Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mental Illness: Break the Stigma

Through years of being in and out of therapy and numerous psychologists, psychiatrists, LCWs, PhDs, MDs, XYZs - I have discovered something fascinating: the internet. It's no secret that I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder, and along with it comes that brutal wave of depression. But depression is not my root problem. Anxiety is my enemy. I've had it ever since I was 16 years old. I have PTSD. Plenty of doctors have tried throwing antidepressants to get rid of my…anxiety. Why are you giving me an antiDEPRESSANT for my anxiety? They said that anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand. The only thing these antidepressants did for me was give me more anxiety by creating that little 'boost' when you're are in a funk. I have coffee for that. There are too many unqualified "doctors" bringing in suffering patients for only 15 minutes, giving them a diagnosis and a script to boot. That's not enough. Big pharma gives these doctors kickbacks and usually, some of these new medicines are borderline experimental.

People suffer in many different ways when it comes to anxiety and depression. It doesn't affect everyone the same exact way. In the same breath, many people handle their emotional issues differently. What works best for them may not work best for you, and vise/versa. What frustrates me the most is when someone who has periodic and random anger bursts, will "suggest" that I should try an antidepressant for my anxiety attacks. Right there is a total contradiction, an antiDEPRESSANT for anxiety. Another contradiction is that his or her form of anxiety manifest into random anger outbursts.

"Well it works for me."
"Umm, no it doesn't."

Listen, it all comes down to "my crazy is different from your crazy" and that's that. If a behavior is potentially harmful, abusive or destructive in any way - then that needs to be addressed ASAP. But if someone is having a random panic attack here and there or depressive episodes from time to time, there are natural remedies that will ease pain and suffering. There are so many things people can do, from getting blood work to check if your body is deficient in a nutrient to turning to holistic practices, like acupuncture or even massage therapy. I prefer Reiki. Another thing is, many people are deficient in vitamin D which is a huge factor in being depressed. SAD, (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is due to a lack of sunlight and shorter days in the winter. It's a lack of vitamin D. You can take supplements, sit in a tanning bed for 10 minutes at a time, or you can just walk outside and face the sun for 15 minutes. Vitamin D comes in many foods, especially eggs and milk, but if you are deficient  - you may want to take a supplement like I do. I take 3,000 IUs of vitamin D a day. Vitamin D is even more important than vitamin C for immunity and it helps prevent heart disease as well. This is what I've learned these past couple of years.

Talk therapy is important, but keep in mind there are a lot of quacks out there in the psychology field. I'll never forget one therapist who revealed something she really shouldn't have. She explained her experience in being adducted by aliens in. full. detail. My jaw was on the floor and my last check was made out to cash grudgingly. I can't even count how many times these psychologists would talk about their own lives while trying to "help" me. I should have gotten paid for all those visits. I used to walk out thinking, "What was that?" And "Why did I have to know all that?" Recently, a well-known psychologist took it upon himself to show me his collection of Ani DiFranco albums -- vinyls! Impressive, but there was so much wrong with that scene. First, only a lesbian would show you her collection of Ani albums. Secondly, Ani's music came out well after the LP era. That's neither here nor there, but my point is: why are you treating me like a guest?

There's always a certain type of stigma around being in therapy. You either have to be "crazy" or have a whole lotta' issues brewing. But in my opinion, if someone is volunteering to go to therapy, that only means that they got their shit together even more so than the average cray cray. And let's just admit that we are all crazy in our little (or big) ways. Life would be boring if everyone was normal. I once got offended while being on the subject of anxiety and depression with a friend because he mentioned "mental illness" - and I was so in denial, that I actually got upset over it. Well, isn't anxiety and depression a form of mental illness? We all have issues, baggages, and carry a lot of crap in our hearts that may affect how we treat other people. But we can also control those little zingers if we try. While on the topic on how we treat other people, sometimes we just have to suck it up and forgive. But what if the offense was so large, that the forgiving part was doable, but the forgetting part is a bit harder to do? When you replay a traumatic event or an offense that happened to you in the past, the flashbacks are just too vivid for you to literally "forget". And that's okay. Forgetting comes with time. And by due time, those offenses can't be remembered if you truly forgive someone.

A lot of anxiety can come from being bitter and not forgiving others as often as you should. One of my favorite quotes from the bible is this one:

"Peter came to him and asked, 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?'
'No!' Jesus replied, 'seventy times seven!'" ~Matthew 18:21-22

There are times when you feel anxiety, panic and depression and don't know why. This is why so many people are in therapy today - to try and figure it all out. Usually, it has something to do with a hurt in the past that wasn't quite forgiven or resolved. Unresolved issues brew and brew until it manifests into a full blown anxiety attack or a deep depression. You don't even have to be consciously thinking about it. I'm am NO expert, but this is what I have experienced myself. So whenever I find myself tense, or full of anxiety, I try to evaluate each relationship I have with every single person in my life. I usually come up with the answer. And usually, it's my hardened heart that needs to be softened a little. Conflict and war causes tension. Even if it's hard to forgive, do it anyway. Eventually, the forgiveness will turn into peace, both externally and internally. This is not to say let people keep taking advantage of you. Sometimes, forgiveness means even walking away sadly.

Recently, I read an article in the Huffington Post. I rarely comment on these things because you have to comment with your Facebook account, but it was on depression and anxiety, so I felt the need to chime in. I explained that I prefer the natural route and the one thing that works best for 'me' was praying to God. I remember a time when I was having a full fledged anxiety attack. I couldn't breathe, my heart rate was sky rocketing and I felt like I was having a heart attack. I grabbed the phone, but something told me, "Why are you relying on people to help you? Why are you using others as a crutch?" I realized that when I'm in a crisis mode, I always fail to trust my faith in God. So, I laid down and started to breathe and pray. I meditated on God and I cannot tell you how much this helped me. A calmness overcame my entire being that I was completely at peace. I used all of my faith, not just, "well it may work" type of mindset. I used every bit of faith I had. And call it psychosomatic or call it crazy - but this is what works for me. Some commenter who claims he's also a Christian said, "God is not going to help you if you have anxiety or depression."

Well, He did.

May I remind him of these scriptures:

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." ~Isaiah 41:10

"We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God." ~2 Corinthians 3:4-5

I was able to cope with my technique and leave the antiDEPRESSANTS behind. Hmm, it would be interesting to learn if he was one of these psychiatric pill pushing doctors.
If you believe in God, you should trust in God. You should never underestimate the power you have inside of you, which is God, that is, if you believe. So by this guy telling me that God's not going to help me, I just have to chuck it up to one's opinion, that's all. I can't convince him that my technique will work for everyone. It works for me, so I share it in case it helps someone else out. I want to even say he sounded angry that I used God to help me relieve my anxiety - as if someone would jump aboard my way of coping and leave the anti

Feel free to buy me these glasses.
Self-medicating. I do it. She does it. He relies on it and she sometimes caters to those who need it. Get me? People are so reliant on alcohol. You know, I have learned a few things about alcohol and people. There are certain types of people where on one hand, you have the occasional drinker, where they have 1-3 glasses of whatever, and they stop. Period. It helps them relax, unwind and forget sometimes. But then you have those who totally abuse the substance. One drink turns into three, turns into five turns into "I can't remember what happened the night before, ugh my head hurts" types of scenarios. Is it genetic? Is there anything scientifically proven that some of us have some sort of addictive gene within us that prevents us from stopping at 1 or 2 drinks? And everyone drinks - unless they're recovering alcoholics. Everyone drinks. I don't care what you say - everyone self-medicates in some way or another. Maybe they smoke cigarettes, pot, or they open a bottle of wine and call it a night. We deal with it the way we feel appropriate. But when does "appropriate" become a dangerous situation.

I kept reading this scripture that says, "Stay sober, stay alert!" in 1 Peter 5:8. I kept reading this over and over again. I had just found out my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and we were back and forth to procedures and hospitals. But thank God I decided not to finish my glass of wine I was having with dinner one evening. Mom needed me to take her to the ER…sober. I had to be there…sober. But what if I sucked down the entire bottle (which is quite easy to do since it's like 3-4 glasses of wine)? I would have been incapable of helping her in any way. But I do love my wine when I come home from a very stressful day or event. It calms me, but I also know when to stop. Some people, it's just not the best thing to do. For me? It's my choice, but I want to be functional and be available whenever someone needs me.

My point is: for anyone to judge how they self-medicate or professionally medicate themselves is absolutely ridiculous. I'm not going to judge you for not going to therapy and I expect you not to judge me for going to see a therapist. It works both ways. This entire stigma of going to therapy has become so crucial in getting proper help because too many people are embarrassed to say that they need help. So whether you decide on getting professional help or you decide to do it on your own with natural remedies, remember that sometimes it's very healing to talk to someone from an outsider's point of view. The cost may be high, but if you at least go once a month to someone who does not know you, who is a qualified specialist in whatever it is you are dealing with - it may just save your life.

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!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mom Has Me Facing My Worst Fear: GERMS

There's never a dull moment and yet, there seems to be a bit of comic relief when it comes to anything in life with my mom and myself. Unfortunately, she ran into medical fiascos which left her getting a blood transfusion due to a cancerous tumor sucking the life-force right out of her. So, we sent her up to get the good ol' colonoscopy, which left her later that evening schlepping up to the ER due to a sepsis infection. Well, that left her in the hospital for the rest of the week - and what a week that was. Let me backtrack a bit and just say this: I asked her while the EMT crew was carrying her away, "Mom, which hospital do you want to go to?"

"Do I have a choice?"
"Yes. Your doctors can go to either one."

So she picked the ricketiest, oldest, almost abandoned looking hospital there is around. For the love of God, there's moss and vines growing all over the outside of the building, quite similar to The Munsters' house.

"I'm more comfortable there." she says.
"Fine."

While waiting for Mom's procedures, my two sisters and I went into the waiting room so we can see the progress on some TV screen and wait for the nurse to call us back in. To give you an idea of how old this hospital was, there was an old fashioned phone on the wall that kept ringing and ringing and ringing. Hell if I'm gonna pick it up no less contract some nasty disease from that dirty receiver. So we sat there, noses down into our iPhones. Moments later, the nurse comes charging in and yells out, "Why aren't y'all picking up this phone? I'm trying to call you! Larry? Your mom is in recovery. You can go in now." We all looked at each other like, "Who woulda' thunk?" On top of that, I have a really bad case of OCD, so when Mom kept dropping her remote control for the TV, I kept telling her, "This is the LAST time I have to disinfect myself after picking that dirty thing up off the floor. Stop!"

She laughs.

Outside of her hospital room window was quite a sight. I can't even tell you what they were trying to muster or clean up - it was in a courtyard full of generators and old abandoned equipment. There was broken glass windows and huge central air and heating units that blared out the most obnoxious noise.

So we got this nurse named, Alice. She was a spitting image of Berta from Two and a Half Men. She was feisty, rude, sarcastic and just loved my mom to pieces. So all in all - she was just great. Mom was desperate for a cigarette. She was now on her third day without one.

"I feel fine and I haven't smoked for three days." she says all proudly. But we all knew how quick she'd jump up if the nurse said, "Cigarette break?"

When I came back to her room from using their bathroom (which had numerous tiles missing and black mold forming at every corner imaginable), I heard a nurse screaming in the other room to this older gentleman.

"Again? You can't smoke in the hospital! This is the last time, George!"

I chuckled and told Mom some guy was smoking in his room next-door.

"Oh pass me my cigarettes! Really? He was smoking?"
"He got in trouble, Ma…"

I spent most of the days there, sitting with Mom and watching game shows and pumping the antibacterial gel dispensers like it was Pez. A lady from the cafeteria came in and wanted to take Mom's order for dinner. It was around 4 o'clock or so, and I was about to leave anyway. The nice lady turned to me and asked, "And what would you like? We have encrusted fish with roasted potatoes with diced onions and mushrooms with your choice of beverage." It sounded like a 4 star hotel, but I graciously declined.

Later that night, I called Mom. Well, I more or less pranked Mom.

"Hello?"

And in my most annoying 'happy-go-lucky-nurse' voice, I said, "Hi! This is Wendy over at the nurses' counter! I hear that you would be interested in an e-cigarette? Is that correct?"

"Oh yes, please! Oh thank you so much! Oh, please yes!"

*silence*

"So how was your 'encrusted' fish, Ma?"
"That's mean! That was mean! And it wasn't encrusted fish. They were fish sticks."

On Saturday morning, I went to go pick Mom up. I already planned on staying maybe 5 + hours just to check out. So I made myself comfortable and watched some more game shows. I brought her 1 cigarette in an empty pack and a small lighter per her request. When Alice, aka "Berta" came back into the room, she placed her bag onto the chair and saw the pack of cigarettes. She grabbed them. Mom looked over quickly, still attached to her IV and tried swiping them out from her grip. Berta swung back and put them far behind her.

"Oh no you don't!"
"Gimme' them! Gimme' them," Mom begged as she reached over as much as she could.
"These are bad for you!" Alice said as she tucked them into her pocket.
"You just want them for yourself! Ya' told me you quit not too long ago!"

Mom was so desperate that Alice finally gave in and threw the pack of one into her bag again. She then looked over at my two sisters who were frantically texting away in the corner and just shook her head. I watched Alice as she was taking down one bag of blood to replace it with another. I cringed when she was holding the caps of the tubes with her own mouth. As some of the adhesives fell onto the floor, she quickly picked them up and continued to use them anyway. I turned to watch the TV instead because my OCD was in high gear at this point. Another problem I had was that Alice spoke way too much for that small room. And what I mean by that is, the room was much too small for the amount of halitosis that came flowing out into my direction. I cannot tell you how many times I had to hold my breath in. I have never seen a room so small. When you opened the door, it was not even an inch away from the bed itself. My chair was tucked away in the corner, along with some dirty gauzes and a few wrappers that never got swept up from the patient before Mom.

So, Mom's doing okay right now. Her infection is gone and her blood levels are now normal. She has appointments with Sloan Kettering in NYC and not some rickety old shack up in the mountains to meet some hillbilly medicine man, thankfully. For now, please send some extra prayers, extra positive energy and maybe even some extra vodka for us. Mom is also excited about Friday. Why you ask? It's then she can have her martini, because the antibiotics that were given to her are the same ones they give to alcoholics when they're trying to dry out. So if you have even a sip of alcohol, you puke. Lovely, right? We had a beautiful afternoon with our family who visited us from Brooklyn. Mom and her sister are like best friends. She came up with my Uncle Tony (who I mimic quite often).  It was nice to see her laughing and feeling good again. So please keep sending your positive energy our way. Mom wants me to document all of our funny stories while we take this journey and kick cancer's ass together!

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!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

W. W. Bridal Boutique's Bigotry

The definition of bigot is: "a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion." So I am absolutely correct in using the word "bigotry" for W.W. Bridal Boutique. Think about it: if I walked into a Macy's and asked one of their representatives if they could help me and my partner find dresses for our wedding, what would happen if they refused us just because we're lesbians? What if we walked into a bakery and asked if they could make us a cake for our wedding and they said no due to our lifestyle? "Freedom of religion" is being abused and demonstrated as an excuse to discriminate against same sex couples. When I heard about W. W. Bridal Boutique discriminating against a lesbian couple who only wanted to purchase a dress, I felt complete sadness. On their Facebook review section, I gave them a 1 star with a few words:

"★☆☆☆☆ Too many people like to play God. Remember 50+ years ago when it was illegal for interracial couples to marry? Remember when slavery "okay" - and still is according to the Bible? Remember how Jesus accepted the "immoral woman" in the Bible? Remember who Jesus hung out with? #wwjd"

To judge or not to judge. That, is the question.

Mandy Grgich was one of the commenters who weighed in. She stated that her husband was black after being reminded about interracial marriage being illegal over 50 years ago. Centuries before the same-sex marriage movement, the U.S. government, its constituent states, and their colonial predecessors tackled the controversial issue of "miscegenation": race-mixing. It's widely known that the Deep South banned interracial marriages until 1967, but less widely known that many other states did the same (California until 1948, for example) - or that three brazen attempts were made to ban interracial marriages nationally by amending the U.S. Constitution. 116 comments later, I discovered how many Christians focus on one particular 'thought-to-be' sin. Interestingly enough, a woman named Mandy Grgich had a lot to say regarding the sin of homosexuality, as she relentlessly argued with the others on the same thread. One commenter stated the obvious: on Mandy's profile, she has a photo along with her husband. Then you can see her kids (on the right) are at least 3 or 4 years of age. Her wedding date was just this past May. (Do the math.) So, the commenter questioned her premarital sex, seeing that she has kids older than her marriage. Too bad her children will most likely be brought up in a home where they'll be taught intolerance and bigotry. These sweet little girls may just grow up to be bullies to other kids who happen to be gay or lesbian. Let's hope that doesn't happen. The same commenter was stating what I was mentioning in my review above, on how it was illegal for interracial marriages over 50 years ago. Mandy stated she is married to a black man. So she said, "I hope one day a store refuses you and your husband from purchasing something just because he's black."

Her response ironically, was this: "But you hope someone turns down a black and white couple? THAT IS RACIST." I believe she should read this article and timeline review on interracial marriage. She also stated that she doesn't particularly care for immorality. She compared same sex marriage to pedophilia. I guess you can see how bright this girl is.

The thread became volatile during the debate, from name calling to irrational responses and harsh judgments out of anger - out of bigotry - out of hatred - out of fear of the unknown. When people focus on 'something' they particularly don't like, to the point of passionately being against it - it shows me that they have a little of that in themselves. For instance, there was a study done to show that these homophobic religious people are in fact, closet homosexuals. They investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men and a group of non-homophobic men. They were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies. Why does homosexuality provoke such hatred if it has nothing to do with the individual? Maybe because it reveals some part of them that is deeply rooted and seated? Feel free to watch this very revealing video. Click here.

601 Market St, Bloomsburg, PA 17815
(570) 784-6216
But back to W. W. Bridal Boutique: why would you turn down business for a lesbian couple, and not for a couple who has had premarital sex? Would you turn them down if you knew that this was the fifth marriage of the bride, while all ex husbands were still alive? That in itself, in the bible, is considered adultery. That sin made it on the top Ten Commandments. Homosexuality didn't. I bet you anything that this owner would have sold a pregnant woman a bridal gown in a heartbeat. It's so hypocritical of their "religious values" to just shun a lesbian couple - two women who want to share the rest of their lives with one another.  If they're going to play "GOD", then they should start judging every relationship - in fact, they should take them into a small room and evaluate every single sin in their life and then reject them, if need be. But maybe most importantly, they should evaluate their own lives and own downfalls. We all fall short.

I went onto their Yelp reviews and saw someone by the name of Mary complained about not only their horrible business transaction, but how they forced their religion on them by slipping "holy pamphlets" into their garments.

It reads: "I purchased two bridesmaids gowns for my two daughters at this boutique. They were great and friendly when getting the brides gown and the bridesmaids gowns. They were not so great after this. They never notified me that I had to pay $40 additional rush shipping fees for the dresses. One of the other bridesmaids did not send in measurements in time. We did specifically inquire about additional rush fees prior to purchasing the gowns & were told there would be none. They blamed the bride about not being notified. I notified them that I would be picking up the gowns the friday before the wedding and they assured me that it would be fine. I live about 100 miles away from the boutique. I did not need to call ahead or make an appointment. I arrived to the boutique and it was closed because they were on vacation. I was able to get the dresses prior to the wedding but they never offered any apologies or an explantation. AGAIN they blamed the bride. They said that they mailed a postcard about the closure to the bride???? Am I not the customer who paid for these dresses. Why would they take my cell phone number for a contact information & never use it. They also attached a religious pamphlet from the assembly of god to both of my daughters dresses. NOT appropriate. Also about 4 of the gowns had black grease on the skirt. The bridesmaids did not all get dressed in the same location or pick up together. The only commonality is the boutique. I purchased my own brides gown at Exclusively Yours. They were wonderful."

100 people thought Mary's comment was useful. If you're going to shove your religion down other people's throats, then at least be a bit more tolerant when you feel gay marriage is being shoved down yours.

Let this boutique cast the first stone.

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!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Don't Cry II

"Why are you stifling your cries? Crying is supposed to be somewhat of a loud event." Jeffrey looked at me puzzled, as I sat across from him not crying hard enough. In the past 12 years I've been going to him for counseling, he has never once seen me cry before. To me, I was having a full-fledged meltdown. To him? I was just sniffling over something trivial, like watching the ending of Titanic.

"Louder?" I asked.
"Yes. You're holding back. Let it out."

I sniffled some more, wiped my nose and then said, "I don't know how."  I spoke about this 5 years ago on this previous article and it mentions more about how Mom always told me, "Don't cry, mama - don't cry." I told Jeffrey about it and how my father did the same thing. They both wanted to see all of their kids happy. Crying meant that they were 100% unhappy with everything. So, even if you were crying over a heartbreak, it meant somehow, you weren't happy with the life they provided for you. It has a lot to do with overall happiness, rather than circumstantial. I explained to Jeffrey a story that my father always used to tell, even during his last days here with us.

At the age of 4 years old, I had this horrible cold. I was sniffling and couldn't breathe through my nose. On top of that, I had croup cough and I was just plain miserable. While sitting on the carpet playing with my toys, I started crying because I couldn't breathe.

"Don't cry baby, don't cry."
"B-b-b-but why not?" as I sniffled and coughed in his direction.
"Because if you cry, you won't be able to breathe at all!"

As I finally succumbed to it and remained as quiet as possible, until the tears started flowing harder.

"Just a little bit," as I measured an inch between my thumb and pointer finger, "Just a little bit?"
You could see the amusement in my father's face as he said, "Okay, just one more minute and that's it."

Back in 2011, I was going through a turbulent time. I thought Dad was inside sleeping off the oxycontin, when all of the sudden, I see him running out from his bedroom with his arms stretched out heading toward me - nephrostomy tubes n' all.

"What's wrong? Don't cry baby! Don't cry!" He hugged me so tight and then said, "I hate seeing you cry! Don't cry!"

It was the first bear hug Dad had ever given me. He was more of a problem solver, not much of an emotional crutch. He didn't know how to handle an emotional girl or woman blubbering about whatever. Mom was the caretaker for that, and even so, you would still get the same message, "Don't cry, mama."  It was out of love, more than it was about control. They just wanted to see us happy all. the. time. And what parent doesn't want that?

On one of Dad's last days here, before hospice shuffled him up to the hospital to his final resting days, (aka 'drugged up coma') - we got to say goodbye to him. He was awake and fully aware. Each family member got to go in and say something, give him a kiss and make sure he knew we all loved him. As I cried my eyes out in the other room, I heard, "Deb! Deb! Come in here, Dad wants a kiss from you."

I sucked it up, dried my eyes and went in…with humor. That's the only way I can cope with things. As I approached his ashen colored body just lying there, it took all of me to 'hold it together' and…not cry.

"This is gonna cost you, you know."
He laughed and nodded, he couldn't say very many words at this point. I kissed him on the forehead and said, "I love you, Dad."
He cracked another smile, as I rubbed his silver hair. As I got up before I started crying my eyes out, I mumbled, "Don't think I won't pickpocket you on the way out."
I got another laugh, possibly the last laugh he ever let out before he passed on.

I miss him calling out my nickname with his loud n' boisterous voice, "Debit!!!" And I'd reply with a louder yelp, "Poppayyyy!"  We did that every time we saw one another. It started when I was a kid, sucking every bit of change and dollar bills right out of his pocket. So the name remained, "Debit".
When Dad passed on, I would have these vivid dreams of him. Some of which he was telling me, "Don't let ya' mutha see you cryin'."  And I promised I wouldn't. But now I sit here, worrying over the new health scare that the doctor told my mother. I haven't slept for three nights. My eyes are puffy and red and yet, I still remember the message, "Don't let ya' mutha see you cryin'."  My mother, my best friend in the whole world, now has a potentially dangerous health scare, and I cannot for the life of me, imagine her in any sort of discomfort. So, I remain silent and stifle my tears. If I am crying, you won't hear a peep from me. It's not a "loud event", as Jeffrey would like to see, but more of a protective mechanism, so that I don't scare my mom.

So if you're reading this today and you have a few moments, would you please send some prayers and positive energy this way for my mother? I feel like the one nightmare I've always had as a child may be pushing through and I'm trying my best to stall it. And it's not like I am denying nature's calling, if that's God's will, but I can't lose my mom right now. Most of all, it would kill me to see her suffer. It would just kill me. Nobody wants to see their loved ones sick and I truly believe she can be one of these feisty Italians making it through till she's 110 years old. She's got too much in her to have the potential "C" word rain on her parade. She still has a long life ahead of her and in my eyes, she is still young and still has so much to experience. I need her healthy in her golden years - not suffering and full of sickness. So please, prayers! And if possible, more prayers. I am one true mama's girl.

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, August 02, 2014

How Would You Like Your Religion Cooked? Raw? Medium? Well Done?

About once a week, I put on my Joel Osteen app and listen to his message while cleaning up or when I'm doing laundry. He's great. He always starts with a silly joke and has a bunch of crazy stories that he pulls right out of his hat in every sermon. He's very entertaining - almost like a motivational speaker. He'll entitle one of his sermons and just run with it. Like for instance, the other day he had one that was called, "You're Coming Out". And no - no reference to dem' closet gays. He focuses on positive affirmations and defying any bad news or money problems.

"You're coming out of that debt!" 
"You're coming out of that addiction!"
"You're coming out of that sickness!" 
"You're coming out of that depression!" 

Then I noticed a theme with every single sermon: repetitive false hope. I don't want to be a "Debbie Downer", but I will say that some things have to happen in order for better things to arrive. And even if those "better" things don't arrive, we still have to instill our faith in everything we do. It's a test. God tests us all the time and it's not like he's sitting there plotting and scheming our demise, but he just wants to get us through the rattled and broken cage so we can be stronger, wiser or even healthier. The problem I have with a sermon that's way too positive is that it's not realistic. Life is not always positive. It can be - but you can't tell someone who just got diagnosed with terminal cancer that they're going to live forever. No one lives forever. This is life, and life isn't always pretty.

And hey, who doesn't love to hear something positive once in a while? With everything that's been happening in the world today, we really need a 'Joel Osteen boost' from time to time. I still listen to him, but I'm consciously aware that God is in control no matter what happens. I remember one night, lying in my bed, and I'm not sure if I was half dreaming or not, but I swear to you, these words entered my mind - like an impression from God. While my father was sick, we didn't really know when he was going to pass. In fact, we had a bit of hope due to his last successful surgery. I heard, "You have two fathers. One heavenly father and one earthly father. The two will both be in heaven." It was then I knew what the outcome would be. God was preparing me. I had to trust God, I had to come to terms with reality, and I needed to pray more about his painless departure rather than begging God to let Dad stay here on earth with us.

So I wonder, what does Joel Osteen do or say when all of his positive affirmations don't come to pass?  What would happen to him if God forbid (God forbid?) one of his loved ones got terminally ill? Would he be in the hospice room chanting his affirmations?  My father always used to say, "God forbid" when speaking about a potential illness or death. Does God really forbid illnesses and deaths? It's a part of life. So I find it interesting that I still use the term, "God forbid" - I guess I treat it as some sort of karmic statement. Like, if I say it, it'll happen or something. Silly superstitions. So my point is, it's better to have a positive attitude than a better outcome. This way, when you do go through something devastating, (and at some point, we all do) you won't curse life…or God.

I've also noticed that he focuses on wealth and how everybody should be rich. Well, that's not the case. And from what I've seen - I have seen more unfortunate people with faith, than I have seen with rich people. Rich people usually worship the good ol' American dollar. It's usually their idol. But I know it's not always the case. I do believe that when we have faith, we can certainly move mountains. Like, if you lose a job, I do believe another opportunity awaits, most likely a better one or something that you'll be much more grateful for. Happiness doesn't have anything to do with money. And if it does, it's that short-lived adrenaline type of high that can only last for so long. The constant joy comes from being happy with what you already have, and who you are blessed to have in your life. From what I can see, the more money you have will only be an appetizer for the endless amounts of money that's already out there. Nobody is ever satisfied - even when they receive more than they ever had in their entire lifetime. It's like, they lose themselves entirely. From greed, conflict and fake friends and family at your doorstep - it's has to weigh heavy to some degree.
But I digress. Back to these positive affirmation preachers - they're a 'feel good Sunday morning star' with no realistic goals. They can make you feel high for about a day or so, until you find out some bad news. On the other hand, you also have the extreme opposite: the doom and gloom and condemn you to hell type of preachers. Nobody wants to be scared out of their wits on Sunday morning, but some people need a dose of reality - a dose of 'what is' and not 'what to wish for'. Praying is not wishing. Praying is talking to your God. It is not bargaining with him, and promising him you'll 'do this' if 'this' happens. It's about God's will. It's about trust. I like a little happy medium, which is why I tune into Joyce Meyer. She doesn't sugarcoat things, yet she does make you feel good otherwise by relating to everyday life that we all struggle with. She's has a great sense of humor, and she also has a side that it very realistic - almost to the point of condemning, without the judgment behind it. (If that makes any sense at all.) More like, God's judgment rather than hers.

Many people are losing their faith with all that's going on in the world today. We have wars in the Middle East and deadly plagues breaking out and spreading. "How can God let this happen?" I mean, if you're going to rely that God will save you from the rapture of the world, then you need to read the Bible more. Your "world" - your "home" should be heaven, not earth. (If you are of a Christian-based faith.) We rely on our heavenly home. What bugs me about most religious zealots is that whenever something bad happens in this world, it always means it's the end of times. I bet the same people would have said the same thing if they were in the midst of WW2 and the days of the Holocaust. They said it was the end of times when we first invaded Iraq. Now today, with North Korea threatening us with nukes, our conflict with Russia, the war in Israel and the ebola outbreak, this is surely the end, right? Oh n' don't forget the extreme hot weather and the brutal winter storms (global warming) are surely a sign. Things have repeated themselves throughout history. We've had this weather before. We've had these wars before. We've had these plagues before. Nothing has changed. The world is just repeating itself. The fact remains, nobody knows the day nor hour when God will come back. And that's written in the good book.

Years ago, I used to love writing about my faith in God and sharing my favorite scriptures, but there are so many people who tore me down and discouraged me - giving me a counter scripture or a twist on their own views on a scripture. People of the same faith tore me down. They condemned me to hell and made me feel absolutely worthless. I can always say that those were "godless" people, but they can always turn around and say that I'm "godless" due to my lifestyle and/or lack of preaching scary messages to the world. With more progression in this world - marriage equality and the acceptance of those who are transgender - these religious people think that this is all a new thing. That perhaps we just got bored with the opposite gender or hey, our own gender in itself and wanted something 'different'. …No.  This has, and we have been here before Jesus even walked the earth. Society back then would've beheaded us. And now that we have progressed as a society, we are condemned from people who still go under the same ruling from years ago, as they did when slavery existed, and when it was illegal for interracial couples to marry.

God is the same yesterday as he is today as he will be forever. I also agree with that. Then why has the bible changed so drastically? Why has the translations been convoluted into different opinionated statements and passages, where people are all confused about what it truly means. Nobody can agree with religious rulings in the Bible because it's been written by man, and translated so much that people are actually falling out of faith and now questioning atheistic views. There are so many contradictories in the Bible that have people of little faith fleeing from this hot mess. Inspired by God, written by man, but remember, those "men" aren't perfect. I'm not perfect and I think it's safe to say, we're all on this carnival ride together. Might as well get along.

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, July 31, 2014

Unplug & Connect Again

This may or could be a part two of my previous post, but a bit more focused on our obsession with our smartphones. Even I have to sometimes catch myself and consciously turn my ringer off or tuck it away when I'm in the company of other people, especially in a restaurant. But it goes beyond just being rude in general. We're so focused on capturing that perfect rainbow or that amazing view of the mountainside or that incredible sunset right before nightfall, that our minds forget the actual moment. We cannot enjoy that moment, because we're too busy trying to capture it all onto our smartphones and then loading it up onto social media. I did an experiment and refrained from grabbing my iPhone because I saw a huge owl sitting peacefully up on a phone wire, on the road next to us. I could have gotten a great shot of it. It's my favorite bird in the world. Instead, I watched him jerk is head around and I looked at all of his beautiful colors, until he opened up his magnificent wings and flew away into the valley. I don't have to flip to the Instagram version of it because it's so incredibly vivid in my mind. The other day, I saw the most amazing black clouds moving in over the lake, giving it an eerie appearance. Mad said, "Take a picture!" I did. In my mind. Oh n' trust me, I'm not going to stop taking beautiful scenic pictures, but once in a while, I'm just going to sit and enjoy them like I did way before smartphones came out.

Can you imagine?
It even goes beyond smartphones. We have iPads and tablets we can cart around with us. My wife and I used to go to our favorite sushi bar every Friday night like clockwork. We sat with the same people and ate the same thing each time. It was always the same scene with the couple next to us: the husband engrossed in whatever he was doing on his iPad to which he neatly propped up against the divider of the sushi bar window. His wife either brought a girlfriend along to chat with or she would just remain silent for the remainder of her dinner. There was no conversation between them at all. I looked over from time to time, watching him flip through car sites and scroll down his Facebook feed. It's not uncommon to walk into a restaurant and see everyone's head bowed down texting or scrolling while in the company of friends and family. We've become so connected, that we're disconnected from the world right in front of us. Even when we were at the beach, people were on their phones - even with the bright sun gleaming down and a beautiful ocean in front of them - they were scrolling and scrolling and texting and texting.

Last week, I unplugged completely for one day. My wife and I were spending the day together. It was kind of funny, because I saw her struggle with the inability to maintain unplugged. All I said was, "Oh, we need eggs when we go to the farm market." She quickly grabbed her phone to put it on her digital list as well as trekked through a few sales that were brewing in our local supermarket.  I would call her "the proficient smartphone user". She's really not a frivolous texter nor does she go on social media - maybe once a month - if that. She's a huge researcher and loves her music. So when she uses her phone, she really enjoys her device. I have to say I never mind her using her phone in that way - but if she was just texting and constantly taking photos of her food (like I do sometimes), I would be a bit peeved.  On July 21rst, we brought flowers to my father's resting area and said a few words. I saw her take out her iPhone and start scrolling.

"What are you doing?"
"Trying to find a scripture I wanted to say in my eBible."
"My father just wants your presence. He'd rather you say, 'I miss you ya' big botchagaloop!' Put your phone down."

The 2nd picture is zoomed in. 
Mom stood there, asking my dad for a sign - a hawk as he promised. Not even 30 seconds later, I felt something poke me in my shoulder. We all turned around and the biggest hawk with the wingspan of a jetliner dipped down so close to us, screaming loudly - almost like, "heyyyy  heyyyy heyyyy" - and then flew back into the mountains. I have never, ever seen anything so beautiful before. And no, I didn't capture it on my iPhone. You won't see that on my Instagram. But my mother, my wife and myself will always have that memory in our minds and in our hearts. The only thing I captured was the site where he rests along with the flowers. And in the background of the photo, you can see his face almost. I guess it's like seeing Jesus on a piece of toast type of deal, but nonetheless, it comforted us.

So once in a while, unplug. Put your phones away. Enjoy the people you love to spend time with and always remember, that you will always remember those moments much more than you would if it were on Instagram. Also, the day I unplugged, I focused a lot on my music, played guitar and wrote handwritten songs. I actually became more creative and it also helped me with my writing, even though I didn't blog at all. I took time to read instead, which is the key to great writing. (Not that I'm great.) If I watch someone play guitar, I learn from their techniques and discover new and different ideas. Same way if I read a book or an article, I learn different ideas and ways to approach topics. You can't be a writer if you're not a reader. Same way as you can't be a musician without the love of listening to music.

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!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Will Libraries & Bookstores Be Obsolete Like Blockbuster & Mom & Pop Movie Rental Stores?

When I was around 18 years old, I wrote a book. It was a fictional love story about two women who were just coming out of the closet. It was also in one of those black and white composition notebooks - handwritten. Can you even remember the last time you wrote something at great length with a pen and paper? It's kind of sad today and I know I'm totally guilty of it too, but we are all microblogging and shortening great stories into 140 characters or less.  We're posting our deepest thoughts and adventures onto Facebook with only photos and a few words. We're downloading ebooks and not holding a printed out paperback or hardcover book and reading it from front to back, getting lost in every single word. There's a movie for every book and it's quite rare to hear, "the book was better" these days because nobody reads anymore. And if they do, it's the electronic version - which is fine.

But hold up…

Technology has advanced, so to keep up, we advance too. God forbid you're in an airport or hospital and your iPhone runs out of juice. Everyone is slammed up against a wall plugged into an outlet trying to reach whoever or perhaps, scrolling down a social media feed. And just because someone doesn't pick up an old fashioned book certainly doesn't mean they are not educated or 'less than' - it means it's just a different world now. For me, I find myself reading a lot of news articles and informative journalism that I would have never indulged in if it were the newspaper version. I've gained more interest in politics and current events than ever before. With that, it encourages me to get proactive in things that are important to me. So for those who choose not to stick their noses into a physical old fashioned book - I bet they have more awareness about what's going on in their own communities and surroundings. The old fashioned books just cannot do that for you. We have stepped into a world that gives us the latest information at the tip of our fingers. We're no longer interested in sitting on a huge cushy oversized chair in a cafe just to read something…that cannot update. But I do miss grabbing a latte, flipping through the pages of a book that would let me forget about my own world. Double edged sword, I guess.

We need updates!

Everybody values different things to some degree more than others. Even when you go to the beach, it's not a book they're reading, but a flat electronic smartphone. In restaurants (which is a pet peeve of mine), people are texting constantly, especially if they are alone at the bar. We are glued to these phones - in fact, it's become more of an appendage. Think about it: never before, could you have FaceTimed your mom to show her what's going on in your new college. Never before could you text someone 'real time' and let them know you'll be running late. Never before could you check your email for that important message from your boss and never before, could you take photos and videos and send them to your best friend who lives across the world. I mean - if we knew back in 1980 that we would have this kind of technology, we would've chuck all of our digital calculator watches that had the Atomic Robot game right in the garbage bin. And if you can remember that, welcome to the 40 & older club.

Even blogging in itself has become fossilized due to the short attention spans that social media has programmed into our minds.  We want short, accurate information and with that, I have noticed a huge problem with many people: their grammar. With that being said, I know I make a typo here and there, or is it "their", or is it, "they're"? People have no clue how to spell or use the correct words. Just makes you wanna lose it. Not loose it. And to be more of a grammar nazi, I have also experienced the wonderful joys of autocorrect. So, with the help of autocorrect, you can now say some really off the charts stuff. Isn't that ducking great? Can't even curse with it. My point is, because of microblogging and the lack of truly reading a book from front to back and appreciating the written word - we have now caught ourselves in a world full of terrible grammar with little to nil attention spans.

Even when you watch the news, they have the anchorperson going on about one story, while you can dip down and watch the ticker display the stock market numbers, as well as periodic breaking news coverage and more business news that they're sharing on the side of the screen. Who can multitask like this when having their first cup of coffee in the morning? We're all trying to cram everything into our small little noggins, overloaded with information that sometimes isn't even needed.  Have we gone too far? Have we bypassed technology (in our minds) and craving more & more & more updates and more & more & more technology? And on an average, how many times do you check your Twitter, Facebook or other social networking site per day? Be honest. And how many books have you read (the real book) this year? I'm almost 100% positive that one day, all libraries and bookstores will close up just like Blockbuster did, because we have everything at the tip of our fingers. What do you think?

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!