Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I wear the deceptive mask of depression #depression #mentalhealth

There are times when everything in the Universe aligns in a way that is unexpected yet validating and comforting. This past week has been one of those weeks. At a time when I was feeling alone, despondent and in need, something told me to speak up. To speak loud and clear without hesitation to share a very intimate, vulnerable and private part of my life. For as long as I can remember I have battled with depression, specifically dysthymia which is long term chronic depression. This differs from clinical depression in that it is mild - you won’t necessarily find me in a dark room, unable to move for days (however that can happen) like major depressive disorder however it can last much longer,  up to two years. My most recent bout of depression has been going on in one form or another for about a year, but reached a head about two months ago when after I did my mandatory duties as a single parent - cooking, school pickup and drop off and homework, I pretty much checked out, laid on my bed (fully dressed) and did the bare minimum.

I tried to work through it but nothing happened. I talked about what was happening to me very minimally and wore a mask that hid what was going on. Most people identify me as a gregarious, fun loving, adventurous mom, living life like it is golden - except I’m not. I wear an S on my chest not for bragging rights but because that is just what women (particularly women of color) do. Not only is this expected but having a mental health issue is often stigmatized in the Black community. Despite writing about my depression in the past, last week I decided to take off my mask and do a facebook live post explaining my situation and asking for help.

I explained that despite seeing me smiling, dancing and having fun at parties, my depression is ruling my life and even mundane tasks are a challenge. Most days are spent sitting on the couch watching marathons on Netflix. My work as a professional blogger became stagnant and it was a chore doing the bare minimum to earn a paycheck, let alone pursue more work. Exercise is the self-medication that keeps me even and despite being widely known for health and fitness (after documenting my 50 lb weight loss on social media platforms)  I haven’t consistently exercised in over year.

I revealed my true self, took off my mask and asked for what I need - words of encouragement, love and understanding. Amazingly my inbox was quickly filled with people not only encouraging me but sharing their stories. Many comments on my post co-signed what I was feeling. Strangers and friends told me I was giving them a voice, being a voice for the voiceless.

That was less than a week ago. My situation hasn’t changed. But, I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I still don’t have access to healthcare that I need but I do have friends, family and strangers who are helping me climb out of the abyss I find myself in. My major concern has been my child, I do beat myself up about not being the “perfect” parent for him. It is my hope that later in life he will understand that I did my best for the both of us.

It seems as if the Universe was conspiring with me to share my story because not only is it Mental Health awareness month but this weekend the hashtag #MyDepressionLooksLike was trending on twitter. As more of us battle this insidious disease, it is important to speak up, ask for help and practice self-care. Until mental health issues are normalized and treated like other illnesses, many of us will continue to keep our struggles under wraps and sadly we will continue to hear “but she seemed okay” when one of us decides to end the pain by taking his/her life.

My face is the face of depression. I often wear a mask but behind my brilliant smile is a woman trying to come out of the darkness. I ask that if you or someone you know struggles with depression, please take time to watch my video. It will make a difference in your life. I promise.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Baked Sweet potato fries {recipe}

This post is sponsored by Walmart

I have been a fan of french fries since I was a little kid. I loved them so much that when I smelled fries coming from my neighbor’s apartment as a three or four year old, I went downstairs, knocked and the door and said “May I have some hench fries, please?” Oh Em Gee! Little me was bold and my neighbor who was around 12 at the time laughed and gave me some. The love is real people! But I know french fries love me too - they love settled on my thighs, my hips and my backside. So, I look for alternatives that are quite tasty but not as unforgiving on my body. The verdict? Sweet potato fries!

When I was working with a trainer, sweet potatoes were the carb that I ate with my dinner in the evening. I tend not to eat carbs that often and was reticent about eating them but my trainer was adamant about strengthening and building my muscles (not simply losing weight) and eating carbs was on the menu. Although I am no longer training, I do occasionally have a baked sweet potato but when I visited Walmart in search of locally grown produce, potatoes and sweet potato were my options. And of course, I went with sweet potatoes.

If you are unaware, Walmart does carry locally grown produce and I am looking forward to eating some Georgia grown watermelon in June and July when they are ready! And of course, the Georgia peaches! But for now, I am enjoying sweet potato fries. The are simple to make and are a great snack or side item for a meal. You can add all different types of seasons to them depending on your mood - from garlic, to paprika, salt, pepper and even brown sugar. Sweet potato fries in my experience are not as crispy as regular fries but I still enjoy the taste. I’d read that adding corn starch would help but didn’t seem to make a difference so I’ll likely just skip it next time I make them. Here is my recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Sweet potato fries

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon cornstarch (if using)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Peel sweet potatoes, slice and cut lengthwise into fries.
3. Place sweet potatoes in a bowl, add olive oil, mix.
4. Mix spices together and coat sweet potatoes.
5. Place sweet potatoes on non-stick cookie sheet.
6. Cook in oven for 10 minutes and flip with spatula.
7. Cook an additional 15 minutes, remove from oven.

Friday, May 13, 2016

DIY Metallic Gold Centerpieces using Rust-oleum paint

As a member of the Walmart Moms program, I was recently asked if I’d like to participate in a mystery challenge to upcycle an object or objects using Rustoleum paint. I love a good challenge and of course I had to take it! In my box I received 3 large glass jars that I guess could potentially used for anything from holding cookies to storing my fruit infused water. At first I was stumped. What could I do with these things? I thought about it and the fact that it is now wedding season and decided to make blinged out centerpieces that would be perfect for a wedding or another type of celebration.

I spent a long time debating colors and took a couple of trips to Walmart before I decided on this final project, armed with $25.00 I purchased Rust - oleaum Gold Metallic spray paint, bling, gold accented fabric and was ready to go! To start, I measured the bling that I was using to adorn the jars by simply wrapping a piece around the top of the jar and cutting it, and doing the same on one of the sides. I used these pieces as my guide and continued to cut the bling until I had enough for all of the jars.

Next, I spray painted the jars on both the inside and outside. In hindsight, the next time I do a similar project, I will only spray the inside of the glass because I’ve found that I’ve been accidently placing scratches on the paint. This would be problematic if I wanted to use them for an event because I’d have to be extremely careful not to ruin the project. After spray painting, I left the jars overnight to dry.

To attach the bling to the jars I used my glue gun. Again, this was trial and error, I initially tried using spray adhesive but that didn’t work at all. The glue gun worked very well and after applying all of the bling, I let the jars dry overnight again. 

The next day I placed them on the fabric and my project was done!

I think these jars would be absolutely gorgeous filled with white roses. I also want to try spray painting baby breath but I was unable to find it for this project. I love how “rich” these jars look now and may just keep them on my breakfast counter because I think they look beautiful! I have to give a special shout out to my son because he is the one who convinced me to go with gold!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

DIY Decoupage Spring Vases

Spring is sprung! Well, actually in Atlanta it is pretty much Summer already but in other parts of the country it is Spring or close to it. As the seasons change, in edition to fighting these crazy pollen counts, I like having new things in my environment. A perfectly timed challenge from Walmart to helped get my creative juices flowing and I decided to spruce things up by making decoupage vases. For the longest time I’ve heard about this technique and despite having Mod Podge in my home, I never used it. I am happy to report that the process is easy and provides wonderful results!

If you are not familiar, decoupage means to decorate objects with cutout pieces of paper. For my project, I purchased 2 glass vases ($.97) from the craft section at Walmart, 100 sheets of decorative paper ($4.00), Mod Podge ($3.49), Paint brushes ($3.00) and some newspaper. When I was doing research on decoupage, I saw a project that used newsprint and decided I wanted that as my background. I searched the various designs of paper I purchased and choose a butterfly theme. Butterflies are my favorite and represent rebirth, perfect for Spring!

To start I cut the newsprint to fit my vase. I brushed the vase with Mod Podge and then carefully applied the newsprint to the vase, avoiding as many wrinkles as possible. In my limited experience, wrinkles are part of the territory when doing decoupage, I assume my technique will get better the more I do it. 

I did read that wetting the paper before application helps to reduce wrinkles but I choose not to do that this time. I then coated the newsprint with more Mod Podge and let it dry. During the drying process I cut out the butterflies and border I wanted to use.

Next I applied the border, let it dry and then added the butterflies. I let everything dry and am extraordinarily pleased with the results. The only thing missing are flowers for my vases and I plan on purchasing some today!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Shrimp Fried Rice and Egg Rolls (recipe)


Over the years I have had a lot of fun being a Walmart mom. I have done everything from weather sealing my own deck, to being the social media correspondent for the Essence Festival and tons of stuff in between! This month my challenge was to act like one of the contestants on Master Chef! I was sent a box full of different products and asked to come up with a recipe. As I scoured the items, I decided that making my favorite - Asian inspired fare, would be the best bet for me. So, I grabbed the Lee Kum Kee Sriracha Mayo ($4.17) and Mae Ploy Sweet Chilli Sauce($2.00) and decided to make shrimp fried rice and egg rolls.

I was pleasantly surprised when my son - a notoriously picky eater, said he was excited about the egg rolls and requested vegetarian ones! I am a lover of shortcuts and quick meals so making these dishes fit the bill! From start to finish it took me less than 30 minutes to prepare both the shrimp friend rice and egg rolls!

For the shrimp fried rice I used the Lee Kim Kee Sriracha Mayo. I am a big fan of the spicy goodness that is sriracha, so I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed by the mayo. To begin, I gathered my ingredients: Minute rice heat and serve brown rice bowls (these are a huge timesaver!), peeled, deveined tail on shrimp and frozen stir fry vegetables. For the condiments, I used Kikoman low sodium soy sauce, ground ginger and sesame oil.

I heated about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in the wok on high heat. I added two rice bowls and stir fried for about 3 minutes. The key is to make the rice slighty crispy on the outside while still tender on the inside! Next I added a cup of frozen vegetables fo the wok - while the rice was staying warmed on the sides of the wok. After about 2 more minutes, I added the shrimp and cooked until bouncy and pink. While the shrimp were cooking I added 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (more or less depending on you personal preference). Finally, I added 2 tablespoons of the Lee Kim Kee Sririacha mayo, mixed and removed from heat. Quick and easy stir fry! Here is the video I took while making it.

The egg rolls are really simple to make. I used Marketside tri-color coleslaw mix, fried’s eggroll wappers and soy sauce. SIMPLE!! My son requested vegetarian egg rolls but you can add your protein of choice if you like. 

To make, I sauteed the coleslaw mix for about 3 minutes, added some soy sauce and removed from heat. I laid the egg roll wrapper on a plate, filled with 3 tablespoons of the coleslaw mixture, folded the bottom and ends of the wrapper, rolled and sealed the top with some water. 

After I made the rolls, I added them to a pan filled with 1/2 inch of cooking oil. I cooked them on each side until they were nicely browned. 
And then served with the May Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce. I really liked the sauce, it lives up to the name and is both sweet and hot. I think it would be perfect for making sweet and sour shrimp and that might be my next recipe!

My son and I enjoyed our Asian inspired meal and I have many ideas for further use of the Sriracha mayo and sweet chili sauce!

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