Taco Dip Casserole

  

This recipe is a Super Bowl tradition in my family. It’s also a hearty dish to serve at parties, or for dinner. A healthier version of the dish can be prepared. Substitutions are noted at the end of the recipe.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds ground beef          
1 can (15 oz) seasoned black beans
2 cans (16 oz each) refried beans
1 package of Taco seasoning
16 oz sour cream
2 pkgs (8 oz each) softened cream cheese
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese 
1 jar (16 oz) salsa
1 can (2.5 oz) pitted and sliced black olives

Directions:

Cook ground beef. Drain and rinse. Add package of taco seasoning. Add water according to package directions. Mix well and simmer until throughly cooked. Remove from heat. Set to side.

Evenly spread refrained beans over the bottom of a 9″x 13″ pan. Blend cream cheese and sour cream together. Spread mixture over the refried beans. 

Drain juice from black beans and sprinkle over the cream cheese mixture. Evenly distribute 3/4 cup of shredded cheese over the black beans. 

Spoon seasoned hamburger into dish and spread over the shredded cheese. Add entire jar of salsa on top of hamburger.

Evenly distribute the remaining 1 1/4 cups of Mexican cheese over the salsa. Drain the black olives and sprinkle over cheese.

Place casserole dish in oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until dip is bubbling and cheese has completely melted.

Remove dish and serve with tortilla chips.

*** Healthy Version Substitutions ***

– Use lean ground beef, or ground turkey
– Substitute fat-free refried beans for traditional refried beans
– Use fat-free sour cream and fat-free cream cheese
– Use 2% or low fat shredded Mexican cheese
– Substitute baked tortilla chips in place of regular tortilla chips

The Tattoo

The Tattoo

Healing after a loss can be a long road. As much as we call it healing, there will always be a scar of sorts; a reminder of the loved ones we grieve.

Think of that scar as a tattoo – a beautiful picture etched into your soul. Allow it to be a symbolic tribute of your time together. The beauty and pain.

Your tattoo tells a story.

Yes, it hurt at one point, and at times perhaps was unbearable, but the final picture rendered a passionate and colorful piece of work well worth the sacrifice.

Too, a tattoo can never truly and completely be erased, no matter how hard one may try. There will always remain a blemish, or scar, even if you find someone to help disguise it.

Wear that tattoo proudly.

You will have good days, and some not so much. Remember the beauty by which this life story was etched upon your body, mind and soul.

Celebrate the life of your loved one. Relish and cherish the design it fashioned and know that in time the pain, much like the coloring of your life tattoo, will fade a bit, yet remain part of you – forever.

Universal HEALING Meditation & Prayer 

  Universal HEALING Meditation & Prayer
Sunday, January 31st 2016
9PM EST / 8PM CST / 6PM PST

Duration: 15 minutes+

**Please feel free to share with your friends**

The purpose of this meditation and prayer session is to raise the energy of the Universe by taking a short period of time out of one evening per month to collectively focus on creating positive energy in our lives, and for the world. The more people that join this session, the higher the level of positive vibration. 

An important part of the Universal HEALING Meditation & Prayer session is the acronym for HEALING:

Heal 

Energize

Awaken

Love 

Inspire

Nurture

Grow

Reflect upon each word; absorb them with your body, mind and soul. Allow these peaceful thoughts to radiate from you, and share them with the world.

It all starts with you! Imagine the change that has resulted from the focus and efforts of one, let alone an army of prayer warriors dedicating time together to make a positive change.

Additional tips on meditation to follow prior to the upcoming session. No special items needed.

Thank you.

Universal HEALING Meditation & Prayer 

  Universal HEALING Meditation & Prayer
Sunday, January 31st 2016
9PM EST / 8PM CST / 6PM PST

Duration: 15 minutes+

**Please feel free to share with your friends**

The purpose of this meditation and prayer session is to raise the energy of the Universe by taking a short period of time out of one evening per month to collectively focus on creating positive energy in our lives, and for the world. The more people that join this session, the higher the level of positive vibration. 

An important part of the Universal HEALING Meditation & Prayer session is the acronym for HEALING:

Heal 
Energize

Awaken

Love 

Inspire

Nurture

Grow

Reflect upon each word; absorb them with your body, mind and soul. Allow these peaceful thoughts to radiate from you, and share them with the world.

It all starts with you! Imagine the change that has resulted from the focus and efforts of one, let alone an army of prayer warriors dedicating time together to make a positive change.

Additional tips on meditation to follow prior to the upcoming session. No special items needed.

Thank you

On Being Present

Sharing a thought, or two . . .Practically every day, I speak with people who are having difficulty dealing with the loss of a loved one. I totally, and completely, get it.
I am often asked:

What do I do? How can I move forward when I can’t stop thinking about the past?

My advice is always:

Take those memories and cherish them – the whole lot of them. You have had time to create these moments with your loved one(s), and that is the beauty you must relish and be thankful for. 
The same applies to the tough times you shared. You must embrace the lessons and also be grateful for the opportunities that presented in the form of sadness, frustration, anger and pain.

One of the most profound ways to create change is pain. Pain is actually what drives change and forces us silly creatures to take notice; the challenges that often present requiring a conscious effort to listen to our body, mind and soul. Use this time to reflect upon how you can change, or what needs to change.

We must learn. We must be grateful. Even in the throes of grief.

Look at the past. evaluate it and then let it go. You cannot change it. Breathe in, and out. Dismiss the “should have, would have, could haves” as you will only create more anxiety. Replace those feelings with mindfulness and gratitude.

You have to be hopeful of the future but not take it for granted as a given right. You must live in the present, for today is what matters; it is what you have.

The present I speak of is THIS VERY MOMENT in time when you should be thankful for each and every yesterday – the lessons, the laughter, the love and the pain. It is also the same moment to rejoice and aspire to start anew if given a tomorrow.

Your departed loved ones do not want you to anchor yourselves in pain, nor do they want you to live in the past. You must let it all go. Welcome this time and understand that they are still with you – and are present in ways beyond the grasp of our wildest imaginations. 

It’s okay to grieve, but be aware that it can cause you to teeter and lose footing on the present. Celebrate and appreciate the time – all of the yesterday’s, regardless how many or few – that you were given with your loved one – and above all, be grateful.

You have not been abandoned despite the lack of physical touch, sight, sound, or smell you may experience. It is merely a time to adjust a physical and material relationship to one that is based completely upon the spiritual. This is the ultimate test of your relationship and it requires tremendous trust. Once you reach that point, the suffering will turn to enlightenment and an empowering of the body, mind and soul.

My role as as a spiritual counselor and healer is to help guide you and your loved ones to a state of greater peace. As a messenger, facilitator and sometimes, even a mediator, I too, must be present.
Thank you for sharing your lives and loved ones with me. I am very grateful for the chance to help, and hope you can walk away from our discussions and gatherings with a better sense of peace and comfort. 

Know that the pain you are experiencing is not the end, my friend; it’s the ushering of a beautiful beginning of living with spirit. It truly is, if you allow yourself to live in the moment.
Acknowledge that yesterday is history and today is a gift. This is why we call it a present. 
You must make a choice to BE PRESENT and allow this pain to teach you, and speak to you one step, one smile, one tear; one day at a time❤️

Self-Published: No Regrets

I cannot stop thinking about a recent, and rather interesting conversation with someone relative to my books. The woman, an attorney, had been referred to me and had requested a reading.

Initially describing herself as a skeptic, she also stated that she is extremely critical. No surprise there, as the latter would be considered a common personality trait given her profession.

After rendering her disclaimer, I was a bit curious to see what would come of our time together. Ultimately, the result came as a surprise, and to-date, happens to be one of my biggest ‘light switch’ moments.

During our chat, the woman told me how quickly she read my first book, 207. She used the word ‘riveting’ and said that she couldn’t go to sleep. Apparently, she stayed up all night to finish it.

She then asked me several questions, one of which was why I had self-published both books. She believed them to be worthy of publishing via a major company, and even stated her hopes to see them made into a movie.76cd23e2dcc201e48cda136e9742f1e0

As per my usual answer, I explained that it could have taken years, or never at all, before the books were published had I gone the traditional route. I conveyed that I had the desire to put the books ‘out there’ as a means of sharing my experiences and research in a more expeditious fashion. My explanation seemed to make sense to her.

I also added that it was a catharsis, and I had no intentions of either book being the next Amityville Horror, or 50 Shades of Grey. Elaborating, I mentioned how I approached both books like a humungous blog post effort. It was truly, that simple.

She responded to my explanation in typical attorney fashion; she laid it all out on the table, noting some errors in both 207, as well as Saints. Much to my surprise, she felt they were nothing terrible, stating that an editor would have cleaned up the books without much trouble at all.

Whew. I was expecting a less favorable evaluation, more so, due to the fact she has written and published her own books the traditional way, via publisher.

Although I had been holding my breath during her critique, she actually mentioned that all things considered, I did a good job without using an editor. She also stated (having read some of the more critical reviews) that they seemed a bit off-base and ‘colored towards a more personal issue’ be it with me, or the subject matter. She came to this conclusion after reading both of the books.

In her opinion, subject matter can clash with personal sentiments, quite often when the content involves controversial matters such as the paranormal, and spirituality. She added that reviews can also be used as a way to get under someone’s skin. Drawing attention to the fact people can hide under false names, it makes it easier to bully an individual.

Hang on a second! That was when I chimed-in, and interrupted her.

I advised the lawyer that I have never felt bullied by bad reviews. Although I agree that some reviews may have been written in efforts to downplay my books for a number of reasons (bad publicity for the city, competition with a plethora of paranormal books, etc.), I did not once consider myself any less worthy of a writer, due to those reviews.

She was happily surprised to hear that I did not feel bullied, and told me to make sure I always stay thick-skinned. She then continued her verbal analysis of the books. I was anxious to hear her take on the paranormal aspect of the books, given her skepticism.

She asked poignant questions relative to how domestic abuse and drug use come to into play with negative energy impacting an individual. She withheld comment and listened intently as I explained how they, as well as other elements, factor into the equation. I told her the many ways a negative energy or force has a better chance of survival once it latches onto a host that drinks, abuses drugs, or is even sleep deprived.

I also added that I had to lay it all out in the open in order for people to understand what exactly can happen in such a scenario. It wasn’t a sexy story, but it was very real, incredibly raw, and terrifyingly tragic.

Looking at this woman, I could see the wheels turning inside of her head. She listened, frozen still in her chair. I felt as though I was in the courtroom of her mind. She was not outwardly judging me – yet.

I maintained that I was not trying to persuade her; I was merely trying to inform her as to what can happen. She appreciated my remark.

Finally, and after several more questions, she told me that 207 scared the daylights out of her. Again, admitting that she had preconceived notions about the book being more like Amityville Horror, she finished it; relieved to find it was not.

She stated, “207 educated me in ways that I did not think were possible, especially relative to spirituality.” She added that the emotion I conveyed in 207 was palpable, and my story felt real, editor involvement, or not.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I considered that a big compliment.

I then reiterated what I had said earlier in our conversation: I had no intentions of even sending either book to a publisher. I felt that I had better chances of reaching more people the way I proceeded, rather than possibly never at all. Again; I approached it like a massive blog post effort.

8c4ab074f27216b1a55e5186b8bb9650Perhaps one of the most flattering remarks came when she spoke of Saints Sinners & Sacred Ground. She said she was utterly blown-away with my research and told me that she would hire me as an investigator in a heartbeat, had I ever wanted to pursue such a career. Having been raised downstate (NYC area), she conveyed having learned a broad understanding of the region’s history, but the details and organization provided in Saints, surpassed any book she had read relative to Upstate’s past.

She also added that I should be proud of what I did, and gave me kudos for having the “balls” to put my work out there, without an editor. More wow.

Some great conversation, but I still had to give her a reading. I could only hope she was as happy with the consultation, as with the books.

Two hours later, and after tearing-up several times during the reading, she sat quietly for close to 5 minutes. Silence gripped the room as she glanced between the tattered tissue in her hand, and my face.

Without saying a word, she stood up and fetched her coat. In a very matter-of-fact tone she stated, “You have something I have never witnessed before. This entire meeting was more meaningful than most things I have done in years . . .”

She briefly shared a few sentiments about her reading, and shook my hand. Just before walking to the door, she asked if she could give me a hug, and added, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your work does not matter, or is not real. Do not let anyone hate on you because you voiced your experiences and shared them the way you have. Thank you for changing my outlook on life, and for your time . . .”

I was overwhelmed by her words of encouragement. An intelligent, self-professed, critical thinking skeptic had just pulled the metaphorical string of the light switch in my mind . . .

As I have stated so many times: I am proud of my work, and research. The number of people 207 has helped is priceless, and for that, I am incredibly blessed. An equal number of people have also been enlightened by the research I have done pertaining to Saints; many calling Upstate New York their homes and not even having a clue (myself included) as to the rich history that unfolded in our backyards.

My random, nontraditional means of organizing memories, thoughts and historical account in a more blog-esque style, in effort to simply reach people, worked. It is surreal, and I am so gracious to those that embrace my work, and support it.

Sure, I would have loved to have taken the time to pursue more traditional venues, but the fact of the matter is the books have inspired thousands of people. Pish-posh on those who state that they are not worthy to be called books, or that I am nothing unless my books carry a fancy publisher’s name.

Be it blog posts, musings on Facebook, or my magazine articles, I want to connect with people and give them food for thought. I want to empower, inspire, enlighten and share my experiences with people. Yes, good reviews are uplifting, and bad reviews are, well, biting at times, but that does not lessen my achievements. It’s all par for the course; bad reviews are expected. Despite this fact, I have accomplished what some traditionally published authors have not, and that is worth its weight in gold.

My work does not end with Saints. I will continue to provide my readers (thank you Cheryl and Chad at Paranormal Underground Magazine) with continued research into the events that have transpired in Watervliet via my contribution of the Wendigo series, as well as other paranormal and spiritual pieces.

I am also in the process of finishing a third book, with more ideas whirling about. Adding my events and full time, weekday job into the mix; it all takes time. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

In close, the books have far surpassed my expectations as to who they have helped. Negative criticism of the books cannot deny me of that, and for this very reason alone, I state: I have no regrets.

Pet Spirits

iStock_000016415081_Small

I’ve seen it dozens, upon dozens of times; departed pets showing up in my readings. Some say it isn’t possible, but objectively, and not even aware a client lost a pet, they DO come thru, and quite vividly, so.

Cats, dogs, birds, horses, cows – even fish and lizards – have presented during sessions. Their appearance uncanny, and with spirit in-tact, pets do retain the same affect and energy as they did while alive.

I will share with you (without name-dropping) one very touching story. Some of you reading this, may have been privy to the actual reading as it transpired in 2012.

One very warm afternoon, while out with a group of friends at Boardner’s in Hollywood, I started to conduct random readings. After sitting down next to an individual in our group, I immediately picked up on a male who had very, very recently passed.

I contined to describe his ‘appearance’ as presented to me; his beard and glasses were prominent, yet it was the huge smile on his face that spoke volumes. The woman I was sitting with (and continued to read), as well as a few others in our group, knew who it was. The gentleman had just passed a few days before our gathering.

No sooner had I continued with the reading, did spirit make an important statement to the woman. He said, “I have the dog! Tell her I have the dog!”

As ‘the’ dog presented, I could see both spirits (male and dog) together. It was was a beautiful moment.

The woman cried as I rendered a description of the dog. She could not believe it. Despite her tears, she finally had the answer so many had recently asked: Was he (the male spirit) with the dog? I was able to provide that answer, instilling a sense of comfort and peace during such a sorrowful time.

You see, the spirit of the male was the tour bus driver for a very famous rock band. Literally days before, the tour bus driver had passed.

The dog was the beloved pet of the band’s lead singer whom the driver had cared for and watched, while the band toured. They had a long and very loving bond. Just a few months prior to the driver’s passing, the lead singer had to put the dog down, due to illness. It was a heartbreaking decision to make.

The band was dealt another blow when their driver passed. Even considering the short duration between his, and the dog’s death, they had hoped the two were together; two buddies, hanging out on the bus, just like old times.

I felt incredibly blessed to be able to validate this for them. It was a bittersweet moment, as well as very emotional, even for me.

This single snippet of a reading demonstrates a frequent occurrence. It is important that all pet owners realize the spirit of their precious pet can, and often does, come back. I will add that some pet spirits also continue to be a part of their humans’ lives, while others may randomly pop-in to let them know how grateful they are.

I am always amazed when a pet presents. I have had the good fortune of seeing one rather animated lizard make a handful of appearances over the last few years. She is always pranking her humans, even in spirit. This is something her humans have sensed and have attested to.

I have also had the spirit of fish pass thru. Perhaps the most interesting fish spirit was the one that informed their human it was ‘okay’ that they (their human) accidentally killed them while cleaning the fish tank. Strange, but true.

Pets can be one of the greatest loves of our human lives. Regardless of how they join our journey, they are incredibly dedicated and grateful for the love and life we give to them.

In turn, mourning the loss of a pet is extremely painful, and no different than that of grieving for our beloved human companions. In the grand scheme of life, they are only with us for a relatively short span of time. No matter how long that time is, we are as important to them, as they are to us.

Please know that the bond with your pet is not broken by death; the journey does continue. Listen to them, talk to them, care for them; love them. They adore you, and may even come back to thank you.