Compared to the rest of the world, we live in a place of plenty. Catalogs fill our mailboxes, enticing us to buy more “stuff.” Heck, shopping is a national pastime!
Why, then, aren’t the fabulous boots I bought in March still making me smile? How is it that I still complain I have “nothing to wear,” despite a closet full of clothes?! Isn’t it strange that somehow, more is never enough? Rather than happiness and fulfillment, more “stuff” often leads to frustration and dissastisfaction. Sadly, these negative emotions can seep into other parts of life…affecting relationships, work and family.
What if I could simply replace desire with gratitude?
That’s what a dear friend of ours does every day…and it’s changed his life! We’ve known Bob and his family for years. Bright, accomplished and always something nice to say, Bob has achieved enormous financial success. But that’s not what makes him happy. Bob’s joy comes from giving generously and his ongoing attitude of gratitude.
“From experience,” explains Bob, “I can say that gratitude is important to my health. In fact, I try to start my business day by asking myself who did something the day before that deserves my appreciation…and then expressing it.”
Bob believes the daily discipline may be as important to his health as physical exercise. “For certain,” he says, “it helps my day begin on the right note.”
A growing number of scientists are siding with Bob! According to recent research from the Mayo Clinic, “gratitude, when exhibited as a regular part of life, not only explains a high sense of well-being, but also can be fostered in simple ways to increase happiness and fulfillment.”
We all feel thankful at times. But gratitude--especially as it correlates to a higher sense of well-being--isn’t just an emotion, but a way of being that focuses on noticing and appreciating the good things in life, and acknowledging that the sources of goodness are frequently outside the self.
Bottom line, practicing gratitude means you’re able to be content in the moment even while pursuing long-term plans. A grateful approach enables you to be happy, despite the imperfections of life.
Having a thankful heart may lead to a lower risk of mental health problems, greater happiness (call it joy!), increased sense of fulfillment, positive relationships (a great bonus!) and even better sleep!
But the trick is putting gratitude into practice. The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living has a few tips:
1. Start your day with gratitude. Like Bob, making gratitude your first thought in the morning, you start your day on a much more positive note.
2. Be thankful for the simple things. I love this one! Throughout the day, take note of the things you often take for granted. I may be thankful for a promotion at work, but can’t recall the last time I was grateful for electricity, running water, clean clothing or a cup of coffee!
3. Look for the positive in the negative. Try to see your struggles as necessary forces that focus your energy on what’s really important.
4. Acknowledge your riches. If you’re feeling bad, count your blessings…health, a car, warm home, steady job, children and grandchildren. The list could be endless!
5. Keep a gratitude journal. As you think about the people and things you’re thankful for, reinforce your thanks by writing them down.
6. Say thank you. Express your actions in words and deeds. The whole world would be better if we all said, “thank you” more often.
Sound like too much sweetness and light? Maybe. But as the science continues to prove otherwise, I think I’ll send a thank-you note to someone special. Hmmmm. Feeling better already!
Do you remember when we didn’t talk about cancer? I sure do. As a child in the 60’s, when our next-door neighbor was stricken, my Mom told me Mrs. Palmer had the “C” word.
In the 80’s, many suffered in silence because no one dared talk about AIDS.
Fortunately, we’ve become more accepting when it comes to cancer and AIDS, but for many suffering from mental illness…the stigma still sticks.
Oh, garden-variety depression and anxiety may get a pass. Pop a Prozac and you’re good to go. But heaven help you if you have something more complicated…such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Muffy Walker knows all about stigma. Her son was ostracized as a child because of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Now 21, his symptoms are managed through medication and he leads a productive life.
But Muffy wanted more. In 2007, she co-founded the International Bipolar Foundation (IBF) and since then, has been a tireless advocate, working to erase the stigma of bipolar disorder.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month…the month we talk about mental illness. Muffy Walker is issuing a challenge in a campaign she calls, “Say it Forward.” She and the IBF hope we’ll all join forces to educate and inspire people to learn the facts about mental illness and break the barrier of stigma.
Let’s “Say it Forward” as often as possible during the month of May by sharing the following messages and facts:
Let’s talk about Bipolar Disorder. More knowledge leads to more clarity.
Fact: Bipolar Disorder affects 30 million people worldwide.
Let’s talk about my reality. It’ll change your perception.
Fact: Bipolar Disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide.
Say it forward so others won’t feel as alone as I did.
Fact: One in four suffer from mental illness.
Silence is not golden.
Fact: Mental illness knows no age limits, economic status, race, creed or color.
It was never a character flaw. It was always a chemistry problem.
Fact: With support and treatment, seventy to ninety percent of patients have a significant reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life.
What if we talked openly about mental illness, as we do cancer? We should.
Fact: Stereotypes and stigmas hurt everyone…including those with mental health problems, their families, friends and society as a whole.
My loved one lives with Bipolar Disorder. So now I live to tell about it.
Fact: Your story can convey to others that having a mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Think you’re scared. I was scared. Until I learned it wasn’t my fault.
Fact: Bipolar Disorder is a neurochemical brain disorder.
Muffy Walker and the IBF believe truth has the power to affect change. I want to be part of this change. Will you join me?
Together, we can fight stigma and encourage our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to seek help when they need it.
Nagging pain in my right shoulder had me out of the pool much of last fall. Gratefully, I’m now back in the water and feeling much better. I owe it all to good chiropractic care, icing, stretching exercises and tumeric. It’s true! At the recommendation of my chiropractor, Dr. Matt Goene, DC, rather than OTC anti-inflammatory medication, I took advantage of the natural anti-inflammatory found in the tangy spice often found in Indian cuisine.
Within a week of popping a 600 mg tumeric capsule a day, I had less pain and got back in the pool, slowly regaining the strength I’d lost during my injury.
With a treatment so simple-- so natural, I began searching for other do-it-yourself remedies that might come in handy. My research turned up hundreds of natural cures and pain relievers. Here are some of my faves!
Did you know blueberry water is good for urinary tract infections? Just like cranberries, blueberries contain substances that prevent bacteria from sticking to your bladder. To ward off UTIs, combine one part unsweetened blueberry juices with two part water and sip daily.
For those pesky hot flashes, try deep breathing. It really works! When you’re in the throes of a hot flash, deep breathing can calm your nervous system quickly. Take a deep breath in for a count of four. Breathe out slowly and fully for a count of four. Repeat four more times in succession.
Dry, cracked skin? Use Epsom salts! Just smooth your elbows and heels with a paste made from ½ cup Epsom salt and ½ cup water. Exfoliate by gently massaging into rough areas, then rinse with water. (For this queen of dry skin, it sure beats costly medicated creams!)
For colds, gargle with salt and green tea. For pimples dab a bit of honey on the blemish. It works as a natural antiseptic to stop the growth of bacteria that can cause breakouts. If you struggle with insomnia, try sprinkling a ¼ tsp. of nutmeg into warm milk and sip before going to sleep. The common spice is also a mild sedative.
I was amazed to learn that olives are good for nausea. They contain tannin…chemicals that help slow the excessive production of saliva (one of the first symptoms of motion sickness.) I haven’t tried this one yet, but will pop a few olives the next time I feel woozy!
A quick stroll is great for a brain jolt! When you’re feeling mentally tired, take a brisk, five-minute walk. Bad breath? No worries. To battle halitosis and whiten teeth, combine a cup of water with 1tsp baking soda, swish and spit! Baking soda help fight smelly bacteria and combats dry mouth.
Vinegar is good for toenail fungus, yoga improves libido, zinc-rich foods promote healthy hair growth. The list goes on!
So before investing in one of those pricey hair growth products, try popping a handful of zinc-packed pumpkin seeds, pecans or cashews for longer locks. (Could that have been Rapunzel’s secret?
(Sources: A lengthy list of doctors, naturopaths, dentists, nurse practitioners and authors found in the May issue of “Woman’s Day” Magazine.)
If my house were on fire, before running from the burning building, I’d grab my cat, antidepressant meds and eyeliner...in that order!
I may be exaggerating just a bit (Tom would certainly be on the list) but I really do love my cat, Bing…can’t get along without my mood meds and I desperately need eyeliner!
Seriously, first thing in the morning or after a swim, I look like a cadaver! What’s worse, several of my swim pals look great climbing out of the pool. For years, I thought God had simply blessed them with well-defined eyes…until they finally copped to the truth.
You guessed it. Permanent eye make-up!
After years of “thinking” about it, I finally took the plunge. As a Christmas gift to myself, I recently had an eyelash enhancement procedure…and I LOVE it!
My friends with perpetually pretty eyes highly recommended San Diego cosmetic tattoo artist, Michele Little. (michelelittle.com)
I’m glad they did. With twenty-two years of experience, confidence and super-steady hands, Michele slowly transformed my pale eye line into one that makes me look more awake…more alive…without makeup!
The process is much like getting a tattoo. But in this case, Michele applies the ink with a “liner” needle. It’s actually a group of three tiny needles very close together that trap the ink (I chose black/brown) inside the cluster. Each time the needle penetrates the skin, a droplet of pigment is released into the hole the needle makes.
Rather than a solid line of eye color, I chose what’s called lash enhancement, for which shades of color are placed in a sprinkle or line at the base of the eyelash hairs only. The result? My lashes actually appear darker and thicker and the overall look is more natural.
There was little or no discomfort…mostly a “tickling” sensation…thanks to the lidocaine gel Michele applied. No bleeding or bruising, but the next two days, I was a little puffy and felt like I’d had a good cry.
It looked dark and shiny at first, but within days, the top layer of pigment flaked off…leaving behind a soft, subtle eye line. For special occasions, I can add more liner or color…but for everyday, my eyes are ready to answer the door for the UPS guy…unashamed!
Not only that, putting on my “game face” takes less time and effort. (And now that I’ve seen photos of Michele’s work with permanent lip color, I’m tempted. What freedom not having to apply and re-apply lipstick all day! Hmmmm.)
FYI. Michele Little owns Pacificoast Cosmetics. She’s been practicing the art of cosmetic tattooing since 1992. She has a solid background in cosmetology, color theory and commercial art training.
In addition to lash lines, eyebrows and lips, Michele is also skilled in areola tattooing following breast cancer treatment.
But, whomever you choose for your procedure, make sure he or she is licensed, uses strict sterilizing techniques and has lots of experience. In the right hands, you’ll stay healthy and be happy with the results.
(Just wish I’d done it ten years ago!)
She’s San Diego’s favorite weathercaster – for good reason. Pat Brown delivers the weather on 10News with accuracy, clarity and a positive spirit that’s hard to resist. With a twinkle in her eye, a lilt in her voice and her signature sunny smile, you have to wonder can cold fronts, high-pressure systems and Doppler radar images make someone that happy?
The short answer is yes! As a friend and media colleague, I’ve known Pat Brown for 25 years and believe me, she’s the same Pat on and off the air. Since I tend to be one of those moody, melancholic, glass-half-empty people, I’ve long admired and envied Pat’s perpetual positivity.
What makes her so chronically cheerful?
“I love what I do,” exclaims the winsome weathercaster. “When you’re talking about the weather, it’s a beautiful thing. God’s the artist and I get to tell the story!” (See what I mean?!)
Pat admits she was definitely born with “happy genes,” but believes her upbringing stirred those genes to expression. “I was blessed to grow up in a loving family.”
But Pat adds she also chooses to be happy, no matter her circumstances.
“I’ve had huge down events in my life – losing my Mom, getting divorced and being laid off. It hasn’t always been easy.” But each time her world spins out of control, she stays anchored with encouragement from her friends and hope from her faith. “Maybe,” Pat muses, “I’m not always happy, but I’m usually content.”
Pat is also intentional about finding joy in life. She keeps her life simple … not a lot of “stuff” and free from debt. “I love to read, travel and learn. I’m happy when my mind is stimulated.” She also revels in life’s simple pleasures – a good night’s sleep, being outdoors, volunteering and her cool cats, “Romeow” and “Buddy!”
According to Palomar Health Psychiatrist Benjamin Hidy, M.D.,Pat exemplifies a lifestyle conducive to joy and contentment. “Pat is clearly comfortable in her own skin,” says Dr. Hidy. “Her happiness is not tied to material possessions, wealth or achievement. She finds time for herself and has a good sense of who she is in the world.”
Pat says she’s also grateful and doesn’t take life for granted. “I get up every morning and thank God for another day.” Then she enjoys her favorite breakfast, (granola and yogurt with pomegranate seeds!) with her kitties sprawled on her lap.
But Pat Brown is not only happy. She’s healthy. And it begs the question; can a sunny outlook mean fewer colds and less heart disease? Do hope and curiosity somehow protect against hypertension and diabetes?
Dr. Hidy says research on this new avenue of public health is presently inconclusive, but, he says, evidence shows stress and depression can harm the body. (See Q&A, below)
Full of excitement at the prospect of a weather system that might bring rain, Pat Brown continues to delight her viewers with her trusted forecasts and unbridled joy.
Q&A With Palomar Health Psychiatrist Benjamin Hidy, M.D.
Forget dieting and exercise! Why not make 2015 a happier New Year with a little attitude adjustment? According to Palomar Health Psychiatrist Benjamin Hidy, M.D., change is possible. I asked him if turning that frown upside down could contribute to better health.
Carol: Are happy people healthier?
Dr. Hidy: While research is inconclusive, we do know people who manage stress successfully can improve their overall health, both mentally and physically.
Carol: Why is that?
Dr. Hidy: People who are content – at peace – tend to feel more confident in stressful situations and don’t become quite as overwhelmed.
Carol: Conversely, how does unhappiness affect health?
Dr. Hidy: Depression, as a clinical diagnosis, can lead to hypertension, obesity, diabetes and other diseases.
Carol: Are we hard-wired to be either one or the other?
Dr. Hidy: It’s not as simple as genetics or environment. A lot of factors from upbringing to whether the barista got your coffee order right influence how we view the world.
Carol: Can we change our wiring?
Dr. Hidy: You can choose to change habits, recognize thinking patterns and reactions to situations. It’s hard work but it's worth it.
Carol: How do you start?
Dr. Hidy: I recommend working with a professional. Often medication and/or psychotherapy can help begin the process.
Carol: Do you believe happiness is tied to circumstances?
Dr. Hidy: Actually, people who are happiest have a good sense of who they are. They’re not tied down by expectations, debt and “stuff.” The sense of freedom is liberating.
Carol: Sounds wonderful. How do I get started?
Dr. Hidy: First, find time each day for yourself. Engage in activities and surround yourself with people who make you feel present, competent and valued.
Carol: And if you suspect your unhappiness may be depression?
Dr. Hidy: Please, see your doctor! Depression is an illness that needs medical treatment.
I’m a big fan of innovation and technology. How did we ever get along before the TV remote?! That said, I’m really pretty “old school.” I still get the newspaper and read books (the bound, paper kind!). I prefer phone calls to email and texting and would much rather shop in a store than on line. Believe it or not, I actually don’t mind watching a TV show live…with the commercials!
But then again, I’m no spring chicken and sometimes change is a challenge as I age. So it was with great joy I recently read a fun article in Real Simple magazine on the many health and beauty products that have transcended time…including stuff I use today…and have been using for decades!
Why? Because they’re wonderful…and they work!
Remember Dippity-do? The popular pink gel was invented in 1965 for setting curls. As a teen, I couldn’t live without it. And it’s still around. With its unique, jellylike texture, Dippity-do later gained popularity among young men. As a result, the packaging went from a jar to a blue squeeze bottle. Despite all the other gels, sprays and mousses out there, when I want to make sure my hair won’t move, a little Dippity-do will do it!
Speaking of unmovable hair…there’s not a “firm hold” hair spray that can compete with good old AquaNet. Dubbed the “all-weather” hair spray, AquaNet is famous for providing a firm, lasting hold in any climate. I admit, I don’t use the spray every day, but I’ve got a travel size in my purse for times when my hair needs to be bullet proof!
Remember Biore’? The first-of-a-kind strips are still removing blackheads since its launch in 1997. How ‘bout the Clinique Facial Soap Bar? Around since 1968, this must-have cleansing bar was (and still is) part of the three-step skin care system Clinique is famous for.
But when it comes to cleansing, my personal favorite has been around since 1947 and still going strong. Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is my dermatologist’s favorite…for good reason. Soap and fragrance-free the gentle formula is safe for all skin types. (I keep the handy cleansing cloths in my travel bag.)
Did you know Q-tips have been around since 1923? They’re still in every home in America…along with Vaseline and ChapStick…both around since the 1800’s!
For my dry skin, I buy Dove Beauty Bars in bulk at Costco! Soap dates back to at least 600 B.C., but until 1957, when the Dove Bar was introduced, it was always considered drying. The first soap-free cleanser on the market, the Dove Bar was innovative because it cleaned without stripping skin. (It’s still Dove’s best-selling product globally!)
My absolutely-can’t-do-without legendary product was introduced in 1945. Aquaphor was initially used as a base for preparing other emulsions…then revamped as a multi-purpose salve in 1998…when it became known as the “healing ointment.” I gotta have it for everything from chapped lips to chafing from my Speedo!
Oh, don’t forget Johnson’s “No More Tears” Baby Shampoo formula…and for us big kids, “Clairol’s Professional Shimmer Lights Shampoo….predating by 30 years the explosion of color-enhancing and preserving shampoos.
Who can forget Chanel No. 5, MAC’s Lip Pencil in Spice and Maybelline’s Great Lash Mascara. Introduced back in 1971, Great Lash sold once every 1.3 seconds in the US and still (in my humble opinion) beats the pricey brands, hands-down.
These are but a few of the lotions, potions and fragrances that have claimed their spots in the pantheon of beauty greats. I challenge you to give them a try…for the first time, or for the first time in a while. You won’t be disappointed.
When it comes to technology, I may be a dinosaur. But when products stand the test of time, I think it’s OK to be a little “old school.”
I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of all the doom and gloom email forwards that fill my inbox. I guess the one about AIDS-tainted needles imbedded in movie-theater seats is making the rounds again. I’m sure I’ve deleted it a half dozen times over the years.
Although I refuse to buy into the sky-is-falling emails, it hacks me off when these scary (and often irresponsible) warnings plant a seed of doubt. I actually found myself scanning my seat before a movie recently…just in case a needle was about to stick me in the bum.
Well, no more. No more hand wringing over bacteria or other dangers lurking out there. I’m going to relax and enjoy life…and I owe it all to a viral email from someone who has also had it with those email “freak-outs.”
Kinda puts everything in perspective, don’t you think?
“As we progress through 2014, I want to thank you for your educational e-mails over the past year. I am totally screwed up now and have little chance of recovery.
I can no longer open a bathroom door without using a paper towel, nor let the waitress put lemon slices in my ice water without worrying about the bacteria on the lemon peel.
I can't sit down on a hotel bedspread because I can only imagine what has happened on it since it was last washed.
I have trouble shaking hands with someone who has been driving because the number one pastime while driving alone is picking one's nose.
Eating a little snack sends me on a guilt trip because I can only imagine how many gallons of trans fats I have consumed over the years.
I can't touch any woman's handbag for fear she has placed it on the floor of a public toilet.
I must send my special thanks for the email about rat poo in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet sponge on every envelope that needs sealing.
ALSO, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.
I can't have a drink in a bar because I fear I'll wake up in a bathtub full of ice with my kidneys gone.
I can't eat at KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes, feet or feathers.
I can't use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.
Thanks to you I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an email to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.
Because of your concern, I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.
I no longer buy fuel without taking someone along to watch the car, so a serial killer doesn't crawl in my back seat when I'm filling up.
I no longer use Cling Wrap in the microwave because it causes seven different types of cancer.
And thanks for letting me know I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face, disfiguring me for life.
I no longer go to shopping centers because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.
I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a huge phone bill with calls to Jamaica, Uganda, Singapore and Uzbekistan ...
Thanks to you I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big black snake could be lurking under the seat and cause me instant death when it bites my butt.
And thanks to your great advice I can't ever pick up a dime coin dropped in the car park because it was probably placed there by a sex molester waiting to grab me as I bend over.
I can't do any gardening because I'm afraid I'll get bit by the Violin Spider and my hand will fall off.
If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, and the fleas from 120 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor’s ex mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's best friend's beautician!
Oh, and by the way...
A German scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain activity read their e-mails with their hand on the mouse.
Don't bother taking it off now, it's too late.
P.S. I now keep my toothbrush in the living room, because I was told by email that water splashes over 6 ft. out of the toilet.
NOW YOU HAVE YOURSELF A VERY GOOD DAY”
When I first heard about Shellac two years ago, it sounded too good to be true!
The sign at Tammy’s Nail Salon in Hillcrest touted the benefits of the new “30-minute, in-salon manicure that dries almost instantly, promising perfect polish for two weeks.”
Like many women, I’d tried it all. Maintaining acrylic nails took too much time and left my nails paper-thin. None of the gels last and are a mess when they start to peel. Going natural wasn’t the answer either. My nails constantly chip and crack and most polishes last about a day (especially after working out in a chlorinated swimming pool!)
So, amid the growing “buzz” over the new manicure technique, I gave Shellac a try. Amazingly, the iridescent, candy-red on my fingers stayed fresh, shiny and entirely chip-free for 18 days!! I’ve been a fan ever since.
But a few months ago, a scaly patch appeared on the top of my right hand. So I’ve been taking a time out from my nail routine to check things out. Could that tiny patch possibly be skin cancer? If so, could the nail salon dryer be the cause?
A quick check with my dermatologist ruled out skin cancer, but a Google check confirmed my suspicions. According the Web MD, the dryers emit primarily UVA light-the same kind of ultraviolet light used in tanning beds-and are used to dry nail polish or to harden gel manicures. One study suggests the damage can occur in as few as eight visits to the manicurist.
But don’t cancel your next nail gel appointment just yet. While previous studies have linked the UV lamps with increased risk of skin cancer, newer research indicates the risk may be minimal.
After testing 17 different lamps in nail salons, researchers calculated that it would take between eight and 208 visits, depending on the machine, to damage skin cells in a way that raises cancer risk.
Published in the journal, JAMA Dermatology, lead study author Dr. Lyndsay Shipp explains, “I wouldn’t tell a patient to stop going unless they were going multiple times a month.”
Dr. Shipp’s team believes earlier studies on the UV lamps may have been flawed. “There is a theoretical risk,” says Dr. Shipp, “but it’s very low.”
The study explains lamps with higher wattage bulbs emit the highest levels of UV radiation, but it’s not easy for a salon client to check the wattage before using a machine.
What to do? If, like me, you’re concerned about the possible risk, but want to continue getting gel manicures using UV light, here are a couple of options:
1. Coat your hands with sunscreen before having gel nails applied
2. Wear UV-protective gloves with the fingertips cut off so only the nails are exposed to the light.
As far as I’m concerned, problem solved! And if I run into you at Tammy’s Salon, I’m happy to share my sunscreen!
For all you “foodies” out there, this may be hard to believe, but I have never watched the Food Network. I can’t tell you where to find the Cooking Channel either.
I realize it’s my loss. It seems everyone I know loves to watch and learn from cooking shows. And while I could certainly use a little help in the kitchen (just ask my long-suffering husband!), I’ve just never found slicing and dicing or simmering and sautéing all that interesting to watch.
Until I met Melissa d’Arabian!
Left: Melissa d'Arabian (3rd from left) with emcee, Pat Brown (left), yours truly and friend, Vicki Hesterman.
The New York Times best-selling cookbook author, host of “Ten Dollar Dinners,” and winner of the “Next Food Network Star” recently wowed a crowd of 400 as the keynote speaker at my church’s (First United Methodist Church, San Diego) annual “Spring Fling” women’s luncheon.
Melissa may be a pretty face, a celebrity chef, and an engaging TV host, but as she shared her compelling life story, it became clear she also possesses an inner beauty and depth of character not often seen in the celebrity world.
Early in her work life, d’Arabian found success in corporate America. She received her MBA from Georgetown University and was enjoying a career in corporate finance when she met her now husband, Philippe, in Paris.
When the two returned to the States and started their family in Coronado, d’Arabian made a career shift to stay-at-home mom. And with four daughters close in age, her work schedule was packed full.
One challenge was figuring out how to feed four young children on a sustainable budget, but with her love of cooking and financial savvy, d’Arabian discovered how to kill two birds with one stone. She began making her own baby food and yogurt at home. “I was saving $125 to $150 a month on yogurt alone!” she says.
The idea became so popular among her friends and family, she began self-recording home yogurt-making tutorials on her cell phone to share with even more moms.
The concept of combining delicious recipes and money-saving techniques spread quickly leading to her victory on season five of Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star.”
That was five years ago and the TV competition was true to its name. Melissa is now well known as the star of Food Network’s “Ten Dollar Dinners.” She has a best-selling cookbook of the same name and her second book is due out soon. She is also featured in numerous publications.
But Melissa’s successes are just part of her story. The gifted, bright-eyed beauty is also a down-to-earth, passionate woman of faith…a faith that has carried her through life’s trials, including her mother’s suicide when Melissa was only 19 years old.
As Melissa shared, it became clear that success and celebrity are not what’s most important in her life. Her main focus is to be on the path God wants her to be on, which affects her daily decisions as a woman, wife, mother and professional. “I focus on staying in a place where I’m grateful for everything I have. Faith is what gets me through.”
Melissa has even turned the pain of her mother’s loss into an opportunity to help others as she champions the cause of suicide prevention through a variety of organizations. She is an active Girl Scout leader for her daughters and was recently honored by the organization as one of San Diego’s “Cool Women.”
I have to agree with the Girl Scouts. In fact, Melissa d’Arabian is not only “cool,” she’s a breath of fresh air. And now that I’m one of her fans, I plan to DVR her show, if for no other reason than to get a little boost from her million-dollar smile.
Who knows, I may even learn how to separate an egg in the process!
(I recommend her Salad Nicoise. It’s yummy and so easy, even I can make it!)
Imagine sadness so profound, despair so deep, that it seems the only way out is suicide. Tragically, that scene plays out for hundreds of San Diegans every year.
In 2012, 413 men, women and, yes, even children, died at their own hands – a record number of suicides in San Diego. Sadly, the number of self-inflicted deaths continues to rise, with no end in sight.
Perhaps that explains the huge turnout recently for the annual “Save a Life” Walk sponsored by Survivors of Suicide Loss. A record crowd of 2,000 gathered for the annual 3.1-mile trek around Balboa Park, with most walking in memory of loved ones lost to suicide. (Learn more www.soslsd.org).
Despite the disturbing theme, as a survivor (I lost my mother to suicide) and participant, I assure you the “Save a Life” Walk is neither depressing nor somber, but full of love, laughter and hope – due, in part, to the presence of Pastor Joe Davis.
As we gathered together before the 5K begins, emotions run raw for many. But Joe’s uplifting invocation never fails to include a perfect prayer to comfort those who have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide.
You might say Joe’s the perfect guy for the job! Every day, as chaplain for the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office, Joe ministers to grieving families dealing with all kinds of traumatic death, including suicide.
Every time he speaks at the annual Walk, Joe says he can count on someone coming up to him, reminding him about the time he came to their home, “with the news that their son, or wife, or father had died at their own hands.”
It’s an emotionally taxing job, but the affable and easy-going Joe believes he’s been called to comfort families and friends of loved ones who have died. He deals with death of every description. “What makes suicide different,” says the chaplain, “is that other deaths can usually be explained.” So Joe says his job is to be there for distraught loved ones “trying to make sense out of something that never makes sense.”
He admits, dealing daily with death and human anguish hasn’t been easy. Several years ago, plagued by emotional stress and stomach problems, Joe turned to prayer asking, “If I’m supposed to be doing this, why is it so hard?”
He believes God’s answer was loud and clear, “If you’re going to get that involved, you’re no good to the families and you’re no good to me.”
“Now, instead of being part of the storm,” explains Joe, “I’m the calm in the midst of the storm.”
But last year, in a tragic irony, the “storm” came to Joe personally when he got the call that rocked his world. Following years of depression, his own father had taken his life. “It was the most painful, horrible training I’ve ever had,” Joe told me, tears welling up.
As he deals with his own lingering pain, Joe believes his experience has helped him better help others. “Now I can honestly say, ‘I know what you’re going through.’”
And so Joe continues his unpaid job, as the only full-time chaplain for a medical examiner in the US, with his faith and signature sense of humor to carry him through the next crisis.
“I don’t know the shelf life of a coroner’s chaplain,” quips Davis. “I’m just being obedient to where I’m supposed to be.”
Thank you for making a difference, Joe.
Q&A with Badalin Helvink, M.D.
According to Badalin Helvink, M.D., medical director of the Psychiatry Program at the Palomar Center for Behavioral Health, suicide is our nation’s top public health issue. Here she explains how we all play a role in saving lives.
Carol: Why is the suicide rate rising?
Dr. Helvink: Violence, economic stress, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, family history of mental illness, access to guns, lack of access to health care … take your pick!
Carol: How do we get a handle on the problem?
Dr. Helvink: First, by talking about it. Sadly, a stigma still exists when it comes to mental illness.
Carol: Why can’t we get past the stigma?
Dr. Helvink: Unfortunately, the barriers are still there. Families don’t want to talk about it. Patients don’t want to be on medication.
Carol: What about the media?
Dr. Helvink: Sensationalized celebrity suicides can actually cause a copycat effect. Cyberbullying through social media causes severe pressure on kids. Nearly 16 percent of kids admit thinking about suicide.
Carol: Sounds like an issue for everyone.
Dr. Helvink It takes a village—a collaborative effort of family, friends, community and providers.
Carol: How can I help prevent a suicide?
Dr. Helvink: If you know someone who’s struggling – isolating, consumed with sadness or morbidly preoccupied – don’t wait for them to “snap out of it.” Reach out.
Carol: How do you know when it’s serious?
Dr. Helvink In my practice, if I hear, “I’m a burden” or “I can’t live like this anymore,” or when a teen hears her friend say she “wishes she were dead.” If they voice it, take it seriously.
Carol: Some say suicide is an act of cowardice.
Dr. Helvink: I invite them to have compassion about something that’s tragic, and for many, a result of major depressive disorder.
Carol: Can there be a happy ending?
Dr. Helvink: I had a patient who took a serious overdose. After successful treatment for her depression, she told me she never knew she could actually feel good again.
Carol: What do you want people to know?
Dr. Helvink Depression is a very treatable condition. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is help.
See our full story on Behavioral Health in The HealthSource.
Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month which is a good time to be extra vigilant with friends and loved ones dealing with extreme sadness or a sense of hopelessness.
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
• Always talking or thinking about death
• Clinical depression – deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating that gets worse
• Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Losing interest in things one used to care about
• Making comments about being hopeless, helpless or worthless
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
• Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
• Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
• Talking about suicide or killing one's self
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Be especially concerned if a person is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20 and 50 percent of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt.