Monthly Archives: August 2011

Overcoming Adversity

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As the senior staff writer for The Gates of Seminole Magazine (a Central Florida magazine), one of my jobs is to write my publisher’s notes for her (evidently, it’s the nature of this business to ghost write even more than the articles you’re assigned, oh well, money’s money). My publisher is a very accomplished woman in a variety of areas, but her chief talent is optimism. I swear, I don’t think Ashly has a negative bone in her body sometimes (Unless she calls me at midnight hiding in her office drinking two glasses of wine and eating cheetos–it is her vice, and thus far I’m the only person who has been able to get her out of it.)

Either way, for the Fall of 2009 edition of the magazine, Ashly wanted me to write about overcoming adversity. It’s a simple, feel-good piece that is supposed to work as a giant inspirational quote to those who are down in the dumps but still live in multi-million dollar homes. It just goes to show you, money cannot buy strength. Even millionaires need a pick-me-up. Here is the article, which she liked so much that she asked me to write a NEW publisher’s letter and giving this one it’s own special section. I hope you enjoy it.

Words from the Publisher
The Gates of Seminole Magazine
Fall Edition, 2009
By Kara Mae Adamo; Senior Staff Writer

John Vance Cheney once said that “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” Each day, we experience some kind of challenge. Whether it’s from a stranger, from work, or even from our children, adversity is one of life’s few guarantees.

In a world with so much turmoil, it is easy for us to fall victim to the pessimistic frame of mind that is unfortunately so common. Be it loss of financial security, health problems, or just an indescribable emptiness, we all face hardship at one point or another. The thing that irritates us the most is that, regardless of how much control we have over our lives, the presence of adversity is something we generally CANNOT control. What we can do, however, is learn from it and turn it into something positive.

The Chinese sign for adversity is a compilation of two symbols. The first is the symbol for “difficulty.” The second, interestingly enough, is the symbol for OPPORTUNITY. Instead of allowing yourself to feel helpless, angry, and imprisoned with self-victimization, take on the challenge at hand.

Life is only 10% what happens to you. The other 90% is how you react to it and how you grow from it. The mind is a very powerful thing. The secret to handling adversity is acknowledging the importance of mind over matter. As our thoughts determine our words, so our character determines how we handle life’s challenges.

It is important to realize that there is no failure in life. Failure–aside from, perhaps, the action of giving up completely–is a myth. You will survive through every moment of your life until your last breath. Take condolence in that and cherish the breaths that you have left. If you have not gotten the result you were looking for, take what you can from your experience thus far and MOVE FORWARD. There are several paths to get to the top of every mountain. Find a detour. Redirect. Reshape. Renew.

I like to equate life to a black and white photograph. As sure as there are shadows, there is also light. You need the contrast in order to see things clearly. And if things are never 100% dark; they are varying degrees of gray. The same goes for difficult challenges. They are not 100% impossible; they are just of varying degrees of difficulty. Where there is a will, there is always a way. “Can’t” should never be in your vocabulary.

Focus on your challenges, but also on your triumphs. Each time you believe in others, forgive people, overcome your weaknesses, and find yourself doing the right thing even (especially) when it’s difficult…you are succeeding in life.

It helps to start your day out on a positive note–without projection or negative energy. If you begin each day feeling like the sky is going to fall around you, then–figuratively–it will. Do not waste your day worrying about adversity. It will eat you up inside. Put things in perspective. Allow yourself five seconds to panic, and then throw that panic out the window. Refocus. Seize the day and overcome whatever it is you are facing as best you can.

Stop focusing on the obstacles; you will lose sight of the goal. We are all loved far more than our ability to comprehend. This fall, I encourage you to look at each challenge as an opportunity. It is not casual success that that thrills the soul. It is the honest, hard-earned victory that makes us feel like we are truly alive.

The Hazards of Tanning

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Remember Magda from There's Something About Mary? Spooky.

Author: Kara Mae Adamo.

 As the rosy glow of dawn creeps over the horizon, casting golden rays of sunlight across the sky, many of us rise to meet the coming day with smiles on our faces. We dress in light clothes and step out into the morning air—painted a warm flaxen yellow—with a feeling of calm happiness. We soak in the sunshine, pleased with the way the summer sun gives us glowing, tanned, healthy-looking skin.

It is easy, while appreciating every glimmering ray, to forget that we are in danger of over-exposing ourselves. Most sun burns are over quickly and can be soothed with lotions and aloe, so we shrug them off. For people like me—people who have darker skin and have lived along coastal beaches our whole lives—it is particularly easy to forget about it. It is a rare thing for me to burn, and so despite my parents’ ever-present reminders, I have often stretched out under the blazing Florida sun without so much as a drop of sunscreen.

As I get older, however, something really freaky seems to be happening: I’m finding out that my parents are right. About a lot of things. Especially sunscreen.

In honesty, I don’t know why I never listened before. I think it was a combination of my incessant laziness (yes. I was too lazy to put sunscreen on.) along with a very unhealthy attitude towards tanning. Not only am I a native beach-going-Floridian, but I am Sicilian. My ability to out-tan people was a source of pride growing up. All of my friends would freckle and burn and peel and there I’d be, golden brown as dark caramel, relishing in the delightful way my skin would change painlessly.

In our society, sporting a tan is considered an attractive quality. It is for that reason that this country is peppered with tanning salons and tanning oils: to feed the fervent desire to look tan year-around. Sunscreen puts a bit of a halt on the tanning process, and so we young’uns like to avoid it.

This is a bad idea. Say it with me, ladies, “sunscreen is my friend.”

This could be you.

I’ll start my argument off with the thing that will speak to us the loudest: the sun ages you. Think about any time you’ve been to the beach—especially in the south. Florida’s coastline, a retirees haven, is covered with people that have overexposed themselves. You know who I’m talking about. These are the people who eerily resemble The Dancing Raisinetts (yes, I realize I’m dating myself here).Leather-skinned and wrinkly, most of these individuals are nowhere near as old as they look. The sun will dry your skin. It will give you wrinkles, blemishes, melasma and brown spots all over the place. So unless you want to look like a prune permanently, lather on the sunscreen.

Now, that is a purely superficial situation. Eventually, if all goes according to plan, we will all become raisins…just some earlier than others. The real issue here is a bit more serious.

Skin cancer is the most diagnosed of all cancers. Of the many types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most serious and is common in people between 20-39 years old. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 120,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed every year. Last year, nearly 70,000 of these were invasive cases.

So how does this happen?

Basically, it works like this:

There are three types of ultraviolet rays. You should be wary of two of these (UVA and UVB rays). UVA rays are the most harmful, as they are longer and penetrate the skin, basically cooking it from underneath and prematurely aging it. Over time, these are the rays that can cause skin cancer—which can be fatal.

So what do I do?

Now, I don’t live in a cave. I know that there is no way in this universe anyone is going to walk around in a bee suit or hibernate like a bear until Labor Day is over. In fact, the latter wouldn’t do you much good anyway, since you’re still in danger during the winter seasons.

So here are a few tips for those sensational fun-in-the-sun days we all look forward to:

1.)    Wear sunscreen with a minimum of 15 SPF. Depending on your skin type, you may need a higher SPF. The number is based on how much exposure your skin can take before it begins to burn. 8 SPF isn’t going to help you—even if you’re almost un-burn-able. Just because you’re not pink and you’re not in pain (symptoms of UVB ray exposure) doesn’t mean the UVA rays aren’t causing damage. Also: reapply your sunscreen—even if it’s waterproof. You’re sweating it off whether you realize it or not and yes, you do sweat in the water, too.

2.)    Wear a hat. This does go for the ladies—but it especially goes for the fella’s. Gentlemen: if you are balding, please, wear a hat. Nothing is worse than a scalp burn (I got cornrows on a cruise in the Bahamas once and had strips of red along my head…dear Lord, the sunburn/headache combo is the worst.) If you hate hats, then I recommend investing in sunscreen designed specifically for your scalp. The wonders of science have, as it turns out, come up with such a thing. Cool, huh?

3.)    Wear lip balm. Nothing is more unkissable than lips that are chapped and scorched from the summer heat. Regular sunscreen doesn’t really help here…and it tastes funky.

4.)    Wear sunglasses. This one should be a no-brainer. Sunglasses are not only fashionable, but they help when you’re walking and driving around town because they keep the glare out of your eyes. Another thing they do is protect the sensitive skin around your eyes and your eyelids (regular sunscreen will all but blind you and will screw up your sun-day-fun-day). Also: sunglasses help prevent cataracts. If you are in the market for a new pair, I recommend polarized lenses with UV protection. If you can’t spring for the polarized pair, then at least go for UV protection, as without it the glasses will be nothing more than a spiffy accessory. (Hintedy-hint-hint: sunglasses help with glare from the snow in the winter, too.)

5.)    Check the UVI (the UV-Index). The UVI can be found in your local newspaper right near the weather section. It tells you how intense the rays are going to be. Everything is fine at UVI 0-2. If the rays are at UVI 6+, however, stay inside. You can lounge at the pool some other day. It’s just best not to risk it.

Aside from that, enjoy yourself. If you’re particularly prone to acne, I recommend going for sunscreen that is oil-free and noncomedogenic. If you burn with exceptional ease, try going for a sunscreen that has something called “physical blockers” in it like titanium dioixide and micron zed zinc oxide.

Avoid tanning beds. I know they make you look pretty, but they’re dangerous and addictive. Again, do you really want to look tanned and fabulous for the next five years in exchange for a lifetime of prunage? I thought not.

Keep hydrated and try to stay out of direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm. That is when the sun’s rays are at their height and when it is the most dangerous to be basking in the heat. Remember that sand and concrete and water all reflect the light, too, so you’re actually getting far more exposure than you may realize.

Other than that, enjoy the weather. Nothing feels better than relaxing outside on a warm summer day with a cold drink and a book or some music. Just be wary of the dangers and stay on the safe side and you will be able to look forward to many more enjoyable summer days :).

Find your local UVI here:

http://www.who.int/uv/intersunprogramme/activities/uv_index/en/index4.html

Dead Things: Part 2

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Author: Kara Mae Adamo.

 There are things that happen in this life that you just don’t see coming. No matter how hard you try to prepare yourself—to coach yourself—you can be thrown off guard.

I get that life throws you curves.

But the idea that there would be a part 2 to my previous “Dead Things” blog is something that, prior to this morning, I would have thought impossible. I would have said, “There is no way…no just world would provide the opportunity to write a second one. Some other crazy concept, maybe—but not another Dead Things blog!” I would have checked your temperature. I would have raised my eyebrow in a judgmental fashion. I would have shaken my head and sworn to heaven and hell that turning dead people into diamonds and dead pets into paper weights was the extremity of creepy cremation habits. Then, nervously, I would have gone about my business.

And I would have been wrong…so wrong.

In the aforementioned Dead Things blog…which is not posted as a “part 1” because, as I said, I was ill-prepared…I made a reference to Silence of the Lambs and compared people who wear their relatives as jewelry to Buffalo Bill. It was a tongue-and-cheek comment that I might not have even thought of had I not recently watched the movie.

It is impossible, however, to continue on this rant without making yet another Silence of the Lambs reference. We incarcerated Dr. Hannibal Lecter…so how about Casie of Fayetteville, Tennessee? Can we not, at the very least, send her to the funny farm?

This woman not only went through a period where she carried 6 pounds of her husband’s ashes everywhere she went (the movies, the grocery store, etc)…but now she is eating them.

She is eating them. Like—she ran out of Oreos and decided she would just start eating his cremated remains. I guess she figured it would save her a trip to the supermarket.

Really, I would like to have a talk with Casie. There are just so many things I feel I need to know…things that, up until recently, I never knew I had to know.

Unforeseeable Question Number 1:

How often do you indulge in this guilty pleasure?

Is this a once-a month ordeal or is it more like a daily multivitamin? Is it emotionally-driven? Do you indulge in this little treat the way I indulge in green olives and chocolate? Is there a specific time of day that is reserved for your daily dose of ashes, or is it spontaneous? Casie has already gone through 1 out of the original 6 pounds of ashes. At what rate is she eating them, and how much at a time?

Unforeseeable Question Number 2:

How do you go about eating these ashes?

Do you garnish them, or do you eat them straight? Is this the type of thing where you have to add ketchup or salt, or can you just eat it as-is? Also, can you use the ashes as a seasoning for your favorite entrée? Do you spread it on crackers like caviar? Does it work well with granola? If I were to eat ashes, do you recommend that I add milk?

 

Unforeseeable Question Number 3:

What do you drink when you eat them?

Seriously—other than gallons of vomit-inducing Jaeger or perhaps authentic Absinth, I cannot think of one single thing that might provoke me to even think about touching a dead person’s ashes, let alone eating them. What’s sad is that I’m not even asking if you get drunk first. I am actually asking, from a wine critic’s point of view, is: what drinks pair well with your husband’s remains? I imagine that ashes would give you wicked cottonmouth, so what do you do to satiate this thirst? Does anything bring out the flavor or is it the type of thing where you have to take a chaser of red bull?

Unforeseeable Question Number 4:

How many Weight Watchers points are in a single serving of human remains?

This kind of plays off of my suggestion that she might be counting her calories and opting out of conventional snack foods. Perhaps Casie knows something we don’t. Maybe she heard Oreos have too many calories and decided that instead of opting for that 100 calorie bag she would just reach into the urn instead of the cookie jar. Perhaps all of this time I could have saved myself hundreds of dollars in gym memberships and several hours of crunches and self-loathing by choosing ashes instead of Kit Kat bars.

Unforeseeable Question Number 5:

Have you noticed any physical changes now that you’ve begun eating said ashes?

Do you have more energy? Is there a change in your iron levels? More importantly—on a less optimistic note—are you concerned about the chemicals that are left in these remains post-cremation? Did it ever occur to you that we no longer hoist people up on pilings with some oil and set them ablaze like the Greeks? We put chemicals in our celery. You know they put chemicals on dead people. You can’t pay a little extra for an urn-full of organic, preservative free ashes. There is no such thing.

Unforeseeable Question Number 6:

Is it still considered cannibalism to eat another human being after they are cremated?

This one is more a question for the general public than it is to Casie herself. I don’t expect a sane answer from her one way or the other. But for those of us on the outside looking in, I’d like to take a poll: who believes that, after you are reduced to dust, you are no longer technically a person…and who believes (as my friend Tasha put it) that charred human remains are simply people cooked “well-done”? There is a dig in there somewhere linking “butterflied” steak with the Silence of the Lambs moths, but I haven’t been able to think of a way to phrase it yet. My brain is still going through shock and I’m afraid I’m not working on all cylinders. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Even worse than all of this, of course, is the fact that Shawn (her appetizer) would have never seen this coming. I now have to look at every guy I date and wonder, if we get married and I kick it, is he going to turn me into a dessert?

As if I needed more complexes in regards to the opposite sex.

Anyway, she is still out roaming the streets of some random neighborhood, so be on the lookout. If all else fails, offer her some farva beans and a nice Chianti. I hear Gabbiano works great with spiced ashes on toast.

PS: Here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/08/eating-husbands-ashes-helps-grieving-wife-mourn-his-death_n_921416.html