The Five R’s of Creative Non-Fiction

As an accomplished writer, professor, and renown expert in the genre of Creative Non-Fiction, there is no better mentor than Lee Gutkind to turn to when seeking writing advice. Regardless if you’re just beginning or have a few good years under your belt, listen up! In his essay, titled, “The Five R’s of Creative Non-Fiction”, he identifies 5 critical elements of Creative Non-Fiction. Below you will find a summary of these 5 elements.

Real Life

When constructing your personal essay or memoir, whatever your piece of Creative Non-Fiction may be, the absolute most vital component, and it’s most critical rule, is regarding factual content. It must be based on personal experience, real people, and real events. Write honestly. At no point will it be acceptable to invent or change the facts of your story to improve or increase the drama within. In short, the events of what happened must be true, and even more importantly, verifiable. If you’re writing a story about the events of your childhood, a vital character should not be able to petition your claim as incorrect or inauthentic.

Reflection

Taking the time to thoroughly reflect on the events in your story is very important. In fact, this is why it is recommended to outline your work before you begin writing. Sit down, reflect, and take notes on each event – it will make the writing process that much smoother! As I will mention in the next paragraph, research is vital to the writing process, and you will be spending a great deal of time analyzing the information gathered, as well as assessing your thoughts on what you’ve collected. Your reader wants to hear your personal thoughts, they want to learn more about your life – they’re interested in your perspective, but that doesn’t mean these opinions should not be well-researched and well-developed.

Research

What sets Creative Non-Fiction apart from other forms of Creative Writing is the journalistic component of the genre. This is why research is imperative. Your story must have a topic or central theme, and you must become an expert on this topic or theme. Use facts to support your claims. It is also acceptable to complete secondary research by interviewing a friend or family member present in your story. This is a fantastic idea because it gives the author a chance to verify dialogue taken place between family members. Another great suggestion is to review social media accounts, as well as personal journals or blog entries.

Reading

A good writer reads. A lot. They read, write, then read again. Similarly to any other field, it is without question that continuous training and retraining is required in order to stay ahead of the game. This is how we continue to move forward and ensure our writing is always improving. What does this entail for a Creative Non-Fiction writer? Perhaps we tirelessly engage in every guide published about our genre. That is, of course, not before we raid the new releases display at our local Barns & Noble! We owe it to the personal stories brewing in our hearts and minds – so, yes, please, read like their lives depend on it.

Writing

The only thing you’ll do more than reading is, of course, writing. Mastering your craft requires practice. You need to be neck-deep in your drafts. Can you put in the work? Can you be consistent? Can you build a habit?

What I’m trying to say is: Write. Each day, religiously. Make writing a form of worship. This is how you find your voice. Creative Non-Fiction often starts with a journal entry. The best way to start your memoir or personal essay is to simply start. Just write. Write your story, raw and uninhibited.

The best writing you will ever produce is what was written without restraint.

This is why I suggest starting in a place without rules. Heck, the actual writing part should be fun – an adventure. You should be having a ball. There should be fireworks, frankly.

It’s the editing that’s work. It’s coming back later to make sense of it all – when you need to start considering the reader, that’s when you actually clock-in.

Still, the beauty of writing is you get to become better by simply doing what you love.

Remember, you can always go back, with a red pen, and make it better.

Each word you put to paper is a step in the right direction.

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Beginner’s Guide to Tanking

Support Role: Tanking

Since the launch of The Elder Scrolls Online, there has been a tank shortage. So much so that, you will notice how convenient it is to create your own for situations where it’s possible to find one. However, it’s not particularly surprising why that is— in a group setting, tanks often suffer a lot of pressure. A group heavily relies on their tank, just as much as they rely on their healer, to keep them alive. When creating and leveling your first tank, it can often be frustrating, and even a bit complicated. I hope that after reading this simplified beginner’s guide, you will not only understand the basics of tanking, but also feel more comfortable and confident when doing so!

Your First Tank

Within all roles and classes, there is a lot of room for experimentation and flexibility, especially for the average player. That isn’t quite the case at end-game, but until you’re concerned with trials, know that there is room for whatever the heck you’re trying to do. My favorite tank build, which I played religiously, was the iconic “Sap Tank” on a Magicka Nightblade. Although arguably not viable in end-game, I was able to take it through all dungeons, including DLC hard-mode versions, without a scratch.

Nevertheless, I find that when it comes to tanking, it helps a lot to start with a fool-proof build that is very classic, very basic, and easy to execute – at least the first time around! In that case, I would recommend picking up a Dragonknight and selecting a race that offers supplementary passives, such as a Nord. Furthermore, your first tank will wear all heavy armor, be focusing primarily on high health, enough stamina to taunt and block successfully, and just enough Magicka to cast Magicka-based abilities. In regards to character stats, you will be focusing on physical and spell resistance, as well as health recovery. For abilities, aside from your taunt, you will seek out anything to reduce the damage you’re taking, as well as casting shields that “eat” or absorb damage. I will discuss this a bit more as we progress through the article.

Leveling, Questing, and Grinding

When leveling your first tank, it will probably feel like torture, especially if you’re used to playing a damage-dealing role. This is why I would suggest picking up a pair of daggers (or swords, or axes – it’s up to you!) and going duel-wield on one of your bars. Did you know that you can gain experience in any particular skill line, including another weapon, by simply putting those abilities on your primary bar (the bar you will be spending most of your time on)? For example, even if you have duel-wield equipped, you can still slot a few sword and shield abilities on that same bar in order to level both weapon skill lines simultaneously!

Additionally, you can adjust the skills on your bar before turning in or completing a quest to better control where that experience is applied. Another benefit to duel-wield is it provides the best stamina AOE (area of effect) at an early level. That means, even at level 10, you can have a single target ability, as well as an AOE! This will make fighting enemies, mob-grinding, and gaining levels, much easier, especially for those in heavy armor.

Dungeon Delving

So, you’ve found yourself in a dungeon with 3 other players, and you’re the tank. Oh boy, I’m sure you’re wondering what am I supposed to do! What is expected of me? First of all, let me tell you that you can relax. Although it would be misleading to suggest that you will never run into unfriendly folks, most, and really, a good portion of those you run into will be nice people. Personally, I have had a great experience with other players. Most are patient and understanding of those who are learning.

Your main concern in dungeons will be keeping your taunt up, which will, in turn, keep the boss focused on you. That is your primary and most important job. Your second job is, of course, staying alive. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out that a lot of being a tank is getting smacked around, and I suppose, looking like you don’t feel it.

Moreover, in most cases, you do not need to move all over the place. You can stand in one spot and block critical hits. I know you’re used to running from your enemies, but now you’re face-to-face! If it helps you, it would be no problem to step aside if there is a ground attack, but for the most part, you can safely block all damage. By staying still, it will also be easier for your healer to support you. It also helps your damage dealers, especially those who are in melee range. Having to chase you or the boss around the room only makes it harder for everyone. As a tank, you’re essentially the group’s leader. The group reacts to your movements.

Additionally, it is imperative that you communicate with both your healer, as well as the entire group. Communication is key – I cannot stress this enough. Dungeons require teamwork.

Short Course: Damage Mitigation aka Hey! That Tickles!

I wish it weren’t so, but taunting is only half the battle! You also have to stay alive! How do tanks manage to take such a beating? The reason tanks can take so many hits and it only briefly tickles them is because they’re mitigating so much damage through blocking, with their armor, physical and spell resistances, and the abilities they’re using. You’re probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about!

Through sword and shield passives, heavy armor passives, as well as armor set bonuses, you can significantly raise your physical and spell resistance. Paired with major or minor maim, major and minor protection, and aegis, you can mitigate a huge amount of damage! Again, like I mentioned above, if you also choose the Nord race, you can also gain the “Rugged” passive to mitigate even more damage! Being a vampire may also be useful, as they also have both passives as well as skills that offer damage mitigation. The downside is you also take more fire damage.

Don’t forget you can also apply damage shields that will absorb incoming damage. It is often recommended to not only save on resources but also as a quick save during “oh shit!” moments when you find yourself low on health. Having a shield active can often be the difference between a group wipe or victory. By shielding yourself, you can resurrect an ally, preferably the healer, and ultimately save your group.

Last but not least, and perhaps the most obvious, is to simply block! Heck, tell your DPS and Healer to block as well!

Armor Sets For First-Time Tanks

Hatchling’s Shell / Shadowfen
Akaviri Dragonguard / Eastmarch
Meridia’s Blessed Armor / Coldharbour
Mark of the Pariah / Wrothgar (REQUIRES DLC)

Hist Bark / Craftable
Alessia’s Bulwark / Craftable
Song of Lamae / Craftable

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Beginner’s Guide to DPS

DPS Like a Pro, Even When You’re Not

With the upcoming release of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind, I’m sure Zenimax Online Studios can expect an influx of new and returning players. Before we dive in, I’d like to point out that some of the best players, the ones who dance at the top of the leaderboards week-after-week, they didn’t become the best players overnight! In fact, it took a lot of time, dedication, and practice. If you’re like me, with a history of being incredibly bad at video games, I can assure you that your experience with TESO will be different once you finish reading this article.

Getting Down To The Basics

As a damage-dealer with the intention to do the absolute most damage possible, you will want to first begin by choosing if you’d like to utilize magic or stamina. Does a caster sound appealing? Pick up a destruction staff! Maybe you’re after a rouge-like character, with a bow and a pair of daggers?

Keep in mind that when you’re taking up the role of damage-dealer, it would be ideal to put all of your attribute points into the respective resource you have picked – this being Magicka or Stamina. Why do we do this? Because all of your skills will scale off of your max resources! For example, if the ability you’re using costs Magicka, the more Magicka you have, the harder that ability will hit. So, ideally, as a caster, playing as a Magicka Sorcerer, you would choose to put every single one of your attribute points into Magicka in order to maximize the power of your damage abilities. Same can be said for Stamina-based builds. The more Stamina you have, the harder your Bow abilities (and all melee weapons) will hit.

High Critical Damage Or Raw Power? You Choose.

When looking at your character stats, you will want to focus on max resources (Magicka or Stamina), Weapon or Spell critical (critical chance), Weapon or Spell damage, and last but not least, Magicka or Stamina regeneration. Like I mentioned previously, the values showcased upon your ability’s tooltip (the numbers that are shown when hovering over an ability) is scaled off of your max resource. Additionally, the same can be said for your weapon and spell damage. The higher both of these values are, the stronger your damage abilities will be. Coupled with weapon or spell critical, which increases the chance of a critical hit, you will give any enemy you come across in Tamriel a run for their money. Magicka and Stamina regeneration determines how quickly you run out of resources, and how quickly those resources regenerate during combat. Consider cost-reduction as well, which can be obtained with glyphs and special armor sets – this will allow you to better manage your resources in longer fights.

Any veteran player will tell you, “You can’t DPS when you’re dead or when you’re out of resources.”

Endless Armor, Endless Builds, Endless Possibilities

The armor or “gear” possibilities are literally endless. ZoS has released an enormous amount of zone-specific drop sets, as well as numerous craftable sets all over Tamriel. As stated above, max resources, critical damage, and weapon/spell damage are what you want to aim for. Law of Julianos for Magicka users and Hunding’s Rage for stamina users are both great base sets to start with. They’re both craftable and not difficult to get your hands on. Don’t be afraid to ask your guildmates or friends to help you out if you’re unable to craft it yet. Feel free to test different sets and get creative while mixing and matching different armor. In short, find what is most optimal for you.

Don’t Be Afraid To Do Your Own Thing!

I can’t stress this enough – experiment on your own. In fact, many of the choices you make will depend greatly on how you choose to enjoy the game, and that will change as you play and get familiar with the game! For example, many organized groups will provide their allies certain buffs that increase their critical damage. With this in mind, you may want to adjust your own play style to best fit those you’re grouped with. Will you be spending most of your time as a lone-wolf traveler – roaming around and doing quests as they come? Maybe you’re excited by large scale PVP sieges? Are you strictly Undaunted – is your core purpose defeating the most difficult dungeon bosses?

This guide is definitely aimed at those who are looking for a pretty straightforward guide to fulfilling the role of DPS. I’m here to help you understand the very core basics of how the game works but is up to you to decide how you want to apply this information to your adventures in Tamriel. Happy adventuring!

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Beginner’s Guide to Healing

Support Role: Healing

Although DPS has always been my niche, when I noticed how difficult it was to find a Healer, I decided it was time to give it a try myself. Soon after, I started to realize the appeal of support roles and began to really enjoy the feeling of aiding and supporting my group. It made me feel truly important! Magicka DPS and Healing are very similar in terms of the statistics you’re aiming for. Similarly to DPS, where your damage abilities are scaled off of your max Magicka and spell damage, your healing abilities also scale off of these same values. In short, the higher your Max Magicka and spell damage, the stronger your heals will be.

Kagrenac’s Hope

Regardless of what others may say, it is entirely possible to run a hybrid Magicka DPS and Healing builds, assuming you have fairly good group composition, and you’re not healing trials. However, I would highly recommend Kagrenac’s Hope – a craftable armor set you can access by completing the Fighter’s Guild questline. This armor set is personally my absolute favorite in the game.

If you’re debating between Law of Julianos and Kagrenac’s Hope, I would highly recommend putting on Kagrenac, especially if you plan to go the healing route at some point. As a Templar, known for their quick resurrection passive, there is simply no better set that would compliment that class. In PVE and PVP, you will be getting your allies up off the ground at the speed of light. How quickly your group manages to resurrect a dead ally contributes so much to your overall success. Kagrenac offers unmatched utility, power, and survivability, which can go as far as preventing your group from wiping on a boss fight.

Spell Power Cure and More

Additionally, it is important to mention that many groups, especially those comprised of Veteran players, will often request certain armor sets from their healers in Veteran Dungeons and Trials, especially Hard Mode versions. These sets are generally Worm Cult, also known as Worm’s Raiment, Mending, and Spell Power Cure. However, all of these sets aren’t necessarily easy to obtain because they require dungeon and trial farming.

Picking the Right Abilities

It is true to say that most healers have their own style of healing which is often determined by their class and who they’re playing with. Still, a good healer considers both proactive and reactive healing extremely important. Buffing your group, maximizing your group’s DPS, and keeping your HOTs (healing-over-time) abilities active at all times are all equally important. Utilizing Healing Springs (Restoration Staff) as your “spam-able” ability, while keeping a 100% uptime on 2-3 HOTs (such as Mutagen), buffing your group with Combat Prayer (Restoration Staff), and having a big, strong healing ability in *oh shit!* moments such as Healing Ward or Breath of Life is a very cost-effective rotation to start off with.

TamrielFoundry.com
TamrielFoundry.com

Dead Healers Can’t Heal

Also, keep in mind that the quicker your group kills the enemies, the fewer hits they will take, and the less healing you will need to do! That is why, for example, Combat Prayer is so important because it contributes to not only your group’s survivability but also their damage. Moreover, it is important to make sure you can take a few hits – a dead healer can’t heal! Invest in a little bit more health, and 1-2 pieces of heavy armor if you’re really taking a beating.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

Healing takes practice! Don’t beat yourself up when your teammates die. And, they will. A good group takes more than a good healer. It also takes a great tank and even better DPS. When I first took up healing, it gave me insane anxiety because I was always worried about my friends dying. Before anything else, have fun – you will all improve and become great players together!

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Literary Journalism: The Elements of Creative Non-Fiction

Core Elements of Creative Non-Fiction

Considering that Creative Nonfiction is also known as Literary Journalism, there is no surprise that the core elements of this genre are comprised of equal parts literature and journalism! Many would say that ‘anything goes’ when it comes to writing Creative Non-Fiction, but there are still concrete guidelines to help you write a superb essay!

What makes good writing, good writing? In all cases, good writing is both clear and concise. What does that mean? Well, we’re not unintentionally leaving the reader confused or in the dark. We’re also making sure our audience has all the information they need to grasp or comprehend the message we’re trying to get across. We’re saying just enough, but not too much. This is all especially true for Creative Non-Fiction.

Journalistic Elements

  • Facts: What are facts? Facts are simply anything that isn’t completely made up. They’re true, accurate, and authentic.
  • Exposition: Explaining your personal experience clearly and concisely is crucial.
  • Supporting Details: Even if your Personal Essay or Memoir is rooted in personal experience, it is still necessary to expand your story beyond the main character, which is often going to be yourself.
    • Research – As I will mention in more detail below, a theme, focal point, or lesson is crucial for any piece of writing. Your reader will ask, “What am I gaining from reading this? What new information am I learning?” Your work will ultimately have a topic, and that topic will be relatable to others in some way or another. Further research this topic.
    • Reportage – Writing a story is often difficult without the ability to reference events. Photographs, journals, blogs and social media are great resources for this. Before you begin writing, outline your first draft and assure that it is in chronological order. You will also want to make sure all significant points or events are well organized within your story ahead of time.
    • Thoughts and Opinion – A Personal Essay requires a personal touch. Make sure you include thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
  • Format: Creative Non-Fiction is often written in an Essay format. They include an introduction, supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion at the end.

Literary Elements

  • Narrative: A narrative is simply a story.
    • Storytelling – A story requires several events (or scenes), goals, challenges or obstacles, a climax or turn of events, and of course, a resolution.
    • Character – Every story needs a central theme, which in most cases will be the main character. Although chances are, the main character will be you, the reader does not know you, but they desperately want to. Help them know you.
    • Imagery – Describe your surroundings. Describe your emotions with actions. Instead of saying, “I was angry”, you could say, “I stormed out of the room; I punched a hole in the wall.” You want your reader to see what you see. They want to be there and experience it for themselves.
    • Dialogue – Include vital conversations between the characters in your story. This is especially important for all Non-Fiction. Your readers will want to see an account of what was said by whom and to whom.
  • Theme: Although the main character and topic for the story will often be you, there still must be a theme – a lesson, something your reader can take away from your story.
  • Setting: Where is this all taking place? Make sure you ground the story in a place and allow the reader to visually see what it is you see. You may know what your home looks like, or your city, but the reader probably does not.
  • Plot / Structure: These are your scenes, chapters, and the order they go in.

Don’t know where to start?

I always say the best place to start is always by reading. Here you can find great examples of Creative Non-Fiction novels and publications that often feature many Creative Non-Fiction essays.

Novels

  • Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
  • Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin

Magazines

  • The Atlantic
  • The New Yorker
  • Vanity Fair
  • Esquire
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Know Your Rights: What to Do If You’re Being Evicted

I Know This Is Terrifying

But, don’t panic just yet. As a New Yorker, the first thing you should know is your rights. Thanks to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, tenants have many rights and privileges, even more so if they live in a rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment. Regardless if you’re being evicted, or you’ve just moved in, it is important to know your rights. It is your landlord’s responsibility to keep your apartment safe, clean, and well-maintained, for starters. To learn more, see the HPD’s Tenant Rights FAQ

Source

First Things First, Talk to Your Landlord

If you’re having difficulty paying your rent, let them know as soon as possible. There is a chance that you may be able to work out a payment plan before things get out of hand.

At this point, if you foresee long term, or even short term financial difficulty, consider going to the Human Resources Administration. Here you can apply for benefits such as food stamps, or even cash assistance to help with your living costs.You can also apply for some benefits online through ACCESS NYC, and screen for eligibility for many other benefit programs!

Most New York City residents are taken to housing court because of a non-paying case. Keep in mind that, more often than not, your landlord is not seeking to evict you, they’re seeking to collect rent – from one source or another. Luckily, New York City residents have many resources in order to help with back rent such as CITYFEPS Rent Supplement Program, Rental Arrears Grants through the HRA, and the Homeless Prevention Fund.

In order to access the Homeless Prevention Fund, you must first get in touch with one of these organizations listed below:

Coalition for the Homeless
129 Fulton Street
New York, NY 10038
Eviction Prevention Hotline: (212) 776-2039

The Bridge Fund
105 East 22nd Street, Suite 621 E
New York, NY 10010
Phone: (212) 674-0812

Community Service Society
105 East 22nd Street, Room 409
New York, NY 10010
Phone: (212) 614-5375

Additionally, the best thing for you to do is to simply call 311, or visit 311 Online.

Do you Need Repairs? Help with Back Rent? Seek Help Immediately

Of course, it is often much more complicated than simply non-payment. If you feel your landlord is overcharging you or harassing you, or, they’re simply not providing you with needed repairs, it is important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. A great resource to get started is Housing Court Answers. They offer a great deal of insight into the legal process of being in housing court. Give them a call several weeks before your first court date – they can provide numerous referrals to where you can receive financial or legal assistance regarding your unique situation.

Additionally, you may want to consider finding a lawyer to represent you in court. If anything at all, seek legal consultation. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you can receive free legal help through the Legal Aid Society and Legal Services NYC, just to name a few! To find a lawyer that services your area, go to LawHelpNY.org

I Still Have to Leave, now What?

Unfortunately, sometimes this happens, and it may even seem unavoidable. If you must vacate your apartment, according to your court stipulation, first note how much time you have left.

In most cases, if you settle to vacate the apartment, you will have at least 30 days to do so. If your case goes to trial, and you lose, you may need to leave in as little as 5 days.

In any case, your landlord cannot lock you out without a marshal’s notice. Additionally, your landlord also cannot turn off your basic utilities, such as water, heat, electricity, or gas, for as long as you inhabit the apartment. This is very important to keep in mind. If this does occur, you can return to court and contact the police department.

At this point, you will need to start looking for another place to live. Are you able to move in with family or friends in the meantime, while you get back on your feet?

In the case where that isn’t an option, seek community action organizations – many of which receive funding through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), which offers homeless prevention or relocation services.

There are several other housing and support services including:

  • Solutions to End Homelessness Program (STEHP)
  • New York State Supportive Housing Program (NYSSHP)
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)
  • Operational Support for AIDS Housing (OSAH)
  • Emergency Needs for the Homeless Program (ENHP)

You can search for housing services by region here.

DHS Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing Facility (PATH)

Help! I Received a Marshal’s Notice in the Mail

If you’re reading this with a marshal’s notice already in hand, I know that this is unimaginably stressful for you. I’m sorry that you and your family are going through this right now. Don’t give up. Be strong.

I urge you at this point to consider any options you may have missed earlier – a resource, family member, or a friend.

Your biggest concern at this point is your safety (and your family’s safety), as well as the safety of your belongings. Consider looking into storage spaces. If you can not afford a storage unit, you can still see many, if not all of the resources mentioned above for financial assistance with securing your belongings.

And, lastly, get in touch with the Department of Homeless Services for instructions on how to enter the city’s shelter system.

Shelter intake locations are listed here.

Go to a Shelter Today.

The Official Website of the City of New York
The Official Website of the City of New York
The Official Website of the City of New York
The Official Website of the City of New York
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The Magnificant Health Benefits of Kefir

Is Kefir For You?

The irony of living in the age of information, with the internet always at our fingertips, is that not everything we find on the web is actually factual — and there is quite a lot of fake news and fake information to sift through. Although modern society has granted many of us more access and more opportunity to live more health conscious lives, the consumption of fast food, along with high sugar and salt diets has become the norm among us. This has done nothing but leave us with terrifying statistics of heart disease and other seemingly avoidable health concerns. Surprisingly enough, the response of the natural health community is the evolution of superfoods trends.

I have combatted high stress, anxiety, and depression in the past, and can attest that ongoing mental illness can cause physical ailments. Stress alone can affect your immune system and how well you can fight off a cold. It can cause digestive problems. Additionally, it can cause weight gain and even stop your period dead in its tracks causing an array of reproductive health problems affecting both ovulation and fertility.

So, as you can imagine, at the barely ripe age of 25, my body was indeed out of whack! I wasn’t taking shits or getting my period. My stomach was permanently upset, and I had month-long lingering colds. A friend with similar health concerns recommended I give Kefir a try to help combat my long list of problems. To be honest, at first, I was skeptical. I had, quite literally, heard it all. Once a woman standing in line at the grocery store swore to me that a lemon wedge swimming in a mug of warm tap water was the cure to all human ailments. What most of us failed to realize is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to our individual health concerns. Additionally, those chia seeds don’t work like a fairy godmother. You can’t blend it into your morning smoothie and magically you’re cured. This is why, in no way, am I suggesting Kefir is the end all be all, because yes, it takes more than a fermented dairy beverage to get your life in check. However, through evidence-based research and consulting with my physician, I’ve come to a realistic solution to a variety of common ailments.

5 Powerful Health Benefits of Kefir (Backed by Science)

Health Benefits of Kefir

The main health benefits of Kefir is its nutrient density and probiotic properties. There is possibly no better solution for digestion and gut health than Kefir. Before we jump the gun, I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly we’re discussing here. Kefir is a fermented drink, traditionally made with cow’s and goat’s milk. It is essentially a more powerful version of yogurt with a much thinner consistency. It is also much less complicated to make, as well. This extremely tart and sour beverage are made by adding kefir grains to milk and allowing it to ferment for 24–72 hours. What is so unique about kefir is these grains can be used more than once, really allowing you to get your money’s worth.

The name is derived from the Turkish word keyif, which means “feeling good” — that’s exactly how you’ll be feeling once you finish a small 6oz glass of it!

High Nutrient Density

Like I mentioned above, Kefir is extremely nutrient dense, and you benefit much from even a small glass:

According to Dietitian Joe Leech, a 175 ml (6 oz) serving of milk kefir contains:

Protein: 6 grams.
Calcium: 20% of the RDA.
Phosphorus: 20% of the RDA.
Vitamin B12: 14% of the RDA.
Riboflavin (B2): 19% of the RDA.
Magnesium: 5% of the RDA.
A decent amount of vitamin D.

Fight Infection and Other Harmful Bacterias

Although the most common known probiotic food product in the western world is yogurt, kefir is actually a much more potent source of this. In fact, kefir contains about 30 different microorganisms, making it the best-fermented dairy product. Additionally, certain probiotics are known to protect against infections and harmful bacterias. Lactobacillus kefiri, unique to kefir, does just that. Studies have shown Lactobacillus kefiri prevent the spread of Salmonella and E. coli, for example.

Digestive Problems and Lactose Intolerance

Probiotics such as kefir can help restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut. If you suffer from IBS or other digestive problems, kefir can give that poor tummy of yours a break. The great thing about kefir is those with a sensitivity to dairy can consume it safely! In fact, kefir is 99% lactose-free!

According to the article titled 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Kefir, “Regular dairy foods contain a natural sugar called lactose. Many people, especially adults, are unable to break down and digest lactose properly. This condition is called lactose intolerance. The lactic acid bacteria in fermented dairy foods (like kefir and yogurt) turn the lactose into lactic acid, so these foods are much lower in lactose than milk. They also contain enzymes that can help break down the lactose even further.”

Reproductive Health

Experts in women’s health recommend kefir during pregnancy, as well as to those trying to conceive. To an even bigger surprise, they recommend it not just every once in a while, but regularly — daily if you can manage it.

To start, “it helps create a healthy inner ecosystem in your birth canal before the baby is born. This matters because your baby will then inherit this beneficial bacteria and yeast, creating an inner ecosystem in his/her digestive tract that will help digest your milk while building a stronger immune system.”

According to Alyson Lippman, RN, “pregnant and nursing women can drink kefir or yogurt to prevent the overgrowth of a bacterium called Group B Beta Strep. There is potential for passing (Strep) to the baby, where it can be harmful and cause infection.”

Women can also take kefir to reduce vaginal itching, yeast infections, and general problems of immunity while aiding hormonal balance.

Mental Health

Did you know that probiotics may have psychiatric benefits, as well? Is gut health the secret to sustainable mental health? Consider this — “Kefir contains tryptophan which is an amino acid that raises the levels of serotonin in your brain. According to WebMD, “serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Although serotonin is manufactured in the brain, where it performs its primary functions, some 90% of our serotonin supply is found in the digestive tract and in blood platelets.”

How To Make Milk Kefir 101

What Are You Waiting For?

There is simply no reason to not try kefir! Although this very sour and tart drink is difficult to adjust to, you can make it a much more pleasant experience by adding fresh fruit or even honey, too. Don’t forget your favorite granola, nuts or seeds! That’s how I like mine — crunchy!

Sources

4 Benefits of Milk Kefir That Could Change Your Life. (2015, November 11). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from https://bodyecology.com/articles/4-benefits-of-milk-kefir-that-could-change-your-life

Leech, J. (2017, January 24). 9 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Kefir. Retrieved June 24, 2017, from https://authoritynutrition.com/9-health-benefits-of-kefir/

Pregnant Women and Kefir. (2017, May 03). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from http://www.benefitsofkefir.com/pregnant-women-and-kefir/

Schizophrenia, Depression, and the Little-Known “Mental Health”/Dietary Link: An Interview with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. (2011, October 07). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from https://bodyecology.com/articles/schizophrenia_depression_dietary_link.php

The Secret to Happiness? Gut Health. (2017, April 12). Retrieved June 24, 2017, from http://lifewaykefir.com/mental-awareness-month-kefir/

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Technology Sabbat: The Practice of Unplugging

There Is Something Significant At Work Here

The author of Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks, Tiffany Shlain has a lot to say about the impact of technology and social media. She warns us of how constant connectivity can impact our lives, our relationships, and our culture, for both good and bad. As a Millennial, my generation participated in the shift of technology – from Yahoo! chat rooms and AOL instant messaging, to the social media empire we know today, such as Facebook. I have a clear memory of before and after the internet came alive. Today, most of us are always connected. We’re always plugged in. That’s because we carry tiny pocket-sized computers with us everywhere. Shlain doesn’t necessarily believe, like some others, that technology is going to somehow be the downfall of civilization, but I think we all can recognize that there is something significant at work here. We are quite literally existing in such a different way than we did even a decade ago.

The Good & The Bad

When you think of the internet, what do you see? I see an extension of ourselves. The internet is all of our brains talking at once. It’s complicated, yes, but still quite extraordinary, don’t you think? Every time we’re on it, information is being sent to us and processed. Most of the time, unintentionally. This is occurring all of the time – every time you scroll through your Twitter feed you’re being influenced. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Why is that? Because humans are both good and bad. You can learn anything – anything at all, on the internet. On the other hand, not all of our ideas are particularly useful or beneficial. Yet, everything we share, we consume. Even more importantly, the internet, and being plugged in constantly, puts us in a state of constant focus and distraction. I think we’re pointing fingers at the wrong entity when blaming the internet. The internet isn’t bad. The issue, as Shlain proposes, is that we don’t know how to turn it off.

Technology Sabbat

I used to think that I was a little more detached than the average technology consumer – simply because I was not particularly entranced by the idea of having the most recent iPhone or using Snapchat. Instead, I spent all of the time at home on the internet. For a few years after college, I found myself in quite a post-grad rut, which is far from uncommon. Job prospects were few and far between, and I had lost sight of my goals. I struggled to find the discipline required to put in work for various creative projects. Frankly, I spent a lot of time not doing the work and a lot of time sitting in front of the computer scrolling through Facebook. Pulling away was harder than I expected it to be, and I noticed real side effects to being constantly plugged in. I felt detached from real life and the world around me, and more often than not, lonely. For years, I knew it would be impossible for me to get my life back without taking a true hiatus from the online world. `

This is where the idea of Technology Sabbat comes into play. If you’re not yet familiar, Sabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week, also known as the day of rest. The concept of Sabbat is once a week, for a day, our brains, and our souls, are reset. We turn everything off and allow ourselves to truly rest. For us, that would mean for one day, perhaps a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, we turn off our cell phones, our TVs, and our computers, and we tune into the world and people around us.

For the last month and a half, I haven’t had the internet at my home, not particularly by choice, but through this new challenge, I gained insight into what really mattered to me. And, in a lot of ways, I finally gained my life back. I am beginning to notice things – life happening all around me. I am grounded, level-headed, focused, and motivated. As a creative, I believe it may have actually saved my life, or at the very least, my creative life.

Plugging Back In

When you do finally plug back in, be mindful. Be mindful of who and what you let into your stream of consciousness. Everything you consume – that tweet, that meme, all of it influences your thoughts and inevitably your behaviors. So, take that as a warning to curate the content in front of you. Choose carefully those you follow. Additionally, be aware of the purpose you’re there, and keep this purpose in mind while using social media. Consider why you’re using it, what your intentions are, and what good (or bad) it is doing for you. It may also prove helpful to set boundaries on how, why, and when to use social media. Some questions you can ask yourself is: Does this content add value to my life or the lives of others? Is it true? Is it helpful, useful, or insightful? Am I looking for validation – is there value or purpose in sharing this experience? Am I bored? Is there something more purposeful I could be spending my time doing? Am I lonely? Have I reached out to loved ones today? Am I using social media compulsively, mindlessly, or consciously?

Our relationship with technology is indeed a complex one, and it affects us all differently. If you’re feeling less in control, consider unplugging for or a day, or a week, or a month. Remember that we can control how social media influences our lives, and it is up to us to determine how we benefit or suffer, from plugging back in.

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Housing First: End the Cycle of Homelessness

The Reality of Homelessness

I was 26 years old when I first stepped foot in a homeless shelter. My husband and I had just suffered a 6-month-long grueling journey through housing court. We were fighting tooth and nail over a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. I wish I could say that there was even a seed of justice, but unfortunately, they brought the big guns (expensive attorneys), and we eventually lost. We did not only lose our home, but also the last 6 years of our lives, and not to mention, our hope, faith, and dignity.

The only two states I’ve lived in, Hawaii and New York, have a homeless epidemic incomparable to other areas. I grew up on the west side of Oahu, where it was always 80 degrees under the shade. The attitude towards homelessness is quite different in Hawaii – pitch a tent on the outskirts of Waianae, catch fish and sunbathe all day. The homeless in NYC have to worry about freezing to death in the winter.

They do however share a common pattern of homelessness – it is often chronic and long-term. I believe the solution to such an issue is adopting the concept of Housing First. What does this mean? It simply means prioritizing permanent, stable housing, first, then tackling other issues that are specific and unique to the homeless individual or family.

Are Shelters The Right Solution?

My husband and I stumbled into a family shelter late in the evening. It was after 8, and we were lugging around the remains of our 1-bedroom apartment. We spent the entire day sitting at an intake center for adult families. Instantly, you’re stripped of your person-hood and become replaced by a case number. Those who are meant to help and assist you debate your innocence. Have they forgotten we are people? You are only one misfortune away from the same fate.

I would not hesitate to share good words about the facility we are currently living in now. In fact, most of the staff are warm and mean well. If you pull away from your thoughts of hopelessness or entitlement, even just for a moment, you will see they are doing their best to make us feel human. However, I can still see how permanent housing would be most proactive and productive solution. Let me explain why.

For many, like ourselves, we have been living normal lives up until this point. With the exception of our housing situation, not much has changed. We do not suffer from mental illness or drug abuse. We are essentially a well-educated working family – minus the place to sleep at night. When I discovered that the facility has a budget of $4000/month for each individual, I just couldn’t believe it! An apartment would cost less. How is this a cost-effective solution?

New Obstacles, Significant Challenges

Before we became homeless, both my husband and I were working students. We also received benefits such as food stamps. Now that we’re living in a homeless shelter that does not provide us a kitchen, we often spend a lot more money trying to feed ourselves without completely neglecting our health and well-being. Because we’re not allowed cable, we also can’t have the internet either. The truth is, in this day and age, is essential for almost everyone to have access to the internet. This is especially true for both students and working people.

My husband is an elementary school counselor. He often does a lot of work from home communicating with coworkers and preparing lesson plans. I am a writer. In my work, I do a lot of research. This alone requires the internet. Maintaining and meeting our daily responsibilities has never been so expensive. We pay more for mobile hot-spot data just to meet our basic needs.

Many shelters have a curfew as well, which is also limiting on time and resources available elsewhere. The mental and emotional stress of such a situation only adds fuel to the flame. Drug use, violence, and chaos within shelters is the cherry on top. All of these small and seemingly insignificant obstacles are very large for us.

As time went on, our experiences and the experiences of others, as well as through significant research has shown as that Housing First is the only real solution to a very complicated problem.

National Alliance to End Homelessness

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the focus of Housing First is:

Helping “individuals and families access and sustain permanent rental housing as quickly as possible”

Providing a “variety of services delivered to promote housing stability and individual well-being on an as-needed and entirely voluntary basis; and

A standard lease agreement to housing – as opposed to mandated therapy or services compliance.”

Although this approach may work for us, more services may be required for those who have experienced chronic homelessness, or street homelessness where violence and drug abuse is more common.

However, the NATEH emphasizes on the fact that, “the vast majority of homeless individuals and families fall into homelessness after a housing or personal crisis. For these households, the Housing First approach provides them with short-term assistance to find permanent housing quickly and without conditions. In turn, such households often require only brief, if any, support or assistance to achieve housing stability and individual well-being.”

It would make little sense to put working families in shelter facilities for long periods of time. Through my own observations, I find that it may even do more harm than good. Staying in a homeless shelter for a year, or more, and becoming accustomed to the culture and daily life of it, will without a doubt have an effect on the individual. Living in a shelter, particularly those for singles doesn’t promote regular daily life skills, nor does it help individuals make smart decisions regarding independent life and self-responsibility. Essentially, I believe that long shelter stay will only make integrating into society much harder later on down the road.

Friends of Boston’s Homeless

Friends of Boston’s Homeless share statistics with us that prove how effective it is to implement the concept of Housing First. Just in Boston alone, it’s been shown that, “…over 90% (of homeless individuals) are maintaining their housing and have not returned to the streets or shelters”…and, it “saves our community about $11,000/person per year in health care and public safety alone once someone is housed rather than living on the streets or in shelters. It provides a dignified and cost-effective solution to homelessness.”

U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless

For an even more in-depth look into Housing First, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless shares a thorough explanation of the program. You can find their statement quoted below,

“A community-wide Housing First approach has the following elements:

Emergency shelter, street outreach providers, and other parts of the crisis response system are aligned with Housing First and recognize that their role encompasses housing advocacy and rapid connection to permanent housing. Staff in crisis response system services believe that all people experiencing homelessness are housing ready.

Strong and direct referral linkages and relationships exist between crisis response system (emergency shelters, street outreach, etc.) and rapid re-housing and supportive housing. Crisis response providers are aware and trained in how to assist people experiencing homelessness to apply for and obtain permanent housing.

The community has a unified, streamlined, and user-friendly community-wide process for applying for rapid re-housing, supportive housing, and/or other housing interventions.

The community has a coordinated assessment system for matching people experiencing homelessness to the most appropriate housing and services.

The community has a data-driven approach to prioritizing highest-need cases for housing assistance, whether through an analysis of lengths of stay in Homeless Management Information Systems, vulnerability indices, or data on utilization of crisis services.

Policy makers, funders, and providers collaboratively conduct planning and align resources to ensure that a range of affordable and supportive housing options and models are available to maximize housing choice among people experiencing homelessness.

Policies and regulations related to supportive housing, social and health services, benefit and entitlement programs and other essential services do not inhibit the implementation of the Housing First approach. For instance, eligibility and screening policies for benefit and entitlement programs or housing do not require the completion of treatment or achievement of sobriety as a prerequisite.

Every effort is made to offer a tenant a transfer from one housing situation to another if a tenancy is in jeopardy. Whenever possible, eviction back into homelessness is avoided.”

After thorough research, we can now see how Housing First may very well be the solution we need to end the cycle of homelessness. Housing First gets to the root of the issue and makes a realistic approach to solving the problem. With hope, all cities will begin to implement these solutions across to the U.S.

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The Elder Scrolls Online: Beginner’s Guide to Leveling

We’ve All Been There; by That, I Mean We’ve All Been “Noobs”.

I think what makes TESO special is how mature and inviting the community is. When a game is that great, and I mean this, wholeheartedly, we want others to enjoy it at the capacity we’re enjoying it. Generally speaking, that means dying less and feeling like the strong, heroic adventurers that we are. When I first started playing this game over 3 years ago, I didn’t progress very far in levels. In fact, I created and deleted numerous characters—many of which didn’t progress beyond level 15. Why? Well, because I sucked and I had a hard time finding a character that I liked enough to push me onward. Still, I’m glad I didn’t quit, and a lot of that is due to friendly players in the world who offered advice and companionship. In the coming paragraphs, I will share with you a personal guide as to how I level my characters from 1-50 and how these small details can not only make the leveling process more enjoyable but also set you up for victory early on.

First Things First, Do the Tutorial.

Go through the Wailing Prison. This is a great chance to gain some easy levels and get accustomed to your first few abilities on each of your skill lines. As soon as you gain your first skill point, unlock a damage ability. Then, for each skill point that is gained thereafter, unlock an ability in each of your class skill lines, as well as your preferred weapon, and put one of each on your bar. In short, you want to have an ability from each of your class skill trees, plus a weapon ability, on your ability bar.

If you’re planning to go the Stamina DPS route, start equipping any medium armor you pick up. Similarly, if you plan to play as Magicka DPS, or as a healer, equip any light armor you come across. And, lastly, if you want to try your hand at tanking, start getting some heavy armor on. Hopefully, by the time you leave the Wailing Prison, you will have a few good levels under your belt. Once you leave the Wailing Prison, chances are you’ll end up in the first main city of your alliance. Your first priority will be to join the Undaunted, Fighters and Mages Guilds in order to unlock those skill lines. Now, whenever you complete a dungeon, kill Daedra, or find a lore book in the world, you will gain experience for those skill lines!

How Do You Want to Play?

At this point, you can decide to level through the game “normally”, which means progressing through the game by questing in the direction of the main story, or you can mob grind your way to level 50. In my experience, I like to do a little bit of everything (questing, dungeons, and mob grind). More importantly, I find the most proactive way to go about this is by also wearing the most optimal gear. Ask a guildie, friend, or a stranger in zone chat to craft a set of training armor for you. I would recommend fully experiencing all the zones with your first or main character – that means completing all of the quest hubs and exploring the caves too! Not only are the quests very well-written and entertaining, but some of them provide unique rewards, as well as skill points. Caves have sky shards hidden within them and also give great XP. You will learn later on the importance of collecting every skill point, every sky shard, and even every lore book. If you skip them now, you will only go back for them later! At that point, it will probably feel painfully tedious – I’ve done it nearly 10 times, myself!

Hack and Slash to Your Heart’s Desire!

When it comes to level grinding, many mob grind locations are indicated on Add-Ons such as “Destinations”. However, you can grind just about anywhere with low health, quick-respawning enemies. Zombies are a favorite because they’re quick, squishy, and have low health. They also grant Fighter’s Guild XP which will be appealing to any Stamina-based player. Ideally, you would bring a friend with you to help cut through enemies quicker, or at the very least, help keep you alive. Even if you are staying alive just fine, it will be 100x faster if you bring a friend to help you burn through the enemies faster. Your goal is to simply kill as many enemies in the shortest amount of time.

Armor with the “training” trait, combined with experience scrolls or potions, you can realistically get from level 1-50 in less than 10 hours, effortlessly. If you bring a friend, you can quickly turn a hack and slash grind into an epic party. Keep in mind, if you have more than 2-3 to a group, your individual experience gain will drop drastically.

Best Grinding Spot For Any Level

Vet Levels and Beyond

On that note, I’d just like to add that there is nothing wrong with taking your time, and learning how to play at your own pace, in your own time, with what you already have. TESO isn’t particularly hard, but I believe to become very good at this game, there is indeed quite a learning curve. In fact, less than 1% of active players ever see the leaderboards, nor have they even step foot in a trial. Still, end-game content is very much, in my opinion, a realistic challenge any player can tackle. You can expect more on TESO end-game content in the coming articles!

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