Sep 21, 2013

Interstitial Cystitis Awareness Month - Don't Judge a Book by It's Cover (or a Person by Their Appearance)

In honor of Interstitial Cystitis Awareness Month (one of my many chronic illnesses), I wanted to share a comment I came across on FB that shows the depth of the pain and desperation this disease can create in sufferers. While I myself would never resort to ending my life over IC, there are many who feel that desperate, and many who have taken that step to end their pain. All the more reason why a cure is so very crucial. Here is what IC sufferer Tara had to say about her life with IC (click photo to enlarge):

Most women living with IC also suffer from other chronic illnesses such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, autoimmune conditions, thyroid dysfunction, etc. (I myself am dealing with all of these conditions). Just one of those illnesses is enough to bring a person to their knees. Add in all of them together and you have a recipe for immense suffering and struggle to get through each day.

We're not looking for sympathy. We're not trying to complain or be whiny. We just want understanding and compassion and to create awareness. We want to speak out so that others who are just starting on this difficult journey have somewhere to turn to for help.

You have no idea how much being understood makes a difference when you are dealing with chronic illness. I received a sweet message on FB from one of my friends not long ago who had a temporary injury and she wrote to tell me how hard it was to go about enjoying a weekend out with her family while in pain. She said you would never know by her photos how much she was suffering and it made her realize what I live with each day.

When someone "gets it" like that, rather than judging you, looking down on you, or thinking you're overexaggerating or being lazy...there are no words for how much it means.

This past weekend, my husband and I traveled to NYC to see our favorite band Blue October perform. Matt had called ahead about ADA seating and we were told to get to the door 30 minutes early and to tell the doorman that we needed an ADA seat.

When we arrived and approached the doorman, he looked me up and down, then gave me the, "But you don't look sick" stare. My fellow chronic illness sufferers know exactly which stare I'm talking about. He began to question me in front of the large crowd of people standing in line and my husband had to start listing off my illnesses in front of everyone to get him to finally believe us (somewhat). It was humiliating to say the least.

As we were led to the upstairs balcony, the doorman made it known that he was still suspicious of me by taking me all the way to the back of the upper floor and placing a chair down, saying, "Here. I'll have you sit back here." Kind of like, "If you think you're getting special treatment with this seat, think again. You're paying the price for it by getting a crappy view."

His suspicious glares continued throughout the night, along with questions from other guests as to why I had a chair and they didn't (along with stories like, "Oh well I just had back surgery," and "I have been walking with a cane the past week," as if my chair were undeserved).

So while a cure is of the utmost importance, awareness, understanding and compassion are just as vital. You don't know if that person you're judging is grasping that last straw of desperation and your snide look may be what finally puts them over the edge. Remember that what you see on the outside is not always indicative of what is going on on the inside (and be happy about that because if the pain and suffering that accompany these illnesses could manifest in outward appearances...well, it's not something you would ever want to have to look at).

The old adage is true when it comes to invisible illness. Don't judge a book by its cover. Don't judge a chronically ill person by their physical appearance. Your kindness and compassion could mean the difference between life or death for those who are teetering on the edge of giving up their fight.

Note: Many thanks to fellow IC sufferer Cher Tushiah for starting this conversation on Facebook and helping to create awareness!

Apr 14, 2013

Review Blog,, Hijacked

For those of you who read my review blog,, please take a moment to read this important post, which I have crossposted from my new site, It explains how my old domain has been hijacked and the steps I am taking to try to recover my content and identity. Thank you!

Photo Credit: ivanpw

If you're a blogger with your own domain, let me issue a STRONG warning to you: Do not ever, for even one second, allow your domain to expire. There are bad people out there waiting to snatch up legitimate domains for very bad purposes.

I was under the mistaken impression that my domain,, was set to auto-renew. I had not updated my site for a few months and someone watching knew that my domain might become available. They bought it up the second it became available to them.

My loss, true, and I was ready to accept that and move on. However, I still had control in the beginning of the Google Apps portion of the domain...meaning I still received all emails directed to

Before I was even aware of the domain expiring, I began receiving confirmation emails for dozens of identities being set up on LinkedIn, PayPal, etc. as well as read receipts and "out of office" notices from dozens and dozens of legitimate companies. I also received many emails saying, "Your email has been marked as SPAM. Please click here to confirm you are not a spambot," and "Thank you for registering at such-and-such resorts."

The emails were being sent out with addresses such as "criticism@soablondewalksintoareview," "," etc. I assumed they were just SPAM emails that I would sometimes get in the past and I sent them to my SPAM folder. But they became more and more frequent.

I went into my Google Apps and Blogger accounts to see if it had been hacked and it was then that I discovered that my domain had expired through GoDaddy. I immediately contacted GoDaddy and they informed me someone had purchased the domain and that their is information protected so they cannot be contacted.

Photo Credit: utnapistim

Again, I figured my loss. I bought a new domain to redirect all of my content to (the one you are reading now, However, after this domain was purchased, and I redirected my content, all of my content was still showing up on I thought maybe I just needed to wait 24 hours for the transition to fully take place. It has now been a couple of weeks, however, and all of my content is still up on the old domain.

I immediately realized that the unscrupulous person/s who purchased my domain for phishing/scamming purposes had obviously copied all of my coding and content and put it on their server. I wrote a test post via Blogger to see if it would update this new domain and not the old (thereby proving theirs is a copy/forgery and is in no way connected to my account). Sure enough, this domain updated with the test post. The old one did not. Also note that Google Friend Connect in the sidebar is not working on their site but is working on this one (because it is tied to my Blogger account).

One other giveaway...if you visit my old domain,, via a mobile device, you'll see the desktop version. If you visit my new domain,, via a mobile device, you will see the mobile version. That's because my settings in Blogger are set up to show readers the mobile version on mobile devices. Scammers can copy my content and coding but they cannot control settings such as this, so their version of my site will always be the desktop one (for which they stole the coding).


So now I am doing all I can to fight back. The hard part is, they are out of the country (a friend of mine did some digging and found out some basic info). Fighting identity theft and copyright infringement when the perpetrator is out of the country is extremely hard to do, a fact I am sure they are aware of.

I have alerted GoDaddy to the issue and am hoping they can help me reclaim the domain because of the abuse. In the meantime, I am trying strategies such as posting TwitPics and Instagram photos with a warning that the domain is hijacked since they have my widget code for those sites copied and in "their" sidebar. Those photos will also show up in the sidebar of this site as well so I have to be careful to be very specific about which domain is which.

They also have my StatCounter code copied so I am able to see all of the hits and outgoing clicks that they are receiving. Because I worked hard over the years to build up my reputation, my site is the number one Google result for certain keywords, so the scammers are now reaping the benefits of that traffic.

Most concerning, however, are the numerous PR agencies clicking "Contact Me" on the old domain, which leads them to my old email (which I no longer have any control over and can no longer read.). PR companies are emailing their pitches to who they think is me...however it is going to the scammer/scammers.

I want to offer HUGE props to Google Apps who helped me transfer all of my data (emails, contacts, documents, etc.) from the old domain before it could go into the scammers' hands. Because I upgraded to the business version of Google Apps, I was able to contact them by phone and have a special case opened just for resolving my issue. I spent hours on the phone with Google while they guided me through a very complicated process step-by-step, even taking over my computer to do certain steps themselves a couple of times.

Google saved me from losing all of my data and contacts and prevented the scammers from having access to any of that information. That account is now deleted, however, any new emails that are sent to my old address could land in the scammers' hands.

I'll keep everyone posted on how this process ends up going and if I'm able to recover my domain, identity and content back from the scammers. In the meantime, please update your bookmarks to this new domain and my email to blondeblogger AT TheBlondeBlogger DOT com. Thank you!

Jul 21, 2012

The Truth Behind the Smile

I will state right up front that this is one of the hardest blog posts I have written and it's taking all the courage I can muster to write it. Here goes...

Most of my friends and readers know that I have been dealing with some hard-hitting health problems lately. In fact, it's been kind of a common theme for me throughout my life and something I've become used to dealing with, from a sensitive stomach as a kid, to endometriosis as a teen, to kidney stones in my 20's, a bad gallbladder in my early 30's, interstitial cystitis in my late 30's, a thyroid that's going bad as I turn 40 (which pretty much affects your entire body), and a heck of a lot more in between. Aside from the bad gallbladder (which I had removed) most of these issues are life-long and ones that I will always have to deal with.

My faith is the most important thing to me in my life and I believe everything happens for a reason. So I trust that there is a greater purpose to all of this and I am accepting of it. I still try to live life to the fullest despite these issues and I try so very hard to be a positive, happy person in all that I say and do, but it's not always easy and I'm not always successful at it.

I am also an open book, so I like to get it off my chest when things get overwhelming. And for the most part, I do. I think, however, a lot of people would be surprised at how much I do NOT say. I do not want to be a chronic complainer or a downer. I don't want to be negative. Most days, I like to forget to whatever extent possible that I am not 100% healthy.

Health complaints are so taboo to a lot of people and there is a bit of hesitation in talking about them because of that anyway. I lost a friend on Facebook over it...they thought I talked about it too much.

But I've also been wrongly judged based on all of the happy pictures I've posted of trips I've taken and events I've attended. I've actually gotten comments about "how much better I am doing" because I am smiling in a photo, when in actuality, it was a day that was a painful struggle for me to even get out of bed.

Some don't understand why I can be at a Coldplay concert, yet have seemed distant or unreachable, not knowing that one of the chief symptoms of the latest issue I'm dealing with (hypothyroidism) is depression and fatigue and that for every day that I actually get out to enjoy something, I spend several more days in bed trying to recover from it.

I am not writing this for sympathy. I don't feel sorry for myself so I don't want anyone else to feel sorry for me either. I don't even think I'm writing it for understanding for myself as much as I have come to realize that I need to speak out for every single person out there who may be in my shoes and may be hiding behind a smile like I often do, and may be facing judgement for venting or for not talking about it enough.

A good friend of mine who I got to see this past weekend said something to me that meant the world to me and gave me a lot of the courage I need to write this post. She thanked me for the things I have written about and the times that I have spoken up.

She said to me, "So many women are going through a lot of the problems that you are but don't say anything. But it really needs to be said so that we know we're not alone."

I do not think a happy medium really exists when it comes to discussing health issues, so to those of you who are reading this and are in a similar situation, I want to say to you...just simply be. Don't be afraid to speak up when you need to speak up. Don't be afraid to hide when you need to hide. As one of my favorite quotes say, and I cannot stress this strongly enough...

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

And to the rest of you, I say this:

Another favorite quote and one that would make the world a much better place if we all followed it. (And believe me, I know it applies to me as well, as I've been guilty of not always following it myself.)

You really have no idea if the person you see smiling in this photo:

May actually be spending the majority of her days in bed looking like this:

...fighting all of the problems her thyroid is causing her - her 10th infection in as many months from an immune system that is pretty much shot, trying not to be too stressed because of heart and blood pressure issues, trying not to cry over the huge clumps of hair that have fallen out during the shower that took everything in her to take, reading as many inspirational quotes as she can get her hands on to fight the depression that no medication can cure because thyroid-related depression is quite different from regular depression, avoiding the scale so she doesn't have to face the 30+ pounds she has gained from a metabolism that has stopped doing its job, feeling guilty because she hasn't called her grandmother whom she loves desperately but can't bring herself out of the brain fog and depression long enough to pick up the phone...did I mention already how many parts of the body the thyroid affects? Yeah, pretty much everything.

The person who you see smiling at Disneyworld:

...may be hiding the wheelchair that she's sitting in because the exhaustion she is feeling is so severe, she can't walk by herself, which in turns leads to emotional/mental distress over the fact that she feels like a worthless burden. (Note: I need to point out that that is by no means the fault of my AWESOME husband who lovingly pushed me all over three parks without one complaint and spends every day of his life not only caring for me but telling me that I am loved, beautiful, wonderful, worthy and amazing when I most need to hear it!)

The person you see smiling in a picture at her friend's post-wedding party:

...may not tell you that she showed up two hours late and almost didn't make it at all because she spent most of the morning/early afternoon in her hotel so drained that she couldn't even take a shower and was in so much pain that even the strongest of medicines wasn't making much of a difference.

The person who posts a pretty picture of something in her house...

...may not be showing you the mess that surrounds it because she has been too tired to keep up with housework, which in turn leads to feelings of being a lazy failure and a bad mother/wife.

The person who jokingly posts a photo, pouting over the bruise from their last ER visit:

...may not be telling you how they had to be stuck 7 different times because their veins are so bad, only to have all of them blow and no IV be given as a result. That they had to be kept overnight for observation for organ damage because their blood pressure was at emergency, stage 3 levels.

You know what the last thing someone who is facing illness needs while going through all of this? Judgement.

You know what they do need? Love. Understanding. Compassion. Help.

At a time when someone is already at their lowest point, trying to convince themselves that they aren't a lazy, worthless, good-for-nothing failure, they don't need someone thinking those things about them too.

They need to be uplifted, not brought down. They need to be supported, not shamed. They need hope, not condemnation. They need you to be there for them, not expecting things from them or judging them for what they can't do because you can't understand what they're going through because you saw them looking happy and well in pictures on the Internet.

If someone hasn't called you for awhile, but you see them smiling in photos, please don't assume all is well and take it personally. Cut them some slack. Some of my best friends in life are the ones that I can go for months without talking to yet pick up right where we left off without judgement or hurt feelings as if no time had gone by at all.

Tonight, as I write this, I am so very grateful for the people in my life like that. People who have been loving, kind and supportive, even when they're not always aware of all that I'm going through. They are the people that make the fight easier rather than harder.

One other thing that I feel is important to say, even though I risk going off on another long tangent here: Several years ago, I went through another severe illness that brought me to my knees. A bad gallbladder. I couldn't eat. I lost 45 pounds and had to be hospitalized because my weight was dangerously low. I went through eight months of tests. Eight months of switching doctors, trying to get answers.

I was told by one doctor I was anorexic and would die by Christmas if I didn't eat (I wasn't and not being able to eat was by no means a choice). I was told by another that it must be depression since all of my tests were normal.

I spent so many days, weeks, months doubting myself and my own sanity. "If I just push myself harder," I thought, "maybe it would all go away." I thought maybe I was just lazy, not tired. That my 24/7 nausea and pain were all in my head, because there was no explanation thus far for how sick I was.

Eight months later, one simple test later that the other doctors failed to do (a HIDA scan), I found out that my instincts were right all along. My gallbladder was bad. After being told for eight months that it was fine. By the time it was removed, it was diseased, discolored and covered in adhesions. It took me a good, solid year to be able to eat again.

I went through something similar with my endometriosis. Several years of being told by three different doctors I didn't have it when I highly suspected I did. Years of pain and fatigue that I cannot even describe in words. Over a year of infertility before finally one doctor went in via surgery and found my insides riddled with endometriosis lesions. Endometriosis so severe it almost cost me my fertility, all because doctors didn't listen to me or believe me.

Me, on my honeymoon, when my latest health struggle first surfaced.

Fast forward to last November. I began to feel fatigue like I'd never felt before (even though I've dealt with it all my life due to endometriosis). I had a whole list of symptoms I couldn't explain and went to the doctor, only to have my thyroid test come back bad.

I have had five more follow-up thyroid tests since then. 2 were normal. 4 out of the 6 total tests were not. But the doctor I am stuck with right now (because the doctor that everyone I know has recommended has no openings until September) won't treat me because of the 2 normal tests. Why? From his own mouth...because he doesn't want to be sued if I have bad side effects from the thyroid treatment.

So, since November, I have had to continue dealing with unimaginable fatigue, weight gain, irregular cycles, hair loss, depression, blood pressure swings, abnormal EKG's and possible heart-related problems, endless UTI's....I could go on and on. Basically every system in the body is tied to the thyroid and until someone finally treats me for this problem, I am just going to have to suffer.

Do. You. Have. Any. Idea. How. Absolutely. Hard. That. Is. To. Have. To. Bear?

I am practicing patience. I am practicing faith. I am practicing trust.

Because that little voice that reared its ugly head a few years back when my gallbladder was bad has been trying since November to get inside of my psyche once again and convince me that I am lazy. Worthless. Crazy. That there is nothing wrong with me.

Deep down I know better. And I know those of you reading this who may be in a similar situation know better too. So I urge you to believe in yourself, trust your instincts, listen to your body. But most of all, never, ever give up.

And to the rest of you, the same advice applies. Please, I implore really don't know what lies behind a person's smile. You don't know what they might really be going through. What kind of battle they may be facing. Battles with their health. Battles with doctors. Battles with themselves.You don't know how much power your words might hold on someone who is so fragile that they are ready to break.
It really cannot be said enough times.

Jul 6, 2012

Katy Perry: Part of Me Review

My husband and I went to see Katy Perry: Part of Me in 3D on opening night and it was SO good I just had to blog about it. Being a concert enthusiast and fan of Katy Perry certainly added to my enjoyment of the film - it was like having an on-stage seat to her concert - but the takeaway message of perseverance, belief in yourself and staying strong despite life's obstacles, is something everyone can relate to.

I absolutely adore Katy Perry...her talent and energy just pop right off the screen. It's as if the 3D glasses let you glimpse her indomitable spirit. Singing along to all of my favorite songs was so much fun, but seeing Katy triumph over heartbreak was by far the best part of the movie for me.

And it definitely gives new meaning to the "Wide Awake" video above, especially the very end (you'll know when you see the movie). I cannot watch that video without crying at the scenes of her and her inner child now. Heart! Wrenching!

I hate how her kind heart was trampled on but am so happy to see her finding herself again. The Prince Charming scene at around minute 3:25 exemplifies that and I'm pretty sure every woman that's ever had her heart broken by someone feels that sense of victory along with her as she knocks him out cold.

If you're someone facing a tough time in life, are being held back from your dreams, or just need a positive, uplifting message, you should really go see this movie! I loved it so much I'm going to go see it again with my little girl (and I can't wait for her to soak in the message of love, faith and perseverance.)

And whenever Katy tours again in my area, I will move mountains to make sure I am there! It won't be the same as being right on stage with her as one is in this movie, but I know it will still completely rock!

Jul 2, 2012

Chester French Releases Eclectic & Entertaining "Music 4 TNGRS"

Many of my readers may remember my interview with the fabulous Chester French in 2009, and my coverage of their show in D.C. that same year.

The success of their album "Love the Future" led to appearances such as this one on Jimmy Fallon:

She Loves Everybody Jimmy Fallon Live by yardie4lifever2

And CF's fans grew so numerous that member D.A. Wallach now has over 1 million followers on his Twitter account. (Maxwell Drummey, the band's other half, is not on Twitter.)

D.A. is also the "Artist In Residence" for the hugely popular music phenomenon known as Spotify, and he and Max have been featured in GQ, Rolling Stone, Vogue, and many other highly-respected publications.

Fans have been eagerly awaiting CF's next album since "Love the Future," and finally, "Music 4 TNGRS," was just released on June 19.

The album features a mix of eclectic songs that discuss everything from the seriousness of life to deep love for "The Perfect Girl" (my favorite song off the album). It's hard to put one label on the sound of "Music 4 TNGRS." Indie, pop, rock, rap, pretty much encompasses all styles and offers something for everyone.

The track "Interesting Times" is perhaps one of the more serious on the album, with lyrics such as, "I can't believe I'm going to die one day. Can't believe we'll all be gone." But it balances the seriousness of the vocals with a light, flowy electronic arrangement, with D.A. optimistically singing, "but it's all, but it's all, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful."

The most controversial song appears to be "Black Girls," more so for the music video, produced by the lovely Davida Williams, than the lyrics. The video definitely pushes limits that most music videos do not dare to go beyond and is highly adult in nature. I'd like to think that any criticism expressed is due to the erotic nature of the video and not the interracial or homosexual elements, but unfortunately, it appears we still have a long way to go as far as acceptance of the latter.

I had the opportunity to interview D.A. and Max about this issue as well as their new album and their answers were refreshing as always. (Many thanks in advance to my assistant Heather Mae Blevins for preparing the interview questions.)

"Spreading Love and Beauty" - An Interview with Chester French

What is the difference between the place you were at in your lives when writing the first album in contrast to the place you were in while working on the second album? (How has your status and lifestyle now, as opposed to being relatively unknown while working on the first album and being fresh out of college, influenced your writing?)

Max: Well this time we started out with some knowledge of how to operate a recording studio, which was nice. I definitely think that having toured a bunch and gotten a sense of our audience and what they seem to like about us helped us focus our approach for this album.

D.A.: I was in a more depressed, contemplative, and controlled place when working on the new album. I think we also knew much more of the possibilities in songwriting than we did the first time around.

The new album sounds a lot less indie rock, and a lot more experimental -- what was the instrumental writing process like this time around?

Max: I became fascinated with the idea that certain musical forms seem for now very fixed while sonic forms are more constantly evolving--at least in terms of what culture seems to appreciate--so the goal was to create a musical landscape that privileged sonic experimentation. The compositions emerged from the sounds more often than the reverse this time.

What is the main thing you hoped to accomplish on this album, that maybe you didn't include/achieve on the first album? What was it like writing a follow-up to your first widely successful album? More pressure? More fun?

Max: I just wanted to make something creative and consistently enjoyable and to learn a lot doing it. There wasn't necessarily more pressure this time, but there were a few specific people we had to please this time. Guessing people's taste is always an interesting challenge .

D.A.: I wanted this album to really capture our personalities and to be a little time capsule of who we actually were at the moment of its creation. The first album was more about our just trying to make "good" songs. This time I think we deployed the skills we'd acquired to send a more deliberate message.

How do you (DA) feel about Spotify? What made you want to be their artist in residence? (What do you hope to achieve during your time with them? How do you feel about "free" music and the current state of the music industry?)

D.A.: I first encountered Spotify as a user two years ago, when I heard about what it did and knew that it could markedly improve my life. My goal as Artist In Residence is to make sure that the company stays true to artists, unlike so many music companies past and present. I don't think music should be free (and it isn't on Spotify since even our "free" version is ad-supported). In fact, the business opportunity that Spotify represents is basically an opportunity to get most of the world to pay for music again by giving them an experience worth paying to have.

Will you be headlining your own tour for this album?

Max: Only if you want us to. (Editor's note: Yes, we do!)

Which album do you like (i.e. enjoy playing live) the most: Jacques Jams, Love the Future or Music for TNGRS?

Max: I think there are songs from each that are more and less fun to play live. Obviously we've played the newer music less, so I think there's some more immediate fun to be had with that material though.

How do you feel about the feedback and criticism the first single (Black Girls), the second single (Interesting Times) and your album as whole has received?

Max: I try to stay away from reading that type of stuff, but I was a bit disappointed that some people seemed offended by the video for "Black Girls." It bums me out that in a world with war and hunger people bother to get upset over music videos, especially one that I think is clearly more about love and positivity than hate and negativity by any measure.

D.A.: Agreed. We're just trying to spread love and beauty.

How do you feel about the "controversy" of the song, Black Girls? Did you feel like you were taking a risk with writing about such a "bold" subject? How did you decide to take the single from merely being racial, to adding homosexual elements to it in the music video, and further "pushing boundaries"? What was the brainstorming for the concept of the video like? (I think it's kind of genius -- way to go all out!)

Max: I sent DA a demo for that song in 2008, and I remember he told me the lyrical idea at a hotel in DC almost a year later. I thought it was a great idea, because it was really honest for him and about spreading love, tolerance and positivity. He and (director Francesco Carrozzini) masterminded the video.

D.A.: I don't really see any risk in the song. The only risk we took was that people wouldn't like it, and that's an unavoidable risk. No one has burned crosses in my yard because of it or anything. We wanted to push people to think for a moment about race and love, which are fraught matters. I think we achieved that.

Can you tell us a little bit about your involvement at Quad Sound Studios?

Max: We were president and treasurer there in college, although we mainly used it to make our album. I spent the night there a lot--working but sometimes sleeping.

Who (either Common, Masta Ace, Reflection Etermal, Nottz) have you most enjoyed sorting with?

Max: Working with Reflection Eternal was especially fun of those collaborations, because everybody was in the room at the same time hanging out and working. Real time hangouts beat virtual hangouts any day.

Who would be a part of your dream collaboration?

Max: Gandhi, James Baldwin, and Miles Davis.

D.A.: Stevie Wonder, James Baldwin yes!, Richard Feynman

Thank you, D.A. and Max, for the interview and for releasing yet another fabulous album for fans to enjoy!

For more information on Chester French and "Music 4 TNGRS" check out their website here.

Jun 26, 2012

Identity Theft Via Social Media

Imagine for a moment that you are perusing through social media channels and come upon a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account and see yourself in pictures that you never remember taking. There are updates stating you are at certain events and functions that you never attended. And tweets with strange words you would never, ever write.

Identity theft doesn't just happen with financial information. In the age of new media, it can happen with the photos we post to social media channels as well. Even private Facebook photos are in danger of being stolen if put into the wrong hands.

Years ago, I fell victim to someone who was pretending to be someone she wasn't. She had several identities on several Twitter accounts, posing as various celebrities, family members, friends, etc. She reached out to me with her main stolen identity, Rachel London, and tweeted to me nearly every day.

This was before Twitter verified celebrity accounts, and seeing all of the pictures she posted, I naively believed her. So did thousands of other people, including fans of the celebrities she pretended to be.

When she decided to have one of those celebrity profiles turn on me and started attacking me, my name and my reputation, leading the thousands of fans to do the same, I became suspicious and did some digging. That led to this very lengthy post, in which I revealed her lies and identity theft.

Thankfully, I cleared my name and those accounts were either abandoned or shut down by Twitter. I kept track of where she was, however, and have known for some time that she's been tweeting under the name @Team__Jackson. She is posting most of her photos under the name LakersGirl22 on Instagram.

Rachel's latest stolen identity. A pretty, Asian blonde.

I've kept an eye on her antics, and knowing that she's scammed people out of money in the past by claiming to have cancer, I've waited to see if she does something similar with this account. She hasn't yet, so I've kept quiet save for a few tweets every now and then letting people know what she's up to.

But I kept thinking about all of the people that she is duping now. All of the people that believe her lies and really think Russell Brand is talking to them via her or that she's shoulder-to-shoulder with Lady Gaga on her tour in Australia. That she works at Interscope Records (I happen to have great respect for Interscope and am honored that they follow me on Twitter...I don't want their reputation in any way sullied by this woman as mine was). But most of all, that she is a pretty, young, Asian blonde.

She is none of the above. She is a woman in her late 30's (possibly 40's now), living with her parents in Tustin, California (at least she was when this all happened years ago). Her name is Rachel. I know her full name, but I am hesitant to reveal it here. And she looks nothing like the woman whose photos she has stolen to Photoshop onto other bodies to perpetuate her lies.

Rachel (using the woman on top's identity) supposedly getting a piggy back ride from a friend.

She has gained reputable followers such as ABC7 Eyewitness News and The Black Eyed Peas. She receives replies from others who are enamored by her supposed celebrity connections. She has possibly made friendships with people who she could turn on at any moment as she did with me, and hurt their credibility with her lies. I use the word "possibly" because most often, those who reply to her are really her pretending to be yet another person.

I am hoping that someone out there might know who the woman is that she is pretending to be. That is my number one goal in writing this...the second being that this will put a stop to her current fake profile (though I know she will just start other ones, and when she does, I'll just keep exposing them).

I'm sure whomever the real woman is would not only be upset at having her identity stolen, but also wouldn't enjoy being associated with tweets such as this:

"do u ever watch corn to kill time @ work? 'whats corn?'me 'its when u watch sexy time with a bucket of popcorn'tard"
And this:

 "we should make uniporn vids cuz we so horny"
Can you imagine if someone was posing as you, using your photo, and associating you with such strange tweets?  Yeah, neither can I and again, that's why I'm writing this.

A particular bad Photoshop job from Rachel. Note that the woman on the right appears to have no body.

Below is proof for her current followers that she is not who she claims to be and is stealing photos as she's done in the past. She is also somehow faking her location on Foursquare, Twitter and Instagram. I googled a bit and found that there are apps that allow you to set your phone location to anywhere in the world, which would then throw off the location data for the social media channels she's posting on.

So, a woman in her late 30's to early 40's can sit in her parents' living room in Tustin, California, and pretend to be "halfway around the world" as she put it, hanging out with Lady Gaga's entourage in Australia.

Without further ado, here are the screenshots my husband and I grabbed of some of her Photoshop creations. I honestly don't have the time to track down the URL's for all of these so I'll just post the ones I can find really fast (I saved most of the real pics from my phone so I don't have the URL for all of them). Remember, she is not really the Asian blonde in the pictures...that's the identity she has stolen and the face she is using for these photos.

Click on any photo to enlarge:

To the left, a tweet/Instagram photo of Rachel pretending to be with Lady Gaga at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne, Australia. The real picture to the right is from the Hey Gaga Gallery.

To the left is a photo that Rachel posted where she was supposedly with the star of True Blood, Alexander Skarsgard. To the right is the real photo. Notice that the real photo wasn't even with the Skarsgard. She photoshopped his head as well. (You can see the URL for the real photo on the right at the top.)

One of Rachel's favorite tricks is to zoom in on a photo or crop it in some way to make it less recognizable from the original. Here, at the top of the photo on the left, she says a crowd is gathering outside the Park Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, where she supposedly is, waiting for Lady Gaga's arrival. To the right is the original photo from @FoxMelbourne.

Here, Rachel got a bit sloppy. Both are photos she posted. On the left is Luna Park in Sydney, Australia, where she claimed to be. However, when she went to Photoshop herself in front of the face, she accidentally used a photo from Luna Park in Melbourne, which as you can see, looks completely different. Not to mention the Photoshop job was not the best as the left side of her face is drooping badly.

To the left, a photo Rachel posted of Gaga arriving at the Park Hyatt in Melbourne. To the right, the real photo from @alexcamenzuli.

To the left, a photo Rachel posted of a fan waiting outside of the Park Hyatt in Melbourne, waiting for Gaga's arrival. To the right, the real photo from @SoniaMarinelli.

To the left, another photo Rachel posted of herself supposedly with True Blood actor Alexandar Scarsgard. To the right, the real photo.

Again, the face is almost always the same (the Asian blonde). Some photos, however, are others who look similar to the blonde that she doesn't even bother Photoshopping. Here she supposedly is at a zoo in Australia:

And here she is on that same day, closer up:

Obviously the close-up warranted a Photoshop job and if you compare the two photos, you see that the outfit is the same, but the face and bangs are completely different.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. (Ha! "I'm so punny!" One of Rachel's favorite sayings).

If you recognize the blonde in these photos, PLEASE contact me via email here. And please, when using social media, be very careful who you trust and believe because I am sure Rachel is not the first to do this and she certainly won't be the last.

Update: Was just told by a friend connected to the earlier identity theft case that Rachel is 32 years old, a 1998 graduate of Tustin High School in Tustin, CA and is still living in Tustin with her parents. If anyone is interested in filing a complaint for the stolen photos, most especially the person she is portraying...if she is found, I will be happy to give you her full name via email.

Update #2: As of July 2, the Twitter account @Team__Jackson has been removed (most likely changed to another name) and the Instagram account has also been changed (which means the links in this article no longer work, which I was expecting to happen). This woman's identity is still being used by Rachel in photographs under another account, however, so please still spread the word to help try to find out who the woman whose identity has been stolen is. Thank you!

Jun 5, 2012

How NOT to Treat High Blood Pressure

Photo credit: Morning Calm News

I recently took a trip to Colorado with my husband to visit his grandmother. Before we left, Matt went by the pharmacy to pick up my blood pressure medication for me because I had run out the day before we were leaving. I had sent a refill request to my pharmacy the week before because I knew it required permission from the doctor and that sort of thing takes time.

When he went to the pharmacy, however, my medicine was not there. The pharmacy said they sent a request to my doctor, but he never responded. We needed to leave at 6 am the next morning for our flight, which put me into an emergency situation.

My blood pressures at times reach around 167/118, levels which are considered Stage 3 High Blood Pressure and require treatment. I was not comfortable with the idea of possibly reaching those highs for even one minute, much less for several days, and my doctor himself had advised me in the past not to let that happen because it causes damage to arteries and vital organs.

After several calls to my doctor's office, dealing with the nurse's attitude (Nurse: "You are supposed to request refills 48 hours in advance." Me: "I know. That's why I had my pharmacy contact you last week." Nurse: "You'll be fine without your medication for awhile." Me: "That's not what the doctor told me."), I finally had to call the doctor on call at 9 pm (who was not my regular doctor) and get my medication filled at a 24-hour pharmacy. She had no problem calling it in immediately.

Me, tired, stressed and pretty rough-looking at one of my many other doctor visits.

My doctor, however, appears to be under the impression that not only did he fill it (he didn't), but that it required a return to his office (why?), and that he has no idea why I am taking this medication (high blood pressure, which he has been treating me for for years) and doesn't know if he is even the doctor who wrote the original prescription (he is.)

I was already upset that getting my refill had turned into such a hassle...the stress and worry certainly were not good for my blood pressure...but to come home and find this error-ridden letter from my doctor was very infuriating!

Dear Dawn,

Please help me help you.

Nobody like (sic) emergencies. You recently called for a prescription and requested same day turnaround. While I completed this order for you, you should know that I had to return to the office specifically for you in order to complete this.

I do want to remind you of my prescription refill policy. Prescription requests are fulfilled in 48-72 hours. I feel this is a resonable turnaround time for patients taking chronic medications.

Please consider making your requests in a more timely manner in the future.

While reviewing this medication, I note that I've not refilled this for you in some time (ever?) and that I don't have an indication for it listed in your chart. I presume it's for blood pressure. I do have some questions regarding why it's used for (sic) and who prescribed it previously and so, (sic) I'd like for you to follow up with me upon your return.

As someone who suffers from several chronic medical conditions, I can attest to the fact that dealing with doctors, pharmacies, prescriptions, etc. can sometimes feel like more of a hassle than the conditions themselves. The last thing a patient needs on top of health problems is having something like this thrown at them.

I figured I had been a pretty good sport about him and his office not handling the refill situation properly and was going to let it go. But to be sent a letter chastising ME for all of this? Unacceptable.

Not to mention how troubling it is that the doctor who has been treating my condition and was the one who put me on this medication has no recollection of it and apparently has such poor record-keeping that it's not even in my chart.

One of my high blood pressure readings.

I debated how to handle this situation and was very close to trying to find another doctor. But I have had this doctor for years and he usually is very friendly, compassionate and kind. And trying to find another doctor would be another hassle in itself.

So I decided the best thing to do would be to write a letter in response:

Dear Dr. X,

You recently sent a letter to me that has raised several concerns on my part. In it, you stated that you completed a prescription request for me that had a same-day turnaround and that it required you to return to your office specifically to complete the order. You reiterated your prescription policy which requires 48-72 hours notice. You also stated that you are not aware of filling this medication for me previously, that you have no indication for it in my charts, and that you presume it’s for blood pressure.

I am aware of your prescription policy, which is why I had my pharmacy send a request to you several days before I needed to pick up my refill. They informed me that they sent you the request but that your office never responded. This put me into an emergency situation as I needed to go out of town at 6 am the next morning and did not have any medication left.

As you are aware, emergencies such as these sometimes arise, and I would expect my doctor to be able to handle such a situation, especially when it was not my fault but apparently a fault of your office for not responding to the original request in the first place.

For context, there was an insurance mishap on a different medication of mine a few months ago and my doctor who prescribes that medication immediately called the pharmacy that same day to fix the error for me without it being any sort of issue or problem. It did not require a trip back to her office, but merely a simple phone call to the pharmacy.

Secondly, you did not complete the order. After calling your office several times that day, during regular hours (and finding that you were not in the office), I had been told you had been contacted and would be handling the issue. However, that evening, the prescription had still not been called in.

I had to phone the doctor on call (not you) around 9 pm to have the prescription called into a 24-hour pharmacy for me (again, without a need to drive to any office first) and my husband picked it up on his way home from work at approximately 12 am so that I would have my medicine for my trip and so that I would not have to worry about my blood pressure going too high while I was out of town.

While this was upsetting to me and caused me much undue stress and worry, I tossed it up to the fact that there might have been miscommunication and/or some other such issue that prevented you from handling this situation. Coming home from my trip and finding your letter to me, however, was a bit unnerving to say the least and I don’t quite understand the need for it. (I won’t even get into the grammatical errors in it which are concerning as well.)

What I am most concerned about though is the fact that you are not aware of discussing my high blood pressure treatment with me (which we have discussed during several of my visits, including my last one which was just two months ago), and that you had to “presume” the medication was for my high blood pressure.

How is the treatment for my blood pressure condition not in your charts when this has been an ongoing condition for me for years? I have brought you written records of my blood pressure readings, and have been told by you that it’s very important to take my medication or it will be “my heart and not my kidneys” (another condition I suffer with…kidney stones) that I will have to deal with in a few years.

When Altace was dropping my blood pressures too low, you switched me to Lisinopril. At my last visit two months ago, after I discussed with you that I was still having drops that were concerning, you advised me to cut my dose of Lisinopril in half (which has been working).

My previous insurance required that the Lisinopril be filled via mail order and I was sent a three-month supply by them, which you approved. Because it was a three-month supply, and because my dosage had later been cut in half (there were also times in the past I had to skip doses because of the drops I was having), it has been awhile since you last filled this for me. It has, however, only been approximately two months since we discussed my high blood pressure condition and my Lisinopril treatment/dosage.

I do not feel that is fair to me to charge me $20 to come in and clarify all of this for you, and I do not understand how this information is not in my medical chart. If you can take the time to chastise me in a written letter for something that was not even my fault, I hope that you will also take the time to explain this situation to me as well.

You have been my doctor for several years and have usually been very kind and helpful, so I want to give you the chance to explain this, hence this letter.

I can be reached by phone or email (listed above) if you prefer, and I will be happy to discuss it in person without being charged for it, despite the fact that my time is precious as well.

Thank you.

Hopefully, my doctor will respond with an apology and explanation and not with defensiveness. It's almost like dealing with a relationship whereby you want to be the dumper and not the dumpee. I am aware that he may very well "break up" with me himself, which would be pretty infuriating. And the last thing I need is more stress or to be "under pressure" (get it?) as one of my favorite stress-songs goes:

But I have decided the hassle of trying to find another doctor is not something I want on my plate, and he has been a good doctor in the past, so I am giving him the chance to make this right.

And you better believe if he doesn't, I will make sure everyone knows about it.