Archive | September, 2011

College Smart: Emotionally Intelligent Marriages

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College Smart: Emotionally Intelligent Marriages

Posted on 30 September 2011 by Ashley Mancha

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Living Smart: Climate Change featuring Diana Petrochelli

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Living Smart: Climate Change featuring Diana Petrochelli

Posted on 30 September 2011 by Ashley Mancha

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Global Warming


Global Warming

Posted on 29 September 2011 by Ashley Mancha

When do I need to toss out my wool sweaters?  While most scientists agree that climate change is particularly due to human activities, it is important for us to remember that scientists are always testing and retesting their hypotheses as the climate changes.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, “there is no doubt that climate will continue to change throughout the 21st century and beyond, but there are still important questions regarding how large and how fast these changes will be, and what effects they will have in different regions.”

Even if not all of us are scientists, we know that the weather is changing. For example, Texas, a state experienced with plenty of rain is now experiencing record breaking weather: droughts, temperatures in the 100s and a breakout of wildfires. The East Coast on the other hand is suffering from too much rain. Recently, Hurricane Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall in New Jersey since 1903. 1903! Well over a century ago!

But let’s go back to Texas. Texas’ governor and running mate for the Republican presidential ticket, Rick Perry, does not believe in global warming. He has made it very clear that we humans are not contributing to global warming. He also thinks that “a substantial number of scientists…have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.”





Global warming, a scientific phenomenon has become very much a political issue. Ultimately, it will and does affect us all because we live on this planet, breathe the same air and share the same moon and sun.

Here are some basic things you can do to make a difference. Whether you believe global warming is caused by man or not. Something major is happening to our climate and there are things you can do protect the environment.  According to here are some things you  can do to help:

  • Change an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb. CFLs use 60% less energy, which will save about 300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year (and our energy bill!)
  • Cover your pots while cooking. They save a great amount of energy while preparing your meals
  • Use the washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full
  • Recycle. You can save around 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide a year by recycling.
  • Purchase a plastic water bottle and reuse it. The packaged water bottles we buy at the stores aren’t any good-plus how purified is their water? If we fill up at home, we know our water is clean
  • Reuse shopping bags. Many places sell bags at a convenient price. You can tote them from store to store. Some places even give you a discount if you use these bags

Even if you don’t believe in global warming, you can benefit from using these tips- that can also save you some money.

If you are interested in this topic. Here are more articles on the subject.

Why we should care

By Kristen Khalaf and Patricia Gras

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Claudio Sanchez, Education and Winner Take all Politics

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Claudio Sanchez, Education and Winner Take all Politics

Posted on 23 September 2011 by Patricia Gras

There is no doubt. Public education is a political minefield. There are many players, but lately, no one seems to be winning. The students, the teachers, the parents, the politicians, society, administrators. They are all getting blamed because…well…things are just not going well in public education. In Texas we are defunding education. Why? Are we too broke to fund education? Is it a priority? Do we care? Are we paying too much and getting too little in return? The fact is, the country that does not focus its resources in educating its children and its citizens will not be capable of prosperity, success and innovation in the long run. Does anyone have the answer? Not really, because the subject is complicated, because we are living in interesting times. Today, school may not be enough to be successful, but what is certain is that NO SCHOOL is enough to make life much more difficult for the average person.

NPR Education correspondent Claudio Sanchez recently spoke at an Art Education conference in Houston. He spoke about a lot of things but I picked up on what I am interested in. Most importantly, I picked up on how we need to reframe the conversation. It is now very popular to criticize teachers for what is going on. Our basic failure to educate at risk students, but are they really to blame?  I want to know why we can’t seem to make a dent on drop out rates and why so many kids are falling through the cracks. Here are some of the statistics he shared.

Only 15 percent of 9th graders in the United States will graduate from college on time.

One million teens drop out of school every year!

Parental involvement is the biggest predictor of how kids will do.

Schools and what happens there account for 35% of a student’s success, the other 65% teachers and schools have no control over. Things such as housing, health care, nutrition and they type of parents they have do play a big role.

What is my interpretation? what is my underlying message?  POVERTY AND INEQUALITY. If the parents are getting poorer, they have less time to provide for their kids or spend time with them or being parents. Then there are the parents that shouldn’t be parenting. The kidssuffer and here is where I bring up the book that every American should read today read a point of view on what is happening. It is called Winner Take All Politics. How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob s. Hacker and Paul Pierson. 


Changes in Government policies brought on by BOTH PARTIES that favor those at the very top. The super rich.

“The share of [national] income earned by the top 1 percent of Americans has increased from around 8 percent in 1974 to more than 18 percent in 2007…. The only time since 1913 … that this share has been higher was 1928.”

The top  .1 percent of american had about 7.3 percent of total national after tax income in 2000 up from 1.2 percent in 1970. If the effect of taxes on their income had remained what  it was in 1970, the would have had about 4.5 percent of after tax income

Since the 80′s the American economy enjoyed tremendous prosperity and expansion, yet at the same time, inequality rose. The government did little to redistribute income. They ended welfare.  They cut capital gains taxes and the minimum wage did not get adjusted to inflation. As a result the middle class suffered.

The top 1 percent have enjoyed 36 percent of all the income growth generated in the U.S. economy. What did the rest of Americans get?

What’s the solution to our education, inequality, and poverty problem?  Let’s start by becoming aware of some facts, because politicians are making policies based on arguments they favor, not the facts.

If we cease to educate our youth in America, we will all pay no matter what political persuasion you support. Ask yourself what role can you play. Can you mentor someone?can you volunteer at your school?  Can you attend school board meetings? We can make a difference in our own community. If each one of us could make a different in at least one student’s life. We would be proactive in dealing with the education crisis we are facing.

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This Week on Living Smart with Patricia Gras

Posted on 16 September 2011 by Patricia Gras

Living Smart with Patricia Gras is airing on wednesdays at 11:30pm on the second digital channel. It will be distributed nationally in a few weeks.

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Adventure Living Now

Posted on 14 September 2011 by Patricia Gras

TODAY september 13th 2011, I will start a new category on my blog. Adventure Living, is exactly what the title means. Living a life of adventure, a life of risk, a life out of the box. I never thought of myself as a risk taker. I still don’t but I have found over the years that I do love adventure. I like going off the beaten path, experiencing new people, new cultures, new ideas. I go to new places all the time. I have been to over 50 countries and though I like to read about a place before I go there, I don’t like to see it and know it all. I want to imagine it and my hope is that it will be completely different from what I expected. I would like to share a bit of many of my travels. I am fortunate that over the years, I have kept diaries for most of the places I have visited so I will share some of that with you. I have found that in the times we are living, we must start to think of how we can “adventure” ourselves out of our misery. You might think you have to go far to find adventures but you really don’t. anything outside of your routine can be considered an adventure and that is what I would like to share with you so together we can experience different places, people, situations  in our lives.  Since I am going to be doing a pilgrimmage in Spain I would like to start with that.

I already did the Camino Portugues, but first let me tell you a bit about the Camino de Santiago or St. James Way. It is a pilgrimage journey to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where many believe has the remains of the apostle St. James.

There are many roads to Santiago. The one I did a few years ago is the Portuguese route which is only 118 km., but this november I am going to start the longest, most popular and most ancient road, The French Camino. It is 778 km long. It starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port (St. John at the Foot of the Pass). The camino goes to Rocenvalles in Spain 27 km later and then it passes through Pamplona, Puente la Reina, Estella, Logroño, Burgos, León, Astorga, Ponferrada and Sarria before it reaches the “City of the Apostle” in the western reaches of Galicia.  The route takes, on average, 4 – 6 weeks to walk.

I will only be walking 7 days at a time in stages every year. The reason is that as an American, I can’t take more than 2 or 3 weeks off. The other reason is that I don’t know if my body can handle walking for that long. After all, we don’t walk much in America and much less in Houston. There is no way to train for this really unless you are a runner or a climber. I certainly don’t have 8 hours to walk a day with a full time job.

The Way of St. James has existed for thousands of years. During medieval times, pilgrims in this Christian pilgrimage, together with Jerusalem and Rome, did it to be  forgiven for their sins. People ask me all the time. Are you doing this for religious purposes? I always respond. No. I am doing it for spiritual purposes, but if you ask me specifically why I do the camino, I don’t have an exact answer. I do it because I am grateful. I do it because it changes me. I do it because I love meeting the people along the way who teach me life lessons.  I do it because I have a desire to do it, something inside of me, something that pulls me to do it. The first time I did it I fractured my knee. I wasn’t used to walking but I believe in miracles. I have two ankle surgeries, two knee surgeries and a very unfriendly bunion, but I don’t care. One of the reason I do the camino is that I have faith that I can do it no matter what. I am not silly or irresponsible either. I work out. I prepare mentally and physically but I also believe that one of the reasons I do the camino is to understand that I am pushing myself mentally, physically and emotionally to become a better person, to find my authentic self, to find God in other people, in nature, in sounds, smells and spirits.

On the way there you see cathedrals, churches, monuments, mountains, rivers, flowers, vineyards, all sorts of animals and people. I like to do it in the winter so I don’t have trouble finding lodging and I don’t run into crowds. Last year about 65,000 pilgrims from all over the world did the camino. If you get a passport at the beginning of the route, as a declared pilgrim you can stay at the old hostels and you will pay minimum fees.

Doing the camino is tough. Your feet will never experience anything like it. You will get extremely tired. You are pushed to your limit, but every day you finish it. You feel renewed, fulfilled and most importantly connected to something. I felt more connected to God but everyone’s experience is different and unique.  If you have ever done the camino please let me know and share your experiences with us.


Every month I will also share local adventures I have close to home. I like to walk the Arboretum with friends and I do so often. This place amazes me. It is hardly ever crowded. It is quiet and it feels like I am not in Houston. I need this spot to be close to nature and to be in touch with who I am. I suggest you come here as often as you can to relax, meditate, and be grateful.

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Addicts and Addiction

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Addicts and Addiction

Posted on 09 September 2011 by Patricia Gras

By Kristen Khalaf and Patricia Gras

Addicts. Addiction. Approximately 30 million people in the United States are addicted to drugs or alcohol. That’s roughly 1 out of 8 people.  Yet, when we hear ‘addict’ or ‘addiction,’ we don’t imagine a young child as an addict, specifically a 10 year old.

Derek Steele’s first encounter with an addictive substance began when he was an elementary school child. At 8, Steele had his first taste of tequila. By 10, his first joint. Normally, a 10 year old is busy playing on a bike or a game station–not smoking pot. The rest of his adolescent time line goes like this: 13 years- acid; 14-coke; 15-unknown. Steele meddled with so many drugs and alcohol that there is no way of knowing which substance he was using. Growing up, his life was anything but typical. You can watch this program online on

“Imagine the hopelessness of knowing within a year you’d be in jail or dead,” says Steele.

Alcohol takes total control of your brain and spinal cord, both of which virtually control everything. According to, “alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain.” The Web site lists statistics such as 1 in 6 fatal traffic accidents in 2006 involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

  “The truth is that people have to get to the point to where they’re ready to change. Sometimes it has to come from that person themselves in the position that they’re in,” says Steele.

Forever will March 17, 1993 be the day that Derek Steele was saved. He checked into a treatment center and managed to change his life. Within a year, he was sober and was a partner in a successful construction company. Steele’s timeline is now a happier one: in 1997, he co-founded a software company that would gross over $5 million dollars a year; 1999: wedding bells rang for him; and at 35, Steele became a multi-millionaire.

Derek is no longer suffering. His story is one of second chances and truly that miracles do happen.

To learn if someone has an addiction, Steele has a few signs to keep out for.

1. Abnormal behavior: “When you see abnormal behaviors, don’t dismiss it. It doesn’t hurt to investigate. Parents get in denial just as much as addicts do.”

2. Change in friends: “performance at school or in certain things is not inline with what you think it should be, then that’s a pretty good indicator that that group is having a negative influence.”

3. Physical and emotional changes: “This one is a little bit harder to see, but, once again, you just have to be in tune with what seems to be within your range of healthy behaviors associated with somebody of that age.”

4. Genetic disposition: “If you know that that is something that runs in the family, then you should be extra vigilant in keeping an eye out for it.”

5. Obsession with drug-using culture: “If I’m interested in drugs and alcohol and high risk behaviors, then a lot of times that will be displayed in the things that I’m watching or that I’m focusing on. It’s typically a good indicator of where my interests lie.”

To spread the word of how damaging addiction is, Steele is now a board member and director of a community outreach of Teen and Family Services in Houston and volunteers at Covenant House.

“I’ve asked myself a thousand times, ‘Why me?’ A million guys who were like me are dead or in prison.”

Check out Steele on September 21, 2011 at 11: 30 p.m. on “Living Smart with Patricia Gras,” which airs on Houston PBS, where he will share his story and his novel, Addict at Ten.

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A Big Lesson!

Posted on 01 September 2011 by Patricia Gras

What I learned this week:

We are all interconnected. If we only feel compassion only for those we like, we devalue humans who are not just like us. True love is unconditional.

The older I get, the more I realize what I really want is peace of mind, tranquility, inner joy and to give and receive unconditional love. What I do sometimes is the opposite. I want someone to “fix” my problems. I watch the news which loves conflict and controversy, I get anxious and I get mad at people too quickly. I have lots to learn don’t I? How about you?


What I am grateful for:

I am cancer free after two years and I plan to stay that way and do what I came here to do before I transition. There is a lot of work to be done.

I have incredible friends who love me unconditionally, even when I am utterly and totally IMPERFECT!


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Jody Williams Tonight at 11pm and Women, War and Peace  Mark your calendars!

Jody Williams Tonight at 11pm and Women, War and Peace Mark your calendars!

Posted on 01 September 2011 by Patricia Gras


For the Past three months we have been working on two programs on Houston refugees and the plight of women all over the world. the programs won’t air until October when PBS launches the unprecedented  series on Women, War and Peace.  

As I began my research on this topic I realized how little Houstonians know about their refugee community. Houston is a hub for refugees who come with many battle stories. They have incredible resilience, a commitment to hard work and great love and appreciation for our city and our nation. For those who want to know if  they are here LEGALLY. The answer is yes. They have permission to work and study but many come after decades living in deplorable conditions with almost nothing and they have suffered so much, it is surprising they can still get up every day!

To learn more about them and what you can do, Please  Mark your Calendars!  the three programs will air on Houston PBS/Channel 8 and will focus on Women, War and Peace and our Houston Refugee Community. We are asking your help in spreading the word because we believe members of your organization will find these programs especially pertinent to view and to share.

 The programs will feature a Conversation with Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams on Women, War and Hope. This program will air

on October 4th at 11pm on HoustonPBS Ch. 8.

 The program Houston Refugees: Stories of Courage will air on October 11th at 11pm on HoustonPBS Ch. 8 and it features three refugees from Congo, Burma and Bhutan. We will also interview Maliha Imami from the Alliance for Multicultural Services, Rosalie Hyde of the Galveston Houston Trauma Institute and Dr. Sofia Banu, a psychiatrist with Baylor College of Medicine who recently started a Clinic For International Trauma Survivors.

 The PBS series on Women War and Peace will air every Tuesday night at 10pm beginning October 11th through November 14th.  

Please consider adding this information to your organization. If you are outside the Houston broadcast area, the program will air at different dates and times; so be sure to check your local listings. Additional resources and biographic information about guests will be linked to the HoustonPBS web page.

 Thanks for your help!








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Patricia Gras (Twitter)

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