The dog days of summer are here. That means millions of Americans are on vacation… taking time away from their daily routines and hectic schedules to relax and enjoy life.
At least that’s the idea.
I don’t know about you, but vacations wear me out! Planning and preparing for a trip can be overwhelming. Travelling is fun, but can also be exhausting. When I get home, it can take days to “catch up.”
Hardly seems worth it!
Well, let me tell you about the summer getaway that has completely changed my “bah humbug” attitude about vacations.
I just spent three magical days in a vacation paradise. No, it wasn’t the south of France, Fiji or any other exotic travel destination halfway around the world. My three days of perfect rest and relaxation happened close to home on beautiful Santa Catalina Island.
Nine “gal-pals” from San Diego and Los Angeles converged Friday morning on the Long Beach ferry terminal and boarded the Catalina Express for the start of a girl’s weekend like no other… a getaway fit for a king! And I mean that literally!
We stayed at the historic Inn on Mt. Ada… a magnificent mansion (owned by the Wrigley family) that has played host to royalty, dignitaries and celebrities since the 1920’s. Fortunately, now anyone can reserve a room at the iconic Inn.
And oh! What a treat!
Once inside, I didn’t know where to look first! The Inn is perched high atop a hill overlooking the town and harbor of Avalon, Catalina Island’s only city. From it’s many windows, the Inn commands eye-popping views of the canyon, hills, town, ocean and harbor.
We’d booked five of the six spectacular rooms at the Inn. The peace was palpable as we settled in to our beautiful, restful bedrooms. We later gathered downstairs to experience the charm of the historic Inn and the comfortable elegance of a bygone era.
For the next three days, we practiced relaxing. In the den, on the sun porch, buried in over-stuffed chairs in the living room, swaying in wicker rockers on the picturesque terrace wrapped around the home… our home, for the next three fabulous days.
From a homey pantry, we could indulge in fresh fruit, mixed nuts, soft drinks, beers, wines, ice cream sundaes (!!!) popcorn, coffee, teas and cocoa. A hearty breakfast, lovely lunch and appetizers served by a hostess in the evening are all included in the price of your room.
We were pampered with comfy robes, hair dryers, movies, games and music. We even had our own golf carts to cruise around Avalon. Free to come and go, we shopped, hiked, zip-lined and even took in a movie in the beautifully restored old Casino Theater.
Ocean breezes lulled us to sleep. We awoke to the aroma of fresh coffee and hot homemade muffins just outside our bedroom doors. That’s right. Breakfast in bed in the “Windsor Room.” Turns out, the cozy corner room with wraparound views has hosted many famous guests, including Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding and yes, the Prince of Wales. In this case, it was only yours, truly and my dear friend, Janine!
But the Inn on Mt. Ada is more than fun, food and a place of peace. It is the perfect setting for lotsa laughs and fellowship with friends, old and new. No one wanted to break the spell by leaving our “island home,” but all good things must come to an end.
So, Sunday afternoon, we boarded the ferry, headed back to the mainland and back to reality - refreshed, rested, and ready-to-go!
Back from a vacation… in every sense of the word!
For more than thirty years, I’ve been blessed to be part of a great group of women… eight faithful, caring, fun-loving friends who also happen to take birthdays very seriously.
In fact, our “birthday group” boldly celebrates aging up with a lively luncheon for each lady - complete with fabulous food, crazy greeting cards, special gifts, lotsa laughs and gobs of gab!
I love those luncheons- until it’s my turn to host one.
You see, my friends are all highly skilled, domestic divas! Me? I would rather address a joint session of Congress than prepare lunch for eight. But with a sense of humor, a few short cuts, and encouraging friends, I somehow get through it.
This year, when my birthday rolled around, the “girls” surprised me with a gift that keeps on giving… a packet of recipes even I can’t screw up!
They gave me their easiest, tastiest, no-fail, favorite dishes and boy, has dinner taken a turn for the better around our house!
In the coming months, I’m going to share a few of these delicious dishes with you… starting with this incredible pasta recipe from Marlena Brown. Just toss all the ingredients in a big bowl. Then sit back and enjoy the oo’s and ah’s!!
Marlena’s Pesto Pasta
1 jar Classico Pesto (or any brand you choose. I like Buitoni. You’ll find it in the refrigerator section at Vons)
1 6-oz. jar of sundried tomatoes (no need to drain)
1 4-oz. jar of capers, drained
1 4-oz can sliced olives
1 ½ pounds chicken, cooked
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 lb. pasta, cooked (I love whole grain)
Toss ingredients together.
Take a bow!
Don’t I just have the best friends?! Stay tuned for Kendra Dawson’s awesome posole!!
Have you ever wondered what’s so super about “superfoods?”
Somehow, I managed to live more than 55 years without acai? I still can barely pronounce it. I think it’s (ah-sah-EE.) Oh, I’ve tried to incorporate the all-star berry into my diet, but like pomegranate, another fruit rock star, to me it tastes like dirt.
Kale may be the current king of the leafy greens, but hey, it’s an acquired taste.
Actually, I just read about another trendy green that might give kale some competition. It’s the “fiddlehead.” I’m serious! Fiddlehead is a curly fern that’s getting a lot of buzz as the next “fit food.”
Lately there’s been so much focus on these nutritional newcomers that less glamorous fruits and veggies are sometimes treated like second-class citizens.
Fortunately researchers are discovering new reasons to get excited about the old stand-bys! The best part? You probably already stock many of them in your kitchen.
The crunchy green is back on the must-eat list as a potential cancer fighter. It’s a top source of a flavonoid called apigenin. The substance activates a chemical reaction inside diseased cells, causing them to self-destruct. No one is suggesting celery can cure cancer, but scientists say over time a diet containing apigenin-rich foods may help prevent the disease.
The skins of these snackable bites are bursting with resveratrol…the same superstar antioxidant that helps make red wine good for your heart. A recent study has discovered that resveratrol may also aid in boosting immunity…by helping increase levels of a molecule that kills bacteria and viruses. In fact, adding grapes to your diet may even protect you from contracting infections in the first place.
For years, fungi have been thought to be heart healthy and immunity boosting. Now science shows that they may even help prevent breast cancer by lowering estrogen levels. Cancer researcher Dr. Shiuan Chen found that when postmenopausal women consumed 13 grams of mushroom powder (the equivalent of one and a third cups of white button mushrooms) per day for three months, their estrogen production dropped by 27%.
Researchers have long known that smokers have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s. And while no doctor would encourage lighting up, there may be another way to get the benefit: peppers. They’re a safe source of nicotine, which may protect dopamine-producing cells. The results of a study published in the “Annals of Neurology” found that eating bell peppers twice a week or more was associated with at least a 30 percent reduced risk of Parkinson’s.
Talk about super foods!
And there’s more. Remember the old rule, “eat the rainbow?” When nutrition experts first urged us to fill our plates with brightly hued produce, it made sense. They were just discovering the powerful benefits of a crayon box of antioxidants – from red (lycopene in tomatoes) to blue and purple (anthocyanins in berries and grapes) to orange (beta carotene in carrots).
Well, guess what? Nutrition experts now admit, “white is a color, too!” Cauliflower packs the powerful cancer-combating compounds also found in its flashy cousin, broccoli. Garlic and onions may be pale, but they protect against stomach and colorectal cancer. And Portobello and cremini mushrooms are just as rich in antioxidants as green beans, carrots and red peppers.
So don’t let so-called “superfoods” crowd out staples that are just as nutritious. When it comes to fresh produce, whatever the color, it’s all good!
What began as a pleasant bike ride took a potentially dangerous turn recently.
You see, I’m training for a bicycle tour in Iowa the end of July. Hoping to be prepared for the seven-day, 300-mile trek across the Hawkeye State, I’ve been slowly upping my mileage since early spring.
So far, so good.
That is, until something went terribly wrong on a typical training ride. It was hot and dry with Santa Ana winds. I though it would be good training since the July heat in Iowa can be oppressive and the headwinds a real challenge.
At 18 miles, I started feeling “funny…” mildly nauseous, cool, and clammy. As I pedaled down the Strand in Coronado, I found myself mildly disoriented.
Then I got scared. I thought back to the 16 ounces of water I chugged before taking off two hours earlier… then checked the water bottle on my bike and saw it was still half full.
That’s when I realized I’d become severely dehydrated.
After downing the remainder of my water, I slowly rode home. Exhausted and a little shaky, I gratefully realized it could have been a lot worse.
It’s not like I don’t know the importance of getting enough water. How could any of us forget the timeless mantra reminding us to “drink eight glasses of water a day?” But with added activity, excessive heat and low humidity, I should have been drinking eight ounces an hour!
As we head into what’s expected to be an especially hot summer, don’t make my mistake. Get plenty of H2O. Need more motivation? Here are a few more reasons to keep your water bottle close by.
Stay Slimmer With Water
Trying to lose weight? Water revs up your metabolism and helps you feel full. Replace calorie-filled beverages with water and drink a glass before meals to help you feel fuller. Drinking more water helps amp up metabolism – especially if your glass is icy cold. Your body must work to warm up the water burning a few extra calories in the process.
Water Boosts Your Energy
If you’re feeling drained and depleted, get a pick-me-up with water. Dehydration makes you feel tired. The right amount of water will help your heart pump your blood more effectively. Plus, water can help your blood transport oxygen and other essential nutrients to your cells.
Lower Stress With Water
Up to 80 percent of your brain tissue is water. If you’re dehydrated, your body and your mind are stressed. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already a little dehydrated. To keep stress levels down, keep a glass of water at your desk or carry a sports bottle and sip regularly.
Build Muscle With Water
Drinking water helps prevent muscle cramping and lubricates joints in the body. When you’re well hydrated, you can exercise longer and stronger without “hitting the wall.”
Nourish Your Skin
Fine lines and wrinkles are deeper when you’re dehydrated. Water is nature’s own beauty cream! Drinking water hydrates skin cells and plumps them up, making your face look younger. It also flushes out impurities and improves circulation and blood flow, helping your skin glow.
Stay Regular With Water
Along with fiber, water is important for good digestion. Water helps dissolve waste particles and passes them smoothly through your digestive tract.
Water Reduces Kidney Stones
The rate of painful kidney stones is rising. One of the reasons could be because people including children aren’t drinking enough water. Kidney stones can’t form in diluted urine, so reduce your risk with plenty of water.
So, are you getting enough water? According to Web MD, most healthy adults get enough to drink by letting thirst guide them. But the exact amount you need depends on your size, level of activity, the weather and your general health. As I learned the hard way, you may need more water, if you exercise or sweat heavily.
Every summer, my home state of Iowa hosts one of the premiere bicycling events in the country. July 20 marks the start of the 42nd annual RAGBRAI – an acronym for the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. It’s the granddaddy of all cross-state bike rides, drawing cyclists from around the world. This year, for the first time, I plan to be among the 10,000 riders pedaling 450 miles across the Hawkeye state.
I’ve been training several months for the ride…slowly increasing my mileage and the all-important “fanny time” every cyclist needs to prepare for seven days in the saddle!
Completely out of my comfort zone, I’m grateful for advice and encouragement from my biking pals, good health to keep up with the training and the best place on earth to ride a bike.
It’s true! San Diego is the center of the universe when it comes to cycling. Cyclists who come here to train know it as Bike City, USA. And you don’t have to be a competitor to enjoy the benefits. There are 510 existing miles in San Diego’s bicycle network – an additional 595 additional miles are proposed by 2030.
While I’ve enjoyed (more like survived!) fabulous rides both in north and east counties – my favorite training rides have been along the beautiful Bayshore Bikeway. And apparently, I’m not alone. The 24-mile bicycle route is rated tops by San Diego County Bicycle Coalition and is a bicycling destination for thousands of riders every day.
I just love the 13 miles of bike paths that make up the car-free bikeway. It’s safe, well maintained and great for an intense workout or relaxing ride. The rest of the route consists of on-street sections designated as either bicycle lanes or bicycle routes.
Whether you’re training for RAGBRAI or just want a ride with a view, this is an iconic, must-do cycling tour of San Diego’s bay shore. Starting downtown, hitch a ride (your bike, too!) with “Flagships’ Coronado Ferry” or “Water Taxi” across the Bay. Then start your ride after docking at the Coronado Ferry Landing. The Bikeway makes its way through Coronado along the Silver Strand through Imperial Beach and Chula Vista and back into downtown San Diego.
The route is mostly flat, but definitely lengthy, so bring plenty of water and snacks. Most of the opportunities to stop and eat are at either end of the course. And while the ocean breezes keep you cool, they can also kick up in the afternoon, causing strong head and crosswinds. Just allow enough time and stay fueled and hydrated and you’ll have a blast while getting a great workout.
The Bayshore Bikeway is just one more reason San Diego is America’s Finest City. And from your bike, San Diego Bay never looked so good!
For all you “foodies” out there, this may be hard to believe, but I have never watched the Food Network. I can’t tell you where to find the Cooking Channel either.
I realize it’s my loss. It seems everyone I know loves to watch and learn from cooking shows. And while I could certainly use a little help in the kitchen (just ask my long-suffering husband!), I’ve just never found slicing and dicing or simmering and sautéing all that interesting to watch.
Until I met Melissa d’Arabian!
Left: Melissa d'Arabian (3rd from left) with emcee, Pat Brown (left), yours truly and friend, Vicki Hesterman.
The New York Times best-selling cookbook author, host of “Ten Dollar Dinners,” and winner of the “Next Food Network Star” recently wowed a crowd of 400 as the keynote speaker at my church’s (First United Methodist Church, San Diego) annual “Spring Fling” women’s luncheon.
Melissa may be a pretty face, a celebrity chef, and an engaging TV host, but as she shared her compelling life story, it became clear she also possesses an inner beauty and depth of character not often seen in the celebrity world.
Early in her work life, d’Arabian found success in corporate America. She received her MBA from Georgetown University and was enjoying a career in corporate finance when she met her now husband, Philippe, in Paris.
When the two returned to the States and started their family in Coronado, d’Arabian made a career shift to stay-at-home mom. And with four daughters close in age, her work schedule was packed full.
One challenge was figuring out how to feed four young children on a sustainable budget, but with her love of cooking and financial savvy, d’Arabian discovered how to kill two birds with one stone. She began making her own baby food and yogurt at home. “I was saving $125 to $150 a month on yogurt alone!” she says.
The idea became so popular among her friends and family, she began self-recording home yogurt-making tutorials on her cell phone to share with even more moms.
The concept of combining delicious recipes and money-saving techniques spread quickly leading to her victory on season five of Food Network’s “The Next Food Network Star.”
That was five years ago and the TV competition was true to its name. Melissa is now well known as the star of Food Network’s “Ten Dollar Dinners.” She has a best-selling cookbook of the same name and her second book is due out soon. She is also featured in numerous publications.
But Melissa’s successes are just part of her story. The gifted, bright-eyed beauty is also a down-to-earth, passionate woman of faith…a faith that has carried her through life’s trials, including her mother’s suicide when Melissa was only 19 years old.
As Melissa shared, it became clear that success and celebrity are not what’s most important in her life. Her main focus is to be on the path God wants her to be on, which affects her daily decisions as a woman, wife, mother and professional. “I focus on staying in a place where I’m grateful for everything I have. Faith is what gets me through.”
Melissa has even turned the pain of her mother’s loss into an opportunity to help others as she champions the cause of suicide prevention through a variety of organizations. She is an active Girl Scout leader for her daughters and was recently honored by the organization as one of San Diego’s “Cool Women.”
I have to agree with the Girl Scouts. In fact, Melissa d’Arabian is not only “cool,” she’s a breath of fresh air. And now that I’m one of her fans, I plan to DVR her show, if for no other reason than to get a little boost from her million-dollar smile.
Who knows, I may even learn how to separate an egg in the process!
(I recommend her Salad Nicoise. It’s yummy and so easy, even I can make it!)
I drive my coffee-loving friends crazy. Don’t get me wrong. I love coffee, but only if it’s masked with every accoutrement available. By the time I’m done with it, my morning dark roast is the color of my husband’s khakis!
For years, I’ve justified my breakfast treat –half and half, two teaspoons of sugar and a little coffee because, for the most part, I eat healthfully the rest of the day.
But recent news about the relationship between sugar and heart disease has got me thinking I may need to learn to drink my java black. A report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) comes with a stern warning: eating too much sugar can be deadly!
Now, I hate to be alarmist about food studies, but this research is compelling.
The problem isn’t with sugar found naturally in foods. But the largest study of its kind reveals consuming too much added sugar – found in regular soft drinks, cakes, cookies and candy dramatically increases your risk of death from heart disease.
According to one of the study’s authors, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases exponentially as you increase your consumption of sugar.
Adults, on average, consume about 15 percent of their daily calories – about 300 calories a day from added sugars. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 100 calories a day from added sugars – about six teaspoons. Men should keep it to about nine teaspoons. (BTW: One can of regular soda has about 140 calories of added sugar.)
But just as I began congratulating myself for not drinking sugary soda, there’s this:
Added sugars in the CDC report also include table sugar (the stuff I add to my breakfast brew) brown sugar (which I love atop an otherwise healthy bowl of hot oatmeal) high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey (Yikes! Last night I drizzled honey over a slice of cornbread!), molasses and other caloric sweeteners in prepared and processed foods and beverages (I guess that includes the handful of M&M’s I nibbled on while working at my computer.)
Busted! Clearly – without even realizing it, I can blow right through my 100-calorie sugar limit…even if I’m making otherwise healthy food choices. Bottom line, sugar is everywhere and we need to be intentional about keeping intake to a minimum.
And if the risk of heart attack isn’t enough incentive, other research has tied a high intake of added sugars to obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and risk factors for stroke. With all that’s at stake, it may just be worth keeping an eye on how much sugar you add to your diet each day.
As Rachel Johnson, spokeswoman for the American Heart Association points out, “Now we know that too much added sugar doesn’t just make us fat – it could cause a heart attack.”
Guess I’ll take my cuppa joe with a little half and half, thank you. Hold the sugar.
Do you have a favorite San Diego area restaurant just for special occasions? Chances are it’s one of an array of excellent eateries located in an upscale, seaside destination such as Coronado, La Jolla or Del Mar right?
How about Imperial Beach?
Before you dismiss that idea, you may just want to head to South Bay and check out what may just be the best-kept secret in waterfront dining. It’s not only “special,” it’s located just steps from the sand and minutes from Mexico.
SEA180 Coastal Tavern is located in the new Pier South resort in IB and I think this newest offering from the Cohn Restaurant Group is simply stunning.
My sweet husband, Tom, recently treated me to a delightful birthday dinner at the new, contemporary beachfront resort that’s changing both the landscape and attitude of the sleepy beach community most known for its annual sandcastle competition.
You may just want to add the new beachfront resort and restaurant to IB’s notable list. With sweeping 180 degree views of the Coronado Islands, South Bay and Mexico, the name SEA180 Coastal Tavern was a no-brainer! Expansive, breathtaking views are visible from every table.
But I think the (almost!) on-the-sand patio seating offers the best waterfront dining experience in town. Despite the evening chill, heaters kept us warm and toasty. (For added warmth, our server even offered to bring us cozy throws!) So we lingered over dinner until the sun dropped below the horizon. The perfect end to a perfect birthday.
Oh! Did I mention the food??!!
SEA180’s menu includes several fabulous entrées from their killer Wagyu Cheeseburger and creative charred vegetable wrap to Mary’s “Beer Can” Smoked Half Chicken and Miso Marinated Yellowtail.
But if you’re like me and enjoy trying a little of everything go for the “shares” menu. We chose several items. The seared sea scallops are to die for. (I gobbled the last one while Tom wasn’t looking!)
We also sampled the gingered pulled pork empanadas and one of the Cohn restaurants’ signature recipes…fire roasted Brussels sprouts. Ev
en if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, I challenge you to give these a try. Prepared with bits of ham and balsamic glaze, these veggies are better than candy!
Prepared with the freshest, organic, sustainable and local ingredients possible, enjoy Mexican shrimp ceviche, smoked salmon gringo sushi, ground lamb sliders and mushroom raviolis…nearly 30 yummy “shares” from which to choose.
These great eats are also available at great happy hour prices. SEA180’s beautiful bar with a million-dollar view is a perfect place to g
ather after a long day’s work.
There’s a lot going on in IB. SEA180 owner, David Cohn says he’s happy to be part of it. “We hope the restaurant will help revitalize the area by attracting a broader range of visitors who would otherwise never venture into this laid-back beach community,” says Cohn.
“Through this restaurant and adjoining boutique hotel, we look forward to putting Imperial Beach on the map – providing a top-notch destination that truly showcases the pristine, coastal location.”
Thanks, David. Tom and I so enjoyed our SEA180 experience, we returned again for Easter Sunday brunch and brought along our nephew, Ian and his girlfriend Katie. What could be better than brunch on the beach?!
It was the highlight of the weekend! (OK, maybe AFTER the Resurrection!)
Medical breakthrough means hope for those with spinal cord injuries
Medical breakthroughs make great news. In fact, reporting on so-called medical "miracles" has been one of the highlights of my career. But nothing compares with learning one of those "miracles" could possibly help change the life of someone I know and love.
Ten years ago, Glenn Henry was in a freak motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. At 65, my professor, coach, mentor and friend had just retired from the athletic department at my alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa.
To celebrate the milestone, Glenn and his wife, Karen, bought a Harley and hit the road. Riding along a quiet, but winding country road one beautiful fall day, their bike suddenly skidded on a patch of gravel and went down. The former winning swim coach, popular professor and successful entrepreneur was able to maneuver the spill so Karen suffered only minor injuries. But Glenn flew over the handlebars...landed on his head and severed his spine at the neck.
Left: Coach Glenn Henry, his wife, Karen, Tom and Carol.
In a split second, one of the most active, full-of-life people I have ever known found his retirement dreams of travel and adventure dashed on some loose gravel. He could no longer do anything on his own but speak and breathe.
With his indomitable spirit, fiercely supportive family and unwavering faith, Glenn has beat the odds and continues to find joy in living – holding out hope that someday, medical science will come up with a cure for spinal cord injuries (SCI).
Recently, his dream moved one step closer to reality.
After his accident, Glenn’s three children connected with the Christopher Reeve Foundation and for the last decade, Lisa, Lori and Lance have been working tirelessly with the non-profit raising money and awareness on behalf of their Dad and others sidelined due to SCI.
Last month came news of what may just be the “miracle” the Henry’s have been praying for. The stunning results of a clinical trial funded by the Reeve Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, could be a game-changer for thousands living with paralysis due to SCI.
Four paralyzed men can now voluntarily move their legs after researchers implanted a device that shoots electrical stimulation into their spinal cords.
Two of the four men were told there was no chance of recovery. But with the help of epidural stimulation, they can now move their hips, ankles and toes.
The study results, published in the journal, “Brain,” are groundbreaking giving hope to many who were given wheelchairs and told to just “live with it.”
The electrical stimulator used in the treatment sends electric pulses of various frequencies and intensities to specific regions of the spinal cord. The electrical signal helped the spinal cord reuse the broken neural network and control movement of limbs.
The treatment also helped improve patient’s overall health. No surprise to Glenn and his family. Because of the added movement, the men in the study developed muscle mass, had better blood circulation and reported greater well being.
You better believe, within moments of getting the news, the Henry’s were filling out paper work to hopefully enroll my friend in the next study. We’re praying this is just the beginning of renewed hope for Glenn and some 200,000 others in the U.S. living with SCI and hope for a future where paralysis is completely reversible.
Imagine sadness so profound, despair so deep, that it seems the only way out is suicide. Tragically, that scene plays out for hundreds of San Diegans every year.
In 2012, 413 men, women and, yes, even children, died at their own hands – a record number of suicides in San Diego. Sadly, the number of self-inflicted deaths continues to rise, with no end in sight.
Perhaps that explains the huge turnout recently for the annual “Save a Life” Walk sponsored by Survivors of Suicide Loss. A record crowd of 2,000 gathered for the annual 3.1-mile trek around Balboa Park, with most walking in memory of loved ones lost to suicide. (Learn more www.soslsd.org).
Despite the disturbing theme, as a survivor (I lost my mother to suicide) and participant, I assure you the “Save a Life” Walk is neither depressing nor somber, but full of love, laughter and hope – due, in part, to the presence of Pastor Joe Davis.
As we gathered together before the 5K begins, emotions run raw for many. But Joe’s uplifting invocation never fails to include a perfect prayer to comfort those who have survived the loss of a loved one to suicide.
You might say Joe’s the perfect guy for the job! Every day, as chaplain for the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office, Joe ministers to grieving families dealing with all kinds of traumatic death, including suicide.
Every time he speaks at the annual Walk, Joe says he can count on someone coming up to him, reminding him about the time he came to their home, “with the news that their son, or wife, or father had died at their own hands.”
It’s an emotionally taxing job, but the affable and easy-going Joe believes he’s been called to comfort families and friends of loved ones who have died. He deals with death of every description. “What makes suicide different,” says the chaplain, “is that other deaths can usually be explained.” So Joe says his job is to be there for distraught loved ones “trying to make sense out of something that never makes sense.”
He admits, dealing daily with death and human anguish hasn’t been easy. Several years ago, plagued by emotional stress and stomach problems, Joe turned to prayer asking, “If I’m supposed to be doing this, why is it so hard?”
He believes God’s answer was loud and clear, “If you’re going to get that involved, you’re no good to the families and you’re no good to me.”
“Now, instead of being part of the storm,” explains Joe, “I’m the calm in the midst of the storm.”
But last year, in a tragic irony, the “storm” came to Joe personally when he got the call that rocked his world. Following years of depression, his own father had taken his life. “It was the most painful, horrible training I’ve ever had,” Joe told me, tears welling up.
As he deals with his own lingering pain, Joe believes his experience has helped him better help others. “Now I can honestly say, ‘I know what you’re going through.’”
And so Joe continues his unpaid job, as the only full-time chaplain for a medical examiner in the US, with his faith and signature sense of humor to carry him through the next crisis.
“I don’t know the shelf life of a coroner’s chaplain,” quips Davis. “I’m just being obedient to where I’m supposed to be.”
Thank you for making a difference, Joe.
Q&A with Badalin Helvink, M.D.
According to Badalin Helvink, M.D., medical director of the Psychiatry Program at the Palomar Center for Behavioral Health, suicide is our nation’s top public health issue. Here she explains how we all play a role in saving lives.
Carol: Why is the suicide rate rising?
Dr. Helvink: Violence, economic stress, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, family history of mental illness, access to guns, lack of access to health care … take your pick!
Carol: How do we get a handle on the problem?
Dr. Helvink: First, by talking about it. Sadly, a stigma still exists when it comes to mental illness.
Carol: Why can’t we get past the stigma?
Dr. Helvink: Unfortunately, the barriers are still there. Families don’t want to talk about it. Patients don’t want to be on medication.
Carol: What about the media?
Dr. Helvink: Sensationalized celebrity suicides can actually cause a copycat effect. Cyberbullying through social media causes severe pressure on kids. Nearly 16 percent of kids admit thinking about suicide.
Carol: Sounds like an issue for everyone.
Dr. Helvink It takes a village—a collaborative effort of family, friends, community and providers.
Carol: How can I help prevent a suicide?
Dr. Helvink: If you know someone who’s struggling – isolating, consumed with sadness or morbidly preoccupied – don’t wait for them to “snap out of it.” Reach out.
Carol: How do you know when it’s serious?
Dr. Helvink In my practice, if I hear, “I’m a burden” or “I can’t live like this anymore,” or when a teen hears her friend say she “wishes she were dead.” If they voice it, take it seriously.
Carol: Some say suicide is an act of cowardice.
Dr. Helvink: I invite them to have compassion about something that’s tragic, and for many, a result of major depressive disorder.
Carol: Can there be a happy ending?
Dr. Helvink: I had a patient who took a serious overdose. After successful treatment for her depression, she told me she never knew she could actually feel good again.
Carol: What do you want people to know?
Dr. Helvink Depression is a very treatable condition. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There is help.
See our full story on Behavioral Health in The HealthSource.
Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month which is a good time to be extra vigilant with friends and loved ones dealing with extreme sadness or a sense of hopelessness.
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
• Always talking or thinking about death
• Clinical depression – deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating that gets worse
• Having a "death wish," tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Losing interest in things one used to care about
• Making comments about being hopeless, helpless or worthless
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
• Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out"
• Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
• Talking about suicide or killing one's self
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Be especially concerned if a person is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20 and 50 percent of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt.