Miss Texas International Taylor Ashworth Encourages Everyone to Stay Heart-healthy

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Some members of my family have had of heart-related issues over the years.  This is partly because so little was understood about the effects of poor diet and bad habits in past years; but that has changed now.  My parents educated me on the importance of maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle and I try to follow their lead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a heart health fanatic; far from it.  However, I do work on maintaining a healthy body and mind.

I don’t smoke.  By never smoking, I have reduced my chances of having a heart attack by 70%. 

If you smoke, then stop smoking now.  Just twelve months after you stop smoking, you can cut your chances of having a heart attack in half.  That’s a great return on any investment.

Good eating habits.  I enjoy burgers, steaks, spaghetti, enchiladas, and the Texas Lumberjack breakfast; but not every day, or for every meal.  I eat smaller portions of these foods and if I have a burger at lunch, then I try to have a salad or sushi that evening to balance my daily intake.

For snacks I eat try to eat fruit instead candy bars, vegetables in place of potatoes and nuts & seeds over chips. 

I also eat fish on a regular basis with tuna & salmon sushi among my favorites.  Both are great for your health.  I think fried fish is delicious; but it’s not a healthy fish meal; so eat it in moderation only.

I avoid salt whenever possible.  I don’t add salt to my meals and I even try to limit my salt when eating out.  Did you know you can ask for fries without salt and that most places will make a special order for you?  This not only reduces your salt intake, but has the added benefit of getting you very fresh & hot fries. Yum!

Drink lots of water, avoid sodas (regular and diet) and limit your alcohol intake. 

Exercise regularly.  I’m into full-blown workouts where I push my body and mind to their limits.  It’s great for me, but not for everyone.  If you can just walk quickly for 30 minutes a day, you can cut your risk of heart attack by a third.  Try to use the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the dog around the block or try taking a brisk walk to the mail box instead of just driving there.

Find something that’s fun for you and make time in your life to do it.  For social interaction and good fun I like yoga, cycling and aerobics classes.  You get to exercise in a fun way and you can often make new friends.

Reduce your stress levels.  Be as calm as possible in your life and work toward reducing the stress in your life.  Having friends and family that support you and listen to your problems is a big help.  I have someone that makes me smile and laugh and this is great for reducing stress and maintaining a healthy heart. 

Small changes in your lifestyle can pay big divides in your overall health; so get out there, be active and have some fun!

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It’s a Family Affair, Says Mrs. Texas International Kori Zwaagstra

20160410_3055I often get asked why married women would want to compete in a pageant, that is after they say “I didn’t even know married women can do pageants!”.  I always offer the same answer: because competing and winning Mrs. Texas International is hugely fulfilling for my family and for me.

The role of full time wife and full time mom can often become just that, full time everyone else and very little time left for me.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about being selfish, rather carving out time and energy for something that helps me grow, and better myself.  Preparing for Mrs. Texas and Mrs. International requires that I make my health and fitness a priority.  There is nothing like a clearly defined goal to make you accountable to yourself!  I have to set aside time to prepare for my interview and continue to develop those communication skills.  Most valuably, I have a larger opportunity to raise awareness for perinatal mood disorders and offer outreach to moms and clinicians.  All of those things help me be a better wife and mother.  I’m teaching my children the importance of commitment and follow-through, of time management and about giving of our gifts and talents to others.

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I didn’t title this blog “A Family Affair” just to talk about how Mrs. Texas International has benefited me.  My family has had some very unique and memorable experiences because of my title.  My sons and I took a step back into the Old West at Wyatt Earp Days in Tombstone, Arizona and our entire family got to attend our first ever Major League Soccer game as special guests at the FC Dallas game.  They have heard me talk about how “sometimes mom’s get sad even thought the love their babies” and know that even though you endure struggles, those challenges don’t define you.  I look forward to husband and I sharing the moment of a lifetime when he escorts me on the Mrs. International stage.

I have the enormous honor of representing Texas as Mrs. Texas International, but all of Team Zwaagstra gets to be part of the fun.

Kori Zwaagstra

Mrs. Texas International 2016

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Miss Teen Texas International Celebrates Independence Day

Gracie July 4th

Happy 4th of July! July brings back memories of parades, watermelon eating contests, water balloon wars, taking in fireworks with my family, and remembering those who gave and continue to give their lives for something more than themselves. The safety and freedom of this incredible nation are owed completely to the brave men and women who sacrifice so much in order that we might enjoy a free country. The founding fathers established an institution where the people hold the power-but with great power comes great responsibility. As Peter Marshall said, “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” As stewards of the power entrusted to us, it is important to remember to use the voice you have to leave the world a better place than you found it.

As we celebrate the 240th anniversary of the birth of America, I hope that everyone remembers the sacrifice, courage, and hope that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and others clung to. They believed that “all men are created equal” and “endowed with certain unalienable rights,” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Envisioning a country which placed the voice in the voter’s hands was unprecedented at that time in history. And the freedom that our troops fight for is a gift to be cherished each and every day. Enjoy watching fireworks with your families this Independence Day and remember how blessed you are!

Miss Teen Texas International Gracie Hunt Gives a Shout-out to Her Dad

Gracie June blogSummer is here! I cannot believe that school is out. Summer is my favorite time of year. I love the warm days, the endless adventures, and the many opportunities to love and serve others. I had an incredible time at the Texas Special Olympics a few weeks ago. The athletes have such amazing heart, dedication, and passion. They never cease to amaze me with what they achieve, and always make me want to push myself one step further than I thought I could take. It is by taking those steps of uncertainty that we grow. It is in reaching beyond the confines of your comfort zone that you achieve success. As I wake up each day, I realize more and more the truth in that life is not about achieving an end dream, but about relishing in each and every chance to love fully–to fully embrace the beautiful moment between two eternities that we have been given to make an impact on this earth.

Among the many blessings that I am so thankful for is my father. He instilled the values of integrity, hard work, and compassion in me from the time I was a child. Additionally, he kindled my love for the game of soccer. Both in coaching and caring for me, he has shown me what it means to believe in yourself and pursue your dreams, no matter what others tell you. In this month of celebrating dads, don’t forget to thank your father, or someone who has been like a father to you, for believing in you. I know that without my dad, I would certainly not be the person that I am today. My dad now is adapting to an additional role of “the pageant father,” and I think that he rather enjoys seeing me in my crown, sash, and heels just as much as he loves my turquoise soccer cleats and braided pony tail.

I hope that this summer brings much love and joy, as well as many opportunities to go out into your own community and make a difference! If you would like to contact me, please email me at missteentxintl2016@gmail or follow my journey on social media: Facebook: Miss Teen Texas International and Instagram: missteentxintl

Gracie Hunt

Miss Teen Texas International 2016

Hayden Panettiere’s Public Struggle with PPD is on the Mind of Mrs. Texas International

When news broke last week that Hayden Panettiere announced she was headed back to rehab for her ongoing battle with postpartum depression I had more than one person reach out—had I heard?  I’d be lying if that didn’t make me feel good in a way, that all the talk I do about PPD and maternal mental health is connecting.  I also felt a painful twinge for Hayden, whom I’ve obviously never met.  The same feeling I have whenever I talk with a mom who’s suffering—deep empathy both for how they are feeling and a little reminder of the darkness I walked through.  It takes so much courage to admit that you need help and as a public person who faces public scrutiny that must be ever more difficult.

The real reason I’m sure people are asking my thoughts on her entering rehab is exactly that. Why rehab?  As I said before, I don’t know Hayden Panettiere and can’t begin to imagine her medical history, but my observation is the word “rehab” is somehow more acceptable than “inpatient mental health treatment.” Our culture takes celebrities getting treatment for alcohol and drug addiction with a grain of salt while we are hesitant to discuss mental health treatment. The stigma still hangs heavy in regards to antidepressants. I’m grateful to Ms. Panettiere and all the other women, celebrities or not, who are vocal about their struggles with perinatal mood disorders. Our willingness to share an extremely difficult diagnosis makes it just a little easier for the next suffering mom.

If you are suffering with postpartum depression or anxiety you are not alone and you are not a failure. Help is available and treatment works.

Kori Zwaagstra

Mrs. Texas International 2016

 

It’s Time to Take Care of Mom, Mrs. Texas International Reminds Everyone on Mother’s Day

Yellow RosesMay means Mother’s Day and it also means Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month in Texas.  I’m sure you are familiar with Mother’s Day and have your special brunch reservations made and beautiful flowers ordered (if you haven’t, consider yourself reminded).  Maternal Mental Health Month is a little bit less known, but just as important.  We are talking about loving on mom in May!

 

Postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, pregnancy depression, postpartum PTSD and postpartum psychosis are all mental illnesses that develop either during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth.  One in seven mothers suffer from a perinatal mood disorder and together they are the most common complication after birth.  These disorders affect women across all ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural lines, often in women with no history of depression or anxiety.

 

One of the most difficult issues when it comes to talking about perinatal mood disorders is that large amount of misinformation.  I encourage you to take a look at the most common falsehoods related to perinatal mood disorders.

 

  • All new moms are tired. You will feel better once your baby starts sleeping through the night.
    • True, the weeks/months after delivery are exhausting, but if you are unable to sleep or are sleeping all the time it may be PPD or PPA.
  • Hormones dip after delivery every mom gets a little weepy from time to time.
    • True, but it you are crying or feeling deep sorrow on a daily basis for more that three weeks it may be PPD.
    • “The Baby Blues” or the hormonal dip after delivery are experience immediately after delivery, while the symptoms of Perinatal Mood Disorders can develop anytime up to a year after delivery.
  • New moms are naturally overprotective when it comes to their baby.
    • True, but if you have severe anxiety over leaving your baby for a short time, you fear your ability to care for them, or if you are experiencing panic attacks, it may be postpartum anxiety or panic disorder.
  • Once your baby turns one, things will get better.
    • Perinatal mood disorders do not just go away with time.  In fact PPD can develop into deep chronic depression if left untreated.
  • Perinatal mood disorders only affect the mom.
    • While the mother is suffering from the symptoms, her entire family is hurting too.  Marriages are stressed when husbands don’t understand what has happened to their wife.  Older siblings are left confused and lonely.  Mother-baby bonding is delayed.

 

The good news…perinatal mood disorders are treatable and DO NOT mean you are a failure as a mom.  I repeat sweet momma:  this is not your fault and you can get better.  If you or someone you know is suffering I encourage you to talk to your doctor.  You can also check out the resources page at www.postpartumprogress.org

Happy Mother’s Day!

-Kori

Kori Zwaagstra

Mrs. Texas International 2016

Meet Gracie Hunt, Your Miss Teen Texas International 2016

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Gracie Hunt was crowned Miss Teen Texas International on April 10th at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, Texas.  She is a high school student at Ursuline Academy in Dallas.

Hello! My name is Gracie Hunt. I am seventeen years old and attend The Ursuline Academy of Dallas. I enjoy taking my golden retriever puppy running, hiking high mountains, and spending time with my friends and family. In addition, soccer is one of my greatest joys and passions. My dad taught me to play as soon as I could stand on my own two feet. 

Pageantry has been a dream of mine for many years. My Mom has a legacy in pageantry, and I believe that her experience and love for what it taught her kindled my desire to follow in her footsteps. My official training began nine weeks ago, when I decided to compete in Miss Teen Texas International. Through dedication, hard work, and the constant reminder that with God all things are possible, I worked each and every day, preparing myself to be the best that I possibly could. I am so honored, thankful, and blessed to hold the title of Miss Teen Texas International 2016, and hope to use this opportunity to bring awareness to my platform: Breaking Barriers Thru Sports. 

Gracie Hunt

Miss Teen Texas International 2016

Becoming a Texas Queen: Miss Texas International Taylor Ashworth Talks About Her Journey

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Taylor Ashworth is crowned Miss Texas International 2016 during the Texas International Pageant, held April 10th at the Granville Arts Center.

I know the title of this blog may lead you to believe that I’m giving tips to how to become a queen. The truth of this article is that the road to Texas International, was just a journey of personal growth.

As a 7th grader I remember crying to my mom and asking her “Why couldn’t my life get better? Why do people pick on me? Why can’t I transfer and run from my problems?”

My mom would tell me that no matter how hard people want to change me that I should never stop being me. That I should never stop being Taylor.

I never truly understand what she meant until high school when people’s opinions of me and their “expectations” of what I should be started not to matter to me anymore. In high school, when I would fail at something I let that motivate me to try again to better myself from it.

It took a lot out of me sometimes not to throw my hands up in the air and say “God why me? Why now?”

Cause there were plenty of times I wanted to quit. There were plenty of times I felt hopeless that things were ever going to get better.

I found comfort in prayer and volunteering. It filled my heart and let my mind rest. One of my bad habits is I tend to overthink situations.

When I started college in 2013, I was still learning and discovering who Taylor exactly was. Was she a graphic designer? Was college even for her? How do I make friends after being in a private school most of my life.

As of spring 2015 Taylor was a Miss Texas International 2015 2nd runner-up and a business major. She was 19, happy, and finally almost to where God wanted her to be. That summer I changed majors to Sports Management and honestly it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

That fall I was finally in a major I loved and gained a whole new group of friends. I will graduate next to 300 fellow recreation majors and friends.

I am your Miss Texas International 2016 but, I’m still Taylor. I’m still a full-time student working part-time at Rudy’s BBQ. I’ll still be walking around campus with a Peace Tea and a bag of Miss Vickie’s Jalapeno chips. And you can definitely still find me at home games wearing my boyfriend Garrett’s name on my back cheering for him on the field.

I’m looking so forward to this year and sharing my journey with all of you.

Life it doesn’t get easier but it definitely gets better.

Dream Big.

Thanks for reading!

Taylor Ashworth

Miss Texas International 2016

Texas International Names 2016 Queens

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2016 Texas International queens were named April 10th at the Granville Arts Center.  Gracie Hunt (left) was crowned Miss Teen Texas International, Taylor Ashworth (center) was crowned Miss Texas International, and Kori Zwaagstra (right) was crowned Mrs. Texas International.  All three ladies will represent Texas at the International Pageant in Jacksonville, Floria, in July.

Kori Zwaagstra Crowned Mrs. Texas International 2016, Taylor Ashworth Crowned Miss Texas International 2016, and Gracie Hunt Crowned Miss Teen Texas International 2016

2016 queens will represent the Lone Star State at the International Pageant in July

After a weekend of sparkles and speeches about service, Texas International has named its 2016 queens. Kori Zwaagstra, a mother of two from the Lubbock area, was crowned Mrs. Texas International.  Taylor Ashworth, a student at the University of North Texas, was crowned Miss Texas International, and Gracie Hunt, a student at Ursuline Academy, was crowned Miss Teen Texas International.  All three ladies won their respective divisions during the Texas International Pageant, held April 10th at the Granville Arts Center in Dallas.

Zwaagstra competed among accomplished married women from all over the state of Texas to win her title.  Areas of competition included interview (both on-stage and personal), fitness wear, and evening gown. The Mrs. Texas International system is the premier pageant competition for married women in Texas and emphasizes a woman’s ability to serve and lead her community, as well as inspire other women. Zwaagstra is a dedicated wife and mother whose family includes her husband, Jake; and two boys, Zayne, 7, and Gage, 4.  She is a health and fitness coach.

As Mrs. Texas International, Zwaagstra will promote her platform, “Beyond the Baby Blues,” which raises awareness for the most common complication of childbirth, postpartum depression. Zwaagstra’s goal is to bring visibility to perinatal mood disorders among women, their families and also the medical community. Zwaagstra uses her personal story about her struggle with postpartum depression to break the stigma associated with this disorder that one in seven women will experience. She chairs the Climb Out of Darkness event to educate and provide access to outreach resources for women struggling with postpartum depression.

Zwaagstra will represent the Lone Star State as she competes with women from across the U.S. and countries around the world for the title of Mrs. International July 22-23rd in Jacksonville, Fla

Taylor Ashworth competed among accomplished young women from all over the state of Texas to win her title.  Areas of competition included interview (both on-stage and personal), fitness wear, fun fashion and evening gown.

As Miss Texas International, Ashworth will promote her platform, “The Power of Pink,” to stress the importance of early detection through self-exams and regular mammograms. After seeing several family members successfully battle cancer, and others lose their battles, Ashworth is committed to improving awareness for all women.  She plans to travel the state talking to women about the positive impact of early detection and raise funds for breast cancer research and awareness.

Ashworth is in her final year of study at the University of North Texas, where she majors in Sports Management, a field in which she plans to pursue a career.  She serves as the photography chair for Susan G. Komen of North Texas, as a “You’re the Cure” advocate for the American Heart Association of Dallas, and a marketing assistant for Habitat for Humanity of Denton County. Ashworth has received the George R. Eastman Young Leaders Award from the University of Rochester.

Ashworth will represent the Lone Star State as she competes with women from across the U.S. and countries around the world for the title of Miss International July 29-30th in Jacksonville, Fla.

Gracie Hunt competed among accomplished teenagers from all over the state of Texas to win her title.  Areas of competition included interview (both on-stage and personal), fitness wear, fun fashion and evening gown.

As Miss Teen Texas International, Hunt will continue working with her platform, “Breaking Barriers Thru Sports” to help level the playing field for those with intellectual or financial disadvantages by inspiring participation and inclusion in sports.  Hunt serves as a partner player and halftime advocate for the FC Dallas Special Olympics Team, an ambassador for the Special Olympics and a volunteer leader for Rays of Light.  Her goal is to raise awareness for the importance of respect and inclusion, and she plans to travel the state during her reign, bringing visibility to causes that accomplish these goals.

Hunt is a junior at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, where she plays on the varsity soccer team. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Support Our Troops and Special Olympics. In addition to volunteering and sports, Hunt enjoys playing guitar and hiking with her family. She is the daughter of Clark and Tavia Hunt

Hunt will represent the Lone Star State as she competes with teenagers from across the U.S. and countries around the world for the title of Miss Teen International July 28-30th in Jacksonville, Fla.

The International System was established more than 20 years ago to adhere to a higher standard than other systems.  Texas International seeks more than a pretty face: winners have beauty and depth, and are committed to their communities. Like all pageants in the International System, contestants compete in fitness wear rather than swimsuit. The emphasis is on healthy lifestyle choices in accordance with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, with which the pageant system holds a national alliance.

For more information on the Mrs. Texas International pageant system, please visit www.mrstexasinternational.com, www.misstexasinternational.com, or www.missteentexasinternational.com.

To schedule a speaking engagement or appearance from any Texas International titleholder, please contact Rachel Hedstrom at texasinternationalpageant@gmail.com.

So Long, 2015! Miss International Elise Banks Bids Adieu to 2015

So Long, 2015!

It’s hard to believe that 2015 is almost over. It seems like just yesterday I was ringing in the New Year in Tampa with my family! I do not know if it’s just me, but I feel like the years go by faster as I get older!

I’ll be honest and say that I did not have many expectations as I started this year. Coming from the past few years of disappointment, loss and a big breakup, I knew things had to get better, but I had no idea what God had in store! As I look back over this year, all I can say is “Thank you, Lord!” He has given me such an amazing support system in my family & friends, who have carried me through the highs and lows of this year. He introduced me to so many wonderful people in the International system who have touched my life in many ways. He allowed me to represent the International system, both as Miss Texas and Miss International. This is something I could have only dreamed of! He gave me the passion to put into my platform of mental health to hopefully make a difference in the lives of others. He gave me two incredible bosses who allow me to grow in my career, and also support my duties at Miss International. He has also trusted me with the responsibility of living my life in such a way that will bring honor and glory to Him.

As I close the book of 2015, and look ahead into the new year, my heart is full or gratitude and happiness. I end this year with so many more friends and relationships that I can’t imagine not having in my life now.

May God bless you and your family over the holidays!

God Bless,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015