Category: Articles for Her Culture

Tangy-Zesty Striped Bass with Dasheen Leaves and Asparagus

Two weekends in a row now, my trip to Salem, MA has been foiled, so to commemorate my dismay, I’ve decided to prepare a dish that I probably would’ve eaten, had I been there.

Striped Bass is native to the Northeast, specifically New England. Living out there by the water means everything to most of the population and so, fishing is a common thing. Striped Bass is plentiful just as much as Lobsters are in this region. Rather than using a well-known Striped Bass Recipe, which the Internet is saturated with, I decided to do my own thing, but still incorporating the basics when it comes to preparing fish. Here’s the list:

2 5oz Striped Bass Steaks
1 Orange
1 Lemon
1 Lime
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Dill
1/2 Tsp Cilantro
1/2 Tsp Parsley
1/2 Tsp minced Onion
1/2 Tsp Garlic n’ Herbs
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted Butter

Preparation: mix all seasonings together in a dish first then after cleaning your fish, simply place it into the mixture. Toss it around for a bit, making sure to coat the entire fish then cover your dish and refrigerate overnight. Don’t worry about your fish drying out, it won’t! Next day, remove fish from refrigerator, place skillet on low to medium fire, add butter to the pan and then begin adding your fish. Once your fish is in, immediately add about a 1/4 cup of water, so the butter doesn’t dry up before the fish is cooked. Cover your pan and let fish cook for about 20 minutes on each side before turning it over. Tip: always remember that the steam from the pan is crucial to perfectly cooked fish. When the pan begins to dry down then you’ll know your fish is ready!

1 lbs Dasheen leaves
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Garlic n’ Herbs
1 Pinch Black Pepper

Tip: Dasheen leaves are very large, so I advise that you cut it into smaller pieces in order for it to fit into your pot. Add 1.5 cups of water to a small pot, put it to boil on low fire and while it’s boiling, go ahead and prep your Dasheen leaves. Wash the leaves out before cutting then once you’re finished, add it to your pot along with the other ingredients. Stir to mix it all in and continue stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for about 30 minutes or until it has completely broken down into a “soupy” mixture. *Add more water if needed*

1/2 bunch Asparagus
1 Pinch Salt
1/4 Tsp Olive oil
1 dash Garlic n’ Herbs

Wash asparagus and place them into pan (break them into two if your pan isn’t large enough) then add your ingredients along with 1/2 ounce of water. Toss asparagus around making sure to mix everything together then let it steam for about 7-10 minutes. Once everything is cooked, serve as usual. Enjoy!

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Simple and Delicious Shepard’s Pie

We each have our favorite memories and things we’d love to recreate from our college years, and for me, that memory is having Shepard’s Pie for dinner with my then, closest friends. It was the energy of chattering BFF’s chowing down on loaded mashed potatoes while side-eyeing the day’s man crush. Yum!

Shepard’s pie is native to the Northern United Kingdom, specifically Scotland, where pies were created with leftover lamb and vegetables. When the Irish began to make their own, ground beef quickly became a staple for this delicious pie and it brought a whole new meaning to “meat and potatoes.” A couple days ago I tried making it for the first time and it was delightful! My qualm with the store-bought kinds is that there’s never enough seasoning and this was what I kept in mind while prepping for the dish. It’s hearty, easy to prepare, and will impress your mother, so take a chance and make your own!

Ingredients:

2 large russet potatoes

1 lb. ground beef

12 oz. frozen corn kernels

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. chopped garlic

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 stick of butter

Beef:

Heat skillet, add olive oil then beef along with ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. parsley, and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Cook until meat is brown then remove from skillet and add to baking dish.

Corn:

Place frozen corn directly on top of ground beef in baking dish.

Mashed Potatoes:

Wash and dry potatoes then cut into medium sized pieces (with skin on). Fill a pot with water then add potatoes; make sure that the water covers the potatoes and let boil on low/medium setting until potatoes are tender (about 25 mins). Once potatoes are finished cooking, pour out any remaining water from the pot then add the butter to the potatoes and using a potato masher, begin to soften and mix potatoes together with butter. After you’re finished mashing potatoes, add the remaining parsley, salt, black pepper, and garlic then continue mixing ingredients together. When you’re finished mixing, layer mashed potatoes on top of corn creating a crust.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees then insert baking dish with pie. Allow it to cook for about an hour. When it’s ready, remove it and let dish cool then serve warm. Feeds about 5. Enjoy!

Albanian Breakfast


I love food, but what I love the most is trying foods from different cultures and listening to people’s stories about what that particular dish really means to the individual. My partner is Albanian from Montenegro and their foods are just as rich as their history, so from time to time he’d ask me to prepare one of his favorite Albanian foods and being the foodie that I am, I often oblige. Last weekend, we had a delightful Albanian breakfast and for the first time in a while, I exercised my hands at making Cevapi!

“Ćevapi has its origins in the Balkans during the Ottoman period, and represents a regional speciality similar to the kofte kebab.” -Wiki. Given most of these Balkan countries’ history and Middle Eastern influence it’s clear why Cevapi is such a treasured meal. I’m a big fan of Middle Eastern food and I am almost willing to try anything, so I’d like to share this deliciousness with you! Here’s what you’ll need…

1 lbs ground beef
1/4-1/2 Tsp salt
1 Pinch black pepper
1 1/2 Tsp paprika
1/2 Tsp baking soda
1/2 Tsp dried parsley
1 Sliced red onion
2 Cloves garlic chopped
Feta cheese
Pita/Naan bread
3-4 Tbsp Olive oil

Directions

It’s always best to use ground beef that has a little bit of fat because if it’s too lean, your Cevapi will come out too dry. After you’ve gathered your ingredients, go ahead and mix everything together into your mixing bowl as you would for meatballs, saving the red onions for last. Once it’s all mixed in, let it sit for a little, roughly 15-20 minutes just so that the meat absorbs the seasonings and also, for the baking soda to do its job of plumping up the meat. When you’re ready, heat up your skillet and add about 3-4 Tbsp of Olive oil. While your oil is being heated, go ahead and start rolling out your Cevapi. I like making them medium sized because once it goes into the pan it’ll puff up due to the baking soda. Anyway, continue rolling them out and placing each piece in the skillet. Allow meat to cook thoroughly and once it’s your desired shade of brown, go ahead and remove it from the pan. Continue this process until all pieces have been cooked. Typically 1 lbs ground beef should give you about 10-13 links. When it’s all ready, add the sliced red onion on top for garnishing and serve with feta cheese and pita bread or a great substitute, naan bread. Enjoy!

Ways to Stay Safe During Your Summer Travels

Safety should be on everyone’s mind when traveling whether domestic or international, however far too many of us easily let our guard down because we’ve researched our location and consider it to be relatively safe, but it isn’t always the case.

Young women especially will always be a target wherever they go, but with little changes to your demeanor and attire, and familiarity with law enforcement culture in the state or country you’re visiting, you can vacation anywhere in the world and maintain your safety. Recently, while on my solo trip to Grenada, I inadvertently put myself in a compromising position when I visited a “friend’s” home. It could’ve ended badly, but with my quick-thinking and ability to remain calm and respectful, I managed to leave his house unscathed. I’ve heard many stories of women getting hurt by people they know without realizing that it’s quite common and can easily happen to anyone. Anyway, the most important thing to remember is to remain vigilant at all times. Locals often befriend foreigners for all sorts of reasons, however, if it makes you uncomfortable, know that you have the option to walk away.

  1. Remember the adage, “always let someone know where you’re going?” Well, even on a solo trip it applies! Whether it’s your parents, siblings, significant other or someone you just met at your $15 hostel, be sure to let him or her know where you’re going and with whom. It’s very crucial that you do so in order to leave a trail in case you’re lost or hurt somewhere.
  2. I’ve known for many years that it’s important to visit the U.S. Embassy when you’ve arrived at your destination, and it’s especially imperative when visiting countries rumored to have higher crime rates. Not sure why anyone would travel to such countries, however, I can understand the allure of adventure in untouched and naturally beautiful places that span the globe. Just take extra precautions.
  3. Someone wants to buy you a drink? No problem! Be sure that you’re present and your drink remains in your hand until it’s finished. We all know about date rape drugs, but too often we forget to keep an eye on our glass, so don’t allow yourself to become a statistic.
  4. Dress appropriately! Yes, it’s summer, it’s hot, it’s humid and you just can’t stand it, so you want to live in your bikini all day long. While you can remember that it brings more attention, possibly unwanted and you might end up with massive sunburns, so be forewarned.
  5. It doesn’t hurt to know a few moves that’ll help you get out of different situations such as the acronym, SING-Stomach, Instep, Neck and Groin, featured in the 2000 action/comedy, Miss Congeniality, starring Sandra Bullock. In the movie, she demonstrated how to use SING to free yourself from a headlock or from being carried away and it’s worth a watch!
  6. Never forget the power of your voice! Not everyone has a big voice and that’s okay, but just by screaming alone you can scare off a would-be attacker, especially if you’re in a public place. Remember too, to never allow yourself to be transported to another location and if you do, leave a trail with your personal items.
  7. I suggest packing a multipurpose tool like the Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Multi-Tool, which works as a weapon, as well as a utility multi-tool because you never know when you’ll need a screwdriver or a bottle/can opener.
  8. Be sure to bring enough sunscreen! Even a walk from your hotel to a car can result in sunburn, so you’d want to be prepared for each moment you’re in the sweltering heat. Personally, I favor the Banana Boat Sunscreen Ultra Mist Sport Performance Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Spray because it’s aerosol, not too greasy, covers very well and it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes!
  9. Be very liberal with hand sanitizer, Lysol spray, and disinfecting wipes because germs are everywhere and if you’re prone to infections and allergies, you’ll need lots of these. Sanitize your entire surroundings in order to protect yourself from airborne illnesses. It’s also a good idea to travel with cold medicines should in case you fall ill. I love Mucinex DM! Whenever my nose feel stuffy or my throat feels irritated, I pop two tablets and within hours I’m better, so don’t leave without it.
  10. Don’t think twice when it comes to travel insurance, just get it. Even if you end up not needing it, it’s far better to have that extra protection in case you need medical assistance. It’s required that you anticipate and prepare for the worse, especially when traveling outside of the U.S. While in Grenada, I injured myself-fell through a wooden floor, bruised my leg and knocked my hip in the process. I went to the hospital and after being in the doctor’s office for two minutes, he sent me on my way with a prescription for painkillers, Vitamin C and an ointment, no X-ray! Had it been more severe, Allianz, my travel insurance company, would’ve made all arrangements to fly me back to NY ASAP, so it’s rather important to consider getting insurance for your trip.
  11. If you’re single and looking to mingle while you’re away, be smart and bring your own stash of condoms. The last thing you’d want is an incurable STD or an international custody battle, so be smart in all of your dealings.

Travel as much as you can because I believe that there’s so much to learn about ourselves when we’re in unfamiliar places, so it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and experience different cultures. Always remember though, to stay safe, have fun and keep on learning!

Must-haves for Your Summer Travels

There are some things that you just shouldn’t live without and it’s a fact-a part of life, whether you know it or not. Summer especially, is no exception, for it’s the best time of the year to gather your must-haves and hit the road.

Personally, I am very much attached to Lysol! It’s one of the things that’s needed for every and any occasion, specifically when traveling, so I make it my duty to always have one with me. No, I’m not scornful nor am I high maintenance, but I do enjoy the comfort of knowing that someone else’s germs aren’t lingering in my living space. Anyway, the travel season is in full bloom and it prompted me to put together my comprehensive list of summer must-haves. Most of the items listed are my favorites and I am certain that they’ll become yours too, so here we go!

Toiletries

Lysol spray

Wet wipes

Huggies wipes

Insect repellent with 40+ deet

SPF 50+ sunscreen

Dry shampoo

Heat protectant hair spray

Hand sanitizer

There’s no point in listing toothbrushes and shower gels because these are given, however not everyone thinks of packing Lysol or insect repellant prior to his or her flight. You see, these items can be bought in any country, so often times we leave them in an effort to “pack light” without considering how much more money we’d spend purchasing them abroad. I am all about savings and spending the extra $25 for my check-in bag containing my invaluable liquids is far cheaper than having to buy shampoo for $30 EC. Regardless, I think it’s relatively important to always pack items that you know you’ll need more than once, instead of waiting until you’ve reached your destination to get them.

Medical

Bayer Aspirin

Benadryl allergy pills

Benadryl itch cream

Neosporin

Antiseptic wipes

Tums antacid

Mucinex DM

Breathe Right strips

Band-Aids

Although it may seem simple and obvious, you’ll be surprised how many of us still forget to pack these very important items. When you’re on vacation, getting hurt is the last thing you want and having these at hand will surely put you at ease if in case you do fall ill. Thanks to my antiseptic wipes and Neosporin, I was able to heal my bruises and prevent infections after falling through a crack in the floor, while on vacation. It’s always better to be prepared for the unexpected.

Fashion

Double-sided tape

Sarong

Headband

Raincoat

Waterproof boots/shoes

These are the absolute must-have items when traveling abroad, especially if you’re visiting Europe and the Caribbean, where the weather can sometimes be unpredictable. A cute headband and sarong can take you through your workouts and even a fun night on the town. I recently vacationed in Grenada and thankfully I brought a headband with me because it is extremely hot there. I managed to use it as both a sweatband during the day and as a hair accessory at night, it worked out perfectly! You’ll also be surprised at the many ways double-sided tape can be used, so be sure to pack them.

Miscellaneous

Portable USB mini battery fan

Portable phone charger

Pocket Knife

Compass

Whistle

You might be thinking that I’ve completely lost it after seeing these items listed, but I can assure you that there will be a time when you’ll need them. Like I mentioned visiting Grenada earlier, it’s hot and humid, therefore you will need a fan and what’s better than a portable one? In the U.S. we have the luxury of Air Conditioners at most hotels, however in other countries that luxury costs extra and if you’re traveling on a budget, how do you expect to stay cool without the use of an A/C or fan? Seems trivial, right? Well, with your portable and chargeable mini fan you can still manage to beat the humidity, even for a minute. Although everyone has smartphones across the globe, not every city or province is equipped with cell towers, so there will be a chance that you won’t have cell service and that’s where a compass, whistle and pocket knife will ultimately come in handy.

Be sure to pack all of the essentials, even when you think you won’t need it because life has a way of reminding us of the things we considered, but failed to accept. Travel as much as you can, whenever you can and always remain safe. Happy travels!

 

 

Top Five Summer Destinations

“Work hard and play harder,” that’s what they say, especially when the weather’s nice and warm! We’ve been closed off in our comfortable cubicles and offices, shielding ourselves from the brutal cold, for long enough and the time has come to not only relax but to explore the globe. Most of us spend time during the cold months fantasizing and collecting travel photos to pin to our vision boards as inspiration for our next trip. From Ibiza to Rio to Anchorage, whatever you’re into, there’s a special place for you and with a little bit of luck, if we try harder to protect our planet, future generations will also get the opportunity to experience these exotic locations.

Whether you’re a solo traveler, a couple traveling together for the first time or a seasoned road tripping family, this list will have something for you and if you’re needing more trip ideas, look for Girls Love Travel on Facebook. This is a wonderful group of women, who inspire and support each other facing wanderlust, so do visit their Facebook page. Anyway, as I researched some of the world’s most popular spots, my top five ranges vastly in terms of cost, likeability, activities/attractions and overall friendliness of the people, so let’s get right to it!

  1. New Zealand

Located in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand boasts many national parks with picturesque lakes. The clearest water in the world can be found in Blue Lake, at Nelson Lakes National Park, so if you’re into hiking and the great outdoors, it’s worth a visit. In 2008 and 2009, Wanderlust Magazine voted New Zealand as the best country in the world! With Auckland being the largest city and also the cheapest place to live, puts NZ on every top five list, so if you’re a budget traveler, then Auckland might be your best bet. Flights aren’t the cheapest, but if you do your research and take advantage of airfare + hotel deals, you’ll surely save a buck or two. You’re in luck if you’re a big meat-eater because NZ is the no.1 exporter of lamb and goat, and they’re organic! So don’t overlook this beauty when planning your next vacation.

  1. London, England

One of the few countries in the world ruled by a monarchy is known for its sophistication, classical elegance and rainy summers. It’s one of the countries where everyone needs to visit at least once, just to experience the exuberance of a country with such rich history. $150 USD wouldn’t take you very far, however you can still manage to enjoy your vacation comfortably. For less than 70 pounds you and a guest can enjoy a meal at a restaurant, however, it’ll take a lot of searches to find a hotel under 100 pounds, nonetheless, it is possible. Regardless of the pretty penny, you’ll likely spend, London has so much to offer. You can ride the tube and visit London Bridge, River Thames, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Westminster’s Cathedral all in one day! If sightseeing isn’t your thing, there’s always a show going on at one of London’s many playhouses, so you’d be in luck. The city is beautiful in the summer, whether it rains or not and the people are every bit gracious, so go ahead and plan your trip!

  1. Thailand

Known for its rich cuisine, beautiful beaches, many temples, and islands, but far more superior-its hospitality. Thai people are known to be friendly and welcoming, which makes your stay even more pleasant. Like with every foreign country, customs are different and so like the saying goes, “when in Rome…” It’s really one of the cheapest places to visit. Many visitors rave about their hostels and food being incredibly reasonable, especially the street vendors, so you’d never have to worry about paying a fortune for a plate of food. If you are open and adventurous, in addition to the many sandy beaches that Thailand has to offer, you’d love the “Tree-Pod Restaurant,” which nestles at 36ft up into a tree! There you can dine and enjoy the beautiful beach views down below. You can always fly budget-friendly if you know where to look and it helps tremendously to book in advance. There’s always an adventure waiting for you in Thailand, so go book your flight!

  1. Grenada

An island country in the southern Caribbean Sea, surrounded by several smaller islands, is a hidden gem. Its tropical climate makes the island even more exotic with its lush rainforests, pristine beaches, lakes, hot springs and many waterfalls. The country is known as “the isle of spice” due to its overabundance of spices such as nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, ginger, and cocoa. Grenadians are some of the nicest people you’ll meet, but you can’t always let your guard down. JetBlue is the only airline offering nonstop flights to the island, so you can expect relatively cheaper flights from January to May, and then again from September to November. Food is rather cheap unless imported and hotels are also reasonable. If you’re looking to save money on lodging, consider renting a room at a guesthouse as they sometimes come with free meals. Overall, you will not be disappointed with your stay in Grenada.

  1. Miami, FL

One of America’s southernmost cities, Miami is known for its rich culture and diversity. If you’re into dancing and dining then it is the place for you. Florida is a highly laid back state, hence the reason most people retire there and those attracted to the beach life will not be disappointed. There are plenty of beaches in and around Miami to visit including South Beach and Pompano Beach, about 40 miles north of the city. Personally, I find Floridians to be welcoming and friendly people, and the quality of life there plays a significant role. Hotels can be a little pricey, but if you’re open to staying outside of downtown Miami, you’d be pleasantly surprised. Restaurant prices vary, however it’s not uncommon to find a delicious and nutritious meal for under $10. There’s an array of activities to choose from, so you’d never be bored, from a day trip to Key West to a fun afternoon of shopping at Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise. If you’re looking for culture and adventure, visit Miami and do remember to go on a Thriller boat ride!

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Salad Recipe

A few days ago, my partner brought me the best tasting salad I’ve ever had. It was a combination of the fresh greens and herbs used to put this delicious salad together that made it so delightful. Anyway, it costs a whopping $10 from Greek Eats in Manhattan, and although it was beautifully prepared, there’s no way I’d advise anyone on purchasing this salad on the regular. Being as frugal as we are, we decided to create our very own Summer Greek Salad. It’s nutritious and quite inexpensive, plus you’ll be able to have more than one meal and it’s a one-stop shop at any supermarket. Take it to your next family barbecue, enjoy it for lunch or simply snack on it when you get the munchies. Regardless of the occasion, it’ll surely be enjoyed. Now grab a pen and create your shopping list!

Ingredients

1 Whole Cucumber

15 Grape tomatoes

1/4 1 Whole Red onion

2 Haas Avocados

20 Green and red olives

2 Handfuls Spring mix salad

1 Tbsp. Olive oil

2 Tsp. Apple cider vinegar

1 Pinch Salt

2 1/2 Tbsp. Crumbled feta cheese

1 Pinch Black pepper

1/4 Tsp. Italian blend herbs

Directions

*Always make sure to wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption.*

After thoroughly washing your cucumber, tomatoes and onions, start peeling your cucumber and onion then cut them into bite sized pieces, along with the tomatoes. Put them aside into the bowl you’re using to toss it all together. Then begin cutting up your avocados, olives and spring mix, put them into the same salad bowl then begin adding your condiments. Throw in your feta cheese then your olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, black pepper, and then your Italian blended herbs. Mix everything together and then serve. Feeds four! To add more protein to the mix, feel free to boil 2-3 eggs, cut it up once again and then add it to your already, deliciously healthy salad. Enjoy!

 

 

 

How to Make a Simple and Easy Cheesecake

Most cooks and pastry chefs often have a favorite recipe and for me, I love making cheesecakes!

Although it’s time-consuming, the anticipation and preparation that goes into making a delectable cheesecake makes it worthwhile, especially when it’s enjoyed by the people you love. After cooking a specially prepared meal for my partner one evening, I thought, “every tasty meal deserves to have an equally tasty dessert.” I knew I wanted to make him something sweet, but I wasn’t willing to go through a tedious process, so I decided to make a cheesecake with the ingredients I had at hand. Days before, I picked up two Philadelphia Cream Cheese with a chocolate pie crust and a small container of sour cream, so I thought, “why not?” Then I looked through my pantry and saw that I had some confectioners sugar from some time ago and there, I was able to whip up a delicious cheesecake.

Ingredients

2 Philadelphia Cream Cheese bar

2 1/2 Cups Confectioners sugar

1 8oz Daisy Sour Cream

2 Eggs

1 Chocolate Pie Crust

1/4 Cup Coconut Flour

Directions

Make sure cream cheese is at room temperature and softened to perfection. Mix cream cheese together with sour cream, eggs and sugar. If mixture isn’t thick enough, use some coconut flour to add more texture. When all of the ingredients have been properly mixed together, go ahead and add it to your pie crust, remembering to even it out. When you’re finished, place cheesecake into the oven at 350 degrees, let it cook for about 30 minutes or until brown. Remove cheesecake from the oven, let it cool off then refrigerate over night, unless you’re like me and you absolutely can’t wait. Next day your cheesecake should be nice and firm, and you’re free to top it off with whatever you like! That particular day, I topped mine off with cream cheese frosting and garnished it with pistachio halves and coconut flakes.

It was absolutely one of the best cheesecakes I’ve made and as much as we’ve enjoyed it, I am positive that you would too. It’s one of the simplest things you can do to show someone you care and without forgetting to mention, just how delightful it is to have a sweet treat when you’re stressed out with work and family, so go on and try this cheesecake recipe!

 

 

Suicide: What’s the Deal?

From since the beginning of 2017, it seems like there’s a suicide happening every week, as though life is only getting harder to the point where there’s just too little faith in the world. What is it? Many of you may ask, but never really wanting to hear the truth. Well, here it is, some people are simply fed up and unable to cope with demons and bullies alike, so instead of prolonging their hurt, ending his or her life remains as the only remedy to alleviating their pain. As harsh as it may sound, it’s the truth, but we have the power to save a life. Take for instance, 11-year-old Michael Morones of North Carolina, who was bullied so much at school that he decided to end his life. He was found hanging from his bunk bed with a black necktie he had worn to his first violin recital a couple weeks prior. Although Michael survived his suicide attempt, it’s likely that he’d never regain his independence due to his now, vegetative state. This tragedy could’ve been avoided if school officials had intervened or if parents not only taught their kids about “stranger danger,” but also about kindness, responsibility, and bravery in standing up for themselves and others.

According to bullyingstatistics.org, “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.” And this is just for young people. A total of 34,598 people commit suicide each year, with a daily average of 94. We have reached an era where more people are dying by suicide than they are by homicide. I think it’s wonderful that fewer people are killing each other, but it’s alarming that so many are willing to give it all up. Over 90 percent of suicide victims suffer from depression, whether it’s from bullying, a job loss, poor grades, death of a friend or relative, abuse, emotional pain, chronic illness, loss of hope and many other ways. One problem still remains though; some people do not take depression and bouts of suicidal threats serious enough. Some look at a depressed and suicidal person as an attention seeker, and not the kind where the individual is actually crying out for help. It’s shameful how society treats and views depression and its underlying causes.

Social Media was ablaze when Netflix premiered the show, “13 Reasons Why” because people felt that the show “glamorized suicide.” Well, I highly dissent. This show is merely touching the surface of this soon-to-be epidemic. It showcases how oblivious and disconnected parents could be when it comes to their children’s lives. Bullies and gossip mongers are free to do as they please; torture as many of their peers as they see fit and make life harder for kids, who probably have enough hardships at home. Work and priorities will always remain the same, but it’s not enough that you spend so much time and energy on these priorities, while ignoring your children’s activities. Nowadays, everyone seems to have an opinion on what is right and wrong, but no one knows how to express their opinions in a respectful and considerate manner, and that leads to even more societal issues. Personally, I remember raising myself at different periods of my teenage years because my mom was just too busy. She’d leave for work before I left for school on most days and returned home just around bedtime. So much could’ve happened throughout these “blackout hours” and she wouldn’t have known. The point is too many kids are left raising themselves and adults aren’t proactive enough in their lives, while others place too much emphasis on areas that can easily be worked on.

I once had a college friend, who was so distraught by her grades for that particular semester that suicide seemed like the only answer at the time. She feared her parents would cut her off and quit paying her tuition, so she sat on the banister of the window in her room, gearing up to make her jump. I couldn’t live with the thought of someone dying in my presence, so I made the decision to call campus police in hopes that they’d be better at talking her down. They managed to do just that and off course, she felt a sense of betrayal on my part, but I preferred this type of emotion from her instead of the regret and contempt I would’ve felt towards myself. Furthermore, this is what you do for people you care about, you help in any way you can and you just don’t let anyone senselessly kill him or herself. In that case, along with that victim, you too, will eventually die inside and what good would it be for you, your family, your deceased friend, and his or her family? It’s important to think about life after this person is gone and this is one of the reasons why many states have laws against assisted suicide. I can agree that there are instances where suicide is and should be acceptable such as, cases involving terminal illnesses, where patients have weeks, months or years to live. If one’s pain is too hard to cope with, I don’t see a moral issue with medically assisting the individual, and it should not be frowned upon.

On November 1, 2014, Brittney Maynard, 29, chose to end her life through “assisted suicide,” also known as “death with dignity,” with her family and friends by her side. She was diagnosed with brain cancer and was given 6 months to live, but chose to forgo the pain and suffering she knew would soon become her life. According to ABC News, “[she] suffered increasingly frequent and longer seizures, severe head and neck pain, and stroke-like symptoms. As symptoms grew more severe she chose to abbreviate the dying process by taking the [lethal] aid-in-dying medication she had received months [prior].” This is the exception and it was executed with a great deal of care, unlike the other suicide victims, whose last thoughts are plagued with anger, sadness, resentment, fear, and desperation to leave this world in search of a better place in the afterlife. We are all here for the same reasons, so why not be nice to each other? No two people are alike, so there’s no reason to dislike others because they are different. Parents need to be more available and supportive of their children because your actions (negative or positive) are mirrored and internalized, so be sure it’s one that fosters kindness and empathy.

Please, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if you or someone you know is in crisis at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

 

 

Hypothyroidism and its Effects on the Mind and Body

Ever felt tired just because? Or maybe you’ve noticed your mind drifting off more than normal? Or your friends are more prone to confessing their deepest secrets to you because well, you have no memory? Are you moody and not just during your menstrual cycle? Maybe your blood flow is heavier than before and your abdominal bloat feels worse than previous months? Stubborn fat that won’t reduce no matter how much you workout? Perhaps your body has a tough time regulating your Basal Body Temperature? Well, sorry to say, but you might have a thyroid condition, more specifically, Hypothyroidism.

The thyroid gland produces hormones, which is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. It’s a very small butterfly-shaped gland in the middle of the lower part of the neck, which secretes hormones that directly affects every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. When the thyroid gland becomes sluggish and stops producing hormones, the process is known as Hypothyroidism. There are many symptoms associated with the disease, including weight gain, memory loss, depression, and fatigue. According to the American Thyroid Association, “More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.” The numbers might seem small or irrelevant to some, but just think that you too, could be one of these sufferers. Patients with undiagnosed thyroid disease are at risk of developing “Cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.” It’s estimated that roughly 20 million Americans are currently battling some form of the disease, with women being “Five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, [that’s one in eight women and] up to 60 percent [of them] are unaware of their condition.” Some people unknowingly suffer for many years prior to a diagnosis and that’s usually because it only shows up when a patient’s thyroid hormone level is at its lowest, and just having symptoms alone isn’t enough for most doctors to make a proper diagnosis. In fact, a lot of doctors misdiagnose patients due to the fact that your thyroid level could inaccurately place you in the normal range. On the flip side, another type of thyroid disease is known as Hyperthyroidism, which happens when the thyroid produces more than enough hormones, leading to weight loss, anxiety and a host of other conditions.

There are several known causes of thyroid disease, however certain foods and lifestyle choices can also influence the thyroid by either elevating or decreasing hormone levels. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Hypothyroidism [can be caused by] Hashimoto’s disease, thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, congenital hypothyroidism, or hypothyroidism that is present at birth, surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid, radiation treatment of the thyroid [and] some medicines.” Having a pituitary disease can also affect the thyroid, as well as the amount of iodine in one’s body. While there are several causes, there isn’t much you can do to fight the disease. Doctors may prescribe a synthetic or natural thyroid hormone, which some people end up needing for the rest of their lives and you can also watch out for, and stay away from foods that irritate the thyroid. Because the thyroid depends on iodine for optimal health, foods like kelp and seaweed are highly recommended, and in addition, foods rich in selenium like eggs, salmon, Brazil nuts, mushrooms, and turkey are also helpful when battling hypothyroidism. Always remember to consult with your medical provider before starting a new regimen and keep in mind that there are also side effects from having too much of a good thing, so always check with your doctor.

In the case of Terry Doria, of Queens, NY, thyroid symptoms didn’t start showing up until about two months prior to her diagnosis, at age 24. Although she was slightly overweight, Terry was still a fit and active young woman, whose hypothyroidism was caused by the autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s disease, which causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. I’ve had a chance to speak with Terry about her condition and here’s an excerpt from our conversation.

When I asked about the symptoms she experienced, Terry said, “I was diagnosed 26 years ago [and it happened] because I wasn’t sleeping, it had been several weeks and I felt off. My original General Practitioner wanted me to go to a sleep clinic as opposed to taking my blood. About a month and a half to two months later, my OB/GYN introduced me to a new General Practitioner, who I saw a few days later. He took my blood and prescribed me with Ambien to regulate my sleep. I took it twice and was able to start a normal sleep cycle. When the blood work came back, it showed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis-an autoimmune thyroid condition that causes hypothyroidism. My other symptoms included lethargy, brain fog, muscle cramps, and a change in my menstruation.”

I then asked about the medications she uses to manage her condition and whether or not they were helping, and so she said, “The doctor [previously] prescribed synthetic thyroid replacement medicine, [but] I’m currently on natural thyroid hormone replacement medication, [and it’s] something I’ll be on for the rest of my life. There aren’t any side effects with the natural thyroid hormone medication, however, the synthetic forms did not do what it was intended to do. I’m also taking vitamin and mineral supplements as the Hashimoto’s blocks absorption of many.”

I followed up with Terry on how her life has been affected throughout the years with her hypothyroidism diagnosis, and she responded by saying, “My life has been drastically altered. Before the condition, I was fit, a bit overweight, muscular and active, [but] thanks to the many doctors not listening to my symptoms and [then] continually prescribing the synthetic thyroid hormone medication, I am currently overweight, lethargic and pre-diabetic. The natural thyroid hormone medication has helped a lot with the muscle cramps and brain fog.”

As Terry continued to discuss her struggles with getting a proper diagnosis, she mentioned that doctors usually go with the TSH level, which in most cases isn’t a good indicator for determining whether or not someone has hypothyroidism. “It took forever to get a doctor to do my T3 levels and reverse T3.” If you’re like Terry and are going through this process, be sure to educate yourself on the different tests, so you can accurately point your doctor in the right direction to ensure an expedited diagnosis. In the meantime, limit your intake of non-friendly thyroid foods such as gluten, cruciferous vegetables, dark greens, sweets and soy products, and your thyroid will thank you.

Because the body needs our thyroid for optimal health, it is even that much more important to do all that we can to protect it. Recently, Shark Tank’s, Daymond John, opened up to ABC’s “Good Morning America” about his stage two thyroid cancer diagnosis in which he revealed, “A nodule about the size of a marble was found on his thyroid in March 2016 during a checkup. Surgeons removed half of his thyroid and had the nodule biopsied, at which point it revealed that he had stage two thyroid cancer.” Thankfully he’s doing better and is now able to share his story in an effort to help others to be more proactive when it comes to his or her health. John knew it would be challenging, but didn’t let it stop him from taking control of his health, “If I would attack it now, then I wouldn’t have let it attack me and I had that removed.” Below, you’ll find some helpful links to additional hypothyroidism facts. Be well and take good care of each other.