Pam Graef-TikTok sensation

I recently interviewed a friend who is becoming a TikTok sensation. She is an amazing person with 30+ years in the fitness industry. I originally wanted to interview Pam about her experience trying out for America’s Got Talent. Then, COVID-19 hit, and things went haywire. Although I am excited to now have 4 stories to talk about, I hate that COVID-19 was the reason for the delay.

Topics we cover in this interview:

  • Both of our experience in the Fitness Industry, including the “thong” fad in the ’80s and ’90s
  • Her experience with America’s Got Talent Tryouts
  • Both of our struggles with the Pandemic: depression, anxiety attacks
  • Her video that has gone viral on TikTok
  • Her adventure trying to win a cover shoot on Ms. Health & Fitness magazine that carried a $20K award

Check out her video on my YouTube channel here. Her TikTok video is in the description of the video.

Pull a chair up to our virtual meeting, grab a beverage, and prepare to laugh! if you like this video, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. There will be more to come.

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Resistance arm workout

Would you like a short, effective arm exercise that doesn’t require much to perform? Well here is your chance to perform a challenging, arm workout using nothing more than a towel. In the video, I use a resistance tube, but you can perform it with a towel. Check out part 1.

Part 2 will be here in a couple of days. Be sure to come back and visit or subscribe to my channel through the link. Check out part 1.

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Steak & Potatoes with Corn on the Cob Crockpot meal

Finally, I figured out how to cook an entire meal in 1 pot (crockpot). This steak & potato meal is easy. Above all, It helps save time for busy lifestyles and opens up choices. check out the video on how to make it. As a rule, I demonstrate with an old manual style crockpot. It would be more convenient if you have a smart crockpot. Please subscribe to my channel through the Recipe video link.

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Artwork during the Pandemic Donna Colwart Richard

Meet Donna Colwart Richard

Donna, like Jan Wilken, is also a member of the Jefferson Art Guild and has been passing her quarantine time painting for a cause. She painted pet portraits in exchange for donations to local Non-Profit Organizations helping our community during this pandemic. What a great idea!

Donna is quite modest of her talent, saying she is merely a painter trying to improve her abilities now that she has retired. She reached out to Facebook friends on March 30, 2020, to announce her idea to paint pet portraits for donations. The choice of non-profit organizations was up to the recipient of the portraits and worked on an honor system. Donation amounts were suggested based on her normal asking price of the portraits.

Donna is also involved with the Metairie Art Guild and the New Orleans Art Association.

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Artwork during the Pandemic Jan Wilken

Meet Jan Wilken

You may remember Jan Wilken from my story featured in Flapper Press, Works of Art in Jefferson Parish. I reached out to Jan and asked her if she created any paintings during the pandemic that I could share. Without delay, she said yes!

When I asked Jan how long she had been painting, “oh, all of my life” was her response. She started studying art with John McCrady in the early ’60s. (A Louisiana painter and print-maker, and has been referred to as the most important New Orleans artist of the 1930s and 1940s. Featured in articles in Newsweek, Time, and Life magazines. In 1939, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to document the faith and lives of African Americans in the South. Resource: ) Jan is a member and founder of the Jefferson Art Guild

Days 1-3

Days 4-6

Days 8-10

Days 11-13

Days 14-16

Days 17-19

Days 20-22

If you are interested in her work, you can contact Jan Wilken through her website: or email:

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Art During the Pandemic Kathleen Thomas

Meet Kathleen Thomas

I have been painting for most of my life. This may sound strange, but I actually started with “paint by number” on the canvas when I was a teenager. I did not realize that I was an artist in my heart, all I had was desire but no training.

I next ventured into ceramics and created masks and face jewelry in my business for 20 years.  At the same time, I had the great fortune to meet a wonderful and amazing teacher, Carl Cramer, who taught me how to paint. How to see color, contrast, shape and so much more. He made me fall in love with painting in many mediums with a passion. I still have that passion and to be on an endless quest to learn and experiment.

I have been painting for over 50 years. I feel blessed.

Painting makes me feel excited, intense, happy and consumed with the love of the paints and brushes. I love the smell of the oil paints and the varnish when I finish a painting I feel exhausted and satisfied all at once. 

Kathleen Thomas

Leave a comment for more information on Kathleen’s paintings. (prices for her work, additional paintings, etc.)

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A Story about a COVID-19 Survivor

Frank & I had our marriage validated in the Catholic Church back in 2014. That is when we met Deacon Durr, the subject of this story. I wasn’t sure what to expect when we met him for the 1st time. Surprisingly, both my husband and I were at complete ease with Deacon Durr. He turned out to be such a compassionate, loving, spiritual man that would have a large role in my spiritual journey.


On March 31, 2020, I read an announcement on his social media page that startled me. Deacon Durr had been hospitalized after testing positive with the COVID-19 virus. He was exposed during his work at Hospice. On account of it taking 5 days to receive the results from the test, the symptoms were getting worse. Of course, I was in shock and started praying for him. I can only imagine what his family was going through. I’ve heard many stories that paint a picture of loneliness and uncertainty when it comes to this pandemic and those affected by it.

The Interview

After things settled down and I was sure that Deacon Durr was well on his way to a strong recovery, I asked him if I could interview him for my blog. I wanted to tell his story.

I think this is God knocking on our hearts to let us know it’s time to get back to family

Deacon Durr

CB: you said you were exposed to COVID-19 while working in Hospice. What symptoms were you presenting that made you decide to get tested?

DD: I started having trouble breathing and my temperature was up. I had the test performed and it took 5 days to get the results back. It was 8 to 10 days after symptoms started before I went to the hospital. When they told me I was positive for COVID-19, they instructed me to go to the ER.

CB: Tell me about the ER visit.

DD: I went form the ER to the ICU on March 31, 2020. Once in ICU, the virus progressed quickly. I ended up with a viral and bacterial infection caused by pneumonia. They gave me the MS drug that is being used to treat COVID-19 but it didn’t work. It was then when the doctors told me I would only make it if I was intubated. My son-in-law’s father, Dr. Tim Finney, did some research on treatments and met with my doctors. One of which was Dr. Frank Rabito, a specialist in infectious diseases, who made the decision on my treatment. I had 15 doctors in all. On the 4th day after the 2nd treatment, I was completely cured. The doctors said it was a miracle.

CB: Wow, were you scared?

DD: I wasn’t afraid for myself, I was afraid for my family. My Patron Saint is St. Francis of Cabrini. I held her relic and prayed. Prayers were coming from all regions of the world! The power of prayers lifted my spirit. It was a true miracle.

CB: what do you remember after you were intubated?

DD: I remember waking up at times and I would see kaleidoscope colors all over the place. I did have a spiritual experience. I was in a large cave, there were people all over the place. They were watching a man and I heard someone say, “that is Jesus”. I saw Jesus’ hands so I knew that it was him. He asked, “where’s Eve?” Then he said “follow me” I can remember thinking that I must have died. Then I thought, Man, I have a shot at this. (meaning he has a shot at going to Heaven)

When Deacon Durr told me that I was taken aback. He is the most loving, compassionate, spiritual person I have ever been associated with. I went home and told my husband about the interview and said If he has trouble getting into Heaven, the rest of us are doomed.

DD: Then I remember hearing someone calling me, “Deacon, Deacon, wake up.It was my nurse trying to wake me. She said they had been trying to wake me for a couple of days.

CB: How did your experience make you feel?

DD: I feel humbled. It was incredible. My nurses prayed with me. Everyone was great. I will tell you that I am dedicating the rest of my life to those that died and to all of the front line workers.

CB: How long were you isolated? It must have been tough not seeing your family.

DD: I was isolated for 14 or 15 days. It was tough on all of us. I was only able to facetime with them a couple of times. It was tough not having my best friend and wife of 39 years with me. You get used to having your family with you and around. Someone to talk to and be with. However, my nurse, Megan, stayed by my side the entire time. She was velvet over steel. I did suffer from survivors’ remorse in the beginning. Many didn’t make it. ICU was full. We were shielded from each other. Before I left the hospital the nurses rolled me through ICU so I could thank the Nurses and Doctors. It was a great moment.

CB: Tell me about your support system.

DD: I volunteer at Cabrini High School. The students were Awesome! They were sending emails, dropping off cards at the hospital. The principle held a virtual rosary prayer session. Word and prayers came from Cabrini institutions around the world. Prayer is what got me through it.

CB: I have to say Deacon, that you are the most caring laid back religious figure that I have ever met. Me and my husband kept you in our prayers and are thankful to have you in our lives.

DD: Well, you know, I never judge anyone. I put myself in their shoes and try to understand them and go wherever the Holy Spirit takes me. I love helping young people.

CB: Do any of your students have nick names for you?

DD: Most of them call me Deacon Durr. Some just Deacon and some call me Big U. Uriel is my first name. It’s great. I am now counseling and marrying some of my prior students. I’m even baptizing their children. I am truly blessed.

Timeline with Homily and Scriptures

Since Deacon Durr inspires me, I decided to look up the Catholic daily scriptures and Homilies to see if any seemed fitting for the timeline.

March 31, 2020-Deacon Durr Hospitalized

God has not left me alone, because I do what is pleasing to him – John 8:21-30-The Homily

April 4, 2020-Deacon Durr was Intubated

Castaway from you all the crimes you have committed, says the Lord, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. – The verse before the Gospel.

April 7, 2020-Deacon Durr was extubated

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father; you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter. -The verse before the Gospel.

April 8, 2020-Deacon Durr wakes up

Hail to you, our King; you alone are compassionate with our errors.- The verse before the Gospel

April 13, 2020-Deacon Durr returns home

This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.- The Responsorial Psalms.

As I am proofreading this story, I am shedding tears. Knowing Deacon Uriel Durr makes me want to be a better person. He performed my marriage ceremony. He has prayed for me and my family. I have stood alongside him with my grandson, feeding the homeless. I suddenly realize that I am a better person for knowing him. Thank you, Deacon Durr, for all you do.

Flapper press published Deacon Durr’s story (Be sure to visit the page and like the story)

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Shalilly by Elizabeth Gracen

It has been a long time since I shared any book reviews. I took a serious hiatus from my reading habits but I am happy to report that I am exploring new material. As a result of the current pandemic, I went looking for a good fantasy to read. In my search, I came across a book written by Elizabeth Gracen, Shalilly. This is Elizabeth’s debut novel, an adult fantasy novel, about a “sixteen-year-old mystic with unusual gifts”.

The 1st page captured my attention and pulled me into the world of Fippa and Ision. A story about a battle for Love, defeating darkness, and fulfilling a prophecy, While reading the story, I was able to reference how this fictional fantasy could be translated into the real world’s everyday struggles with love and darkness. There is a strong intensity and relief felt throughout Elizabeth’s writing. In my opinion, Shalilly was well worth reading.

The book is 271 pages long and has easy-to-read font and spacing. Click here to order your autographed copy of Elizabeth Gracen’s, Shalilly. She personally signed my book with a little note. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was pleasantly surprised by her message. Additionally, she dated the message. I received the package within 5 days of placing my order.

Flapper Press

In addition to writing a novel, Elizabeth has created Flapper Press. An international team of talented artists and writers. “With a goal to make this site a useful and entertaining ‘go to’ portal for original ideas and observations, FLAPPER PRESS offers authentic expression, useful tips, and a platform that promotes wild imagination, daring leaps of creativity, and the compassionate, mindful ‘giving back’ that we think is necessary for a peaceful, productive, meaningful life. Visit the site, I think you will see she is fulfilling her goals.

check out my 1st blog I wrote for Flapper Press, Negativity.

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