Monday, December 19, 2011

Heading Home with a Win in Hand

At the free throw line.

  Habits die hard I guess. It's Monday morning-ish (I've been awake since 3:45, so it actually feels a little like Monday night), and I can't seem to fight the urge to write a blog. So here I am, giving you all a game recap from Saturday night's win.

  Saturday was the first game of the second half of the season against INSEP. The young team had beaten us in a close game to open the season in September (a game that I missed with my ankle injury), so I knew we would have a close game on our hands.

  INSEP is a team made up of France's best young players. Located in Paris, it's an academy where the top youth players go to hone their skills. On the boys side, NBA players Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, and Ronny Turiaf all attended INSEP as youths. So even though their players are a little on the young side, they still are a very talented group.

  To me, it's the closest thing to an American university with the integration of school and sport. The two are usually separate entities in Europe, with all athletics coming in the form of clubs.

  We were looking to get our fourth straight win, head home for the holidays with a four-game winning streak, and start the second half of our season on a high note. So Saturday was a big game for DMBC Dunkerque (I thought, anyways).

First half action.
  We jumped out to a lead right off the bat. INSEP used a press defensively (which we handled pretty well), so the pace of the game was pretty quick.

  To me, it felt like INSEP was ready to be blown out. There was something about the body language and attitudes of their players that made me think they were just going through the motions.

  Our 13 point lead was about to be 25 by halftime. Or so I thought.

Second half drive.
  Our play at the close of the first half, and the start of the second, was exactly what INSEP needed to get back in the game and gain some confidence. We started turning the ball over against their press, which led to easy baskets for them.

  While they were scoring lay-ups left and right, we stopped scoring, period. The game was tied up midway through the third quarter. And we had a very pumped up and excited opponent on our hands.

  The rest of the game was back and fourth. We maintained a tiny lead until the end of the fourth quarter. I'm not going to lie, I thought we were done when INSEP took the lead in the last minute of the game.

  They had the ball, up two, with about 25 seconds to go. It wasn't looking good for us. Luckily, the INSEP point guard stepped on the sideline, giving us the ball back and an opportunity to tie the game. We did just that, and headed into overtime (my mind is a blank - I can't, for the life of me, remember how we tied it!!).

  Overtime was ours. Call it experience, if you want, but we made the plays in the five-minute overtime to pull out a win. And I am very thankful that we did because a loss would have sent me on 'vacation' with a very bitter taste in my mouth!

Open jumper.
  14 games into a 26 game season, and we seem to have righted the ship. We're above .500, and seemingly have found an identity in how we play. There's still a lot we can do better and tons to improve on, but our team has made great strides since we first came together in August.

  Let's see what we can do in the second half of the season!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Time to Head Home!

Christmas at Mom & Dad's!

  The weekend is almost upon us! And for me, it's the one I've been looking forward to for months: the weekend I get to head home for the holidays!

  The last week in Dunkerque has crept along at a snail's pace for me. Funny how time seems to go so much slower when the thing you've been looking forward to has almost arrived (it's kind of like that last hour of a nine-hour flight. So close, yet still so far away!).

  I did get a little shopping done, but for the most part, this week has been status quo for me.

  I had one last Wednesday night dinner at V and Bruno's house (of 2011 anyways). They insisted that I try escargot! The one thing I have continually been saying that I would not try since I got to France, and they were going to make me eat it! I told Bruno that I would have one (snail -- ha!) if he would have one, since he said he didn't like them. V, on the other hand loves escargot, so she was the real winner in all of this.

V showing me how it's done!


  We had a great Christmas dinner. I had TWO snails (that just doesn't seem okay to write!), and took home the shells as proof! Safe to say, those are the only two snails I will ever eat in my life. 

These munchkins will be a year older!
  My team has an important game Saturday night, then my teammates and I will go our separate ways for a couple weeks to celebrate Christmas and the New Year (and in my case, a birthday!).

  It's been years since I've been home on my birthday (which I happen to share with my Nana), so it's going to be great to be home surrounded by friends and family on January 3rd.

  I've had a great first four months in Dunkerque, and I'm looking forward to returning in January for another awesome four months. But I am definitely looking forward to getting back on US soil, having a Starbucks or two (or 10), seeing friends and family, and enjoying the holidays at home!

  Hope you all have a wonderful rest of the holiday season as well!

Last Christmas with Nana & Sophia.
Christmas 2009.
  I'll try to make a couple entries a week while I'm home, but I won't make any promises! Maybe I'll put the early, early jet-lagged mornings to good use and write. But that's also a good time to get to the gym too!
  Happy Holidays to you and yours! Looking forward to a happy and healthy 2012!

  Now back to cleaning and packing!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right."

I love this picture!
  We've all heard the quotes a thousand times:
  • it's 'mind over mater'
  • 'life isn't what happens to you, it's about how you react to what happens to you'
  • how things are: '90% mental, and 10% physical'
  These sayings have been drilled into our heads over and over again. But do we actually believe them?
  And if we do, do we try implementing them into our lives?

  Sorry, these are the thoughts of a psychology major! Positive thinking and thoughts affecting outcome are some things that have arisen with me recently, and I thought blogging about them would help me sort though those thoughts.

The power of thought!
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy 
  One of the most-impactful and meaningful things I studied as a psychology student was the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy.

  A self-fulfilling prophecy happens when a positive or negative expectation about circumstances, events, or people may affect a person's behavior toward them in a manner that causes those expectations to be fulfilled.

  In short, it's thinking something true.

  For example, having a 'me against the world attitude'. Having that sort of attitude in all facets of your life probably won't work out very well. By constantly bringing that attitude to the table, the people around you might think you're a difficult person to be around (your attitude/behavior ends up alienating those around you) and because of this, they might not want to interact with you.

  That alienation, in turn, feeds your me against the world attitude even more.

  Another way of looking at it is: what is your internal dialogue, or what is your story? What are the thoughts that you consistently have about yourself? Those thoughts, stories, ideas, are amazingly powerful because usually they end up becoming our reality.

  Whatever our story is, it bleeds into everything. You come to expect it. You look for it, because you're so used to seeing it. (examples: feeling powerless, attracting abusive relationships, people being 'out to get' you, co-workers not liking you, etc.)

Henry Ford quote.
Focus on Positives, or Negatives?
  We all have the situation that seemingly arises everywhere in our lives, or a scenario that we recreate over and over. The question is, do we allow that story, or those thoughts impede our progress? Is it making the quality of our life poorer? Do we focus on the negatives in our lives more than the positives?

  If life really is mind over matter, shouldn't we do our best to focus on the positive aspects in our life, and stop dwelling on the negative?

My Stumbling Block
  This occurs with me when I begin thinking about what I am going to do after my basketball career is over. The first thoughts I have are: 'I am only qualified to play basketball', and I am inexperienced at anything 'real world' related.

  You can guess that by thinking this way, and focusing on those things would cause anxiety. Not only that, it doesn't allow you to enjoy your current situation as much as you should.

  It's a domino effect of sorts, because you can't selectively turn off emotions. Your anxiety leads to avoidance, and shutting down from the other parts of your life. And that, in turn, leads to being even more alienated, feeling more alone, and more reclusive. It's not a good cycle to repeat over and over again. So HOW do you keep this domino effect from starting in the first place?

Make a Choice
  The only solution is to CHOOSE to focus on the positives! Instead of worrying and focusing on the negative THOUGHTS in your head, focus on what is REALITY! What is REAL? What have you done? Celebrate the things you have accomplished!

  For me, think about all the awesome experiences I've had, the great people I've met, the fun things I've gotten to do, the places I've seen, how I've grown over the years. How can THESE things help me in my future endeavors? What are the skills and traits I have acquired through these experiences that transfer over into the 'real world'?

Easier said than done sometimes, isn't it?!
  I've decided that if you focus too much on the negative and the fear, it stops you from celebrating and appreciating the great things, and moving forward. You can never let the anxiety and fear win!

  The mind is a powerful thing, and we have a lot more control over our outlook than we might think.

  Let's make conscious choices (on a daily basis!) about what we focus on, and what we put our energy into (and what NOT to focus on, and waste energy on!). Hopefully by focusing on the positive, that old 'story' you tell yourself will erode away, and your internal dialogue will slowly begin to change for the better.

  That's what I'm going to work on: focusing on the positive! What's your story?
Jillian Michaels Podcast 10/21/2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Three in a Row

Second half jumper.
  One week to go til we break for Christmas, and my team seems determined to end 2011 on a high note. We (DMBC Dunkerque) got our third straight win Saturday night, and the second in a row over a team in the top quarter of the standings. So you can say we're headed in the right direction.

  Saturday against Strasbourg marked the final game of the first half of the season (we play each team twice, and there are 14 teams in the league). Right now, our record stands at 7-6, and at this point in the season I'm feeling much better about my team's prospects than I was just one short month ago. I don't know what changed, but I certainly hope it continues.

  At some point I went from going into each game unsure, to now fully expecting us to win every time we step on the court. I was unsure of what to expect from my team AND from myself game in and game out. Maybe it's just finally growing comfortable in the new league and in my new team. But I can say with 100% confidence that the latter feeling is a much better one.

Second half action.
  Just like last week against Toulouse, our game against Strasbourg was a physical one. I felt like I spent half the game picking myself off the floor. Either I was abnormally uncoordinated, or people were knocking me around a little too much. Whatever it was, I woke up Sunday morning with a sore body.

  Strasbourg had a strong front court. Their bigs were good around the basket, so we were forced to match them on the boards and in the paint. Lucky for us, our strength also lies in the front court, so it was a good match up. We beat them in the battle of the boards, which to me, is always one of the most important aspects of the game.

  We maintained a small lead throughout the game, and won the game by 10. While I never felt completely in control and content with our lead, I also never felt threatened either.

I used to be able to jump higher than this. :/
  For me personally, I wrote last week that my ankle was finally feeling healthy (after 3+ months of playing at less than 100%). Thankfully my back issues cleared up during the week, and I was ready go hard for our game against Strasbourg. I can't tell you what a difference being able to move freely, and how having the confidence in your body gives you an extra boost. 

  Going into the final week before heading home is always a tricky one. You are so excited to get on that plane, and see your friends and family. There are lots of things going on during the week leading up: shopping, packing, Christmas dinners, etc. So it's easy to get distracted, and forget there's still another game to play. It goes without being said that it's important to remember that your job isn't over. Nothing would undo our three straight wins faster than a loss at home this coming Saturday.

  So here's to keeping focused for one more week, and ending 2011 with four straight wins!

  ~ Sabrina

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reality Check

"If you’re proactive, you don’t have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own." ~ Stephen R. Covey

  Isn't it funny, how you can be cruising along through life, and then BANG, something happens to jolt you back to reality, and put things back in perspective for you? Or maybe, with each passing day, you find yourself complaining more and more, and the same thing happens: something happens to make you realize just how trivial you were being.

  It humbles you. And makes you realize what is truly important, and the things you should really be focusing your energy on. I guess it forces you to be thankful. During those moments when it's happened to me, I find myself saying: "I'm never going to complain again!" Yet slowly but surely, a short while later, you're back finding things to complain about.

  I know I have a tendency to do that when things aren't going my way on the basketball court. But really, why am I complaining when my jumper's not falling, or when my ankle hurts a little bit? Even if I get a little homesick, that's nothing to complain about. No one is forcing me to be away from my family and friends.

  I'm all for venting, and letting your feelings be known, but not to the point of whining and complaining. Complaining gets nothing accomplished, and it surely can't be a healthy thing to continuously do.

  The world always has a tendency to throw you off-balance: whether it's something in your own life, your friend's/family member's life, or with someone you hardly know. Ready or not, those times do come.

  I'm not saying that it's good that these things happen. But I am saying it's good to re-gain perspective, and re-assess what we have to be thankful for. What are the things that really matter?
"Life's up and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine...[your] values and goals...Think of using all obstacles as stepping stones to build the life you want" ~ Anonymous

  So here's what I'm trying to say: Let's all try to do a better job of keeping things in perspective on our own (myself included!). Let's not rely on the world to shock us back into realizing what's really important.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making Organic More Affordable

USDA Certified Organic

  Since Sabrina's Crossing debuted last September, I have tried to share the information I have come across, and find important, about the state of the American food supply.

  Because of the presence of GMOs, pesticides, anti-biotics, hormones, chemicals, and so on, our food supply has come to resemble something of a disaster. In attempt to avoid as many of these harmful things listed above, I buy organic food whenever possible. But you know what -- it's expensive, isn't it?!

  (side note: this isn't intended to be a 'why you should eat organic' blog. I've already done those: Do You Know What GMOs Are?, The Effects of GMOs, The Harmful Effects of Soy, What Can We Do About GMOs?)

Money Spent on Food versus Health Care 
  Here is something to chew on as you think about the importance of the quality of our food: in the 1960s, 18% of our yearly income was spent on food, while only 5% was spent on health care. Today we spend 9% on food, and 17% on health care. Staggering numbers if you ask me.

  Why the drastic change? Food today is different than the food our parents, or grandparents, grew up on. We have to change our ways to reflect the changes that have been made in our food supply. 99% of the 80,000 toxic chemicals in circulation didn't exist before 1950.

  We cannot compare our diets to those from prior generations. Food in the 1950s didn't have meat and dairy filled with hormones and anti-biotics. Fruits didn't have multiple pesticides on them, and there were no GMOs. 

Somewhere along the line, we were conditioned to think that food should be cheap.
  The cheaper it is, the better. $1 for a cheeseburger? Awesome, right? Cheap food/fast food is essentially processed garbage.

  Let's look at it this way: would you rather pay a few extra dollars for high-quality food now? Or pay even more a little further down the line in the form of visits to the doctor and medication?
  As sad as it is, healthier food costs more money in the US. Outside of immediate policy change (such as eliminating government subsidies for genetically modified crops/farms, and replacing them with subsidizing organic farms), healthier food will continue to be more costly at the market (or until the consumer makes the demand). There's no way around it.

High pesticide versus low pesticide produce.
  $2 for a pound of organic apples, or 70 cents per pound for non-organic apples? I understand it's a significant amount, and it adds up over time. But all things considered, I think the extra cost is worth it! After all, it's our health we are talking about.

  If eating healthier foods is a priority for you, hopefully today's blog will give you a few ideas on how to scrape up a few extra dollars for those all-important groceries!

Prioritize: the Dirty Dozen & the Clean 15  
  The first thing you can do is prioritize what you buy as organic.

  Always avoid the 'dirty dozen' (thin skinned fruits & vegetables: Apples, Celery, Peaches, Strawberries, Domestic blueberries, Nectarines, Sweet bell peppers. Spinach, kale and collard greens, Cherries, Potatoes, Imported grapes, and Lettuce). Those things should ALWAYS be bought organically because of the high amount of pesticides and toxins found on them.

  The 'Clean 15' are fruits and vegetables with thick rinds/skins that don't necessarily need to be bought organically (Onions, Avocados, Sweet corn, Pineapples, Mango, Sweet peas, Asparagus, Kiwi fruit, Cabbage, Eggplant, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Grapefruit, Sweet potatoes, and Sweet onions).

Re-think Our Budgets 
  The second thing we can do is re-prioritize our budgets:
        -Stop buying magazines, and read your 'news' online.
        -Stop buying $4 lattes three times a week (this one's tough, I know!). Brew your coffee at home!
        -Stop buying pop/soda (whatever you call it in your neck of the woods!) and bottled water!
        -Cut down the number of times you eat out per week. Restaurants are expensive!
        -Buy frozen fruits and veggies (these can actually be more nutritious because the foods aren't oxidizing/aging, and thus losing nutrients).
        -You don't need to eat meat every day! Limit the amount of meat you eat, so the meat you do consume is organic.

  What other ways can we change our spending habits?

Buy Local
  Thirdly, buy fruits and vegetables that are in season (also known as buying local!). It costs a great deal of money to ship foods across the country, and even more from South America, so those shipping costs are passed onto the consumer. By buying local, those shipping costs are taken out of the equation.

CSAs & Gardens
  Obviously you can grow your own vegetables. I understand that takes significant effort, but it's an option.

  You can also go to your local farmers' market or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture - which I will be doing a blog on in the future). To locate CSAs and farmer's markets in your area, go to:

  Lastly, compare prices! Don't just go to Whole Foods and buy up all the organic produce you can find.

  Compare which stores have the cheapest apples, or the best deals on your favorite foods. Trader Joe's is an awesome option, and lots of times the 'big box' stores (Safeway, etc) have various organics on sale. We just have to be diligent and pay more attention!

  For those of you that say that organic food is too expensive, try re-prioritizing your budgets for a while, and see how it works out! As you can see, there are A LOT of things we can do, we just have to make it a priority!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Ice Hotel

Inside the Ice Church.
  My first season in Sweden (2008-2009), I had one of the most unique experiences I think you could ever have: I visited the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. Jukkasjärvi is a tiny village about 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle. We're talking North Pole-esque coldness and darkness.

  In my two seasons in Luleå, also in the Swedish Lapland, I lovingly nicknamed it the 'Frozen Tundra' aka the 'Arctic North'. Leave it to the Swedes to create something awesomely unique from all that snow and ice!

Looking down onto the Ice Hotel.

  Situated on the Torne River, the Ice Hotel is built entirely of ice and snow. Each winter, thousands of tons of ice is harvested from the Torne to become the building blocks for the next year's Ice Hotel. Once winter hits (usually in mid-November), the building process begins. Snow is sprayed on huge steel forms and is allowed to freeze for a couple of days. The forms are then removed, leaving a maze of free-standing corridors of snow.

  In the corridors, dividing walls are built in order to create rooms and suites. The ice blocks from the Torne are then transported into the hotel where selected artists from all over the world start creating the the individual rooms and suites.

Sitting on an ice chair.
  Obviously, the Ice Hotel melts each and every spring. So the Ice Hotel changes every year, making it that much more unique. The year I visited was the 19th edition of the Ice Hotel. They are now onto the 22nd version.

  The Ice Hotel opens its doors to visitors in early December. I didn't sleep in the hotel (just visited for the afternoon!), but I hear a reservation is hard to come by! The limited number of rooms, and the increasing number of people who want to be able to say they slept in the Ice Hotel make for a busy winter in the Frozen Tundra. :)

One of the suites, & it's bed.
  The Ice Hotel closes for business by the end of April. By then, the long days of Spring sunlight melt away the the roof and hotel walls. The snow and ice become a distant memory that is taken over by the midnight sun that shines for 100 days and 100 nights.

  The bed you sleep on is made of blocks of ice, a wooden base and a mattress covered with reindeer skin. Since the hotel is essentially a huge igloo, the temperature inside stays right around -5°C (23°F). I'd imagine that's a little cold to sleep in, so you better bring your long-johns and a hat!
Hallway/corridor of hotel.
  The hallways and corridors give off a cool/creepy feeling. As you can imagine, it stays rather dark inside the hotel. My teammates (Amra and Liz) and I walked around the suites, ice bar, church, and the outside for several hours. After about two, the bottoms of our feet were frozen (and we were dressed for the occasion!). What the artists are able to do with snow and ice is amazing, and we had a great time exploring all the art suites. 

Ice Glass.

  The church and the ice bar are probably two of the most-interesting areas. Several hundred couples are married each winter in the ice church. Can you say memorable wedding?!? And in the ice bar, you sit in chairs/stools made from ice, and drink from ice 'glasses' (also harvested from the Torne River). It's all a very clever, fun, unique experience to have! I loved it! :)

  If you EVER find yourself in Northern Sweden in the winter, you MUST take a trip to the Ice Hotel. You won't regret it! It's one of the most unique/memorable experiences you can have!

  The pictures don't do it justice (and there are a lot more below). Enjoy! ~ Sabrina 

Opening the doors to the Ice Hotel!
Amra, Liz, and myself in the ice church.

Me, Amra, & Liz in one of the Art Suite rooms.

Beautiful early-afternoon sunset in the Swedish Lapland.
A closer look at one of the beds.

Ice church entry.

Closer look at some of the art work in the suites.

Backside of the hotel. Lots of snow!!

That's one tall wall of snow!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Going to Toulouse, to Win

Gimme that. ;) Game earlier in the season.

  This weekend, my team took its third marathon bus ride of the season. Surprisingly enough, I'm getting kind of used to spending a cruel/insane amount of time on the bus. This trip we were headed to Toulouse, or if you're measuring by number of hours on the road: we were looking at 12!

  I was excited coming into the game because I was finally feeling 100% with my ankle. I felt like my mobility was back, and I could finally play and move how I wanted. In recent weeks, I had realized just how tentative I had slowly become. Wasn't driving to the basket, crashing the boards for rebounds, or making cuts through the lane; all because I didn't feel comfortable with how my ankle was feeling and responding.

  So with my body feeling good, I was looking for a big game. Didn't quite work out that way though. While jumping up for a pass late in the first quarter, I felt a jolt go through my back and hip. Never a great feeling to have! :/ After subbing out to have the Toulouse physio work on it, I was able to finish the game. I feel like it's just a small bump in the road, and nothing too serious. I'll be fine!
Previous game versus Voiron.
   In our previous two road trips to southern France, we came away win-less. So our third marathon road trip was definitely a charm! Toulouse was a team at the top of the league standings, so we knew we would have to play a solid game if we were to travel back to Dunkerque with a win. I wouldn't exactly say we played a complete game, but we made just enough plays to eke-out a close win.

  We trailed most of the game as a matter of fact. It was one of those games where it felt like we were down by 15, but you looked up at the scoreboard, and we only trailed by five. Toulouse played a very tough, physical style of defense. They were aggressive, and it threw us off to start out. Luckily we managed to keep the game close while we adjusted.

Previous home game.
  The final minutes of the fourth quarter was the first time we took the lead. By switching up our defenses, Toulouse could never quite get comfortable on the offensive side of the ball. As the clock winds down, and the game gets tighter and tighter, it becomes more and more difficult to make plays when you're a little unsure where to find shots. That worked out to our advantage.

  We knocked down our free throws, and walked off the court with a four point win over second-place Toulouse.

  Big wins are cause for a big celebration. With a 12 hour ride back to Dunkerque, we took full advantage. Our bus was transformed into the party bus for a couple hours, and we savored our win with a little champagne and a little karaoke. Returning with a win in hand is always a little more fun than coming back with a loss. :)

Party bus.
  We have two games (both at home) to go until we take a couple weeks off to celebrate the holidays. I would like nothing more than to end 2011 with a four game wining streak, and hopefully springboard us into the second half of the season!

  ~ Sabrina