Tips On How You Can Help

Diverse volunteers sorting food into cardboard boxes for charity

Did you know September is Hunger Action Month?

According to a 2014 study by Feeding America46.5 million Americans utilize a food bank.

Lisa Tomasi, Philanthropy Expert and Founder of e-giving site YouGiveGoods, stresses that while many may feel that a small effort isn’t enough to make a change, every little bit helps someone who is facing hunger. Lisa has provided her insight for those who want to band together and help a good cause.

Tips to Fight Back During Hunger Action Month:

  1. Advocate. Use your voice to spread the word about hunger in your community. Social media has made this quite easy to do. Alert your online community that we are in the midst of Hunger Action Month and about the plight of the hungry in their own backyards. Share quotes and statistics about hunger and ask them to support their local hunger relief organization.
  2. Volunteer. Most food banks, pantries and soup kitchens rely on volunteers to make their operations work. Volunteers can sort donations, stock shelves and help with distribution. Volunteers can also frequently help from home in the form of virtual volunteering. Contact your local hunger relief organization to see if you can utilize your specific skills to help them with business operations like accounting, marketing, website and administration.
  3. Run a food drive. You can really increase your impact by organizing your own food drive. Food drives run in conjunction with your company, school, church or group tend to have the best results. And, always add an online component to your traditional drive (or run your online drive alone). Use YouGiveGoods.com to run an online drive for your local food pantry. The online drive service is free to use, easy to share on social media, and simple for supporters to shop online for brand-new most-needed food items which are shipped directly to the pantry at the close of the drive.
  4. Donate money. Hunger relief organizations need monetary donations to operate. Any size donation will be welcomed.
  5. Donate food. Don’t just walk by the donation bin at your school, store or company. Make a point to donate food whenever the opportunity arises.

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For more ways you can help, see Lisa’s site or contact your local Food Bank.  There is really no reason we should have a hunger problem here in America.

Tres Lunas Resort Part 2

(This is the second part of an article on our experience at the Tres Lunas Resort.  For Part 1 please click here.)

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Morning time.  After an amazing meal and dining experience the evening before, we awoke to a beautiful morning full of promise.  I was already trying to push away the feeling of sadness at having to leave this day, I promised myself I would savor every last moment.  Oh what a morning awaited us and I had no idea that the experience there would flourish even more.

We were warned that breakfast would be hearty.  That the morning meal is indeed a true feast.  We were not disappointed!
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When we walked into the main room, the smell of fresh coffee greeted us and the the table was set and ready for us to be seated.  Craig came out with fresh squeezed orange juice and asked us if we could spare some time after eating so we could all chat.  I was looking forward to that!  Within moments he sat before us a beautiful bowl of fresh fruit, yogurt and homemade granola which was followed by eggs cooked to our taste, homemade hashbrowns, bacon and a small skillet of biscuits.  The condiments were just as beautiful as the meal!  We ate until we couldn’t take another bite and after freshening our coffee, Carol came and sat down with us.  This is honestly when the entire experience really began I realized later.

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Carol is a breath of fresh air.  She has this amazingly positive aura about her and her smile just lights up the room.  Craig is a gracious and generous host who makes you laugh and feel at ease immediately.  That is a gift!  We had dozens of questions about how they got started, the history of the property and the resort itself.  Both Carol and Craig have backgrounds in the hospitality business.   Craig has worked for a few gourmet food companies and Carol is an amazing chef having taken classes with some of the top chefs in the world.  When they met, they dreamed of running their own establishment.  They had a few other bed and breakfast establishments before finding this magical piece of property.   The story is that Craig found this and within 30 minutes made an offer.  He knew right away this was the place they had to have.   Both are Hill Country proud and appreciate the history of the area, especially this area.  The original house that was on the foundation the resort now resides upon was a 2 story ranch house that had been damaged in a tornado at one point.  It sat on 100’s of acres that had been divided up by the family over the years.  The moment they saw the views and felt the spirit of the land, they knew this was the place.  It was a stretch with all the renovations they needed to make, basically tearing down the structure to the foundation and starting over.  But their dream was to create a retreat.  A magical place where people could come and feel their spirit renewed.  They want people to experience what they do, to offer them the ultimate in care and are obviously so grateful to be where they are.  It shows on their faces and in their voices.  There is an amazing amount of warmth and love that come from this couple.  It took my breath away to be honest.  So much Peace and gratitude lives in this home.

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As I mentioned in the first article, the resort caters to weddings and retreats (I will be doing a feature on this for the last installment).  One area that I fell in love with is the yoga patio.  Carol has so much experience in spiritual practices, traveling around the globe to learn from the masters.  She is truly a student of the spirit and freely gives all that she has been taught.  She created a place where yoga enthusiasts can come and practice their craft surrounded by this spirit of peace.  Everything planned to help with the hot Texas sun, to create a sacred space,  all geared towards maximum comfort and serenity.  Listening to her share her stories, I got goosebumps and a bit teary eyed.   If you go visit her, ask her to share with you.  They are her stories to tell, but I promise they will affect you in a way that you won’t expect.   She wants to share her love for life and the spirit with those who come to Tres Lunas and to help them find a restful and healing place in their lives…even if just for a moment.   And she is doing just that.  I can only imagine the healing she has participated in just by providing such a space.

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Our tour continued into their private quarters where I was greeted by beautiful works of art created by friends and Carol herself.  Her mother was an incredible artist and she has a few of her pastels hanging.  One of which was drawn on a piece of brown paper bag while on a picnic in those very same hills decades before.  It was of a beautiful deer found in the Hill Country.  The pastels were so soft and soothing and it looked like you could reach out and feel the softness of that creature.  Carol didn’t know that she would end up finding her home in that same countryside.  What a special gift!

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There is Carol’s office which is filled with prayer flags and a massage table, and yes, more beautiful art pieces.  Even their private quarters were designed for maximum serenity!  And I know with a resort you need a good size laundry room, but their’s made me completely envious!  So bright with windows everywhere….perfect place for Carol to paint as the laundry area only took up a portion of the huge room!

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Craig’s office is the ultimate of man caves!  Jason loved it!  Craig’s father and grandfather were both Texas lawmen and Craig was able to find an old jail cell that he restructured to fit inside his office as a guest quarters for family or friends!  It’s really awesome!  On the wall behind his desk hangs the head of a huge Longhorn.  Craig told us that someone had given the living animal to Carol as a gift at one time and they loved him!  He was their pet who they truly loved, and when he finally died of natural causes they donated 800 pounds of ground beef to the food bank in Mason, TX and mounted their beloved pet’s head on the wall of Craig’s office.  It is an impressive site!

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We talked for a good 2 hours about life, our backgrounds, our love for nature and art.  Carol and I especially found that we have so many similar feelings about our journeys in life.  I felt like I have always known her.  We all found we had so many things in common and I don’t think any of us wanted to conversation to end.  But as all good stories must wind down, so did our time there.

We left with our arms bearing gifts and our hearts filled with the brightness of new friendships.  I can honestly say we both felt renewed and so relaxed.  It was a true healing experience and one we hope to repeat in the future!  I am so grateful for the opportunity and for the compassion that Carol and Craig show to others.  It’s truly remarkable.  I promise if you make a reservation there, you will honestly be able to leave your cares and worries at the front gate.  Once you drive in, the magic begins and the spirit smiles down upon you.  It is a rarity in life to find a place like that.  I am grateful that we did.

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*All photos are credited to myself and Jason Locher.  Some of these were taken on my phone, hence the quality.  Look for Part 3 on weddings and products used at the resort!

Blooming Pregnancy Spa and Imaging Center

Central Texas women now can enjoy a relaxing pregnancy massage and have the option to bond with their baby before seeing them in the delivery room.  Blooming Pregnancy Spa & Imaging Center is opening in August 2010 in Southwest Austin at 5601 Brodie Lane in the Sunset Valley Village shopping center. Owned and operated by prenatal massage specialist Patti Justice, Blooming Pregnancy Spa & Imaging Center is a full service pregnancy spa and ultrasound imaging center.

I was very surprised to be contacted by Patti’s team and asked if I would be interested in doing a write-up about this new business.  I was thrilled and on Monday I had the extreme pleasure of speaking with Patti Justice about her new clinic.

Inspiration

After a number of years in massage therapy, Patti was practicing several massage techniques and had the occasional pregnant client.  She found herself connecting strongly with these mamas and they’d all keep coming back.  Patti kept hearing how hard it was for these women to find other therapists to take them and she realized this was a much needed niche and something that she began to feel very important about.  She had a natural gift.  At this point in her life, she had already begun to feel that she had gone about as far as she could go in terms of clients, techniques, etc. in traditional massage and was going to have to make a change.   She saw two options; go back to school and do something totally different, or just go big and start a clinic of her own.  As she researched opening her own space, it became clear from the start that it was alot to take in and she almost gave up and had pretty much decided to just go back to school to be a ultrasound technician.  Except, everytime she started to move in this direction, pregnancy massage kept popping up in her research and while she thought she was being guided to go back to school everything kept coming back to combining the two.  The idea of opening a clinic was starting to become more prevalent in her mind.  She found that clinics such as these were beginning to pop up all over the country.  This was in fact a much needed service.   She contacted a clinic in Ohio whose director was graciously willing to help Patti draft a business plan, and who continues as a consultant and guide with Blooming Pregnancy Spa.  As soon as she began to research the Austin market she knew she had found the right idea for this community.   At this point she was divorced, never owned a business before and was up against alot of odds.  But things kept moving forward and one of her biggest obstacles, finances, all came together once the vision was clear.  Through the beauty of family and their amazing sacrifices and help, the clinic is privately funded and had found it’s footing. 

Patti definitely had times where she felt like the under dog and everyone told her this wasn’t going happen, it was too risky, etc..  So it is still very surreal for her to have opened the doors and be so warmly welcomed.

Benefits

One of the most obvious benefits to pregnancy massage is the physical aspect…bones are moving, hips are spreading, it can be a very uncomfortable time especially as you get into the third trimester.  Blooming Spa uses a special pillow developed just for pregnant women in a side lying position,  which helps align the mom and helps her feel supported so the tension can leave those muscles while she is getting her massage.  It has been described by some as a feeling of floating and most say, total relaxation.  

The emotional aspect is equally as important.  Massage helps decrease stresses and balance hormonal flucuations.   It also helps the mama to be feel nurtured and cared for, which is just as important as taking care of her physical well being.

Products

Patti has gone the extra mile by taking care and only using all natural products – Mamma Mia and Naturopathica.  No toxic chemical or synthetic products are ever used, even the nail polish is vegan.

Community

Patti would love to start a network and a referal list for local midwives.  They also have a huge multi purpose classroom and would love to have educators come in to facilitated classes, turning it into a community type of education center.  Patti’s vision includes yoga classes, fertility classes, postpartum depression support groups, the list goes on and on.  She plans on reaching out to the Central Texas Birth Network as well.

One aspect of fertility she feels strongly about is preconception issues, especially for women choosing to wait until past the age of 35 to conceive.  They already have a pre-conception massage protocol in place to help women conceive naturally and plan on expanding into acupuncture as well.   Patti feels strongly about educating women in natural techniques to heal their bodies prior to conception and even beyond birth.

Ultimately, Patti would like the center to be known as a place to empower women before, during and after becoming moms.  In her words, “Women supporting women.  Girl Power!”

Imaging

The Imaging aspect of the center is not without controversy.  However, Patti feels strongly that if used appropriately it is perfectly safe and can even help women bond with their babies before birth.   It can also be tremendously reassuring to moms who have had experienced one or more miscarriages.  The hormones released through constant stress can be extremely detrimental to the development of the baby.  So it can be more than calming to see your baby growing and developing into a healthy little human.   Patti also feels that it is one of those things that can add to the whole experience of being pregnant.  But even if women don’t want the imaging service, the spa is always available for not only massage but facials, manicures, pedicures and skin care.

The Blooming Pregnancy Spa and Imaging Center will be celebrating their Grand Opening this Saturday, August 28 from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Enjoy prenatal yoga sessions with Jess G. at 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. (pre-register at  info@bloomingpregnancyspa.com to reserve your space). Plus car seat safety tips from Safe Kids Austin, baby photo tips from Amber Snow Photography, and a pregnancy pickles and ice cream social at noon. Door prizes include items from Picket Fences, Amber Snow Photography, Blooming Pregnancy Spa & Imaging Center, and more. For contact information, click here.

I hope you all come out to support this amazing new woman owned business here in Austin.  I felt a strong connection to Patti during our conversation and how much passion she has for the service she is providing.  With all our support, we can help shape this into the community space that many moms here can utilize and create an environment where we can connect with each other.  Where we can be okay and find the support we need that is unique to all us mothers.  We become moms with so many beautiful and wonderful thoughts and fantasies about how life will be, only to be shown the harsh reality and frustrations that go hand in hand with it all.  And while there are more beautiful parts than not, no one is allowed to talk about how hard it is.  Wouldn’t it be great to just have a place where it’s okay to just be human and to say, I need this for me?  As moms, we tend to put ourselves last and feel selfish if we do any differently.  But we also need to realize that it’s okay to take care of us too.  That is is important so that we can continue to be healthy for our babes in both mind and body.  Patti is providing the space, all we need to do is show up.

And as a bonus, Patti is giving away a year’s Spa Membership to one of my lucky readers.  You can find out all the details on the membership here.  It is valued at $99 and would be a wonderful gift for yourself or some other mama you might know.  To enter, just leave a comment.  I will pick the lucky winner by random number generator on Sunday, August 29th.  Comments will close Saturday at 11:59PM CDT. 

Good luck mamas…and a special good luck to Patti!  I look forward to visiting the spa just as a mom and to continuing to support the community it is building.

Peace!