultimately affect your health. Let go of anger, judgment, fear, and guilt. Remember how uniquely amazing you are, and try to focus on the things you are grateful for!

If you can implement these steps to build your immune system, then you are much less likely to contract a bad case of any viral infection, including COVID-19. This doesn’t mean you won’t ever “get” a virus, it means you will be equipped to handle it, which is exactly what a healthy immune system is supposed to do.
p.s. – While passionate about this subject, I am not a medical doctor, so please don’t take any of the aforementioned information as medical advice. I am merely sharing with you some pretty fascinating research that I’ve compiled here in a short little essay to share with others. Feel free to research more for yourself if you feel so inclined. As always, use common sense, and please consult your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.

 

 

References:

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2020/04/19/vitamin-c-dosage-for-viral-infection.aspx

https://neurosciencenews.com/baby-head-odor-bonding-14992

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK200997/

6 magical ways that breastmilk changes to meet your baby’s needs

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2018.01830/full

https://articles.mercola.com/vitamins-supplements/probiotics.aspx

https://fungi.com/blogs/articles/mushrooms-and-mycelium-help-the-microbiome

How Deep Breathing Techniques Can Boost Your Immune System

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797610362061


A Million Dollar Idea: How I Decided to Create My First Product

One question I am constantly asked is: “How did you go from being a marketing director for Harley-Davidson to formulating herbal supplements?”

It’s a long story, but here’s a little look into how passionate, tenacious research can hit you with an entrepreneurial idea out of nowhere…

It first began when both myself and my boyfriend at the time became obsessed with healing our bodies naturally and embarked on a mission to attain the best health ever. He had been diagnosed with MS, and I suffered from severe gastrointestinal issues. We became obsessed with healthy eating, juicing, fasting, and supplementing with high quality vitamins and herbs.

One of the first things we decided to do together was to remove the mercury fillings in our teeth. We were both children of the ’80s, back when most dentists were still using amalgram fillings. Amalgram was an alloy made from mercury and other metals to fill cavities in teeth. 

We were both wanting to do a heavy metal cleanse to remove any excessive amounts of metals that might be looming in our bodies, but it felt counterproductive to embark on a grueling heavy metal cleanse while we still had it embedded in our mouths! 

The craziest thing about amalgram fillings is that mercury is continuously emitted from the fillings and absorbed and retained in the body. The output of mercury is intensified the more fillings you have, and also by chewing, grinding your teeth, and the consumption of hot foods and beverages.

Think about that for a moment: mercury, a known (and now proven)* neurotoxin, slowly being emitted into your mouth and gums, the area right in front of your brain, the mothership of your entire nervous system! 

We both found a specialist to remove our fillings and replace them with safer composite fillings. This is not an easy procedure to do since you could actually get more dangerous exposure to mercury if your fillings aren’t removed properly. The vapor emitted from drilling into the mercury to remove it is highly toxic and can cause more damage than leaving the fillings intact, which is why it is imperative to find a holistic dentist who specializes in mercury removal. He or she will use a secured dental dam and remove fillings in a hyper-controlled environment keeping the vapor and fumes from being exposed to the patient and the doctor as well.

After having our fillings removed, we decided it was time to do a heavy metal cleanse together. It involved a rigorous 12-day regimen filled with organic green juice (romaine, spinach, parsley, green apple, and cilantro), chlorella tablets, dandelion root, and activated charcoal. We kept our food intake light and drank tons of water.

We also received colonic irrigation, mainly after researching how mercury and other heavy metals like to sit in your gut. By visiting a colonic specialist, we were able to cleanse out our entire intestinal system. I highly recommend organic coffee colonics if you can find someone in your area to perform one since the coffee helps to purge the liver of any excess toxins as well. A really good colonic practitioner will also do a probiotic infusion after performing the colonic.

Even so, it is still very important to make sure you supplement with high doses of probiotics after having a colonic since it will also clear out all the good gut bacteria that you have living inside of your intestines. Having a large amount of this “good” bacteria is vital for digestion, assimilation, and also supporting your immune system.  

Many years later I learned about the importance of glutathione in heavy metal detoxification, so I feel the need to mention it here. Glutathione is a blend of amino acids and is an incredibly potent antioxidant and detoxifier. Glutathione is present in every human cell, but most people are deficient in this essential nutrient due to increased exposure to harmful toxins.

Glutathione is best administered intravenously since most oral glutathione supplements do not work. Unless it’s nanoliposomal, it will simply break down during the digestion process. If you can find a nanoliposomal glutathione supplement that can be absorbed under the tongue, it should work well and will be a lot less expensive than an IV glutathione.

After removing our fillings and performing a series of heavy metal detoxification protocols, we both felt like our health had hit an all-time high. We had boundless energy and seemed to have mental clarity like never before.

This ignited within us even more zealous passion to continue our quest for natural ways to heal and support our bodies. I became obsessed with reading books about herbs and nutrients and would spend hours preparing herbal formulas and superfood recipes. I also made sure that the ingredients we used were super high-quality, organic, and pure. After all, we hadn’t gone through all the above to simply add those harmful toxins back into our diet!

My favorite concoction ever was a very special superfood shake we would regularly prepare in the blender. It consisted of several powerful superfoods such as cacao, maca, ginseng powder, Epimedium extract (aka “horny goat weed”), cinnamon, raw honey, and more. We would also top it off with a generous pinch of cayenne powder.

Cayenne has an overall stimulant effect on the body. It supports circulation, enhances digestion, and improves absorption of any herbs taken along with it, therefore increasing efficacy of virtually any herbal combination. After learning this, I started adding organic cayenne powder to our daily superfood shakes and noticed a powerful increase in the benefits of our formulations.  

Outside of simply being a catalyst to other herbs, I soon learned that cayenne has a magnitude of health benefits on its own. It has the powerful ability to increase circulation and dilate blood vessels to stimulate and energize the nervous system. It has a warming effect in the body and can actually lower blood pressure. Cayenne is also known to be a powerful antioxidant and helps protect cells against free radical damage. It also has a chemical effect on the brain and upon consumption, helps to release endorphins, and can create an effect similar to “runner’s high.”**

I started to wonder why more natural supplements didn’t contain cayenne since it would increase the effects of other herbs so significantly. I also wondered why there weren’t any mainstream companies at that time selling herbal formulas that were certified organic and free from heavy metals. I got to where I started making all of my own formulas since I didn’t trust many pre-packaged herbal products after all the research I had done.

Back to my favorite superfood concoction mentioned above, whenever we added this particular formulation to our regimen, we would both notice an almost instantaneous increase in sexual desire. It was a truly phenomenal side effect that I remember vividly happening to my body.

When I told my friends about this, they were insistent on trying this concoction out themselves and every single one of them, (men and women), experienced similar potent effects.

“Hey, Julie, can you make me one of your Horny Shakes?” my friends would jokingly ask me.

“Sure, come on over!” I would laughingly respond and proceed to whip up another magical concoction.

This entire process of researching and creating amazing herbal formulations then notating the significant changes in our bodies became quite addicting. I also loved getting feedback from friends and family.

One morning on my way to work, my boyfriend called me on my cell phone.

“Hey,” I answered.

“Hey, I just wanted to tell you that your cousin called and wants me to bring her and her entire staff some of our ‘infamous horny shakes’, and she offered to pay me $15 for each of them!” he laughed.

“How many would that be?”

“Well it’s her and her business partner, and 3 other girls. That’s 5 shakes I’d have to make. We don’t have enough to-go cups with lids for that!”

“So are you going to be a superfood shake delivery boy now?” I giggled at the thought.

“I wouldn’t mind if it were easier to transport these damn things,” he said, “if one of them spills in my truck it’s game over.”

“Too bad we can’t just put the ingredients in a pill and sell them in a bottle!” I laughed.

Then came the silence. I’m not sure exactly how long we remained quiet, but it felt like neither one of us said a word for at least a minute. We were thinking the exact same thing.

“Why don’t we?” he finally broke the silence.

“How would we even go about doing that?” I said.

“I don’t know, but we have something pretty powerful here!”

“I gotta go, I’m pulling into work,” I said.

I parked my car and ran into the Harley-Davidson dealership where I worked as a Marketing Director. I unlocked my office, turned on my computer, and immediately did an online search for “raw, organic herbal libido enhancement pills.” I found nothing significant. Then I searched for “how to make your own custom herbal supplement.”

I was officially down the rabbit hole, and for the next several months all I did was research and collect information on how this could be done. There was a lot to learn about manufacturing this type of product for mass consumption, from the steps to organic certification to the extensive testing for heavy metals and the like, but I was having so much fun researching that it didn’t feel burdensome at all.

I think that’s one of the most valuable pieces of advice that I can give anyone asking me how to turn their idea into a reality. If you have relentless passion and are willing and eager to learn every single thing about a specific industry prior to launching a new business/product/brand, then you know you’re on the right track.

If someone says: “I heard there’s a lot of money selling widgets, so I want to make a widget,” then I know they are probably going to have a difficult time launching a successful idea. Sure, it’s possible, but they are going to be at a disadvantage among competitors who have invested passion and grit into creating their widgets. You can see just from my personal story the amount of time and effort that went into research before an idea was ever born. In my opinion, passion and enthusiasm are essential for manifesting a million-dollar idea. It’s the only way you will have the tenacity to survive the endless hurdles you will face along the way. And endless hurdles you will most definitely face. Trust me. But that’s another story for another time…

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334728/) *https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22438029

**Colpaert, FC, et al., Life Sciences, vol.32, p. 1827, 1983
Surh, YJ, et al., Food Chemical Toxicology, vol.34, p.313, 1996
Visudhiphan, S., et al., American Journal Clinical Nutriton, vol.35, p.1452, June 1982
Chen, H, et al., Free Radical Biology Medicine, vol.16, p.437, 1994
Rubino, A., et al., Cardiovascular Research, vol.31, p.467, 1996
Unnikrishnan, MC, et al., Cancer Letters, vol.51, p.85, 1990
O’Neil, TP, Respiratory Medicine, vol.85, suppl.A, p.35, 1991
Roquebert, J., et al., Annales Pharmaceutiques Francaises, vol.36, p.361, 1978
Bell, D., et al., Pharmacological Reviews, vol.48, no.2, p.253, 1996
Fusco, BM, et al., Pain, vol.59, p.321, 1994
Virag, R., et al., Lancet, p. 183, Jan.26, 1985
Yoshida, T., Journal Nutrition Science Vitaminology, vol.34, p.587, 1988
Bernstein, JE, Clinics in Dermatology, vol.9, p.497, 1992
Lee, TS, Journal of Physiology, vol.124, p.528, 1954

**Special Thanks to Dr. Patrick Quillin and his book, “The Healing Power of Cayenne Pepper”, copyright 1998 Leader Co., Inc.


A Life Lesson Learned at the Welfare Office…

My 2-year-old son and I both lived in a tiny, one-bedroom loft in what some would call a “shitty neighborhood.” I was only 22 years old and was struggling to make ends meet on my own. My abusive ex-husband refused to give us a dime so I was waitressing and looking desperately to find a second job.

Our little loft apartment was small but functional. The burgundy front door opened to a narrow kitchen lined with 1970’s Spanish tile and filled with aged wooden cabinets, a small stove, and a puke-yellow fridge. Beside the kitchen was a living room with a wood-burning fireplace in the corner. Next to the fireplace was a flight of stairs covered in matted beige carpet that led up to the loft above the kitchen, which contained a bedroom, bathroom, and one small closet. It was dark and musty with wood paneled walls. The lone “window” in the entire place was a sliding glass door in the living room that opened up to a small, cracked slab of concrete on the back. Directly behind the concrete slab was a wide wooden fence that failed to block the the noise from the busy street behind it.

The only furniture I had at that time was an old dresser, a small TV, and a squeaky black futon. Since neither of us had our own bed yet, my son and I slept together on the futon in front of the fireplace every night. I named our dingy little apartment “The Chalet” and filled the place with tiny little candle votives I got from the dollar store. I would turn off the harsh overhead lights, light all the candles, and pretend we were in some high-end ski chalet in Aspen…surrounded by fresh, unmarked snow and a forest full of elk, reindeer, and friendly wolves who watched over us. 

Looking back I realize how dismal the apartment seems when I describe it, but at that time I was ecstatic to have it. I was so grateful for that little Chalet. It was quaint and cozy, but most importantly, it was ours. There was no more abuse, no more screaming, and no more yelling. There was no arguing and no crying. But most importantly, there was no more fear. It was just the two of us, finally living in peace. Despite the obvious challenges, it was the happiest I’d been in years.

One evening I was at the laundry mat, washing our clothes and reading a book to my son. He was always such a little busy body, so I had to occupy him nonstop to keep him from crawling around the dirty, lint-lined floors. He finally fell asleep in my arms and I sat there watching the clothes spiral in the machines in front of me. That’s when it dawned on me: I was a single mom on a limited income, I should be able to qualify for some government assistance. My pride didn’t want to go there, but I only needed temporary help, until I could get back on my feet. I decided it couldn’t hurt to accept a little help if it was available, especially for healthcare and food. Besides, isn’t that what the system was designed for? To help people who are struggling get back on their feet?

The next day I went downtown to the Social Services Department to fill out the paperwork. I sat in the waiting room and took a look around. The room was packed with people of all ages and races, and kids were running all around the room. It smelled like moth balls and Lysol. I was trying to hold my toddler still but he was fussy and wiggling in my lap.

My name was finally called so I walked up to the clerk and handed her my paperwork. She was a large African American woman with flawless skin and bright, smiling eyes. 

“Hello, I’m Tamara. Please have a seat,” she said pleasantly as she nodded towards the chair in front of her.

She perused my paperwork for several minutes, making notes while I sat there uncomfortably. I felt embarrassed to be there, and wanted to leave. My pride would’ve probably gotten the best of me if it wasn’t for my son. If I was alone, I could afford more time to get back on my feet, but I had to get myself in a better place as soon as possible for him.

“You marked the box that you are married, and gave some information about the identity of your husband, is all that correct?” she asked.

“I’m still legally married, yes, but we are separated. I…I haven’t been able to afford a divorce yet.”

“I see.” 

She started typing something on her computer. 

“And I see here you’re currently employed at a restaurant?” she asked, without looking up.

“Yes, I am waiting tables but really trying to get another job during the day,” I responded.

She finally looked up and took a long breath. 

“Miss Julie, I’m sorry but I cannot approve you for any kind of government help at this time. You are still married and it appears your husband makes a decent amount of money….”

“But my husband won’t give me a dime!” I interrupted, then caught myself and simmered down.

“Then you’ll need to take that up with him in court. Would you like me to connect you with someone?” 

Shame and humiliation immediately ran over me. 

“So you mean to tell me that if I had a baby out of wedlock, and didn’t have a job, then you would be able to help me?” I felt tears of humiliation well up in my eyes.

Tamara put her pencil down and looked up from the paperwork to make eye contact with me.

“It’s a little more complicated than that, but I’m afraid you’re right. You can come back and try again when your situation changes. I am so sorry…” 

My son started to fuss and I squirmed in my seat. I felt my face grow hot with embarrassment. I was better than this. I was WAY better than this. The last thing my husband had told me when I left him was that I would never be able to survive on my own. He told me I was a loser and would always need someone to help me through life. If I accepted a handout now, then he would be right. 

I cleared my throat and swallowed hard in an effort to hold back the tears.

“Thank you for your time, Tamara, I appreciate you meeting with me,” I said.

I scooped up my son and walked swiftly out the door. I couldn’t wait to get out of that place.

As I walked down the corridor in that cold, government building, I made a promise to myself. I was going to immediately file for a divorce, then I was going to work my ass off and be so damn successful that my piece of shit ex-husband was going to ask me for money one day. I really envisioned it in my mind with such crystal-clear clarity that I could even hear his voice in my head, begging me for money. He was going to desperately need my help one day, and I was going to tell him NO.

It took ten whole years before that “dream” actually came true, every single detail of it. The irony is that I was so laser-beam focused on my own personal success that I totally forgot about getting revenge on my deadbeat ex-husband, so when he finally did call me to beg for money, it took a moment for me to even remember I had ever wished it to happen in the first place! And even though I told him no, it didn’t feel nearly as exonerating as I’d imagined it would. But that’s the interesting thing about goals. You work so hard to achieve them, and when you finally do, you realize the end result is never as satisfying as the journey was getting there.

That’s why I’ve learned to embrace the journey, it’s where all the real fulfillment lies. Our dreams and goals are meaningless without the work it takes to get there.

Exterior photo of the actual loft apartment I shared with my 2-year old in Greensboro, NC.


How My Biggest Failures Helped Me Find True Success

My entire life I’ve always dreamt about becoming a self-made millionaire. I’ve read so many books by Donald Trump, Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, and Barbara Corcoran. When I was a kid, I would line my stuffed animals up against the wall and practice motivational seminars in front of them. I never really knew what I was going to do in the long run, but I always knew it was going to be something sensational, something spectacular…something that would help a ton of people and make me rich and famous in the process.

Becoming a single mom at the age of 21 put somewhat of a halt on those dreams. My son’s father refused to pay child support and I suddenly found myself worried more about putting food on the table and less about getting rich and saving the world.

When my son was about 9-years-old, I finally flexed my entrepreneurial spirit and started my very own business. I had developed a truly spectacular herbal supplement and it was helping tons of people. Business took off relatively fast and before I knew it, I was flying around the world promoting my company. I was featured on national television, satellite radio, and suddenly rubbing shoulders with celebrities and the uber rich. I was making more money than I ever had before, and it looked as if it was only going to get better. My dreams were finally coming true.

Just as I started achieve the success I had only ever dreamt about, I got into a nasty lawsuit with my business partners. I also got hit with a class-action lawsuit from a lawyer who was famous for suing supplement companies to get a pay-off. Then I ran into a huge supply-and-demand issue, and since I had to spend so much money on legal bills, it eventually drained me of my resources and I could barely keep the company afloat. The stress was killing me, so I decided to sell the company and walk away before I lost everything, including my health and happiness.

Starting over wasn’t easy, and eventually I decided to move to Los Angeles to marry the man of my dreams and give myself, and my son, a fresh start.

It wasn’t long after we moved to California that I was introduced to some people who wanted me to use my experience to help develop CBD/hemp products. I had access to more funding and a larger team, resources I did not have when I started my last business, so I decided to roll up my sleeves and dive into the world of entrepreneurship once again.

As successful as we were in the beginning, we barely survived the legal issues that saturated the entire CBD industry. We also were victims of a huge stock scam that left us virtually penniless and struggling to survive. Then, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, we were fraudulently sued by someone who turned out to be a con-artist (we were actually warned about this person due to a multitude of other scams he conducted on others). The market then started to really halt CBD companies everywhere, and the devastation continued to tear us apart. After spending every penny of our savings to keep the company afloat, we finally decided to accept our losses and close the company down.

So there I was, walking away from yet another business that I had poured my heart into. For three long years I had devoted all of my energy and resources into helping make the best products ever, and even had published clinical trials that proved these products were unprecedented in their ability to help people. Yet here I stood, watching it all go down in flames.

This was when the depression kicked in. My dreams had been crushed yet again, due to my own inability to navigate through the roughest of waters. I had failed again, only this time it was ten times worse as I wasn’t able to sell the company and walk away with a chunk of money to ease the transition.

I made a knee-jerk reaction and decided it was time for me to start over and prove to myself that I could succeed at something big. At 42 years of age, I decided I was going to to get accepted into law school and become an attorney! That way I could use my experience to help other people avoid all the mistakes that I made, and I could embrace the shark that was brewing inside of me.

I spent the next 8 months studying relentlessly to finish college and get my Bachelor’s degree, then gathered letters of recommendation, wrote a gut-wrenching personal statement, signed up for the LSAT, and started working for a law firm during the day to learn everything about the law and be mentored. I was only making minimum wage, so I went back to bartending at night to supplement my income like I did in my 20’s. I met with several local law schools and applied for student loans. I was working 2 jobs and only getting about 4-5 hours of sleep every night, but still studying 3-4 hours every day and managed to increase my score from a 158 to a 170 on my practice LSAT tests, (the highest score one can get is a 180).

Then something incredible happened.

I was driving back from my 2-hour commute to the law office where I was working during the day and I suddenly started to cry. Tears poured out of my eyes uncontrollably and soaked the front of my blouse. I continued sobbing hysterically and I didn’t know why. I felt compelled to call my son (he’s now 21) and told him I needed to see him right away. I drove straight to his house and he came running out to make sure I was okay.

I hugged him and sobbed into his big, broad shoulders. He squeezed me tight.

“What’s wrong, mom? You’re scaring me,” he said.

“I’m so sorry,” I sobbed.

“Sorry for what? What are you talking about?”

“I’m so sorry for failing. I really tried so hard to create something big for us, something that I could give to you when I retired. I had two incredible opportunities to do just that, and I blew it. I chose bad partners, I made bad decisions. Now here I am, killing myself to get into law school and I don’t even know why. I think I’m so used to running on the hamster wheel, I just don’t know how to stop. I feel like I worked so hard your whole childhood to build something for us…for you…and it was all a waste. I failed us, and I lost myself in the process. I’m so exhausted from it all….and I’m so sorry!” the words just poured out of my heart and the tears continued to flow uncontrollably.

“Mom, what are you talking about? You didn’t fail. You never failed! You always did your best. You are the strongest woman I know and you are my inspiration. You’re my rock until the end of time and YOU are more than I’ll ever need!” he hugged me tight and I melted into his arms.

It was at that moment I decided it was time to get off the hamster wheel. I quit working at the law firm and I stopped studying for the LSAT. I took a break from social media and sat in stillness as much as I possibly could.

Then, as if the universe had ordered it, this crazy pandemic halted the rest of the world around me. Everyone is practicing social distancing, but somehow feeling spiritually connected. We are all staying home and spending time with our beautiful families and neighbors. For the first time in years, I feel at peace on the inside. I know that once all of this Coronavirus madness is over, we will all be okay…and maybe even a little closer than we were before.

Life is flying by, and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of trying to “succeed.” But what is success, anyway? How does one measure it? For me, I have realized that true success is having people who will be there for you no matter how much money or notoriety you have. Success is about letting go of the stress of attaining it and appreciating the things you already have. It’s about spending less time trying to prove yourself to people who don’t matter, and spending more time with people who do.

I have experienced making products that generated millions of dollars in sales and helped lots of people. I’ve experienced traveling the world first class, 5-star hotels and fancy parties full of celebrities…and I’ve also experienced losing it all…twice. I’ve been through fraud, frivolous lawsuits, manipulation, deception, betrayal, and defeat. And while I’ve persevered beyond what I ever thought imaginable, I still lost the companies that I sacrificed so much to create.

But in light of the current events going on all around the world, I feel blessed that I still have my health, a husband who adores me, a home that I feel safe in, and family and friends who are loyal and dear to me. I have a passion for life and a newfound appreciation for NOT working so hard, and that feels pretty damn good…

Oh, and it turns out that my greatest creation ever, the actual human being that I brought into this world, is now a grown man who is inspired by me.

I haven’t failed at all.


Women Supporting Women (At Any Age)

I found an old gem of a picture and felt compelled to share a little background behind the friendship captured in it….

I was bullied really bad in 8th grade. It was so bad that almost the entire school was against me, and it all stemmed from me borrowing the jacket of a boy in my history class because it was so cold I was shivering, so he kindly lent me his jacket. His “popular” girlfriend was walking through the hall and looked into the classroom and she saw me wearing her boyfriend’s jacket. That was the beginning of what became the worst year of my teenage life, and my first real encounter with female animosity.

As an adult this all sounds so silly and insignificant (it is), but from a 15-year-old perspective, it was pure hell…she stalked me, prank called my house, spit on me, threatened me, called me a whore (I was a virgin), tried to beat me up, and even left my picture out of the school yearbook since she was on the yearbook committee. Because of her popularity, almost everyone followed her. I was totally alienated except for my ONE best friend, who stuck by my side even though it alienated her too.

Of course by 9th grade the drama was over and most everyone “accepted” me again, but the damage had already been done. I was insecure.

It wasn’t until later in life that I realized how lucky I actually was in 8th grade! Instead of having a bunch of fake friends, I had ONE best friend who sacrificed the approval of peers at such a sensitive age just to stand by my side and have my back!

That one friendship molded the way I viewed friends for the rest of my life, and ever since then I’ve only allowed positive, supportive, real and amazing women in my life!

As mothers we have to teach our daughters to heal each other, love each other, and support each other! We have to celebrate each other and never allow jealousy to make us hate another woman, especially over a man! (If your man would leave you for another woman then you don’t need to be jealous of other women, you need to find another man).

I am so thankful to my childhood best friend, Minke, for having my back during that dark time in my teenage life and setting the bar so high for future friendships!

 

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I’m Writing a Book!

I have an exciting announcement for all my longtime friends and followers!!
 
When I was in my early 20’s, I used to diet like crazy, consume tons of protein, and kill myself at the gym. By the time I was in my late 20’s, I stopped working out altogether because I had no energy and felt like shit! 
 
I went to several doctors and was diagnosed with IBS, then ulcerative colitis, then Crohn’s disease. I swear I don’t even think the doctors knew what was wrong with me, but they wanted to cut me open and I refused!
 
Instead I decided to drastically change my diet and lifestyle. I went completely raw, vegan overnight and ate nothing but organic fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, cold pressed oils, healthy fats, and superfoods. I did a green juice fast, parasite cleanse, and heavy metal cleanse.
 
I incorporated probiotics, kefir, and cultured vegetables into my diet. I started practicing yoga and stopped taking all prescription drugs.
 
Within 6 months I had completely reversed my symptoms and adopted an entirely new outlook on what was healthy for me! I stopped counting calories and most importantly, ate CARBS! (The good kind, not the white, refined stuff!!) 
 
Now here I am in my 40’s and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for choosing NOT to have surgery and investing the time to truly heal my body instead. It took EFFORT, and it wasn’t convenient, but I did it and I’m so grateful to have energy and stamina to enjoy life, even now in my “prime!” 
 
Although I’m no longer a 100% “raw vegan” I am still a vegetarian and try to stick to an organic, all-natural diet without pesticides, GMO’s, or food made in a factory! I cook most of my own meals, and make superfood shakes almost every morning. It’s fun to prepare food that fuels your body and makes you feel incredible!
 
I’m FINALLY writing a book about my healing journey, so I can share my story with others! Thanks to an amazing editor who is pushing me every step of the way, I will finally have this project complete before the end of this year! I can’t wait to share it with you all!

Your Thoughts Create Your Reality

In light of today being Martin Luther King Day, I felt the need to write about something I feel many of us have forgotten: the fact that we are all powerfully energetic beings.

According to Quantum physics, if you look into the workings of the atom, you will see that there is nothing there, just a tiny vortex of energy waves, vibrating at their own frequency. An atom is nothing more than an invisible force field, emitting waves of electrical energy, and that everything in the Universe is made up of this invisible energy.

Studies have shown that positive, peaceful emotions can lead to a very different experience for the person emitting those emotions than the person emitting negative, fearful emotions. This is because when an atom absorbs or emits electromagnetic frequencies, it alters its state to conform to those vibrations.

So our feelings, thoughts, and emotions play a vital role in our physical experience, because our atoms are simply attracting the frequency that they emit.

Considering the science behind this, you can understand how the Universe cannot possibly differentiate the REASON behind a feeling or a vibration, since it only responds to the energy itself that is being emitted.

Now I’m no Einstein, but I think it’s pretty clear what this means…

No matter how justified you might be for your feelings of hate, contempt, rage, or negativity, the Universe ONLY responds to the vibration you exude, no matter how good of a reason you have to feel those emotions.

Let me repeat that.

No matter how justified you might be for your feelings of hate, contempt, rage, or negativity, the Universe ONLY responds to the vibration you exude, no matter how good of a reason you have to feel those emotions.

I could probably list hundreds of reasons why my hatred for certain groups of people would be justified, and rightly so. The sad reality is that while there are lots of bad people out there who deserve to be hated, the Universe doesn’t sit back and rationalize and say, “Hey, this particular hateful energy is 100% justified, so I’m going to give her a positive and peaceful experience in return!” That’s just not how it works. I would instead receive more and more bad people to hate, because my thoughts would be emitting the same exact frequency as the very same people that I claim to be validated for hating…

This is why “peaceful protesting” is very difficult to attain. There’s almost always too much hateful, negative energy circling around it to accomplish anything positive. I have also witnessed this in the vegan community as well. If you despise a stranger so much that you will disgracefully throw blood on them and call them names, you will push more good people away from your cause, and perpetuate more of the hateful negativity you are trying to wipe out.

Does this mean we all just turn a blind eye to the things we are passionate about? Do we live life in denial while we look at everything through rose-colored glasses?

Of course not, but we have to learn to go about it in a way that doesn’t emit hate and scorn. It is indeed possible to stand up for what you believe in without judgement, violence, condemnation, and hate…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


The Top 10 Things I Learned While Serving Beer and Chicken Wings

So, the Hooter’s marketing peeps want to feature me in an upcoming magazine to show me a little “Orange Pride”. They needed me to write about the things I learned while working there (many ions ago) and how those skills later benefitted me in my career path, and eventually to becoming an entreprenuer. I thought for a bit, and this is what I came up with. The funny thing is that all of it is true. 🙂

I moved to Greensboro, NC with my cousin in the summer of 1995, exactly one month after I graduated high school. We had another cousin who was attending college there and strategically devised a plan to shack up with her until she graduated, then we were to happily relocate to New York City where we would find the most amazing jobs ever, and all of our dreams would come true. It was really a simple plan for a trio of naïve young girls with zero perspicacity and barely enough street smarts to navigate our way onto the New Jersey Turnpike.

So, without further ado, my other cousin and myself (who relocated from California to join me on the East coast), ventured on a road trip to North Carolina, and before we knew it, all three of us girls were shacked up in a one-bedroom apartment in Greensboro.

We had barely been there one full week and I totaled my cousin’s car (My car’s engine had blown right before we moved). So the 3 of us were suddenly forced to share one crappy car. This was rather tedious since we were all working random jobs waiting tables and the hours were all over the board.

Every day that I drove (or was driven) to my place of employment (a high-end restaurant where I was required to wear a tuxedo with an apron), I would pass by this fabulously orange neon sign emblazoned with the delightfully tacky, yet unrefined words: HOOTERS. I had never stepped foot in a Hooter’s before, although I did remember my dad and uncle always venturing off to visit the fine establishment when we took family trips to Myrtle Beach.

One afternoon, I got off work early and was waiting for my cousin to pick me up. I sat outside, swinging my legs over the brick partition and sweating my ass off from the blazing sun (remember I was wearing a tuxedo for Christ’s sake). I squinted across the street at the Hooter’s logo, shining brightly in the middle of the day. I looked down at my unexposed chest, fully cloaked with a starched white shirt and shiny black buttons. I swallowed hard only to be reminded of the polyester bowtie that constricted my airway, and thought, “what the hell?”

My cousin pulled up and I ripped the bowtie off with one hand as I jumped in the passenger seat.

“Let’s go to Hooter’s.” I said, nonchalantly.

“What?” she asked, pulling her Ray Bans down to the tip of her nose, to expose the disbelief in her eyes.

“I wanna check it out. Besides, it’s hotter than hell down here, and I need a job that doesn’t require neckties and cumberbuns.”

She shrugged and pulled into the parking lot. Little did I know, my life was about to change drastically.

I walked up to the bar and asked a bouncy little blonde thing if I could get an application.

“Sure thing, hun!” she responded in a bubbly, sweet voice and handed me a sheet of paper from behind the bar. “You can fill it out here. I’ll get a manager for you!” she flashed me a toothy grin and disappeared behind a pair of swinging wooden doors that led to the back of the house.

I hiked myself up on the orange cushioned stool and took a look around. Cute girls wearing cleavage-bearing tank tops and daisy dukes that were made of what appeared to be orange spandex ran around delivering platefuls of wings and pitcher’s of beer to tables of drooling men. A large jukebox was blaring old 60’s tunes, and hula hoops were at every waitress station. The “kitchen” was openly exposed, as if watching frat boys throw wings in the air were a part of the dining experience.

“Order IN!” one of the Hooter’s girls shrieked at the top of her lungs. Then she swung her arm through the air so fiercely, it was as if she was perched atop the pitcher’s mound at Yankee’s Stadium.

Just then, a tiny piece of paper affixed to a shiny metal clip ripped through the air and slammed loudly above the head of one of the main cooks, who was holding a basket of fresh, bubbling chicken wings.

“GOT IT!” he yelled, and he ripped the paper down from an invisible wire of some sort, then propelled the empty clip right back to her.

My God, I thought, the kitchen gets the customers orders delivered to them by way of a greasy wire cable. This place was fascinating. I simply had to work here.

Thankfully, the manager on-duty agreed and before I could say, “Hot or mild?”, I was donning a pair of those little orange shorts.

Now some of you may be wondering, “Sure, the place is cute and all, but how did working at Hooter’s give you any kind of real training for the future, especially working in the corporate world and eventually running your own business?”

First of all, I’d like to state that I met my best friends in the whole wide world working at Hooter’s. I am still best friends with all these girls to this day, and I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support they’ve given me over the years. Not to mention what beautiful bridesmaids I had in my wedding. Both times.

The amazing friendships aside, I also gained an impressive list of surprisingly fundamental skills from working there. These are things they don’t teach you in college…you know, “street smarts” if you will. So here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the top 10 skills I picked up while working at Hooter’s (drum roll please):

10. “Learn to pick your battles.” When 45 girls are all working together in the same place (this also means they are probably on the same monthly cycle), you quickly learn that being catty will not serve any purpose other than decreasing productivity. You can argue about whose turn it is to carry an overflowing bus tub to the back, or you can just do it yourself and get back to what you are there for: waiting tables and making money. You might get frustrated, but you can’t force someone to be un-lazy. So choose to fight about the more substantial things in life, like who is going to get stuck working the patio on a Saturday night.

9. “Never judge a book by its cover.” As an amateur Hooter’s girl, you might feel inclined to stereotype your customers the second they sit down at your table. You will promptly learn (usually the hard way), that just because a guy wears a suit and tie, is doused in expensive cologne, and has a white tan line on his left ring finger, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to tip you better than the dirty construction guys who just ordered a pitcher of beer…at 10am. In fact, quite the opposite. Now that I run a business, each potential colleague/customer/partner gets the same treatment from me, regardless of the way they look. Or smell.

8. “The more you work, the more opportunities arise.” You are sick as hell and want to go home early, but another girl gets the green light to leave before you (she also happens to be the bratty one who doesn’t do her sidework, takes constant smoke breaks, complains to management, and shows up late 9 times out of 10). This enrages you and makes you want to stomp out the door in a whiney frenzy, but that is something she would do, not you. Besides, the next table you get could very well be a couple of German guys who are in town on business, and decide to leave you $500 tip. (true story). So suck it up and work a little harder than the rest…it will pay off one day.

7. “Winners look people directly in the eye.” When I first started entering bikini contests, I would shyly scuffle across the stage. My eyes would shoot past the judges and into the vast audience. After doing two contests and not even receiving a nifty “Runners-Up”, I realized that the lustful, inebriated audience was going to cheer no matter what, and the judges were the ones I needed to impress. So, the next contest, I strutted onto that stage with confidence, and looked directly at the judges. I smiled and made eye contact with each one of them. Guess what? I got first place, and continued to win bikini contests the rest of the summer. Looking people in the eye communicates assertiveness and confidence, both of which are paramount traits in business.

6. “To steal a little, is the same thing as stealing a lot.” We used to have a regular customer that would come to our establishment and order the same thing every single day. What did he get? A large Dr. Pepper. That’s it. Every single day. Since I usually worked behind the bar, he would prop down at the end of the bar and I would constantly refill his gigantic jumbo soda until he would finally leave a 5-dollar bill and float out the door. I never thought anything about it, and would simply toss the 5 bucks into my tip jar without batting an eye. One day, the GM sat me down and asked me if I ever rang up that Dr. Pepper.

“Um, no…why?”

“He drinks a lot of soda, and by you not ringing it up, we are losing money on this customer.” He proceeded to explain that a $2 soda, 5 days/week, amounts to $520/year. “Julie, even though it seems insignificant, we could be gaining a bit of revenue off of this customer. In essence, it is stealing from the company.”

My eyes widened and I gulped loudly. Me? Steal??? I wouldn’t even take a straw home without asking first, so this really cut me to the core. I had never really thought of it from the managers perspective…it was something so trivial to me. There were months when we would be so close to hitting our goal, but maybe only a couple hundred dollars away from it. If I had been ringing up that damn Dr. Pepper, maybe we would’ve hit those numbers.

He knew I would never intentionally steal from the company, but he wanted to convey to me that every dollar counts.

Now that I’m a business owner, I keep a tight reign on my inventory, and make sure that every single thing is accounted for. I also hold high standards for my employees, and relate to them the importance of consistent revenue, no matter how trivial it may appear.

 

5. “The devil’s in the details.” I used to hate cleaning out the iced tea urns. They were big, bulky, and sticky. I would rush through cleaning them in order to get the job done, and sometimes that meant not always removing the black spout and soaking it in hot water. One morning, the restaurant inspection mafia decided to drop by unannounced and when they took off one of those spouts, they noticed it wasn’t as squeaky clean as it should be, and we lost a couple points. A couple of points might not seem like a big deal, but when you are already on the radar for having a staff of girls that aren’t adorned in aprons and hair nets, a few points could mean locking the doors. Being detail-oriented is not only necessary to run a successful business, it is vital.

 

4. “Fraternization between employees is never good.” I dated one of the cooks one time. Bad idea.

 

3. “Treat customers with the same respect you would want yourself.” Look, it’s been over a decade since I worked at Hooter’s, but the customers I used to wait on back in the day still remember me. One of those customers put me in contact with someone who would, many years later, come to be one of my trusted manufacturers. The customer you wait on today might be the person you need a favor from tomorrow. Treat everyone with respect, and karma just kinda works itself out.

 

2. “Successful companies use the color orange.” After my Hooter’s days, I went on to later work as a marketing director for a little company called Harley-Davidson. Apparently, orange is an attractive color to a potential consumer, especially when it’s emblazoned on a leather jacket, or stretched tightly across the butt cheeks of hot young girls. I chose red and black when designing the Hot Rawks logo, but my next product will surely flaunt some orange on it. I would be veering from my roots if it didn’t.

 

  1. “Sex sells.” Need I say more?

 

So, there you have it. All the wonderful reasons why Hooter’s was a pretty damn good place for me to work. You never know what road you might end up on later in life, but you might as well start your journey at a sign that says, “Dangerous Curves Ahead.”

 


Insects, Women, Love…and Sadism?

Tonight I had a conversation about sex and love with another female. This female does not normally reside in my group of girlfriends. She didn’t talk about her kids or her job, or about the impending shoe sale at Saks. In fact, she didn’t really talk about anything. She just looked at me in total perplexity, cocking her triangular green head back and forth as I blabbed on and on about the perplexities of life and love…

No, I wasn’t talking to a slave girl inhabitant of the planet Orion. I was talking to a Praying Mantis.

For the last week, I’ve had a Praying Mantis take residence on my back patio door. She hides behind the screen, right next to the porch light, in a perfect little nestling place for a predator hunting down bugs to devour. It’s like Thanksgiving, without the carbs.

She sits there, perched in effortless grace, while feasting on countless victims who innocently cross her path. She’s beautiful, svelte, ruthless, and insidious. I love her.

So I decided to talk to her tonight. She seems interested. Her glassy eyes entranced on my face. I know this because when I move, her head moves with me. It’s as if she’s sizing me up, wondering if she could take me. Then she realizes that although we may not share mammary glands, we are both females in our particular species. And she suddenly unites with me in a weird, Star Trek-ish communion. I sense this, and so I proceed…

“Listen, we need to talk…” I say, refusing to look directly at her because that would imply to my psyche that I am, in fact, talking to an insect. And that would be weird. So I look slightly to the left, but continue.

“I think you and I have a lot in common….”

She cocks her cuneate head as if she’s intently listening.

“You meet a mate. A worthy mate, nonetheless, and then you bite off his head at the most intense point of your enchanting communion, am I correct?”

She cocks her head to the opposing side.

“Well, I think that is unhealthy. I mean, I speak from experience, I’m just like you. Well, all except for the malicious cannibalism….you see, I take the heart instead of the head, which in essence, is kinda worse.”

The Mantis slowly moves her head upright, as if to look me directly in the eye.

“I know it sounds crazy,” I explain to the bug, “but at least ripping off someone’s head is quick and painless. Ripping out their heart is ferocious and barbaric.”

In some bizarre, unspoken way, I swear the Mantis lowers her head. It’s almost as if she’s sympathizing with me.

“Well I’ve decided that I’m done with all that,” I emphatically proclaim.

“I’m done with the games and all of the doubts. I’m done with the fear and restriction. I am no longer going to put up walls and play like I’m some sort of heartless hot shit. I’m giving up my machiavellian tendencies and I’ve decided to let LOVE in for once in this God forsaken life! I can no longer control it, I can’t harness it, I can’t avoid it, and that’s what makes it great. I’m changing my ways, Miss Mantis, and I’m starting right now.”

Her willowy green figure moves slightly to the right, but her triangular face still holds eye contact with me. She is staring me down, almost in an effort to convey her approval in my newfound femininity. Of course she cannot speak to me, but she doesn’t need to. I can sense it in her intuitive glare.

“I really do admire your tough-as-nails chutzpah. I can totally relate! Toughness and resilience are most admirable. HOWEVER, as I sit here lionizing your brazen independence, I can’t help but notice the fact that you are always ALONE. Every day I see you, perched in solitude. Sure, you eat other bugs to survive, I get it. But you also rip the head off of any male who gives you an orgasm. You might end up with some little Mantis babies, and that is surely satisfying as I can relate being a single mom and all…..BUT, when Mantis Junior leaves your nest, then what? You ate the head of every man who ever loved you…”

She rears back a bit, then finally relaxes downward. She looks at me intently, this time in full concentration mode. I almost feel a weird, insightful connection with this tiny green beast. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, she is holding a little black spider. I didn’t even see it coming. The spider only struggles for a minute before it’s put out of it’s misery by this vicious green creature. Using her dexterous forearms, she manhandles the spider, and stuffs part of the fat black body into her pointy mouth. The spider instantly becomes limp and debilitated. The Mantis looks up at me for a split second before she proceeds to feast on her prey. I witness her devouring the corpse, like it’s some sort of insect “zebra” and she is the lioness…except a zebra would be black and white and not red and black. Then that’s when it suddenly hits me….red and black! My sweet little skinny Praying Mantis is eating a Black fucking Widow!

It’s bad enough to devour a male of your own kind at the moment of orgasm, hell, one could even attribute it to some sort of sadistic sexual fantasy…..but hunting down another female predator with her own arachnid issues takes one seriously conniving bitch.

Praying Mantis, you’re my hero, but I think I’m going to enjoy being human for awhile. Thank you for helping me tonight. Love doesn’t sound so bad after all.

Cheers,

Julie Wilson


The Never-Ending Flight From Hell

My flight home from Israel was less than holy indeed.

 

Forget the fact that it involves sitting in one spot for almost thirteen hours straight while breathing recycled air, because that is a given and is to be expected when embarking on an overseas voyage of such magnitude. I’m talking about a brutal and torturous experience involving many unforeseen negative variables, all of them coincidentally arising at the same time on the same flight.

 

First of all, I was set to depart from Tel Aviv at precisely 11:30pm and arrive in Philadelphia around 5:30am. Israel is 7 hours ahead of EST, so that would mean 13 hours of airplane time. This is especially painful for a person who is extremely fidgety by nature, so I booked the red eye with an intention to take a sleeping pill and be comatose until we landed in Philly. (I rarely ever take medication, not even the over-the-counter kind, so when I do decide to pop a pill the effects are far greater than average.) Since I confiscated this sleeping pill from a friend, I had to safely secure it in a side pocket of my purse, where it would reside until the captain turned off the seatbelt sign and there wasn’t a need for my seatback to be in its highly uncomfortable upright position.

 

Tel Aviv airport, 10:30pm: I had just said goodbye to my colleagues, and was headed to my gate when I caught sight of a Wal-mart sized superstore that was full of duty-free shopping. I suddenly remembered that I was going to be retrieving my luggage when I connected in Philadelphia, and rechecking it again prior to boarding my flight home to NC, so I knew I would be able to easily repack any gifts I might purchase now into my suitcase when I retrieved it in Philly. Awesome.

 

I quickly browsed through the superstore and managed to snag a case of Israeli wine (supposedly the best red blend around), a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red, and some Jean Paul Gaultier perfume.

 

By the time I had waited in line and paid for my goods, it was already 11:10pm, and I knew the flight was close to shutting the gates. I bolted down the hallway and when my departure gate was in full view I realized they were indeed getting ready to close it up. They pointed at me and I waved my hands rather frantically as I ran towards the gate.

 

“I’m on that flight!” I yelled as I approached them.

 

I whipped out my boarding pass and handed it to the gentleman who was manning the gate.

 

“What is that, in the bags?” He sharply pointed at my duty-free items.

 

“Just gifts I bought in the shop,” I responded through the heaving breaths brought on from my mad sprint.

 

He opened the bags and peered inside, then shook his head aggressively.

 

“No, you cannot take liquids on this flight!” he proclaimed.

 

“What are you talking about? I’m getting my bags in Philly and will be able to recheck the items. No big deal,” I shrugged my shoulders and extended my boarding pass again.

 

“No, I’m sorry but you cannot. U.S. law prohibits it,” he glanced at the passport I was holding in my hand and cleared his throat, “I’m surprised you weren’t aware of this law…you’re a U.S. citizen.”

 

“I am aware of the law, but I thought it was fine as long as I checked it in my bag once I landed in the States…”

 

“We need to get her on the plane now!” another gentleman boomed behind him.

 

I nervously bit my lip as my heart started racing.

 

“Well can I at least run back to the store and return this stuff?”

 

“I’m sorry but no. This flight is closing and we need you to board immediately.”

 

I felt like I was going to puke. I just dropped more than $500 bucks on wine, scotch, and perfume and I was going to have to leave it at the gate. I couldn’t have lost money this quick if I were in Vegas!

 

“Is there anything you could put some of the stuff in and check here at the gate?” the gentleman asked as he looked at my carry-on bags.

 

All I had was a camera bag, my laptop bag, and my purse.

 

“What about that one?” he pointed at my oversized Prada bag.

 

I dropped to my knees and frantically emptied my purse. All of its contents scattered about the carpet, which included tampons, lip gloss, and a bunch of condoms (in my defense, they were given to me at an adult tradeshow where I had recently exhibited Hot Rawks and had shoved them down in my bag at the time. Now here I am, on an airport floor in the fucking Middle East with a confetti of condoms sprinkled about the carpet. I must’ve looked like the biggest whore ever.)

 

I managed to shove my wallet, phone, sunglasses, keys, and iPod into my computer bag and had to toss my non-important personal belongings into the trash in an attempt to make room for some of my bought items. We managed to shove 4 bottles of wine and the bottle of perfume down inside the purse, but nothing else would fit. They wrapped it up in “Fragile” tape and scurried it off to be transported with the rest of the bags below.

 

I boarded the plane minus my purse, one bottle of whiskey, and 8 bottles of expensive wine. They were all sitting at the gate for the airport staff to enjoy later. Bastards.

 

The plane was packed full…there wasn’t a seat without someone sandwiched next to someone else, which I found odd since my flight out there was practically empty. I had enjoyed an entire row to myself and was able to spread out and relax. That was not going to happen on this flight.

 

I found my way to my assigned seat and there was a teenage boy asleep and laying over my side. I gently poked him and he grunted. I poked him again, this time much harder. He opened his eyes and shot me a cold stare as he made a lame attempt to move over and give me room to settle in my seat.

 

Upon sitting down I realized the seat in front of me was reclined back more than usual. It was leaning about 3 inches further than any other seat on the plane. The overweight guy occupying it was leaning rather comfortably into my “space”, and already snoring emphatically.

 

I shoved my belongings under his seat and buckled my seat belt. This was going to be a long flight. Thank God for the sleeping pill that was in my….oh shit. The sleeping pill was still in the side pocket of my Prada, nestled away safely in the lower chassis of the aircraft. I sighed in disgust and sunk into my seat.

 

Once we achieved full altitude, I decided I would kill as many hours as I could by absorbing myself into the television that was nestled in front of me. It was a bit closer than the rest of the TV’s since the broken seat in front of me leaned into my lap, but at least the screen wasn’t touching my nose (it was close).

 

I got comfortable and pushed the power button to select my first feature presentation. The screen froze on the menu, so I pushed it again. Still nothing. Suddenly, I heard the flight attendant boom over the loudspeaker.

 

“We apologize that several of the television sets are not functioning properly. We are going to reboot the system and see if helps reset them. Please give us a moment”

 

I think you know where this is going. I was one of the lucky few that had an inoperable television set on a 13-hour flight. Fuck.

 

So there I sat. A narcoleptic teenager on my left, who was passed out cold and using my shoulder as a pillow but would periodically jolt himself awake just long enough to realize he was dreaming and then pass out again on my shoulder…a snoring fat guy in front of me who was reclining way too close for comfort…a screaming baby 2 rows behind me, and a flight attendant with an extremely large backside that would hit me in the face every time she walked down the aisle.

 

My iPod was dead. My computer was dead. My television was broken. And all of my books had been read. So there I was, a fidgety anxious soul, confined in a chair without anything to do, nowhere to go, and nothing to read for 13 hours.

 

Did I mention the flight was really hot? I was miserably sweating so I removed my shoes and tried to get somewhat comfortable. This caused my feet to swell so when I had to go to the bathroom (which was numerous times since I had eaten something in Tel Aviv that had, ahem, really upset my stomach), I would have to bolt to the John without my shoes. This in itself is gross enough, without having to add the fact that I had to tiptoe around a pool of vomit that was scattered about the lavatory floor.

 

When we finally landed in Philly, I was so buzzed off of sheer exhaustion and dehydration I could hardly see straight. I gathered my belongings and anxiously awaited my turn to jump into the single file line in the aisle and get the hell off the plane. I still needed to get my luggage and go through customs before boarding yet another plane that would officially end my journey and take me home to North Carolina. I looked over at the row next to me and caught sight of my faint reflection in the glass of the oval window. I practically gasped. My hair was piled in a frizzy mass atop my head and my mascara was smeared down my pale face. My bloodshot eyes were sunken into my head and my lips were dry and cracked. Just then, the kid next to me finally woke up and stretched his arms above his head. He yawned loudly then looked at me and said, “We’re here already?”

 

I almost slapped him.