Love Should Always Be Our Mission

  

A Few Notes Before I Begin:

  1. I usually do not post anything regarding religion or politics because I know it can lead to controversy, which leads to things like ad hominem, arguments, etc.
  2. I do not like ad hominem, arguments, etc. I am writing this post in a happy, positive light, which is supposed to be the vibe of this blog. That being said, please keep any and all comments respectful.

I originally wanted this to be a Facebook post, but then I realized it would just be too wordy and people would stop reading after the second or third paragraph. So here I am writing a blog post.

All week, I have been following Pope Francis’s visit to the United States, and I have been greatly moved by the impact he has had. I’m pretty certain I cried every segment that I watched because I was so overcome with compassion as the Holy Father reached out to those of all different backgrounds, regardless of religion, race, or socioeconomic status. His humility and kindness towards others is definitely a breath of fresh air that this world is desperately in need of. He also takes Matthew 25: 35-40 to heart, which has been prominent throughout his journey as he showed care for the sick, the disabled, the immigrants, the homeless, and the imprisoned. I also loved how he was filled with joy and wasn’t afraid to crack a couple of jokes during his address at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The Holy Father is an embodiment of how I want others to see the Church (and Christianity in general)–filled with joy, humility, and compassion for others.

I am Catholic and try my best to live my faith, even though I do not consider myself traditional by any means. I am not perfect either and I have my struggles and weaknesses (because that’s what makes us human, right?). However, Pope Francis’s visit has inspired me to become a better person in general. A person who is kinder and has more compassion for others.  

But I hope I am not the only one who has been inspired by his visit to America.

I hope that any of you who have followed the Pope’s journey, regardless of religious or political views, will open their eyes more to the world around them and see what they can do to help others who are in need. While it may not make you want to convert to Catholicism, I hope that it will teach you to be a kinder, more humble person. Also, I hope that the leaders of our nation and our world will open their eyes as well to put others before themselves. In addition, regardless of your views on climate change, we should already be making an effort to take care of the environment around us. We need to come together to make not just America, but the world a better place.

Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, this isn’t a change that will happen overnight, or in a week, or in a month. It will be a slow gradual change that will take time. But the good news is that we can start now. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, animal shelter, or any nonprofit/charity in general. Visit a nursing home or a hospital. Ask someone how their day is. Give someone a smile because they might be having a bad day and probably need it. It’s out of our own human nature that we should show compassion towards others.

One last thing–if and when you do these things, don’t do it for yourself. Do it to bring happiness and dignity to others. It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose. As Pope Francis said during the Philadelphia mass, “Love is shown by little things.” And it is sometimes the smallest things that can have the biggest impact.

The theme of the Pope’s U.S. visit was “Love Is Our Mission”. And love should always be our mission. Not just during the six days of his journey, but every single day. So let’s come together and work to make that happen.

A Papa Francisco, ¡muchas gracias por su visita a los Estados Unidos! ¡Dios le bendiga y vuelve pronto, por favor! 🙂

And to my fellow Americans, God bless America!

Slaying the Monster

  

Today, I feel the need to write about a topic that affects millions of people.

I have had a lot of things on my mind recently, and here are some of those questions I’ve kept in a mental log…

“Am I actually performing well at my job?”

“Am I being a good girlfriend?”

“Does my boyfriend still love me?”

“Do I really have any friends?”

“Am I a cool enough friend for anyone to want to hang out with?”

“Are my headshots going to get to me in time for my acting class?”

“Is my boyfriend’s birthday present ever going to be delivered?”

“Are they going to allow me to come in for that callback for that play even though I told them I wouldn’t be available that time due to a relative’s birthday?”

Yes, some of these things sound really silly, but to someone who suffers from anxiety they don’t seem that silly at all.

I am not sure where my anxiety came from or when it started. More than likely it is a noticeable symptom of me having Asperger’s Syndrome (I will write about this some other time). Maybe it’s from all those years of trying to be on top and keeping on the honor roll and trying to balance all my extracurriculars in efforts to be the best. Maybe it’s from bad experiences with other people, particularly members of the opposite sex. Or maybe it’s from a need to feel accepted by others because I do feel different and lonely. Anyway, there are probably a multitude of reasons why I have anxiety and I’ll never know the exact reason why.

During college is when my anxiety got especially bad. I remember one particular incident when I was at a BBQ joint in Tuscaloosa with my parents. I was simply enjoying my filet when a group of rather attractive fraternity guys sat down at the table right next to us. All of a sudden it’s like I kept looking down and felt paralyzed and my heart started pounding. My parents wondered what was wrong with me, and I felt I couldn’t tell them until we were driving back home and I broke down crying. I had been worried that those guys probably thought I was a loser and was worried I’d never have a boyfriend, mainly because I had many dates that failed when guys would realize that I wasn’t a “hook-up” type. This thinking didn’t sound as absurd at the time as it does now. So a little later, my parents and counselor decided to put me on medicine, even though I was reluctant to it at first. It seemed to diminish the anxious thoughts.

In 2013, I graduated from The University of Alabama and was about to move to Birmingham to start my first real world job as a marketing support coordinator. I was meeting new people and finding different passions and pursuits, especially in acting and writing. I even got my boyfriend later that year. Everything seemed to be going fine. Or at least I thought. Here are some things that happened.

First off, I didn’t feel like the people in the group I was hanging out with really wanted to get to know me. It felt like I was more just another person at the party. I even had trouble finding a good group of girlfriends, too. It’s like the girls in that group didn’t have room for one more person. I worried if I was ever going to have any real friends in my new city.

Another thing that happened was that my grandmother got really sick from pancreatic cancer and had to have surgery to remove the tumor. Unfortunately due to complications, she died on December 18, 2014, exactly four months after her surgery. About three months after her death, my dog, Honey, passed away from lung cancer. I felt like the two family members who gave me a sense of comfort, happiness, and stability in my life were all of a sudden taken away.

In addition after having my marketing support job for a few months, I was moved to another department within my company because they felt it was more appropriate for my degree. Even though I got along with my co-workers in my new position, I felt like the job was a lot of pressure. After about a year, I decided to take my current position which is actually more stressful than my previous job. It’s like no matter how hard I try to work it’s just not enough even though I am working to the best of my ability.

All of these issues conglomerated to bring back the anxiety attacks. Before I knew it, I started crying randomly and worrying about the most ridiculous things, like if I was good enough for my current day job (I work at a pretty nice, forgiving place for the most part) or if I was going to be able to retain one of the only real friendships I have in Birmingham (we’ve had no problems so far) or if my boyfriend still loves me (duh, of course he does).

When I have an anxiety attack, I have all these different thoughts of fear and inadequacy swarm though my head. I have a strange feeling in my chest and stomach and sometimes get a weird taste in my mouth. I feel mentally paralyzed. Occasionally if it’s bad enough, I will have mild suicidal thoughts.* But the most noticeable part is that I will just break down crying randomly at any given moment.

I don’t tell you this to scare you or make you feel bad in any way. I just want you to understand what I go through. Truthfully, I hate it and I wish it would go away with the snap of my fingers. Medicine and exercise might stave off the symptoms, but it’s still there to a degree. This is the monster I have to slay almost every day of my life.

But at least I know I am not alone.

Just recently, I was freaking out because I wondered if I was going to get my brand-spanking-new acting headshots ready for my acting class, especially since my teacher told us to always have our headshots ready. I felt a little short of breath and nervously asked if I could use the computer to print off my acting resume for a backup headshot/resume before our mock audition exercise.

“Sorry, I’m just feeling a little bit of anxiety,” I said.

All of a sudden, one of my classmates said “Hey it’s ok. I have anxiety, too, and he (my other classmate) helps me through it.”

And I felt a little bit of relief–knowing that there are other people who go through and understand the same struggles. One day, a co-worker noticed that I was about to break down and I told him about my pending anxiety attack, and he even admitted to having attacks at some point or another.

And though I sometimes forget, deep down I do know I have people who care about me. I am glad to have my parents, my best friend, and my boyfriend in my support system to help me fight the monster.

So if you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, please know that you or your loved ones are not alone. Most likely there is someone else who is going through the same thing. Open up, and you’ll be surprised how many people you know that have anxiety.

Second know that you are loved. There are people who will understand and will try to help you to the best of their ability, whether it be a hug, telling you to breathe, or just listening as you explain what you’re upset about while choked up in tears, no matter how random the reason is.

Lastly, know that you are stronger that you think. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and a silver lining on the cloud. Things are not as bad as you might think. Usually the things I worry about the most either resolve themselves or turn out to be not as bad as I had originally thought. When I realize that, then I feel more at peace with myself. And I strive to feel this sense of peace more frequently.

Put all of these together, and you can defeat the monster. It’s not an easy battle, but it’s a battle you can win.

*If you do feel like harming yourself, please talk to someone trusted or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Around Town and Beyond: There’s No Place Like Home!

Hello again!

So in the last post I talked about the fabulous See Jane Write Bloganista Mini-Con that I attended and greatly enjoyed as part of my busy weekend. Now here’s Part 2 of my busy weekend– going to Tuscaloosa for the ribbon cutting ceremony for new house for my sorority!

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This color scheme was a complete coincidence!

I arrived in Tuscaloosa with my boyfriend, Irving, to meet up with my parents for the ribbon cutting ceremony and house tour. Yes, it was very hot (as August in Alabama usually is), but fortunately there were cool drinks on hand, like this raspberry lemonade.

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The ceremony began with words from former University of Alabama President, Dr. Judy Bonner, as well as Gamma Phi Beta’s International President Krista Davis. Then, we all watched and cheered as the chapter leaders and House Corp members cut the big pink ribbon draped across the beautiful house. It’s official–the Epsilon Lambda chapter of Gamma Phi Beta has a new home!

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After waiting a little longer, we finally got to go on the house tour and, oh my, I was blown away! The house has a beautiful staircase, a ginormous dining room, and even a coffee bar! I also found it funny that the dress I was wearing matched the color scheme of one of the rooms (see in the first pic)! It made me so happy to see all the amenities that current and future member will experience during their college years and that alumnae have a really cool place to go for football season.

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Later that evening, Irving and I attended the after party at the Bryant Conference Center. Appropriately, the theme of the party was “There’s No Place Like Home”, and it had some Wizard of Oz elements, like an Emerald City backdrop for photos and names of hors d’oeuvres such as “Flying Monkey Mini BLTs” and “Yellow Brick Road Mac & Cheese Cups”.

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Me and my handsome date! 🙂

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Food was catered by Kathy G & Company, a spectacular catering and event service located in Birmingham, and music was played by DJ Coco, who also played at the Passport for Wanderlust party. There were also lounge chairs near the dance floor, which gave it a nightclub-like vibe. It was a lot of fun catching up with my sisters, as well as dancing to everything from 90s hits to more current songs! Another highlight was the dessert bar, which was all pink since pink and brown are our sorority’s colors! Check out some pics below!

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Me and my little!

Me and my little!

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I really had a fun night celebrating a momentous occasion for Gamma Phi. Even though we have a different house now, it will still be home to me when I come back to Tuscaloosa to visit. My sorority may not be my whole life, but it will always be a part of who I am. I am very proud of how far we’ve come! So congratulations, Epsilon Lambda, on your gorgeous new house! I hope you will treasure your time and make wonderful memories there for years to come.

Much love,

Rachel

Around Town and Beyond: See Jane Write Bloganista Mini-Con

Hey y’all! Hope everyone’s had a great weekend! So this weekend was a busy one for me. In fact, it was so busy that I am writing TWO posts about it! 🙂


First off, I had the pleasure of kicking the weekend off with the See Jane Write Bloganista Mini-Con. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to network with other bloggers as well as get some beneficial tips from local blogging celebs! Also, our special guest was the fabulous (not to mention hilarious) Eunice Elliot, traffic reporter for NBC 13 News. I admire her, not only because she is fellow a Bama alum in the broadcast journalism field and an actress/comedienne, but also for her perseverance in her career goals. I loved her introductory talk because it reminds me to push myself in order to achieve my own future career goals in doing the things I love.


I also loved the opening talk from Chanda Temple (Chanda Temple Writes) about building your brand. These talks made me realize why I love blogging–because my voice and my personality are what makes this blog unique! The thing I will take away from this talk is how to develop CaliBama Belle in a more effective manner (i.e. press releases, business cards, etc.).


Next, we had the “Blog Like A Boss” panel, featuring Heather Brown (My Life Well Loved), Javacia Harris Bowser (Founder of See Jane Write), and Jennifer Dome King (Stellar Fashion and Fitness), moderated by Eunice. Topics of the panel included what makes a blog great, how to turn your blog into a business, reaching out to businesses/brands to work with, helpful apps for blog photography, and much more! For me, this was a great crash course on making your blog successful. I will take some of these tips so I can make this a blog that people will enjoy!

The only downside is that I had to leave this conference early to attend the other event which I will be writing about in the next post (stay tuned!). I will admit some of the things I learned at the Mini-Con are similar to what I learned when I studied Business and Electronic News (i.e. elevator pitch, who is your ideal reader, etc.), so it was nice to have a refresher course on these topics! Overall, I loved attending the Mini-Con and I want to attend other See Jane Write events so I can improve myself as a Bloganista!

If anyone has any ideas of topics to write about or advice on improving this blog, please email me at calibamarachel@gmail.com. Also if you attended the SJW Mini-Con and have notes on the Magazine Dreams panel, please feel free to email me those, too. Thanks, I appreciate it!

Much love,

Rachel

Super-Chill Sea Salt & Coffee Cookie Dough Dip

Hey y’all! Hope everyone’s had a great week so far!


Ok so I will admit, I am not the best with creating new recipes but they are always fun to try! Anyway, this recipe is inspired by one of my favorite sweet treats–cookie dough! However, I put a little of a fun, sophisticated but simple twist on it by adding ICEBOX Coffee and sea salt! Since I have never made cookie dough dip before, I used a Buzzfeed recipe as a base which you can find right here.

As not one but TWO added bonuses about this recipe, there is no raw egg and it is quick and easy to make! That’s why it’s super-chill.

What You Need:

1/2 cup of unsalted butter

8 ounces of cream cheese

1 cup of powdered sugar

3 tablespoons of light brown sugar

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 tablespoon of ICEBOX Coffee (I used Madagascar Vanilla)

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Add cream cheese and butter to bowl and mix until creamy and blended

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. If you need to, you can add a little more coffee if you want.

3. Refrigerate it for about 15-30 minutes

4. Garnish with chocolate chips.

5. Eat alone or with cookies, pretzels, etc.!

I’m sure there will be revisions to this recipe in the future, but this is just a start. I thought it actually tasted fine for the first try. Only thing I have trouble with was that it was hard to mix because I don’t have an electric mixer so I went old school and used a spoon. Also, I didn’t taste the coffee quite as much but it’s ok because you don’t want to totally overload it with coffee. Other than that, I really enjoyed trying out this recipe for the first time, and I want to try out more recipes in the future!

Bon appetit!

Much love,

Rachel

Around Town and Beyond: Sloss Fest Recap

  
So I got to experience the inaugural Sloss Music & Arts Festival (a.k.a. Sloss Fest) on a somewhat last-minute whim. And needless to say, I was very impressed! 

The weekend’s musical acts included bands and artists such as Modest Mouse, Cage The Elephant, Band of Horses, St. Paul and the Broken Bones (a local favorite), Purity Ring, Tyler the Creator, and The Avett Brothers, and many more. These acts performed on three different stages–Blast, Steam, and Shed (names that all have to do with Sloss Furnace). 

In addition to all the great music, various local and regional vendors, such as Natural Life and Yellowhammer Creative. And of course I caved in and bought a few things (including a poster that reminded me of In-N-Out Burger)! See what all I bought below!

   
    
 
And here are some more pics from Sloss Fest below!

   
    
    
    
    
    
   
The only issue I had was that neither myself nor my 6-foot-8 boyfriend could see the Shed stage that well from the back. That being said, my only feedback I have is that to find a way to make it easier for people in the back to see that stage.

Overall though, Sloss Fest was a blast for its first year in existence! I feel like it has already made its mark as a Birmingham event you don’t want to miss. I say give it another year or two, and it could get some national recognition with other music festivals in the country.

Much love,

Rachel

Soundtrack of My Life: “Everyday” by A$AP Rocky feat. Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson

Happy weekend everyone!

So I am a very big music lover so I wanted to share some of the songs I am loving at the moment, new or old, in a new post series called “Soundtrack of My Life”!

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What do you get when you combine the smooth but powerful rhymes of A$AP Rocky, the legendary voice of Rod Stewart, the sexy crooning of Miguel, and the sweet mixes of Mark Ronson? A chill but epic song called “Everyday”.

This is off A$AP’s new album At. Long. Last. A$AP, which just came out in May.  The mellow yet rhythmic beat of the song is enough to make you want to kick back, relax, and have a drink with some friends. The chorus contains samples from “In a Broken Dream” by Python Lee Jackson and Rod Stewart which are probably some of my favorite lyrics (“Everyday I spend my time, drinkin’ wine, feelin’ fine…”).

Anyway, you can listen to the song right below. Now since some of the lyrics are not exactly work or kid-friendly, I will post both the unclean and clean versions and you can listen to whichever one you feel more comfortable with.

UNCLEAN VERSION:

CLEAN VERSION:

Also, if you need a smile or a laugh, here is “The Late, Late Show’s” James Corden’s recent Carpool Karaoke with Rod Stewart and A$AP. This is actually how I found the song.

So this is the inaugural song going into the Soundtrack of My Life! Stay tuned for more songs I love! Have a wonderful weekend!

Much love,

Rachel