I been having a really good week, so I decided to write down some of the aspects of my life that I feel grateful for.
My cousin, JW, is having a baby with somebody he loves. They recently got married. I am really happy for them.
My sister bought me a Pokemon AirPod case. It’s too big and I can’t use it, but I like that I was thought about. Sometimes I feel like I am constantly thinking about other people and I don’t feel like people really think about me that much. (Although this can all be in my head.)
MJO has been free for two Fridays in a row and was able to attend two family events with me. He is typically not available during my family get-togethers. We also had dim sum with my dad on Sunday. Usually MJO is working during family events and when he is not, I know he just wants to enjoy his free time, so he doesn’t always want to hang out with people. I get it, so it is nice when he is able and willing to. It’s an awesome feeling having everyone I love together. It’s makes me so happy and grateful!
MJO and I explored a park this past Sunday. The weather was gorgeous and it was a fun, leisurely activity for us to bond and get some light exercise sprinkled with some fresh air.
I was able to get back on track with my nutrtion and fitness goals. I know I have been slacking lately, but I forgive myself. I think I may be in the best shape of my life and so if I take a week or two off once in a while, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.
I’ve been feeling very depressed and lethargic. I have no idea why. It’s made me real unmotivated. I am at this point where I don’t want to do anything, but then when I allow myself to be lazy and just lay in bed, I feel bored and ridiculous.
I started this week trying real hard to have a good, productive week. I prepped all my meals and snacks with MJO. I woke up every morning at 4 a.m. with all intentions of working out hard; keeping up with all my chores and errands; eating right; being a pleasant person (LOL); and doing a good job at work.
I worked out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then I just went downhill from there.
Monday 11/04 : CrossFit (WOD included: Ring Rows, Push-ups, Assault Bike, 50ft Front Rack Lunge w/ 1 KB #20, KB Swings #20)
Tuesday 11/05 : 20 minutes of Yoga / 2.25 miles on the treadmill / sit ups on an incline bench
Wednesday 11/06: CrossFit (WOD included rowing, burpees and box jumps or step ups)
Rowing caused a lot of blisters on my hand! Not sure how that happened. It has never happened before. But it seemed fitting at the time, for the way my week was going.
Now I am sitting at work, contemplating my life. Wondering if I could just quit my job and go live under a bridge for the rest of my life. A huge part of the way I have been feeling is probably related to how work has been. It may be time to move on to bigger and better things.
Hopefully next week will be better for me. I can’t have go three weeks in a row of this nonsense!
– I broke my weight loss plateau and also weighed the lowest I have in about 5 years. (Probably longer, there was a long period in my life where I refused to get on the scale.)
– Finally found my love for running again! Yay. I went from being an exercise hater to a person obsessed with running. Then I started slowly gaining weight (5lbs to 10lbs a year). I got so overweight that I started hating movement and fitness. I didn’t even realize that I started hating running again. I was in denial. I would sign up for half marathons thinking that it would motivate me to train, but instead I would NOT train and then hate myself and not be race ready. Then I’d have to muster enough energy to pretty much walk/jog 13.1 miles. Absolutely awful.
– I did pretty good with my planning, logging and tracking this week, especially on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
– Thursday, Friday and Saturday were pretty meh meh. I didn’t do great, but I didn’t do awful either.
Because I like to get in the habit of weighing my food, so I don’t go overboard with my portion sizes.
Because I like to get in the habit of weighing my food, so I don’t go overboard with my portion sizes.
Work Outs This Week
Monday: CrossFit (WOD: Good mornings, snatch-grip deadlifts, waiter’s carry (25lb), supine ring rows, 200m sprints and alternating single-arm dumbbell snatches (20lb)
Tuesday: CrossFit (WOD: Plate hops, air squats, hang cleans (45lbs), front racked kettlebell lunges (20lbs))
Wednesday: 30 minutes of yoga and 2.4 miles on the treadmill.
Thursday:30 minutes of yoga
Friday: Super Scaled 20.3 WOD (aka 18.4) (Kinda)
21-15-9: deadlifts, 85 lb. and hand-release push-ups
21-15-9: deadlifts, 115 lb. and 50-ft. bear crawl
(I think I got caught by the clock somewhere the second round. The time cap was 9 minutes, so I am pretty sure I stopped after 15 deadlifts when I was just about to begin my bear crawl.)
After losing about 30 pounds and 11% body fat, I am 7 pounds from my goal weight. But instead of working hard to get to my goal weight, I have been lollygagging like a fool since May. No goals have been met since I left for Japan.
I have not been seriously focused on my health or fitness, so I decided that for the next month or so, I will work very hard to lose these last 7 pounds. I am giving myself the deadline of Thanksgiving.
To do this, I will:
Plan and track all my meals and snacks (meal prep).
Consume 1,300 calories daily. 40% of those calories will consist of carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat. (Shout out to my gym for breaking down my macros!)
Log everything on MyFitnessPal.
Continue to do CrossFit twice a week; yoga twice a week; and run twice a week (with Sunday being a long run)
Don’t give in to temptations of food. Remind myself that it’s just a month and I can do this.
Every year I get an email reminding me of an auto charge I have scheduled for this domain name (crystalchew.com) and this blog.
And every year, even though I haven’t used it in years, I continue to renew my website.
Why? Just in case I want to do something with it.
This year I decided that I will do something with this.
What am I planning to do? I still haven’t decided. I been thinking about it every day for several weeks.
For now, I’ve decided to use it as a journal for when I’m on the treadmill or working out. I’m going to joint down all my thoughts when I do my best thinking. Then I’m going post it on here and maybe one of my “treadmill thoughts” will inspire a good idea.
It’s not going to be interesting, but it will make me feel less silly for renewing my domain every year just to have it sit here as a blank page.
Today’s work out: 45 minutes of yoga and a 3.15 mile jog/walk on the treadmill.
Losing cognitive functions are a normal part of aging.
An 80-year-old may not remember as sharply as a 20-year-old, but doctors from South Florida have some advice on how to keep the brain sharp and boast mental capabilities.
From exercise and diet to stress reduction, here are some ways to keep the cerebrum young and functioning well.
Studies have shown that physical activity and exercise are associated with less cognitive decline as you age.
A recent observational study published in the American Academy of Neurology asked a group of individuals to describe their physical activity. The people in this group took a brain MRI and did cognitive testing throughout the years.
“Essentially people who recorded doing moderate to heavy physical activity actually had better cognitive performance than people who recorded doing light or no activity,” said Dr. Clinton Wright, scientific director for the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and one of the doctors who conducted the study.
Wright, an associate professor at the medical school, notes that observational studies don’t prove causation, but they do support the idea.
Dr. Deepa Sharma, family medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care, agrees.
“We know that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body including the brain and we know that more blood means more energy and oxygen,” Sharma said.
“That makes our brain perform better and also helps make the rest of our body perform better.”
“Exercise helps increase the number of small blood vessels that bring blood to the brain and build the connection between the nerve cell and the brain, so those are important ways to keep your brain healthy,” Sharma said.
It is also important to keep vascular risk factors checked and well treated. People who smoke, have hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol have shown more mental decline.
“Those things damage the brain, just like they damage the heart and the kidneys,” Wright said. “That damage to the brain has cognitive consequences.”
Keep your brain active
“You have to think of your brain like it’s a muscle,” said Dr. Philip Harvey, clinical psychologist at UHealth — the University of Miami Health System. “Exercise it.”
According to Harvey, mental activity is the single-biggest predictor of staying sharp as you get older.
“For example, if you retired at 55 and watch television all day, your brain at 60 will be like an active person’s brain at 80,” he said.
Harvey is one of the directors at the University of Miami’s Brain Fitness Pavilion, a center that opened in February 2014.
The Brain Fitness Pavilion features comprehensive cognitive programs, neuropsychological assessments, assessments of everyday living skills and a customized brain fitness training program. The center aims to train a person’s memory, concentration, thinking speed and social cognitive abilities like recognizing facial expressions.
This helps older people handle new challenges. Many elderly people must deal with technological difficulties like online banking and bill paying, managing medications through a website and viewing public transportation information.
Insurance companies typically do not pay for cognitive remediation therapy, so visits to the University of Miami’s Brain Fitness Pavilion usually come from a medical savings account or out-of-pocket. The pavilion offers brain training activities that can be done at home for a monthly subscription of $9 per month or a 30-minute coaching session on how to use the program at home for $125.
Doctors advise everyone to get enough sleep, avoid stress and eat a healthy diet. These factors strongly correlate with good brain function as one ages.
“If you can do all that stuff, that’s great,” Harvey said. “Do as much of it as possible, it’s better than not doing it at all.”
Harvey also recommends treating depression through antidepressant medication, stress reduction and psychotherapy.
“Depression is common in older people,” he said. “It’s also very treatable.”
The takeaway: What’s good for the heart is often good for the brain.
▪ For information on the University of Miami’s Brain Fitness Pavilion, call 305-355-9080.
▪ For information on Go4Life, an exercise and physical activity campaign from the National Institute on Aging at NIH, visit an https://go4life.nia.nih.gov.
Sarah Braxton has spent most of her life taking care of her family.
First she took care of her daughter, Pretious Latae Walker, who had open-heart surgery when she was 21 and died about four years later. Then it was her mother, Pauline Mason, who had a heart attack and a stroke in her early 30s. She died two years ago on Christmas Eve.
Even with the history of heart disease in her family, it wasn’t until recently that Braxton, 51, decided to start caring for herself.
The Miami Gardens resident woke up one morning in early January and knew that something wasn’t right. She was having chest pains and was short of breath.
“I kept telling myself that it was going to go away and I was OK,” Braxton said. “But I knew in the back of my mind it wasn’t. Something was wrong.”
She spent one week in the hospital, where she learned about the Green Family Foundation Health Education Learning Program NeighborhoodHELP. Rolled out about six years ago, the program, also funded by the Batchelor Foundation and other nonprofits, pairs students and faculty from Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and other FIU schools with medically underserved families.
The medical teams make house calls, going door to door to help people stay on track with their medications, assess their vital signs and discuss steps they need to make to improve their health.
Today Braxton is doing much better and credits her turnaround to the program.
“I feel 10 years younger,” she said.
NeighborhoodHelp has expanded to several communities, including North Miami, Miami Gardens, Opa-locka, Hialeah, Miami Lakes and South Miami.
The program also has broadened beyond medicine. The outreach team collaborates with more than 150 organizations, such as schools, places of worship and healthcare providers. Often, these groups refer patients to NeighborhoodHelp.
Once in the program, interprofessional teams of FIU faculty and students from the colleges of medicine, public health and social work, nursing, law and education work with the families, going to their homes, diagnosing their medical conditions and helping them resolve legal or socioeconomic issues that come up. The program also hosts cooking classes and provides mobile health centers.
“Ultimately what is more important than the quality of medical care are these other aspects that are considered non-medical,” said Dr. Fred Anderson, Braxton’s primary care doctor from FIU. “We can provide the best care in the world, but if we neglect all these social determinants — the quality of the communities, the quality of schools, legal concerns — you will never make a significant impact in the overall health.
“It’s much more holistic than simply having blood pressure at a certain number.”
In South Miami, Baptist Health South Florida has stepped in, working with FIU’s medical college and the Green Family Foundation. The program, called the South Miami Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP, works with nearly 100 families.
According to Anderson, access to basic needs like schools, safe environments and gainful employment has not been historically emphasized by doctors because they’re not considered medical factors.
When Braxton left the hospital, she was told to find a doctor immediately. With no health insurance, she wasn’t sure what to do. That’s when NeighborhoodHelp stepped in.
“They kind of took over. They came in and set me up with the doctors I needed to see,” Braxton said, who now has access to home visits from medical professionals.
She has grown attached to one FIU medical school student, Andrew Miller, in particular.
“I look forward to my appointments,” Braxton said. “They made me feel like my life mattered.”
For Miller, the key was to implement realistic changes into Braxton’s life.
“When Sarah and I first started talking, our conversation began with what changes she wanted to make,” Miller said. “It wasn’t me just giving her a list. So many times in medicine, doctors will do that for their patients and it’s not something that they want or can necessarily do.”
For the first time, Braxton is taking her medication regularly and is eating a more nutritious and well-balanced diet. Vegetables now make up half of her dinner plate, and she has replaced sugary and salty snacks with almonds, pistachios or carrots.
She and Miller also discussed different ways to exercise, which for Braxton is key because of her sedentary desk job. She loves to walk, but plans to start Zumba soon.
“I really do need to get back to a healthier weight because I know better. Especially after taking care of mom and my daughter,” said Braxton, who helped her daughter, Pretious Latae Walker, lose a significant amount of weight.
At one point, doctors had predicted that Walker would live for only three to six months and suggested she be placed in hospice. Instead, Braxton took Walker home. She weighed almost 600 pounds and with her mother’s help, she lost more than 400 pounds. Walker lived for three more years.
Today, Braxton’s advice to others is simple: Stay positive.
“Believe what your doctors say and work at it,” she said. “Don’t give up.”
On Sunday, thousands woke in the predawn hours and headed to American Airlines Arena, where they ran, ran/walked (intervals) or rode special bikes to compete in the Miami Marathon & Half Marathon.
When they crossed the finish line, they got a rush of adrenaline and took a moment — maybe more — to recover.
But sitting still after the race is not the way to go, say sports medicine doctors and experienced marathoners. In fact, there are important steps to take immediately after a big race, and in the days following it, to prevent injury.
“Research shows that muscle, cellular and immune systems are compromised for two to three weeks post-race, so recovery from a marathon is a critical component,” said Dr. Farah Tejpar, a sport medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston. “Runners who don’t recover properly from a marathon put themselves at increased risk of injury and delayed healing.”
Tejpar recommends resting for at least three to four days after a big race before returning to a normal exercise routine. She suggests starting with low-impact cross training or 20 to 30 minutes easy jogging.
“Don’t rush to compete again. Allow your body the time it needs to recovery,” Tejpar said.
Dr. Thomas San Giovanni, an orthopedic surgeon at Miami Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute of Baptist Health South Florida, concurred that rest is essential.
“The next day, runners want to get right back into running because they figured they’ve reached this maximal fitness and they don’t want to lose that,” said San Giovanni, who is also the co-medical director of the Miami Marathon. “That is a common mistake. You want to give your body some time to rest to allow your body to recuperate and restore.”
He advocates a good night’s rest and a well-balanced meal. To help reduce inflammation, take ice baths and keep legs elevated.
After a race, some people may not be able to distinguish between post-race soreness and an injury because it’s common to feel pain and aches.
“Look for swelling and inflammation that lasts and pain that persists,” San Giovanni said. “As the days go by, if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting better, then you may want to seek medical attention or get evaluated.”
Frankie Ruiz, brand manager for the Miami Marathon and chief running officer at Life Time Fitness, says support is crucial in the period immediately after a race.
“Have somebody near by, so that you can lean on them or in case you might need attention,” Ruiz said. “I definitely recommend somebody walk with you through the recovery and that you’re not by yourself.”
Tracy Smith, a marathon runner and director of physical therapy at Cleveland Clinic, completed the Miami Marathon last January in four hours and 27 minutes. She advises athletes to stay hydrated and get some food immediately after a race. Many marathons are stocked with bananas, oranges, bagels and protein bars for the runners at the end of the race.
“You don’t want to overeat because your body doesn’t really digest at that point,” said Smith, 41, who lives in Davie. “But you have to get some calories and some carbohydrates back in.”
She also advises not to stop after a race.
“The key after is to really keep moving,” Smith said. “Not to cross that finish line and sit down. Walk around and enjoy whatever the marathon has for entertainment.”
Paul Sykes would agree. The 50-year-old Coral Gables resident completed the New York City marathon on Nov. 1 and walked a mile to retrieve his personal items.
“At the time, that felt really bad, but it’s actually the best thing that I could have done,” Sykes said. “The last thing you want to do is run 26.2 miles and then sit down and let your legs seize up.”’
According to Ruiz, marathon organizers kept this in mind. At the Miami Marathon, organizers placed the finish line a quarter of a mile from Bayfront Park, where the food and entertainment awaited.
“There’s a purpose to that,” Ruiz said. “So people don’t just come to a complete halt, throw themselves on the ground, and end up needing medical attention.”
Sykes completed the New York Marathon in four hours and 18 minutes. In total, he has run eight marathons and 25 half-marathons. His biggest advice to others is to stay in shape.
“How you recover is impacted a lot by how you prepare,” said Sykes, who had heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach nine months before the New York City race.
Sykes underwent a minimally invasive method that involved a small, five-centimeter incision, resulting in a quick recovery. He was training just three weeks after his surgery.
His surgeon, Dr. Joseph Lamelas, the chief of cardiac surgery at Mount Sinai, recommended a minimally invasive approach because the recovery is more rapid and patients who are athletes can return more quickly to an active lifestyle.
Marathon runners and doctors also advise runners to congratulate themselves once they cross the finish line. Ruiz believes in rewards such as a massage or a small treat.
“A little bit later in the day, it might be time to reach for that dessert,” Ruiz said. “A scoop of ice cream or a key lime pie.”
Although he doesn’t recommend overindulgence, Ruiz does enjoy a sip of soda after completing a big race.
The countdown begins. The ball in Times Square is about to drop. People will kiss, give a champagne toast and reflect on their new resolutions.
For many, it’s an exciting time. A new beginning.
For alcoholics in recovery, it’s the end of a stressful season filled with temptations and uncomfortable situations.
With the free-flowing alcohol from holiday parties and family gatherings, it is hard for those struggling with addiction to avoid a drink. Adding to that is the difficult household dynamics and tense work relationships.
Tim Myers, 34, knows this well. He took his first sip of booze when he was 15 and struggled to regain sobriety for 10 years.
“When I was first getting sober I would go home for Christmas,” said Myers, originally from upstate New York. He moved to South Florida to get treatment at Caron Renaissance in Boca Raton.
“I would find that the struggle was not always with the alcohol. That was a big part of it, but the struggle was with family members and old friends. That can be hard to rush back into.”
According to a survey done by Caron, nearly 9 out of 10 adults feel that it’s appropriate to drink alcohol during holiday parties.
“It really shows the correlation between the holidays and the increase in alcohol use,” said Brad Sorte, executive director of Caron Renaissance and Caron Ocean Drive in Florida.
“In that same survey, we also found that over half the adults who do drink alcohol experience at least one negative consequence.”
That could include waking up with a hangover or doing something embarrassing.
Today, Myers has been sober for more than five years and attributes his success to preparation.
The TV and radio commercial writer attends extra 12-step meetings during the holiday season. He constantly checks in with his support system and ensures he has a getaway vehicle when he goes to New York for the holidays.
If you are trying to stay sober this New Year’s Eve, here are some tips.
1. Stay connected
Don’t go through tough times alone. Lean on friends, sponsors, therapists, spiritual advisers or pastors.
“If you know the holidays are going to be tough, plan on talking to your sponsor at least once a day,” said David Vittoria, assistant vice president of South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center.
“Staying connected is really, really key.”
2. Take care of yourself
Self-care is imperative during stressful times. Activities like exercise and meditation will help avoid buildup of negative emotions. Dr. Indra Cidambi, an addiction expert and medical director of the Center for Network Therapy in New Jersey, encourages working out, even if it’s just walking 10 minutes a day. She also recommends anything that will help lift spirits, such as getting a massage or going to extra Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and therapy sessions.
“Treat yourself right,” Cidambi said. “If someone is having a lot of interfamily conflicts, then they can visit their therapist, sit down with them and get their dirty laundry out.”
Cidambi also wants people to avoid HALT, her acronym for hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness. It is much easier to avoid temptations when people are at their best.
4. Carry a non-alcoholic beverage
Many experts advise recovering alcoholics to hold a non-alcoholic beverage.
“Hold the beverage in your hand, so that nobody will come and ask you ‘what would you like to drink’ or ‘can I get you a drink?’” Cidambi said.
5. Rehearse saying no
Practice saying no, so that it comes naturally. Don’t feel pressured to give an explanation. Just be graceful and firm, so that other people understand that not everyone may want to drink during the holidays.
6. Have an exit plan
“People who expect they’re going to have a difficult time at a party where there is a lot of alcohol should plan ahead,” Vittoria said.
“If you have to communicate ahead of time that you have to leave early, apologize in advance. Sometimes giving word of an early exit might help, especially new folks in recovery.”
7. Have a conversation
Some situations are made easier when everything is out in the open.
“Families entering the holiday when they have a loved one who has been struggling with alcohol, deal with their own set of challenges,” Sorte said.
“It’s very important for both the individual with the alcohol issues and the family to have open communication.”
Supporting each other and talking about different strategies to stay sober will help.
8. Attend an alcathon
Most communities have around-the-clock AA meetings during the holidays called alcathons.
People who don’t feel comfortable at a New Year’s Eve party don’t have to sit at home or be alone.
“You just have to walk in and introduce yourself,” Myers said. “It’s the most welcoming organization in the planet.”
9. Get help after a relapse
Some people who are trying to stay sober may have a slip.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that about 16.6 million adults have an alcohol-use disorder, and alcohol-related death is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with approximately 88,000 patients dying annually.
Dr. Ihsan Salloum, the chief of substance and alcohol abuse at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, believes that relapsing may cause a catastrophic reaction.
“They say ‘well I slipped, so what is the use? I’m going to drink more and enjoy it,’ and they continue drinking,” Salloum said.
“But for somebody with an alcohol problem, the best thing to do is to stop drinking, get themselves out of the situation and seek help.”
And when his mother died of a stroke in 1996, he soon found himself living on the streets of Miami.
“To be homeless it kind of dehumanizes you and impacts you psychologically,” said Meade, 48. “There’s this divide to want better for yourself, but I didn’t have the ability to get better until I sought treatment.”
By his late 20s, Meade began receiving treatment through Chapman Partnership, a nonprofit organization that provides services such as housing, healthcare and job placement for Miami’s homeless community. Since 1995, Chapman has helped more than 100,000 people, including 20,000 children. Its campus-like setting houses 5,000 people a year and provides more than 875,000 meals annually.
Organizations like Chapman and HOPE South Florida, a Fort Lauderdale-based nonprofit that helps families in immediate crisis, have helped give homeless people a second chance.
While going through the drug treatment program at Chapman, Meade attended Miami Dade College and graduated with his associate’s degree in 2010. He then enrolled at Florida International University and graduated last fall.
Today he is leading efforts to restore voting rights for formerly convicted felons in Florida. Felons and ex-felons lose their right to vote in Florida, Iowa and Kentucky.
“The majority of these people never served time in prison and are convicted for nonviolent offenses. That’s almost 2 million individuals,” Meade said. “I want to restore some kind of dignity to these individuals by at least giving them the ability to vote and be more active in their community.”
Meade credits success to Chapman.
“Because of the role that Chapman Partnership played in my life, I am able to do things now that impact the lives of other people,” Meade said.
Chapman Partnership has a 64 percent success rate of integrating homeless people into society.
“A lot of people are just one paycheck, disaster or tragedy away from being on the streets,” Meade said. “Nobody grows up thinking they want to be homeless.’’
Nicole Howson agrees. After completing a program with Women in Distress, a Broward shelter for domestic abuse victims, and finding the courage to leave an abusive relationship, Howson found herself with nowhere to go. She had to send her 2-year-old daughter to Georgia to stay with relatives while she tried to save money for an apartment.
“That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” said Howson, 25, who is a brand ambassador for a promotional company. “She has never really spent any time away from me.”
Howson, who was making minimum wage at the time, says that coworkers and friends weren’t aware she was homeless.
“It’s stressful not knowing where you’re going to sleep, where you’re going to be and how to take a shower before work,” she said. “Trying to keep it secret was very stressful.”
Howson was relieved when she received a call from HOPE South Florida. On any given day, HOPE South Florida provides housing to about 100 households. The nonprofit has a success rate of 80 percent, meaning families go on to find permanent housing or maintain housing stability. Last year, HOPE provided 31,000 meals and served 150 single mothers.
“There is a new model of serving people who are homeless,” said Robin Martin, executive director of HOPE South Florida. “It’s getting them housed in their own apartments as quickly as possible.”
Through HOPE, Howson got an apartment, and after two months was reunited with her daughter. She now plans to enroll in school to study journalism.
He dreamed of becoming a doctor. He even had a job lined up at Baptist Hospital in Kendall before he completed his service for the Marine Corps in December 2006.
“I thought I was going to be fine,” said Edwin Vasco González, who joined the Marines in December 2002.
Six months later, he quit his job at the hospital and he was far from fine. González was experiencing just how difficult and unnerving the shift to civilian life can be compared to the years of discipline and structure in the military.
“I was going through a lot at the time and I didn’t have a lot of support,” González said. “ I was doing poorly psychologically and emotionally.”
Like many veterans, González, 31, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He tried to find a place and sense of purpose through jobs and education. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University, where he studied sport physiology.
“I didn’t really like anything I was doing because I felt like I wasn’t doing anything positive for other people,” he said.
González was lost until he found Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization based in St. Louis that aims to empower veterans through community service.
“It was something that I had been missing,” said the Kendall resident, who completed a six-month fellowship for the organization.
He soon found what he was lacking by being around other veterans and doing community service projects.
Now González is the first Miami service platoon leader for the organization. He hopes to help other South Florida veterans cope with adjusting to civilian life, while giving them the opportunity to continue to serve the public.
The organization, which has about 270 members, meets the first Saturday of each month. They host and assist with many events and service projects.
In June, Miami’s Mission Continues hosted a PTSD/Suicide Awareness Walk.
“In our country, at least 22 veterans commit suicide every single day. That’s almost one an hour,” said Tabitha Aragon, a reactionary therapist at the Miami VA. “A lot of our platoon members focus on trying to keep that suicide rate from increasing and to hopefully bring it down.”
Aragon, who has worked for the VA for 12 years, is not a veteran but volunteers at Mission Continues because she sees the daily struggle that veterans go through.
“Transition is very hard. The way military works is so different,” Aragon said. “They were in a combat zone, under high stress for months, day in and day out.”
She sees many young veterans return feeling lost, lacking support and having survivor’s guilt. To her, having an organization run by veterans, for veterans helps with these issues.
In August, the organization hosted a tree-planting event at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, where they planted 1,000 trees.
For Shane Suzuki, 34, doing great things for the community with people who have a common background is important.
“I think Mission Continues is different because it’s so oriented around service; we’re not just getting together and telling war stories,” said the Marine Corps veteran who was deployed in 2005 to Ramadi, Iraq.
“We’re getting together, telling war stories, while we’re doing something worthwhile in the community.”
People from every branch of service participate in the organization, and they often bring their families and friends.
Stacy Roman, 30, a member of the platoon, was among those who planted trees. The Barry University student was in the Marines for 10 years and has gone through her own challenges when she came to Miami two years ago.
For her, the organization helps to bring awareness to veterans.
“Sometimes there is a bad stigma for veterans,” said Roman, who is a sales representative for the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. “We’re 1 percent of America; 99 percent of America isn’t going to adjust and try to understand us 1 percent. Us 1 percent has to figure out a way to adapt.”
For González, Mission Continues is a platform for veterans to make lasting impact.
“We have to feel like we count for something,” he said. “Which is what we try to build with the platoon. We make veterans feel like they are greater than themselves again. They are pulling for one common goal and doing something positive.”
When civic leaders note the number of homeless on the streets of Miami has dropped from 8,000 to 1,000, the talk often shifts to the help offered through the years.
And much of that help has come through the Chapman Partnership, founded by the late publishing executive Alvah Chapman.
The nonprofit, which serves the homeless by providing housing, services for children and job placement, celebrated its 20th anniversary on Saturday with a gala at the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami.
Chapman has helped more than 100,000 homeless, including 20,000 children, since 1995. With a 64 percent success rate, the organization has placed many people in permanent residences or transitional housing — four times the national average.
The organization believes the key to solving homelessness lies in empowering people with ways to become self-sufficient and contributing members of society through stable jobs and affordable housing.
“We provide more than just a bed and a meal,” said Alec Rosen, a spokesman for Chapman. “The empowerment comes with giving the residents the proper care, tools and training, so they become self-sufficient in their life.”
Chapman provides residents with a medical and dental clinic, a psychiatrist and a case manager to help people succeed.
Desmond Meade, a former resident at Chapman, understands the importance of these tools because they helped him get off the streets and into law school.
“My time in Chapman played a significant role in what I am doing now,” said Meade, 48, a graduate of Florida International University’s College of Law. “That was the first place where I was able to go to get my mind right, properties in order and then understanding the grand scheme of things.”
Meade, who lived on the streets in his late 20s, believed that nobody cared about him and the other homeless, but he soon found out that isn’t always the case.
“There’s a great deal of people out there that do care about the homeless and are taking steps to address those issues,” he said.
“Knowing that there are people out there, like Chapman Partnership, that care about humanity as a whole serves as a source of inspiration and motivation.”
While some facets of the 1715 treasure fleet disaster remain a mystery, one thing is certain: coins and artifacts continue to wash up on Treasure Coast shores.
People who scrounge the beaches with metal detectors hope to recover some of those precious fleet treasures and anything of monetary value.
Members of the Treasure Coast Archeological Society, founded in 1988 by a group of metal detectorists, are driven by a variety of reasons.
Mitch King, the organization’s vice president, has found two silvers rings from the 1715 fleet, but he considers some of his best finds, the rings he’s been able to reunite with people who have lost them.
Photo Caption: Al Zilinsky (left) and John Zias (right) from Unlimited Devotion, a Grateful Dead tribute band performing at Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville earlier this year. (PROVIDED)
First and foremost, Al Zilinsky considers himself a businessman.
But when he was younger, his life revolved around the Grateful Dead. His main focus was on how to get tickets to their concerts.
“I didn’t even worry about food,” Zilinsky said. “Now I’m more balanced.”
Today the 52-year-old’s life centers around his family and his career, but he remains a deadhead for life. In his spare time, he is the rhythm guitarist for Unlimited Devotion, a Grateful Dead tribute band that performs all around Florida. They played June 20 at Terra Fermata.
Zilinsky has been to approximately 250 Grateful Dead concerts, his first was 1977 in Tampa.
The guitarist will be one of the many Florida “Deadheads” attending Grateful Dead reunion shows June 27 and 28 in Santa Clara, California, and July 4 through 6 in Chicago.
“These will be some of the most popular concerts in history,” Zilinsky said of the shows that will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the band and feature four of its surviving and original members.
He’s been spotted in Hollywood, outer space and jungle safaris. Now you can search for him in Vero Beach.
The Vero Beach Book Center wants everyone to find Waldo, not in the familiar children’s books, but around town.
The character, known for his red and white strip shirt and black-rimmed specs, will be hidden in 25 local businesses such as the book center, Majestic 11 movie theater, ACT Computers and Chive restaurant during July.
PHOTO CAPTION: Treasure Coast Comic Con attendees enter the inaugural event Saturday morning at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center. (CHRISTOPHER ARNOLD/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS)
The thousands of people dressed like their favorite fictional characters who swarmed into the Port St. Lucie Civic Center over the weekend helped make the Treasure Coast’s inaugural Comic Con a success, according to organizers.
John Mangan, CEO of South Florida Event Management, said more than 10,000 attended the two-day event. He estimates 50 percent were locals and said 25 percent of ticket sales came from Vancouver, Canada.
Mangan said there was a need for a fun, different event, catering to a younger crowd and it was reflected in the attendance.
There were a few snags in ticketing and getting people in the venue as quickly as they would have liked, but the event organizers said Comic Con was a huge success. “We knocked it out of the park,” Mangan said.
PHOTO CAPTION: Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson (12) runs against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of their NFL football game in Kansas City, Missouri, on Dec. 14, 2014. Wilson, a Port St. Lucie High School graduate, will be in Vero Beach June 27 for a charity event. (REED HOFFMANN/AP FILE PHOTO)
It was never a question of whether or not Albert Wilson was going to be successful, it was more about how he would one day give back to the community that has helped him become who he is today.
“He was very driven and strong willed,” said Hilary Poole, his high school football coach, “one of the most focused people I have ever come across. Once he set his mind to something, that was it.”
As a student at Port St. Lucie High School, Wilson, the current wide receiver of the Kansas City Chiefs, wondered how he could make a difference. He asked one of his mentors, Marylin Richardson-Pryor for her advice.
“Make good choices and give back to your community,” said Richardson-Pryor, who was a school-based social worker at the time. “Seek the right path and choose a productive life.”
Taking her wisdom to heart, Wilson will return to Indian River County July 27 for a charity fashion show hosted by Moral Value Love Sincerity Trust, Inc., run by four women, including Richardson-Pryor.
PHOTO CAPTION: The building on Orange Avenue in downtown Fort Pierce, which houses Art Mundo and Anytime Fitness recently was acquired by Steve Tarr and his company, OneEleven LLC. (CRYSTAL CHEW/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS)
The changes have already begun.
The building on Orange Avenue in downtown Fort Pierce, which houses Art Mundo and Anytime Fitness, was bought in May by developer Steve Tarr.
His goal is to include the building in a plan to make Fort Pierce Florida’s next big arts destination.
The building is approximately 35,000 square feet; about 5 percent is used for gym space and the remainder is for art. Art Mundo has a downstairs loft and third-floor gallery space with studios for rent.
“We’re going to create a brand for the building,” Tarr said of the acquisition he calls the OneEleven building.
Photo Caption: David FitzSimmons, freelance photographer and writer, has a childbook’s series, Curious Critters. The third book, Curious Critters Marine is shown in photograph.
When David FitzSimmons was in elementary school, his mom, a high school English teacher at the time, would take him to a children’s literature conference at Ohio State University. It was there the landscape and wildlife photographer’s love for books grew.
FitzSimmons’s dad was an outdoor educator and would often bring home such animals as snakes, turtles and lizards. His love of nature grew.Now, the 45-year-old author hopes to spread that love through his series of “Curious Critters” children’s books, which he will present at the
Now, the 45-year-old author hopes to spread that love through his series of “Curious Critters” children’s books, which he will present at the Vero Beach Book Center June 9.
Photo Caption: Alexandra Phelan, 33, applies makeup during a ‘Look Good, Feel Better’ event hosted by the American Cancer Society at Mount Siani Medical Center in Miami Beach on May 4. (MATIAS J. OCNER/MIAMI HERALD STAFF)
BY CRYSTAL CHEW AND MATIAS J. OCNER
Emma Rodriguez, a colon cancer survivor, recalls a time when she had to go through continuous infusion chemotherapy.
The 60-year-old Surfside resident would arrive at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and leave with a pump device that would infuse her chemotherapy over two days. She would then return to the hospital to get the pump removed. She did this every 15 days for six months.“It was really rough,” said Rodriguez, who had a very large tumor removed from her upper right colon and completed the chemotherapy in May 2013.
“It was really rough,” said Rodriguez, who had a very large tumor removed from her upper right colon and completed the chemotherapy in May 2013.She was cleared of cancer, but the challenges did not end there. Like many cancer survivors, Rodriguez had new difficulties arise, from managing pain to building up her physical and emotional strength.
She was cleared of cancer, but the challenges did not end there. Like many cancer survivors, Rodriguez had new difficulties arise, from managing pain to building up her physical and emotional strength.
Photo caption: Two-time Grammy nominated song writer and country blues musician Lee Roy Parnell performed May 16 at Terra Fermata in Stuart. (HOBIE HILER/ SPECIAL TO TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS)
Regulars at Terra Fermata, the live outdoor music venue in Stuart, might have noticed some changes since its opening in early 2013.
The establishment on Sixth Street, just off Colorado Avenue, plays live music every night and the featured artists have been slowly transitioning from local bands to more national acts like The Original Wailers or festival favorites, Donna the Buffalo. Lee Roy Parnell, a two-time Grammy and three-time Country Music Award nominated artist performed last weekend.
“We are keeping up with our aggressive agenda of attracting national touring bands,” said Ronald Hart, owner of Terra Fermata, who recently booked Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Leon Russell to perform July 23.
To Hart, booking Russell is a huge deal, especially since booking national music acts was his original goal all along.
Shortly after marrying John Somerville, his wife Donna noticed a drastic change in his behavior: He was walking differently and his face had turned blank.
“It was like he had a stroke,’’ said Donna, who later learned her husband had Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that develops gradually and causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
John was an avid athlete who had no previous health issues and had retired as a fire captain. He had worked for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue for 31 years.
Donna, a former educator with Miami-Dade Schools, scrambled to figure out how to take care of her husband for the next eight years. He died on Jan. 7. He was 62.
After an intense year of brainstorming, researching and inventing a product to alleviate malnutrition around the world, seven students at Gulliver Preparatory School have won the Best Presentation Award at the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge.
For the students at the Pinecrest school, their task at hand has just begun.
The award for presenting their project at Kennedy Space Center last week was just one achievement in a list of goals.
“Our goal with the actual presentation wasn’t to win the competition,” said Louis Hamilton, 16, one of the students who focused on producing the prototype. “It’s getting people to watch it from all over the world.”
Gulliver is part of Project Lead The Way, one of the nation’s leading providers of K-12 STEM programs. It serves more than 6,500 schools around the country.
About this time last year, Surfside residents were displeased to find a significant amount of new sand from a construction site dumped on their beach. Since then, the sand has been a hot topic and has yet to be removed.
Last March, Fort Capital, a real estate investment management company based in Miami, dug up sand from underneath the construction site on 9011 Collins Ave., the site of a hotel and condominium called the Surf Club.
Florida law says excavated sand must be placed near the site from which it came. As such, the developer spread the sand over Surfside’s public beach.
The state’s law also says the sand must be compatible with the existing sand, but residents believed the sand was completely different, even calling it dirt. They voiced their concerns about the toxicity of the sand during various town hall meetings and claim that they find debris like metal nails and concrete boulders on a daily basis, even after numerous sand sifting activities.
Students in an experimental science class at Cutler Bay Academy Senior High School have spent that past couple of months working in the school’s wood shop to construct their own solar powered electric kit car. The vehicle fully charges in a couple hours, runs for about 40 minutes and goes 25 to 30 mph.
Through a vote, it was decided that junior Gabriel Hechavarria, 17, will be racing the car in the FIA Formula E Miami ePrix race this Saturday against nine other schools, all of which received a grant from Florida Power & Light that provided schools with kit cars.
For Carl Toussaint, the hardest part of being stationed in Afghanistan was watching his four young children grow up on a computer screen.
“Out of all the things that happened over there, that was the worst,” said Toussaint, 40, an Army soldier who spent a year away from home.
On Saturday, Toussaint, along with hundreds of others, participated in a Dads, Fathers & Kids event hosted by All Pro Dad at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. The event kicked off a partnership between Family First and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Anthony “Tony” Turturici lives by the rule that exercise is the key to everything.
The 89-year-old Hollywood Hills resident who suffered his first heart attack in 1998, picked up the habit to keep moving after undergoing a quintuple bypass, an open heart surgery done to treat severely blocked arteries that feed the heart.
He attended 36 one-hour sessions of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation classes for three months at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood and credits the program for being alive and well today.
“I don’t think I would have survived without it,” he said.
With a New Year came a new manager for the Town of Surfside.
The Surfside town commission unanimously approved Guillermo Olmedillo, 70, as the seaside town’s next manager. He began on Jan. 5 and will succeed Michael Crotty, who became town manager in March 2013 and resigned last June.
To escape the tedious task of calorie counting by pen and paper, Mike Lee, a programmer who wanted to shed some pounds for his beach wedding, created the nutrition tracker, MyFitnessPal.
Ten years later, MyFitnessPal has helped 75 million users lose 180 million pounds.
Among them is Andrea Ceballos, a Zumba fitness instructor, who has lost 80 pounds thanks to her love for Zumba and the MyFitnessPal app on her iPhone and iPad.
The South Miami resident, originally from the Dominican Republic, was overweight when she moved to Miami five years ago. Zumba helped her lose some of the weight, but she needed more.
“Every time I lost about 20 pounds I plateaued,” said Ceballos, who teaches about 12 classes a week. “And that’s when I started to realize unless I changed my eating habits I wasn’t going to lose any further. That’s when MyFitnessPal came along and helped me.”
The app keeps track of the nutritional value of about four million food items while also tracking a user’s exercise. It has the option to sync with 60 other apps like Fitbit Tracker, MapMyFitness and Garmin Connect.
Here then are our picks for the best nutrition and fitness apps.
Surfside has been stuck in the sand — or at least it’s how many residents feel.
In March, a developer, Fort Capital, dug up sand from underneath the construction site on 9011 Collins Ave., the site of a hotel and condominium called the Surf Club. Florida law says excavated sand must be placed near the site from which it came. As such, the developer spread the sand over Surfside’s public beach.
But many residents said the sand was completely different, even calling it dirt. To them, the beach was no longer the same. Florida law also says the sand must be compatible with the existing sand.
Residents grew more concerned when toxicology reports indicated levels of arsenic higher than state residential guidelines. Experts hired by town staff and Miami-Dade County Health Department, however, said the sand posed a low risk to human or pet health.