Category Archives: Fitness

Stories on my running and/or Jazzercise activities.

Peachtree 2012

First year running Peachtree! Here’s how it all went for me.

First, I am very lucky to have good friends in Atlanta who let me crash their experience and help me out. Lord, navigating the MARTA or finding a hotel or the like would be a massive dent in the experience for me otherwise. SO … a big thanks to Mark and Martha and all those associated with Mark and Martha that make the difference in these races for me.

Peachtree is a long honored tradition in Atlanta, the prize being a tshirt at the end. The only way to get this shirt is to run the race. And the only way to get in the race is by lottery. As it happened, the lottery was open while I was down there for the half marathon in March and on a whim, I signed up. They take 60,000 entries and from what I understand, they get about 62,000 entries. So, why have a lottery, I wondered? The lottery apparently started when the race would fill up in one day, before they expanded it to 60,000, and they have some checks in place so that those that have run it before have an easier time getting in.

I found the communication about the race to be fantastic, very easy. Plenty of emails and the number showed up about a week or two before the race. Having picked up my number in the Bridge run and that being a fiasco, and picking it up for the half in March and that going OK, I went for easy this time. I’d been to the expos before and they are fun … but I wasn’t really in the market for anything running-related, so I skipped it this year. (Sorry, I can’t review it! If it was like the other expos related to the Atlanta Track Club, it was terrific.)

Bag contentsThe stuff IN the folder that came in the mail as well as the bag afterwards … eh. The information was extremely clear, and I read that about five times. The magazine was OK. The rest of the stuff? Sorry vendors, mostly junk. Here’s what I got:

  • A coupon for Blue Bell Ice Cream (OK, not bad, don’t eat a lot of dairy but that’s good)
  • TWO coupons for a free waffle at Waffle House that made me giggle. (I’d consider using this but I don’t think they will honor this outside Atlanta.)
  • Gayle’s great tips to a great race, also from Waffle House, with an offer for free hashbrowns.
  • Two $10 off coupons at Sports Authority (good, again probably won’t use as there’s not one nearby)
  • Two flyers from UPS saying I’m awesome (thanks, and what shall I do with this? How were you planning on tracking the effectiveness of these flyers?)
  • An offer for an energy efficient heat pump from Georgia Power and one to replace my gas heater for an electric one. (Again, from SC so thinking this won’t work for me.)
  • Georgia Natural Gas countered with two flyers for $50 in bill credits if I signed up. (Not sure what I was signing up for, but then again, didn’t apply to me.)
  • WSB AM/FM radio, reminding me that I don’t need to worry about traffic reports where I live.
  • 11 Alive TV telling me to watch race coverage (this came early, but most of us were AT the race. Maybe we were supposed to record?)
  • Sometime from the Atlanta Journal Constitution telling me they were more vital today than ever.
  • Two flyers telling me to watch for a heart attack from Emory Healthcare.
  • A cool thing from the Path Foundation that builds trails around Georgia for bikes and the like.
  • Two flyers for the Atlanta Marathon in October and the Half on Thanksgiving, which I’ve run and it was a great race and I may do it again.
  • Three flyers reminding me of the Expo.
  • Another flyer from the Atlanta Track Club, telling me where I could find results (which were up THAT AFTERNOON WOW.)

That was a LOT of paper and most of it didn’t really mean anything to me. (Sorry sponsors. I greatly appreciate the sponsorship but … )

Since I had my number in hand and Martha picked hers up early in the day, this meant there was no huge rush for me to get down there. I aimed for about 5 and got there about … 5:05. Perfect. We meandered to the Dekalb Farmers Market and ate dinner there. Now the ambiance here is a total zero. I will give them credit for real plates and silverware, but you are sitting at cheap tables, set off from the rest of the market with latticework you see on patios. It’s kind of loud and without charm but the food is fabulous, so it’s worth it. You pay by the pound. I believe together, our meals ran to about $12. I had carrot cake, roasted squash, a nice salad with beets on it, some Persian rice and some lentils. All delicious! The bonus is after this is done, you can shop! I highly recommend this: the spices are so incredibly cheap and the tea is a bargain and the selection of olive oils is amazing. They also have a great meat and fish market and amazing amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables. Bonus if you like to buy your rice 20 pounds at a time.

A banana, some water and we were off to the races, waking at 5. We stopped at a friend’s house and parked close to midtown in a “special spot” this friend had. That was the easy part: at 6 am on a holiday, no one but runners were on the road. Proof of that was when we got on the train: all cars were full of runners.

Now we took MARTA, which was highly encouraged, and when we exited, on our way to the race, they handed us these little pocket holders you are supposed to wear around your neck. Not exactly running friendly, and it seemed these were mostly used to hold some of your stuff, then discarded after relieving yourself before the race. Lots of these were around the Port-a-Potties.

Now Peachtree is legendary for being hot. I’d practiced by running in some extremely hot weather and my friends were all telling me that it wasn’t hot enough unless there were 59,999 other people around me. And we had a massive heat wave the week before, going from highs in the low 90s to highs of 105. We got extremely fortunate with thunderstorms the night before, which meant by the time we were finished, it was around 80-85. I was informed this was not a hot Peachtree. I’ll take it!

My friend dropped me off at corral F, since she was walking it this year with a friend and we said our goodbyes. The seeded runners began at 7:30 and each corral was about 2-5 minutes behind that, going all the way to corral X (as far as I know.) They were extremely prompt with this, with our corral taking off at exactly 7:55. The other fabulous thing about this was my corral did not feel too terribly crowded. I’m guessing each corral had about 300-400 runners. We started at Lenox Square, underneath an enormous American flag, hanging off a crane. Lenox was where I used to like to hang out in Atlanta before I got over being enamored with big name brand stores and malls and the like, so it was a little surreal to stand outside the mall.

The race is full of bands and water and even beer and pizza. There was at least one band every mile and in fact, I believe early on, there were even two almost competing with each other. There’s lots of water to drink and to run through, more than you might really need. (Again, not as hot as usual, might have felt different had it had been 10 degrees hotter.) A friend of mine had a piece of pizza at the Mellow Mushroom as well as a beer later on. More than a race, the Peachtree seems to be a celebration of just moving.

The first half of the race is mostly downhill. I worried about the last half of the race, being more uphill, even one point earning the name “cardiac hill.” I did not really run up any hills I found to be heart-attack-worthy, and have certainly run up far more difficult hills even in Atlanta races. Still, this is a fun 6 mile run and extremely well organized. After 43 years, they have this one down to an art.

I will say that the Bridge run had a ton more fun party atmosphere at the end of it. Mounds and mounds of food everywhere, and I didn’t see that here. I did get a water and a shirt, as well as an ice cold wet towel, but not much more. This was fine; I had planned to go to a party at my friend Mark’s house so I didn’t need a lot of that. Perhaps when people are done, they don’t spend a lot more time outside. Perhaps they have planned events immediately following the race that involves being inside. Perhaps the party here IS the race.

Would I run this race again? YES. This is a great event and I love 10Ks anyway. There just aren’t enough of them!

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Book Review: Food Rules

A break from the books suggested for me to read one that I bought myself: Food Rules by food journalist Michael Pollan.

But this isn’t just any Food Rules: this is the special one, illustrated by Maira Kalman, who is the acclaimed designer/artist/writer. This meant that if I was to claim I loved design, claim I loved food that I simply had to buy this book. Otherwise, I’d have to turn in my design license. Or my spatula.

I bought this because it is, of course, beautifully designed. It too looks to be set in Bodoni, along with a really pretty, throwback sans serif font and Maira Kalman’s own hand-written font. I will confess, I’m not crazy about the bold italic used in some of heads, but I can live with it as it’s sparingly used. I do wish they’d used the beautiful sans serif font for the numbers. Plus, I swear there were some extra spaces here and there in the text, so either they left some odd ones here and there or their kerning is just off. The pictures are big and pretty and colorful and make you wish to get to cooking or shopping in a farmer’s market. The painting of the Cheeto is so odd, I wasn’t sure what it was until I read the description in the text.

This nice thing, with the large stack of books on my nightstand (and on my shelf, well shelves), this is a super-short book. If you’ve done possibly too much reading about food, such as I, you can feel somewhat smug about many of the rules that you do know as well as the ones you might be following. It’s a nice compilation of basic sound advice about eating well, without denying yourself (unless you consider eating processed food to be the height of food.) If your New Year’s resolution was to “get healthy”, then I highly recommend that you buy this and follow it. Use this as the basis by which you make decisions on changing your lifestyle, at least when it comes to the “eat right” part of the equation. If you follow these recommendations, you won’t eat at fast food restaurants (rules #22 and 23), you won’t drink sodas (rules #4 and 38 and 40 and 50 and 51) and you will cook more (rule #82). You’ll learn to love food.

With 84 rules, you might think it will take a while to plow through this or adapt this into your lifestyle, but they are very simple concepts and more like guidelines than hard and fast rules. In fact, rule #84 was “break the rules once in a while.”

I’ll add that I agree with my friend Leah McGrath about shopping the perimeter. I shop at Ingles, which is a great little store. The perimeter of my store would fill my cart with: fruits and veggies (good), donuts and cookies from the deli, meats, both raw and processed (and I no longer eat meat, but maybe the fish), and dairy (which I eat sparingly). Left out are the canned veggies and beans, the nuts, the grains, the rices and the spices. So … let’s instead say “avoid buying your food in a box.”

So, if you’re looking to make that big change in your life, I’d say start here. There are so many diets and books and blogs and products out there that just confuse us. And there’s boxes and boxes of food out there trying to convince you that it will give you that health that you’re trying to find. Like the rules say, some of the healthiest foods are hiding behind those products with larger ad budgets: don’t let the beans or grains or parsnips and turnips get lost behind the already prepared “healthy” foods. As the book says (and I promise, this is as cute as the writing gets): “don’t take the silence of the yams  as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about your health.”

If you’re already there, it’s still a fun book to have on your shelf. And we can all make improvements, right?

SO! Grade: A. Design: A- (Sorry, just not crazy about that bold italic font…)

Tortilla Soup, Moosewood Style with a Christine twist

This post is for my friend AMANDA, who decided she just might want to go vegetarian. This is a big leap for her, since I remember her eating chicken nuggets to get through teaching a Jazzercise class. Kudos to her for being able to teach and eat that greasy processed junk, but she’s not doing that anymore!

I sent her a bunch of links, but instead she’s just reading my blog. Wow! Huge compliment! I’m actually quite thrilled to have another reader, which means I probably have about 10 now. Thanks to all 10 of you.

So, since Amanda is a new vegetarian, I thought I’d include this little recipe for soup. My daughter bought us this book after a trip to McClure’s, our local used book store, one day when she was with my mother. It’s a terrific book and I highly recommend getting it for good, quick vegetarian recipes. It’s really designed with the working people in mind, with shortcuts or make ahead ideas to get a good dinner on the table. It’s written by vegetarian guru Mollie Katzen: Vegetable Heaven. We’ve made a few recipes, including the Beet Pilaf, so we knew this would be good.

You make the stock out of 3.5 cups of frozen corn, a bunch of cilantro and 6 cups of water, get it boiling and then let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, put 4 red peppers with 2-3 tomatoes (take the stem off) on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes at 375. Turn every 10 minutes. Let them cool.

Chop an onion, some hot peppers of your choice and about 3 garlic cloves.

At this point, you can do what I did, which was to set the timer for the remaining boiling/roasting time and tell your family “when the timer goes off, just turn everything off” and then go work out. Go run, go Jazzercise, go for a walk, whatever. That way, the food can cool.

When you get back, heat some oil in a pan and saute the chopped stuff you put back in the fridge for about 10 minutes. While that’s going on, take the pepper stems off and dump the seeds, then pulverize that stuff with the tomatoes, along with a cup or two of the broth, in a food processor. Dump the onion mixture and the roasted mixture in the pan, add whatever seasonings you like (cumin, cayenne pepper, etc etc.) and voila! Soup! Serve with crushed tortilla chips.

That’s the end of the Katzen version. We thought it was pretty good, but it needed a little help. Also, we decided the soup needed some extending for the next night. Plus, added protein couldn’t hurt. So, I bought a can of vegetable broth and a can of black beans. I pulled out the soup and put it back on the stove, put in the broth and the rinsed beans and added half a jar of salsa that needed to be used up. BINGO, the soup was now sublime.

Enjoy with guacamole or avocado. Or, if you’re like my family, a quesadilla!

Vegetarian New Year’s

When I was growing up, the daughter of New Englanders in South Carolina, I never ate the traditional New Year’s meal. Heck, I’d never even heard of it. I know that sounds ridiculous and I have no idea how that happened, but I really knew nothing of it until I met my husband. He insisted that we eat it and I hated it. HATED it. I wasn’t a big fan of collard greens, I didn’t have much use for black-eyed peas and the pork? Forget it! The only part of the meal I might have liked was the cornbread and he didn’t grow up eating that part.

So we would try to get creative with it. For example, I attempted to make wontons last year, which was OK, except he was gone all day working on his car with a friend and got home insanely late, so all we both remember was how mad I was at him. Well, I remember it being stupid hard to make them too.

This year, he was baffled how we would make the traditional meal for two vegetarians and one omnivore. How could you make those dishes and NOT include the meat flavoring?

Piece of cake, actually. I started from this site. From here, for you non-Southerners, you can see the black-eyed peas are luck (Keith thinks they are supposed to resemble coins), the collards are cash and the cornbread represents community. Why that is the case I have no idea. Maybe because when you grow corn, you end up with a community of crows? Whatever the reason, I’m happy to have it with the meal.

The cornbread was first. I didn’t make it the way they specified here because I had been sent a package of cornbread mix from one of my tasting boxes at Foodzie. Foodzie is very cool and every month I get samples of stuff from around the country. Salted caramels, chocolate florentines, and lots of sweets, but stuff like farro or flavored salts or … cornbread mix! So, I used that. It is the Nitty Gritty Grain Company of Vermont and I followed the recipe, with the exception of using 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of applesauce instead of 4 tablespoons of oil. You know that trick, right? When baking quick breads? What? You DON’T? Use it. It cuts the oil in half and makes a really moist bread. (By the way, there’s also a few spots locally to get fresh cornmeal, including Haygood Mills in Pickens and Smith Brothers in Anderson.)

The hopping john was next. I soaked the peas this morning, since if you soak them too long, that is when they get you gassy. They start to turn into sugars or the like, so you’re best not to soak them TOO long. Then, I mostly followed the recipe you see here, except I didn’t use a Sazon package. Believe it or not, we have these, but if I’m cooking, I don’t use them. The main reason for this is the first ingredient listed is MSG. So, I just used fresh garlic and a fair amount of cumin and coriander, which are also listed on the Sazon packets. And, since I used brown rice, I simmered the beans for 40 minutes, then added the rice and simmered for another 40. Keith called these “edible” which he swears is a compliment because he says he hates black eyed peas otherwise. Plus, he gets irked when I use brown rice but he’s starting to grouse about it less and less.

Lastly, I made the collards. In this case, I didn’t follow the recipe whatsoever. Instead, I chopped up the greens (tossing the stalks), put them in boiling water with another huge clove of minced garlic and boiled for about 7 minutes. I then drained them and added red wine vinegar, a drizzle of good olive oil and dill weed, along with salt. The family approved.

The pork, although we didn’t eat any, was a huge chop covered in Corky’s dry rub and then grilled for 8 minutes a side, flipping every 4 minutes. He swears this is his favorite dry rub.

And! Bonus! Dinner is also ready for tomorrow. The pork is all gone, but he says he has leftover ham to eat as well.

OK, I’ll get back to book reviewing soon enough. Got distracted by work and well, some of these books have gotten longer too.

The Ladies of EIU

Me and Stacia

This week, I’m getting ready to head to my last board meeting for UCDA, the University and College Designers Association. This has been an important organization for me. It’s taught me a lot: design inspiration and practice, networking, leadership skills, organization skills, and all the while, I met lots of incredible people and saw some amazing cities. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity, not just because I got elected by my peers, but because Clemson gave me the time to be a part of this organization. (I’ll still be involved, just not on the board for now. Time for someone else to have some fun shaping the organization.)

One of the amazing people I met through UCDA is Stacia Lynch, and through her, the Eastern Illinois University communications staff. What a fun group of ladies this is. They’ve been sweet to adopt me as a sister staff member and we have fun looking at each other’s posts and pictures. I feel I know them as well as some of the people I actually work with at Clemson.

Thanks for all the donations!

Stacia is one of the reasons I started running. Well, along with a fellow Jazzerbuddy who ran a half and got a medal for it. Stacia participated in Team in Training to run a marathon and raised a lot of money for leukemia. This inspired me to put on the running shoes and I’m not the only one; from what I can tell, she’s got most of the office running as well. When I started to raise money for Alzheimer’s during the Bridge Run, the EIU ladies donated to my cause. In fact, they donated a lot more than my own colleagues.

Would you let these ladies help you move in?

So, for the EIU ladies, I made them a beard, in royal blue, as a thanks for all their support. I hope they look good with the blue wigs, ladies!

And there’s one more special lady at the EIU office that gets one more extra gift. Tracy Hall-Ingram was the very first to click on that “make you a gift” thing so many of us posted back in January. Tracy has been through a lot this year. She too took up running and even finished a half-marathon, but as a result, has also found she has a fair number of health problems. Looks like she’s switched to biking, as well as working hard to find out a diagnosis and answers to feeling better. She’s also a big supporter of my sister Carla, who wrote a book about her issues with lupus. (If you know anyone chronically ill, they will thank you for buying them this book.) So Tracy, you get a purse, and for you, I lined it with the same royal blue color. Imagine how fabulous you’ll look if you carry the purse AND wear the beard!

A purse for Tracy!

Unfortunately, budgets mean that the EIU ladies can’t make it to Phoenix. I can’t express how disappointed I am not to see them. They’ve managed to keep me sane on the difficult days and make me laugh on a regular basis. And I know they are just as disappointed to not get to go. So, I hope this little care package brings them a small smile. I promise, I’m dropping it in the mail tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll see them in Montreal!

Warrior Dash Delight

Christine and her medal

An evil warrior grin

This weekend, in what I’m beginning to believe is a healthy sort of midlife crisis, I finished the Warrior Dash. What a great time! Here’s a list of things I’d recommend, which goes to 11.

1. Just because it’s called Warrior Dash doesn’t mean they are anarchists. Wow, what an amazingly well organized event. Kudos, Red Frog, KUDOS. I can’t imagine it’s easy to cart this stuff around the country, setting up these events and keeping people from killing themselves, but that is exactly what they do. And not only that, but there’s never a time where you feel overwhelmed or that you’re having to wait forever or even wait for a port-a-potty. At an event where people are drinking beer and using the port-a-potties to change, that’s really saying something. They’ve thought of everything, even down to the tanks full of water and dudes sitting on top of them to spray the mud off people.

Pre race

Before

Post-race

After

2. Mud washes off tyvek and nylon, but in cotton and shoes, it’s forever. Whoops, forgot to take the number off the shirt, but that stayed intact. The $1 nylon soccer shorts I nabbed at Helping Hands came out like brand new. The cotton shirt is permanently brown. If I do this again, maybe I’ll wear a shirt with a boat or a motorcycle on it and give it a ground when I crawl through the mud. Big lesson here: don’t wear anything you want to keep. Your socks are going straight into the trash. And your shoes? Forget it. You are SO giving those shoes away.

Christine starts

Race start

3. You’re going to embarrass your kids, so do it in style. My preteen found my behavior mortifying. Oddly enough, she was mostly horrified by my bandanna. I wore the only one we had in the house, a Harley Davidson my husband got from someone, 20 years ago. Close second was a shirt I nabbed out of the go to charity box that used to be hers. She didn’t enjoy watching me destroy an old favorite. Ultimately, however you dress, just be yourself and enjoy it.

Smurfs

With their movie bombing, the Smurfs will appear anywhere

4. Come in costume if you like, but save your knees. My knees took a lot of surface bruising. Somehow you envision the mudpit being full of soft, gushy mud, especially when you live around a man-made lake like Hartwell Lake. But this one had a ton of grit at the bottom and owie on the knees. Don’t run in hard knee pads necessarily, but if you could find a little something with padding. (Does this make me less warrior-like? It’s just that my legs look like I’m married to a domestically violent midget.)

5. Bring an entourage, friends to share the race and chairs. And sunscreen. You’re going to want someone to document the silliness and believe me, you will not be in any shape to handle electronic devices while covered in mud. Plus, there’s lots of entertainment (a cool cover band that played the 80s, Green Day, ACDC … it made my husband happy to sit and wait for his wife to make a fool of herself.) Even though you’re running, they might want to sit for the 40 minutes you’re cruising around the course. The friends are to compare notes and to hug when your entourage won’t touch you.

Shoes

A big pile of very dirty shoes going to Green Sneakers

6. You can change in a port-a-potty and still not touch anything. Use the lock as a hook and you’re set. Take as little as possible in there too. Bring plastic bags and a towel, maybe 2. Oh, and bring your stuff with you. Leave it in the car and you’ve got a loooong walk back outside to get your stuff. Then a long walk back to a port-a-potty to change. Leave your bag with your entourage. (Or use gear check.)

7. You will happily jump into a pool of fetid water (waist down anyway.) If you bring nothing else, BRING FLIP FLOPS. It’s going to feel so amazing to jump into that pond. But it’s going to feel even more amazing to take your shoes off when you’re done.

8. Be prepared to walk. I thought this would be a simple 5K with some obstacles in the middle. Turns out the running was some of the hardest part! For one thing, it was hilly as hell. For another, it’s August in NC and it was H-O-T. For another, you’re not used to stopping, hopping over barrier walls that are nearly as tall as you are. (OK that’s me but you get the idea. Believe me, you hop off an obstacle and your heart is probably beating a little faster than you thought.)

Fire

Leap over fire! (OK duralogs but still, fire!)

9. Think of the obstacles as a playground for adults. I had that thought, probably around the rope thing that came after the tire thing. The silliest thing was hoping in and out of (very clean but used) dumpsters. I wasn’t impressed with crawling in the dark. Just not terribly challenging. I had expected to have problems climbing up a rope, but had no problem with it. I thought the hopping over fire would be fun, but in the end, it was kind of scary. Then I did it and it was fun. Oh, and surprise surprise … you’re going to be sore. I run 3 miles on a slow day. I’m sore. In my legs.

Mud

Looking pretty good in mud!

10. Enjoy it! Revel in the utter silliness of the event. If dressing up is your thing, do it! If you don’t want to compete in that arena, just beat your demons. I was surprised what was easy for me and what was hard. The climbing up a wall with a rope? Way easier than I envisioned. The horizontal hike? That scared the shit out of me. The top was three boards, separated by two feet of … nothing … air I guess.

11. Results? Who cares! This is just a big old party, honestly. (But for the record, 9th in my age division for Sunday (out of about 100), 182 for females (out of 2102) and 958 overall (out of 4500).) But who cares!

See you in London? Or maybe Mountain City. Wonder what the hills are like there.

To My Daughter on Mother’s Day

Dear daughter,

Today was Mother’s Day and without you, I wouldn’t be honored on this day. So, first off, thanks for being born so that I could experience motherhood.

Everyone says motherhood is hard and it can be. And I think too many times, we honor our mothers because they work hard for their families. I’m not saying that is in no way honorable, but I would hope that we would want more out of our mothers than clean clothes and good meals and getting from school to doctors or extracurricular activities.

And yes, motherhood can be hard because parents (both moms and dads) are trying to shape young people into responsible young adults. That to me, more than the free maid service, is the real challenge.

But here is the great thing about motherhood. Because of you, kiddo, I have been forced to take a long look at myself. I’m forced to confront my own hypocrisies. I’m forced to live a cleaner life. I’m forced to grow up myself.

I’ll give you a few examples:

1. I cleaned up my eating habits and started running. When you were seven, I found myself going up a pants size. Well, I decided if I was going to buy new pants, dammit, they were going to be smaller. But as I joined Weight Watchers and started to change the way I ate and think about the reasons I wanted to change, I realized I had a young girl at home that maybe I wasn’t setting the best example. So I included you, dear daughter, as a reason to shape up. Suddenly it became more about fitting into a bikini (although at 46, I’m still damn proud to do so.) Suddenly this became about teaching you how to eat by setting an example. I was proud to hear you refer to me at church as a good chef. Now you are nearly 12 and the two of us are going vegetarian together. I would have never had to courage to do it without you in my life. As for the running, I could have just kept doing Jazzercise, which certainly kept me fit. Last year, you and I ran in a little road race, then a second one. So I started running because I thought we could do it together. Now you aren’t running (yet) but I still am, because I found that I got benefits from it that I couldn’t at Jazzercise. Plus, I found a whole other cool community of people to share my new passion. I also found it to be a huge stress reliever. As much as I adore Jazzercise, it can be hard to think through the challenges of work or life or whatever with music blaring. Now I have both in my life. One day, you will too.

2. I give back more. I only started attending the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Clemson because of you. I didn’t need church in my life. I could sleep in! But then you came along and my biggest fear was that you would get to be about 15, have no basic understanding of any religion and you would end up with a group that I was not pleased about. So, when you turned four, I started dragging you to church. And, it being a small church, they needed teachers and so I started to teach. Eight years later, I still participate in teaching. Boy, have I learned a lot about religion! Nothing like explaining spirituality to children to force you to think about it for yourself. Now I’ve learned a lot about church and politics too, so it hasn’t always been pretty. I almost walked away at one point. When I voiced this, you cried. I’m so glad we stuck it out. I have important friends there (especially the ones under the age of 13) and so do you. I also started to think about the kinds of charities we gave to, and we gave more. Relay for Life was for many people, but watching you tear up on the luminary remembrance lap made me realize that we have raised a sweet and caring young girl.

3. I think more about my interactions. I figured out early on that if I used a hammer for all my interactions with you, we weren’t going to get very far. So I was forced to change the way I dealt with you, so that our relationship could get stronger and we would be less frustrated. I realized I was the adult in this situation and I could try a different tool to reach you. Guess what? It worked. You were happier, things got done and we developed a stronger relationship. So I try to remember to try different tactics with everyone in my life. I try to be much more empathetic. By seeing things from other viewpoints, I can better understand situations and find solutions.

4. I try new things. New foods, new trips, new restaurants, new activities … not only do I want you to experience everything life has to offer, I want to do it with you and Dad.

So thank you kiddo. Thanks for making me experience life better. Thanks for making me be a better person, both inside and out. And thanks for being the best daughter a mom like me could want.

Here’s hoping we have lots more wonderful Mother’s Days together.

Love,

Mom