14 Lessons I Learned from Losing My Health

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 For my team.

I used to be the youngest person on my team at CNN. And while there were endless discussions about the work ethic of millennials with my older, more seasoned colleagues, I considered it a great privilege to work with journalists who had years of experience covering some of the biggest stories in history.

The Gulf War. Bosnia. The fall of the Berlin Wall. Katrina.

Every day, I was immersed in a world of stories. And each day was a brilliant learning experience. My colleagues were generous with their time and their knowledge. Some of them were what we called “CNN originals.” They started with the company, when 24 hour news was just Ted Turner’s crazy idea. As a young journalist, I was hungry to learn. What was journalism like back then? What was CNN like in the old days? What advice could you share? I had questions, and I didn’t hesitate to ask.

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately, as the dynamics of my career have changed. While I am lucky enough to work in another place brimming with energy and passion, I’m no longer the youngest on my team. I work with an amazing team, many of which are younger than me. They’re vibrant and full of energy. They work tirelessly. They demand to be heard. They think before they speak. They stir things up. They are creative, and resourceful. They energize me, inspire me.

Although I’m just a few years older than many of them, I’ve found myself in a new place, where for the first time in my career, I’m the one being asked for advice. And because I’ve been so fortunate to have had others graciously guide me along the way, I fell both obliged and humbled to share what little experience I have.

At 24, I was busy making big plans for my future with CNN. Most of my life, I’d dreamt of working there, and when I made it there, I had no plans to slow down.

But that all changed when my health took a turn for the worst in 2011. After months of hospital stays, dozens of doctor visits, and countless days confined to illness, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder.

It turned my world upside down.

And yet today, it has become both the best and worst experience of my life. It’s taught me a lot about many different areas of my life. If I had to boil it all down, this is what I’d share with my team.

1. Know your worth.

You know the value that you bring to any relationship (both professional and personal), but sometimes others don’t always recognize it. You know your strengths and talents better than anyone. Don’t stay in a relationship in which you are not valued. It takes courage to walk away from those situations. You have to be your greatest advocate. The next few years of your life will be a critical time for you to figure out what you want in a career and in your significant other. But don’t ever lose sight of your own value along the way.

2. Learn to Listen.

As a journalist, I listen to people for a living. I’ve always been a listener by nature. As the youngest of four siblings, I realized very early on that I could learn so much more by listening and observing. I listened to conversations (some I wish I hadn’t heard). Some of my best story ideas and have come from days spent in coffee shops just listening. As you continue your careers, you will find that most people talk a lot more than they listen. They are eager to be heard, but not always eager to listen. Every time I do an interview, I learn something new. I’m always in awe of the way people open up and share their thoughts, fears, and experiences with me. It is a constant learning experience. Master the skill of listening, and you will learn so much about the world.

3. Never say no to traveling.

Rarely will you hear yourself say, “I shouldn’t have taken that trip.” Traveling opens up your eyes and your mind to different ways of living and being. It shifts your perspective. It makes loss feel more manageable. It allows you to see that great things came before you. Traveling is healing. There’s nothing like a spectacular view of a foreign land to help heal a broken heart. You won’t regret it. The time when you were lost, and didn’t speak a lick of the native language. The time when you were exhausted and all the hotels were booked. The time when you were way too hungry and couldn’t find an open restaurant. Even the trips with unpleasant experiences become great memories. When I left CNN, I used the money that I’d saved while I was working to travel, and it was worth every dollar. If you have the opportunity to travel, do it. You will not regret it.

4. Learn to practice gratitude.

I lived most of my life with an undiagnosed disease and battled recurring, excruciating episodes of pain every month. I’ve had more hospital stays than I can count. One thing that got me through some of my darkest, lowest moments was gratitude. I always believed my situation could have been worse. I was grateful that I had family and friends to take care of me, grateful that I had access to the medical care that I needed, grateful that I had an extended family at CNN who fully supported me. There is always something to be grateful for. A friend of mine, whose mother lives with MS once told this is the greatest lesson he learned from her: Find the good in everything. I try to shape my life around those words.

5. Honor your health.

Health is like so many other things in life– you never appreciate it until it’s gone. I didn’t value my health, until I was fighting to get it back. It’s easier to maintain the health you have, rather than to lose it and try to restore it. Don’t wait to make your health a priority until you’re forced to.  With a lot of work, I regained my health. But some people never do. Take time to honor your health. Walk, run, play, be active. Nourish your body. Eat well. Rest properly. Drink moderately. Nothing is more important than your health. You can’t do all the things you enjoy if you are not healthy. Take care of it.

6. Work through the tough issues.

We all have life experiences that shape who we are, and who we become. Our parents, siblings, relationships, and childhood experiences influence who we are. And so, inevitably, we all have our own issues and insecurities. And that’s okay. Sometimes we carry those issues into our careers, our relationships, our lives. Life moves fast, and before you know it, for many people, they’ve graduated (or not), have a job (or started a company), get married, and have kids. We don’t always have the time or opportunity to delve into those deep issues that keep us from living fully. But I think one of the greatest things you can do for yourself as a young adult is get therapy or counseling, especially if you’ve experienced some difficult or life-altering experience. Counseling can help foster self-awareness and give you a better understanding of who you are. Don’t be afraid to seek counseling to unravel the knots, or work through the tough issues in your life.

7. Take time off.

It’s hard to figure out what you really want out of life when you’re busy studying, working, or committed to some big thing in your life. School and work will take up so much of your time and energy. Take time off to read, travel, take a class, join a group, give your time. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Do something you’ve never done. When you take time to really live, you will find what makes you come alive. A brilliant producer at CNN once told me that you have to find work that makes you feel like every day is Friday. You will spend most of your life working. It’s worth the investment to take some time off to figure out exactly what you want to spend the rest of your life doing. Find something that makes you feel like you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else.

8. Pay attention to that little voice inside of you.

Intuition is something that is inherent in all of us, but we don’t always pay attention to it. When I think back to big decisions that I’ve made in my life, including the one to step back from my career, I realize that I was internally guided. Despite how much I contemplated leaving CNN, and regardless of how many people’s advice I sought, deep in my core, I knew the answer. Pay attention to that voice inside of you. As one of my dearest friends and mentors told me, listen to that little voice, it will become louder and louder. Which brings me to my next lesson.

9. Don’t be afraid to be who you really are.

It takes time to figure out who you are, what you believe in and value, and which of those things can’t be compromised. It’s not always easy. I’m still learning. Sometimes your beliefs and values will be at odds with others, even those who you are closest to. You have to dig deep to find the courage to be who you really are. The people who matter in your life will celebrate you for who you are. Don’t be afraid to be who you really are.

“It takes great courage to grow up and become who you really are.” –E.E Cummings

10. Cultivate mindfulness.

Life moves fast. Especially nowadays with so many different things vying for our attention. Sometimes, the busyness of life can put us into auto-pilot. Losing my health forced me to slow down everything. It made me reevaluate my priorities. After I was diagnosed, I started practicing meditation, and it changed my health and my life. Creating time to be still each day has given me a sense of clarity and peace of mind that I haven’t found anywhere else. It has helped me to develop mindfulness in a way that makes even the most ordinary, mundane things seem spectacular. Meditation comes in different forms for people. Some people run, walk, practice yoga, play music, cook.  It helps me recognize and appreciate the moments, both big and small. It helps me see the beauty in simple things: A walk, a smile from a stranger, a home-cooked meal, a friendly grocery store clerk. My life has so much more color because of it. Whatever it is for you, find something that creates space and stillness in your life, and watch your world open up because of it.

11. Find faith.

At the peak of my illness, there were some nights where prayer was the only thing that brought me comfort. I’ve always believed that we are guided by something greater than us. Some people are born into a religion, deeply convicted in it, carrying faith throughout their entire lives. But it doesn’t always work out that way for everyone. I was born Muslim, educated Catholic, studied and practiced Christianity. Next on my list is Buddhism, then Judaism. The more I learn about faith, the more empowered I feel by it. It is my personal belief that we are guided by something greater than us, but it took me a long time to find a place where I felt at home with my faith. Read, ask questions, explore and learn about faith. Keep searching until you find what feels right to you. You will know. You gotta believe in something. Even if it’s yourself.

12. Ask questions.

As a journalist, it is my job to ask questions. How do things work?  Why do things work the way they do? What makes people feel and react the way they do? Who says you can’t do things differently? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. That goes for both professional and personal life. You will never know what is possible unless you ask. My oldest sister gave me this advice when I first started my career: Ask for what you want, because the worst that can happen is the answer no. And if you don’t ask, the answer is already no. Although it takes time and some experience, learn to ask for what you want. And question the way things are.

 

13. Take pride in your work.

My first job with CNN was a video journalist. Part of that included getting water, coffee and scripts for our news anchors during live television broadcasts. Many of my peers often griped about this task, and I never quite understood it. That was our role in the show, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. I observed, and listened and memorized how each anchor liked their coffee. I would happily ask them each day if there was anything I could do to help them. As far as I was concerned, that was my job, and I wanted to do it to the best of my ability. In turn, those anchors took me under their wings, taught me how to write and story-tell, shared their expertise with me, and recommended me for other jobs. I still keep in touch with many of them. One of my all time favorite quotes is by Martin Luther King Jr.

“If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry… ” --Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s something I have guided my life principles by. You will have jobs throughout your career that may not be your dream job. But whatever it may be, do your best work, and people will value you for that, and want to help you. It’s all a part of the grand journey that will ultimately get you where you want to be.

14. Determine Your Own Destiny.

After I was diagnosed, I was forced to face who I was in a way that I never imagined. No matter how much I wanted to, this disease was quite literally a part of who I was. You can’t change your DNA. And a part of healing was accepting that. But what I wouldn’t accept was that this disease would dictate my life. So I did everything in my power to live healthier. .  I read, learned, and practiced everything I could about managing my illness. I changed my lifestyle. I took time off to fully commit all of my energy and efforts to living healthier and happier. And I’ve never felt more full of life. You will find that in life, so often, there are things that are out of our control. But we always have the will to choose how we respond to those things. Don’t wait for a big thing to happen in your life to live. Don’t wait for a new year. Every single day you get to decide what you want to your life to look like. Determine your own destiny.

“….I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” –William Ernest Henley

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Healthy and happy this holiday

This holiday, I am filled with gratitude for so many things.

I am grateful for an exciting, new job that allows me to write, story-tell, and be part of the great changes happening in New Orleans right now.

I am grateful for the brilliant team that I work with and the community that I’ve found in them.

I am grateful for my family who love me, flaws and all.

I’m grateful for having the chance to spend quality time with my closest friends this holiday…friends who have been by my side through it all.

But more than anything, I am grateful for my health. With health, I am able to enjoy all the goodness in my life.

What are you most excited about this holiday? Whatever it may be, I hope you enjoy it in good health.

2015 Holiday card

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New Orleans Holiday Gift Guide

IDEAinsider Holiday gift guide

Are you scrambling for last minute gift ideas for the holidays? Don’t worry, so are we! That’s why we’ve rounded up this holiday gift guide for you on #IDEAinsider (that other blog.) That’s right,

Skip the mall this year (and that awful parking situation) and get down with the local businesses!

Here’s four of our favorite picks.

Where Y’Art

With a guide for great gets under $100, Where Y’Art is a sure win for gifts for the art lovers in your life. They feature a collection of work from local New Orleans artists and designers, so we know you’ll spread a little holiday cheer with any one of these pieces.

Where Y'Art

Locally Preserved

We are loving Locally Preserved’s fresh, locally packed and produced (hence the name) goodies. All of the ingredients they use to make their sweet syrups and jams are sourced from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

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KREWE du optic

Treat your main squeeze to a hip and funky gift this year with sunnies from KREWE du optic. They come in all sorts of different fun, locally inspired designs. Can you pick us up a pair, while you’re at it? We promise we’ve been nice!

 


Porter Lyons

Want to bedazzle one of your besties for the holidays? Check out these fabulous fine jewelry by Porter Lyons. We especially love “these”:http://porterlyons.com/product/dagger-pendant-gold/ gold dagger pendants. Hint, hint.

 

 

 

Wishing you a wonderful, healthy  holiday! Happy shopping!

This post was first published on #IDEAinsider at www.ideavillage.org.

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10 Quotes from Women Who Paved Their Own Way

This past Wednesday, we celebrated #WomensEntrepreneurshipDay at The Idea Village and highlighted some of our own “women entrepreneurs in New Orleans”:http://ideavillage.org/ideainsider/detail/99/five-women-entrepreneurs-rocking-the-new-orleans-startup-scene.

Today, we are rounding out the week celebrating different voices of women entrepreneurs in a Week in Words.

We recognize that entrepreneurship can be extremely difficult, and women in business often face their own unique challenges. A study published in _American Political Science Review_ found that in collaborative group settings, “The time that women spoke was significantly less than their proportional representation–amounting to less than 75 percent of the time that men spoke.”

But there is great power in communicating your ideas and vision to others, so, today, we are celebrating the voices of women entrepreneurs, past and present.

1. “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

–Audre Lorde, author

2. “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

–Eleanor Roosevelt, American diplomat and activist

3. “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”

–Mary Anne Radmacher, artist

4. “Nobody talks about entrepreneurship as a survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking. Running that first shop taught me business is not financial science; it’s about trading: buying and selling.”

–Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

5.”A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.”

–Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation

6. “There is no royal flower-strewn path to success. And if there is, I have not found it, for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard.”

–Madam C.J. Walker, America’s first female entrepreneur millionaire

7. “Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

–Anais Nin, author

8. “Don’t just stand for the success of other women– insist on it.”

–Gail Blanke, President and CEO, Lifedesigns

9. “Nothing will work unless you do.”

–Maya Angelou, author and activist

10. “Entrepreneurship is the last refuge of the troublemaking individual.”

–Natalie Clifford Barney, author

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How To Eat Healthy While You Work

Now that I’m back to the reality of work-life, (the days of coffee shop day dreaming & afternoon naps are long gone) I’ve been having a hard time sticking to my healthy ways.

I’ve been reaching for the bad stuff during those afternoon lulls: Coffee, candy, snacks.

I know, I know. So bad. I won’t even tell you how my workout routine has gone kaputz!

But I am determined to get back on track.

And I got a little help when I came across this cool graphic from Rangemaster.

 

Rangemaster InfographIt was a helpful little reminder of how important it is to fill up on the good stuff. And now I have some new ideas for yummy and healthy snacks during the work day.

So, in the meantime, while I get back in the swing of things, do you have any advice on how to balance a healthy work-life?

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10 Ways to Stay Healthy This Cold & Flu Season

It’s that time of year again– the changing of the seasons. That time when your office mate is sneezing and spreading the love. Your boss is coughing and hacking up a storm, then reaching for the communal snacks. Your better half is in bed with the flu … the bed you sleep in, too.

Eww! Germaphobe alert!

Determined not to get bogged down this year by a dreadful cold like I usually do, I did a little research to find out how I could stave off those awful things.

I interviewed Dr. Mignonne Mary, owner of The Remedy Room, a health and wellness clinic offering IV therapy in New Orleans, to get some advice.

Dr. Mary practiced as a private physician for 12 years before opening The Remedy Room. She had some good tips to share, like why you should stock up on silver. Not the kind of silver sparkle and bedazzle we love though ;)

Here are her 10 tips on how to stay healthy this cold and flu season:

1. Drink Up. If cells are not hydrated, they can’t function properly. We’re made of water. All life begins with water.

2. Prevention is Key.Washing hands is optimal over hand sanitizer. It must be hot water. It takes 20 seconds or longer to get bacteria off of your hands.

3. No Touching. No hands to the eye, nose or the mouth; 80 percent of viruses are getting into our bodies from our fingertips. Use Lysol to wipe down EVERYTHING — handles, phones, clickers, door knobs, computers, tables, especially if you’re working in close spaces. Sneeze inside of your shirt. Sneezing produces 100,000-200,000 aerosol droplets, which can attach to dust particles and can stay present in the air for weeks..

4. Diet: No Sugar, no Junk. There’s definitely a correlation to your diet. If you don’t have a good diet, then your immune system is not going to work properly. I think the reason people get sick around the holidays is because there’s such a drastic increase in the amount of sugar they take in. That sugar competes with Vitamin C to get into the white blood cells to fight infection and free radicals. The more sugar you have, the less your body is able to fight for your immune system. Sugar helps promote the growth of bacteria, fungus, etc.  If you’re sick, or you feel like you’re getting sick, cut the sugar drastically.

Eliminate the junk food. No processed foods. I push people toward the comfort foods, like soups and broths that have a lot of trace minerals —elements that come from the earth that help you to function and help your cells to function properly. Have home-made soups, not canned soups. Always avoid alcohol and caffeine when you’re sick.

Dr. Mary

5. Get Your Vitamin C EVERY DAY. I highly recommend that people supplement with vitamin C every day. (1000mg a day) It’s important to have multiple doses throughout the day, rather than one large dose a day. If you feel like something is coming on, I would take it every hour. Vitamin C through IV is better than oral because the vitamin C goes directly to your cells. You can get vitamin C by grabbing some of these quick fruits or veggies: orange (1=70 mg), grapefruit (1=88 mg), red pepper raw (1=226 mg), mango (1=60 mg), kiwi (1=74 mg), broccoli raw (1/2 cup=93 mg).

6. Pump up the Vitamin D and Zinc. Add these to your supplements before cold season arrives. I’d rather a patient take tiny doses more often than a whammy dose twice a day. I would say take another 2000 IU’s (international units) of vitamin D a day while you’re sick. Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon. Foods fortified with vitamin D, like soy milk, cereals, cheese, egg yolks, lean beef and lamb offer good amounts of vitamin D. Nuts and beans, such as chick peas, cashews and almonds contain zinc.

7. Get Your Omega 3 Fatty Acids. At least 1000 mg-2000 mg a day helps to heal the outside of the cell membrane. If the cell is not healthy, all of the above nutrients won’t get in and out of the cell. Fish such as halibut, herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon, sardines, trout and fresh tuna are the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids, but walnuts and edamame also contain omega 3 fatty acids and make for great snacks.

8. Up Your Glutathione. The mother of all antioxidants, glutathione kills free radicals, helps your body’s immune system to fight infection, and reactivates vitamin C. The body naturally produces glutathione, but poor diet, pollution, toxins, medications, stress, trauma, aging, and infections all deplete your glutathione.

9. Silver Hydrosol. Nothing can live in the presence of silver. It’s a natural anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. In the past, people used silver mugs and plates, because it was safe from bacteria. You can take safe amounts of silver hydrosol as a supplement, too. (Dr. Mary recommends “Argentyn 23″: http://www.natural-immunogenics.com/pdf/Argentyn23Brochure.pdf)

10. B12 Shots or IV Therapy. If all else fails, go for the B12 Shots or IV Therapy. Intravenous therapy is the infusion of fluids directly into a vein — a fast route to hydrate the body and replenish lost vitamins and minerals. By using IV hydration, all of the administered nutrients are absorbed immediately into the bloodstream.

This post originally was published on the #IDEAinsider blog.

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Health Benefits of Ginger

When I first found out about ginger, and all of its’ magical healing properties, I went on a ginger kick. And then somewhere amidst the busyness of life, I forgot all about it. But I was reminded of how delightful it is when I had this delicious little package arrive at my door recently.

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Gingerona is an all natural drink that contains only four ingredients: water, ginger, lime, and mint. (If I haven’t told you already, I’m kind of obsessed with mint.) The two of them together…that’s a love affair in a cup! Here’s all the reasons why ginger is sooo good for your body.

Relieves joint pain. Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols that have been found to relieve joint pain.

Alleviates nausea. Ginger has been shown to be very useful in reducing nausea. Take it from me, I know! See FMF.

Helps you absorb nutrients. Ginger improves the absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients in the body.

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Reduces Pain and Inflammation. Ginger contains some of the most potent anti-inflammatory fighting substances known and is a natural powerful painkiller.

Kills Ovarian Cancer Cells. Ginger powder induces cell death in ovarian cancer cells.

Strengthens the Immune System Ginger helps improve the immune system.

Relieves Morning Sickness. Ginger has demonstrated a success rate of 75% in relieving morning sickness.

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Fights Common Respiratory Problems. Ginger is a natural expectorant that aids in loosening up phlegm in the lungs.

Helps Prevent and Fight Cold & Flu. Ginger has been used for thousands of years as a natural treatment for colds and flu. The University of Maryland Medical Center says to treat cold and flu symptoms in adults, steep 2 tbsp. of freshly shredded or chopped ginger root in hot water, two to three times a day.

Helps Regulate Normal Blood Circulation. Ginger contains chromium, magnesium and zinc which can help to improve blood flow.

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Remedies Motion Sickness. Ginger is a known effective remedy for nausea associated with motion sickness.

Helps Prevent Colon Cancer. A study at the University of Minnesota found that ginger may slow the growth of colorectal cancer cells.

Natural Anti-infammatory. Ginger reduces inflammation, similar to the way aspirin and ibuprofen works.

The information for this post was sourced from WebMD.com, WHfoods.com, Lifehack.org, and Medicalnewstoday.com.

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Yoga and the Saints

Hello lovely. It’s been a long time. Too long.

I’ve been gone but I’m so happy to be back.

And I couldn’t wait to tell you about the coolest yoga class I’ve ever taken. It’s a yoga speakeasy. What’s a yoga speakeasy, you say?

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It’s a yoga class held every month in a different location throughout the city.

This Speakeasy was at the New Orleans Saints practice facility.

It was OMazing.

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Free to Be yoga studio teaches the Speakeasy class series.

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The energy in there was really something special.

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We sent our intentions to the football Gods to give us a win, but they must not have heard us, because we suffered an awful loss that game.

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Ohhh well. Namaste.

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The next Yoga Speakeasy will be this Sunday at the lovely Longue Vue House and Gardens.

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Why New Orleans Could Become a Leader in Healthcare

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Happy Friday everybody! It’s been a whirlwind of a week for me! What about you?

I’ve been working hard the past few weeks on a story that I am SO excited about!

What is New Orleans known for?

Po-boys, parties, parades. It’s known for many things, and health is not one of them.

But a lot of new, and exciting things are happening in the city, and local leaders think that could soon change.

Find out why they believe the city of good times could become a leader in healthcare.

Entrepreneurs take part in changing healthcare landscape in New Orleans

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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A Little Help to Keep Me Healthy

summer As seen on Nolavie….

This week, while I was searching for inspiration to write my column, I found it in the most unexpected way. While I had originally intended to write about one of my many adventures at the doctor and the “red carpet moment” I recently had there, my writing path took a turn just as I was drumming up the introduction. I’ll save that other story for another day. Instead, I’ll tell you about how I was inspired to write by a simple and kind gesture.

Have you ever gotten home from work and felt so exhausted that you couldn’t imagine doing anything other than sprawling across the couch? No cooking dinner, no exercising, no talking. Just laying.

This week, I had one of those days. And let’s be honest here. I have them often. I made it home from work at about 7 p.m. and quickly scarfed down dinner (that was thankfully prepared by my mom) so that I could set out to do what I needed to do. I just needed to sit down for a few minutes. Well, you know how that goes.

I needed to go for my evening run and I needed to write this column. And truthfully, I didn’t feel like doing either. (I’m sure my editors will love that.) Half of my brain was trying to get my body to respond and get up, while the other half was trying to flesh out my story idea. But it wasn’t long before my body sunk sideways across the couch in my parents’ living room. “Help,” I mumbled, partially to myself, halfway hoping I’d be hit with a stroke of instant energy by some invincible energy gods. I sunk my head face down in defeat.

I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off, my body was feeling the impact of several unrestful nights of sleep.

Unexpectedly, I peered up, and saw my brother standing in front of me. He reached out his hand, and said, “Come on, the hardest part is getting up.” He gently pulled me up to my feet. It wasn’t the playful demeanor you would expect from an older brother. It was simple, kind gesture, but it was beautiful and filled me with so much gratitude that I felt compelled to write about it. Because sometimes we can overlook the power of a kind and simple gesture. And it was just what I needed — someone to give me a hand, and, quite literally, help lift me up.

So, I mustered all my strength, laced up my shoes and hit the ground running. Then, I sat down to write.

I won’t pretend that staying committed to my health is easy. In fact, it’s often difficult. It takes a lot of work and discipline. And although I am fiercely passionate about it, I don’t always love it. I want to live wrecklessly. Sometimes I want to quit altogether. Other times I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility that comes with managing a chronic illness. It is exhausting to have to be constantly cautious with my body, being vigilant about what I eat, how much sleep I get, managing my stress — which are all factors that directly impact my health. Sometimes, I just want to say “screw it,” drink 3, 4, 5 cocktails, sit on the couch with a big bag of Zapp’s chips and a 16oz can of Coke and feel guilty about none of it — there, I said it!

But you know what, that’s okay. As long as I get back on track.  I can’t always do it on my own. Sometimes I need, we all need, that helping hand to reach down and pull us up.

As Summer winds down, fall rolls in and winter slowly unfolds (New Orleans style, of course, with temperatures plummeting to 50 degrees), it gets so much harder to stay active and stick to healthy habits. So, maybe you’ve been thinking about taking a class, or joining a running group or a gym. Perhaps you’ve thought about starting a schedule to walk around your neighborhood or the park. Maybe you plan to cut back on fried foods. Drink more water. Get to sleep earlier. Try yoga. Take the stairs. Whatever it may be, you don’t have to do it on your own. I’m reaching out my hand to pull you up.

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