Dry Eye, Dry Eyes, Eye Health, Health, Aging, Anti Agining, Healthy Aging

#DryEyes? Step Away From the Screen! And Other Helpful Tips

DISCLAIMER: The following reflects my personal experience. Please consult your doctor before starting a new protocol for treating Dry Eye Syndrome. Excessive use of fish oil can lead to clotting and other adverse reactions. Before running to the store, consult a licensed M.D. to find out what is best for you and about proper dosage of medication/supplements. I am not a doctor or nurse. I am a dry eye sufferer and supporter of others in the same uncomfortable situation.

When it comes to treating dry eyes, it’s about more than just drops. I can honestly tell you that, as someone whose left eye is dry minutes after inserting artificial tears sans preservatives. Ophthalmologists and women’s magazines will suggest taking natural supplements such as fish oil, flax seed oil and vitamin E — a combination can be found in TheraTears Nutrition capsules with Omega3. It is also recommended to drink lots of water and stay hydrated throughout the day, and we all know that a good night of sleep is important too — we’re all too familiar with that gritty, headachy, day-after-the-party dryness. Furthermore, when it comes to alcohol, the recommendation is to go easy on it — it will dehydrate you in the same way that too much caffeine will.

You may get headaches in the area of your dry eye, as I do quite often near my left eye. If you must drink (either vino or that Extra Bold Sumatran Reserve morning cup of joe), drink water before, after and during.

Above are just a handful of tips for the typical dry eye sufferer, but most dry eyes sufferers are atypical, and I include myself in that category.

So, I’ll let you in on my current routine, and I would love to hear from folks about their own routines. I’ll list my present protocol in an alphabetical sequence:

Air — Keep that humidifier going. In my house, we have a cold air humidifier, which is the best option when there are kids in the home.

Antioxidants — Dry eye can also be caused by free radical damage (oxidative stress) in the body caused by aging, poor diet, lack of exercise, and unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, excess alcohol, medications and chronic stress. Healthful foods rich in antioxidants may help slow down the process of oxidation. Antioxidants are easily obtained from eating a diet abundant in fruits and multicolored vegetables, especially the dark, leafy green plants such as kale, spinach and chard. Some of the most antioxidant-rich fruits include acai berry, goji berry, acerola cherries and all other tart berries. (Source: Livestrong.com, read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/80865-foods-dry-eyes/#ixzz15Tm771J3)

Babies and Breastfeeding — I’ve finished having babies and I’ve finished breastfeeding, but please bear in mind that both can affect dry eye. Hormones do strange things. You may find that your eyes are less dry during pregnancy and drier during breastfeeding, or vise versa. You may have to use more drops during these times (I did) and you will probably have to change your diet. Foods like salmon that are high in omega-3 fatty acids can really help with dry eye during these periods, but I’ll get to that shortly.

Computer Usage — The computer will dry the hell out of your eyes. So keep computer usage to a minimum if you can. I can’t seem to, but when I do take a rare break, I notice a significant improvement.

Crying — Sometimes it helps me to have a good cry, while watching a touching film or reading a sad novel. While the watching and the reading may dry your eyes out further, your own tears are the best and most natural lubricant!

Drops, Drops, Drops — Every hour to half an hour I put in Systane Ultra or Blink Gel Tears (I’ve found the latter to be better) and in between I use something lighter and more natural, specifically preservative free vials like Refresh all-natural tears. Some say that artificial tears with preservatives are counter-effective, but these products do help me get relief.

Exercise — It’s good for you and will keep the oxidative stress at bay, plus you’ll forget about your eyes while you’re busy doing it!

Eye Ointment — Yes, there’s actually a mineral-oil based ointment for dry eye that you’re supposed to apply at night, but sometimes I actually use it during the day. That’s how bad my situation is! These ointments (e.g., Systane PM, Refresh PM) really alleviate the dry eye symptoms, but you don’t want to have eye makeup on while it’s in your eye. Most irritating to

dry eye is when eye makeup gets into it!

E, the vitamin — When taking fish oil supplements for dry eye, it’s recommended that you also take vitamin E. Long term usage of fish oil may deplete you of vitamin E, so it’s best to be on the safe side. Again, it is optimal to consult your MD, as I have, about taking any supplements. Every body is different and some conditions do not mix with specific supplements.

Evening Primrose Oil — This helped bring me into labor with my first son, but I’ve also heard that some use it as a natural remedy for dry eye. I don’t take it yet, but I am curious to find out more. If it brought me into labor (at 40 weeks, I was also ready!), it must be pretty powerful. But that also scares me. I’ve read conflicting reports about EPO for dry eyes. If any ophthalmologists have information on EPO as a remedy, please let me know.

Fish — As gross as this may sound to you, I try to eat sardines as often as possible because the fish is rich in omega-3s. Salmon is also a great choice. Added bonus: Your skin will glow. Also see: “The Perricone Prescription.”

Flax Seed — Fish oil is supposedly more effective in alleviating dry eye than flax seed oil, but I say it can’t hurt to eat some ground flax seed in your morning cereal or yogurt or use the pure highest lignan oil in your cooking. Added bonus: It keeps constipation at bay.

Green Tea — This antioxidant-rich tea has an acquired taste, so I recommend starting with one that has a lighter flavor and working your way up to the strong organic variety. We know of the benefits of green tea so why not drink it anyway? Besides, a 2010 study suggests that drinking it could protect your eyes. In the study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers fed laboratory rats green tea extract and then analyzed their eye tissues. The results showed that different parts of the eye absorbed varying amounts of catechins from the green tea. Further studies, however, will be needed to confirm that same protective effect in humans.

Lovaza — Lovaza is a prescription-strength fish oil that my doctor recommended. So far, I’m not noticing much of a difference and I’ve been taking Lovaza for more than two months. I had an eye injury that caused nerve damage to the eye and that is why I have dry eye. Just because Lovaza may not be working for me doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you. Ask your doctor about it.

Makeup — I’ll have an upcoming post on this in which I quote makeup artists and their recommendations, so stay tuned for that. In the interim, use hypoallergenic and opthalmologist-tested products. Try to use cream eye shadow instead of powder and for those who truly, truly suffer, keep your eye area clear as often as possible! I only apply eye makeup for special occasions. I also never use mascara because, no matter the brand, it definitively irritates dry eyes.

Medicines — Be aware that certain medications such as antihistamines, sleeping aids, antidepressants and certain birth controls can exacerbate dry eye symptoms. I’ve noticed that Benadryl does it to me bigtime!

Potassium — Potassium is usually very low in patients with dry eye, according to Dr. Marc Grossman, who was quoted in an article on LiveStrong.com (http://www.livestrong.com/article/80865-foods-dry-eyes/). The best food sources of potassium include kelp, dulse, wheat germ, almonds, pecans, bananas, raisins, dates, figs and avocados. I happen to love Mejool dates and I’m cool with bananas, so I try to incorporate them into my diet.

Punctal Plugs — Punctal plugs are small devices that fit into the tear duct of the eye. The plug is designed to block the duct and prevent liquid draining from the eye to the nose. Again, I’m not sure that MINE is making a difference. I’d love to hear if any of you have had success with punctal plugs.

Restasis — This prescription-strength eye drop’s main ingredient is a scary one: cyclosporine. It’s scary because it is an immunosuppressant drug that has been used in relation to organ transplants to prevent rejection, but alas, now we’re putting it in our eye. It has been shown to increase tear production after long term use — for some, “long term” may mean after six months! In the short term, it can add to your immediate eye dryness (and guess who’s experiencing that now)?

Salmon and Superfoods — Salmon is a superfood, as I mentioned above. After I eat an ample serving of the omega-rich fish, my dry eye situation feels improved and I don’t think it’s psychological. Of course, other superfoods would include those rich in antioxidants as mentioned above. I’ve also noticed that after using olive oil (just like with flax seed oil) in my cooking, my eyes feel less dry.

Sunglasses — My friends like to make fun of me for wearing sunglasses on days when it’s not really sunny outside, but I need to protect my eyes from glare. I feel that wearing sunglasses really makes a difference and when I leave home without them, the sun and the glare seem to attack my eyes.

TheraTears Nutrition — As previously mentioned, I tried taking this before switching to Lovaza. I’m really not sure if it makes much of a difference, but I did notice a minor improvement after I had been taking the caplets for a few days.

Water — I cannot stress enough the importance of drinking H2O throughout the day!

Zinc — Zinc is a factor in the metabolic function of several enzymes in the vascular coating of the eye, according to “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” A few good food sources of zinc include brewer’s yeast, fish, kelp, legumes, liver, mushrooms, sunflower seeds and whole grains. (Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/80865-foods-dry-eyes/#ixzz15TmYRYHI).

Xiidra – This is a newer alternative to Restasis for those who’ve given up on Cyclosporine, either due to much-prolonged sensitivity or ineffectiveness. “The active ingredient in Xiidra, lifitegrast, binds to the integrin lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1), a cell surface protein found on leukocytes, and blocks the interaction of LFA-1 with its cognate ligand intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1).” (PR Newswire)

So, there you go — the ABCs of my dry eye routine. I am always on the lookout for new tips and tricks, so feel free to email or tweet me about what has helped you! I will of course pay it forward by letting other dry eye sufferers know.

(Photo source: All About Vision)

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Moms, Parents

#Parents: TV Is Not as Bad for Babies as We Once Thought

A study published in Child Development, conducted at Emory University and sponsored by The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (a division of the National Institute of Health), revealed that infants under 2 can learn signs from television time.

While the American Pediatric Association (APA) issued earlier statements advising parents against it, putting your baby down for a few minutes’ worth of an educational video is not so bad after all.

During the course of the three-week long investigation which took place through the Video Learning Lab at Emory University, parents introduced their 15-month-olds to ASL signs at home, either through videos or a picture book.

The best piece of information gleaned from this study is that when it came to video viewing, babies who watched with parents for approximately 15 to 20 minutes recalled a significant number of the 18 signs presented.

They performed just as well as those who learned from books. In addition, those that watched videos alone (without a parent next to them), also retained a significant portion of the information.

The findings suggest that television time for tots is not as harmful as we’ve been led to believe for years.

Once a week, the Emory team quantified their subjects’ learning outcomes by having them pair pictures with their matching signs. Parents also reported each week whether they observed their babies using these signs.

When the three-week period ended, researchers retested the children one week later to determine what they were able to remember. Recall was assessed specifically by having the infants produce signs when they saw pictures of the objects, and by asking them to point to the picture that matched the signs.

A leading author of the study, developmental psychologist Shoshana Dayanim, Ph.D., explained that the study was unique for a variety of reasons: It was a controlled one wherein the only way for subjects to learn signs was through this study during its allotted time periods. While previous research has been conducted with infants and language, — a murky area where it is difficult to control what is learned — the Emory exploration consisted of approximately 15- to 20-minute intervals of exposure.

The study uniquely presented the babies with expressions to actually employ and simultaneously understand.

Dayanim further explained that infants use signs interchangeably with verbal words and can sign words earlier than they can vocalize them. This not only helps communication in the present tense, but research supports that signing positively impacts vocabulary in early childhood.

Knowing that the American Pediatric Association once advocated for keeping infants away from television altogether, it is interesting to see there are benefits to TV learning — in a controlled environment.

Dr. Dayanim made it clear that Emory was not declaring“Watch TV!”, but that under the right circumstances, instructional learning can actually take place through instructional videos with children under 2.

The one drawback of the study was that researchers were not able to determine exactly when to draw the line on video watching.

Parents may want to play it safe by keeping educational viewing to a minimum as the researchers did.

If a parent needs 15 to 20 minutes to unwind, explained Dayanim, their baby can actually learn something in the process.

Just don’t bother with sight words at such an early stage. The research only attests to success with signs.

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Reality TV

#90DayFiance Newbie

Have you ever felt excluded because everyone around you was discussing a TV show you never watched? Well, that was my experience with 90 Day Fiance.

I had been hearing the chatter about Jorge and Anfisa, Nicole and Azan and David and Annie, while wondering who these people were and making a mental note to someday find out. However, I have 4 children, a husband, some tech-focused work projects, and writing I try to do when I can. I had only been able to delegate leisure time to 3 or 4 shows seasonally. I should mention that I procrastinate generally (much to my detriment) by spending time on Facebook and Twitter, so add social media to my productivity blockades. I began to surmise that I’d probably never get around to checking out this franchise.

But then came the assignment. The host of Pink Shade with Erin Martin instructed me to watch 90 Day Fiance for the first time ever. I was to just dive in to its spinoff Happily Ever After? without seeing any prior installments, and with my knowledge of the franchise limited to snippets from podcast recaps.

Usually I tuned out when hosts discussed the show because I wasn’t a viewer. This tendency comes naturally for me as a person with undiagnosed ADHD-I. However, Heather McDonald’s accurate and polarizing impersonation of Annie, who hails from Thailand, was fresh in my mind.

The minute I started watching the show, Annie did seem most familiar, and I had heard David interviewed on the podcast Reality Life with Kate Casey. This ludicrously mismatched couple made total sense to me right away: Annie thought she had hitched her wagon to a rich American, a common mistake made by some foreigners worldwide. News flash: Not all Americans are rich and though the USA offers promise, it is laden with problems and poverty as well. I remember thinking years ago “Wow, Israeli men really appreciate me!” when I visited the land and also spent a year there at age 18. After watching this show, I truly get it in hindsight.

The episode began with Molly, who is in the processes of divorcing Luis, and is trying to get his user ass deported. In the age of Trump, “Deportation” can be a dirty word, but on 90 Day Fiance Happily Ever After?, it is akin to “Hallelujah!” Luis is in his 20s and Molly is in her 40s, but looks ancient juxtaposed with the 20somethings of this show – Especially when you consider Azan and Nicole, both in their 20s but looking like they’re in their teens. Perhaps the camera not only adds 10 pounds, but a few years when you’re over the age of 40. Being in that cohort, I will now avoid television cameras at all costs.

Maybe it is Nicole’s naïveté that makes her appear younger than 24, believing that the opportunistic Azan is truly into her – rather than trying to get something from this arrangement, like the K1 Visa that he’s been denied. Nicole is in Morocco with Azan for now and you have to feel bad about how easily she’s been duped. He chalks off a suspicious voicemail recording with kiss noises to being a “joke” between guy friends. However, the most unwitting victim in all of this is her adorable daughter May. I immediately thought Nicole must have been a teen mom to have a daughter, but realistically she was about 21 when she gave birth. It appears May’s father is not in the picture – though I’m uncertain about that fact as a 90 Day novice in need of catching up.

The third couple that intrigued me – the most interesting in fact – was Jorge and Anfisa. Apparently, Jorge was so smitten with the Russian young woman that when he met her abroad, he thought he would be able to provide her with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. This reminded me of when I (regrettably!) asked Adina Shapiro for her sticker album in first grade, promising to acquire all the stickers in the world for her in return. I seriously thought I would pull it off and get all those stickers for her. So did Adina. It didn’t work out. Our mothers eventually had to intervene. Wherever you are today, sorry Adina!

Jorge overpromised and overspent and now he’s scaling back and underdelivering, as far as Anfisa’s concerned.

Though she too is in her 20s (and there is not a big age difference between her and Jorge), she has had Botox and lip injections. She owns pricey designer clothing and handbags purchased on Jorge’s measly dime. Yes, you got it: Jorge is not rich either, not by a long shot. In fact, he’s in debt.

My voyeurism had reached its apex watching this insane show and I cannot wait to binge all the old episodes of this franchise. I only wish the TLC network would make that an easier feat for me. Apparently, episodes are only available through the TLC Go app, which means I’ll be watching on my phone so as not to subject my husband and children to the madness….

Although something tells me that if they watched, they’d get hooked too!

(To hear me give Erin Martin my take on ALL of the 90 Day Fiance: Happily Ever After? couples, you can listen to thePink Shade Podcast.)

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

Catching Up with Lea Black on Life After “Real Housewives of Miami”

(The following article was originally published here.)

When Real Housewives of Miami failed to return for a fourth season, there was never an official “cancellation” announcement from Bravo. Some viewers speculated that the series was on hiatus and could magically return.

However, enough time has passed with enough Housewives (of other cities) to entertain, that most fans are not counting on it. Despite the absence of Miami on Bravo, the name of one of the cast members, Lea Black, has recently become synonymous with “gay icon” and “informed liberal” — though when I share the former with Lea herself, she tells me it’s the first she’s hearing of it.

This surprises me because she was known for introducing a famous Miami drag queen to her former cast mates and she has always seemed much beloved by gay members of her community.

Today Lea is only friendly with a few of the Housewives including Joanna Krupka, a stunning model who is connected to a mortifying and grotesque debacle that made for tabloid fodder and brought about a notorious lawsuit against another “Real Housewife” http://people.com/tv/joanna-krupa-sues-brandi-glanville-for-slander/.

“I advised Joanna to drop the lawsuit to make this (gossip and entire ordeal) go away,” Lea relates, “but you have to know Joanna, particularly when she is angry! This is something she needs to see through to justice and it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.”

With outspoken friends like comedians Julie Goldman, Brandy Howard and Ronnie Karam (who are all based in Los Angeles where Lea now also keeps a residence) as her unofficial cheerleaders, Lea – whose political leanings were already well-known in Miami where she held events to raise money for democratic politicians – has been able to share her convictions with a larger audience.

Although she refers to herself as a “centrist” in our conversation, she champions causes that resonate with liberals. She has always been a supporter of gay rights and shows a keen awareness and clear empathy for the average American who isn’t part of “the 1 percent.”

As Julie Goldman said on her podcast with Brandy Howard Dumb Gay Politics: “Lea is really rich, like really really really rich and she is an avid democrat, so suck it, they exist!”

Lea is witty but not at all condescending, quirky with a lilting Texan cadence and she lacks both self-consciousness and pretense. She is extremely well-read and knowledgeable (she’s also married to successful civil and criminal defense trial attorney Roy Black and familiarizes herself with the law) and is staunch in her political affirmations, while remaining respectful of those on the right. After all, despite purchasing a house in Los Angeles, she spends a large portion of her time in her red state residence in Florida.

“If you are against abortion, then don’t have an abortion!” she says logically when we discuss a population of those who voted for Donald Trump. She enforces the notion that women are responsible for their own bodies and single issue voting is not the way to go nor does it bode well: “One issue voting certainly didn’t make sense for this administration.”

She told Julie and Brandy in her interview on Dumb Gay Politics: “The rich may get richer while the poor get poorer, but everybody will be in the emergency room instead of having healthcare.” Lea reiterates this sentiment on the phone with me: “Quality of life is more important than the extra amount of money you have.”

On Twitter (@LeaBlackMiami), Lea frequently muses about this mess we’re in (AKA The Trump Presidency) and it’s clear that she’s not really spending her days watching Bravo as much as she is paying attention to Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Hayes — although she did love the network’s drama Imposters starring Inbar Lavi.

I tell Lea that she sounds more liberal to me than she does “centrist,” her self-descriptor, and she explains her thinking as follows: “I feel that Hillary always governed from the center and so did Obama. He was always willing to work with and compromise with congress. Logically, I’m a centrist because I think the only way to get things done is through a certain balanced level of compromise. Personally in my heart, I’m more of a liberal democrat. I don’t mind having to pay more taxes so people can have better lives and be empowered. Before Donald Trump’s campaign, I thought he came from a place of having been a democrat – that’s certainly how he was once known.”

“I thought that perhaps things wouldn’t actually be so bad, but then he opened his mouth and horrific things came out. There was this condescension and arrogance and outrageousness like when he said he was going to fix ISIS in 30 days. That was propaganda and more followed. The bullying that he did was such a turn off and I can’t understand people who voted for him. Those who admit now that it was a mistake, that’s OK, but those who still support him…I can’t comprehend it when they clearly see he is not going to do what they thought he was going to do – their reasoning for voting for him – what he said he was going to do!”

Lea has so much more to share about politics and it pays to listen to her opine on Dumb Gay Politics, but I realize that there’s so much more I want to know about Lea today.

So I wrap up our political discussion with Andy Cohen-style questions from a fan: “Candyce from Scottsdale, Arizona asks: If you ran into Ramona Singer from Real Housewives of New York who appears to be a Trump supporter, what would you say to her? Also, were you surprised to see the Watch What Happens Live polls before Election Day that had Trump win the election?”

Lea responds that the polls were not shocking because she is aware that Bravo has a conservative viewership, that there are people who went with the negative talking points about Hillary and with the narrative that Trump was the better candidate to “make America great again.”

Lea says she cannot even get her head around the latter sentiment. She thinks that Obama did a great job in light of budgetary overhead from the prior administration, and that he made healthcare something that was finally affordable and available to so many who would have been denied coverage.

“As for Ramona,” she responds, “I do know her (personally) and like her. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with her. If I ran into her now, I don’t see myself having this discussion because I don’t think she’s interested in having one. I just don’t see her as one of those people who follows the issues closely.”

I have to agree with Lea because Ramona does seem to be more focused on her social life and spending time with her adult daughter Avery. The day after Trump’s win, she was reportedly out shopping wearing a fur with a glass of wine in hand.

Lea’s non-political philanthropic endeavors include, but are not limited to, an annual Miami gala that raises millions for troubled teens http://www.theblacksannualgala.com/.

Currently, each Wednesday at 12 EST she opines on different sorts of funny things and modern issues in a Facebook Live segment titled Lunch with Lea.

“Lunch With Lea was something I started because I got so many Bravo viewers asking me about the show (RHOM) or what I’m up to and it just grew automatically,” she explains, “I love staying in touch with all the people that watched RHOM and enjoy the freedom of just being completely open and honest. Listeners seem to love the gossip and my unfiltered opinions. I plan to do it as long as people are tuning in. It’s laughs, giggles, fun and controversial.

She cackles in her signature way while she says “As you can tell, I haven’t slowed down since the Miami show wasn’t renewed!” That is a literal understatement if I have ever heard one because just looking at her website (www.leablack.com) makes me wonder how many hours are in her day.

The site offers her handbags, jewelry, a skincare line and details about her writing. She is committed to publishing more novels since the success of her 2015 book Red Carpets & White Lies which just happens to be about a salacious tome about a Miami socialite…Bravo, if you are reading, this sounds like the makings of a scripted series.

As the girl who came from Texas in the 1980s and rose to become well-respected in Miami society for her moxie as well as her charity and political activism, Lea is admirably accessible to fans. She engages with them through social media and via her website. Lea sees herself first and foremost as mom to teenage son RJ with her husband Roy, and as someone who supports her friends and their endeavors, wanting them to get the recognition and visibility she feels they deserve.

She recently was spotted seated in the audience of Julie and Brandy’s live show. She attended it with Ronnie Karam, co-host of the popular podcast “Watch What Crappens.” It pays to note that Julie, Brandy and Ronnie all began as adoring fans of Lea’s when she starred on Real Housewives of Miami and she responded to them in a way that fans only dream about.

We often hear the phrase “don’t meet your idols, you’ll be disappointed,” but Lea proves time and again to be the exception to this rule, restoring faith about the humility and humanity of highly successful people.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#PumpRules: Is Billie Lee Trying to Make Fetch Happen?

(Photo source: ItsMeBillieLee.com) Billie Lee may have made the inevitable move of Vanderpump Rules cast mates past initiation, stirring the pot to make something into something much bigger. Or, she may have made a legitimate point about insensitive cast mates. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until the drama (currently being filmed) unfolds next season to find out and decide for ourselves.

In the interim, fans of the show took to social media to call out the newest cast addition for creating drama where perhaps there needn’t have been any… ? I deliberately put that question mark there since I personally don’t know what to make of this most recent Vanderpump brouhaha.

Billie Lee’s recent tweets seem to indicate she wasn’t invited to a girls’ night with coworkers, and she suggests it’s because she is transgender. However, viewers saw Billie Lee embraced wholeheartedly by all her costars this past season.

Fans are now speculating online that this most recent debacle might have something to do with Billie Lee’s character…or the cast’s general cliquish ways, and nothing at all to do with being transgender.

Vanderpump Rules cast member Tom Schwartz suggests Billie Lee is making a mountain out of a mole hill

Others pointed to an Instagram post where Billie Lee is “tagged” about the upcoming girls’ night and even responds positively, citing that exchange as the “invitation”.

It is impossible to determine at this point what is truly going on behind the scenes. Billie Lee may have some legit gripes about her cast mates, and this very likely will feed in to a greater storyline when Vanderpump Rules returns.

Her tweets about not being invited remind me of Dorinda Medley yelling at Sonja Morganon Real Housewives of New York about using her ex’s family crest for her shoe line (#ItsNotAboutTheCrest):

I suspect there’s a lot more to this argument than meets the eye.

We’ll have to wait until next season of Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules to find out.

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Judaism, public figures, Religion

Martin Luther King’s Impact on Judaism

Not too long ago, I was trying to think of ways to teach my young children about Martin Luther King. While searching online for books about Rosa Parks and “I had a Dream,” a certain Facebook thread caught my eye. A close friend had just seen Rabbi Capers Funnye – an African American convert to Judaism and the head rabbi of a Chicago synagogue – in a local restaurant. Rabbi Funnye, who according to The New York Times used to hear the joke “Funnye, you don’t look Jewish,” is also a cousin of Michelle Obama.

Apparently, he was in the neighborhood speaking about African American Jewry as part of a series of similar lectures taking place across the country.

In addition to being the first African American “Head Rabbi” of a synagogue, Funnye co-founded the Alliance of Black Jews in 1995. I thought how appropriate it was that my friend’s sighting took place the night before Martin Luther King Day. According to Funnye, King is his hero, the predecessor who set the groundwork for the Rabbi’s tremendous efforts and strides.

In recent times, Rabbi Funnye has brought a lot of positive attention to the African American Jewish community, one that is being embraced by Jews across the nation and finally getting the recognition and respect it deserves. Despite encountering some initial hesitation as the first and only black “Head Rabbi,” Funnye contends in the New York Times article, “I am a Jew, and that breaks through all color and ethnic barriers.”

While reading about Funnye and how he decided to convert to Judaism after extensive exploration into religion (converting is no easy feat for anyone regardless of race, nor is being born Jewish!), I decided I had something to add to what I was teaching my children. Martin Luther King Jr. did not just impact the world, he did not just pave the way for other African American leaders who we respect today, but he impacted the Jewish community as well. Rabbi Funnye is evidence of that. Imagine how much harder the rabbi would have had to work to represent the African American Jewish community had there been no King. Funnye’s continuous, tireless efforts might be fruitless today had it not been for his influential predecessor.

It is my hope that my children have the opportunity to meet Rabbi Funnye at an upcoming talk and see how far not only our country, but our religion, has come since Martin Luther King Jr. spoke and shared his dream.

Originally published here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shira-hirschman-weiss/martin-luther-king-impact_b_810063.html.

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Reality TV

#BB20: Cruel Cruel Summers

As a mother of four fairly independent sons, I feel a little less atrocious excusing myself to steal away for guilty pleasure TV consumption..

than I did when my youngest two were toddlers.

However, the fascination with the erratically scheduled reality show Big Brother began at an inconvenient period of my life, a time when I was more apologetic about cramming it in.

“Why are you watching this show now?” my husband once asked nearly a decade ago, “Didn’t this take up an hour of your time last night?” Sheepishly, I replied “Yeah, they announced last night that it would continue tonight. It’s a major competition secluding people in a house who rarely see sunlight. The schedule NEEDS to be condensed so people can return to their lives.”

It was as if that could explain it all away. To strike a compromise regarding time allotment, I made the decision to break from all other programs on all other networks. It’s ludicrous how much of a commitment today’s TV shows require (also see: The Bachelorette, 90 Day Fiance, shows that often demand 2 hour chunks of viewing a singular episode).

As I nursed my newborn twins nearly nine years ago, I somehow was rapt by the day-to-day minutiae of polarizing strangers sharing a house with the end-goal of being the last one in it. Alliances form in the process of plotting to overtake the house, but none can truly be trusted as the individualistic objective is to wipe everyone else out.

Astoundingly creative physical and mental competitions are held to secure positioning in the house as well as one’s safety. Far more captivating however, are the social dynamics and inevitable backstabbing that occur on Big Brother. Viewers find those scenarios most relatable as they are metaphorical to everyone’s lives. Consider the themes of: Trust, loyalty and how one maintains dignity while trying to come out on top. How many real life situations can you apply to that symbolic structure?

I’m not one to play underhanded social games, but I’ve been on the receiving end of them. I have had to learn how to combat sneaky people, plotting and competitive coworkers and the like… Ignoring folks is the strategy I most often employ, but that’s far from an option in this reality TV game if your desire is to triumph.

Another aspect of Big Brother that has me glued to the tube? “Showmances”. It is always fascinating to me to observe and note how romantic relationships form either due to boredom (There is a lot of downtime for contestants who are stripped of phones, technology or anything connecting them to the outside world and its news), bonding over shared duress, or legitimate connections that wouldn’t have formed had a bunch of random people not been thrown together under the same roof. More importantly, under the same roof sans outside interference or assistance.

The anachronistic notion of not being able to Google or Facebook- research a romantic interest rings sweeter in today’s day and age. Of course, you cannot help but ponder whether or not a couple will have staying power beyond their seclusion in the dry-aired B.B. House. There, the rare glimpse of sunlight (in limited outside moments restricted to right beside the house and no farther) is a treat.

From an anthropological viewpoint, what’s almost as intriguing as the game dynamics is the way the show has usurped the summer hours of its fan base. It is one thing to be committed to a television program, but quite another to pay for the show’s much-dissected “live feeds.” Many fans do this and what that entails is tuning in to the events of the house as they occur 24/7. With the feeds, fans get to witness a lot of the dramatic happenings that will ultimately be left on the cutting room floor.

The live feeds have also inspired an entire social media subculture: Fans interact with one another and weigh in on occurrences that do not necessarily make it to the televised footage.

From an objective standpoint, you might declare “why would I be interested in the every move of a stranger in a house?” Bear in mind that those in charge of casting have not chosen humdrum, uncomplicated individuals. They’ve selected a deliberately eclectic mix, while foreseeing intense clashes and connections.

Troy McEady tweets about being glued to the Big Brother live feeds each summer.

They have also chosen contestants with a wide range of views, knowing that some of the more conservative notions will garner shock and dismay from the more liberal critics (and vis versa).

The B.B. experience reminds me of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series that was so popular during my childhood in the 1980s.

As this is the 20th season of Big Brother, there was no social media when the show was first created two decades ago. However, from early on, B.B. called upon the audience to impact the game. In the age of social media, it is an exquisitely simple feat, with the viewers choosing game twists and even godawful meal selections (such as what constitutes “slop”) as punishments for the contestants.

Know that watching Big Brother may require a far greater commitment from you than you ever imagined possible. Once you become interested, you’re likely to become invested.

Suddenly, you may find yourself not only choosing players’ adventures…..

but how you spend your summer.

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