Sunday, April 22, 2018

April is National Social Security Month



I'm getting candid on this one. Many people are aware that when we speak about social security, we are talking about senior citizens receiving some sort of income as they reach a certain age which according to my research is 65 years of age. Did you know there is also a program called Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI that is available to folks of all ages who may need to qualify under some very strict terms? SSI and SSDI can be available to people of all ages who may have some sort of disability and the programs vary in that SSDI is for people who may have worked in the past before they apply for SSDI. 

I'm not a lawyer so I don't know the specifics of each program but I will share with you that I have been on SSDI for about five years. I qualify for SSDI because I have a mental disability which inhibits me from working full time. I would like to share with you the benefits of being on this type of program and some of the disadvantages as well as it has been a long journey for me. To qualify for SSDI, you need to prove that you are not able to keep a job due to your condition so they are very strict with who can receive benefits. As a matter of fact, only 30-35% of applicants get approved on the first try and if you get denied the first time as many do then you can appeal it and go see a judge to see if they believe you are disabled. I was approved on the first try and I believe it was because I had a strong advocate, my sister, who knew when to apply for me and was diligent in obtaining all my medical records in a timely manner that showed my ten year history with the illness. 

This article is not meant to tell you how to apply for SSDI but mainly to show you how it has worked for me the past five years and what you can gain and lose from being on this federal assistance program. I hope this article helps you see what being on SSDI is like and what you can expect. I would also like to say that I am beyond grateful that I have been in this program for five years and I always say a thankful prayer every time I get my monthly check because it has helped me tremendously the past five years. 

Benefits of being on SSDI

1. Monthly income

I recently spoke to a disability lawyer and she stated that the monthly average amount a person on SSDI receives is $1,197. In Orange County, that is not very much and it may be hard to live off this amount. I will not tell you my monthly average but it's very close to this number and this money has helped me pay for my daily living expenses and basically all my bills which includes a car payment. Unfortunately, I am not able to live on my own but my parents have helped me by providing a place for me to rent. Check with your local housing office if you want to apply for Section 8, which is a low income housing program. If you are on SSDI, you may have priority however they are very strict in who they help. You basically have to be living on someone's couch or homeless. I have my own room at my parents house so I don't qualify. 

2. Time to take care of yourself

While on SSDI my first year, it was very rough for me because I didn't know what was happening to me so I went to a lot of support groups and spent time going through med changes and basically spent a lot of time alone. I did not work this first year and never thought I'd work again because my symptoms were so severe. Being on SSDI allowed me the time to get help without having to worry how I was going to pay my basic expenses such as feeding myself or paying my credit card bills. I spent endless amount of hours at a center aimed at helping people recover from a severe mental illness. I truly believe that year was the hardest for me and isolation would be the word I best can describe it. Being on SSDI allows you the flexibility to spend time taking care of your mental health and for many stress is a trigger that can cause you to spiral into an episode so having that time to recover is crucial. 

3. You may work on a limited part time basis

After my first year, I learned that it was possible to keep a part time job while receiving SSDI benefits. There are very strict rules for this but it is possible to work on a limited part time basis. Working for me was very difficult at first but after three jobs I finally found one that was perfect for me. I have now worked at my current job for almost four years now and they have been very flexible when I needed to call in sick because my symptoms got bad. I have not disclosed my illness at work because I don't feel comfortable with that but a few coworkers know a little bit about my story. It is up to you whether you want to disclose to your employer. I have chosen to keep it a secret and when I call in sick, I simply state that I don't feel good. I know several people who receive SSDI and are currently working however I also know a few people who went back to work full time and ended their benefits. It's up to you how you feel and I always say that recovery is different for everyone and it is not a straight line. For some, they may recover faster than others and for others like myself, I keep a very simple life as to not trigger another episode. I can't imagine having to ever go back to working fulltime. It's just not wise in my mind. 

4. Spending time with family 

I have been very fortunate to be able to attend special school events with my nieces these past five years that I wouldn't have been able to if I was working a high demanding full time job. I am very grateful to be able to take time off to spend this quality time with my nieces and nephews such as attending their field trips, going to their graduations or simply just running errands for my family during the week. I feel like sometimes having a mental illness is a blessing in disguise. You get to enjoy the simple things in life instead of stressing how you're going to make it through your 40 hour work week and enjoy your short weekend. I've learned to appreciate each day on its own and have come to enjoy spending time with my retired father. I am the go to person when it comes to taking him to his doctor appointments as the rest of my family including my mother work full time. My mother also designates me as her official Christmas shopper each year since I have two weeks off from work during Christmas time and I can shop during the time everyone else is at work. I've learned to appreciate my down time as I can assure you that part of my mental breakdown resulted from a very stressful life. 

5. Take up a hobbie

Because you may have extra time on your hands, pick up a hobbie that will help brighten your mood. For some that hobbie may be poetry, drawing, running, playing music and for me it has become writing. I enjoy sharing my story with others and write about pretty much anything. I encourage you to think about what truly makes you happy and pursue it. My therapist recently asked me "What is your happy place?" and after thinking about it for a few minutes, I finally said "Seeing farm animals happy." That is what brings me joy in addition to writing. We then brainstormed and I have made it a goal to go see the farm animals at the Orange County Fair this summer. 



Disadvantages of being on SSDI

1. Random reviews

I'm not sure how often folks get reviewed but I recently learned that younger folks get reviewed more often than older folks. I have gone under reviews pretty much every year since I've been on the program. This review period has caused me tremendous stress each time and I go through a period of anxiety every year. I believe I get reviewed because I work part time and they want to make sure I still qualify as disabled. My mother has always advised me to quit my job so I'm not reviewed as often but my therapist and I have agreed that this is not the best option for me. You see, working part time helps my self esteem and gives me structure. I feel like I have a purpose in life as opposed to waking up every day and wondering what I am going to do that day. It is up to you whether you choose to work on SSDI, but again the reviews can be quite stressful. 

2. Limited income

One of the rules SSDI has if you work is that you can't make over a certain amount each month to receive your check. This means that you are limited to a small income every month. It's very difficult to live on such a limited income however I have set my life up in a way where this is possible. I shop for clothes at the Goodwill, I don't eat at fancy restaurants and rarely travel. As a matter of fact, travelling is very difficult for me since flying causes me some anxiety and there's always that fear that I will have an episode in a far away place. Sometimes social media can be difficult because you see your friends doing some of the things you wish you could do, but just remember not to compare your life to others as they have not had a life changing experience as you have. Find a way to give back to the community instead. I have a passion for helping others who suffer from mental illness and want to become a mental health advocate since I have so much knowledge now after the last five years. I am even involved in the mental health ministry at my church and I like to attend mental health conferences. I am even going to speak on the panel at the UCI Mental Health Conference this year, my alma mater. I am glad to be a helping hand to those who are newly diagnosed and can feel so lost. 

I hope this post helps you see the life of someone who receives SSDI. The best thing I can tell someone who is newly diagnosed is to seek help. Don't do this alone and try not to isolate yourself as your symptoms may become worse. And be patient with your recovery process. It is different for everyone so don't compare yourself to others. It takes time to start feeling great again. I have learned to accept the "new" me and don't try to go back to the life I had. It took a long time for me to accept my new life, but I have learned to embrace it an help others along the way. 

If you need more information on SSDI, please visit www.ssa.gov


Thursday, October 22, 2015

New Fall Items at Boudin Restaurant





Boudin Restaurant has launched three new menu items for the fall season. They include the Ham 'N Brie on Rosemary Focaccia sandwich, the Original Sourdough Philly sandwich and the Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Kale Salad. Bloggers and their kids were invited to sample the new fall menu items at the Boudin Restaurant located in Huntington Beach.



The Ham 'N Brie on Rosemary Focaccia sandwich is made with applewood smoked ham, Brie cheese, arugula and Cranberry Dijon spread on rosemary focaccia bread. It will cost you $8.99.



The Original Sourdough Philly sandwich is made with roast beef, provolone cheese, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers spread on a garlic buttered sourdough baguette. It will cost you $10.29.



The Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Kale Salad features romaine lettuce, Tuscan kale, roasted butternut squash, red quinoa, dried cranberries, feta cheese and honey mustard dressing. This item will cost you $9.59.

I highly enjoyed sampling all three fall menu items and my favorite was the Ham 'N Brie Rosemary Focaccia because the Cranberry Dijon gave it a distinct flavor.

Along with sampling food, bloggers also had the chance to sample wines. We sampled the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and the La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. The wines were very smooth and paired well with the food items. My favorite was the Chardonnay.



While the adults enjoyed some wine pairings with their food items, kids were kept busy by creating Halloween hats and trying out the Mac 'N Cheese.

For more information about Boudin Restaurants, please check out www.boudinbakery.com.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

OC Auto Show 2015


 
 
The OC Auto Show has come back again to showcase more than 500 new vehicles from 34 different manufacturers. It also features more than 100 vehicles to test-drive, a Camp Jeep Anaheim experience, an all new exotic gallery and more. I encourage you to take the family and visit as you will find something for the whole family to do. They have a kids section where they can be a part of the Discovery Cube OC’s Hot Wheels Experience.



I attended as a member of the media today along with my best friend and we had the opportunity to look around and take pictures with our favorite vehicles. The prices of the vehicles we liked ranged from $23,000- $200,000. The lowest price belonged to the Toyota Tacoma while the highest price went to the Bentley GT. My friend’s favorite manufacturers included Mercedes, Audi and Acura. My favorite was the BMW’s. It was interesting to see how we both liked different vehicles.

 


My friend currently drives an Acura SUV and she compared her truck to the newer model and she loved it. Similarly last year when I attended the OC Auto Show, I was able to compare my 2004 Chevy Impala with the 2015 model and it was so different. I most recently purchased a 2014 Honda Accord and I love it however today I realized that if I could afford it, I would most definitely purchase a BMW.
 

It was a fun experience to be able to compare the looks and prices of the different vehicles. I didn’t realize how expensive Jeeps can be as we found out today that a new Jeep Grand Cherokee can cost you up to $60,000 if it is fully loaded. I really enjoyed riding the Jeep Grand Cherokee at Camp Jeep today. The Jeep vehicles are made to withstand rough terrain as we experienced today.


I invite you to check out the OC Auto Show this weekend October 15-18 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

OC Auto Show

800 West Katella Avenue

Anaheim, CA 92802

 

Hours:

Thursday 4pm-10pm

Friday 12pm-10pm

Saturday 9am-10pm

Sunday 9am-7pm

 

For more information, check out www.AutoShowOC.com

Halloween Time at OC Goodwill




Halloween time is around the corner and OC Goodwill is gearing up to provide costumes to the many people that celebrate the holiday. The busiest shopping season of the year for OC Goodwill happens around Halloween time, not Black Friday like most other stores.


Bloggers were invited to a media event to try on costumes and be a part of three costume contests to win prizes such as gift certificates and coupons. The categories for the contests were Classic with a Twist, Super Heroes and Celebrities. The first two were group contests while the last one was an individual contest. My group won second place for Classic with a Twist. We dressed up as sports witches. One of us was a witch that played baseball while the other witch played golf. It was a lot of fun. For the superhero category, we dressed up as Poison Ivy. Then for the last category I dressed up as Madonna while my friend dressed up as Hilary Clinton.

OC Goodwill has devoted a section in all of their stores to all things Halloween and you can usually find the section towards the front of the store. You can purchase second-hand costumes and invent a costume or you can also purchase new items such as Day of the Dead masks. You can also find wigs, hats and more.


The great part of OC Goodwill is that when you purchase any items you are directly contributing to support OC Goodwill’s job training and career services for the thousands of people Goodwill serves annually. You can also donate old costumes you don’t use anymore to OC Goodwill and be a part of the cause.

I had a great time attending the “Build-A-Scare” event at the OC Goodwill location in Westminster. It really pumped me up to become creative with my costume. This year I am going to be a Little Mermaid and I already purchased the tail and wig. All I need is the purple bra top or blouse. I plan on looking for the purple top at my local Goodwill location. I like that OC Goodwill stores separate their blouses by color so it should be easy for me to find.

I encourage you to shop for your Halloween costumes or props at any OC Goodwill store since you will usually find what you are looking for. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Recap: Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival

I attended the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival this past weekend and the food did not disappoint. I attended as a member of the media and tried some delicious food and wine on both Saturday and Sunday. I attended with my best friends and although there were several wines to try, we mainly tried out the food. Here I list my top three restaurants of the festival plus one pastry restaurant:



1. Red O
    143 Newport Center Drive
    Newport Beach, CA 92660
   


This restaurant is located at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. I have always wanted to try it because I've heard great reviews. I tried the chicken tamales with green sauce and they were delicious. Chef Rick Bayless was there to greet his fans as well. The chicken tamales had a hint of sour cream on top with some special sauce. It gave it that extra kick and extra flavor.

 


2. Filomena's Italian Kitchen
     2400 Newport Blvd
     Costa Mesa, CA 92627
  

This restaurant was only present on Saturday so if you went on Sunday you might have missed it. They showcased chicken breast and mashed potatoes with gravy that left my mouth watering. It is part of an Italian restaurant that serves pizza, pasta and many other "recipes, flavors and techniques brought from Italy." I would highly recommend this place to anyone who loves Italian food.



3. Slapfish
    19696 Beach Blvd
    Huntington Beach, CA 92648

The best seafood at the festival was the "Clobster Roll" that was showcased by the restaurant, Slapfish. My best friend and I had to get seconds. It was THAT good. The half crab, half lobster roll was spread on a mini-bun bread. It was the perfect combination. I would highly recommend it.



4. B. Candy
    3100 E. Coast Highway
    Corona del Mar, CA 92625

This pastry restaurant definitely hit my sweet tooth. There were cookie bites, mini-cupcakes, brownie bites and ice cream sandwiches known as the "Cookie Monster." My favorite was all of the above as I am a sucker for chocolate. Their ingredients are served fresh and you can definitely taste it in their dessert. I would definitely suggest that you try the "Cookie Monster" as it was a blend of ice cream with chocolate chip cookies.

I highly enjoyed covering the Second Annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival and hope to attend next year as well. I really do hope you try one of the restaurants mentioned above. You will not regret it.

 
 



Thursday, September 17, 2015

Second Annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival coming Oct 2-4


I can't wait to attend the Second Annual Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival that will take place October 2-4 in Newport Beach, California. The launch party and charity event will take place Friday night at the Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge from 6:30pm-9:30pm while the Saturday and Sunday festivities will take place at the Newport Beach Civic Center from 1:00pm-5:00pm. Tickets are sold seperately for each night. You must be 21 and over to attend this event.

What I love about this festival is that proceeds from the ticket sales will benefit the Project Hope Alliance charity. The ticket prices vary for this event. Friday night tickets are $125 while ticket prices for Saturday and Sunday are $150 for each day. Newport Beach has some amazing restaurants and chefs will be on hand to sample their various foods. Wine tastings will also be available as well as live entertainment.

Both Saturday and Sunday there will be over 200 wines to sample so if you need to take a taxi or Uber driver, then I would suggest it so you can try as many wines as your heart desires. There will also be 15 Orange County restaurants on hand to sample their foods.

On Saturday, Rick Bayless, a chef from the Mexican restaurant Red O in Newport Beach will be on hand for a Mexican cuisine cooking demo. I can't wait to see what he cooks! I have been wanting to try out his restaurant's cuisine and haven't had the opportunity to do so. I'm also looking forward to try out The Winery Restaurant's food as I've been there before in the past and I loved it. They also have a great selection of wine at their restaruants located in Tustin and Newport Beach. Mastro's restaurant from Costa Mesa will also be in attendance and I've heard great reviews about their steak dinner.

On Sunday, I am looking forward to trying out The Fig & Olive restaurant. I've had dinner and brunch there in the past and I was not dissappointed. I also want to try Anqi, a restaurant located at South Coast Plaza, as I've been there in the past and the drinks were delicious. I have yet to try their food.

I hope to be able to get some ideas as to where I will celebrate my birthday at the end of this year. I would like to have a nice brunch with my closest friends and family and Newport Beach abounds in many restaurants that will all showcase their food at this festival. I hope to tell you all about it and hope you will join me on Saturday or Sunday.

Friday night location:

Island Hotel’s Oak Grill & Aqua Lounge
690 Newport Center Dr
Newport Beach, CA

Saturday and Sunday location:

Newport Beach Civic Center
100 Civic Center Dr
Newport Beach, CA

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.newportwineandfood.com.

Disclosure: I will be attending as a member of the press.

 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fashion files: Five fall must haves

It's time to put away the swimsuits and sandals as summer has now come to an end. The kids are back in school and for those of us that work with children, it's time to get back to work! I already started making room in my closet for chunky sweaters and long-sleeved shirts. As I look through my closet, I would like to share with you some of my must have fall accessories.



1. The leather jacket

For those nights out on the town and classy dinners, you must have a nice leather jacket. I happen to own three of them. I paid $200 for one of them which I purchased at Kohl's while the other two were purchased at a thrift store for $4 a piece. It was a steal as they are both real leather. My favorite jacket has to be the burgundy colored leather jacket from The Limited as it goes great with jeans, skirts and dark colored dresses. I'm always on a budget so buying the right jackets took me a couple of years. I would recommend that you take your time purchasing a leather jacket if you don't already own one. It can get pricey if you want it brand new.



2. Leggings

My best friend swears by leggings and likes to wear them year round. The reason she loves them is because they can instantly diminish 10 pounds. They make you look a lot thinner than wearing a loose dress for example. I recently purchased two pairs of leggings at Burlington Factory store and they cost me $5.99 and $7.99 each. The brand name is French Laundry and they were an easy purchase because the price was reasonable. They also made me look thinner instantly. I already own two pairs of black leggings and a gray pair that I purchased at Cotton On last year. My best friend says if you double them up, you can add more protection and they won't be as see through if that is a problem. That's why I purchased two black pairs. In case I get insecure, I can double them up.



3. Flats

I really went wild this summer purchasing flats for the fall. If you work at a school like myself or are always on your feet at work, then you must purchase a few pairs of flats to make it easier on your feet while at work. The Goodwill had some great sales on flats this past summer season and now I have enough flats to last me a whole school year and maybe longer than that. My army printed flats and silver colored flats are my absolute favorite. You can wear them to work with some slacks, a dress or a skirt. You can even get away with wearing them with jeans on casual Friday. I wouldn't recommend wearing them on a date since some guys love women in heels and that shows off your more sexier side. Leave the flats for work. That's what I think anyway.



4. Chunky sweaters

I went to Las Vegas a couple of years ago during November and was ready to go on a date with someone I had recently met there and I immediately pulled out some chunky sweaters to wear with jeans and heels. My friends stopped me immediately and called me grandma for wanting to wear a chunky sweater on a first date. Although I did agree with them and wore a nice tank top instead with a leopard cardigan, I still can't stop loving my chunky sweaters for the fall season. I wouldn't recommend them on a first date, but you can wear them on a second and third date. They go great with a nice pair of jeans and you can even be sporty with them and wear some sneakers like a nice pair of Converse. I love Converse shoes so much that I match them with my chunky sweaters every year. Chunky sweaters are great for any occasion, just not that first date.



5. Sweater dresses

This is my absolute favorite piece of clothing to wear for the fall season. You can pair them with a nice pair of leggings underneath or with a nice scarf depending on the weather. I own about six sweater dresses which I bought on a budget at different places like the Goodwill, Savers and the Salvation Army. Unfortunately, I have gained some weight this past year so I don't always feel like trying to fit in a snug pair of jeans. For those days when you just want to throw on a dress and not think about whether you are going to fit in your jeans, then throw on a sweater dress! I would recommend wearing a dress for that Thanksgiving dinner when we all tend to eat a little more than usual.

In conclusion, I would add that being creative with your wardrobe can really take some pounds away such as wearing leggings or sweater dresses. It's not summer anymore, so there's no pressure to fit into that bikini anymore, but don't think you can just eat and not care. As we get older, it's important that we take care of our health as well. I hope you can continue to look and feel great throughout this fall season.

Stay tuned: For the winter I'm already thinking of cute scarves and the New Year's dress every girls looks for that's perfect for a fun night out. Stay tuned and keep your eyes open for winter season as it is just around the corner. It's never to early to start shopping for a nice pair of boots as well. Happy hunting!