Rediscovering the Love of Reading (Youth Speak Out Series)

This Quarantine has been an unprecedented and unforgiving time for many of us. Most people are feeling at least a little isolated; anxiety and depression are on the rise. Everyone needs a way to deal with the feelings that this period in time has brought. Teens and young adults, like me, are presented with a unique challenge, as they deal with the already jarring transition from childhood to adulthood. Towards the beginning of the quarantine, I was feeling alone and overwhelmed by all sorts of negative emotions that I did not know what to do with. Now having to adapt to adulthood, along with the changes our world is facing, it is understandable that many of us are feeling increasingly stressed out.

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels

While we cannot do much about the hand the world has dealt us, we are responsible for how we react. All of our negative emotions are augmented by the loneliness and stress that have been stacked on top of us. Many are unfortunately turning to unhealthy outlets to rid themselves of those pent up emotions. However, some of us are using this time to grow. People are overcoming their negative feelings in a myriad of ways: they are learning new languages, picking up new skills, devoting themselves to a project etc. There are no limits as to what you can do to help you manage the negative emotions that have accompanied this quarantine, different strategies work for different people. For me, the way to weather the storm of negative emotions that I faced was by rekindling my love of reading.

I was an avid reader growing up, and I always especially enjoyed stories set in fantasy worlds. I believe that reading so much as a young child helped me become a more curious and thoughtful person. However, as I got older, I began to be obligated to read things, especially at school. While I understood that it was necessary, this change in mindset completely derailed my enjoyment and turned me off to reading. Recently, looking for a way to pass the time, I started reading a couple of web novels. Almost immediately, I fell back in love with reading. As I swiped through page after page, reading about fantasy worlds filled with magic and splendor, I was provided with what so many of us need right now: an escape. Reading does not stop us from feeling, as many try to accomplish to get through these difficult times. Instead, books introduce us to, and let us feel a whole new slew of positive emotions. Good books allow us to live vicariously through their characters, they allow us to feel happy when they succeed and make us root for them when they struggle; they give us hope. 

Fantasy Book Recommendations for Teens:

  • Frith Chronicles: Written By Russian author, Shami Stovall, Frith Chronicles is a coming of age tale that is relatable to many teens. It is set in a world where Arcanists can gain powers by bonding with magical creatures. I would recommend it to fans of other series, like Harry Potter, that feature a magic school and many adventures .
  • Reborn: Apocalypse: Written by LM Kerr, Reborn Apocalypse takes place in an alternate dimension where humanity has been placed in order to compete to survive against other races. Eventually, humanity loses but the main character is able to return back in time back to when he was first pulled into the apocalyptic game with all of his knowledge about how to do better. I would recommend this book to people who might not even like to read because the game-like system which governs the alternate world makes  it very easy to get into and makes the reader feel like they are in a video game.
  • Cradle: The Cradle series, by Will Wight, has gained a very dedicated following online, and for good reason. It is a Western take on Eastern martial arts cultivation novels, in which strength dictates authority. It is incredibly well-written with great world building and compelling characters. It starts out a little bit slower than other fantasy books, but it picks up with each chapter you read. I would recommend it to those who have a little bit more time on their hands because the series is long and definitely gets you invested.

Jaydon is a senior in high school who lives in Pacifica with his family and his dog.

Protect Your Heart and Relationships

August de Richelieu from Pexels

COVID-19 is often deadly because of pre-existing conditions that suppress the immune system. One of these is heart disease. While a poor diet and a lack of exercise can contribute to a weak heart, dysfunctional relationships can do so, as well.

Here are several examples of this: a significant other that always offers you a cake when you are trying to lose weight, and does not accept your answer, or individuals that have specific thoughts and feelings about events that have happened in their lives, but project those emotions onto you. Individuals that routinely dismiss your wants, needs, and ambitions and “friends” that may actively sabotage your efforts to improve yourself or your life may need closer examination.

“But it is not that bad.” 

We try to tell ourselves that we can handle what life gives us, and that is a great way to maintain motivation. But what are the outcomes of constant interactions with those who put you down? Are they maybe otherwise challenging to be around? You may experience:

  • Lack of trust
  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Trouble sleeping or eating
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling distracted
  • Self-sabotage
  • Difficulty accomplishing tasks
  • Physical illness or discomforts like teeth grinding, eczema flare-ups, etc.

This list is not exhaustive, but as you can see, not setting and defending firm boundaries in your relationships can create havoc in your life if left unaddressed.

How can you tell if you don’t “gel” with someone?

Some people, like family, are not very easy to avoid sometimes. In cases like these, it may be helpful to keep your contacts with them as restricted as possible. Strangers on the street can sometimes be easier to deal with — but always use your discretion. When in conversation, do your best not to overshare. Do not become too invested in the outcomes of your exchange with this person. Keep in mind that you define your happiness.

Transforming your relationships

Attempt to cultivate radical honesty about what you think and feel. Physical sensations may manifest as a way to let you know what your emotions are if you can not seem to name them. Stop to notice and accept them without judgment. Gently but firmly share with others how you feel, and state that you would like for your boundaries to be respected. Some people you may come across have no idea about how you are receiving them. Others you may have to, unfortunately, let go. 

Breonna Taylor and The Blue Wall of Silence

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All over the country, in cities like Louisville and New York, there have been mass protests regarding the decision to charge one cop involved with the shooting of Breonna Taylor. Many Americans were shocked to learn the charges were for “wanton endangerment,” and not of Taylor’s, or her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker’s life, but the lives of three people next door. 

Strengthening Misperceptions

While no one’s life should have been in danger, this case raises many questions. No one can deny the reluctance by high ranking officials such as the police commissioner of many cities to discipline law enforcement when the protocol is not followed, with people losing their lives as a result. Although honest, professional law enforcement abound, decisions like this strengthen the public perception that there is an impenetrable blue wall of silence.

Unfair Justice

In other words, if there were three cops involved in the shooting, why is only one cop being charged, and not even in connection to the actual crime? Why is only one official being charged with endangerment, which carries a maximum sentence of five years, while Breonna Taylor’s family grieves her absence permanently? The uproar caused by such charges asks the question: why is it so difficult to maintain clarity during times like this? 

Understanding the players

The coming weeks ahead will continue to flare up with protests and retaliation from both sides. Constructive dissent is crucial, but we also have to continue to fight with our votes on a local level, as well. We have to know who our district attorneys, police commissioners, mayors, and district representatives are, and take an active role in not only choosing them but also holding them accountable for their decisions. 

“Seaside Obituary” A Poem by Poet in Residence Georgina Marie

I remember it exactly as the day it was:

gray, overcast, the air salty

from pounding waves the coastal winds learned to master 

To get there, you had to enter a winding road

where each side of the concrete pathway 

was lined with standing gods in the shapes of redwoods

the scent of the air pungent with pine and petrichor 

as it entered the pickup truck windows

rolled down just enough to feel the chill 

I was his daughter, once 

This day may have been the last day it was apparent

 

A drive to the ocean side

A walk through old settlement grounds of Jenner

Place of original windmills, place of migration

He bought me an abalone hairclip

He ripped seaweed from rocks to humor his daughter 

to feed his grumbling hunter stomach

How I long to remember how gentle this day was

how softly he tore the long, dirty green leaves from rugged rocks

contrasting how often his hands and words hit harder 

than the ocean hits sea stacks that have existed 

long before the sand we once stood on ever contained memory

  

How strange, what is revealed when remembrance 

chooses to reveals itself to you

how a sense of lonely becomes an unraveling tide

controlled not by the moon but by memory that pushes and pulls

opening neurological seascapes of muted recollections

that still call my name 

The ocean will always outlive us

I have outlived him

Photo by Georgina Marie, Limantour Beach, Point Reyes, California

This is my first post with Karma Compass! You will see poems from me on grief, trauma, healing, and more.

-Georgina Marie, Poet in Residence

The Link Between Dehydration and Insomnia

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Sleeping, the kind that produces dreams, provides full refreshment and mental clarity in your waking life. Western culture is one that applauds non-stop productivity, so we often hear our family, friends, or co-workers explain that they have only slept in 8 hours in three days without much backlash. Black Americans are the second highest-rated group concerning sleep deprivation, and while we deserve applause for our strength and efficacy, we also should be going to sleep.

Still, because sleep is affected by our circadian rhythms and helps to reduce inflammation in the body, a lack of sleep correlates with more painful menstrual cycles and more difficult deliveries when pregnant. But here is one of the main blockers we often face when trying to get enough sleep: we’re dehydrated. 

Getting more water

According to the Sleep Foundation, being just somewhat dehydrated is enough to make it tough to go to sleep. Consuming water-rich foods and drinking plenty of water and low sugar beverages is a simple way to get enough water into your system and help your body get enough sleep and experience menses less painfully.

For those of us that are perimenopausal or in menopause, lower levels of estrogen can lead to dehydration. Higher water consumption assists with cooling night sweats and hot flashes if you get them, which can mean calmer days and better sleep.  

Working on getting better sleep

Another reason to improve your sleep consumption is to have a better awareness of when something is wrong. Conditions like fibroids cause exhaustion, but if you are already sleep-deprived, you may not notice them until they cause heavy bleeding or abdominal distention.

Herbs that promote sleepiness are:

Valerian

Chamomile

Ashwagandha

You can make a tea out of these herbs and consume near bedtime.

Some of us may wonder: who has time to go to sleep? How can I feel relaxed enough to go to sleep? These questions, and more, are why it is so important to go to sleep — so many of us think that drinking water and resting well are luxuries, but our bodies may be saying something different. Your habits will not change overnight, but every little bit helps.

On the Pains of Xeriscaping: Toward Waterwise Living

It’s hard to have an ugly yard in California. Many residents in Southern California pride themselves on lush gardens with blooming flowers and Tennessee Bluegrass, but for environmentally-conscious people, watering thirsty plants in this hot arid land is untenable. Add the challenge of the dry Santa Ana winds from inland that desiccate the land and summer temperatures that rocket to the triple digits for weeks at a time. Basically, transforming a garden to a waterwise feature is not easy in the high deserts of Los Angeles County.

Owing to SoCal’s intense heat, gray water makes inhospitable ground for new plants, even adapted species and natives. The water here is mineral rich, causing calcification to household appliances like dish and clothes washers. One needs imagination to maintain efficiency will modifying a typical garden to a draught-tolerant, water-wise and creature friendly environment. Like all major changes, the transformation is not always easy to bear, to see or experience. Homeowner’s curb appeal may be temporarily reduced. That’s why many people pay gardeners and landscapers to do the work. But not me! I like to feel the dirt under my nails and the strain of my back as work this good earth.

Gardening always embodies mindfulness: One must pay attention to everything. I learned that the earth here is packed solid as rock in summer–especially without persistent watering. The soil is dense and claylike and water does not penetrate the top layer. It remains on the surface until the sun and wind evaporate it midmorning. The earth acts like a terra-cotta planter; roots cannot penetrate the solid surface. This hurts plant roots and hinders growth. All this means a gardener must use plants that will tolerate less water and consolidate plants in areas where water is used efficiently. Even so, to keep such a garden content, soil amendment is required.

Among the challenges of xeriscaping a property is adapting to the local conditions and climate as well as finding plants and arrangements that optimizes water use, while minimizing the demands for potable water, an increasingly scarce global commodity that is essential for life. I don’t mind the awkward transitions; xeriscaping my property gives me hope, because I can model a patient approach to land stewardship that embraces the local environment and creates a sustainable environment for all of us.

A happy draught-tolerant Palo Verde tree after soil amendment for better drainage.

Edissa is cultivating an organic edible garden and xeriscaping her SoCal property.

The Healing Power of Dandelion

Image courtesy George Becker for Pexels

This article has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The author does not intend to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Black women are more likely than other groups to experience fibroids and other reproductive issues, and some of the reasons why is because of the stress of racism, colorism, sexism, and other “isms” that color the unique experience of Black women. Many of the physical ailments that all people face often start in the mind, due to stress. This stress can be caused by negative factors, like figuring out how to pay rent after a layoff, or by what is called eustress, which is caused by positive events, like your wedding day.

Still, after you have decided the ways in which you are going to become more active in the political process so that your values are heard, you have gone to the therapist or found alternative therapies to process your traumas, and you have decided which things are worth fretting over and which things are not as worthy — you can rely on herbs to help you address the reproductive physical symptoms you may experience.

Exploring what’s in your backyard

Dandelion is often treated as a weed; it grows everywhere and it is a hardy plant. These features make dandelion affordable and easy to use at a moment’s notice. The leaves can be cleaned and included in your salad or cut up and sauteed with butter or some other oil with seasoning. Its roots can be boiled and made into a cleansing tea that helps support your liver. The flowers are aesthetically pleasing and also can be used for tea.

Despite it’s sharp, bitter taste, dandelion is quite healing. It supports better liver functioning, helps with bloating, and as a diuretic herb, it allows the body to release any extra water through the urine. Your body may produce less gas. After a few days of using dandelion, you may find that the quality of your skin may have also improved.

But what does this have to with fibroids, endometriosis, and other concerns? Reduced bloating and gas means less menstrual pain, and better liver functioning means that your hormones will be more likely to be in balance. Many of the reproductive conditions that women face today are caused by an imbalance of hormones. There may be too much estrogen or progesterone, depending on the ailment.

Experimenting with dandelion tea may be your first step in regaining control of your hormones. Good luck!