Category: Social

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!

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Just Ask Him

Scene from a short film I had the pleasure of working on this summer.

From since childhood I’ve enjoyed the craft. I remember playing the Virgin Mary on numerous occasions throughout elementary and junior high. I also played Principal McGee from Grease (1978) in my high school musical, and college was filled with student plays and monologues, along with a three-year membership performing with my college’s choir. I’m always up for make believe and telling other people’s stories, so reach out if you’re in need of a new crew, actress or writer! Whatever it is, I’ll be sure to deliver.

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!

 

 

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.

Recipe: Spicy Herb Lamb with Saffron Rice

There’s a special feeling you get whenever you’ve managed to concoct a meal with little to no direction. It isn’t celebratory, it’s a “man, I’d love to share this delicious dish with someone else besides my family” kind of feeling. This was how I felt after preparing this recipe and I hope you get the chance to do so.

What you’ll need:

3 lbs. Boneless lamb shoulder

1-2 cups “Par Excellence” Yellow Rice with Saffron

1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar

6 tbsp. Greek yogurt

2 tablespoon Olive oil

Seasonings:

1 tbsp. Turmeric

1 tbsp. Garlic powder

1 tbsp. Cumin

1/2 tsp. Black pepper

1 tbsp. Salt

1 tbsp. Cayenne pepper

Herbs:

1/4 Yellow pepper

6-8 cloves Garlic

1/2 Yellow onion

Cilantro

3 stems chopped Thyme

Parsley

1 stem chopped Rosemary

3 leaves chopped Mint

1 stem chopped Green onions

While attempting to emulate certain traditions of Ramadan, I decided to cook some lamb while still incorporating my love of Spanish rice and so, my intuition lead me straight to this delightful meal. I made sure to cube my boneless lamb shoulder first and then, to really make sure it’s cleaned well, I washed it in some apple cider vinegar laced water. That way, you cut out some of the aftertaste most people complain about. Personally, I’m not fazed by it. Anyway, once you’ve cut and cleaned your meat the next step is to properly season it. I used a combination of turmeric, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt. Once I’ve added the spices, I proceeded to massage it all into the meat making sure to coat each piece. Then I put it aside on the counter to rest for about 10 minutes and after the time was up, I added Greek yogurt and tomato paste to the mix and once again, I made sure to coat every piece of lamb.

When my meat was all seasoned and ready to be added to the pan, I added half teaspoon of olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the bottom, then I went ahead and threw in all of my herbs: yellow peppers, garlic, onions, cilantro, thyme, parsley, rosemary, mint and green onions. I made sure to dice the herbs before putting it into the pan, and then I added my seasoned lamb along with two and a half cups of water. On very low heat, I left it to cook for about an hour and a half, still stirring occasionally. Once it started bubbling, I moved on to the rice, which is relatively very easy to prepare.

Rice:

FullSizeRender

First, I added two and a half cups of water to a medium sized pot on low-medium heat, and then I added one and a half tablespoons of olive oil to the water. I left it to boil for about 10 minutes before adding the rice (this way allows the pot to form a nice coating in order to keep the rice from burning). Once the water comes to a boil, add two or more cups of rice according to the number of people you’re cooking for and remember that you can add more water to the pot as you see fit. Some people like their rice firmer than others, which is why I highly recommend tasting your rice in order to get your desired firmness. I prefer my rice to be a little softer, therefore I taste it often and add water as needed. Tip: if your rice is sill too firm for your liking, cover the pot all the way and let it steam for a few more minutes instead of adding more water. Typically, this rice will be cooked within 35 minutes. Salad choice is all up to you, as for me, I chose spring mix. Dish feeds up to six. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

What I Experienced on My First Visit to a Healing Crystal Store

I grew up in a household where the only gemstones celebrated were diamonds, emeralds, pearls, and rubies. Apart from these highly popular stones, I wasn’t aware of the others that were used for not only fashion, but as a healing alternative to medicine, among other things. As I navigate through our modern society, I’ve discovered an array of precious stones that are used for many different areas of our lives. Take for instance, quartz, “a mineral composed of silicon and oxygen atoms.” It can be found in different parts of the world in places like Brazil, Russia, Morocco, and Namibia and it comes in different colors too, it’s also used in the production of watches and clocks. Quartz is known to have healing properties and the ability to extend protection to its owners from negative energies. If you’re like me, a skeptic, then this all may sound like mumbo jumbo to you. Regardless, many people swear by what it can do and recently, I became a believer.

While going through my Instagram a few weeks ago, I came across one of Gabourey Sidibe’s pictures showcasing her crystals, where she mentioned that “Mercury is in retrograde and I don’t have time for…” Immediately it caught my attention because these stones were not only magnificent, but they could possibly hold special abilities. I began to research healing crystals and an array of information and testimonials showed up, so I wanted to see for myself just how accurate the information was. I researched and researched, and even spoke with a few people about their beliefs and opinions of these powerful stones. Each person had something positive to say and so, my curiosity lead me to a crystal store in a quaint town in upstate New York. After my many efforts trying to convince my partner that visiting the store is no different from going to a clothing store, he finally agreed to take me crystal shopping.

We gassed up and headed to Wurtsboro, NY to the Crystal Connection store in hopes of landing that special negativity busting rock! After driving for about two hours, we got into town and immediately noticed the calmness in the air, the peacefulness you feel when you’re outside of NYC, but more so, the kind that comes from having a crystal store in an old church, on the Main Street. (Thank you, Gabourey because this awesome journey would not have been possible without you.) We parked, made our way to the little yellow church and upon arrival, found a plethora of beautiful semi-precious stones. The owner called it a “candy store for adults.” I was amazed and highly intrigued at what the store and these crystals had to offer. I must add that it was rather overwhelming at times for both my partner and I. We were encouraged to feel the crystals and their vibrations before making the decision to purchase it. Anyway, I pretty much checked out every crystal in the store and bought the ones I aesthetically connected with.

When we finally made it to the checkout counter, I wanted to know if the owner felt certain vibrations from the rocks and from us because my head felt like it wanted to explode, and I assume that he too, must feel something from working there for so many hours. Well, he did confirm that he felt a tingle in the back of his head, which signaled to him that someone was “stuck in their head” and another was more in tune with their body, more specifically, their stomach. He was right! My partner lives in his head more than 90 percent of the time and I consider myself to be highly intuitive and present. We looked at each other, smiled and left the store. When we got back into the car, the feeling we got from being around the crystals amazed us both, and he was incredibly freaked out by the thought of someone reading him so accurately. He was now officially curious about the things he’s heard about crystals and wanted to know more about them, as well as the supposed gift the owner might’ve had.

He headed back to the store, armed with questions this time. As I awaited his return, I continued to feel the serenity I felt when we first got into town and now I was convinced that the crystals played a role. I played around with my crystals, speaking of my intentions and hoping that these precious stones would connect with me, cleansing my aura. Anyway, my partner returned to the car and excitedly expressed his experience. Apparently, he must’ve drilled the owner into showing proof that these stones are indeed powerful. When I asked about his time in there, he explained that the owner asked him to stand one leg, holding out his arms while he tugged at him. He lost balance the first time he pulled on him and after holding a black tourmaline in one hand, still standing on one leg, my partner was completely grounded. Although he’s still skeptical and doesn’t agree with the thought of people giving power to an inanimate object, he was extremely impressed. Overall, it was a great experience for the both of us.

When we got home, I decided to research the meaning and properties of the stones I bought and was pleasantly surprised by one particular stone, Epidote. It had this interesting shape and color, so after playing around with it for a little while, I decided to get it along with red and green calcite, pink kunzite, green fluorite, Colombian Lemurian, pink opal, magnetite, blue and black kyanite, raw ruby and pyrite. Prior to going to the Crystal Connection, I made a list of stones I’d like to get, but epidote was not on my list, so when I began my research and saw that it was used to “treat disorders of the thyroid and nervous system,” I took it as a sign because it was not on my list and my OB/GYN suspects that I may have thyroid issues. By now you’re probably thinking that I’m getting a bit too far ahead, but I can reassure you that I was both incredibly floored and overwhelmed at the same time. Sure, it could’ve been coincidental, but given what I now know about crystals, I rebuke that notion.

I’m still not 100 percent convinced though, that these gems have special healing properties, however, based on my experience so far, I’m keeping an open mind to the possibility. This article isn’t to make you a believer in crystals, but merely sharing my thoughts and experience with you. A celebrity opened my mind to it; I spent time researching and eventually made the call to visit the Crystal Connection store to further explore the power of crystals. It was an eye-opening experience and I would recommend a visit to anyone interested in starting his or her own Crystal collection. In addition to the ones purchased at the store, I also have most of the quartz family, agate, tiger’s eye, red jasper, apache tears, bloodstone, jet, onyx, tourmaline, jade, aquamarine, lapis lazuli, peridot, septarian, garnet, aventurine, obsidian, and carnelian. If you can’t make it to the Crystal store, amazon.com has a wide array, so I’m sure you’ll be able to pick some up. Again, I am not advocating for these crystals, however, if you’re a believer then it’s all you. Happy Crystal shopping!

 

Three Shows Worth Watching, if You Haven’t Already

Season after season, networks introduce us to new characters and plots, gripping us to our screens with no point of return because we crave drama. Netflix and Amazon Studios have taken notice, and now they too, are getting in on the action!

Gone are the days when we passively sat in front of our television sets watching sports and soap operas. Now, we watch them on the go and with this new era of fictitious non-fiction dramas, we are engaged and active in our watching. Thanks to Netflix and Amazon, we no longer need to bury ourselves in cable contracts in order to properly entertain our families, instead, we hook up our internet, plug in our fire sticks and behold, a new luxurious watching experience awaits. Although I’m not a big fan of watching television, I do have a select number of shows I occasionally binge watch and I think you should too! We’ve all heard of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Dexter and a host of other critically acclaimed dramas, and sadly all have since been canceled, however, with Netflix and Amazon you can continue reliving the experience, and it’s a wonderful one. Though these incredible shows are no longer on television, there are a wide variety of new shows that will quickly occupy your free time, as well as your heart. There’s a show for everyone and for every mood, so tread lightly if you still hate your ex and his or her new partner. Now that we’ve established boundaries, let’s take a look at the shows you should be watching right now.

Better Call Saul, AMC, Mondays @ 9 PM (Season 3 premiered April 10)

A spin-off prequel to Breaking Bad, created by Vince Gilligan and starring Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill, America’s favorite criminal lawyer. This show is brilliant because it takes you on a journey through Jimmy’s life before he became Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad. It focuses mainly on his struggles to become a successful lawyer and his relationship with his brother, Chuck McGill (Michael McKean). We all saw Saul become Walter White’s accomplice in his drug empire, but to get to that level, he went through many trials and tribulations. You see, Saul have always had a way with words and he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, so because of that his brother never trusted him. However, Saul was very motivated to get into law just like Chuck, except Chuck wasn’t flattered, instead, he became bitter and jealous. Throughout the first two seasons, Jimmy (Saul) tried mercilessly to make partner at Hamlin Hamlin and McGill (HHM), but with each attempt, Chuck found a way to sabotage his efforts. The show is incredibly well written and exquisitely performed, and I love the twists and turns that make up Jimmy’s life. Although he is a complicated man, he possesses a great deal of passion and drive to rise above his failures, and I think this is what makes Better Call Saul so engaging.

Bloodline, Netflix (Season 3 premiered May 26)

Bloodline takes you on an emotional thrill ride because it’s so good, you’ll easily forget that these characters are related. The show is set in the Florida Keys with the Rayburns, a prominent family of six, who owns a beachfront resort and is very respected in the community. Now, success doesn’t always come without problems and indeed this family has a lot to go around. As with most families, there’s a black sheep, but he quickly gets used to the notion that he’ll always be the outsider. The show is riveting and loaded with drama! Ben Mendelsohn’s character, Danny was severely beaten by his father as a boy because he was believed to have caused the death of his younger sister, Sarah, so he grew up being the designated black sheep. Kyle Chandler plays John, a detective with the local Sheriff’s office; he struggles with accepting Danny as part of the family. Kevin (Norbert Leo Butz) owns a marina, also struggles with forgiving big brother Danny for causing Sarah’s death, quick-tempered and impulsive, he gives in to his vices. Meg, played by Linda Cardellini, is an attorney who uses her power for the greater good of the family, also dislikes her brother Danny. Their parents, played by Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard just want to forget about Danny and his drama because they’ve lost hope that he’ll change his self-destructive ways. Although they’ve taken some responsibility for the way he’s turned out, there’s still a part of them that think Danny just uses his sister’s death as a way to guilt them into fulfilling his wishes. The story gets even more intense when a death occurs and then Danny goes missing…It’s very entertaining and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Stranger Things, Netflix (Season 2 premieres October 31)

Set in the 1980’s in fictional Hawkins, Indiana, a young boy goes missing and the investigation is not only conducted by the local police, but also by the boy’s friends and family. Winona Ryder plays the young boy’s mother (Joyce Byers), and she’s every kind of mother combined. It’s easy to see her pain when she realizes that her boy is gone, but it’s also incredible watching her keep the faith that he is still alive. She utilizes every angle and outlet to prove to the police that her son is somewhere close, but not easily seen with the naked eye. The supernatural theme of the show leads you to believe in the impossible and I think this is why it’s such a hit. Stranger Things tell the story of how the U.S. Department of Energy conducted experiments using human subjects, which ultimately went awry after they decided to delve into paranormal and supernatural activities. Will Byers’ (Noah Schnapp) friends really came through for him, especially when they came across a psychokinetic girl, who takes them on the journey of their lives in an effort to find him. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) escaped the Hawkins National Laboratory, where she was born and experimented on after her mother became a test subject and due to the experimentation, she developed these psychokinetic abilities. She ultimately becomes a very friendly foe in the search for Mike. The excitement and fear from these characters make you want to continue watching, so give it a try.

Religion in Minority Cultures

Whether for good or for bad, religion often becomes the focal point of how we choose to live our lives at one point or another. In minority cultures, however, religion tends to play a much bigger role than simply “doing right by God.”

I was baptized Catholic and was raised in an Anglican household, but for the past three and a half years, I’ve adopted Islam as my religion. To be honest, I’ve never been the religious type (although I did want to become a nun when I was 13). Instead, I’ve often considered myself more spiritual than anything else. To me, God is in everything and in everyone, and wherever I am is where he’ll also be, so I didn’t care much for attending Sunday mass. As I became older and more concerned about life and God’s teachings, I felt a need for belonging, and it hit me that people didn’t go to church or to the mosque just for prayer. They go for many reasons, especially for the social aspect. I remember going to Sunday mass with my grandmother, who was very popular at the time. The fact that she’d remain in church just to gossip with her friends for hours, made me really upset. It annoyed me that she’d stay for so long after service to converse with people she didn’t like or even care about. I think part of my frustration stemmed from hunger because church started at 8 AM and ended almost four hours later! Anyway, that was then, but this is now, and I completely understand why religion means so much to minority groups.

Let’s take a look at the word, “minority.” It can be defined as less than half of a whole or group; a small number of people representing a certain race, religion, region, community and so on. Here in North America, we characterize minority groups based on race, language, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. In other words, anyone who isn’t Caucasian, English speaking, Christian and heterosexual, is in the minority. The same thing can be said for different parts of the world. Take, for instance, Christians being a minority in Middle Eastern countries and Muslims being a minority in European countries. There is roughly 6% of Muslims living in Europe and 5% of Christians living in the Middle East. Culturally, Jews are a minority, as well as Catholics, and across the board; homosexuals are and will be the minority. Now that we’re in agreement, you’re probably wondering where religion fits into the lives of these minority groups, right? Well, when you take away the fact that some religions were introduced and adopted around the world due to certain promises, it is the doctrine for a healthy and happy God-fearing life. In the Qur’an, Allah arms you with all of the knowledge you need in order to get to Jannah, just like the bible teaches you about the 10 commandments for living a life close to God.

Here are some reasons why minority cultures might value religion a little more than others:

Religion serves as a roadmap to live a faithful and morally sound life, but also gives the underprivileged hope and something to believe in. Growing up humbly on a small island, only makes you dream bigger, and for the ones who couldn’t afford to, prayer made all the difference. Many churchgoers are, for the most part, people seeking refuge and planting seeds that one day something good will happen in his or her life. “Religion is the foundation of what keeps me going. My source of strength” said Roxanne Russell, an Ordained Minister of African descent. She went on to say, “when I was young, my grandmother would sit and hum and when I asked what it meant she’d say, ‘god will bring me through.’ So we were taught to stay focused on our faith.” And this is reminiscent of most struggling minorities holding on to faith for something good.

Churches, Synagogues and Mosques offer a safe place to those in trials and tribulations; it’s a place to feel comforted and accepted. God doesn’t turn his back on his children and no man of God would ever do that to his congregation. Mrs. Russell also commented on how she has “learned to trust in [her] religion and church in order to get through hardships, and [she has] learned that from [her] grandmother.” Some churches also offer prayer meetings to those looking to study the religion further or even those seeking advice on a particular issue.  

It lifts your heart and spirit to be in a place of worship with others who might be feeling similarly to you, and that alone is enough to brighten someone’s day. Some people go to prayers to give praise for the wonderful things they’ve been blessed with because they believe it will continue to open doors for even more blessings. I remember hearing people at church giving thanks because their son or daughter received a new opportunity or because someone won a court case, or even someone meeting a new prospective spouse. Overall, people don’t just choose to go to prayers or mass because they’re down on their luck, they go to give thanks throughout the year instead of waiting until Thanksgiving.

Mosques, Synagogues and Churches help communities with information and special programs like food pantries, housing, job opportunities, rehabilitation, etc. It’s a civic duty for most places of worship to provide its congregation with free services, including counseling and help with paying certain bills. Some churches have pantries where community members can go to get food, Mosques take clothing donations to distribute to the poor and homeless, and Synagogues provide free counseling, as do many other religious organizations. In case you’re struggling and don’t know where to turn to, look into religious organizations for help.    

Places of worship also provide social fulfillment and satisfaction for those struggling to find their way through counseling and enrichment classes. If you lack accountability, then your place of worship will surely whip you into shape. Being absent from service one too many times lead to two things: being called several times throughout the week and by different people and/or being dropped from their circle altogether. I’ve experienced both. Ultimately, religion is sacred and it’s very personal, and it should be something you choose based on your morals and need for spiritual guidance. For many years, I lived a spiritual life, but still included some elements of religion into my daily living. According to Dzevat Selmanovic, an Albanian Muslim, “religion means everything to me. It’s a way of life, a way of thinking and a way in which I relate to my brothers and sisters.” In my experience, I think this resonates with minorities everywhere because when the odds are against you, who can you trust if not your faith in God?

 

Favorite Foreign Film and How It Relates to the Plus Size Community

It was in the fall of 2014, while in the midst of finishing up my homework, when I suddenly felt the urge to stop and take a break from my studies. I turned on Netflix, went through my recommended movies and came across a film titled, “The Hairdresser” from 2010. It was written by Laila Stieler, directed by Doris Dorrie and featured Gabriela Maria Schmeide. It peaked my interest even though it was in German. I was intrigued and impressed to see that the film’s official poster featured a plus sized woman, so I had to see it!

The film was about an older, overweight and divorced, single-mother from East Berlin, who is unemployed and struggling to find work as a hairdresser due to her size, and finds even more problems when she tries to open her own salon. Through it all, Kathi (Schmeide) pushes on and refuses to give up. This movie makes you think about your own life and struggles, while you connect with the character. Although it works to show us a modern Berlin, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not things had really changed from the 40’s and 50’s. Kathi lived in an apartment complex and it’s quite easy to see that the neighborhood was not the best, nonetheless, she was still very comfortable. She had a wonderful group of friends cheering her on throughout her journey.

The movie was written quite beautifully and it makes you wonder if this was based on the life of the writer due to the specificity and the believability of the details of Kathi’s life. Well, based on an interview with the writer, Laila Stieler, she explained that “the stimulus for The Hairdresser was the stories of my hairdresser.” We are still fighting for equal opportunities here in the states, to this day, with a cultural revolution that aims to open doors in television and fashion for plus size women, so it is rather unnerving to imagine the lives of these women in East Berlin. If it’s this hard in America for overweight women, then this movie, The Hairdresser, points out the global stigmatization and injustice that fat women experience.

It resonates with me a lot because I’ve experienced the rejection that Kathi has endured. As a plus size woman wanting to get into mass media, it’s exceptionally difficult. It’s what I have wanted to do and when I chose my major, I was obviously naive to think that my skills and abilities would be taken into consideration without regards to my fuller figure. With every interview, I’ve experienced anxiety, stressing and wondering if today is the day that someone sees past my physical appearance. Being plus size can be excruciating, knowing well and good that most people don’t even wait to hear what you have to say, instead they look at you and immediately decide that you don’t fit with their company’s “culture”. This is what Kathi went through each time she interviewed at a hair salon. She was mocked and treated like an outcast. The film did a great job at capturing her emotions and making her an easily likable character. Although her life was tough, she took it all in stride and remained optimistic. She was funny and resilient, patient and yet, persistent. She was kind and generous with her services, as well as her time.

I feel incredibly proud when I watch television or a film and see a plus size actor making her mark in the industry. One person in particular is Chrissy Metz from “This is Us.” She’s an amazing actor and she’s opening so many doors for larger women. By casting her on the show, it allows other casting directors and writers, as well as other plus size actors to become more involved and more open to having roles for the people who make up a large percent of the United States’ population. Approximately 64 percent of females are overweight. This is no attempt to promote or glorify being bigger, but simply an observation with the intent to create a positive dialogue on extending more opportunities to plus size individuals.

The world is changing and it’s imperative that we remain open minded to accepting people the way they are. It’s my hope that weight will one day become irrelevant during the hiring process and that everyone will get a fair chance when fulfilling his or her dreams. With adequate support, remaining proactive and determined, and keeping a positive attitude, Kathi was able to accomplish her entrepreneurial dreams. If you’re struggling with anything, continue on with the fight and never give up because eventually, it will happen.