National Wear Red Day

February 2, 2018 is national wear “red” day for American Heart Month.

 

On the first Friday of February national wear “red” day is held to draw attention to the fact that the #1 killer of women is heart disease.  This year, 2018 marks the 15th year for this event.

There have been major strides made in the effort to eradicate heart disease in women, but still, 1 in 3 women will die from some form of heart disease and stroke.

The color red was chosen because it stands out.  It has even been stated that red makes a person feel powerful.

The research has shown that women who participate in the events (wearing red) during February do the following:

  • eat healthier diets
  • exercise more
  • insist on medical tests when having symptoms of stroke/heart attack

My best friend since second grade has had to change many things since suffering three heart attacks, the last one being a major one.  Her challenges have made me more aware of my health.  The symptoms of heart attacks for women are different from those for men.  They can be:

  • pain in one or both arms, stomach, back, neck or jaw–which is what my best friend had
  • dizziness
  • fullness in the chest with or without pain

Symptoms of a stroke can be:

  • sudden blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • sudden trouble speaking
  • sudden numbness or weakness especially on one side

So wear something “red” on February 2, and donate to your local American Heart Association to stomp out heart disease and stroke in women.

To learn more about heart disease, stroke and how to donate contact your local heart association, The National American Heart Association  or The Tarrant County Heart Association.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”–Go Red for Women.

 

An Interview With Fort Worth’s Rare Diamond–Author Amara Russell

Fort Worth native, Amara Russell is the author of the much talked about novel “A Rare Diamond”. Even though this is her first novel to be published she is no stranger to writing.  Her love for writing has been evident to those around her since elementary school when her first article was published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It was our honor to have a great conversation with her.

Who are some of the authors you enjoy reading today?

Some of the people I enjoy reading are Priscilla Shirer. Her book “A Jewel in His Crown” is one of my favorites; it has brought me through a lot of things that were occurring in my life at the time. Another author that I like is Lysa Terkeurst.  Her book  “The Best Yes” is about making wise decisions when going through certain situations.

Who and what do you read just for fun? Also, what is a book that you have read more than once?

I love romance novels.  There is a book by Eric Jerome Dickey called “Friends and Lovers” about different relationships.  He adds a lot of humor to his books and I enjoy that. It’s a thick little novel, and I have read it several times.

Was “A Rare Diamond” the first manuscript that you finished?

It was the first manuscript that I finished.  It took me a year to write it.  I was laid off my job in 2015, and for the first couple of months, I spent my time trying to find employment. When I didn’t find anything I decided to use the time to do something that I liked–writing.  Writing helped to heal my stress. I put my frustrations into the manuscript.

Writing became my full-time job.  Every day when I woke up, I poured myself into writing.  It was something I loved to do.

Tell us about the inspiration for the novel–was any of it born out of personal experiences?

Actually, there are a lot of bits and pieces of the story that are related to my life, and things around me. I would visit coffee shops, relatives houses and observe activities that I added to the story.

When I found employment, I wasn’t able to put the time I needed into the writing of the book.  When I loss my mom I  was able to relate to Celeste, the main character in the book who loses her mom.  This event inspired me to get back to writing nonstop.

That’s interesting what you said about being able to relate to Celeste after the loss of your mother.  That’s something people tend to think they can relate to but can’t when they have not experienced that loss.  They know what to say, but they can’t relate.

Right, when I would express to people that I was still hurting they couldn’t understand because they had not experienced it, and until they do, they won’t understand.

I understand, and God will get you through it, but you never get over it, and it is never the same.  There is a void that is always going to be there.

Right.

Now Celeste is the main character in your novel.  Tell us a little about her.  I know that you said she loss her mother at 5.  Without giving away the story tell us a little bit more about her.

Celeste is witty, smart and beautiful.  She is courageous, and she doesn’t bite her tongue about anything, but she says what she means in a subtle way.  She takes her characteristics from her mother who was filled with integrity.  Her mother could walk into a room and capture everyone’s attention.  Celeste picked up a lot of those qualities.

The story is about her life from the age of 5 to 25. She is a young woman trying to find her way, her identity without her mom.

What other characters in the novel play a pivotal role?

Derrick is a childhood friend of Celeste who grew up in the neighborhood.  Really he was her brother’s friend first.  As they grew older they were able to relate because he had suffered the loss of his father at an early age, and he had older siblings who were all girls, and her older siblings were boys.

Another main character is her brother Craig. Celeste and Craig have a very close relationship.  She leans on him, and he leans on her in certain situations.  I would say that Derrick and Craig are two of my other main characters.

From some of the comments that we  have read people say that the book kept them on their toes until the very end.  So if we were going to the bookstore what two sections would we find “A Rare Diamond”?

Probably in the Faith-based section and also in the Romance section.

If you were to have “A Rare Diamond” made into a movie, who would you have to play the main characters?

Oh my God, I knew you would ask that, and I have those people written down (laughter).

It’s important because when people read a novel they picture certain people.  I have to read the book before I see the movie.  I remember going to see “Waiting to Exhale”, and none of those people were the people I pictured except Loretta Devine.  She had the sass that was in the book.  I met Walter Mosley and told him that I did not see Denzel Washington as Easy Rawlins, and he said he didn’t either.  I told him I pictured a young Laurence Fishburne.  He told me when you sell the rights to your book, then the studio picks the actors.  So who do you have as Celeste?

For Celeste, there were two people. I had in my mind LeToya Luckett could play her or Keisha Knight Pulliam.

Oh, why those two?

The similarities when I envision my character, I see them as her. And then their personalities when I see them in films or on television.  Those personalities fit Celeste.

Ok, what about Derrick?

Derrick, the minute I started writing I don’t know why but I envisioned the actor Lance Gross.

Oh, okay, yes.  That’s a good one.  What about Craig?

Craig because he’s so hilarious–even when I was writing the novel I would crack up from some of the things he would say.  To me, I always said Mike Epps (laughter) .

Oh my God! (laughter).  He would be a wonderful big brother. 

Just to add one more, the mother because she is such an inspiration.  It’s like I didn’t want to kill her off at the beginning so I was kind of going back and forth, but Angela Bassett always came to mind when I was writing the story.

She would be good.  Even in her personal life, she seems to be into her family and her faith. You are going to have a hometown book signing.  Tell us about it.

The book signing will be downtown Fort Worth at the Marie Antoinette Parfumiere and Spa which is located at 101 West 2nd directly across from the Worthington Hotel.  It will be on Saturday, February 10 from 3 to 5.  A pre Valentine event.

Are you working on a sequel or another novel?

I am actually working on a trilogy to “A Rare Diamond”, I’m going to break it up into three parts.

That will be nice.

Well, we thank you for your time.  We’ll see you at your book signing.

Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

 

“A Rare Diamond” can be purchased at Amazon, the Barnes and Noble website or on http://www.nspired2write247.com.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy Yourself–You’re Worth It

by CY Cooper

It seems like it was only a day or so ago we were all enjoying the sights and sounds of the Christmas season.  It’s really hard to believe that we are now moving toward the middle of January 2018 and getting set for the next BIG holiday, which is Valentines Day.  It didn’t take the retail stores long to move forward as they were putting up hearts and flowers the day after Christmas.

You know it’s not a secret that the holiday season is just plain busy for everyone. Whether it’s family, friends, co-workers, church or other organization functions, most of us find ourselves so busy we don’t have time for ourselves or to just look around, sit for a quiet moment and ENJOY the season.

Well during the holiday hustle and bustle I did a couple of activities for yours truly.  I registered for a total of (3) cooking classes.  Two of the classes took place at the Fort Worth Cooking School at Central Market and the other at Sur La Table in Fort Worth.  Let me tell you, all (3) classes were hands on, educational and a lot of FUN.  Besides taking home the recipes and instructions on what we accomplished in class, all participants took home a nice sampling of our finished baked goods.  Now I’m sure you’re probably thinking that you want to do anything but cook/bake, BUT as stated earlier it was FUN, a lot of FUN. It was an activity where you could go with a friend or by yourself and meet other people with an interest in cooking/baking.  Plus, for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours you were away from the holiday rush.  I learned to bake everything from buttermilk biscuits in a cast iron skillet, Parker House rolls to eggnog cranberry swirl bread just to name a few.

I didn’t just stop with the cooking/baking classes.  My sister and I attended the Texas Ballet Theater’s THE NUTCRACKER at the wonderful Bass Hall.  It’s become a family tradition and it’s a MUST SEE.  If you’ve never had the chance to see this ballet, you should.  It just may become one of your Christmas traditions.

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And finally, yours truly is a fan of tea, and The Ashton Hotel in downtown Fort Worth starts their Holiday Tea Service the day after Thanksgiving.  This was my first time attending but I can tell you it won’t be my last.  I tried to reserve a couple of seats for the week before Christmas but they were all booked up.  I made a reservation instead for a date after Christmas and even then there wasn’t an empty seat to be found.  Holiday Tea at The Ashton Hotel runs through the end of the month of December.  The tea was EXCELLENT and so relaxing.  DEFINITELY put this activity on your TO DO list for the 2018 Holiday Season.  

The Christmas of 2017 was busy and it sped by quickly, but I can truly say it was FUN and memorable.

It’s 2018.  Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

Voyage Dallas Magazine Interview

Here is the interview that I gave to Voyage Dallas Magazine.  I hope that you will enjoy reading it. It was a lot of fun to give.

Interview With Voyage Dallas Magazine

Thank you so much for following thisisyourbestyear“.  There is a lot more in store for all of us.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Enjoy life….. and thanks again!

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At The Texas Conference For Women–Women Rock

It is always great to be in the presence of women, especially smart women.  The Texas Conference for Women has so much to see, hear and do that it is hard to decide which way to go. That is why you see me rushing almost running in the halls of the Austin Convention Center with my two bags, comfortable shoes, and phone. I was off to races.

Texas Conference 2 Photo by Getty

I was able to snag two great interviews with two amazing women.  My first interview came as a surprise.  We just struck up a conversation, and I knew women would love to know about her company “iFundWomen”.  Below is the interview that I did with the CEO and founder of “iFundWomen”, Ms. Karen Cahn. For women who are looking for ways to fund their startup, she is the person to know.

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My second interview was with the Emmy award winner, Ms. Gaby Natale.  She is the host of the Emmy award-winning show Super Latina, and now the author of the book El Circulo Virtuoso.  Her story is one that a lot of people can identify with. She is inspirational.  My interview with Gaby is below.

Both women are successful entrepreneurs who have found their passions and turned them into their careers.  As each would tell you it has been a journey that has taken some unexpected turns.  They epitomize the women that attended and participated in the Texas Conference for Women.  This year there were 7,500 women in attendance from all over the United States.

Each of the women had their own schedule to adhere to and knew which sessions they wanted to attend and why.  All of us were able to hear the three keynote speakers, Ms. Anita Hill, Ms. Sheryl Sandberg, and Ms. Viola Davis.  Their presentations were informative and more.  You can see some of Ms. Anita Hill’s talInstagramFacebook Page–thisisyourbestyear, Instagram–thisisyourbestyear and Twitter–@mariciajohns.

If you have never attended this conference, you should think about it for next year.  There is something for everyone from, pitching your product to QVC, working on your Linkedin Page, coping with grief, fitness and much more.

This is one of the highlights of my year, seeing and hearing the speakers and meeting up with other bloggers, photographers, and other media again.  Hope you will take advantage of this great gathering of women.  Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

To find out more about how to fund your business go to the “iFundWomen” website.

www.ifundwomen.com

If you would like to know about Gaby Natale, and how to contact her for speaking engagements, book signings and more please visit her website.

www.gabynatale.com

Join me on Instagram!

We’re on Instagram as @thisisyourbestyear. Install the app to follow my photos and videos. https://instagram.com/download/?r=380485317

You can also follow us on Facebook–thisisyourbestyear, Twitter–@mariciajohns and of course our website–www.thisisyourbestyear.com.

          Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

Enjoy A Great Meal and Make A Difference

I would usually put this post in the What “I” Like section because the food is amazing, but this is more than what I like. It’s about an idea that is not only changing the food scene in Dallas, but it is teaching future chefs and others life skills. It is not a culinary school, it’s not your typical classroom, and these are not your typical educators or your typical students.

Cafe Momentum is a non-profit restaurant and professional training facility that is located in downtown Dallas. Cafe Momentum is in the restaurant business, but more importantly it is in the business of transforming the lives of young people who have been inside juvenile facilities. The restaurant, culinary school, life skills university is the brain child of Chef Chad Houser. Working in collaboration with the Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department, Cafe Momentum strives to teach young men and women that it is possible to break the cycle–the cycle of crime, violence and poverty.

The students rotate through a 12 month paid internship program where they do work in every position from dishwasher to server to working along side world class chefs. In addition to culinary skills, they are taught anger management, money management and other life skills. Upon successfully completing the intense program the interns are placed with partners of Cafe Momentum for employment.

The food was scrumptious to the eye and to the palette. Making the night even more enjoyable was the knowledgeably, friendly, professional and courteous staff. We tried and shared several items, but one of my favorites was King Oyster Mushroom Scallops. I love scallops, but I hardly order them because if they are not done correctly they are not very appealing to eat. The mushrooms reminded me of the best scallops that I have ever tasted. They had the same buttery texture–they were wonderful. If I had not been told they were mushrooms, I would have thought I was eating scallops. It is usually hard to fool me when it comes to taste. You know how they say “it taste like” and it doesn’t–this did.

We started with a pickle plate that contained bourbon pickled green tomatoes, sweet cucumbers, hot, very hot jalapenos, Italian cauliflower and more. it was a great taste mixture of sweet, tangy and hot. Everyone at the table seemed to have their favorite. The next item that we shared was the magnificent Charcuteri Plate–it was magnificent. It featured torchon, duck ham, homemade sausage, two types of goat cheese which they lovingly called Lucy and Ethel, and so much more. To see more about this amazing plate (video) go to our Facebook Page–thisisyourbestyear.

Another amazing dish that everyone wanted to have a bite of was Ninny’s (fried) Okra Salad. I am one person who likes okra almost anyway it can be prepared, and this dish was one of the best ways that I have eaten it.

At this point I was a bit full so I order the Ninny Okra Salad for my entree, and nibbled off of everyone’s plate. Someone ordered the Smoked Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, collard greens, biscuits and gravy. I tasted it–OMG. The Pork Chop with brown butter, green tomato salad and a 4 bean salad was ordered by a couple of people. I didn’t taste this one, but there wasn’t much left on their plates so I think that makes the point.

The fish of the day was an Opah, yes Opah, not Oprah. Having never heard of it, I was interested in it, but too scared to order. This Opah fish was tasty, not a fishing fish, but a flaky light fish.

At the conclusion we ordered the Olive Oil Cake and the Chai Ice Cream with a chocolate brownie. Everyone at the table got a bite of the Olive Oil Cake while one person hoarded the Chai Ice Cream and chocolate brownie.

Dining at Cafe Momentum is not only an amazing culinary experience, but it is chance to give back to the community of Dallas and beyond. Take some time to learn more about Cafe Momentum and see how you can assist this great endeavor.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Eat, drink, be merry and assist a worthy cause.

Help For The Victims Of Hurricane Harvey

For those wanting to donate financially to help the people of Houston and the other affected areas, you can donate to these sites:

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund (Houston)

YouCaring J J Watts (Houston)

American Red Cross (All areas)

  • Call 1-800-RED-CR0SS
  • Text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a donation

Salvation Army (All areas)

  • Call 1-800-SAL-ARMY
  • Text the word STORM to 51555

Covenant House Texas (All areas)

Here are some things that we can start to collect to donate to the people in the devastated areas that will assist those in shelters:

  • disposable diapers
  • baby formula
  • water
  • toothbrushes
  • socks
  • soap
  • toothpaste
  • feminine products
  • deodorant
  • shampoo
  • hand sanitizer
  • towels
  • children’s clothing
  • toys (children need some sense of normality)

If you are a member of a Greek organization, check your national website–they will have information as to how you can assist.

Please remember that home insurance does not cover flooding, and most of these people will have lost everything.

If you know of other legitimate organizations offering assistance, please post in the comment section.

 

Can You Do This?

My mother was very good at teaching my sister and I about being an independent woman. She was quick to tell us that we might never marry so we needed to know how to do things for ourselves. At the age of 44 her words rang true for her when our father suddenly died. I can honestly say that my mother never missed a beat.

In time I saw her prepare her will so that my sister would be looked after if something happened to her.  I observed her negotiate to buy my first car, and believe me she was negotiating. As time went on I saw her begin to travel and let go of the fact that she was not willing to stay home and look at an empty house. I saw her sit in the window with her coffee and yes, her cigarette and just pray in all of her kindness.

I was privy to her calls to the city of Longview seeking solutions to potholes, streetlights and much more. Her determination to vote was passed on to her children. She made sure we could do just about anything, and if not at least we knew how locate the people who could.

These and other thing should be passed on to out daughters and granddaughters. I know there will be others, but here are a few things that we need to teach and possibly learn for ourselves.

  • How to check the oil and put air in your car tires–some of our sons need this too. If all else fails how enroll in roadside assistance; and in Texas be able to locate the roadside assistance number on the back of the driver’s license.
  • Take a gun class. Yes, I am serious. If for no other reason than to get over the fear of them.
  • Know your worth. Diamonds shine their brightest when they are buffed so learn to pat yourself on the back sometimes. Just remember only the best can tell real from fake.
  • Learn how to invest. Some of us need to quickly learn this. Social security and employment pensions are becoming a thing of the past. Never leave this to someone else.
  • Stand for something. Wrong is wrong and right is right. Enough said.
  • Know what to say when asked “tell me about yourself”.  You are so much more than a job title.
  • Learn how to read a roadmap. I need to do this better. What happens if there is no cell service or the phone dies. In addition learn how to get out of the garage if the power is off. You still have to go to work.
  • Learn to swim or at least wear a life vest when you are on the water for pleasure.
  • Learn to go it alone. Want to go to movies, out to eat, but no one to go with you?Don’t miss out. It is much easier to add someone, and it makes for a nice surprise.
  • Learn how to put a hem in a garment, sew on a button, use a safety-pin so nobody knows it is there.

There are so many things that we should teach our daughters and granddaughters that it is impossible to list them all. Even with all of our wisdom there are some things that we don’t know how to do. What are some things that you have taught your daughters and granddaughters?  What’s something you need to learn to do? Let’s share the knowledge.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Knowledge is power, and you are never too old to learn.

It’s Your Birthday–Celebrate

Sasha Obama just celebrated her 16th birthday, and she was probably counting the days until she could tell anyone who asked that she was 16.  There was probably some sort of celebration with friends and family. She may have even gotten a great gift from her parents, but everyone who knows her knew it was her birthday.  She told them weeks in advance that it was getting closer.

Most women of a certain age dread birthdays, or at least talking about the age we are as they are a reminder of the fact we are getting older. Remember as a child when someone asked you how old you were you would answer 15 and a half, and I will be 16 on June 23.  It seemed we wanted to be older.  At the age of 20 we would tell people I will be 21 in so many months. Then the dreaded 30 came, and for the most part we would own up to the age of 30, but soon after that we stopped talking about our birthday.

If we celebrated we started to insist that there be no candles on the cake except maybe one in the center because it just looked better, and besides who wanted all the germs from blowing out all of those candles.  Time seemed to speed up, and we zipped through the 40’s some of us the 50’s and beyond by just saying it was our birthday.

Some say you are to never ask a lady her age, it’s equivalent to asking a man how tall he is, and we all know how that goes. But then when we get pass a certain age, we tell our age with pride.

Is age just a number?  If it is, then why do we refuse to acknowledge our birthdays as we mature. When did you stop celebrating, was it when you turned 30, 40, 50 or beyond?  Some say that women stop celebrating because society does not take kindly to women of a certain age.  Men become more distinguished, and women become just older.  We even see it in the national news as was shown by the last presidential election.

There are some who have always celebrated their birthdays with as much gusto and excitement as they did turning Sweet 16.  They party like it’s 1999.  My sorority sister, Hazel is one of those people.  She recently held her 90th birthday party. She put up a huge sign so that you knew her age just in case you forgot.

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Maybe you don’t want a party to celebrate your birthday. Maybe you just want to sit on the patio and drink a nice cup of coffee. Celebrate in your own special way because it is your special day.

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Hazel at her 90th birthday party celebration

Happy 90th Birthday and Many More! because thisisyourbestyear”.