A Slice of Courage: Anthony Bourdain

“People are telling you a story when they serve you food.” -Anthony Bourdain

Food, traveling, an over abundance of curse words… Man, do I love Anthony Bourdain. What do you say about a man who will always be far cooler than you’ll ever be, a person that you desperately want as your dining and adventure companion (seriously, how do you sign up to be his assistant?)? Over the long weekend, I binged on his CNN show, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and savored the images and sound clips of the places he explored and the meals he ate. From the Congo to Myanmar to downtown LA, Bourdain shows his audiences that the world is really connected by food and the adoration people have for those who prepare it.

20 Journalists Have Died This Year

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I’m walking in Sub-Saharan Africa, sweating and carrying a reporter’s notebook in my hand and a large pack on my back. I have a digital camera around my neck and a tape recorder in my back pocket. I just interviewed a family who sent their little girls to school for the first time. I felt welcomed in their home, in their village. Welcomed and safe. That image I just described is the kind of journalist I want to be. Trekking through Africa is one thing, but being safe is another.

Journalism and safety have been on my mind this past week, thinking about the shooting at the French satirical, Charlie Hebdo. According to Reporters Without Borders, 20 journalists were killed this year, only 15 days into 2015. Last year, 61 journalists were killed around the globe. These journalists covered everything from politics and policies to war to human rights watches. The countries, Syria and the Ukraine, are the top two deadliest countries for reporters. In the United States, reporters may not be dying, but they are constantly harassed by police and other individuals. When the riots in Ferguson first began, and the media started to cover the protesting, many reporters were seriously injured and wrongfully arrested. “Just cuffed and searched as we said we were leaving,” tweeted out Niel Munshi of the Chicago Financial Times. Robert Klemko with Sports Illustrated tweeted, “About 25 minutes after the gas attack, with the smoke cleared and the area secure, we attempted to go back down the street to report. When they cut cuffs off minutes later, I held onto it. Missouri Highway State Patrol captain, Ron Johnson, tried to take it…”

Reporters get a lot of hate from the public. People don’t like what they read and see on the media. While I agree that a lot of reporting is sensationalized and filled with unwanted opinions, there are genuine reporters who want to get the truth out there and they work hard to do so. If we didn’t have good journalists like that, we would never know what is going on in the far corners of the world, or even in our own country. We wouldn’t know about the Ebola epidemic, who is dating who in Hollywood nor let alone, the shooting in Paris. We need to protect the writers, photographers and editors of the world and show them respect- or we will lose our sources of information and entertainment.

This and That

Who had a good Thanksgiving? After all the eating, playing nurse for my ailing boyfriend and watching the latest release in “The Hunger Games” series (go see it!), I am ready for Christmas. But first comes finals, the dreaded eye infection due to stress (it’s already formed), dinners and drinks with friends, holiday shopping, volunteering, card writing, watching film favorites to prepare for next year’s Oscars (and “Peter Pan!“), cookie baking, working out to battle all the cookie eating… As I brace myself for my new round of hectic/crazy schedule, I have some things floating around in head that I need to write down and reflect on before they escape…

There are so many causes and charities in the world to focus on- there is so much in daily life to focus on. But each year, I try to pick a different charity or four to donate to. Each year, I donate to ONE which focuses on ending extreme poverty and fighting the AIDS pandemic all over the global, especially in Africa. I’ve been supporting the cause since my teenage years, buying ONE clothes at my local Gap store (today is also World AIDS Day- hop on the ONE site to give $1. That buck will help a little girl in sub-Saharan Africa get much needed drugs to help ease the effects of HIV). If you’re looking to support a US based charity, I suggest the American Red Cross. I like the Red Cross because they’re there in the community after a major disaster like a hurricane or a tornado and there after a personal disaster like a house fire. I also like the Red Cross because it’s easy to make a donation to program in someone’s name. When I’m fresh out of ideas on what to give a friend, I make a donation in their name- its a win-win for everyone. On the local level, the Nevada Humane Society is always looking for monetary donations and volunteers. Spend sometime with cute kittens and puppies!

Earlier last week (before I got outraged by the Ferguson verdict), I made two videos about the things I was thankful for. Of course, there are more things that I’m thankful for other than my dancing, music, my body and my job. I don’t write about my family much but I’m thankful for them. I’m especially thankful for my friends- there are some days I can’t live without their silliness. I’m obsessed with my boyfriend (in the best way possible). When all is lost in my world, I can count on him to find me. Yes, he grinds my gears every once in a while (and I’m sure that I grind his) but I’m still head over heels in love with him. He is my best friend and I can’t wait to spend the rest of the holiday season with him.

Who is going to be more daring with fashion next year- ME!

Who is going to be more daring with fashion next year- ME!

I’m already thinking about 2015 resolutions. I don’t like making them (I’ll write more about that later) but my mind still wanders to all the things I want to accomplish next year: finish school; go to Burning Man with Steve; spend less time online and more time skating; wear more full, poufy skirts… I’m excited about the many possibilites that willl could present themselves and my last year as a twenty-something.

What’s on your mind this week, dear reader? Happy December!

Disappointed…

I don’t like writing about race. It’s my least favorite subject to write about and honestly, it’s something that I try to ignore every day despite what I see when I look in the mirror. With my mixed background and my recently dyed hair, I’ve had some people come up and ask me what ethnicity I am- it’s easy to lie and hide, telling them that I’m not this. At the same time, I can be bundled up, riding my bike to school and someone in a passing by car shouts out “hey, nigger” from their window- that person knows my truth. Race is unfortunately a part of my life- as well as many other lives.

I didn’t want to write about the events from last night- Darren Wilson, the white officer many accused with the killing of the unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was not indicted with any criminal charges. A St. Louis County grand jury, consisting of nine whites and three blacks individuals, made the decision last night, stating there was little evidence to press charges on the officer. This announcement sparked outcry all across the United States, with protests springing up in nearly every major city– including my own. If people in my city are upsetting, crying out about this, how could I not write about this and not let my own voice be heard?

I didn’t hear the announcement until a few hours later. My heart sank in disappointment and but in all actuality, I wasn’t surprised. It is not the first time a man was able to walk away. I don’t know much about our justice system other than what I learned about in school. I never served on a jury and I never studied a murder case before. But I still question the jury’s decision and wonder if any form of justice will ever be held. At the end of the day, a man was killed.

Last night as we drove home from dinner, my boyfriend and I talked about the rioting and looting in Missouri after the verdict was announced. I explained to him that I don’t necessarily support the rioting but I understand and sympathize with the reason why the people in Ferguson are doing so. Martin Luther King, Jr. said moments before his assassination, “a riot is the language of the unheard.” As disheartening it is to admit, sometimes one needs to see and experience violence in order to change. Yes, change can happen without guns and bullets and fire starters but in the end, years from now, will we remember the peaceful protests or the vandalism? After the fires smolder out and those who were arrested last night are freed, I wonder if the protestors will look at what they did and plan on doing something better- perhaps running for a position in their local government where they will be able to make a lasting change to their community.

One of the things I keep thinking about is how this will affect the future of Black America. My boyfriend and I talk about one day, adopting a family. I want to adopt sons- growing up in a house filled with sisters, I wanted sons since the moment I decided that I wanted kids. I can imagine a beautiful little boy- my son- with dark smooth skin holding my hand at the market. I don’t want that child to be afraid– to be afraid that people who are supposed to serve and protect him will end up hurting him; to be afraid of being accused doing something negative and violent just because he looks a certain way; to be afraid of being stopped for no reason. No child should grow up afraid. No one should walk out of their house afraid, terrified of words and other’s wrong actions.

As I look to the future, I hope… I hope that we can all learn what happened and make some serious change. I hope people will hold themselves accountable for their actions, both right and wrong, instead of hiding in the shadows or proudly boasting about it. I hope those who deserve both justice and punishment receive it. I hope more people will respond to their government politics and vote for those who actually represent them and their beliefs, so that everyone’s voice could be heard. I hope that people won’t turn a blind eye and an ignorant heart watching an event in a place that’s not in their backyard. I hope that people will start respecting each other regardless of their profession and their race.

One can hope…

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, Shut Your Damn Mouth

A few years ago, I got my septum pierced and it quickly became my favorite piercing. I felt this beautiful/bad-ass combo feeling, something I never felt before and I wore the ring in my nose proudly. Some former friends decided to speak their mind about my new look. But instead addressing their “concerns” to my face, they hid behind their computer screen. They sent me messages on Facebook, saying that my septum ring looked hideous- one friend said that I looked like a bull. Needless to say, I was crushed and stopped talking to these people.

I was taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Saying mean things are just mean. I carried this belief with me throughout my adulthood- most of the time, I find it’s easy to stay quiet. Sure, if someone severely pisses me off, I will let them know. If I’m talking with someone about another’s appearance or an opinion I disagree with, I leave the comment alone and shut up. For example, I don’t believe in god. Having many religious friends and family in my life isn’t a problem because I keep my opinions about religion and spirituality to myself. I don’t tell my friends that they’re “wrong” for believing in what they chose to believe in- I don’t diss praying (I know it just doesn’t work for me). I don’t hate on gospel music (musically, some songs are gorgeous). Even on Christmas, when I attend church with my friends, I participate despite my beliefs. Who am I to say that their beliefs are wrong? And vice-versa? I silently respect what they chose to believe in- and I expect them to respect me in the same way. No one is stupid for having a thought of their own.

After the SlutWalk this past weekend, I posted some photos of the event on Facebook. These were pictures I was extremely proud of- that event meant so much me as both the event organizer and a protestor trying to get her voice heard. Some pictures apparently struck a nerve with people and they left some pretty rude comments on some photos. Of course, I was hurt. If people respected my opinion and knew how much time and effort I put into the event, I think they wouldn’t have said anything so awful and nasty.

Before you tell me that I’m being too sensitive- shut it- I believe there is a lack of consideration and dignity in the world. We are cruel to each other. We constantly hear about the kids who are bullied every day, pick on for being different and thinking differently. Those comments on my SlutWalk pictures? They were typed by bullies­- cowards hiding behind their computer screens.

Can you imagine if all the online trolls and offline bullies decided to give up hating others? What would the world look like if they practiced tolerance instead? It’s all about respect and acceptance- you can’t control what others chose to believe so accept it and respect it. I remember vividly another life lesson my parents taught me- treat others how you want to be treated. So, keep your bitterness to yourself.

To me, it comes down to this: if I’m looking for your opinion, I will ask for it. Have some damn respect.

I Am Sex Positive (and Proud!)

On September 6th, the city of Reno will holding its first ever SlutWalk. For those who are not familiar with the walk, the first SlutWalk was in Toronto in April 2011. The organizer, Sonya Barnett, created the event in part as a response to a Toronto police offer telling a York University safety forum, “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Since then, SlutWalks have been organized in nearly every major U.S. city, as well in several countries around the world. I participated in my first walk back in New York City and was impressed and in awe with everyone’s open efforts to discuss rape culture and how to end such violence against women. For the last two years, after I moved back to Reno, I thought about the Biggest Little City’s progression and growth and how the city would be ready for a SlutWalk. There has been too many times in this city where I am verbally harassed by men driving by in cars or I’m called ‘a whore’ by a passing-by woman for the pair of shorts I choose to wear on a hot day or for a dress I wear out dancing. I know that I’m not the only woman in town who has been affected by negative words and its time to do something about it. It’s time to let voice be heard. It’s time to educate ignorant minds. It’s time to change.

I’m one of the leaders of the Reno Sex Positive (RSP) and we are the group who’s organizing this September’s SlutWalk. We are a non-profit that formed in March 2013 by our fearless co-leaders, Adam and Rocky. Our mission is to promote open sexual dialog in the Northern Nevada area as we welcome and promote acceptance of person representing all areas of sexual diversity including sexual orientation, gender identity and expressions, body type, ability, age (adult) and choice of consensual sexual expression. We welcome straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals; as well as those who identify as gender fluid, asexual, polyamorous, monogamous and non-monogamous. At its core, the sex positive movement believes in the acceptance of all forms of sex among consenting adults. We believe that sex is healthy; that pleasure is good; and that intimacy helps bring people together. Reno Sex Positive holds bi-weekly discussions on a wide range of sexual and relationship topics including communication, slut shaming and love.

Yes, even YOU can be sex positive- just stop with the judgment and start with the acceptance.

Yes, even YOU can be sex positive- just stop with the judgment and start with the acceptance and respect!

I’ve been involved with RSP since last winter. I was intrigued by the concept of the group and appreciated everyone’s open-mindedness. During the weekly discussions, I learned a lot about sexuality- that being sexual active was okay; that being a virgin was okay; that sexuality was different to everyone. I learned that sex and sexuality is not shameful– it can be talked about in the open with mature adults (thank you, Samantha from “Sex and the City!”). I discovered that all forms of sexuality are okay- (as long as you’re a consenting adult, of course). If you’re religious and are only having sex for pro-creation, that’s okay. If you’re in a bar and you want to hook up with that cute couple in the corner, that’s okay. If you’re single and you rather spend “some time” with yourself, that’s okay. If you had have 34 sexual partners, that’s okay. If you’re a virgin- even being one at a late age, that’s okay, too (yes, it really is! I wish I knew that when I was 22!).

Of course, I’ve received negative backlash from creating the walk and being involved with RSP in general (so many people have asked me to the change the name of the walk to something more appropriate- huh? Seriously, why?). I’m sure that people think the members of RSP are a bunch of horny nut jobs who go to swinger clubs and screw each other during our free time (not that there is anything wrong with that but no, I don’t that and I can’t see myself ever doing so). I’ve deleted comments on the SlutWalk Facebook page on how the idea of a walk is stupid- rape is going to happen no matter what. Instead of women walking and protesting, we should be learning how to defend ourselves. Although I understand where that viewpoint is coming from (I have taken self-defense courses before and I can throw a decent punch if need be), I want to live in a world where I don’t have to look over my should when I walk home late at night. I want to live in a world where I can get coffee for the shop around the corner and not be stopped by some guy sitting in his car, asking if I’m “available.” I want to live in a world where I can wear whatever I damn well please and not be slut-shamed. I want to be able to talk about sex as if doing so wasn’t taboo and considered “dirty” or “funny” or “promiscuous.”

To me, being sex positive is about acceptance and respect. Although there are a lot of sexual ideas I’m not into, I do respect others and the choices that they make. Just because I’m not into something, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or immoral. I’m all about the happy- sex makes me happy! And as long as that sexual activity and sexual awareness comes from a respectful place, I can be positive about that.

For more information about the Reno SlutWalk, please visit our Facebook page

You said it, Samantha.

You said it, Samantha.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

February 24 through March 1 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

For a very long time, I thought men were only attracted to thin women (unfortunately, there are still times that I think this even though I know better). We women are constantly bombarded with images of thin and fit women on magazine covers and television (so of course, I thought “thin = beautiful.” It doesn’t). Sure, some publishers and TV shows have listened to the public outcry and added a female character with a few extra pounds but she is often the secondary character, the best friend. You would think, as a society, that we’d know better. On campus, I see girls going in and out of the campus rec center, complaining about the pinch of skin around their waist. Growing up, I always thought I was fat because I didn’t compare to my more slender girl friends and sisters. When I was in middle school, my stepmom questioned why I’d brought home half-eaten sandwiches. That began my regiment of dieting and binging which only got worse when I came to college. I was that college girl at the gym who thought she looked like a whale even though I looked fine.

This week is National Eating Disorder Week. Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S. 40% of female college students have eating disorders. Out of this 40%, a little more than half of these women don’t realize that they have an eating or body image disorder and they will not to get help. Let’s talk about the other side of the spectrum. As I watch women walk out of the campus gym, complaining, I see an equal amount of guys doing the same thing,  The rate of eating disorders among college men ranges from 4-10%. A recent study found that the female-to-male ratio of positive screens for eating disorder symptoms was 3-to-1. That study concluded that male body image concerns have dramatically increased over the past three decades from 15% to 43% of men being dissatisfied with their bodies, wanting an unobtainable physique. Women do feel like the pressure to look a certain way but men do, as well (if you haven’t listened to it, check out Silverchair’s song “Ana’s Song.” The band’s lead singer, Daniel Johns, wrote the song about his battle with anorexia. It’s incredible).

What can we do to end eating disorders? Well, there is the first step of recognizing what you’re going through and getting help. But as a friend or a significant other of one who might be feeling the pressure to look a certain way, remind that person that they are beautiful the way they are. Sure, working out to maintain health and wellness is one thing but one doesn’t shouldn’t spend all day at the gym, dieting and denying themselves just to attract someone’s eye (and if you’re with someone who doesn’t accept your body and the way it looks, drop them). Lately, I’ve been telling myself this line that Julia Robert’s character uses to comfort a friend in the movie, “Eat Pray Love:” “I have no desire to be obese. I’m just through with the guilt.” And I am so, with the guilt with all the calorie counting I used to do; with the way I beat myself for not going to the gym every day or for not going an insane 15-mile jog on an empty stomach. It’s okay if you want to treat yourself to a sugary iced coffee or a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. We’re only human and those things taste delicious.

Yesterday, I went on a run through the park after work. I felt some parts of my body jiggle as I sprinted along the dirt path. My stomach. My glutes. But for some reason, that jiggle didn’t bother me. My legs felt strong. My body was in motion. I was grateful that I could run- who knows how long I can do that? I run because for the rush of endorphins, which make me happy. It’s my stress relief. I maybe be overweight or “curvy” or whatever adjective (seriously, though, these labels need to be banned). I know I don’t look perfect with my cellulite, stretch marks, “fat rolls” and all. But I have this one body and I respect it and its purpose- I have arms for hugging and lifting; hands for high-fiving and typing. My torso will someday carry a baby. My legs help me pedal a bike, my most favorite activity in the world. I hope you respect your body, dear reader, and appreciate all that it does for you.

The War of Women Against Women

Two nights ago, I hosted a discussion group where we talked about slut shaming. The evening was amazing as participants of all ages, backgrounds and sexual orientations talked about their experience being shamed. It was pretty incredible to hear everyone’s stories but it was heartbreaking at the same time- especially to hear all the negativity. We talked about recent events- more specifically, the whole Miley Cyrus twerking incident. A participant mentioned that the majority of negative responses about Ms. Cyrus were from women while her many of her supporters were men (NOTE: I’m not stating this as fact as Miley received negative and positive reactions from both genders. This is something I’m going to research. I’ll share that information with you readers as soon as I find creditable results). We talked about why women bashed other women- whatever happened to ‘Girl Power?’ Did it die out with 90s pop music and platformed-sneakers? We agreed that other women are simply jealous- with Miley, you see a beautiful young girl who has freedom- the freedom to be sexually-open and the freedom to express herself however she wants to. I understand what some of the backlash said- she is a role model for little girls; she is attention seeking; etc, etc… My thoughts on that is she can do whatever she wants. She seems like a smart girl who knows what she’s doing. She’s young, too- I look at my early twenties and at all the so-called mistakes and poor decisions I made. I’m not saying that Miley made a bad choice for her infamous dance moves. I’ve just been there. Who am I to judge someone when I’m far from being perfect myself?

Slut-shaming. Nah, how about just “shaming?” Judging is more like it. I see this most on the college campus. School started this week and people are eager to get an education- or at least, I think they are. I haven’t been in a classroom in about three years and I feel like things took a 180 from when I was in school (seriously- how hard is it to “pardon me” when bumping into someone or “thank you” as someone holds open a door for you?). One of the things I noticed on the first day of school is that every girl who walks by you looks you up and down. Walk to into the campus Starbucks and everyone’s head lifts up. I understand if these girls want to check out a hot outfit (I love clothes as much as the next girl) but I feel like these eyes are filled with judgment. I am being sized up and labeled simply based on the way I look. I understand this is the way society works- we put as so much emphasis on the way we wear out hair and the clothes we put on our backs- but I would think on a college campus that women would be smart enough to overlook appearances. We’re in college- shouldn’t we be more competitive with the grades we want to received rather than what purse we’re carrying?

Yes! Yes! YES!

Yes! Yes! YES!

I just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” (thanks for the amazing Christmas present, Bima and Dad!). Sheryl doesn’t address the Miley Cyrus twerk-off but she does mention something about women helping women. We should be encouraging each other, lifting each other up, helping each other accomplish our dreams (whether those dreams are to dance on stage at the VMAs or to be your state’s first minority female Senator). When we gossip about each other, stare at each other with judgment-filled eyes, or even laugh at one struggling (yes, I’m talking about you girls in my Spanish class on the first day of school), we aren’t only bringing ourselves down but we’re dragging the rest of womenhood down as well. While equality between men and women may never been truly seen in my lifetime, I hope that women would be able to rise up, hand in hand, to support each other- whether that support comes through achievements at work or school, relationships such marriages or one’s family, or even just through a goofy exploration time in their life. No judging. Not hating. Just kindness, acceptance and support. And that’s something to twerk about.

Ned Vizzini: It’s Not Really a Funny Story

Ned Vizzini

Ned Vizzini, author of “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” died Thursday night after a committing suicide. He was 32. He wrote “It’s Kind of…” in 2004 after his stay in mental facility when he was hospitalized for depression. This book was a lifeline for many who read it- they’ve credited Vizzini’s words in helping save their lives. Soon, a movie based on the book was released (it’s a terrific, starring the hilarious Zach Galfianakis). Once the success of the both the book and movie versions of “It’s Kind of…” blew up,  Vizzini wrote for teen dramas such as MTV’s “Teen Wolf” and nationally published magazines and newspapers like the New York Times. He is survived by his wife and two-year-old son. Vizzini is from Brooklyn, NY.

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is one of my favorite books (when the movie came out, I watched it three times along in the theatre). I picked up the book after my own stint in a mental hospital when I committed myself for self-mutilation, severe depression and extreme anxiety. I identified with the main character, Craig, and his thoughts about life and ending it.  I read a lot of books about a character’s stay in a mental facility. Most of those books were written by people who were using only their imagination to describe the situation- they didn’t actually experience what it is like to be in a hospital. But “It’s Kind of…” was different. Vizzini described MY experience; from the racing thoughts to rooming with a narcoleptic to drawing time with the arts therapist. He knew how I felt. The book’s comforting and I still have my copy on my bedside nightstand. When I read the headline last night about his death, my heart broke and I cried a little bit. I’m not so sure why Vizzini decided to take his life but I hope that he knew that he positively affected so many. My thoughts are with his family.

Depression hurts. It stings. It’s something I deal with on a daily basis. Everything in my life reminds me of this chemical imbalance in my brain. But I fight it with the love I have for myself and my future and with the support I get from others. Even though depression and other mental health issues are still considered taboo and so many hate discussing it, we need to start talking about it. Suicide should not happen, especially with people who are so talented and have so much more to contribute to the world. I think about the holidays and how they can be rough on some people- I know. I’ve spent plenty of Christmases and New Year’s Eves blue and alone. I hope you, dear reader, will never experience the boughs of depression and if you have, my heart and soul go out to you. Do me and the rest of the the world a favor- grab the closest person to you and give them a big hug and tell them that you’re there for them. They might just need to hear it and feel your warmth.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I appreciate you taking the time to read 20Something this year. I love you all.

Read "It's Kind of a Funny Story" NOW.

Read “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” NOW.

Today is World AIDS Day

There are approximately 33 million people in the world living with AIDS or HIV today. In the United States, about 1 million people have one of the two diseases, with one out of five people unaware that they been infected. World AIDS Day was created in 1987, six years after the Center for Disease Control classified their findings, giving the name, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (however, reported cases of AIDS first appeared in the United States beginning in the 1960s).

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. I never met anyone with AIDS or HIV (or maybe I have but wasn’t aware of it) but this cause has always been close to my heart. I wore a red ribbon today for the men, women and children all over our planet who lost their lives to both HIV and AIDS, and as a reminder to myself and others to get tested.

December 1st shouldn’t be the only day in the year that we go to the clinic or our physician to get test for AIDS and HIV (or for any other disease or infections, for that matter). Please be safe and get tested, if not today but sometime later in the week. I know my status. Do you know yours?