Friday, November 8, 2013

End the Stigma Workshop Take II

On October 26th the MHWTC hosted another End the Stigma Workshop. The first workshop was a huge success and brought a lot of awareness for our charity Bring Change 2 Mind. This time we had  two very special guests- Glenn Close and her sister Jessie!! Glenn Close is the founder of Bring Change 2 Mind. Read about their mission here. I had the opportunity to share my story again. Below is what I shared.


Six months ago I stood in this same place at the End the Stigma Workshop and shared my story for the very first time. It was the first time I ever spoke the words; I lost my dad to suicide out loud. Sitting down and preparing to speak today allowed me the opportunity to really sit back and reflect on my journey the last six months.

My journey really began when Lydia announced Bring Change 2 Mind as this year’s charity over a year ago. I volunteered to be on the charity committee because I was struggling with the loss of my dad. I was hoping that volunteering would provide me with answers to my many questions, and peace for my broken heart.

I’m going to reread my words from the workshop in April.

My dad was always my biggest fan. He supported me in each and every aspect of my life. Some of my best memories, however, are being on the soccer field with my dad on the sideline. He actually paced the sidelines cheering, “Let’s go Skate!” My dad traveled hours for games that I played in for five minutes. He woke up very early, after working all night, to be at the first whistle of every game. Vacations were scheduled around soccer tournaments. In college, I had to convince him it was crazy to drive two and a half hours to watch me play an intramural soccer game. He was always encouraging and supportive. No matter what the outcome of the game, or how I played that day, he always welcomed me with a smile and a hug.

August 20, 2010 I lost my dad to suicide.


Five years prior to his death, my dad suffered a major stroke that took my family on a five-year rollercoaster of ups and downs. He suffered from debilitating depression and anxiety at times. Knowing that he needed serious help he checked himself into a crisis center. My dad tried countless counselors, psychiatrists, neurologists, and medication over the years. He fought hard. As his daughter, it was awful to see him hurt so bad, and not be able to help him. The last time I saw my dad I knew in my heart there was something seriously wrong. When I looked at him, looking at me, there was emptiness in his eyes where there usually was unconditional love. I could see a heavy blanket of despair wrapped around him. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. That is something I regret. I was uncomfortable talking to my dad about depression, anxiety, and his thoughts of suicide. My advice to people in a similar situation is, speak up! Speak up about your feelings, even if it is just to say you are scared. Speak up to medical professionals by asking questions. Then ask more questions. Continue asking questions until you get a clear answer. There are so many people who devote their lives to helping others cope with mental illness. Did you know that the National Suicide Prevention hotline is not just for people in crisis? If you are concerned about a loved one they encourage you to call so that you can find out what resources are available in your area. Your call is routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area. I believe silence helps perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. People do not want to talk about these topics because they are uncomfortable, but we need to. We need to so that we can learn, discover, heal, cope, and survive.

When Lydia announced the charity for the year I knew it was an opportunity for me to step up and speak out. I am still uncomfortable and uneasy talking about suicide, depression, and anxiety but I promised myself I would not allow this feeling silence me this time. Feelings of regret have haunted me and caused me a lot of pain over the last couple years. I have come to a place where I know I need to channel these feelings of regret to do something beneficial for others and myself. I came across this quote recently and I pray that it is true: When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else. I hope my words today have given someone in a similar situation the courage to speak up.

I have heard many people say that they notice I smile during triathlons. There is a simple reason for this; it is because I know my dad is with me. I know my dad is with me because he would not miss an opportunity to cheer me on. My dad is still my biggest fan.

Over the past month I have reread this speech many times. Each time I reread it one word kept grabbing my attention. That word was regret. Standing here tonight I can say my prayer has been answered. While I still miss my dad terribly, I no longer have those feelings of regret.  At that time I was unsure of how sharing my story would affect me. However, I have realized that talking about my dad and volunteering for Bring Change 2 Mind has released those feelings of regret and set me on my path to healing. A quote from Maya Angelou’s resonates with me tonight, do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

I wanted to end on a similar note as in April. Colleen posted a picture of me crossing the finish line at Queen of the Hill. I noticed in that picture that I am definitely not smiling. It is evident that I was in pain, and there is another triathlete, Katie, right on my heels. This picture shows me that not only is my dad my biggest fan, he also taught me how to be a true fighter.

If you are struggling with a mental illness or have a loved one who is, keep fighting and remember together we can Bring Change 2 Mind. 





Monday, October 7, 2013

MHWTC End of the Year Party!

This weekend the MHWTC hosted their annual end of the year bash. It was a very memorable night. Like each and every event the triathlon club hosts, no detail was spared. The event was held at the beautiful Pratt Gardens. The decoration committee added to this beauty. The delicious Rode's catered, there was a very fun band, and a packed photo booth all night! However, the best part of the night was hanging out with so many inspiring women.

There was an award ceremony to honor the accomplishments of members throughout the year. The most determined award was presented to two women whom at the beginning of the season struggled to swim one lap in a pool, and by the end of the season participated in open water swims and triathlons. The most resilient award was presented to a friend of mine who overcame a terrible bike accident last fall, and got herself right back on the bike this season, still smiling! I was extremely honored to be awarded member of the year, in a club filled with so many motivated women. Winning Queen of the Hill was something I will never forget, but being a part of this years Bring Change 2 Mind charity committee has changed my life. The conversations we have had about mental health, the money we have raised, and the stigma surrounding mental health we have been able to shine a light on is something I am very proud of!

We are still not done, Run the Hill is coming up quickly and will be an amazing conclusion to this season!

Beautiful background

Decoration committee's beautiful work!

AC tri Relay team!

The founders of the club who dedicate countless hours to this club

Too much fun!





Pumpkin Chili

Once October hits I can not get enough pumpkin. I like pumpkin in everything, including my chili! Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, this recipe was easy to make. I really enjoyed it, but next time I would consider adding more pumpkin!

Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:
2 pounds of ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 29-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 4-ounce can diced green chilis
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:
1- In a large soup pot, place beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat. stirring occasionally until the beef is browned.
2- Add the rest of the chili ingredients. Let simmer, stirring every so often for 15 minutes.

If you are in the chili mood check out another favorite of mine Buffalo Chicken Chili!








Eating on the Road

This summer my mom and I went on a road trip to Knoxville, Nashville and the Shenandoah Valley! It was an amazing trip, and I hope to post soon all about it. Before leaving for the trip I was concerned about eating out at restaurants for 12 days straight. I took a trip to Wegmans (my happy place) and stocked up on some road trip essentials. This took care of breakfast and snacks daily. Balance is the key to life so I definitely enjoyed lots of different kinds of barbecue in the south!

This was the first time I tried Cocomama. This quinoa breakfast cereal was so good and perfect for a busy morning. Quinoa is an amazing power food!




Puffins, Almond Milk, Breakfast on the Go, Cocomama


Almond butter, Almond pouches, KIND bars and KIND Healthy Grains bars



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Confessions of a Depressed Comic

Check out this video below from Kevin Bree. He is a teenager, stand up comic, a writer, and an activist for mental health. In this powerful video he explains the stigma surrounding depression.


Below are a couple quotes that really resonated with me. 

"Real depression isn't being sad when something in your life goes wrong. Real depression is being sad when everything in your life is going right."

"Depression isn't chicken pox. You don't beat it once and it's gone forever. It's something you live with. It's something you live in."

"We live in a world that if you break your arm everyone runs over to sign your cast, but if you tell people you are depressed everyone runs the other way. That's the stigma."

"As a society we are so accepting of any body part breaking down other than our brains, and that's ignorance."

The MHWTC is hosting Run the Hill on October 27th. We are running to help end the stigma surrounding mental health. Find out more about the race here! Join us as we each try to change a mind about mental health.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Buffalo Chicken and Sweet Potato Meatza


I love sweet potatoes and buffalo chicken had me thinking wings, so when I found this recipe I knew I had to give it a try! It was amazing. I put it over spinach to add some green to the meal. It was a delicious dinner, and an even better lunch the following two days. Leftovers make life so much easier. 

Ingredients
  • 2lbs ground beef
  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 1 yam diced
  • ¼ cup hot sauce 
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place your ground beef a bowl along with your herbs: basil, parsley, and orgeano as well as some salt and pepper.
  3. Add the ground beef to a 9×13 glass baking dish and place in the oven to bake for 12-15 minutes.
  4. While your ground beef bakes, place a large skillet over medium heat and add your coconut oil to the pan. Once the coconut oil becomes hot, add your diced yams.
  5. Cover to help steam and cook for about 5 minutes or so.
  6. When your yams begin to soften, add your ground chicken along with your garlic powder, onion powder, and salt and pepper.
  7. Use a wooden spoon to break up the chicken, then cover to help cook through completely.
  8. When the chicken is done cooking through, add your hot sauce and mix thoroughly.
  9. When your ground beef is done cooking through, add your chicken and yam/sweet potato mixture on top of the beef. Then add a bit more hot sauce to top it all off.
  10. Bake for about 5 minutes.




Chocolate Chip Protein Muffins


I love sunflower seed butter, so when I found this recipe I knew I had to give it a try!  There is added sugar in this nut butter, so make sure you pay attention to portion sizes. Sometimes I miss muffins and bagels, so this was an awesome dairy and gluten free option. They were very delicious! I'm sure you could easily swap the chocolate chips for blueberries for one of the favorites: blueberry muffins!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 35 grams (1 scoop) of Protein Powder (or 1 tablespoon coconut flour if you don’t use protein powder)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips or other dark chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add sunflower seed butter, eggs and vanilla extract to a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Then add protein powder, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and mix well.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips and coconut.
  5. Pour batter into 10 baking cups in a muffin tin. I used silicone baking cups to keep them from sticking.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.




Saturday, July 13, 2013

Protein Bites

Easy No-Bake Protein Energy Bites

No-Bake Protein Energy Bites are packed with a great balance of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and healthy omega 3 fatty acids. They are really easy to make, and a favorite among my friends!

Ingredients

    • 1 cup oats (use gluten-free oats if needed)
    • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (non-oil at the top kinds)
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
    • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • 1/4 cup chia seeds
    • 2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder (use gluten-free if needed)
    • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
    • Instructions

      Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until it looks like a evenly distributed uniformed dough.

      Roll the dough balls into twenty-four 1-1/2 
      inch balls.

      Refrigerate the bites for 30 minutes.

      Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.





Thursday, July 4, 2013

CrossFit Solstice Summer Throwdown

On June 22nd CrossFit Solstice hosted the 2013 Summer Solstice Throwdown. This was a fitness competition for members only. These were the first two events for the day:

EVENT #1
Performed with a 12min running clock:

1.A - 2min
1min AMRAP Pull-ups 
1min Rest
AMRAP means as many reps as possible. If you can't do a pull-up there are weighted bands that assist you.

1.B - 3min
400m Sprint
Rest

1.C - 7min
3RM Front Squat
RM means rep maximum, or the most amount of weight you can do. 

EVENT #2
8min AMRAP Ladder

3+3 Clean 135# (men)/95# (women)
5+5 Wall Ball 20# (men)/14# (women)
When I first started CrossFit I used YouTube nonstop. If you do not know what these are-look up a video.

These events were scored, and the top three men and women qualified for Event #3. All six men and women did amazing in the final event, and I was so proud of them. It was crazy to watch these six athletic individuals really struggle through the workout. However, they all stuck with it. My friends Talia and Pat were the winners of the day. 

The winners and top performers are only one small part of CrossFit though. One of the best parts of CrossFit is that even though you may not win, or even come in the top three, you can still leave feeling amazing. Here is how: It is all about setting and reaching INDIVIDUAL goals. I was jumping around just as excited as the first place finisher because I set a back squat personal record and did more pull-ups in a minute than I have ever done. 

A lot of people I talk to are intimated by CrossFit, but you don't have to be if you make it a competition with yourself; and do not waste negative energy making comparisons. For example, I was all smiles after Event #2 because a couple short months ago 95# was my maximum rep for a clean. Which means I could only do one! Five short months ago, I had no clue what a clean was and 95# sounded crazy to me. I could barely clean just the bar (so if you are thinking that-trust me you can do it)! I did not waste time thinking or worrying about my friend Holly who was flying past me. I was proud of her, remember the CrossFit Community! Also, the workouts on this day, just as everyday, were modified if needed so that everyone could complete them. Overall, it was an extremely exciting and motivating day! 

Strong is Beautiful!

 Top 3 Ladies!

Top 3 Men!

CrossFit Solstice Crew

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Queen of the Hill

This weekend the Mullica Hill Women's Triathlon Club hosted their 3rd annual Queen of the Hill Sprint Triathlon at Lake Gillman in Monroeville, NJ. This female-only race featured a 1/4 mile swim in a beautiful private lake, followed by a scenic 10-mile bike ride through Mullica Hill, and then finished with a 5k run. This year the triathlon sold out in a week.

Saturday morning about 350 MHWTC members swam, biked, and ran their hearts out! My favorite part of the race was standing at the finish line and watching everyone come in. It was hard not to get chills watching that many women complete a goal they have set for themselves. There were lots of tears, doubts and butterflies at the start of the race. However, at the end of the race there were lots SMILES, hugs and laughs. I am so proud to be a part of this club that inspires and motivates women to do things they never thought would be possible, including me!

The morning before the race I checked out my times from last year on each individual event. My goals for the race were to improve my bike and run times. I had times and averages in mind based on my training. When it comes to setting fitness goals, I think it is so important that they are centered around improving personally. It is extremely motivating to achieve a personal record on a swim, bike or run that you thought was not possible a few months ago. This is what will keep you going! Try not to compare yourself to others, that is a waste of negative energy. With that said, most importantly..... I dropped 2:30 minutes off my time from last year! That is a decent amount of time in a sprint triathlon. Also, on this amazing day the stars were in alignment for me and my #1 fan was with me the entire way because I WON the race! I am the 2013 MHWTC Queen of the Hill. I finished one second ahead of the second place finisher Katie. When she sped past me on the bike I cheered her on, and when I passed her on the run she cheered me on. We sprinted the last 100 meters together, and on this particular day, I was able to have that one second advantage. We collapsed on the ground and hugged, and in the spirit of this club, I met a new friend! Because that's what it is all about encouraging and motivating each other to be the best we can be.

It is a day I will never forget!

Thank you to Michelle who works hard to carry out the best triathlon of the year! As always thanks to Colleen, Lydia and Maureen who devote so many hours to this club. Thanks to Ron and Jason Griscom, my super supportive semi-unoffocial CrossFit/Triathlon coaches, who helped me so much (check back soon for the huge role CrossFit played in achieving all these goals)! A final thank-you to all the volunteers who spent their Saturday morning helping out!

This is what one second looks like.

Big smiles!
Grils compete with each other, women empower one another.
MHWTC 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Let's Talk About Suicide

A friend of mine sent me this video a couple months ago after the MHWTC End the Stigma Workshop. I finally decided to watch it this weekend after a couple of tough days missing my dad. WOW! I can't believe all the similar themes between John's story and the story I shared at the workshop.

Please, please, please spend just four short minutes watching this video.

John's Story:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jd-schramm/attempted-suicide_b_3328434.html

Here are a couple of quotes that really stood out to me.

John's Story:

"19 out of 20 people who attempt suicide will fail. But the people who fail are 37% more likely to succeed the second time. This truly is an at risk population with very few resources to support them. What happens when people try to assimilate themselves back into life, because of our taboos around suicide, we are not sure what to say; and so quite often we say nothing. This furthers the isolation people in this situation feel."

My Story: 
The last time I saw my dad I knew in my heart there was something seriously wrong. When I looked at him, looking at me, there was emptiness in his eyes where there usually was unconditional love. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. That is something I regret. I was uncomfortable talking to my dad about depression, anxiety, and his thoughts of suicide.

John's Story:

People who have made the difficult choice to come back to life need more resources and our help! I want to encourage you if you are struggling, or know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts to talk about it. Get help. It's a conversation worth having and an idea worth spreading. 

My Story:

My advice to people who are struggling to help a loved one that is depressed or suicidal is, speak up! Speak up about your feelings, even if it is just to say you are scared. Speak up to medical professionals by asking questions. Then ask more questions. Continue asking questions until you get a clear answer. There are so many people who devote their lives to helping others cope with mental illness. Did you know that the National Suicide Prevention hotline is not just for people in crisis? If you are concerned about a loved one they encourage you to call so that you can find out what resources are available in your area. Your call is routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area. I believe silence helps perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. People do not want to talk about these topics because they are uncomfortable, but we need to. We need to so that we can learn, discover, heal, cope, and survive.

It is so important that people begin talking about these topics. I am so happy to be a part of the Bring Change 2 Mind foundation that is dedicated to ending the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide. When we eliminate the stigma people will feel more comfortable reaching out for help and talking about their struggles. Please share this video with anyone you think many benefit from it.