Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mental Health Awareness Month: What To Say

Being a school counselor is not only about scheduling classes, preparing for graduation, or planning for college. More and more, I find myself dealing with students who experience anxiety, depression, or suicidal ideation. By no means am I a psychologist or psychiatrist to offer behavioral therapy or counseling, but I am someone on the school campus my students know they can come to when they "just don't feel right".

Some of my students are already under care of a mental health professional, so they know I am their support at school when they just need to talk or need a "time out" from class. For others, I am the first person they've ever opened up to about their cutting, their self-defeating thoughts, their feelings of being alone, their helplessness, their thoughts of "not wanting to be here anymore".

Many of us have encountered friends and/or family who may have displayed signs of mental illness. According to Mental Health America, some of these signs maybe:

  • Confused thinking
  • Prolonged sadness or irritability
  • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Strong feelings of anger
  • Strange thoughts (delusions)
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't there (hallucinations)
  • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
What can you do to help if you have a friend or family member dealing with mental illness?

What can you say? 

✔You are not alone, I am here.
✔I'm here to listen.
✔I care about you.
✔What can I do to help?
✔Let me find someone who can help you
-You can speak to a school psychologist or school counselor for resources. 
-They can also see their primary care doctor to share their concerns. Offer to accompany them if they would like.
-If emergency medical care is needed, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. 

All of these professionals are trained to help those dealing with mental illness. 

http://www.up2sd.org/ is an excellent resource for those living in San Diego County.

It is important to know if you or someone you care about is in crisis and needs immediate help, you can also call the Crisis Hotline at (888) 724-7240. The phone lines are answered by trained professionals available 24/7; the call is free and confidential.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Try the Legendary Burgers from Around The World with Hard Rock Cafe

Last Sunday, we spent the afternoon at Petco Park to watch the Padres vs. the Dodgers. My kids love the Kids Fest activities on Sundays and my #DancingDJGarcia did a great job performing with the Padres Kids Crew!

We were super hungry after the game and hubby was craving for one of his favorites: burgers! We headed to our local Hard Rock Cafe for their World Burger Tour. I've been talking up the burgers so much, hubby has been looking forward to our visit to Hard Rock Cafe! 

Hard Rock Cafe has given their chefs the freedom to create a unique Local Legendary Burger that captures the flavors of their city. This year more than 160 local burgers were evaluated by Hard Rock’s culinary team with fan favorites selected to headline the World Burger Tour menu. 

During our visit to Hard Rock Cafe San Diego, hubby tried the English Breakfast Burger from London, England.

The Certified Angus Beef® patty topped with sliced ham, a sausage patty, a fried egg, a portobello mushroom, arugula and garlic aioli and served with a side of baked beans definitely satisfied hubby's appetite.

I had the Jamaican Jerk Burger from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Ooh yum!

The Certified Angus Beef patty topped with banana pepper rings, mango jalapeƱo cream cheese and jerk mayonnaise was super delicious! I loved the crunch and the tartness of the banana peppers and the melted goodness of the cream cheese! Yum!

Hubby and I also tried the custom cocktails that perfectly complemented the World Burger Tour offerings we tried. Served in Hard Rock’s iconic mason jars that we were able to take home, our server suggested a few drinks which would pair well with our burgers.

We tried:
  • The Crisp Sipper – inspired by the Aloha Burger’s sweet and savory taste, this cocktail features a mix of Hendrick’s gin, Monin Cucumber, lemon, orange and raspberry, topped with tonic and garnished with rosemary and thyme
  • The MelonPalooza – designed to complement the fresh flavors of the Greek Burger, this cocktail features a mix of Midori Melon Liqueur, Malibu Rum, Hard Rock’s house-made sour mix and PJ, garnished with slices of pineapple and strawberry

The drinks were refreshing and perfect for summer days! I could've had a few more of these, they were so good!

The limited-time World Burger Tour menu is available Sunday, May 1 through Thursday, June 30, 2016. Make sure you visit your local Hard Rock Cafe soon!

Disclaimer: My family and I were offered a complimentary meal in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are mine. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Open Your Heart at Wanderlust

Before I was a mom, Mother's Day was easy. My husband and I would spend breakfast with my mother-in-law and dinner with my mommy. I could squeeze in a nap between the two celebrations. It was easier then.

Since I've become a mom, I feel like I don't enjoy Mother's Day as much as I wish I could. I find myself squeezing time in my busy schedule to shop for my mom and mother-in-law. I find that on actual Mother's Day, my family divides the 16 or so waking hours to spend quality time between my mom, my mother-in-law, and myself.

A few times, we've tried to celebrate Mothers Day Eve for my mom and my mother-in-law, so I could enjoy Mother's Day for myself. But then I give myself a guilt trip for not spending actual Mother's Day with my mom.

This year I decided to do something for me. A few months ago, a Wanderlust event came across my Facebook feed. I was in awe of the pictures of an ocean of people doing yoga together and imagined what a wonderful experience it could be. So I shared the event on Facebook, in hopes some of my friends or family would want to join me. I waited a few weeks, no interest. I shared the event again, after another week or so, no response.

I was a little hesitant to buy my Wanderlust ticket since I didn't really want to go alone, especially since it was on Mother's Day. The pictures of happy smiling faces of girlfriends enjoying Wanderlust together made me feel like a bit of a loser for going alone. But I bought my ticket anyways. I convinced myself it was OK to go alone. I decided to spend my Mother's Day enjoying me, with me!

After a few weeks, a few of my cousins decided to attend Wanderlust as well but they would only be able to attend the first of the three main events of Wanderlust:
  • 5k
  • Dance Party and Yoga
  • Meditation
Once at Wanderlust at the Liberty Station Park in San Diego, I picked up my number and laid out my yoga mat. I sipped my coffee and watched the hundreds of people pour in and and take their spots in the neatly organized rows of yoga mats.

My cousins eventually found me and we headed to the start for the 5k.

I'm not a runner (anymore) so once the 5k began, my cousins took of running and I trailed behind keeping my walking pace all the way to the end. When doing a 5k, I usually have my headphones on with music blaring. This time, I kept my headphones off and just listened to the people doing the 5k with me. The conversations, the breathing, and the laughter made me think. I thought of what I was thankful for this Mother's Day.

I said small prayers of thanks throughout the 5k:
  • Thank you for my husband and boys
  • Thank you for my family
  • Thank you for my friends
  • Thank you for my career
  • Thank you for my abundant life
At the end of the 5k, I hugged my cousins goodbye and I took my spot on my yoga mat. The awkward "loner" feeling was creeping over me but I tried to ignore the feeling and keep myself focused. MC Yogi took the mic, shared some inspirational words, and gave a shout out to the moms. Yay me!

The music kicked up and the dance party began! Thanks to @SoCalRunnerGal for the rad video!

I literally danced like no one was watching! I let go, shook my booty, and screamed when MC Yogi asked, "Where the moms at?!"

Eventually, the dance party slowed down and transitioned into yoga. We started with Child's Pose, while MC Yogi shared words of affirmation.

In breathed in, I breathed out. I internalized the words of MC Yogi's song "Give Love".

Hush little darling, don't you cry
Every little thing's gonna be alright
Don't worry, don't be afraid
Every little thing's gonna be ok
Open up your heart, unlock the cage
Turn the key and break the chains
Love will always find a way
If you want love you gotta give love away

This is when I just stated bawling. First it was just a few tears, then streams of tears. I was one of the hundreds on the rainbow of yoga mats, but I felt alone. I have lots of friends, dozens of family, but at times I feel alone. I am alone in my feelings of not being good enough, pretty enough, patient enough, loving enough, or smart enough. But I reminded myself that I was enough. Everything I give is enough and that was OK. I recalled my prayers from earlier in the day and reminded myself of the many things to be thankful for. My life is more than enough, it is abundant and wonderful. 

The hour and a half of yoga and meditation was energizing. Soaking in the sun's rays with the cool breeze were the perfect elements to complete my yoga flow!

A video posted by @lovelylysa on

I rediscovered lots about myself during my Mother's Day morning at Wanderlust. I hope this begins a tradition to dedicate a little bit of Mother's Day each year for myself, by myself to reflect on being a mother. I need to remember that as long as I open my heart with the love for God, love for myself, and love for others, everything will be OK.

After my wonderful morning at Wanderlust, I came home to a delicious lunch prepared by hubby and my boys! They included all my faves: steak, lobster, roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, mushroom risotto, and chocolate covered strawberries. Seeing their hard work into preparing my favorites eats made my heart happy.

It was truly an awesome Mother's Day!

Friday, May 20, 2016

5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your LA Cookie Con Experience

If you know me, I love sweets! And what better event for a sweet addict like me than a cookie convention?

A few weeks ago, I loaded my family and my Boozie Baker buddy Joyce into my mini-van and headed up to Los Angeles for the 2nd annual LA Cookie Con.

As we walked into the exhibit hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, my eyes were as big as plates! I didn't know where to start! The first booth as soon as we walked in was the Farmer John booth with featured bacon infused sweets: bacon brownies and chocolate covered bacon - yummies!

There was so much to see and do, we spent two days at the convention!

My favorites at the convention include:

Interactive activities for the kids: the arts and crafts were a hit with my kids. They loved the cupcake decorating with Baby Bea's Baekshop the most, so much so they did it twice!

Tastes and bites of all things sweet:
I loved the ice cream from Humboldt Creamery and the ice cream cookie sandwiches from Paradise Fine Cookies and Ice Cream.

Sights of the Eyes:
There were so many displays of beautiful cakes, cupcakes, cake pops and more. We saw so many goodies tat were just too pretty to eat! Checkout these Star Wars inspired cake pops and this beautiful circus cake table display!

Just like any convention, there are crowds and lines. Here are some tips to make your experience at LA Cookie Con more enjoyable!

1) Bring a bottle of water. With all the ice cream, cookie, candy, and cake samples, you'll obviously get thirsty. Having a refillable bottle of water with you will keep you hydrated and cleanse your palate between sweet bites.

2) Take breaks. There are lots of areas to sit. Visit a few booths, grab your samples, and then sit and people watch or enjoy a few of the baking tutorials happening throughout the convention. 

3) Take advantage of the VIP tickets. VIP tickets allow for early entry and access to special VIP areas with more samples and swag, lounge seats, and less lines. VIP is totally worth it!

4) Take a backpack or a large bag, along with baggies and small plastic containers. I consider myself a big eater and I was overwhelmed with all the samples. I wished I brought some containers to save some of the bites to enjoy for later. The containers also keep our baked goods from getting squished in your bag. There are lots of flyers and product samples as well so bring a bag to enjoy all the swag.

5) Have patience. Get to the convention early on the first day to get your wristband. There will be a line.  A long line. Make friends with your fellow "sweeties" in line and share your love of all things sweet. There will also be lines for samples, lines to visit the vendors, lines to pretty much everything at the convention. The lines die down a bit as the day gets later. Be patient and have a positive attitude and you'll have a great time!

Overall, we had a wonderful time at the LA Cookie Con!  We look forward to attending against next year!

Follow http://www.lacookiecon.com/ for updates for the convention for 2016!

Disclaimer: My family and I received complimentary entry to the LA Cookie Con in exchange for this blog post and social media shares. All opinions are mine. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Counselor Corner: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Something super awesome happened today! I really didn't think this would happen until later on in my career, but it happened today. My colleague Liliana and I were chosen by our peers and announced as the School Counselor of the Year at the Sweetwater Union High School District all counselor meeting today!

My Sweetwater Union High School district school counselor colleagues and I, all 140+ of us, meet quarterly. Topics related to the ins and outs of our role as school counselors are usually discussed: graduation requirements, college going rates, mental health, academic interventions, sexual harassment, career services, and more. Most of the time, it's information overload but it's all information we need to know and impacts our daily work.

Today was our last meeting of the year. The last all counselor meeting of each year is always special because we recognize those who are retiring, acknowledge members of the community who have been champions for school counselors, and thank the executive board members of our union, the Sweetwater Counseling and Guidance Association (SCGA). The accolades and celebration is a great way to end the school year.

One of the awards given out each year is "School Counselor of the Year". This year it was ME! Yay! **Happy Dance**

Counselor of the Year can be nominated by any of the counselors in our school district and is ultimately chosen by our Sweetwater Counseling and Guidance Association. The nomination written was very kind and acknowledges the work Liliana and I have done for all counselors in our school district.

Here is the video of the presentation of Liliana and I at our all counselor meeting - excuse my cackling, nervous laughter...

It was such a humbling experience listening to my school principal and my fellow school counselors talk about how they see me and the work I do. I didn't realize my principal noticed all the work I do. Hearing her words made me tear up a few times. It was a great feeling to know others, especially my principal, appreciates and acknowledges my efforts.

My co-counselors also had such nice things to say. I know I drive them nuts with my google docs, classroom presentations, projects, and events that I ask them to support. They may grumble a bit, but always pull together as a team to best serve our students and community. We often say, "If it's good for the kids, then let's do it!" We never do anything in isolation, everything is done as a team. My team of counselors are really a family. We make sure to sit together and eat lunch EVERYDAY after we see students during their lunch. We make sure to hold each other accountable to get away from our respective offices to eat and take a "time out" and de-stressed in the midst of our busy day.

Many do not know but in addition to my daily duties as school counselor, Liliana and I advocate at the district level for the work of school counselors. Two years ago, our school district had left out school counselors in their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Basically, the LCAP is each and every school districts respective plan on how they are going to spend funding they receive from the state.

Liliana and I gathered a group of school counselors, met with and collaborated with district leadership, to have school counselors written into the SUHSD LCAP which resulted in lowering counselor caseload and hiring 18 new school counselors for the 2015-2016 school year. We have also revamped the Counselor Standards Committee which had not been active in over 4 years. As chairpersons of the Counselor Standards Commitee, we conduct monthly meetings with counselor representatives from all 32+ campuses in our school district. We are working together to standardize counseling practices to align to our school district's LCAP goals, as well as work along side our district mission statement and objectives.

I've written in previous posts how sometimes my work as a school counselor is overwhelming, stressful, and exhausting mentally and emotionally. When you put your heart into your work, your heart breaks when you students are broken, you become disappointed when students do not see the potential in themselves that you see, and you become frustrated when decisions are made that are not in the best interest of students. That is only one side of the work I do.

On the other end, I am encouraged by words of gratitude I receive from students and parents, energized by the successes of my students, blessed to know through the work I do I am sharing God's mercy, and motivated by my peers who I work with side by side to support and guide the students we serve.

Thank you to Sweetwater Counseling and Guidance Association for naming me as School Counselor of the Year! The recognition makes my heart happy and is God's way of telling to me keep up the good work!

Scroll to page 20 for the Sweetwater Union High School District Employees of the Year =)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

#FoodieFriday: Al Pastor Tacos with Citrus Slaw and Picked Onions

I've been having fun exploring new recipes this past Spring Break! Thanks to Del Real Foods and their pre-packaged dishes, making a homemade meal is easier!

The first recipe I made was the Pollo Asado Fusion Lumpia which my family loved!

As a busy mommy, meals that I can put together quickly is important. For the Del Real Recipe Challenge, I've tried to create recipes that incorporate prepackaged items to make the meal prep quick. This week I made a citrus slaw with pickled onions and jalapenos to compliment the Del Real Al Pastor Taco set. It came out very yum!

Head over to  www.DelRealFoods.com to vote for my recipe!

For the Citrus Slaw, I used:

  • Package of pre-made cole slaw
  • Can of Mandarin Oranges
  • 4 tablespoons of Thousand Island salad dressing
  • Juice from 1 large lime
Directions: Toss all together!

Mix it all up real good and you are done! Super easy!

For the picked onions:

  • One large red onion
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 16oz. mason jar
Thinly slice the onion and jalapeno. Mix the water, vinegar, and sugar  in the mason jar until sugar dissolves. Add the onion and jalapeno. Let sit for an hour before enjoying.

Prepare the Del Real Al Pastor Taco kit as directed. Top the taco with the Citrus Slaw and the pickled onions and jalapenos. Serve with a side of the Del Real Arroz.  The crunchy sweetness of the slaw, with the tart bite of the pickled onions and jalapeno make so a delicious Al Pastor Taco! 

Head over to  www.DelRealFoods.com to vote for my recipe!

Disclaimer: I received complimentary samples of Del Real prepackaged meals to participate in their blogger recipe challenge 2016. All opinions are mine. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pollo Asado Lumpia Fusion

A perk of working in the education setting is having a few weeks of vacation spread out throughout the year. Spring break is extra special for me since it's two weeks long, the first of which my two boys are still in school. This Spring I was able to play around in the kitchen a bit during my time off. I tried out a few new recipes with the help of Del Real Foods.

The authentic Mexican cooking presented in easy and convenient heat-and-serve dishes is perfect for a busy family like ours. When thinking if dishes to cook, my kids come first. They are somewhat picky eaters, so I have to be creative in exposing them to new foods.

My son DJ loves the Filipino finger food Lumpia, so I took the Pollo Asado and Arroz from Del Real Foods as the main ingredients for my first spring break recipe: Pollo Asado Lumpia. 

Please visit www.DelRealFoods.com to vote for my recipe!

1 box Del Real Pollo Asado
1 box Del Real Arroz
Pack of 25 egg roll, lumpia, or spring roll wrappers
1 package (7 oz) Mexican blend cheese
2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup store bought guacamole
1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt

  • Thaw lumpia wrappers until room temperature.

  • Prepare pollo asado as directed and chop into small cubes. 
  • Prepare arroz as directed. 
  • In a small bowl, beat one egg.

  • Separate one wrapper at a time and place on plate with  corner facing you. 
  • Put one tablespoon of chicken, one teaspoon of rice, and one teaspoon of cheese 1/3 of the way into the wrapper. 
  • Roll corner nearest you towards center and fold over right and left corners. Wet top corner with egg and roll all the way to the top corner, using the egg to seal. 

Here is my five year olds footage while I was making the lumpia =)

  • Heat the vegetable oil on medium in a small frying pan. 
  • Fry eat lumpia until golden brown. Place on plate with paper towel to cool.
  • Prepare dip by mixing together the guacamole and yogurt/sour cream.

Please visit www.DelRealFoods.com to vote for my recipe!

Disclaimer: I received complimentary samples of Del Real prepackaged meals to participate in their blogger recipe challenge 2016. All opinions are mine. 
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