Saturday, June 23, 2018

Book Nook: Masks

Masks, the debut novel from Nataly Restokian, takes readers on a journey through Anna's persistent struggle to find true, authentic happiness in an environment that marginalizes women. Inspired by the author's personal experiences as a television personality in the Middle East, Masks reveals through Anna the uncensored reality of the way women are treated in the Arab world and the hidden traps found within the glamorous circles of fame and fortune.

As an Armenian girl growing up in Lebanon, Anna had suffered unspeakable hardships, including rape, with the country's civil war a constant backdrop. Against all odds, she fiercely works her way into a successful television career as an adult, but her fame and loveless marriage only serve to bind her ever tighter to society's expectations. 

She combats her husband's infidelities with her own steady stream of lovers, but each encounter only underscores the emptiness in her heart until the unexpected happens: a passion-filled night with a handsome Canadian awakens untested emotions inside her. Suddenly, she's ready to risk everything she's ever known for a stranger who lives oceans away. Will Anna find the freedom and true happiness that she so desperately seeks, or will Middle Eastern society's unrelenting grip prove too powerful? 

Author Q&A:

Do you fell the #MeToo and #times up movement are relevant to events in your novel, and if so could you elaborate on you?
Wherever women and minorities are ambitious for success, powerful men will be there to exploit them. Wherever  it takes place -in television studios, in the creative arts, in the halls of power, in royal palaces -its always the same ,and its victims are afraid they will lose everything if they speak up ,so they cry alone.

Why did you choose “Masks “as the title of your book?
We live in a world under the influence of social, religious, and traditional obligations that are dictated to us. We hide behind masks, repressing our courage, ambitions, and sometimes even our destiny. The title is Masks because the novel explores how much strength we need to be able to remove those masks, thereby destroying all obstacles and reaching our goals regardless of the consequences.  
What does the novel talk about?
In a society in which men dominate women, the story follows an ambitious girl who is one of the few people to realize that fashion, social status, plastic surgeries, and bright smiles are not the answer to happiness. She lives in a world where a girl is only worth as much as her virginity, where women do not dare ask for a divorce, and where the fear of retribution keeps them locked in a cage that is very rarely gilded. The characters in the story are the voices of so many who do not dare to speak up in a world in which social and religious standards openly chastise the very actions that behind closed doors have become the ultimate paradigmatic way of life.
Taking into consideration the social customs of the Arab culture, this novel is covered with many controversial characters, sexual taboos including royals, celebrities, men in power. What prompted you to write so boldly about?
I focused on taboos and corruption as a regional phenomenon in order to allow the rest of the world to embrace our differences and similarities, and to see the Arab world from other angles than the stereotypical one of terrorism or extremely sexy women. 
If talking about human suffering, celebrity secrets, the abuse of women, civil war, and the humiliation of homosexuals in the Arab world generally and Lebanon specifically is a reason for backlash then evidently I might get shot very soon.

Author Nataly Restokian is the granddaughter of Armenian genocide survivors. Born and raised in Lebanon, Restokian spent nearly two decades as a television journalist, actress, talk show host and radio host in the Lebanese and Arabic societies. She also worked as a marketing manager for three different economic and industrial magazines in Lebanon. She rose through the ranks before giving it all up for a chance at happiness and true love. Today, Restokian is married and living in Montreal. She is working on her second novel. 

Healthy Habits: Balloon Weight Loss Surgery

Americans spend almost 60 billion dollars annually in pursuit of weight loss with gastric bypass surgery being the most common type of weight-loss surgery; an option that isn’t for everyone. Like any major procedure, gastric bypass has significant health risks and side effects. In addition, to be a candidate for the procedure, one must have a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or higher. The fact is, a huge percentage of the population are only between 15 to 50 pounds overweight without any other options besides diet and exercise.  Dr. Stanley Poulos, a San Francisco board certified plastic surgeon is an early adaptor of the non -surgical balloon weight loss method approved by the FDA in 2016. Following the two-part program, patients lost an average 3.1x the weight compared with diet & exercise alone. 

Dr. Poulos stresses that, “there is a direct correlation between those patients who stay connected to their program and their weight loss success.” Dr. Poulos is highly experienced in body contour plastic surgery which is sometimes required after major weight loss. Sometimes, due to skin laxity after weight loss, procedures such as thigh lift, breast lift, liposuction or “tummy tuck” are desired by patients.

Who is an ideal candidate for the balloon weight loss method?
It is appropriate for patients with a BMI of 30 to 40 that have not had previous weight loss surgery. Patients diagnosed with bulimia, binge eating, compulsive overeating, high liquid calorie intake habits or similar eating related psychological disorders are not good candidates.

How does the balloon method work?
This non-surgical outpatient procedure begins with a diagnostic endoscopy to ensure that there are no contraindications and that it is safe to perform. Once the patient is mildly sedated and comfortable, the procedure can begin. The deflated gastric balloon is inserted through the esophagus and into the stomach. A syringe is then used to fill the balloon with a sterile saline solution. Once the weight loss balloon has been filled with saline, it expands to approximately the size of a grapefruit. The entire procedure takes about 20 minutes. Patients can usually return home after the placement or removal procedures within 30 minutes. Over the last 20 years this procedure has helped over 277,000 people. The gastric balloon encourages portion control while patients make healthy changes to diet and lifestyle.

How long does the balloon stay in place?
The balloon remains in the stomach for the first six months after the procedure. With the stomach balloon and Dr. Poulos’ support team, patients usually see the most drastic results in the first six months. It is very important to use this time to develop healthy habits that will continue for not only the 12-month weight loss program, but for the rest of one’s life.

What to expect after the balloon placement.
Over the first 14 days after placement, patients may experience nausea or vomiting. Dr. Poulos recommends a liquid diet for his patients during the first week to help manage these symptoms.  Also prescribed are effective anti-nausea drugs to help the patient through the initial stage.

How is the balloon removed?
Once the stomach balloon has been in place for six months the balloon is removed. The simple and non-surgical procedure is very similar to the placement process. Once the gastric balloon has been removed, it is very important to continue working closely with Dr. Poulos’ team and coaches to follow the personal diet and exercise plan provided. This will help to keep you in a positive and healthy mindset while achieving your weight loss goals.

Additional benefits of the balloon weight loss method.
ü  It’s been shown that the average person loses 3x more weight with this procedure than with diet and exercise alone. Here are some of the reasons why:
ü  Diets can leave you feeling hungry or dissatisfied. This procedure helps by taking up room in the stomach and encouraging portion control.
ü  When you’re overweight, exercise can be challenging and uncomfortable. With The Balloon Weight Loss Method aiding your weight loss, physical activity can be more comfortable.
ü  There are no incisions, stitches, or scars.
ü  Unlike gastric bypass surgery, this procedure is not solely for the morbidly obese.
ü  The procedure takes 20 minutes and most patients return home the same day.
ü  The balloon is only placed temporarily.
ü  The procedure is intended to work with a fitness and nutrition regimen for optimal results.

Cost: The general cost for the procedure is $8,000 to $10,000 nationwide and can be used with patients 22 and older who fit all of the medical criteria.

About Dr. Stanley Poulos
Dr. Poulos specializes in cosmetic breast surgery and body contouring procedures. He helped pioneer the quick lift facial rejuvenation surgery in California and is recognized as one of the leading plastic surgeons in Marin County and the entire San Francisco Bay area.  Dr. Poulos and Plastic Surgery Specialists have extensive experience in body contour procedures. A graduate of the University of Texas Medical School, Dr. Poulos completed his internship and residency at UC San Francisco. He completed a plastic surgery fellowship at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco and is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

Boys Will Be Men

By Sean Patrick Hughes
I still remember the girl everyone picked on in my 3rd grade class. I don’t remember anything I learned in that class. I barely remember the teacher’s name. I don’t remember who my best friend was or who I spent time with or much of what I did at all.
But I remember her.
She was tall. She looked older than everyone else. I realize now she probably was. Her clothes didn’t fit right and the other kids said her hair was cut like an old lady’s. They said she smelled too. I didn’t think she did but that didn’t matter because everyone said she did. She was quiet and didn’t participate much in anything. No one knew her family or where she came from before 3rd grade. But she didn’t seem very good at school. When she was called on to read aloud, she struggled and stuttered and sounded things out.
The other kids called her dumb.
I remember it 30 years later. The earth has traveled 17 and a half billion miles since then and that memory has traveled them with me—the tall girl with the old lady hair whose clothes didn’t fit right that everyone said was smelly and dumb.
One day she wasn’t in school any more. And almost no one ever saw her again. Almost.
A few years later, I think I was 12, I saw her. I was at a friend’s house who didn’t go to my school in third grade and therefore didn’t know the girl as I knew her; as my third-grade classmate. He knew her as the girlfriend of the man who lived in the house next to him. I saw her bringing in groceries.
She looked much older than us by then. And probably was by a year or two. Maybe she was fourteen. Maybe 13. And she was with him. A grown man with kids of his own that she was also caring for. She recognized me. I could tell. But she never said a word to me.
I didn’t say anything about her to anyone either. I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe it was something in the way she looked at me. She was scared of me, not him. I didn’t want to ruin it.
Somewhere after being bullied in school she disappeared from the life of a child and ended up doing the shopping and cooking and all the other things one imagines that the woman of the house does. All that was unimaginable about that was her own. No one else’s.
I remember the bully from my school too. He didn’t discriminate. He bullied everyone. He was big and angry. He cried when he got mad. But mostly he was just plain cruel. The tales about punching the bully back and he’d leave you alone were just tales with him. He just punched back harder. He used to put his fingers in his mouth and throw spit at people because he could do it in class without the teacher hearing it.
No one knew his family either. Or where he lived. We just knew him. And then one year he disappeared too. And no one thought we’d ever see him again.
We did though.
His end was different. He’d gotten into drugs and taken to beating up elderly women for their purses. Eventually he murdered one in the parking lot of a restaurant. At his trial, his mother begged the court for mercy. She said he was a good man, just caught up in addiction. I knew better. Whatever made him the way he was, it wasn’t new. He was mean as a snake his whole life.
There’s a saying. Hurt people hurt people. It’s true. And it’s a valuable thing to remember, especially when dealing with kids. But there’s something incomplete about it. It implies some symmetry about the world that’s simply not there. Hurt people don’t hurt people.
Hurt men hurt people.
The wounds we inflict on each other, the ones that time alone won’t heal, are almost all dealt at the hands of men.
93% of all murders, rapes and non-prostitution sex related offenses are perpetrated by men. 97% of mass shootings are carried out by men. 93% of federal prison inmates are men.
77% of the time we men kill each other. The overwhelming majority of women that are assaulted raped or murdered are done so by men as well though. Of all the humans in the world who could kill a woman, half the time, it’s her intimate partner—husband, boyfriend, ex—that does it. Usually they’re shot.
If you’re wondering why women aren’t particularly interested in tolerating any talk that justifies or normalizes terms like enforced monogamy or violence related to the asymmetry of sexual distribution, it’s likely because of all the murder and violence that already comes with their relationships with men.
This is the part where the discussion tends to get particularly scientific, with long explanations of testosterone or the behavior of chimpanzees or maybe even lobsters. Or maybe it wanders into a cautionary tale of morality. The description of a societal rot and a spiraling away from the temperate waters of days past can be pretty handy when trying to make a point that people can throw at each other over their social media threads. The science and biology may be true. The basis for moral finger wagging isn’t. We’re killing far less of each other today than we did when I was a kid. I’m not interested in either perspective though.
The contrast in the stories I shared above is intentional. I don’t know what was happening in the background of the lives of that little girl and that little boy when no one was around and no one was looking. What I know is where they ended up. One of the hardest realities to swallow, as a man, is the asymmetrical nature of the poor outcomes of troubled childhoods. This is one place where it’s obvious that the outcomes, at least, for men and women are very different. Hurt women don’t hurt people, not the way that men do. Their tragedies are so often their own. As for us men, we take far too many others with us.
I’m the father of three boys. Three boys that one day will be men. And the only perspective that I’m interested in, relative to the discussion of men and violence, is my responsibility to the world for who they become. And what becomes of them. And the fates of the people whose lives they touch.
Contrary to popular belief, Johnny Cash songs or social media, my job isn’t to teach my sons the hard lessons of life. Life will take care of that for me. Of that I’m sure. There’s enough pain and loss and heartbreak coming to them; a lifetime’s worth to teach them about the truly hard things that I will never be able to.
I do need to teach them accountability, of course. But that’s best taught by example; by watching me go to work every day, come home and treat their mother and those around me with respect and to honor my responsibilities and to admit when I’m wrong and apologize. Not by hammering them when they do things wrong.
My place in this world, the one no one else can fill, is to teach my boys that they are loved. And that they have worth. And that the world is full of people worthy of the same. To teach them to see themselves in the suffering of others. To teach them strength through service, not dominance, bravado or violence.
At stake is the lives of everyone they touch for the next 70 or so years. The women who trust their bodies and safety to them. The children who will look to them for the same they look to me.
It’s a hell of an important job. And no one else is going to do it.
Sean Patrick Hughes is a writer, veteran, non-profit founder ( and a special needs father. A veteran of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and a Bronze Star recipient, Hughes launched the data, politics and society blog in 2015 as he brings a contrarian point-of-view and a wide range of depth and experience to his writing. Rationally objective, his work challenges us to look deeper into our modern problems. 

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy and the University of San Diego Graduate School of Business, Sean left the Navy, after 10 years of active duty, at the rank of Commander. He lives in Southern California with his wife Annette and three boys. You can learn more about Hughes on his Blog, 
ChartwellWest, or connect with him via Twitter and Facebook. Hughes’ new book, Sixteen, is now available onAmazon and other fine booksellers.  ###

Shopping Savings: DSave

I thought this might be of interest regarding high costs of healthcare.
When a lifelong runner and marathon athlete was told he couldn’t run after a painful injury, he scheduled an MRI. He was shocked when the out-of-pocket came back to him as more than $1,500. He decided to ask around for some advice before shelling out the expensive payment.
That was the dilemma Scott Young faced before being referred to MDsave, a leading healthcare technology platform designed to help consumers find affordable costs for health care by dealing directly with hospitals and doctors to avoid the hurdles of high insurance prices. As a nuclear medicine technician in a medical clinic, Scott knew the pain of dealing with insurance companies and the frustration of the high OOP costs. By going through MDsave, he was able to save nearly $1100.
As Scott and others have learned by discovering MDsave, “it was seamless.”  
By streamlining the provider payment process, MDsave ensures patients save more and providers net more due to removing the inefficiencies of the system in place.
You can see the video testimony here:

Paul Ketchel // Nashville, Tennessee
Paul Ketchel is Founder and CEO of MDsave, the world’s first transactional healthcare marketplace. He has more than a decade of combined experience in the healthcare industry. Previously, Mr. Ketchel served as Chief Operating Officer of Diagnostics Network Alliance, and as Director for American Capitol Group, a government relations firm which represents more than 60 clients in the healthcare and crhpharmaceutical industries. Prior to joining American Capitol Group, Paul was Director of Government Relations for Elanex Pharma Group International. Before joining the private sector, Mr. Ketchel began his career as an aide to United States Senator Bill Frist. Mr. Ketchel served as an aide for the Senator on his Washington, DC staff.
Paul on OANN Tipping Point:

Healthy Habits: Staying Hydrated

With weather forecasters predicting a summer of average or above average temperatures, it is going to be another dangerously hot time for most of us. The main health tip is to stay hydrated, with water leading the charge. But outside of water, what are your best liquid hydration options when dealing with the summer sizzle?

Dr. Mayrene Hernandez of UnitedHealthcare says there are a couple of good choices, outside the everyday glasses of water (always the best choice), to stay healthy and hydrated for the long, hot summer.  These alternatives include:

1.)   Lemon Water
According to the Center For Disease* Control Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do.

2.)    Skim Milk  (no, seriously, milk)
You may have not known this but milk is actually better for rehydration and also for countering dehydration than water. It contains a natural blend of good quality carbs, proteins and sodium that helps your body retain fluids.

3.)   Herbal teas.
Herbal Teas such as hibiscus tea, rose tea or chamomile tea are great hydrating drinks. They are natural and caffeine-free, so you don't have to worry. They not only help in keeping you hydrated by also calm your tired nerves and relax your mind. 

4.)   Fruit Infused Water
Fruit juices may not be the best hydrating drinks but a glass of fruit-infused water is.  Adding fruits in water helps in diluting the sugar content and increasing its hydrating powers.

5.)    Smoothies
Smoothies are a smart way to fit some extra hydrating nutrients in your day. You can incorporate fruit, add nutrient blends, or turn it into a meal by adding protein and healthy fats. Be wary of the amount of fruit you add — add too much and you might add too much sugar

6.)   Coconut Water
If you are looking for an all-natural, flavorful alternative to traditional water, coconut water is worth a try. A study published from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise which demonstrated that coconut water replaced body fluids as good as a typical sports drink, and slightly better than water. Stay aware of to many, if any added sugars.****

For this and more health tips you can visit:

Website Spotlight:

Wealth management and trust company, Ronald Blue Trust, has partnered with Church Law & Taxa publication of Christianity Today, to provide content for ChurchSalary. Released this month, the tool features compensation best practices and guidance on personal financial topics, including budgeting, debt management and retirement planning.  

ChurchSalary was born out of the National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders. Funded by $28 million in grants announced in December of 2015 by the Lilly Endowment, the initiative resulted from extensive nationwide research. It showed that pastors from multiple denominational groups and geographic locations were facing serious financial stresses and obstacles. ChurchSalary is designed to help alleviate some of those pressures.

A division of Thrivent Trust Company, Ronald Blue Trust provides wealth management strategies and trust services based on biblical principles. The division (and its predecessor) has been serving individuals and families with complex financial needs across generations since 1979, helping them enjoy a healthier relationship with money and be inspired to live more generously.

This is the first year the Church Law & Tax editorial team sought assistance from a wealth management expert to provide personal finance resources within the ChurchSalary tool. Ronald Blue Trust has contributed a series of articles that address a variety of topics, including strategic giving, four financial decisions that may affect contentment, five methods of budgeting, and five principles of stewardship.

For more information about ChurchSalary and to access the tool, visit Information about Ronald Blue Trust and additional resources are available at
 # # #
About Ronald Blue Trust
Ronald Blue Trust ( is a division of Thrivent Trust Company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent Financial ( Ronald Blue Trust serves individuals and families across generations with complex financial needs and helps them to enjoy a healthier relationship with money and be inspired to live more generously.
Trust and investment management accounts and services offered by Ronald Blue Trust, a division of Thrivent Trust Company, are not insured by the FDIC or any other federal government agency, are not deposits or other obligations of, nor guaranteed by Thrivent Trust Company or its affiliates, and are subject to investment risk, including possible loss of the principal amount invested.
Trust and investment management accounts and services are offered by Thrivent Trust Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent Financial, the marketing name for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, based in Appleton, Wis., and an affiliate of Thrivent Investment Management, Inc. Neither Thrivent Investment Management, a FINRA member, nor its associated person(s) is offering any product hereby. Certain Thrivent Investment Management associated persons refer prospective clients to Thrivent Trust Company.
About Christianity Today
Christianity Today is a nonprofit, global media ministry centered on Beautiful Orthodoxy—strengthening the church by richly communicating the breadth of the true, good, and beautiful gospel. Reaching over five million people monthly with various digital and print resources, the ministry equips Christians to renew their minds, serve the church, and create culture to the glory of God.

Parenting Pointers: Beauty Redefined

A massive cultural shift is underway for women across the nation—brought center stage this week when the Miss America competition scrapped the swimwear segment, no longer judging candidates “based on physical appearance.” But will this redefine beauty, or is it just a publicity stunt?

“This is an extremely positive and timely shift, needed in a time when Instagram models and reality TV show celebrities have taken center stage,” says Seline Shenoy, life coach and author of the new book, Beauty Redefined. “But it’s up to the rest of us to take advantage of this bold move. We must start taking steps to transform the message dispelled by other key influencers and reshape how women feel about their own worth in the world.”

I had a chance to interview Seline Shenoy, author of Beauty Redefined, to learn more

Why did you decide to write this book?

My book, Beauty Redefined, is really a labor of love. It’s deeply personal to me because I struggled with body image issues and consequently it affected my confidence in all areas of my life. Even though it was a painful journey, I discovered a lot about myself and it made me conscious about this universal struggle that we women face when it comes to finding our place in this beauty meritocracy and figuring out our sense of worthiness. 

The road to self-love and acceptance is a tricky territory filled with emotional minefields. On realizing this, I felt compelled to write this book in which I share my thoughts and ideas on this issue. It’s my contribution towards the looming revolution of beauty, which I hope will pick up momentum as more and more people become aware of the struggles that the majority of women face today. 

This book is for the modern-day girl and woman who is ready to overcome self-doubt and instigate positive changes in her life so that she can embody a wholehearted and conscious way of living.

Why aren't body positivity movements working?

While there certainly have been numerous praiseworthy past initiatives taken to uplift women and young girls such as the women’s liberation movement in the 1960’s and various media campaigns by beauty brands such as Dove, Cover Girl, and Venus by Gillette, to name a few, they have  unfortunately, failed at creating a lasting impression on the majority of the female population because it did not sufficiently empower women to internalize these messages and address the complex underlying moral, educational and cultural issues that are at play in their world.

Deep down, most women are still not convinced of the validity of the “beauty comes in all shapes, colors and sizes” statement and other cajoling credos of the beauty empowerment movements—none of them reflects on the reality that they witness in the world around them. In some ways, they may be right. 

What helps women feel more positive about themselves?

In my book, Beauty Redefined, I recommend a holistic approach towards overcoming common blocks that prevent women from feeling positive about themselves and cultivating the kind of beauty that is genuine and real. This approach involves all aspects of your being – your mind, your heart, spirit and body. This is a pretty comprehensive model but some of the key points include adopting a more positive mindset and belief system, healing any past emotional trauma or pain with a trained professional, loving your body by giving it the nourishment and care it needs to stay healthy and living your life with a sense of purpose and passion. 

In addition to remove these blocks, I suggest embracing a new perspective beauty which I call the True Beauty principles. To make this new perspective on beauty easier to understand, I created a fictional persona of a woman, which I call a True Beauty (TB) based on the research I’ve done on women in several historical and literary narratives, such as Greek mythology stories and Jane Austen novels. I also studied various behavioral patterns of some of the most successful and happy women in the world to identify the constellation of traits, sensibilities and lifestyle choices that led them to a life of balance, accomplishment and fulfillment.

How can women instill positive self-esteem in their daughters?

Mothers play a crucial role in their daughter’s self-assurance and her self-confidence. Girls pay attention to how their mothers perceive other bodies. Girls also pay attention to how their mothers treat their own body: does she exercise and take of herself? Does she neglect her looks? Is she critical of her own appearance? All of this impacts a young girl deeply because her mother is her first and most influential role model.

A mother needs to be conscious of what she is modeling to her daughter and take responsibility for resolving any past trauma that she might have experienced and dysfunctions that prevent her from modeling healthy behavior patterns especially when it comes to her self-image and body image. 

Another critical thing that she can do is helping her daughter develop an identity that is independent of her physical appearance by encouraging her to get involved in activities that could build her self-confidence such as theater, art or sports. Give her opportunities to express herself through her talents and creativity and acknowledge her efforts. Compliment her on the efforts she is making in both her academic and non-academic endeavors.

It’s also important to make her develop media literacy. Guide her to develop the discernment and a critical eye that can decode and filter the messages from advertisements, as well as celebrity and pop culture. In this way she can develop an objective and impersonal view on the hype and sensationalism in these areas and detach it from her identity and sense of self-worth.

How does poor body image affect women?

There are numerous subtle as well as obvious dysfunctional symptoms that women display when suffering from a poor body image. Some of the common ways that these symptoms surface include a distinct lack of confidence in their personal and professional life, a tendency to attract and stay in abusive relationship, becoming more prone to developing addictive patterns, susceptibility to eating disorders, spending too much time and money on beauty treatments and surgeries, people-pleasing behavior and a lack of good social and relationship skills.

What role does social media play in body image and self worth?

Psychologists have also observed that social media exacerbates the tendency for frequent users to develop a skewed impression of the world which is seldom accurate or healthy. Young girls and women, for example, may develop unrealistic standards when it comes to their looks and bodies based on what they see on social media. But instead of labeling social media as the bad guy, I see it as a double edged sword. The eventual effect that it has on your life really comes down to how you use it and for what purpose. 

If a girl or woman wants to avoid the negative impact that social media could have on her self-image, she need to become more conscious of her media diet. If she’s following social media accounts and blogs run by people and institutions that are shallow and appearance-focused, such as Instagram models and celebrity fashion and gossip related profiles, it can hurt them if they aren’t mindful of its probable impact on them, especially on a subconscious level. 

The negative impact of social media can be avoided if a girl or woman is guided towards adopting a more empowering and all-encompassing standard for beauty which includes all aspects of her being – her intellect, aspirations, passions, talents and her morals. 

How can women recognize poor self-image and address it to improve their self-esteem?

A woman can recognize poor self image if she (or a trusted family member, friend or counselor) notices that she displays one or more of the typical symptoms of someone suffering from this condition.

She can address it by realizing that real beauty is all encompassing – it’s not just about how pretty you look or how slim you are but the kind of person that you are, your character and your compassion for others. She needs to be willing to work on developing herself as an individual and cultivate her talents, passions and even their sense of morals and values. She also has to open up to receiving the help that she needs to heal any past trauma and hurts that have caused her poor self-image.

What are some changes that need to be made on a larger scale to redefine self image?

As a society, we need take the steps needed to empower the contemporary woman so that she feels whole, complete and accomplished even if she doesn’t measure up to the perceived ideal of beauty and own her unique brand of beauty, even if it does not fit within the conventional mold.  I believe that we need to tackle this by igniting a beauty revolution that addresses the issue on both an individual and collective level. 

Dealing with it on an individual level involves making concerted efforts towards bringing about an internal shift within girls and women by educating them on how they can maintain a strong sense of self-worth and develop an identity that’s independent of outward appearances. On a collective level, we need to change the paradigm of beauty by instigating fundamental changes in our education system and the media to develop healthier standards of beauty that draws the focus from a woman’s physical attractiveness to her accomplishments and character. 

If we’re willing to work together, we can transform our distorted and skewed perception of women’s beauty into one that is more healthy and wholesome. When we embody the new standards for beauty, we will convince ourselves and the rest of the world that, as women, we are so much more than our bodies and faces—we are multifaceted individuals with distinct values with numerous gifts to share. 

SELINE SHENOY, author of Beauty Redefined, is a podcast host and life coach who focuses on personal empowerment, self-esteem, productivity, and wellness. As the founder of The Dream Catcher, a blog community that encourages people to live their ideal life, Shenoy’s inspirational message has been attracting thousands of people worldwide since 2014. She is a regular contributor to a variety of publications including Forbes, MindBodyGreen, Elite Daily, Project Happiness, and Global Love Project.

Movie Minute: The Dating Project

Singles of all ages wonder why it’s so hard to meet, date and marry today. In fact, 50 percent of America is single and fewer people are committing to marriage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014.  Dating has been replaced by “hooking up” and “hanging out,” making the traditional days of “courtship” obsolete.  Or, is it?

THE DATING PROJECT, the new documentary from Paulist Productions, Mpower Pictures and Family Theater Productions, has been featured in The Washington Post,Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune as well as on CNN and FOX NEWS, and will now be available on DVD and Digital Download from Pure Flix.  The film will be released into the general consumer market by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

A few years ago, Boston College professor Kerry Cronin noticed this decreased dating trend among her undergrad students.  “And I thought, ‘Well, this is crazy.’ So I started asking students to go on what I refer to as ‘traditional dates’ as part of an extra-credit assignment.” However, the act of going on a date was more complicated than she thought. A combination of the prevalent “hook up” culture, as well as the preferred method of social interaction (texting), had all but obliterated skills of basic social interaction.

THE DATING PROJECT follows Professor Cronin and five modern-day singles (ages 20 – 40) in their own quest to find authentic love and meaningful relationships. By engaging in Cronin’s dating philosophy, her mentees find more fulfilling and lasting relationships. 

I had a chance to interview Catherine Fowler Sample, the writer/producer of “The Dating Project,” to learn more. 

Why did you decide to do this project?

I decided to create The Dating Project because I realized there is a "dating deficit" in our culture. A deficit is when there’s not enough of something, and there's definitely not enough dating happening right now! I’ve talked with hundreds of people about dating over the last four years and most people can’t remember the last time they went on what could be considered a date. This fits the narrative of our day because for the first time in history over 50% of people in America are single. People want romance, but are struggling to find that spark amidst the hook up culture. This reality of the dating deficit hit me when I was at a birthday party in Santa Monica, California. I was among a dozen girls in attendance. At one point during the evening I looked around and realized every woman there was single. It was surprising because each girl was confident, beautiful inside and out, and had an impressive professional resume. So why couldn't these single ladies find a good date? This was a catalyst moment of sorts for me. I wanted to get to the heart of what was going on with modern dating, and so my producing partner and I set out to make The Dating Project.
Why can it be helpful for people to see other dating journeys?
We follow five single people in The Dating Project to explore dating in the age of texting, social media, hanging out and hooking up. Each person (and by the way, they're all real people who are not actors!) offers a different perspective on the challenges of finding modern romance. There are two college students, who are dealing with hook up culture; a 20something woman who had been single for five years; a 30something woman who prioritized career over relationships; and a 40something man who felt commitment limited him. So many people who saw The Dating Project tell me that they see their own dating story in the movie! It is powerful to see other peoples' dating journeys for this very reason. It helps us to see that we are not alone in the complexities of seeking and finding love, and encourages people to hold onto their self-respect.

What was the biggest surprise you discovered working on this project?
When setting out to film The Dating Project, I thought that each person we followed would have a very different story because they were from such diverse backgrounds and age groups. But to my surprise, I discovered each of their struggles were very similar. To me this showed how pervasive hook up culture is and how deeply it is affecting everyone. But it also gave me hope - if the problem is so widespread, why can't the solution be?

What do you hope people will get out of the film?
I hope people feel empowered after seeing The Dating Project. Empowered to have hope, despite hurt caused by hook up culture. Empowered to start the conversation with family and friends about reviving casual dating. Empowered to step outside the dominant social script of hook up culture and make a difference by committing to #DateDifferently - which is to date with dignity. Let's bring back the date!

About Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE - is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios. Universal Studios is a part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet- based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.
About Pure Flix 
Founded in 2005, and led by partners Michael Scott, David A.R. White, Elizabeth Travis, Alysoun Wolfe, and Jim Ameduri, Pure Flix is the leading independent faith and family studio in the world. Pure Flix’s recent releases include: God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, SamsonThe Case for Christ, God’s Not Dead 2, God’s Not Dead, Do You Believe?, Woodlawn, A Question of Faith, and Same Kind of Different as Me. With offices in Los Angeles and Scottsdale, Pure Flix has produced, acquired, marketed, and distributed over 100 faith and family-friendly films. Aligned with their vision to influence the global culture for Christ through media, Pure Flix is the industry leader in creating high-quality inspirational feature film content.  The studio’s official website is  The company also features a leading streaming video on demand service, with thousands of movies, originals, TV shows and more emphasizing faith, family and fun. For more information, go to
About Paulist Production
Paulist Productions was founded over 50 years ago to create thought provoking entertainment that explores the human condition, and has produced award-winning documentaries, feature films, television, and TV movies addressing pressing social issues and important moral questions. Paulist has provided programming for Paramount, Warner Bros., CBS, ABC, A&E, the History Channel, Hallmark Hall of Fame, and UPtv. In a time of rapid change and declining options for family viewing, Paulist is dedicated to developing positive programming with meaningful content. The HUMANITAS Prize, one of screenwriting's most prestigious awards, was founded by Paulist Productions.
About Mpower Pictures
Mpower Pictures is a film production company dedicated to “empowering” both the artist and the audience by telling stories that are compelling, bold, and uncompromising. Steve McEveety, CEO (The Passion of the Christ, Braveheart), John Shepherd (Bobby JonesThe Ultimate Gift), Todd Burns and David Segel launched Mpower in 2007 to make movies that profoundly impact culture, while inspiring and entertaining audiences. The company was awarded Heartland Film Festival's "Truly Moving Picture" award for its feature films Snowmen and The Stoning of Soraya M.
About Family Theater Productions
Family Theater Productions tells stories that inspire, entertain and inform.  Founded in 1947 by Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., and headquartered on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Family Theater Productions is an award-winning producer of family-suitable and faith-based media for radio, film, television and digital media. The Head of Production is Father David Guffey, C.S.C.

Thrifty Thinking: When Retirement Is Just Around The Corner, These 3 Steps Can Help You Prepare

If looking ahead to retirement makes you a little nervous, you’re not alone.
Nearly half of Americans (46 percent) who haven’t reached retirement predict that they won’t be financially comfortable once they get there, according to a Gallup survey.
For some, those potentially uncomfortable retirement years are decades away. But for the Baby Boom generation, retirement either already arrived or will in the next decade or so, prompting many Boomers to wonder whether they are prepared for their looming date with destiny.
And that raises a question: Just what does it take to be prepared?
“Many Baby Boomers measure their preparedness in terms of assets,” says Ryan Eaglin, founder and chief advisor of America’s Annuity (
“They’re trying to hit a certain number or account balance. Asset accumulation is an important part of retirement planning, but it’s not the only component. There are a few other steps you need to take to make sure you’re ready to leave work behind and enjoy a stable and comfortable retirement.”
Eaglin suggests three planning steps that can help Baby Boomers – or anyone else – be better prepared for retirement:
  • Prepare not just one, but two budgets. Most Americans don’t use a budget, even though it’s a handy tool – especially in retirement. “It helps you see where you’re spending your money, how much money you can afford to spend and what adjustment you should make,” Eaglin says. He recommends creating two budgets. One would be for your remaining years before retirement so you can look for ways to cut spending and save more. The other would be for after you retire. “Think of ways to live the retirement you’ve dreamed of while also staying within you income,” Eaglin says. “It may be difficult but just the act of preparing a budget can help you get a better understanding of your financial situation.”
  • Project your income. While your budget will help you understand how you are spending your money, you also need to have a good grip on what your potential retirement income will be. For most people, that’s a combination of Social Security, personal savings and possibly employer pensions. Social Security has an income estimator tool on its website, and an employer should be able to provide a pension-benefit projection. “Your financial professional should be able to help you project how much you should be able to take from your savings each year,” Eaglin says. Once you compare your projected income to your spending budget, he says, you’ll know whether you need to save more or rethink retirement spending. You also might want to look for ways to increase your guaranteed income, such as through an annuity, he says.
  • Plan for long-term care. As much as people don’t want to hear this, the average 65-year-old has a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care in retirement, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “That means it’s very possible you or your spouse may need care either in your home or in a facility at some point,” Eaglin says. “That care can be expensive. Unfortunately, it’s usually not covered by Medicare, and it’s covered by Medicaid only after you’ve depleted much of your assets.”
“If all this tells you that you’re behind on where you want to be with preparation and your savings, the good news is it’s never too late to get started,” Eaglin says. “You may have to adjust your plans, but with focus and discipline, you can still put yourself in a position to have a comfortable and enjoyable retirement.”

About Ryan Eaglin
Ryan Eaglin is the founder and chief advisor at America’s Annuity ( He has 14 years’ experience in the retirement and lifestyle planning field. A life insurance, annuity and estate-planning professional, he has earned his name at the top of the list of the top 1 percent of advisors nationally. Eaglin has been a featured retirement planner on FOX, FOX Business, ABC, CBS, CNBC, NBC and AZCentral.

Enriching Education: Four Simple Ways to Use Storytelling as Teaching Tools

By Jim Weiss

Stories are spectacularly successful learning tools. Many studies show that children whose parents tell and/or read stories to them from an early age turn out to be better readers and students later on.  

Furthermore, you are twenty times more likely to remember information if you learn it in a story than if you learn it simply as data to memorize. In part, the more stories we encounter, the more effectively our brains learn to work within the structure that most stories follow.  We not only absorb the stories’ contents, but at the same time, our brains get used to organizing what we learn into a usable form.  We learn how to learn through stories.

Other brain researchers have found that different parts of the brain kick in when we encounter a story that comes with a visual image, such as on a TV or computer screen, versus when we encounter a story for which we fill in the visuals with our imaginations, as when we read alone, are read to, or listen to an audio.  These different parts of the brain link with different forms of creativity, visualization and imagination.  They even help us build the ability to empathize with other people by “visualizing” ourselves inside characters.  We must “exercise” these different parts of the brain in order to acquire these skills, so introduce stories to a child through a mix of technologies. 

As a professional author and storyteller, a father, and the husband of an award-winning schoolteacher and counselor, I can attest firsthand that one of the most effective and most engaging ways to teach and to learn is through stories. Here are a few tips I want to share to help you integrate storytelling into your child’s daily routine: 

1. Start with picture books when your child is very young. Reading to children not only offers the value of the book’s contents, but also visually demonstrates that you value books, which reinforces your child’s interest in reading.   

Read aloud to your child, or try telling a story you already know in your own words, as you turn the pages.  This allows you to keep eye contact with your child, while offering you the security of having the book to refer to if you feel you’ve lost your way. 

2. Introduce stories of historical or fictional people who do what they love.  There are endless resources: books and web sites that tell stories of famous artists, composers, engineers, athletes, scientists, etc. You never know which one will resonate with your child and open up a lifetime passion, so offer a variety.  I’ve had many people tell me “I’m a scientist/artist/author now because I listened to your recording about scientists, etc.” 

3. In addition to telling stories to your child, try to tell with her or him.  First, tell an old favorite together.  It gives the child a sense of mastery, particularly if every so often you ask, “What did she do then?”  Next, try creating a new version by asking, "What if Cinderella hadn't dropped the glass slipper?  Can we think of another way she and the prince might have found one another?"  If you reach a dead-end, go back to an earlier moment of decision in the story, hae the character make a different choice, and go on from there.  

4. Another form of storytelling is family stories.  Sharing incidents from your life, or those of your ancestors, gives the message to your child that s/he is important enough to share in this family history, and imbues your child with a sense of her/his own roots and identity.    

5. Always consider to whom you are telling the story, and think of yourself as “translating” the intent of the story onto a level this person can understand.  You can tell a story differently at different developmental stages.  Think about what you most want the child to remember.   Start simply with what you know, and tell it in your own words.  If you make a mistake say, "I forgot to tell you that…" and go on; kids find that endearing.  

Another way to handle having left out a part is to say, "Now what Aunt Joan didn't know yet was that Uncle Bill had already bought the tickets."  This presents the information you forgot as a dramatic element of the tale.

Story telling reinforces reading, too, and adds a rich oral language element, but it demonstrates something additional. 

6. One powerfully positive element of storytelling is that it fosters a strong bond between parent and child.  Through our stories, and the manner in which we choose to tell them, families and entire societies pass on what matters most to them.  Children come to recognize that you are sharing your true self, not through a lecture but through a story.  Your child may not retain into adulthood every single detail you taught him/her, but always will remember that, “Mom/Dad loved me enough to share what s/he thought really mattered the most.”  

If you are fortunate, there will come a day when you see your own child, now grown up, carry on this story tradition with his/her child.  It all starts and ends with love -- and a good story. 

Jim Weiss founded Greathall Productions in 1989. To date, Jim is the producer and reader of 58+ Greathall storytelling recordings featuring classical literature and history, as well as masterful and thoughtful, unabridged readings of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham; Men of Iron by Howard Pyle; and more. He is also the recipient of 100+ national awards from numerous prestigious sources. Jim travels extensively across the United States, Canada and international destinations performing and teaching at community events, theatres, libraries, stores and schools; teacher and parent workshops; and at a wide variety of educational, literary and family conferences. For more information and to view Jim’s entire catalog, please visit,