Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"I'm Fine"

A friend of mine tweeted something really significant - something that stood out and made me think about my own situation. She wrote, "I wonder if self-help authors are as happy as they tell us we should be." If you think about it, self-help authors are the ones who have either been through or perhaps even still going through trouble in order to help those who are struggling. For instance, (and I bring this analogy up a lot), it's like someone who has never touched a drink in their life directing an AA meeting. They have no clue what the hell they're doing other than give "happy-go-lucky-you-can-do-it" advice without the pain, the willpower, the intense craving of wanting just one drink...and then another. For me, when I write about anxiety attacks and depression, I tell people what I do in order to feel better for that time being, or what I do to just keep me alive for just another hour, another night, another week. When it works, I give advice. So, 'this' worked for me, let me share it with you. "I've been there" sounds much better than, "Oh, that must suck", when trying to help someone who may be suicidal. I have a very young reader of mine who came to me recently. This handsome 15 year old who has his whole world in front of him cries all. the. time. Nobody understands him. Nobody wants to help him. There is something comforting about speaking to someone who's been there before - someone who 'gets it'. The pain, the agony, the tears - every second seems like an hour when you're in a dark depression after the intense anxiety shit storm. I have fired many therapists for 'not getting it' -- they were too textbook, blaming everything and my mother for the problems that only I'm accountable for. No one is responsible for my happiness. This therapist believes otherwise. When you feel like you're the only one going through such a "crazy phase" as we think it is --- we somehow put in our minds that we're outcasts; we're "crazy", and that right there is enough to set us over the edge. We worry about judgment, fitting in, acceptance, being loved, being safe, feeling comfortable, and when those things shatter into little pieces all over the floor, our stability within ourselves seems to just fall apart with it. "Why live?"

Yesterday afternoon, while dealing with my own panic and fear, I decided to just relax, put on a movie and call it a day. Oddly enough, I found The Snake Pit, a film made in 1948. It was about a woman who found herself in an insane asylum and cannot remember how she got there. Although the film was kind of predictable, it showed all the fears she went through and what the other inmates feared too, advising her not to tell people that "she thought she was fine". To indicate "I'm much better now" meant that she was absolutely out of her mind to the staff. It was better left unsaid rather than any progression revealed.  Isn't that what we do now? Isn't it better to convince people that we're "okay" and meanwhile, inside, we're dying. Last week while chatting with my friend who bartends at our local bar & grill, we started talking about depression and how one of the waitress's mother was in another country, calling her up at the restaurant saying, "I'm gonna kill myself," for the umpteenth time. And while every suicidal blurb should be taken very seriously, there is some truth to watching out for the silent ones - the ones who don't say one thing before offing themselves. You usually hear, "I never knew he/she was even depressed!" And sadly, that happens more often than not. Nothing was revealed. They simply stated, "I'm fine." A smile to hide the tears. A joker to hide the pain. A carefree spirit living a life full of fear and depression. Look deeper into someone when they tell you, "I'm fine." Don't know who quoted this but I love it: "Even the most beautiful rainbows can be colored with broken crayons." If you or someone else is depressed, never feel like you're "crazy" for talking it out or coming to someone in fear of judgment. In most cases, they can relate. You're not alone. I suffer through it, and I know many others who do. I do not believe those who haven't been there can help - that's just my opinion and experience. But in some way or another, haven't we all felt the pain of life? Haven't we all at some point in our lives just felt like giving up or found ourselves crying for hours when no one was around? If you are just at the end of the rope, please call 1-800-273-8255. If you don't feel comfortable talking over the phone, you can chat with someone live if you click here. People DO want to help. Just talk it out. --P.S. Stay.

Please take a moment, listen to the lyrics of this beautiful song, written by The Beatles and sung beautifully by Sarah McLachlan. Click here if you can't view this video. It's a beautiful song.

 

This post is dedicated to two special people who have been coming to me for advice. You know who you are. Stay.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Penned Up Ax Murderer

The one thing I've learned over time is that you never know if your date or lover is a "penned up ax murderer" until she becomes one. In Travis Alexander's blog, he states, "Desperately trying to find out if my date has an axe murderer penned up inside of her and knowing she is wondering the same thing about me. That’s usually when I think myself into a panic and start acting weird in consequence to trying so hard to act normal." Have you ever been in a position where someone you knew, loved and cared for just finally flipped their lid and revealed their true colors? It can be very scary and unsettling to say the least. But what if you never knew the potential killer underneath the sweet, smiling beautiful girl you once loved, and now...you had to end the relationship. But it doesn't end there. I have been diligently following the Jodi Arias trial, even falling asleep to it (which isn't such a good idea). But then they have the news afterwards dedicated to the trial. I have it on while I'm working just to stay on top of things. What's there to figure out? She already lied a zillion times and then admitted to the murder. But, cases like we've seen with the Casey Anthony trial, I'm almost positive that Jodi is going to get out of this scott free somehow and write a book that makes her millions of dollars. Maybe she'll have to do 10 years max and then get out by the time she's 40 years young. And how fucking sad is that? This incredible, smart, talented and funny man, Travis Alexander (you can see his charm here) is now dead because of her.  She took this beautiful life away - just like that - and all because she wasn't willing to wait out the heartbreak. I've been there. I didn't want things to end and begged and pleaded for forgiveness. It hurts. But what goes through a person's mind that makes them believe that they have some authority over their ex-lover's life? "Well if I can't have you, no one else will." They develop this sense of 'ownership' over the person to where the ex-lover in some cases has no clue about any of it. They simply go through the "normal" process of a breakup, whether it be moping around for a bit or completely over it.

My mother watches these awful shows, like "Snapped" and stuff on this channel that I believe is called, "I.D.". She watches this before bedtime and tells me the next day, "My God, I had such horrific dreams about a man stabbing his wife." I'm just like, "I wonder why..."  I remember watching this show (forgive me, I forgot which one), but they were demonstrating the functions of two sets of brains. One was from a sociopath and the other from a normal everyday person. Of course, the sociopath has no remorse or fear of consequences when committing a crime. But when they put two brains of your everyday average Joe together, they found something interesting. In the front part of the brain (right underneath the forehead area), they discovered a unique trait that is almost comparable to a "shield" -- a shield that prevents them from ever committing a murder. Although the two brains were alike, the one without the shield was from your average everyday person who happened to have killed someone - either by manslaughter or other. The difference was, that piece of "shield" discovered much about the person's crime. Of course, you can't use this in a court, just as you can't use a polygraph test, but it does say something about how our brain is somehow responsible for our actions, or lack thereof. They also indicated that even people who were "seemingly crazy" (bad temper, popping their cork, etc.) had this shield, while usually, the calmest person in the batch did not. So it's kind of true when they say, "It's the silent ones you have to worry about." In my personal opinion, the person who holds in all of their feelings and never truly has an outlet for all of their sadness, anger and rage are the ones who usually "snap".  For the nuts out there (like myself) who go off the edge from time to time ranting and raving -- we've already said our peace and poured out our frustrations. Our inner emotional box is empty. For those who keep it all in, that box is bursting at the seams. What do you think?

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

If Only...

Sometimes I look over at my dog and wonder what she's thinking. Does she even think at all? Does she have a thought process? Is she plotting against the squirrel out on the lawn? When it rains, she looks melancholy -  as if she's wishing her sunny days back, lying in some random sunbeam. Occasionally, she'll run up and jump on me, indicating she wants something. I have to walk and follow her in order to know what she needs. If she heads to the kitchen, she wants a treat. If she heads near the door, she needs to go out. Sometimes, it could be that she just wants to cuddle on the couch, so she'll pull my pant leg and steer me over to the sofa. Our communication isn't the best, we mess up and well, I have to clean up the occasional 'mess', but overall, it's pretty damn good. But this isn't about my dog, oddly enough. Have you ever wondered what someone in your life was thinking? It amazes me we have this precise language that we can tell others exactly what we want or need, and yet we never use it to its fullest potential. We make the other person guess or try to figure it all out on their own - like my communication with my dog. We speak in roundabout ways or give someone the cold shoulder to let them know you're not pleased with them for whatever reason.  And while indifference can speak volumes, some people aren't the brightest bulbs in the pack. They just don't get it. We need it in black and white sometimes. There are times when I can only dream that the person I'm trying to communicate would pull my pant leg and guide me to where they need to be. Wishful thinking.

There are two things that can keep someone from communicating effectively: pain and fear. The pain can be from someone hurting you, either physically or emotionally. My dog cowers if you try to pet her head. You have to leave your hand out, let her sniff you and she'll let you pet her. Her fear from the pain she had in the past as a rescue dog which makes her behave this way. Ok ok ok, enough with my doggy analogies. But it's working, isn't it?  Pain from someone hurting you can make you fear getting close with them again. The trust is broken. And even though you have all the forgiveness you can possibly dish out for anyone who has hurt you in the past, it is extremely hard to forget for some people. I do believe time can build up trust again - you have to earn it, as I'm trying to do with my dog, but sometimes, it's just too much, the memories, the thought of getting treated poorly once again...too much.  I can only do my best and be patient, understanding and try to be a safe place for my best friend...or for the person I once hurt. They say the truth emerges when you're in a fit of anger, and yet when people are apologizing for their reckless behavior, they always seem to say, "I didn't mean what I said." It can be very confusing when some truth is mixed in with a sprinkle of exaggeration...or is it exaggeration? Maybe they thought like this all along and now, the truth comes out. I've done both in a fit of anger: I've said things I truly didn't mean, and I have also spilled the beans about what I truly thought. There's this proverb that says, "It's harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars." And while that may ring true, I do believe that love and communication can break those bars and set those two people free from anger or any resentment held in their hearts. If only...

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is It Better Now?

That was me bored out of my mind.
There was a time when I once thought that getting older would be somehow easier, perhaps a bit carefree and more spontaneous, because well, grown ups were allowed to do everything and anything they wanted. As a kid, looking up at people who were adults, I envied the "freedom" I thought they had. I envied the millions of things that they could have done, but most around me didn't do most of what I thought I would do myself, say if God came down and said, "Voila Deb! You're an adult! Go do whatever it is that makes you happy!" So then one day, I became an adult. I became that person who had the freedom to live her life the way I wanted. Then I learned about fear, not only learned it, absorbed it. I saw people getting into trouble, getting hurt, getting killed over the things I thought were once "fun". I saw people being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I saw young adults having heart attacks, dying of cancer, dying of AIDS. I saw things I never knew existed in this awesome world I viewed as a child. And now, I sit here as a middle aged adult, who has lost her Dad from cancer, lost a few friends from this awful disease, lost relatives at a young age of heart attacks and all sorts of tragic instances. I realized life is a treasure if you can maintain it. Life can be a blessing and life can also be a dreadful curse. My fear turned into anxiety. My anxiety turned into phobias. My phobias turned into dark depressions, which kept me from living that "free life" - that life full of spontaneity. I now think about the past, about how free I was as a child under my parents' care. How wonderful life used to be - how carefree and loved I was, no matter what I did wrong. I remember the safety and comfort of being young, to which as an adult, I have none. Don't get me wrong, life isn't bad at all, I know it could be worse, but I wonder why I thought this adult life would be so "cool". I remember the instant forgiveness - the way my parents put me before themselves as they did with all my sisters.  It's also strange how I never used to have problems sleeping. Insomnia? What's that? Nothing kept me up. I had no worries other than a possibly pop quiz the next day in math.

After a second dry martini, I can think clearly and relax. As a kid, all I needed to do was kick some ass on Atari and call it a night. Even as a young adult, a night out partying was a way to relieve my stress. These days, a night past 10pm is one that'll have me mimicking a flu for the next 3 days. I remember Dad telling me, "Whaddya' got to worry about? You got it made, kid!" And I thought, "I got it made? Are you kidding me? My crush has a boyfriend, they want me to wear a bathing suit in front of the boys in gym, some bully on the bus wants to kick my ass and I have lab tomorrow morning at 6am!" (I know some of you remember those early morning lab classes.) Those were the stressors. It sounds so 'perfect' - and it probably was if you compare it to those who had it rough as children. But does it get any better when you grow up even if you had a rough childhood? I know so many adults who have PTSD due to their past childhood. They just never let it go and so, it lingers throughout the rest of their years with and without intensive therapy. I think about how it is today for kids, for my two nieces and one nephew - how hard it must be for them to grow up in this world. I remember how I was bullied by this one girl all. the. time. in school and keeping that as my "big secret". I didn't want to be a snitch or a "tattletale". I wanted to be one of those kids who never ran to the teacher or their mommy to rat someone out. It was "uncool" and you were called a wuss if you did something like that. Today? Kids have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram - all these forums to either share as friends or attack as enemies. And the worst part is the anonymity. They can hide behind their iPhones and computers in order to let someone know how "ugly" or "fat" they are or how they're "hated" just to rip someone apart. The only technology I had was *69 - even before caller id. Back then, you had to face your pranker head on: "Who is this?"

So realistically, being young and being an adult are both challenging in their own ways. If you really think back to when you were a kid, think about how you felt and all of the pressures of being a kid, getting in trouble for doing things that aren't 'seemingly' bad. And while we all have this sense of freedom being an adult, it also comes with other challenges that may seem like you wanna jump back into time and go back on that bus to face that bully, who now hates her life and turned out to be all the names that she once called you. Karma works in mysterious ways. I guess in retrospect, I'm glad I was "me" back then and somehow, I appreciate the "now".

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Definition of Marriage

Last night, I went into the kitchen and made myself a drink while waiting for my wife to come home. I started to prepare dinner for her since it was her late night to work. I made sure her chicken was cooked to perfection, and that she had a nice cocktail waiting once she walked in the door so she could relax and put her feet up. We sat, talked for a while and discussed our excitement for our vacation this upcoming June. We've been through a rough couple of years, having my Dad pass on from his long struggle with cancer. Dad loved her. One evening, Mom had called us in the middle of the night crying that Dad had taken a bad fall on the living room floor while grabbing an orange from the kitchen. He couldn't get up. We rushed down to try and help, but he was in such pain that I didn't want to break anything. Last time, he broke a rib from us trying to lift him back up. This time, his hip was broken. Once back up on the bed, he said, "Can you get me that orange?" One evening, Madelene was with my Dad, holding his hand while he was lying on the bed that hospice provided. She said he was scared. He had such anxiety about dying. Who wouldn't? They sat in silence watching TV, holding hands with tears in their eyes. She loved him like her own father and of course, vise/versa.   He told Madelene, "I never seen a couple who helped each other out so much and did things together like you two." Often, my Dad would tell me, "You just don't come across people like Madelene. She's the best you can get. She's good people." For an old school Italian guy, his blessing meant the world to me. Mad's been there for most of my big life events. My wife has seen me cry, she witnessed me wailing on the kitchen floor when I got the most dreaded phone call of my life. ".....he's gone." My wife has stayed up late at night, trying to comfort me while I suffered with terrible panic attacks. She has driven me up to the ER numerous times in the middle of the night just to make sure I wasn't having a heart attack. She never grudgingly did it -- she did it because she loved me. I've done the same for her when she was in the hospital. I took care of her while convalescing and stood by her side every second of every hour.

There have been good times too. Our days off are priceless to me. Sometimes on a Sunday morning, we'll sleep in with the dog nestled right in between us. We always have breakfast together. I make sure her coffee and breakfast is ready right when she gets out of the shower. When we go on vacation, we do everything, from art galleries, to dining out and to just sit on our deck and barbecue by the ocean. We still have long talks. We still communicate effectively. No, we're not perfect, but we're "family", regardless if we had kids or not. We've gone to family weddings together, funerals together, we've held each other's hands when we lost someone we loved. When we said our vows on the beaches of Provincetown, it was blessed by God and by a Christian pastor. For someone to say that our marriage is 'wrong' and that we can't love one another because we're both women --- that just baffles my mind. There are people out there who compare us to pedophiles, rapists and murderers. They have even gone so far to say, "What next? They gonna wanna marry their pets now?" The ignorance we have seen from people we don't know, to sadly, those we do know. It's so strange how certain straight people are so incredibly passionate about taking away our rights as humans to love one another and to have the same title, "marriage" to state our union. Most only make sexual references to our relationship - to our marriage. They call us "perverts" because we love one another. Not one person who is against marriage equality has stated anything of a "relationship" nature - all of it was purely sexual. When I think of a heterosexual couple getting married, I think "love", I think, "family", I think, "growing old together" --- I never think of the sexual part of it because that is none of my business what goes on behind closed doors. That's sacred between the two people who love one another. Doesn't the same apply to gay and lesbian couples? Don't we deserve the same respect? Not in the eyes of many.

You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord. (NRSV, Leviticus 19:28)
For those opposed to gay marriage, let me ask you this... Are we supposed to repress our love for our partners or for anyone we fall in love with and live a lie and marry someone of the opposite sex just to go through the motions? Isn't lying one of the ten commandments? --“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator,” (Colossians 3:9,10).  In Leviticus which is the Old Law which was abolished for all Christians when Christ died on the cross, it does state that man shall not lie with another man. While this is clearly stated, it also says that marking yourself (tattooing) is also a sin. This tattooed man in the photo has done the most hypocritical thing due to his bigotry. Ironic, huh? Religious people who are against homosexuality cherry pick scriptures and never reference anything toward themselves. They never fully read the bible and only take out what they want and bash us or deny our rights in the name of "their god" -- because it's not the same Christian God I know.  I guess these days people are starting to realize that it's not such a big deal. There are groups of people, heterosexual and homosexual who are in fact, "perverted", but don't lump all of us into a category that we are certainly not about. Marriage doesn't mean "cruising for sex". Marriage doesn't mean "having multiple partners". Marriage does not define pedophilia or rape - why are people so ignorant? And if you're going to use the argument that marriage was meant for procreation, then what happens when one straight couple who are married can't have kids? Do they divorce because now, they're unable to procreate? What then? They do it the way most gays and lesbians have to -- either artificial insemination, fertility drugs or ask a close friend to be a surrogate mother. Adoption is a wonderful option for many straight and gay people. Many kids out there need a loving home. And if you think "we're" not "loving" --- then please feel free to step inside our home and really see what our marriage is all about.

Take a look at our progressive world. This video is not only done with tact, logic and sense, but it's done with humor. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Please click here if you cannot view the video below.

Definition of Marriage

 

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For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Does It Matter Anymore?

No one knows the truth, or better yet, perhaps everyone thinks they know the truth. I found myself amazed last night over the the amount of 'death chatter' regarding young people dying of strokes and heart attacks. "Well she worked out, she was young and healthy."  What is "healthy"? Dr. Oz even had these cardiologists come onto his show and say that if you have high cholesterol, then you will live longer. They said, "Eat more saturated fat" while other doctors cringed and said, "Take more statins!" Our uncle died of a heart attack in his 30's -- so did my mother's cousin. All ate well, jogged, had a "healthy lifestyle" as the average person would see it. I have a doctor friend who inspired me to take the Paleo challenge. "Eat all the bacon you want!" Of course that comes with, "Stay away from all sugar and pastas."  The pasta part was the hardest for me. But think about all of the contradictions out there. They are still trying to figure the human body out. "Eat eggs, it's the perfect food."  "Don't eat eggs, it raises your cholesterol!" All of these mixed signals sends us spinning with confusion. Someone says, "Eat less, portion is everything." Another says, "Eat as much protein as you want." Even coffee is thrown into the mix. People were trying to give up coffee because some doctor out there somewhere said it was "bad" -- while other doctors are claiming that it reduces your risk of heart disease and cancer greatly -- and that's if you drink over 2 cups a day. Hey, I'll take it. You know what my guess is? Nobody knows. Nobody knows the perfect "diet" or solution to our health ailments. I remember my personal trainer would tell me, "Get your heart rate up to 190 for over 1 hour every day." Another person told me that 30 minutes of moderate exercise was all I needed. Then I hear that you need to at least go above 45 minutes in order to start losing "real calories" --- the ones that are attached to your thighs, not what you just ate. Made sense. But what if... they're wrong?

The fact is, we can all walk out of our houses today and have an anvil fall on us. We can die just as easily as making a simple mistake. What does it matter? But, while we're here, we want to live a healthy life without pain or health complications - so that's something I'm striving for, but who's the best person or doctor to listen to? Everyone has their own health mantra and I seriously believe, what works for one person may not work for the other. Our bodies are so different, genetically, chemically, etc. The Atkins or Paleo Diet may help one person lose weight, but for me, it gives me heartburn and 'brain fogginess'. The ketones wreak havoc on me. I'm always looking for good advice regarding health, but diets have become much like religion: certain people are totally swept up by their "beliefs" that this works, or that works, and they have this, "I'm right and everyone else is wrong" type of attitude. It's actually quite a turn off, whereas you want to do exactly the opposite - just like a Jehovah Witness trying to convince you of their beliefs. It's like, "Get off my welcome mat!"  Some believe that if you have to be thin in order to be healthy. There are many beliefs that are tossed into a pile of 'know it all' opinions. And while some of these "opinions" may be from professionals, like doctors, personal trainers and dietitians, half the time these people are on the news reported as "wrong". So then, what's "right"?  For now, I will live my life enjoying the people I love, good food in moderation with a bigger goblet of wine. Besides, they say wine is good for your heart, right?


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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Most Lethal Weapon Used: Fear

This weekend was just incredible. I got to spend time with my family (on my wife's side) and celebrated a couple of birthdays. It was nice to see everyone, and many times, it was like, "How come we haven't gotten together more?" It was said more than enough times. We're too busy, we're doing 'this' and 'that' and then, something happens that brings it to a different level - a different perspective. I realized I've been missing out on a lot. With recent events that had taken place in my life, especially with Dad passing, I just sort of went into my shell and only let a select few people in if need be. I should have done the exact opposite - would have been healthier, but shoulda' woulda' coulda'. It's strange how things happen. Last night I was lying in bed wide awake with my mind racing. I had so many questions for God - like how did He let the bombing happen in Boston? Why did "He" have to take away a couple of very young souls that day? Why are people in such excruciating pain due to someone's reckless behavior? My heart hasn't been this heavy in a while, probably since 9/11. And although it was on a lesser scale, it wasn't. It really wasn't. The fear, the loss of life, the pain, injuries -- this was catastrophic however you look at it. My mind kept racing - so fast - that sleep never came to me. I thought about all the school shootings, terrorism, potential nuclear wars, my loved ones, 'what if', 'what if' type of obsessive thinking. I was filled with anxiety. And, that's how the terrorists win. Like North Korea, they instill that relentless fear inside of you. They make you believe they are more powerful than you can ever imagine, hiding, lurking behind corners waiting for you at the least expected time.

Nobody knows this fact about me. So, today I am putting it all out there. I'm sure a lot of my personal friends and family will be nodding their head saying, "I never thought about that..." I guess I'm the big "loser" when it comes to the game of terrorism. They won. They ruined my life. (I sound like a jaded ex-girlfriend now.)  But seriously, ever since 9/11, I have never been the same. I remember it was a Tuesday morning and I showed up to the office to learn a new program we were working on.  It was a large call center with over 500 people inside, I'm guessing. It was 8am. I remember I had a couple of cups of coffee - in the best mood ever and I was ready to take on the day. I was working along with one of my managers trying to get acquainted with the new technology that they were pushing us on...because you know, I hate change and all. So, while I was sitting in a tiny boxed up cubical with my manager, we noticed we weren't getting anymore incoming calls - it was totally silent. My manager looked up at me and said, "Wow, for a Tuesday it's really quiet." Soon enough, we heard someone from beyond scream out, "Oh my God! A plane hit the World Trade Center!" After we realized it was a terrorist attack and we were not able to use the phones, leave the building or even our offices until all planes were found and accounted for. All of our telephone lines were located under the World Trade Center, which is the reason for the silent lines. Days, weeks, months after that event, it was never the same. We had bomb scares and drills that left us standing in the middle of the street scared to death. I found myself praying in the bathroom once while they told us to go back into the building even though there was still smoke. There was a small electrical fire that started on the roof somehow. But to us, in our minds, it was a terrorist attack. The fear, the constant thought and planned out escape routes in our heads were haunting us. One morning, I had to be taken out by the ambulance because I had such a severe panic attack that left me passed out on my desk. I took off work a couple of years. I swore to myself I would never work in an office building that held more than 500 people ever again. Although I love my new work (not so new anymore), the terrorists won. I work from home, but this is so not like me. I'm used to getting up at the crack of dawn and rushing off into a designated office at a certain time. And the only fear I had was being late.

While I realize anything can happen anywhere, I just want to eliminate my fear. It's not working so well. I fear for people now, I fear for my wife, I fear for all my friends and family who have to go into huge buildings with a ton of people gathered together at the same time. Every New Year's Eve when I watch the ball drop, I also expect the bomb to drop. This morning after having zero sleep, I grabbed some coffee, sat outside and prayed. You know something --- it's strange how people are so surprised at this horrific event. I expected much worse in a larger capacity --- I expected a 'bigger 9/11', because my brain says, "The next time, it's going to be even larger."  My mind is racing so fast - so please bear with me. I also think about the year I went through with Dad passing, friends getting sick, friends dying and horrific tragedies taking place and a nuclear war threat to boot --- something's gotta give. I almost lost my faith in God, or perhaps I just questioned it a lot more, as you've probably read recently. The devil wants to steal your joy. Isn't that his job? And he also wants to steal your faith. "How can God let this happen?" The question is: "Why isn't our faith growing?" And that's how it's happening, how it was written in the Bible --- your faith will be tested when the times comes. We're over here like, "Why???" We forget. I forgot. But let me just tell you, I'm sort of glad I had zero sleep last night. I prayed to God, prayed for everyone involved in that tragedy and I had some pretty wild confirmations that God's on our side. So in reality --- the terrorists didn't win. Put on your suit of armor because it's gonna get worse before it gets better.  I apologize for the randomness of my post today. Again, my mind is just running way too fast, so I just jotted this down the way it was in my head. I'm upset, I'm unsettled, but my faith is still there. And now, I need to wean off the java.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Skin Deep

There are evenings when my wife will spend a little extra time in the bathroom putting on these anti-aging creams and 'dewrinklers' as if she was a piece of linen. She comes back smelling like fragrant mud. I admire her persistence of always keeping herself nice and looking young. I started dating her when she was 29 years old. And may lightening strike me, I still see her as 29. I ask her why does she even bother with these rituals if her skin is naturally beautiful and young, just like her mom's. She says, "Well I have dark circles under my eyes ---see? And I have wrinkles in places I never saw before."  I stare at her face --- I see the 29 year old I fell in love with. I honestly never see any flaws on her. There was even a time when Mad 'thought' she had put on weight. I never noticed. To me, she was the same beautiful and curvy woman I fell in love with. Since then, she has lost all the weight she put on, but the fact is, I never even realized it until she told me when she reached her goal of getting back to 'herself' again. I always saw her as fit. Maybe that only proves that true love is literally blind to all 'thought to be' flaws and imperfections. Even when I started putting on weight, nothing other than "beautiful" was her word to describe me, as I cringed each morning stepping out of the shower into the full length mirror. There are times when I look at an old photo of myself and notice the drastic changes in my face and think, "How can she love me now?" She met me when I was 19 yrs old. At 39, I look much different. I still receive "I love yous" at least 5-10 times a day either through text messages or while having breakfast or dinner together, and especially before we go to sleep, even when I'm feeling ugly.

Mom at 19 years old...and still just as beautiful.
Sometimes we change with age, sometimes we change with stress and other times (luckily), we seem to not change at all. I admit, I'm sitting here right now procrastinating dying my gray roots. I still want to catch my wife's eyes, and yet, I know that I'm fully accepted even with my hair up in a tie wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a tee. What about the bigger picture though? To those out there who berate one another for not looking "good enough" for them or pointing out their so called flaws. My Dad used to always say, "Doesn't ya mutha' look beautiful?" I remember him saying this all the time, even as a kid, until the day he could no longer speak. He also reminded his children that they were beautiful all the time too. We can grab onto all of those comforting phrases like, "beauty is only skin deep" and "she's beautiful on the inside". Even with plus size women, they tend to have these sayings, "embrace your curves" or "weight doesn't matter" - and to some degree, in a healthy point of view, weight actually does matter in that aspect. But in terms of the beauty - the "love" that can exude from that one person to another, that's the beauty that cannot be touched or tampered with. It's the spirit of the person - the soul that thrives outward into the world that says, "My outer appearance does not define who I am." How sad is it to see a woman with a beautifully 'symmetrical' face, a perfect and slim body with beautiful hair think of herself as "ugly" and "fat"? In fact, I knew a few of these women who seem to think they're not pretty enough or not thin enough, when the truth is --- other people see them as "perfect". That's the type of torture I would never want to have: the constant battle of keeping perfect. I know I'm saying "she" a lot, but there are a lot of young men and older men who are very self-conscious of their appearances.

You know how much of a grammar nazi I am, but I love it! 
Instagram now has an online beauty pageant where young girls can go online, take a self portrait of themselves and see how many "likes" they get. There is no prize for winning other than being the prettiest of the bunch, but the one who loses may also lose their self-esteem and self-worth in the process, and perhaps their own life if thought to be the "ugly duckling".  This contest is so incredibly destructive to kids who are trying to get validation that they're "pretty" enough or "hot" enough. A few weeks ago, I noticed a friend of mine (who is probably in her late thirties like me) who was posting semi-racy photos of herself. She's such a cute woman, dresses trendy and she has a great sense of humor, but her photos screamed, "Please, someone tell me I'm pretty!" One photo was a bit too much for me, granted she did look beautiful, but I was afraid that if I did "like" it, that it would seem inappropriate. So I left it alone. Many other of her friends left it alone too. She then put a status message up that said, "WTH?? Why didn't anybody like my last pic?" She felt really bad about herself that nobody attempted to "like" it. I called her out on it and said, "You don't need to do that. You're such a beautiful girl and you don't need validation from anyone to let you know you're pretty." She then admitted to me that her ex-husband used to call her "ugly" and made fun of her weight problem, so she lost like 50 lbs and began to feel better about herself. But she still needed validation from others. How can someone who claims they truly love you, tell you that you're "ugly" or make fun of a weight problem in a destructive way? The "ugly" part I don't get. Why did you pursue them to begin with? If your partner is having a weight problem, exercise with them or cook healthy meals -- constructive solutions --if that person wants it.  If someone feels the need to criticize someone else's appearance - even through frivolous chatter amongst friends, it only tells me that the person speaking has a lot of self-esteem issues. Sometimes, you have to read deeper into it.

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For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shady Customer Service

Rant 1: You'll have to excuse me for I'm PMSing a bit edgy today. I have had it up to my nostrils with customer service these days. And granted, I was a customer service rep for quite a few years -- I just don't know how people do business anymore. I also blame companies for hiring these ghetto monkeys people who deliver or come over to repair anything in your home. It's disturbing. There's a few groups of people I am referring to, so I'm not racist, I just hate everyone right now. The first group of men (because there wasn't a single woman on the job sadly), came over to put in my internet, phone and cable service. They denied me service because the pole behind my house was behind bushes. They guy said, "Oh shieeet, we ain't climbing dat!" I reminded them that they were phone technicians. This is the job they signed up for. "But there can be snakes in those bushes." They left. I called Optimum Online / Cablevision to let them know they sent a couple of cowards to my house. They apologized profusely and then sent over these kids who were straight out of a rundown alley. Observations: #1. Their asses were hanging out of their pants. #2. They were blasting rap music out of their van. #3. They reeked of pot. "Ma'am, you're gonna hafta' call the electric company to remove the brush near the pole." Again, service denied. Finally, they sent over a big brawny looking Hercules type of guy who instantly hopped onto the pole and voila --- service was on. I was so incredibly happy (being that I was without internet/cable or phone for over 3 weeks at the new place) that I invited him to stay for our BBQ & had a few beers with him. It was his last call for the evening. We enjoyed his company...and service.

Rant 2: Back to the same company, and by this point, maybe I should have switched already. I called because I received an email with my cable/internet/phone bill. I normally pay $165.00 a month for service. It read, $330 something or other instead. And no, I didn't order any porn, besides, you can get that free on the internet, but I'm Christian, so...(crosses eyes). I literally had to sit down, take a deep breath before calling the poor customer service rep who I was planning to rip her a new asshole tell my story to so I could at least clear this up. Like they say, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, right? As soon as the rep answered, I immediately said, "I don't wanna pay my phone bill" --- she laughed and said, "I don't blame you - what happened here?" --- Rapport was established. For some reason, my automatic online payments had dropped and it collected from the last month. It was no one's fault other than an electronical "glitch" in the system. I opted for manual payments now since it keeps doing this more frequently than not, but my point is --- sometimes you do get that awesome representative that makes you think, "Hmm, this company isn't that bad." Customer service is the face of all companies. And I have to say that the customer is not always right. That's just a 'motivational lie' to make you service the companies' customers to the best of your ability --- until one day you lose it and find yourself somewhere rocking in a corner of a padded room with a straight jacket on.


Rant 3: This one is kind of funny and cute. One day I was waiting for furniture. This was about 2 months ago. There was still snow on the ground and I was hoping the big truck was going to make it up our driveway. Nobody goes by 'timeframes' anymore --- they tell you from 1pm till 6pm and then end up being at your house at 8am. This is how it started. So while I'm walking my dog in the morning, I hear a bunch of guys speaking in Spanish guiding a huge truck down the hill of our driveway to make sure they wouldn't hit anything. There were 3 guys in the front of the truck waving him on, and two inside. There was canny Mexican music blaring out from the truck -- the type with horns and the whole deal. I watched them as they made their way into the driveway in front of my house. They were opening the back of the truck, but they had to do one thing before delivering my couch. They climbed on top of this old oak tree in front of my house - two sitting on one branch and one guy swinging from another. I seriously thought it would break off and I'd be sued. They were taking pictures because the view behind them was beautiful. But this scene was so hysterical, I quickly went to find my iPhone, but by the time I grabbed it off the counter to take an Instagram pic of them --- they were done. They were very helpful, put together everything, brought a huge couch upstairs, put together a bed in another room downstairs and basically worked their asses off. One problem: why is it any time service people are over, they need to use the bathroom? I get it - nature calls - but a longggg time ago my mother let this furniture guy use her bathroom and all of her medications in the cabinet were wiped out. I always get this feeling like they're planning or plotting something. Not only did they reek of booze, but one man asked if I was married while we were waiting for the last guy to finish up. I told him my husband was a cop and should be home any minute. No comment after that. A few times, they were on their cell phones talking about going to the bar after work. I mean, I'm no stranger to the bar scene, but come on.

"Umm, ma'am, are you black?"
Rant 4: Why are people hiring shady characters? I don't get it. If you want your business to succeed - why are you grabbing these unprofessional dimwits to deliver furniture to your customers? And this has absolutely nothing to do with nationality, race, religion or whatever --- it has everything to do with their behavior and sadly sometimes, incompetence. And I kid you not --- there was a time when I called customer service for a cell phone company and after a heated debate about charges that were on my bill, she had the audacity to ask if I was black just because I had a New York accent. I don't care what type of context it was in - you. do. not. ask. that. So, I asked for her manager, told her I was black and said that was discriminatory and she should listen to the recording of the phone call itself. One thing to keep in mind about phone companies who "claim" they record phone calls --- the company I used to work at "randomly" did when observing their employees only. Other than that - it's a free for all. I was able to switch companies without the consequences of breaking the contract. I was off scott free. So now when my phone service goes out, I just search it on Twitter to see if others are experiencing a problem before my last resort: customer service hell. /end rant

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Faith

In my previous post, I spoke about faith and about the dream I had that could have been taken as an outer body experience. Dreams are dreams, right? I also spoke about whether or not a spiritual experience was just a burst of euphoric events in our brain, giving us a "god-like" presence. I did forget one thing that let me know that there was indeed a god, or at least, a place where my Dad was being taken to. It was last year, on a Saturday, July 21rst. Dad was in hospice and not expected to live much longer. I was there all week, and needed just to breathe in the morning, have a peaceful breakfast outside with Madelene and then head up to say my final goodbyes. As I said before, most of my relatives die on the 21rst of whatever month. I wanted to wait after 12:21, because it's a number I see all. the. time. when I look at the clock. It happens too often. After 12:21, I would head up to where Dad was. At 12:21 pm, this moth came flying down and onto the picnic table that I had my coffee on. I stared at it because the color was so unique and the texture almost looked like it was made out of wood, but as I looked a bit longer, I saw that it was a descending angel - it looked as though she was raising her hands about to lift off into the sky. Again, like I said in my previous post, it's like seeing Jesus in a groove in some oak tree or a piece of toast that has the Virgin Mary on it. But take a look at the image. And, on 12:21pm. Then, moments later, my sister called me and said, "Deb?...............He's gone."

It says in Matthew 17:20, "'You didn't have enough faith,' Jesus told them. 'I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.'" The problem I see with this is that it is impossible to move a mountain. Literally, yes...I guess you can say 'you have to read more into it', but what about having faith as little as a mustard seed? Does it mean we can kinda-sorta believe in God? What if our faith is flawed or doubted in any way? In Christianity, if you don't believe, you don't go to heaven. There are so many flaws to "religion" -- or should I say "unbelievable" stuff, and perhaps many contradictions to the rules. See, I want to believe Dad went to heaven and that he's in a much better place -- as the ol' grieving cliched advice goes, but I guess it's normal to want more proof. Don't get me wrong, I still believe and I still pray, it's just that small percentage in my brain that says, "What if?" I received a few emails from my readers asking if I was okay. I'm writing what I've been tossing around in my head for some time, maybe to get feedback, maybe to just vent, or maybe...to have God hear me, or better yet, read me. Have you ever wondered what keeps your faith strong --- in anything --- what keeps you still believing in whatever it is that you believe?

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

To Believe or Not to Believe

Stepping outside of my faith in God, I have to say religion is a funny and strange concept. Here you have so many people living on earth believing in numerous "gods" without an ounce of concrete proof. Our faith is supposed to gather all the "spiritual experiences" it can, if we're willing enough. And on the scientific end of it, our brain can manifest such euphoria - a "god-like" feeling which can be confused with "God's presence". Many Catholics have seen "evidence" --- a statue of religious figures crying, a wood groove on an oak tree that resembled a man with a beard (Jesus) or seeing the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast up for bids on eBay. We're completely awed by it, until someone tells us it was rigged or tampered with -- or, that it was just a coincidence that their mind "saw" Jesus and not a groove that somehow can be looked at as a man with a beard.  For me, I have had confirmations of messages of God -- like seeing the same scripture three times in one day. "Hmm, must mean something!" -- And while it does for me, it can totally mean coincidence for somebody else who doesn't have faith in religion. I sometimes wondered (still do kind of) if religion was a made up theory or myth so that people here on earth wouldn't have a fear of dying. Let's face it, the thought of death is our worst fear. Even if you're the most religious person, dying and going somewhere into the "unknown" -- even if that "unknown" is heaven -- it's still a scary transition. Will I be in pain? Will it hurt? Will I be lost for a while? Will someone greet me? Will I make it into heaven? All these questions have people absolutely scared out of their minds. So we ease them with religion -- a concept of not fearing what's on the other side. Or, has God already done that? Has he already eased the minds of all who are faithful?

In John 20:29 it states, "Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" Do we get more rewards when we don't ask for proof? There is a section of the Bible that states it's bad to ask for proof -- it basically means that you lack faith. It's like sitting in an underground bunker, and some man walks inside and says it's raining. We can either believe him or we can go out and check for ourselves. But we can't with religion.  In a strange dream I had a couple of weeks ago, I was swept up from out of my body, straight into a huge hospital-like building with tons of doctors in white coats (I know what you're thinking, no not a psyche ward), they were more like scientists and doctors experimenting and doing studies of some sort. I don't remember much of the middle of the dream, however, when I finally got out of the room to make it into the corridor of the building, I remember falling and sitting on the floor. I was almost to the elevator - but it wasn't an elevator - it was a way to get "home" - here on earth. It was like this time traveling shaft that would speed you into your designated dimension. I had to be escorted by some guy in a yellow suit who knew how to travel this shaft properly, so that I would get off at my "stop" -- like a bus. But before I made it into the "elevator" --- some doctor or scientist started running towards us screaming, "Don't let her go yet! Wait!" He then explained that I must not tell a soul about my experience when I get back home. I can't let any one of my friends, family or even strangers know about this place. He explained that each person or group on earth has their "Jesus" or "Allah" or "Buddah" -- and by explaining experience, it may take away their faith in their "little gods". See, he was trying to say that this "hospital" or "facility" was the creator of us. So by seeing "his people" form religious groups and seeing the many challenges we have here in political ways, it was determined who was the "brightest monkey" so to speak. They then placed me in the elevator, which I thought would be a smooth ride, but instead, it fell, letting us go faster and faster as the gravity took us down at such an incredibly high speed. I tried screaming out to the expert who was with me, "We're gonna fall and die! Stop this thing!" And he smiled and said, "And off you go!!!"  I then floated out of what looked like a building in its first skeletons - still under construction. I then drifted off into the night, going through familiar roads that led to my house and then back into my body. When I woke up, my heart was racing so fast, and I kept hearing the words of the scientist guy telling me, "Do not tell anyone about this place!" --- Almost threatening me if I did.

I sat up in bed the rest of the night - not sleeping for one second more. Madelene asked, "You okay? Did you have a nightmare?" I just nodded my head and said, "Yeah, don't worry I'm fine."  But I wasn't. This dream shook me up so much that I was afraid to tell anyone about it. The next day I was talking to my mother and she asked, "How'd you sleep last night?" I told her I was up all night with nightmares, and she asked, "Oh what did you dream about?" -- Which she never asks... "I forgot." I didn't though. I remembered all too well and it stuck with me. As days went on, I sort of relieved myself from the constant thought of that dream. I finally told Madelene about the dream and as much faith as she has, she believes that some religious faiths were meant to do just that. Later that evening as I was falling asleep when Madelene was watching some apocalyptic type of documentary -- they started to speak about different faiths and how religion keeps them from fearing the worst. It was then I muttered out, "People have their 'Jesus'', their 'Allahs' and their 'Buddahs' and that's what keeps them living with hope and less fear." I then realized what I said, as though I had absolutely zero faith in God and started to wonder about my dream again....about my faith again...about the dream again. All these thoughts now rush through my mind: Where did Dad go? What did he see when he opened his eyes really wide for the last time before he took his last breath? Is he okay? Is he in some sort of experimental facility or is he in "heaven"? Or, is he now just apart of this earth we call home? This is when I start feeling betrayed by God - like how can you leave our minds, our hearts up in limbo not knowing for sure? But, they say, that's where faith comes in. Faith. Some had faith in Greek mythology. Hell, I had faith in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny till someone told me the truth. And Easter is derived from a pagan - a goddess named, "Ä’ostre", pronounced, "Easter". She was the goddess of fertility. They painted elaborate and decorative eggs and the bunnies were a symbol of fertility. It was a Pagan holiday - so how did Jesus' resurrection take over the entire meaning of its name?

Where are you, Dad?
But I digress. I guess I'm having a hard time lately "believing" or not believing. I'm not quite sure which it is. It makes it especially hard when you have a loved one who recently passes and you have no clue as to where they went. That part bothers me a lot. My dad used to sit outside with me out on the patio and say, "When I'm gone, (which was heard more than enough times), I'm sending a hawk as a sign!" As if that was such a rare thing up here. There are hawks everywhere!  But now, my mother points up to the sky and says, "There's Daddy!" And it makes her feel somewhat comforted. I have to admit, when I see one swooping down, I kind of giggle to myself and say, "Hi Dad" under my breath, hoping he can hear me wherever he is. So even though my faith has dwindled just a tad, I can see how it keeps us all together, all somewhat sane and comforted as we travel through life wondering about the unknown places we're about to embark on. I still pray. I still have faith that God hears me. I guess it's still there, until the day I stop praying, perhaps thinking it's just random chitchats to myself. And while I know the Bible inside out, can quote scriptures and verses like it's nobody's business, I also know that it's a man-made book inspired... inspired by God, or maybe a euphoric generated inspired thought from the most powerful organ we have: our brain. I still believe. I still believe. I still believe. Say it.


For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes! 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Technology Doing the Legwork

As a blogger, I read quite a lot of other people's blogs. As an author, I read lot of other people's books. As a musician and guitarist, of course, the same applies. Isn't that how we learn and how we get new ideas or perhaps even opposing ones? When you're half awake, maybe sipping on your first cup of joe and reading someone else's blog, the first thing that needs to be embedded into your noggin is that blogs are simply opinions or facts taken from other sources. I have seen so many people get riled up over activists' posts and articles that are written to do just that --- stir the pot. While taking everything with a grain of salt, we sometimes fall under a 'thought-to-be' personal attack that we think is either uncalled for or unnecessary. Simple "X" out and move on. Read it like a bad article in the newspaper. No nasty comments can be thrown at the author. But people want their voice to be heard. And why not? They want their opposing opinions to whiplash the offending writer. And sometimes, yes, your opinion on their website can make a difference or persuade someone else's opinion, but most of the time, it's only validating your point of view to be...right. Everybody wants to be seen as "right", and that's perfectly normal. These days, nobody wants to read more than 140 characters and dare I even say, finish reading someone's blog post unless they are sincerely and truly interested in that person's opinion. We're all microblogging because we can't concentrate on one thing for more than five seconds at a time. We can click a "like" button to let a friend know that we love their new profile pic. We can write a short comment letting others know our opinion or how we thought a particular post was sort of funny. We made a shortcut to reading, and sadly...writing. We hardly even talk to one another anymore. We text - and isn't that ironic? But, truth be told, texting is much simpler - a short and sweet response to something you don't wish to elaborate on. Who wants to have an entire conversation especially with the awkward moment of trying to get off the phone with someone? Nobody. And let's face it, some people just don't know how to end a phone call. One rule about phone calls? Once you hear somebody sing, "Okayyyy", time to let them go. NOW. But we don't. We have just one more thing to say.

Remember when photography was one of the great commodities in this world? A professional photo taken by a 35 mm camera which used the good ol' obsolete film with no photoshop available was one of the hardest hobbies and careers to master. I remember when I was working for a nearby art gallery. We were having an exhibit one evening for local photographers who were showing their work. It was a transitioning time when the digital cameras were emerging, and the world of film lovers were outraged by the simplicities of their methods used. It was no longer a "hard career" or a "crafted hobby". Anybody can do it now. The film people were stubborn, never letting go of their strips of film or developing their own masterpieces. It took the fun out of photography for them. "Photoshopping" back in the day meant distorting your images in water with a piece of paper - real work involved. Now, anyone can snap a picture on their iPhone, use one of their filters to distort or enhance their images, and voila --- instant professional photographer. But to 'real photographers', they know good photography - real photography - and if you have an eye for good photography -- you'll definitely know the difference. Sure, the Instagram age is kinda cool and it suffices when you want to share that delicious cup of coffee or that amazing sunrise when you don't have a 35 mm film camera around, but once you compare a professional photo against an Instagram photo, there's no comparison. Just like a tweet vs. a blog post. Simple vs. elaborate. I admit, I've come to limit my professional photos to Instagram due to convenience and I also use Youtube as a platform to become a so called "filmmaker". It makes it easier. I can even edit a short film on my iPhone. How much simpler can it get? Granted, it's not as good, but when do we start calling ourselves professionals if we have technology to do all the legwork for us? What do you think?

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For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!