Monthly Archives: October 2013

Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair by Jewel Kats, Illustrations by Richa Kinra

Cinderella's Magical Wheelchair by Jewel Kats, Illustrations by Richa Kinra

Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair by Jewel Kats, Illustrations by Richa Kinra

In a land far, far away there was magic and there was brutal reality. If that sounds like a bit of a fairy tale, so it is. But when you think about the long haul of eternity, life is a bit of a fairy-tale in its beauty and pain. There are magical times and then there is the brutal reality of sorrow and loss,  But with faith and effort, there is overcoming. Such are the themes of the modern fairy-tale Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair told by Jewel Kats (illustrations by Richa Kinra) with the caveat that we can have a wonderful things, but there might be some things we will never have.

Most of us are familiar with the iconic Disney animated film with Cinderella’s fairy godmother, the pumpkin coach and the mice attendants who outfit our heroine for the ball. If you visited NYC, you might have taken your daughters to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway. There are film versions  and adaptations, for example Ever After: A Cinderella Story starring Drew Barrymore and Kenneth Branagh has directed a live action Cinderella which is slated to come out in March 2015.

The Cinderella story is mythic, digging into the heart of every girl’s and every woman’s unconscious needs. The handsome, wealthy prince takes kind, sweet Cinderella away from the horror of her wretched, abusive Stepmother and wicked, ugly, demeaning Stepsisters. For the rest of her life as Mrs. Prince, Cinderella “lives happily ever after,” while the Prince with his inherited family wealth supports her in comfort and style, wiping out all the sad memories of her hurtful treatment by the “Steps.” The irony is a man, Charles Perralt, wrote the story in 1697, not a woman. Indeed, the story supports a paternalistic, oppressive culture which inspires women to endure the drudgery of life with the hope that “one day, their prince will come” and if she is proposed to, her man is her prince and “king of his castle.”  Such is the stuff that inspires Golddiggers and naive brides alike. Unfortunately, the reality of marriage and “happily ever after” is very different.

That is why I like Jewel Kats’ retelling of Cinderella. In Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair. Kats’ Cinderella is disabled. However, her spirit and attitude are not broken. When the fairy godmother comes to transport her to the ball, she doesn’t touch her wand to Cinderella’s feet or legs creating mobility. Some things do not change; at 12:00 AM, all returns to what it was before. But something magical does happen to Cinderella’s wheelchair. At the ball, the prince is intrigued by this woman and forgets about her disability. What he understands about her touches his heart.

At 12:00 AM they part and reality sets in once more, but the ball has opened Cinderella’s eyes. She leaves the miserable life she led with her Steps, packs up and sets out on her own. This is a self-reliant woman who knows how to take her skills and use them to live and support herself. She is not “waiting for her prince to come.” She will make it on her own.

What happened at the ball? Does she eventually meet up with the prince again? Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself. I’m not telling. I do think that Kats’ version is the most modern and prescient of all. What I love about it is that to a great extent, it explodes the dangerous myth that there is “happily ever after” in marriage. Not that there isn’t, but that you have to work at it and some things, some realities, you cannot change. You must adjust to them.

This is a very important message to bring to young girls. Life can hold magic and pain, and the most disabled are those who are wicked, jealous and cruel.


Some fairy tales are not told by paternalists, but are retold by resilient, smart women.

A very special thank you to Chris Miller who introduced me to the work of Jewel Kats.

The timeless story of “Cinderella” dates back to 1697 when first created by Charles Perrault,

Ditzabled Princess by Jewel Kats with Katarina Andriopoulos

Ditzabled Princess: A Comical Diary Inspired by Real Life. Author Jewel Kats Artist, Katarina Andriopoulos

Ditzabled Princess: A Comical Diary Inspired by Real Life. Author Jewel Kats
Artist, Katarina Andriopoulos

Have you ever heard, “It’s all in your attitude?” Well, Ditzabled Princess by Jewel Kats and artist Katarina Andriopoulos is an adorable mid-level children’s “comical” book that teaches a wonderful lesson about it. With a positive, uplifted attitude one will draw friends, family and others toward love and a spirit of living life to the fullest.

We are not talking Pollyanna, here, either. We are discussing a strong realistic and affirming way to view circumstances with an approach that uses humor and humanity to get over what a negative individual might carp, complain and stress themselves into a hellish place over. Thank goodness, Jewel Kats is the opposite, for she has given us a Jewel of a book that even adults would appreciate. And I can think of a few adults who need to “get over themselves” that I will probably buy this book for when they need a laugh.

Ditzabled Princess is a diary of a 33 year old disabled princess. Please underscore princess. There is nothing disabled about this women. In fact she is so capable, it’s like she is living the life of three able bodied individuals rolled into the body of one beautifully spirited and outwardly lovely person. Jewel tells us who she is in a nutshell: “a demanding Diva who loves to shop as much as she loves to write.” Jewel is assisted by a lovely “hot pink elbow crutch.” What’s not to love?

Jewel Kats is much, much more, of course. Add to that creative, talented and very clever, and she is aided and abetted by her “Dad,” her “Mom,” her beloved “Hubby,” “Baby Sis,” “Middle Sis,” and B.F.F. (best friend forever). And each of them in their own right “handles” this diva with love, humor and at times, utter frustration. Did I mention that this princess is also a bit of a messy house keeper and not a very good cook? I don’t know about you, but I’m down with that.

By the end of reading the comical exploits of Jewel Kats (I had a smile on my face the entire time.) I understood what I should do. Any time that inner critic (You know the one who criticizes you at the most rotten times.) opens her mouth to say something really dark about where I am along my own journey, I would get out Ditzabled Princess and read it again for the humor, the wisdom and the CLEVERNESS which will snuff out that nasty feeling. And I will especially go to pages 50-51 and read them over a few times, then read them to my niece who will really appreciate them. (She’s around 11 going on 18 and is a princess-in-training.)

Now, don’t expect me to tell you what’s on those pages. You will just have to buy the book on Amazon yourself.

Thanks to Chris Miller  for introducing me to the Ditzabled Princess Jewel Kats. Wish I had known of her sooner…I could have honed my princess skills with her tips.

21st Annual Hamptons International Film Festival Audience Awards

Guild Hall, one of the screening and red carpet venues.

Guild Hall, one of the screening and red carpet venues.

The 21st year of the Hamptons International Film Festival has seen its share of great feature films, documentaries, shorts, world cinema offerings, and UK favorites. This year’s festival was highlighted by visits from celebrities like Ralph Fiennes, Bruce Dern, Will Forte, David Duchovny, Hope Davis, Timothy Hutton, Ralph Macchio, Helena Bonham Carter, Bryan Greenberg, and actors to watch like Dane Dehaan. These individuals graciously offered their time with the audience in Q & As and helped to support their films some of which were either World Premiers or East Coast Premiers.

Will Forte and Bruce Dern in the Q & A for Nebraska. Both were very generous with their time.

Will Forte and Bruce Dern in the Q & A for Nebraska. Both were very generous with their time.

By Monday, the last day of the festival which ran from Thursday October 10th through October 14th, audience ballots were calculated, the choices finalized. The Hamptons International Film Festival audience win fofor Narrative went to the UK and the US brought in the Documentary wins, both the full-length and the short which both had their premiers at the festival.

Ralph Fiennes answering a question about close-ups in his film. With Artistic Director of the HIFF David Nugent.

Ralph Fiennes answering a question about close-ups in his film The Invisible Woman. With Artistic Director of the HIFF David Nugent.

Judi Dench in Philomena

Judi Dench in Philomena

Philomena won the Audience Narrative Award. Tickets were difficult to come by because of the star, the beloved Judi Dench, and its haunting subject (unwed mothers in Catholic Ireland) which has been touched upon in films like the Magdalene Sisters. In the 1950s Ireland’s Catholic Church held sway in maintaining paternalism, placing the worst of the double standards of male chauvinism at the forefront of the cultural ethos. Philomena Lee (portrayed with poignant, touching humor by Dame Judi Dench) was a victim of repression when Church officials forced her to put up her child for adoption because the man bed her but didn’t wed her. Stigmatized by the community of good men and women and trapped by societal norms, Philomena gave up her son for adoption despite her best intentions to keep him. Years later, Philomena attempts to right her wrong. She goes on a journey to find her son with the help of a BBC reporter and their travels are endearing and fun.  Stephen Frears directed the film whose screenplay is adapted from the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith.

Desert Runners

Desert Runners directed by Jennifer Steinman

Desert Runners, having its East Coast Premiere at the festival won the Audience Award for Documentary. The film chronicles individuals who sign up for and run the entire Desert Ultramarathon series which must be done in one year. This is a series where challengers run 150-mile ultra-marathons through four of the world’s most brutal and dangerous deserts: the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara in Egypt, and after all that heat, the desert of ice in Antarctica. How do these individuals deal with hurdles, success and failure as they run the extremes of life’s call to their souls? How do they canvass and balance their internal peaks and valleys in the beautiful and deadly environments that force their physical, mental and emotional range to their limit? It is a well told tale which shows individuals who have a need to go up against nature’s extremes for the honor of a race well run.

One Last Hug (…and a few smooches) Three Days at Grief Camp directed by Oscar nominee Irene Taylor Brodsky won the Audience Award for Short Documentary. How does one grieve the loss of a loved one? Internalize it, shut down, and move on? Cry? How does a child grieve the loss of a mother, a father, a brother, a sister? This documentary shows how. With an objective and non maudlin, overly sentimental approach, which is even more touching and powerful, the viewer immediately connects with the children’s stories as they tell who died in their families. The documentary short moves in real time with the guides who help the kids through activities designed to safely allow them to express the multiple emotions that come when confronting a loved one’s material absence and final abandonment. As the kids express their feelings, they are comforted and learn to comfort one another to relieve their pain. It is a powerful reminder that with loss there is also the comfort of others and another type of love found.

For more on the 21st Annual Hamptons International Film Festival please go to this link: Hamptons International Film Festival 2013


An Amazing Conference at Omega Institute: Press Release

Picture from the Omega Institute catalogue for 2013

Picture from the Omega Institute catalogue for 2013

Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. Beginning tomorrow there will be an amazing conference on Sustainability. President Bill Clinton is giving the Keynote address. It can be live streamed for free. (details are below) I will be attending on Saturday and perhaps a bit of Sunday. I do love it at Omega. The reason is because of their ethics, principles and mission. The individuals from the top down care about the planet and embrace this care in every aspect of Omega Institute: people, practices, lifestyle. When I say care, Omega’s mission is a sacred one; it is obvious the moment one steps onto the campus. I pray that more places will follow their example. One step…who was it that said great things have little beginnings? Omega may appear to be at a turning point, but they are striving to make a difference which they have done for years. They are a global model for sustainability. This conference is more than a beginning.

This press release is courtesy of Chrissa Pullicino

This photograph of President is from the Omega catalogue for 2013...courtesy of Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY

This photograph of President is from the Omega catalogue for 2013…courtesy of Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            Contact: Chrissa Pullicino

September 25, 2013                                                                          Office: 845.266.4444, ext. 404


President Bill Clinton to Deliver Keynote Address at Omega Conference


Where We Go From Here Conference Will Examine Sustainability as a Question of Values & a Challenge of Systems Design—Now Including Conference Live Stream


RHINEBECK, NY—Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy demonstrated just how real the threat of climate change is, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) is hosting Where We Go From Here: Opportunities & Solutions for an Interdependent World, a conference that addresses the imperative for examining sustainability issues from a holistic perspective based on the interconnection between human behavior, economic and social systems, and the environment. The conference will be held October 4–6, 2013, and will feature keynote speaker President Bill Clinton, 2005 MacArthur Fellow Majora Carter, environmentalist Paul Hawken, economist Jeremy Rifkin, and other major leaders in sustainability. The conference also will be available free to the public via live stream on Saturday, October 5, and Sunday, October 6.


As the problems of climate change and dwindling resources manifest themselves more clearly and urgently, the conference will assess the shortcomings of current sustainability efforts—and create a road map for going forward that places whole-systems thinking front and center.


“With ever more frequency and intensity, we are seeing the effects of being out of balance with the earth and each other. We cannot solve this problem without considering the whole—understanding the big picture and finding our place within it,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega and the visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). “We are thrilled that President Clinton will deliver the keynote speech. Omega is proud to initiate the discussion about where we go from here, and to serve as a model for a whole-systems approach to sustainability.”


Founded four years ago, the OCSL includes the first green building in America to receive both LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certifications, and has evolved into an emerging environmental leader, offering programs that teach the regenerative environmental practices modeled by the building. Omega Institute is integrating similar designs into other facilities on its Rhinebeck, New York campus. A recent addition to the Omega Women’s Leadership Center is the first commercial project in the United States to meet Passive House certification standards—the building uses very little energy and the space is designed to reduce heating costs by 75%.


“Recognizing our interdependence—to each other and to the planet—is key to finding solutions to our pressing environmental challenges,” said Backus.




Where We Go From Here will include keynote talks, panel discussions, stories from the field, and a tour of the award-winning Omega Center for Sustainable Living.


Leading economists, environmentalists, philanthropists, designers, architects, and activists round out the list of speakers, including:


·         President Bill Clinton, Founder of the Clinton Foundation and 42nd President of the United States, was the first Democratic president in six decades to be elected twice, and led the U.S. to the longest economic expansion in American history, including the creation of more than 22 million jobs. After the leading the White House, President Clinton established the Clinton Foundation with the mission to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote healthier childhoods, and protect the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private citizens to turn good intentions into measurable results.


·         Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, is an authority on economic sustainability. His books include The Third Industrial Revolution and The Empathic Civilization.


·         Janine Benyus, a biologist, consultant, and author of six books, including the classic Biomimicry, is cofounder of the Biomimicry Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes the study and imitation of nature’s remarkably efficient designs.


·         David W. Orr is a professor, founder of the Oberlin Project, and author of Ecological Literacy.


·         Majora Carter, recipient of a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, founded Sustainable South Bronx in 2001 when few were talking about sustainability, and even fewer, in places like the South Bronx. Since 2008, her consulting company, Majora Carter Group, has exported climate adaptation, urban micro-agribusiness, and leadership development strategies for business, government, foundations, universities, and economically underperforming communities.


·         Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, author, and entrepreneur who founded some of the first natural food companies in America to rely solely on sustainable agriculture.


·         Bob Berkebile is an influential sustainable design architect and community planner, a founding principal of BNIM Architects, and a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the Nature Conservancy, and the Center for Global Community.


·         Michael E. Reynolds is an architect and founder of EarthshipBiotecture.



·         Robert “Skip” Backus is chief executive officer of Omega and the visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). He helped lay the foundation for Omega’s environmental and conservation initiatives, including campus recycling and composting, sustainable purchasing and support of local agriculture, water conservation, and 100% sourcing of campus electricity from wind and solar technology.


·         Carla Goldstein, JD, is Omega Institute’s chief external affairs officer and cofounder of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center. An attorney with 25 years of experience in public interest advocacy, she has contributed to more than 100 city, state, and federal laws, and has worked extensively on issues related to women’s rights, poverty, public health, and social justice.


·         Peter Buffett is an Emmy Award-winning musician, composer, philanthropist, and author of the New York Times best-seller Life Is What You Make It.


·         Maya Azucena is an award-winning singer, activist, and cultural ambassador. At the 2010 United Nations Summit, she was selected by the Office of Secretary General Ban Ki Moon as the exclusive performer at the Every Woman, Every Child event. She is also a cofounder of the multimedia website, which raises awareness for maternal health.

·         Rob Hopkins, author of The Power of Just Doing Stuff and The Transition Handbook, is cofounder of the International Transition Network, a charitable environmental organization. The Independent lists him as one of the top environmentalists in the United Kingdom. The Observer calls him “one of Britain’s 50 New Radicals.”


Speakers are subject to change.


People can join the conversation about where we go from here on Twitter @Omega_Institute (conference hashtag #OCSL2013), and on


For complete details or to register, visit or call 800.944.1001.


About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation’s most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on 200 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations

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