In the digital world, it’s easy to share, collaborate, learn and even grow with people you have never met before. I love that idea…that I can connect with someone around the corner or across the globe. I’ve always been fascinated by people, their culture, what makes a person unique and with something as simple as an internet connection, you have the whole world to explore.
Welcome to my world. Feel free to leave a comment or share something of yourself. More isn’t always better but when it comes to ideas and expanding your mind, it often is.
Michelle Mantor with Jeda as published in December 2016 Issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine. Photos by Evin Thayer.We live in a world that values strength, power, and toughness. Whether it’s a movie with a powerful main character or a parent teaching their young boy to “be tough” with his emotions or the images of muscled bodies in magazine ads, there’s no denying that our culture rewards the idea of strength. Which, in turn, is why it’s so hard for us to be vulnerable. Opening ourselves up to needing something or someone is a scary prospect. If we think about the many lessons we are taught in life, quite a few of them are centered around the theme of self-reliance. Think back to the values that your parents and other teachers have worked hard to ingrain in you – be your own person and don’t be influenced negatively by others, find a way to make enough money so that you don’t have to rely on others for your basic needs, stand up for what you believe even if it’s not the most popular stance, and so on. These are all positions of strength and they are important lessons because they help us make good decisions, encourage us to be self-reliant and basically help us survive in this world. However, as in most things in life, a delicate balance is needed in order for the best possible outcome. In the case of vulnerability, the scales often tip too far to the side of needing to project strength, which isn’t surprising given that the stakes for being weak are quite high in humanity. The unfortunate result of this imbalance is that vulnerability, because it’s viewed as negative, is an emotion or state of being that many people avoid, thus stripping them of some of the most basic connections a human can experience. Vulnerability is that place where we allow ourselves to feel unsure. It’s the place of no guarantees and possibly even pain or rejection. Being vulnerable is asking someone on a date while knowing they might say no. Being vulnerable is telling someone you love them first, not knowing if they will reciprocate. Being vulnerable is trying out for a team or a position knowing you might not get it. Being vulnerable is being a human or pet parent that loves your child or pet so immensely, all the while knowing God could call them away from you at any time. We are so afraid to feel this level of insecurity that we find a myriad of strategies to avoid the feelings. We overindulge in food, we drink alcohol, take pills, shop incessantly and cram our schedules full so that we don’t have time to come face to face with the scary monster called vulnerability. But what do we give up for the attempt at not being vulnerable? We give up the deepest feelings of attachment because we are too afraid of what we will feel like if the attachment breaks. We falsely believe that it’s better not to be “All In” and preserve our heart than to let go of fear and connect as our authentic self to those important beings in our life. To that point, we can take a lesson from our pets about how to love with...read more
Michelle Mantor with Jeda as published in December 2015 Issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine. Photos by Evin Thayer. Meet my new friend, Jeda. As many of you know, I lost my Briard and long-time friend of 15 years, Remy, in 2011. I still miss her and think of her often. Life’s journey offers us hilltops with great highs and valleys with great lows and Remy was steadfastly there for the ride. But once she was gone, daily life just wasn’t as rich. Enter Jeda. Also a Briard, Jeda is quite a character and has carved out her own little piece of my heart. I’m happy to say that we’ve built trust between us and have become friends. That’s what friends do – they make our lives more fulfilled. Can you imagine your life without friends? I’m not referring to acquaintances or relationships that might be characterized as “friends” but are not enduring, meaning with just a small change, the communication ends. Those relationships certainly serve a purpose in our lives working as a secondary support system but I am referring to those friendships that have substance, strength and longevity. I am blessed to have many of these lasting friendships and the cool part is that I keep making more. Life never runs out of people for us to give our love to! The secret to building strong friendships is to be a reliable friend yourself. That means helping a friend in need even if it’s not convenient, listening for hours to their woes, being honest when they ask for advice, being respectful of commitments you make to them, showing them they matter and the most important one in my opinion – don’t forget to be silly and have some fun together! Laughter, before or after the tears, is an essential element of the friendship bond. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out who is a true friend and who is not. I believe there are a few fundamentals to true friendship versus “being friendly”: One is the test of time and the other is sacrifice. In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends. Of all the different types of friends in my life, there is one I never have to question what their commitment is to me – my furry friends. Our pets are in a different category all to themselves. Of course they are not as dynamic in their interaction with us as a human but what giving souls they are! Can you name a time when your pet wasn’t happy to see you? They need our care in order to survive and they realize we are their strongest ally in life. For being their caretaker, we are given devotion and I can’t think of anything I would rather have. Many a word has been written about the human-animal bond as well as why dogs are called Man’s Best Friend. Yes, they are loyal, love us no matter who we are, they have our backs, they have no hate, greed or jealousy, only pure hearts and they love to be part of the pack and socialize. I for one am happy God gave us these authentic little creatures. This holiday, celebrate your friendships, both human and animal. Give your friends your attention and your love....read more
Michelle Mantor with Neema and Miles at the Houston Zoo as published in the December 2014 issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine. Photos by Evin Thayer. One gorgeous Houston day, I was out playing my favorite sport of tennis with some other ladies. I was having a great time and suddenly I realized I was skipping back to my place to return serve. Skipping! Then I had the thought, “What are you doing? You are way too old to be skipping. That’s for children!” But in reflection. I started wondering why, as adults, are we not supposed to show such frivolousness? Why do we have to behave with such decorum? Somewhere along life’s journey, society teaches us that the silly, fun, spontaneous actions of a child is not appropriate for an adult. If we were to see someone in the middle of a shopping mall turning circles and looking to the sky and then jumping around and sticking their hand in the water fountain, we would deem that person mentally disturbed. But isn’t that a sad thing to think that we must drop our outward sense of childlike fun to show that we are a sane, responsible grown-up? Each of us has a different idea of what we think is fun but that’s what makes people interesting – the fact that we are different. I, for example, liked to play Barbies with my daughter when she was younger. Unfortunately, she has “outgrown” Barbies and I have to wonder is that because she really doesn’t like to play any longer or because she feels she is too old? Can you just imagine how crazy my friends would think I am if I invited them over to play Barbies? It’s unthinkable! (By the way, that’s one of the little known secrets about being a mom. It gives us a chance to play our old childhood favorites without looking like we are nuts!) Having fun means “to have an amusing or enjoyable experience.” It is good food for our soul to sometimes set aside our more serious concerns, problems and worries to amuse ourselves and give our hearts a reason to smile. For me, going to the zoo and observing animals is fun. I loved feeding the giraffes during my photoshoot. They were not shy about nudging me for more lettuce which of course made me giggle. You can see by the outtakes that I was having a great time! For pet lovers, the free-spirited nature of animals may be one of the reasons that we find their companionship so fulfilling. If you watch your dog or cat (or most animals), you can see them at play essentially having fun. We may wonder why it appears so amusing to go get a ball and bring it back and go get a ball and bring it back and so on but for whatever reason they find it enjoyable. They don’t seem to really care if we think it’s crazy or not. They are just following their instincts, not rules imposed upon them by the judgments of others. And, what I really find fascinating about animals is that they are willing to play most anytime. Short of not feeling well, any of my pets will hop right up and start playing instantly out of a...read more
The turquoise waters have been a fascination of mine since I was old enough to look at a magazine. When I was in elementary school, I had a bulletin board in my room with my “dreams” thumbtacked to the board – the photos were of Tahiti’s blue waters and overwater bungalows, the Pyramids of Egypt and Navajo jewelry. The only thing I have gotten to experience so far is the jewelry LOL! But, I’m not finished yet! I just returned from a trip with my kids snorkeling and scuba diving in the waters of St. Croix. The marine life is so fascinating. Coolest sighting so far is a giant sea turtle. The Cruzians, as they are called, are very friendly and the island is beautiful with both rainforest and nice beaches with a mountainous coast. Here are a few photos of our trip – it’s a cool thing when your children reach the age that you can do more imaginative things together and they are independent enough to try new...read more
…The Ultimate Global Citizen By: Michelle Mantor Photography By Evin Thayer Sometimes the tumble cycle of life knocks us around a bit. We may become ragged and thread bare from the constant motion and effort to keep up with “the process”. Speaking for myself, I definitely experience life-fatigue now and then. I need to recharge my batteries AND recharge my spirit, that part of me that not only keeps me going but also motivates me to reach higher, burn brighter and spread hope to others. Recently, that inspiration came from meeting John Paul DeJoria, the perpetual entrepreneur that co-founded the mega hair care corporation, Paul Mitchell Systems. From the seriously challenged “tumble-cycle” of his youth to his incredible story of financial and philanthropic success, DeJoria’s journey is a beacon of hope that serves to remind us that we can achieve great things even when obstacles loom large. Like so many events in our lives, meeting John Paul, or “JP” as he is known to friends and colleagues, was not something I sought out but rather it came about through a friend connecting us. Naturally I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting the man whose face I had seen in magazines ads and photos attending star-studded Hollywood events but it wasn’t until I did my research that I discovered the inspirational story behind the man; it wasn’t until I spent a few hours with him at his home in Austin that I realized the profound effect his efforts are having on our world; and it wasn’t until a few days after the interview when I couldn’t stop reflecting on his journey that I realized he had inspired me. My spirit was ready to keep reaching higher, burning brighter and motivating others. I want to share his story with you. Born and raised in what could certainly be called humble beginnings, DeJoria was faced with life’s challenges at an early age growing up in Los Angeles. Destiny’s way of ensuring that he had plenty of entrepreneurial experience, DeJoria started out selling greeting cards at age 9 and delivering newspapers to help out his single mother. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, he would go on to sell insurance, encyclopedias, dictating machines, work as a janitor and pump gasoline. It’s hard to imagine this uber-successful guy being homeless but John Paul found himself briefly without a place to live not once, but twice. He slept in his car and collected bottles to subsist. Not to be defeated and not to be given handouts, he eventually landed a job in the hair care industry where he quickly received a promotion to National Manager of Schools and Chain Salons. After building his expertise in the marketing of hair care products and services in National and VP level positions with several companies, John Paul combined his marketing prowess with the hairdressing talents of Paul Mitchell to launch their now-iconic business, John Paul Mitchell Systems. As with all companies that reach noteworthy status, a clear vision guided the dream – the pair shared a vision to create a company for hairdressers that would provide tools of success for hair care professionals, their salons and the entire beauty industry. Founding the company on just $700 the pair had scraped together, DeJoria and Mitchell put their...read more
Michelle Mantor with “Remy” – Published in the December 2010 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo by Evin Thayer Well, we’re back! Remy and I are together again for our values feature photo. As many of you know, two years ago when Remy was 13, I thought that would be our last year together so I chose to be photographed with just Remy and not include my two Maltese mixes. Last year, when Remy turned 14, I definitely thought that was the finale and so the little dogs were once again left behind. Look who’s still here at 15! Yes, the little dogs are like “when will it ever be our turn?” but as long as my girl sticks around, I’ll stick by her as my number 1 sidekick. Although I make light about Remy’s perseverance in life, I know that having her by my side is a blessing that I am so thankful for. A 15-year-old Briard is quite extraordinary and I find it ironic because she herself is such an extraordinary dog. I gave thought to writing about perseverance but in the end, I believe Remy’s presence in my life most exemplifies the value of thankfulness: I’m thankful for the wisdom she has taught me…she inherently knows the right thing to do in all situations. I’m thankful for her loyalty…she never gives up on me. I’m thankful for her forgiveness…she doesn’t hold grudges for the walks not taken. I’m thankful for her inspiration…she gives me lots of ideas for the magazine. I’m thankful for her protection…she stands guard to defend me at all times. I’m thankful for her dignity…she is showing me how to grow old with elegance. I’m thankful for her consistency…I know what to expect from her and there is a confidence in knowing something rather than guessing. I’m thankful for her sense of humor…she can turn my tears to laughter with her silly antics. I’m thankful for her attitude…she looks for every opportunity in life to be cheerful. But mostly I’m thankful for her love…she warms my heart, stands by my side, kisses my cheek and feeds my soul. So Remy, I sure hope you surprise me and turn sweet 16. But whatever the future holds, just know that I love you my big girl!...read more
Michelle Mantor with Azi; Published in the December 2012 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo by Evin Thayer As young people, we often underestimate the value of nature. The vibrant colors and patterns in a peacock, the calming effect of morning mist rising from a lake as the sun rises, the simplicity in the design of a daisy…these are all gifts that nature bestows upon our lives but appreciating their value can take many years of living a complicated life before we truly understand the brilliance that is simply…nature. Last year I visited Costa Rica, a country blessed with a plethora of natural resources and beauty – gorgeous beaches, a lush rainforest, fascinating wildlife including colorful parrots and cute monkeys, waterfalls and spectacular sunsets. While there, I also noticed the infrastructure was nowhere near our standards (roads, buildings, etc.) and the locals in the area I visited were living in tiny rundown houses and seemed to have very little economic advantages. And yet they were all smiling, happy and positive in their overall outlook. I spent some time pondering this (I had a lot of time to ponder on a 4 hour bumpy journey to the coast in what would have been a 1 hour drive on a freeway) and I thought about all of the “unnatural” elements that consume our lives in the U.S. like shopping malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, treadmills, video games, TV and so on. From cosmetic surgeries and injections to diamonds and expensive adornments, our society has a radar focus on plastic, manufactured and synthetic. When I was a kid, I can remember that our entertainment was playing outside with whatever things we could find. We made forts, played stick ball, caught fireflies and tadpoles, picked berries, played with our dogs, created games and road bikes. Essentially, we used the outdoors and nature’s bounty to explore and play. Now, after years of participating in our culture’s move toward gadgetry, multi-tasking, frenzied schedules and indoor entertainment, I’ve come to appreciate and even crave nature. As in most things, balance is key. Being a Libra, I am keenly aware of balance and whenever I feel something in my life has swung too far toward imbalance, I get frustrated and then I realize the reason and work to get back to the “middle”. Yes, we have come to depend on technology to the point that we almost have no choice but to use it otherwise we cannot function effectively in the business world and to some degree our private lives. We marvel at the latest features of the iPhone and stand in line for hours to see a Twilight movie release. And although these are impressive, nothing is more impressive than God’s design of nature. The majestic beauty of this horse next to me, the perfect colors on a Clownfish, the glory of an old oak tree that comes to life again every Spring…these are also things that I hope we never forget to marvel at. Perhaps the Costa Ricans have it figured out. They are still living close to nature without so many unnatural elements pushing through into the relationship. They work with their hands, eat natural foods from their gardens, play outdoors with whatever Mother Nature provides. As another year wanes, it seems “natural” to...read more
Michelle Mantor and “Friday” – Published in the December 2011 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo By Evin Thayer As many of you know, I recently lost my beautiful Briard, “Remy” after 15 wonderful years. I had always promised her a 2-page tribute in PetTalk when she passed. Because she lived to be 15, I had to go through shoeboxes of photos to put the story together since there were no digital photos of her early years. As I looked through family photos spanning more than a decade, I experienced many emotions…joy, laughter, sorrow…and the tears to match all those feelings came pouring out. My daughter was with me and she asked, “Mom, why are you crying because of pictures”? It struck me that one of the very reasons I was crying was the quality she was exemplifying at that moment…innocence. Innocence can bring forth feelings of great happiness as well as sadness. As I looked at the photos of my children when they were toddlers with their sweet little faces and cute poses, I realized those days of “young child innocence” were gone and my babies had grown up to nearly be teenagers. Never again would I have that baby in my arms, that small hand reaching up to grab mine to walk with me or the outstretched arms wanting me to pick them up and swing them about. Those thoughts hurt deeply in a way only a mother can know. But juxtaposed to that sadness, was the joy of innocence. I smiled at the photos of my son at his Chucky Cheese birthday party as he fully believed Chucky was a real being. I smiled at the photos of Remy as a young pup exuberant to play the same game of chase over and over. I smiled at my daughter’s innocence of asking why I was crying by the mere simple act of “looking at pictures”. Innocence to me implies a naiveté, a vulnerability that can so easily be harmed or lost forever. When I reflect about my strong feelings toward animal abuse or the pain I feel when I see a stray, neglected dog, I know my passion for helping them is born out of knowing how innocent they are. They don’t have the tools to survive in man’s world and they rely on us to be their stewards. As adults, our innocence is lost. We are full of pretense, racism, insecurities, and falsehoods. Just one look at our society and we see cheaters, phonies and fabrications. From the “reality shows” that are scripted, to artificial body parts to photoshopped images and dishonest politicians, it can make one wary or even cynical. What’s real? Who is honest? Where do I place my trust? When we look at children, we don’t see those impurities. We see pure awareness, honesty and joyous attitudes that are open to possibilities. We see hearts willing to love and accept with no preconditions. I see those same characteristics my pets. And, just like in my children and my pets, I love their innocence and feel great pain if they are mistreated or if they were to lose this wonderful virtue. I don’t think it’s possible for us to back to the state of innocence as an adult, but I think we can...read more
I have loved turquoise for as long as I can remember (along with anything American Indian/Navajo). When I was a kid, we would visit my grandparents about once a month and on the way to their home, we would pass a hoky little TeePee that sold lots of American Indian trinkets, etc., and my happiest moment was when my Dad would say “yes” to my begging to stop and shop. I wanted anything turquoise, beaded or with feathers. This hasn’t changed..I still love all of those things! I not only love turquoise jewelry, but I love the color itself – furniture, animals, clothing, etc. Turquoise is ancient, yet again and again it finds itself back in fashion. Its shining sky blue is one of the most popular trend colours in the world of jewelry and fashion. I have pieces from when I was a child to a beautiful Squash Blossom given to me on my 50th birthday from a special friend. I will never stop acquiring it, wearing it and loving...read more
MICHELLE MANTOR & “SAKE” Published in December 2013, Houston PetTalk Magazine – Photo by Evin Thayer I’m sitting down to write this essay on November 17, a very bittersweet day for me. Thirty years ago today, my father was murdered in a very senseless, cold-hearted crime. He was a gentle, kind man that I loved immensely and was so undeserving of this act that it caused me to call into question everything I believed about God. I was devastated and angry and I wondered if there really was a divine creator or if we just exist in a random, meaningless state of evolution. In short, my FAITH was being severely tested and for a time, lost altogether. Fast forward 15 years later on November 17, I gave birth to my first child, a healthy baby boy. Interestingly, he was not due until mid December but prematurely made his entrance into the world 5 weeks early. I had worked through many of my issues surrounding my father’s death and my FAITH was in much better shape but the birth of my child on this day, turning the saddest day of my life into one of great joy was surely, to me, an act of divinity. It put into perspective that through our pain, through times of adversity and through our seemingly uphill battles, we gain strength, wisdom, resiliency and empathy. We grow in mind and spirit. Having FAITH might be one of the most challenging facets of humanity. FAITH means believing without proof, giving your self over to something not in your control. This is a vulnerable place to be. I find it a juxtaposition between fear and hope – a fear that my hope and expectancy may be naïveté. But in the end, my FAITH prevails because of my trust and belief in a divine source. It’s not uncommon to hear of clergy speak about times of doubt in their own FAITH. When they witness a disaster of epic proportions like the recent hurricane in the Philippines or the pain of just one person, perhaps a mother that has lost a child to cancer, it is challenging to find the good, to see light, to understand “why”, to trust that there is a purpose. These are natural emotions but without sorrow there is no joy, without loss there is no appreciation. FAITH, being that it’s steeped in trust, is not just an intellectual element. It also goes to matters of the heart; meaning that FAITH consumes our entire being and life experience and the whole of one’s self is caught up in believing. Here’s what I know about FAITH: whenever I am in doubt, which as a human I will undoubtedly sometimes experience doubt, I look around me and I’m reminded of the inexplicable nature of our world. There are miracles taking place as people overcome disease, there is awe-inspiring beauty in the perfect markings on an Orca whale or the cute little dots on a ladybug and there are mesmerizing acts of transformation such as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Even my little Yorkie mix “Sake” shows me everyday the unique nature of canine companionship. It’s easy to take some of these things for granted because they are common in our surroundings. But if you really think about...read more