Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Why Do  the Blind Wear Sunglasses? It’s Not Totally Why You Think.

a blind woman wearing sunglasses and holding a white cane

Many of us have seen that stereotypical image of a blind person wearing sunglasses and carrying a white cane. For years I wrongly assumed that wearing sunglasses  was because the person either had no vision or their eyes  didn’t look natural. It wasn’t until I lost my own vision that I learned otherwise.

Now blind people wear sunglasses for a host of reasons. Some might be because of total blindness  or appearance of their eyes. Or it could be they have trouble making continuous eye contact.

National Sunglasses Day

A Black woman smiling, wearing sunglasses and a yellow shirt. In the upper lefthand corner reads National Sunglasses Day/Vision Council. Below there is a yellow circle and inside it reads celebrate your shades. June 27.

Since June 27,  is National Sunglasses Day   it’s perfect  timing to talk about this topic. The Vision Council  started this day in 2014. The idea was to encourage people to wear sunglasses in order to protect their eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays. But let’s explore other reasons why the blind wear sunglasses.

Sunglasses Help Improve Vision

1. Again, not all blind people are totally blind. Actually, the majority have some level of vision. They might see light, shadows, shapes, or  objects with magnification. Sunglasses reduce glare  and help improve vision. A glare that only takes up a small portion of a seeing person’s visual field may take up nearly all of our visual field.

People with vision loss commonly experience photophobia, also known as light sensitivity. Sunglasses can decrease discomfort or further vision loss from bright lights. When I went blind I experience photophobia. Actually, it was what prompted me to seek medical attention. I couldn’t stand light of any kind; indoor or out. My eyes burned and I had severe migraines.

Sunglasses Protect From the Sun

2. When outside we all need to wear sunglasses whether sighted or blind because of the sun’s harsh UV rays. The blind are just as vulnerable as the sighted. Exposure to these rays can cause eye damage. UV rays increases the risk of developing conditions like cataracts or macular degeneration.

Sunglasses Provide Protection

3. All kinds of foreign objects can enter the eye and sunglasses provide a protective shield. Damage  to the eye can be caused by dust, dirt, pollen and debris. Then there is possible eye injury from open cupboard doors, things flying around outside, or tree branches. Ouch!

Sunglasses Communicate Blindness

4. As I mentioned earlier, seeing a person wearing sunglasses and carrying a white cane is often recognized as a sign of blindness. Yet, some people  who are not totally blind may choose to wear sunglasses to easily communicate blindness in certain situations. This encourages people to adopt helpful responses. For example, keeping a safe distance  to not cause injury or harm, or to extend help when offered.

Bonus  fact. We are fashionable and look for trendy sunglasses  not just the typical black wrap around styles. For years I wore red trimmed sunglasses  and alternated with ones with rhinestones.

Learn something? I sure hope so. Now you know why the blind wear sunglasses  and it’s not just because we are blind.

Mamma Always Said Eat Your Veggies. Here’s How to Fill Your Plate and Make Her Proud

vegetable salad on plate with other veggies on table.

Do you remember as a child when mama told you to eat your vegetables? Perhaps it was broccoli, green beans, cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts. Or in my case those horrible canned red beets and raw  radishes! Yuck! Maybe you would dutifully eat them, as mama said, wanting to be the good little child. Hoping later for dessert or some kind of reward. Or maybe you would feed them to the dog  when mama wasn’t looking. Regardless, mamma had it right. We needed to eat our veggies. Not only as children but now as adults.

We Aren’t Eating Enough Veggies

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2019, 1 out of 10 adults  met the daily recommendations of eating fruits and vegetables. And it has only worsened with the pandemic  and supply chain disruptions. Now, for those  eating vegetables the amount  has decreased to about one per day. The State of the Plate: America’s Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Trends, from the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), explains despite decades of industry and public health efforts, America’s fruit and vegetable consumption continues to decline. The research shows people are eating fruits and vegetables less frequently.

This is not good news because eating fresh vegetables has incredible benefits to our overall  mental and physical health. I can attest to this very fact. When  I was growing up vegetables were a  big part of my family’s diet. We ate all kinds of leafy green veggies. Collard and mustard greens with blackeye peas were served on a regular basis. Even  grew a vegetable garden one summer. A green salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber  and those nasty radishes were on the table daily. To this day my family eats their veggies just like mamma said.

Changed to Plant-based Diet

As an adult I still maintain  this habit of vegetables on my plate. About a year ago I  moved to a more plant base diet  which I shared in a previous post. This decision  has had wonderful affects for me. First, I just feel better. Second, my struggle with migraines  are virtually gone. I do eat some poultry and fish but most of my meals are plant based. I even changed my smoothies to plant-based protein powder and almond milk.

National Eat Your Vegetables Day

Friday, June 17, is National Eat Your Vegetables Day  and an important reminder to continue  and/or add veggies as a part of a healthy diet. The goal is to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Empish eating a bowl of watermelon chunks

What is a Serving?

As I mentioned above we are only getting about one serving daily. This is a major difference. But what is exactly  a serving? Use  this list as a guide.

One serving is equal to:

  • 1 cup of raw carrots
  • 1 cup of raw spinach
  • 1 cup of cucumber
  • 1 cup of raw bell peppers
  • ½ cup cooked broccoli
  • ½ cup cooked cauliflower
  • ½ cup cooked green beans

Now that you’ve got an idea of a serving of vegetables, it will be  easier to add them to your daily eating habits. If you’ve been slacking on consuming your veggies, use this special day to reorganize your diet and start adding more veggies to the menu.

Ways to Fill Your Plate

How do we get those servings of crunchy and leafy plants into our daily meals? Here’s some ways to fill your plate and make your mamma proud.

Empish at gas stove

1. Prepare all your favorite veggies for all your meals. This could be a vegetable omelet for breakfast. Vegetarian soup, sandwich or salad for lunch. Then top off dinner  with a vegetarian casserole. Or one of my favorites, vegetable lasagna. Too many vegetables for one day? Then pick one or two meals  to be all vegetables.

2. Not in the mood to cook. Visit a local restaurant and go vegetarian. Many  eateries  offer meatless entrees on their menu. You don’t have to be a serious vegetarian. Try a new dish and explore the possibilities.

3. Visit your local farmer’s market and purchase some locally grown produce. You not only support local farmers and businesses  but get fresh veggies too. This is a win-win situation.

4. Make your desserts using veggies. And I’m not just talking about carrot cake or pumpkin pie! Veggies like zucchini, peppers, butternut squash and sweet potatoes provide a great addition to sweets . Check out vegetable dessert recipes online for some inspiration.

5. If you are feeling industrious or have a green thumb, plant a vegetable garden. No need to worry about supply chain problems or expensive grocery store produce. Grow your own. Many vegetables like green beans, tomatoes, cabbage, squash, peppers, zucchini, onions and spinach can be grown  at home.,

For my last veggie tip. Did You Know onions are the world’s most widely used vegetable? If you love onions like me, squeeze a little lemon juice or vinegar  on raw cut onions to eliminate the strong sharp smell and taste while adding flavor. Or try sweet Vidalia onions. They are grown in Vidalia, Georgia, not far from my home.

Ready to Make Mamma Proud?

Are you ready to do what mamma said and eat your veggies? Share with me some creative ways to get in your daily servings.

New York Times Columnist Shares Insights on Vision Loss and Found

Books on desk with cup of tea

Reading with My Ears Book Review

I came across another excellent audiobook read from the library by  New York Times columnist and bestselling author, Frank Bruni. “The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found” is a wise and moving memoir about aging, affliction, and optimism after partially losing eyesight.

The first time I heard about Frank was listening to his interview  with the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Print Impaired. Then again  with Oprah as he was discussing this book. I knew, when the book was available in audio, I had to read  about his vision loss journey  .

Book Summary

Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds

The book Summary from Bookshare. One morning in late 2017, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni woke up with strangely blurred vision. He wondered at first if some goo or gunk had worked its way into his right eye. But this was no fleeting annoyance, no fixable inconvenience. Overnight, a rare stroke had cut off blood to one of his optic nerves, rendering him functionally blind in that eye—forever. And he soon learned from doctors that the same disorder could ravage his left eye, too. He could lose his sight altogether.

In The Beauty of Dusk, Bruni hauntingly recounts his adjustment to this daunting reality, a medical and spiritual odyssey that involved not only reappraising his own priorities but also reaching out to, and gathering wisdom from, longtime friends and new acquaintances who had navigated their own traumas and afflictions. The result is a poignant, probing, and ultimately uplifting examination of the limits that all of us inevitably encounter, the lenses through which we choose to evaluate them and the tools we have for perseverance.

Bruni’s world blurred in one sense, as he experienced his first real inklings that the day isn’t forever and that light inexorably fades but sharpened in another. Confronting unexpected hardship, he felt more blessed than ever before. There was vision lost. There was also vision found.

Initial diagnosis  and Advocacy

His story was very relatable, especially in the beginning. The first doctor was reluctant to give a proper diagnosis of his sudden vision loss. It was all maybes  and guessing which can send you down the rabbit hole of possibilities. He was referred to a specialist who gave the final diagnosis  of a stroke and no cure. I recalled some of the same experiences talking to multiple eye doctors. Taking numerous tests  and also  telling me there was no cure.

A Black male patient is sitting in a chair, facing his white doctor who is doing an exam/refraction with a phoropter.
Image courtesy of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

Frank stresses  the importance of being your own advocate when it comes to medical care. Doctors are busy and you are one of many patients. Be prepared to ask questions and do your own research. Also, bringing a friend or family member to appointments to help is useful as long as they understand their role and let you take the lead.

For example, Frank mentions not knowing about low vision services or opportunities for clinical trials. Or the doctor not asking questions about mental and emotional health. I can definitely relate. The same thing happened to me too. I had to find out about those resources from other people, and once Did, I chastise my eye doctor for not informing me. Fortunately, he took the constructive criticism well and promised to do better.

Why Not Me?

Frank poses the questions, “Why me?” Yet, there is a better question, “Why not me?” Why should any of us be spared struggle when it is a universal condition? Comfort and happiness are not automatic; we should expect some kind of difficulty to come into our lives. Having this mindset leaves us unprepared for pain and struggle. I have always been told just live long enough and pain and suffering will ultimately come into your life. I have also come to believe that perfect or even excellent health is not a guarantee until death. At some point  something on our bodies will break down.

Millions of Americans have some form of vision loss and that doesn’t include hearing loss or other bodily functions especially as we get older. Frank’s viewpoint is not that he overcame an obstacle but lives a condition. I appreciate this statement in the sense that being disabled is not something that I have overcome but what I live every day. It is a part of who and what I am. Yes, there are difficult moments but sometimes an ending is a new beginning. Sometimes a limit or a loss is a gateway to a new encounter. Skills you wouldn’t have acquired, insights you wouldn’t have gleaned come to live during this time.

Career as a Journalist

Frank talks about his career as a journalist  and his ability to write well. When he lost his vision  he made tons of errors in his writing. This of course  was devastating. But he began to focus on the ability and the gains. The fact he could still write in the first place. Editors who still wanted to work with him and readers who still wanted to read his work. I can identify. I too  am a writer  and lost vision immediately after receiving my journalism degree. I wondered what kind of career could I have as a blind writer? How would that work? I knew how to do the work as it was all in my head from my education  and training (I graduated with 7 journalism internships under my belt). The access to assistive technology  as allowed me to pursue this not only as a career but as a passion.

Growing Old and Being Disabled

Privileges and blessings were so much greater than what was loss. It was eye-opening in Frank’s perception of the world around him. How he saw other people with disabilities and  those who were elderly. These people were out here living their lives.

To grow old is to let things go. I see this more and more as I get older. But it first started when I went blind. My disability forced me to  release the reins. I had to shift my focus and prioritize  the things that really mattered. I pick and choose my battles because I want to live for another day. It takes energy  to pay attention and/or push the envelope on everything.

Frank points out we are a country that focuses on youth. As a result, we miss the greatness  of the accomplishments  that people make later in life. People are still doing phenomenal things in the later stages of life. With aging comes wisdom and maturity. You feel more comfortable in your own skin. What determines people’s happiness is not their physical conditions but what they pay attention to. When it comes to being disabled  you are not focused on that all day long. You are living your life, working, going to school, spending time with friends and family, etc. Frank finally muses  there is beauty in every stage of the day, from dawn to dust

Making Accessible Origamis: How Folding Paper Stimulated My Brain

White origami crane

Accessible Origami Class Offered

For some years now I have been interested in taking an origami class. I would see them advertised  all the time at my local library. But thinking they were probably not accessible I didn’t  pursue it until recently. The American Printing House for the Blind offered a virtual weekend origami class  via Zoom. When I saw this opportunity I knew it was time  to satisfy my curiosity and learn something new.

Surprise by Mental Benefits

Well, I was not disappointed. Not only  did I learn how to make origamis but how to stimulate my brain in the process. And what a surprise! I had no idea that taking an art class  would do so much to energize my cerebrum. It has been documented, tasks that challenge our minds strengthen our brains. Now, before I get to all the wonderful mental benefits I acquired let me pause  and explain  what an origami is  and how things work.

What is an Origami

An origami is the Japanese art form of folding paper. When the paper is folded it creates either one- or two-dimensional objects. These  objects can go from simple to the most complex depending on the numbers of folds. Typical origami objects are cranes, flowers, boxes,  airplanes, boats, fish, rabbits and dogs.

Woman folding colorful paper with her hands to make an origami object

Since I was taking a beginner class the instructor kept it simple. In other words, no complicated  animals or other objects. During the 90-minute class I made two origamis. The first was a corner bookmark and second was a snack cup/pocket similar to the containers for fries at fast food restaurants. As I was creasing and folding my square piece of printer paper, it  slowly dawned on me the mental benefits I was gaining from this class.

1. Mental Concentration

First was mental concentration. As I listened to the instructor, I had to pay close attention  and focus on what I was doing. Making origamis are  not to be done while multi-tasking. You have to focus on the direction of your fold, when to tuck or pull,  when to crease or rip. You can’t be checking your social media or email, talking on the phone, or doing some other mind-numbing task. You need all hands-on deck. Literally and figuratively.

2. Persistence and Patience

Second was persistence and patience. Like two peas in a pod,  these two traits  are needed for successful  origami creation. I quickly noticed the need to pace myself  and breathe. I could feel some slight frustration creeping in as I was making my corner bookmark. I struggled with visualizing  what the instructor was saying causing me to not understand her instructions. Then I fell behind  and needed her to repeat the directions. fortunately, she was very encouraging, stopping to be sure everyone  was understanding and not wanting anyone left behind. I  was comforted by  that gesture and it motivated me to keep going.

3. Problem Solving

Third was problem solving. Making origamis are similar to solving a jigsaw puzzle. You got to figure out where the pieces go. As you fold and tuck  the paper; the  pieces slowly slide together producing  recognizable artwork.

4. Perfectionist by Nature

Forth was the wild card. I am a perfectionist by nature and this class exposed it. Yet it supported my creativity. It  challenged me to aim for excellence not perfection. See, I wanted my design to be exact. I wanted it to be perfect but it wasn’t. The instructor told us to crease the paper and bend it back and forth  to make it easy to rip off. This was excess paper we didn’t need. I followed her directions but when I ripped off the extra paper it was not smooth. The edge was jagged, not perfect.

I realized what was happening. This was my first attempt at making origamis. I needed to relax and just enjoy the process. I told myself this is an art class and remember to have fun.

Ready for a Brain Boost?

Need  a brain boost? Looking for a mental challenge? Want to learn a new  artistic craft? Consider creating origamis. It’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month  and why not explore this historical and cultural activity. You can learn more about accessible origamis  by reading this blog post written by my instructor. Also , if you are a Facebook fan  check out the group called Accessible Origami Project.

Today I’m Relaxing Instead of Working

Empish sitting on mat in a yoga prayer pose

It’s Time to Relax

You are sitting in a comfortable position. The room temperature is just right. There is relaxing music playing in the background. Someone with a soft and gentle voice is giving these instructions:  Relax. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Release with a slow awl. Sit back and close your eyes and gradually release the tension. Start with your toes. Working up your legs and hips. Moving slowly up your arms. To your shoulders, neck fingertips and head. Now slowly open your eyes and read my soothing blog post on relaxation. Well, maybe not the last part but you get the point.

I am relaxing today. Taking some time off. Maybe sleep in late for a change. Watch a movie or two. Read an audiobook. Or just do nothing. The last couple of Sundays I have been working. Writing blog post. Doing research. Taking courses to update this website. The list goes on and on.

It is good to take a breather from time to time. To rest, relax and release stress. To recharge my battery. I am an overachiever and Type A personality so I can get laser focused and I am in the zone. Then I am off to the races and not much else matters. The problem is I feel it later when my body is stiff, sore and aches all over. Making me exhausted and not good for much of anything else.

Blindness and Stress

also, because I am blind sometimes I feel the pressure to perform. To show the world and society blind people are smart. We are successful. We can contribute. We can do things. So many people have had little to no interaction with a blind person therefore all kinds of ideas and misinformation gets out there. Then people like me spend a lot of time pushing back on that and it is stressful.

When I saw on my calendar that Today is National Relaxation Day I knew I would definitely pause and take a break. And no guilt too because I have a legitimate reason. It is Sunday first of all and second a national observance. I got to do it, right? Yes, I do. So, I wrote this post in advance and when you read it I will be relaxing and not writing. I will not be working.

Relaxing Music Helps Me Sleep

Empish Sleeping

Now the other thing is this. I don’t just plan to relax today but relax on the regular. It is important to make relaxation a part of my lifestyle and not just a one off. So, what I have been doing is listening to relaxation, or maybe the better word is meditation, CDs. I started borrowing them from my county library through the Hoopla app. OMG! This app is wonderful because it is free and fairly accessible. Not only can I download audiobooks but movies and music too. So, one day I decided to try one of the meditation CDs to help with my sleeping problem. I found it extremely helpful as it soothed me and cleared my mind so I could sleep. I have made it a part of my nighttime routine or when I want to take an afternoon nap.

Now, I am done. No more talking about relaxation because it is time to actually do it. I am going to go and relax and I encourage you to do the same. But before you do, let me know ways you relax best in the comment section.

Watermelon is My Favorite Summertime Food

Empish eating a bowl of watermelon chunks

Watermelon and Summertime

Although today is National Watermelon Day eating watermelon has always been a part of my life. Ever since I was a little girl growing up in Texas these melons were constantly there during the summer months. My parents would buy these long, huge and heavy green fruits. Slice them up and place in the frig to get cold. Then later we would sit on the back patio eating slices of this delicious, sweet red food enjoying the summer afternoon. Ah, yes, those childhood memories.

Today, I have no backyard patio. But I do have the summer heat and my watermelon. Instead of purchasing large whole ones, I cheat a little. I use my visual disability as an excuse. Trying to do all that work washing, slicing, dicing and cleanup is just too much as a blind person. So, I buy it already cut up and ready to go. The grocery stores do all the work and provide them in little containers in chunks. This is perfect for my needs. I just swing through the produce section and grab a container or two of sweet and juicy watermelon. It is my favorite summertime fruit and complements my plant base lifestyle. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love grapes, peaches, nectarines, pears, pineapple, apples and all kinds of berries. But this time of the year watermelon is number one.

Here Are the Facts

It is refreshing. It is sweet. It is cool. It is nutritious. You just can’t beat it. I know, I sound like a commercial. And I am going to go a step farther with my praise in this post by sharing five facts from the Watermelon Board and Mayo Clinic about watermelons. And before I go I will even leave you with two quick and easy recipes you are sure to love.

A baby, looking directly at the camera with wide eyes, is taking a bite from a slice of watermelon while holding it with both hands as an adult helps by holding it too.

1.  Watermelon is a vegetable not a fruit. But all things relative it can be seen both ways. Watermelon is a member of the cucurbitaceae plant family of gourds and classified as Citrullus lantus. Related to the cucumber, squash and pumpkin. It is planted from seeds or seedlings, harvested and cleared from the field like other vegetables. But like the pepper, tomato and pumpkin, watermelon is a fruit, botanically. It is the fruit of a plant originally from a vine of southern Africa. Loosely considered a type of melon.

2.  Watermelon is a disease fighter. It has more lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. Lycopene is an antioxidant linked to decreased risk of cancer, heart disease and age-related eye conditions, like macular degeneration.

3.  Watermelon hydrates. As its name so clearly states, 92% of watermelon contains water. It is the most common melon eaten in America and is perfect for staying refreshed and hydrated on a hot summer day.

4.  A watermelon is completely edible, including the seeds and the rind. This means watermelon is a zero-food waste food. The green skin is edible by cooking and/or pickled.

5.  When selecting a watermelon Look it over carefully. Scan for firmness free from bruises, cuts or dents. Scratching is fine because of all the handling in getting to market. Next, lift it up. It should be very heavy for its size. Lastly, turn it over. The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

Two Watermelon Recipes

Now as I promised here are two watermelon recipes to keep you cool and rejuvenated.

1.  Watermelon Arugula Salad

This one has no official measurements so add as much or as little ingredients as you desire.

*baby arugula lettuce

*watermelon chunks

*feta cheese crumbles

*roasted nuts (Sliced almonds or pecans work best. Roast them in oil with a sprinkling of cayenne or red pepper)

*strawberry vinaigrette salad dressing

In a bowl place baby arugula lettuce. Top with diced chunks of watermelon. Add feta cheese crumbles and roasted nuts. Lightly toss. Then drizzle with strawberry vinaigrette. Eat and enjoy.

A woman's hands holding a slice of watermelon with some bites taken from it.

2. Watermelon Lemonade

Move over Arnold Palmer! This beverage will quinch any thirst. Easy to make with just two ingredients.

*Watermelon chunks

*Your favorite lemonade

Place watermelon chunks and juice in blender. Pour juice into pitcher with lemonade. Like an Arnold Palmer, half and half works best. Sip and enjoy.

Blindness and Sleeplessness. Do They Cause My Migraines?

Migraines and Going Blind

The first time I had a migraine was also the first sign that something was wrong with my eyes. It was back in the mid-90s and my head was hurting like someone was banging it with a hammer. The slightest movement would send throbbing pain through my head. These headaches would come and go with no warning. When they did, I would go and lay in the bed being perfectly still, turn off all the lights and place a cold washcloth over my face and just ride it out. Regular over the counter meds didn’t help much. Before that time, I rarely dealt with headaches except if dealing with typical stress, tiredness or hunger. I would hear people talk about migraines but I barely understood what they were dealing with. I was clueless about their pain. It wasn’t until I started to go blind that I fully got it. That I understood the ramifications of a migraine. Once I got into a doctor to see what was happening with my eyes the migraines decreased and then totally disappeared.

Migraines and Sleeping Disorder

Empish Yawning

Fast ford several years later and I was diagnosed with non-24 sleep wake disorder also connected to my blindness. This disorder causes my sleep clock to be off track. I take meds to help but it is not a cure and you can read the details in a previous post. As the years progressed, I would wake up around 3 a.m. with a mind-blowing headache that was out of this world. I began to flashback to when I first went blind and thinking how similar the headaches    were except, they only came in the early morning. It was happening often and I started taking OTC meds frequently. After taking the meds my head no longer hurt but I would be physically exhausted like I had been in the boxing ring with a heavy weight champion and got the living crap beaten out of me! Sometimes I would be too tired to get up for work; calling out for a sick day. I was grateful that I had an understanding employer and not a too hectic work schedule. Since this was in the early hours of the morning the migraines disrupted my sleep making it hard to go back to sleep or if I did the alarm was ringing as soon as I got a good rhythm going. Needless to say, I was miserable but putting up with it. It wasn’t until a guy I was dating at the time pushed me to seek medical attention. So, I finally went in to see a neurologist and was diagnosed with migraines. The doctor took my blindness and sleeping disorder into consideration but was not able to give a clear reason for the migraines. I was put on a prescription and noticed a decrease in the number of times I had a full-blown migraine in the morning. Things changed for the better and what I realized is that I needed to do more self-care.

National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

This month is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month. The theme is “A New Era of Care,” reflecting the wave of innovation in treatments and approaches to managing headache and migraine disease. CHAMP, the Coalition for Headache and Migraine Patients created this awareness month and is comprised of organizations sending a unified message about headache and migraine diseases. Every June they dedicate the month to spreading awareness and education through various campaigns and initiatives.

World Migraine Summit

I got into a steady routine with my migraine meds and doctor appointments. Things moved along okay until this year. In March I attended the World Migraine Summit remotely and learned so much. It was a free 9-day event and addressed various aspects of how migraines impact your life. I learned about migraines and race. Migraines and gender. Migraines and food/nutrition. Migraines and exercise. Migraines and medical treatment. Migraines and sleep. The list goes on and on. I walked away understanding that I needed to take it up a notch with my self-care. I had gotten lax because I had stop writing in my headache journal and was taking OTC meds with my prescription. I realized that I needed to take the bull by the horns and get more assertive with the care of my migraines. So, I made four major changes.

Four Life Changes

1.  I purchased an Ice Beanie and Migraine Cold Pack, which I learned about from my favorite Friday night show-The Shar Tank. This little soft cap has slots for ice packs and you wear it on your head to help with migraines. I know it might sound strange or a bit silly. But it actually works! Cross my heart, it really does.

Empish Sleeping

2.  Since my migraines come during my sleep, I made changes in my sleep routine. I have always known that a cooler room temperature helps in sleeping. My thermostat was already turned down low, but I purchase two cooling pillows. I also changed my sleeping attire to cotton tank tops and pajama shorts. I get hot at night and I knew if I could stay cool while sleeping that would not only help me sleep better but help reduce my migraines.

3.  I changed my diet. I have been slowly moving to a plant-based approach. So, eating more veggies, fruits, and even tofu is a part of my meals now. Drinking more homemade protein shakes for needed protein. I have also switched to taking liquid multi vitamins for better absorption and digestion.

4.  The last new change I am making is to see a new neurologist. Not that my current doctor is bad, but I need to shake things up a bit and get some new eyes on my chart. Sometimes it is good to get a new prospective when you have been dealing with something for a long time. Things change and there are new developments. So, I want to see what is out there and explore my options.

Implementing these changes have already produced positive results. I barely take OTC drugs anymore yet still take my prescription med regularly. Although I still wake up at 3 a.m.  I seldom have a headache. I am cautiously optimistic because I don’t know if my blindness or sleeping disorder is the cause of my migraines. I don’t know how long these positive changes will last. I don’t know if making more changes or seeing a new doctor will give me the answer. But one thing I do know is that taking better care of myself will help me to be healthier and happier.

Going Meatless with Tofu Taco Night

Empish at gas stove

I love tacos! Chicken tacos. Shrimp tacos. Ground turkey tacos. Fish tacos. Hard shell tacos. Soft shell tacos. Even tacos with just rice, beans and cheese. Or better yet a taco salad. Now, you get the point on how much I love tacos. I decided recently to start adding more plant-based foods in my life and that includes tofu. So, could I make tofu tacos?

Tofu Comes in Crumbles

Well, I was up for the adventure and decided that I could do it. I called upon my vegetarian friends, did some online research, went grocery shopping and got to cooking. I discovered that tofu comes in various options and I am still learning the myriad ways I can purchase it. But for my tacos the best was in crumbles. I found them in the frozen health food section at the grocery store. To my confusion but delight I found a variety of tofu crumbles already seasoned. Since I was not initially aware they came this way, I wasn’t prepared and didn’t understand my options but the store clerk told me   that one package had a picture of, you guessed it, A taco! Bingo, sold! That is the one I wanted.

Cooking Tofu

Next, I called up my vegetarian friend to figure out how to cook my new treasure. She said cook it just like you would ground beef, chicken or turkey. Well, that was easy breezy! I knew how to do that. I also asked about adding taco seasoning. I usually grab a packet of seasoning found next to the shells in the store adding it to my meat. She said to taste first and see how you like it. If you add the taco seasoning maybe just half the packet. Well, I kind of followed her advice but kind of didn’t. I got a little too happy and ended up using the whole seasoning packet. This made my crumbles too salty. But once I added my toppings of lettuce, salsa, tomatoes, shredded cheese and pickled jalapeño peppers I could barely taste the salt. I mostly used hard shells for my tofu tacos, warming them up in the oven on my specialized taco rack, but I tried one or two soft shells too. I served them up with a side of Mexican-flavored rice and black beans.

Perfecting Tacos and Trying Other Dishes

Ah, yes! As I sat eating my delicious meal, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for taking on this new challenge. I realized it was easier than I imagined and I was emboldened to take it higher the next time. I also realize that part of my no salt spice collection was one that would be perfect for tacos. It’s called Mexican Aromatics and instead of using taco seasoning I am going to use that instead. I think once I perfect this tofu dish, I am going to expand my palate and try tofu in other ways. I am excited about the possibilities.

I’m Fully Vaccinated but Will Still Wear a Mask

Empish wearing orange top with her college alumni, Florida A&M University, facemask

Today marks two weeks after my second vaccine shot. This Means I am fully vaccinated and according to the recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) I can stop wearing my mask under certain conditions. The guidelines say, “If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did before the pandemic without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations. That includes local business and workplace guidance. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.”

I should be elated by this news, right? Yet, I am not. Don’t get me wrong I am happy because part of this means that as a country, we are moving in a positive direction with this virus but I still feel some trepidation. The reason being is that I am vaccinated but what about others around me? It’s not like I can tell in some kind of way who is vaccinated and who is not. So, because of that I am still going to wear my mask in public places like grocery shopping or getting my hair done.

Three Reasons for the CDC Decision

I was listening this morning to the Pod Save America podcast and they interviewed Dr. Fauci. He said the CDC decision came about because of three things:

1.  The vaccine is better than was shown in clinical trials.

2.  The vaccine works well against variants.

3.  Studies are showing high levels of protection, meaning that you are less likely to get infected and to pass on to others.

Guidelines Not a Mandate

The news to stop wearing a mask is not a mandate but just guidelines. The CDC wants to help assure vaccinated people they are safe. I can appreciate that information and will proceed with caution. I trust science but don’t trust people in the same way. I realize after the announcement was made that we will be on an honor system. Even if you show your paper vaccine card that might not be enough proof because there are already forged versions floating around. Additionally, the vaccine card information is only recorded in your state; there is no federal database.

The other concern I have about this is the announcement was made so quick. Businesses and government officials were caught off Gard and were surprise. This doesn’t give much time for people to get their act together and figure things out. If you are a business owner, how do you handle this news? It doesn’t seem to be any recommendations or advice for you. It is like every man for himself to figure it out. This is a problem and will leave people all over the place doing all kinds of things. Good, bad and otherwise. I was thinking that maybe rolling this guideline out over time in stages, giving people time to adjust would have been a better approach.

Empish grocery shopping wearing a facemask

Another concern I have is that we have not reached heard immunity. Lots of people are not vaccinated or have just gotten the one of two required shots. Some people don’t want to get vaccinated and some people can’t for various reasons. So those folks still need to wear a mask. But will they? This is another reason why I still will wear mine.

Don’t Know What the Future Holds

Lastly, COVID-19 is new. Going through a pandemic is not something we are experts at doing. Information about this virus changes constantly and who knows what we will be told next week, next month or even next year. Yeah, I am fully vaccinated but how long will that last? Six months? A year? Will I have to get a booster shot? What about getting the virus even though you are vaccinated like the members of the New York Yankees? These questions have not clearly been answered and so again, this is also why I will continue to wear a mask. We just don’t know what the future holds. I have been doing the 3 W’s: wash my hands, wear a mask and watch my distance for the past year. I don’t want all of this work and effort to go down the drain so until I get more clear and solid info, I will continue to wear my mask even though I am fully vaccinated.

Now, what about you? Now that the CDC says you can stop wearing a mask if fully vaccinated will you do so? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with me.

Being a Vegan is not Just for White Folks Only

The Invisible Vegan: A Movement Toward a New Consciousness poster with a green background and a black stylized fist grasping an orange carrot. In the lower left corner are the list of the featured performers'.

I recently made some changes to my meal plan and have moved more into a plant-based diet. This change surprisingly has not been too hard because fruits and vegetables are my jam. Even before I started working from home, I would take a salad to work just about every day for lunch. It would be filled with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and even green bell peppers and onions with a sprinkling of chopped nuts. My co-workers would be eyeballing my lunch as I quickly moved out of the break room and back to my office to eat my crunchy rainbow feast. So, when I heard about The Invisible Vegan documentary by Jasmine Leyva I just had to watch it. Now, before I give my two cents let me give you the summary.

Summary of Invisible Vegan Documentary

The documentary begins with the personal story of Jasmine Leyva, a 30-year-old black actress and filmmaker currently based in Los Angeles. Over the past seven years, Jasmine has committed herself to veganism, both in lifestyle and research. Taking Leyva’s unhealthy childhood growing up in Washington, DC as a point of departure, the film interweaves her narrative with the professional and personal experiences of a prominent group of vegan activists. The film integrates interviews with popular culture luminaries including Cedric the Entertainer (actor and comedian), John Salley (former NBA player and wellness advocate), and Clayton Gavin (aka Stic of the hip-hop duo Dead Prez).

The Invisible Vegan also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression.

Africa, Slavery and Soul Food

AS I sat and watched the 90-minute film, I was nodding my head and saying, “Yes, that’s right, that’s right!” Sounding like people in the amen corner at church. She was speaking truth to power and I was not too surprised by nothing coming out of this young lady’s mouth. She started out explaining how a plant-based diet came from Africa and how it is not just for white folks. She ticked off the names of Civil rights activists who are vegetarians like the late Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Dick Gregory. She mentioned Angela Davis too. This was enlightening because I only knew about Dick Gregory as I had read about his diet plan before. He was a firm believer in better health just as much as in civil rights.

She talked about how our enslaved ancestors were forced to eat the scraps on the plantation. How they made meals out of the leftovers. Yes, this is so true. I remember reading the book Roots and many other slave narratives where scenes played out just like this.  Because of this situation Black people passed down this type of eating from generation to generation. It is embedded in our family and culture.  

So, when she started talking about losing the “Black card” I knew exactly what she was talking about. I am nodding my head again. The type of food our ancestors ate on the plantation evolved into what we call today as soul food.  This includes favorites like fried chicken, collard or mustard greens, okra, cornbread, sweet potatoes or yams and blackeyed peas. It also includes some kind of pork product like ham, pig’s feet, hog head cheese and the all-time favorite for many Black folks – chitlins! So, if you are a Black person and don’t eat soul food then you can lose your Black card and be called out. That is not a good situation. Believe me I have been there myself. Not for being a vegan, like Jasmine, but for my efforts in trying to lose weight. Many of these items are not healthy and/or not cooked in a healthy way. So, believe me, I get it. She also talked about how eating soul food is not just the food itself but about a sense of being and belonging. These foods are comforting and connect us to our family, history and legacy in this country. If you don’t think so, go back and watch the classic 1997 movie Soul Food.

Challenges of EatingHealthy

A head shot of Jasmine Leyva with long dark hair, smiling and leaning on one arm in a casual pose. She is wearing a brown and white sleeveless top and a long silver chain around her neck.

With this being said, it is hard for people to change and move to a healthy diet or even become a vegan for that matter. She shared about her journey to become a vegan and the ups and downs of that experience. When it comes to diet and nutrition our doctors are not well equipped to help because they get little education on it when they are in medical school. They are sometimes more apt to write out prescriptions or recommend surgery. I experienced this myself when talking to my PCP and was fortunately referred to a nutritionist.  There I learned about food groups and how food impacts the body. She also talked about food deserts and lack of access to healthy foods. As they say, “No Whole Foods in the hood!”  I could also relate to that too. I have had to get on the bus and travel miles away to find healthier options. And don’t forget about the cost of healthy food! OMG! Why does organic cost twice as much? Crazy! It takes a lot of work and energy to do all of this which I find very stressful at times.  No wonder it is so easy to grab a hamburger at McDonalds. One thing I found interesting and a bit surprising was how meat processing plants are located near minority communities. I didn’t realize that. I mean I knew about how they treat animals, the hormones and the runoff; but not the location.

No Judgement to Become a Vegan

The last thing about the documentary is that it was not judgmental. Jasmine shared her life journey, laid out the facts, and had other people share their experiences. It was not this hard-line approach. She encouraged you to start where you are. I am not ready to go totally vegan but I thought I could do something like meatless Mondays, tofu Tuesdays or salad Saturdays. You know, ease my way into a plant-based lifestyle.

Although this film is not audio described for people like me with vision loss, I still got so much out of it. I encourage you to check it out especially if you are trying to change your eating habits and curious about a vegan lifestyle. The Invisible Vegan is available to watch now on TubiTV and stream on Amazon Prime