Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why I Choose Juice Plus+ as my Pre-Natal

It's not labeled a "pre-natal"; for that matter, it's not even a vitamin. But in my book, that is a plus.
I like natural. Most know that... So the automatic questioning I have for anything is, "Is this the way things were intended to happen naturally?" Because I believe in the power of both God and science. I think they are one in the same honestly... I think science is so complex because God created it and only something that mighty could create something so perfectly planned and well thought-out.

Today's world is full of artificials and shortcuts. I admit sometimes these options, at first glance, are way more appealing than their alternative. But I always come back to what was the way the world was created to work and can I take that route?

But let's also be clear that I'm not an All-Natural-Only-Nazi about life. I take each situation as its own and try to decide what will be best for me, my family and anyone else involved. For example, I wanted to have an all-natural birth, but after 50+ hours of labor and Lou being face-up... my options were to see if an epidural would relax my body enough for her to turn and come out... or a C-section. I chose the epidural and gratefully delivered a healthy baby without having my belly cut open. Every situation is its own.

So when it came to taking pre-natal vitamins, my immediate thought was, "When did this start? Pre-natals haven't always existed and there have been healthy babies for centuries." ...Followed by... "God did not create procreation with the idea we would need to assist our bodies in that creation." So why had pre-natals become a "must" in pregnancy?

It's because we want and need to make sure our bodies are getting everything they need to grow a healthy baby. Nothing wrong with that. I think it's wonderful that we are: 
(a) so aware of this and 
(b) science has allowed us to understand what those highly important things are we need when growing a new life 
But it only makes sense that God created us to naturally have what we needed...and I think if we were eating the way God intended we would. But the truth is, today, we don't eat healthy. Even when we try's nearly impossible. Even if you are eating fruits and vegetables and whole foods, it's so hard to get ones not dowsed in GMOs and chemicals AND ones that have the nutritional content that existed a century ago. (Why do you think the recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings keeps going up?)

I truly believe eating whole foods--especially fruits and vegetables--is the key to our health; therefore I also believe it is the key to a healthy pregnancy. Juice Plus IS fruits and vegetables. AND it is not a supplement. There are more and more studies/revelations saying that vitamins aren't doing the wonders we thought and hoped because our bodies cannot absorb the nutrients at the levels vitamins provide so we end up sending out and wasting so much of what we put in with vitamins. 

Not only is Juice Plus+ not a vitamin, but it actually was studied specifically to see that it is 
(a) getting into the blood stream and 
(b) having a positive difference on cell regeneration. 
The studies say YES to both--and these are just some of the peer reviewed studies out there...Need I say more?!

When I first got pregnant, I was only using the Orchard and Garden blend Juice Plus+. Like any first-time Mom, I wanted the confidence I was doing as much right as I possibly could, so I didn't forego standard pre-natal vitamins and go with JP+ without researching the option. With folic acid being what was the most stressed piece of the "pre-natal" discussion I decided to add the Vineyard blend to my daily JP+ regimen. This would give me nearly double the amount of folic acid recommended--and I could know it was getting into my system, therefore my little one's.

I realize an apple or broccoli is the more natural choice than Juice Plus+, that's why we call it "the next best thing"...and not "exactly the same." I also realize that I could get regular pre-natals cheaper--possibly free. But again, sometimes the cheaper, more convenient option isn't the best route. 

I've continued to take all three JP+ blends since delivery and will continue to do so. You see, my other thought that occurred with my first pregnancy...what with all of the "pre-natal needs" and daily food recommendations through each trimester is... Why is it only in pregnancy that we should eat so well? Isn't the pregnancy "diet" a diet we should follow all of the time? Growing a life is important...but maintaining our own is pretty darn important also.

Editor's Note: I should note that I am not discouraging the use of pre-natals other than Juice Plus+. I simply find JP+ to be a wonderful, whole food option. I think it's wonderful anytime an expectant mother is taking JP+ even if it is in addition to other pre-natal vitamins. Any extra nutrition for that growing and developing baby is a blessing!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Story: Seeking Perfection

I am such a lover of the Juice Plus+ products, but those who know me, know that I am the furthest thing from a sales person as one can get. In fact it stresses me out beyond belief. Despite the fact I sat side by side two of the best sales people I know for two years and heard every tactic and approach out there (I could coach someone to do sales no problem!), I still nerve out and babble if you ask me to sell and I give the prospect every possible out and am probably welcoming them to say "no".

So I have a hard time figuring out my approach to people I genuinely want to share Juice Plus+ with--whether I think their profession fits, their passion for good health or because they have health issues that I know Juice Plus+ could have help turn around. Sometimes I even feel guilty that I have not shared JP+ with certain people but my sales-aversion keeps me from it. The thing is, I know JP+ is a wonderful thing for everyone.

They say to tell your "story" when sharing Juice Plus+. Some people have great stories--and I love to hear them. People who were in pitiful health and made a complete turn around through Juice Plus+ and changing their diet to whole foods. People who beat the odds with cancer. People who got off years of medication. Children who kicked what doctors had thought would be life-long problems. But what do I have? A young woman who has always been pretty darn healthy, always eaten pretty decent and always been pretty fit? Why am I using Juice Plus+ and how do I know it's even doing anything for me?

Well today it struck me... "young woman"... Yes I still fit that bill, but at the same time... I am just over a year from entering the next decade of my life. A decade, when they say, I'll start seeing some of the "youth" of my body and its ability to recover from anything slip away. I am young...but not THAT young. And then the second thought hit me... When I started taking Juice Plus I was only 25. An age when anybody should be in great health--and I was. My story is that I am trying to write as perfect of a story as possible. I'm trying to hold on to that health as long as possible.

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a very whole-food aware family eating organic veggies from our garden, shopping organic before it was easy readily available... steering clear of processed foods... And about the time I was really out "on my own" (two years out of college and spreading my wings) I was introduced to Juice Plus+. It helped me refocus on the importance of what we fuel our bodies with--not to mention I started using the products to increase my fruit and vegetable intake since I did not exactly have a large income to be buying the healthiest stuff in the world. 

It's been four years and it's actually exciting for me to realize that I have done this for myself for four years... I know JP+ is doing wonders for me because there are not just one, two or three--Over 30 and growing--published scientific research studies proving it IS doing something for me... And, well, to put it most simply, I trust science. 

What's most exciting for me is to think all the years I have ahead. Some people only find out about JP+ once sickness or disease strikes. I have it building in my system now and am creating such a foundation of good health. It's not to say I won't get sick or I won't encounter disease even. But this gives me the confidence that if/when I do... my body will handle it 100x better than it ever would have without this foundation I've built into my make-up for years. 

My victory story with Juice Plus+ isn't that I had a major turn around or recovery. It's that I plan to maintain my age 25 health for as long as possible. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sports Talk: 10 Reasons to watch the World Cup

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published June 4 , 2014.  
I know we're a basketball-centric state and county, but guess what the rest of the sports world is getting pumped about right now--and I mean WORLD--THE WORLD CUP.
I admit, this was not always something I paid much mind to; however, 2010, the last World Cup, two things opened my eyes to what an event it truly is. First, I started dating my now husband in 2010 and he is a life-long soccer player. Obviously he cared and had me tuned in. Second, I visited Brazil the week leading up to pool play. I'll go into further detail on that later, but let's just say, I REALLY learned how much he rest of the world cares about the World Cup.

So, why should you care? Here are my top 10 reasons to tune in:

1. No other sport is more universal throughout the world. You know how learning to dribble a basketball is like learning to walk? In other countries, learning to dribble and kick a soccer ball is the same way. And what's more is that even the poorest of the poor countries and cultures have soccer, because it is SO extremely simple to set up and play. If you have a ball... you can mark off a goal and play just about anywhere. 

2. It's easy to understand. Yes, the field is HUGE, but the rules are simple and you can catch on in no time if you're watching. (Except maybe the offsides penalty... That one is kind of odd and took my husband drawing a diagram for me to understand, but otherwise, you're in the clear.)

3. These are some of the best athletes in any professional sport out there. Yes, you might compare basketball athletes, BUT when considering the make-up of a top-notch athlete (not specific skills in a particular sport) there three key differences in soccer and basketball: (a) The playing field is over 17x LARGER in soccer; (b) Soccer has 90 minutes of playing time, basketball has 40-50, depending on the league. (c) There are no timeouts in soccer. With that in mind... your soccer athletes need EVERYTHING when it comes to what makes up an athlete: speed, endurance, agility, creativity, coordination. If you aren't advanced in any one of hose, you won't be on the field. Watch the World Cup and you'll be watching incredible athletes.

4. Aside from the Olypmics, you cannot really compare any other international stage of competition to the World Cup. If anything, the US is the oddball who does NOT tune in to the degree of the rest of the world.

5. You'll get to watch the best of the best soccer. If you've never been into the sport or watched it before, this is where to start because it doesn't get any better than this.

6. All teams come in equal. There is no seeding in the World Cup. After the qualifying games, 32 teams are put into eight pools at complete random draws, and then two teams from each pool advance to the tournament (16 teams). USA is in a pool with Ghana, Germany and Portugal. (Tune into the pool play if you want to watch the US, friends...We drew a tough, tough pool.)

7. You can plan your schedule around watching a least to some degree, compared to something like basketball or baseball. Without timeouts, a close game cannot be extended on and on--and on--like we see in basketball sometimes. While stoppage time is added to the clock to see that the ball is in play a full 90 minutes, athletes and coaches cannot control the time so easily.

8. You might miss something crazy like a Zidane Headbutt. Never heard of it? You know all of the crazy incidents you've watched over and over from your favorite sport? Yeah, soccer has those too... Just go Google "Zidane Headbutt"...

9. Watch for your kids. Casey County has never been a big soccer county. Finally, we have a girls' high school team. If your kids have interest in the sport--especially if they are young--encourage it. Don't shove them into another sport just because it's one you know. The World Cup is a great chance for you to learn and get excited about soccer and be happy your kid might want to play. Plus, you don't want them growing up thinking soccer is as obscure of a sport as curling.

10. Brazil is hosting. OK, so I don't know that watching on TV from Kentucky will give you the effect of what this means. As mentioned, I was in Brazil the week leading up to pool play in 2010 and my WORD! If you thought Kentucky got crazy during March Madness, you haven't seen anything. And Brazil wasn't even hosting that year! Their McDonald's actually created about 20 different sandwiches in honor of different countries competing in the world cup. Every other person you saw was sporting a yellow and green soccer jersey or waving a flag. If I could have managed a trip to visit my friend, Gui Buso (CCHS exchange student in 2003), this summer, I would have. (A baby and home construction got in the way... Maybe we can hope for the Rio Olympics in 2016...) Just imagine Kentucky hosting the Final Four... Brazil IS soccer.

Pool play starts on June 12. USA's first game is on Sunday, June 15 against Ghana. See the full schedule here.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

To Contract or Not to Contract Out....

As an extreme penny pincher, the idea of building our house completely on our own--or at least doing our own contracting, was oh-so-tempting; however, a few items on the "Con" list of that idea eventually allowed getting a general contractor to win out... Some of those things were:
  • The contractor would do all of the coordinating and that work load/headache would be off our plates.
  • I felt the subcontracted jobs (Concrete, leveling, electric, plumbing, etc, etc.... the list goes on and on) would be much more responsive to and timely with a contractor they worked with regularly--and in turn brought them regular business--than to a random young couple who didn't know what they were doing. 
  • We had a builder/contractor who was UNBELIEVABLY flexible in the way we wanted to approach building. He'd do as much as we wanted him to and let us do any part of it we chose. We could tell him WHO we wanted to do a certain job if we had a preference. We would pay as we went along--and he'd turn all of the actual invoices over to us to see the individual expenses. (Although we only had to write a check to him and he took care of the individual payments.)
  • Ummm... We'd just had a baby... Yeah that was a big one.
Mingus talking with our GC.
I'm so glad we went with the decision we did... Although I am tracking exactly how all of the money is being spent. (Thanks to having every invoice and receipt.) Yes there are costs for the management of a GC, but my goodness, the payoffs are worth it!
  • I'm glad I'm not having to call around about everything. With the winter being as cold as it was, we had some major delays...and I'm sure I would have had a heck of a time getting them to pour the foundation on a Saturday--when the occasion finally arose when it was warm enough to pour concrete. But you better bet they did pour on a Saturday thanks to the GC. 
  • It's not just the headache/work of doing the coordinating. I honestly don't know how I could have had time. We'd probably barely be getting the house under roof if it'd been left up to us. Mingus works all day and has projects like his bees, bunnies, the garden (and on and on) when he is home. Me? Well, when I'm not keeping up with an infant/now 7 month old... I'm trying to keep the house is some sort of order AND get in the work-from-home jobs I'm trying to manage in order to keep our income where it needs to be.
  • I hate making decisions! Just picking out paints and stains is hard enough--and there are so many detail decisions... Adding on top of that having to choose WHO was doing each job? I'd be second guessing myself the entire time--not to mention being torn between going with the "cheaper" option and the higher quality option... I trust our GC completely to send us teams that he would be comfortable with building his own house.
  • I don't feel like I HAVE to be present for every project taking place. Someone else is making sure these guys find their way out here... Someone else deals with making sure the long tractor trailers can make it across our tiny bridges. Aaaannnnd...a big one....
  • Someone else calls people back when they did something wrong. That's a good thing, because sometimes I can be too nice. Even though I'm paying these people money... AND this is the house I'm going to be in forever... AND changing things AS they build is a thousand times easier (and less expensive) than going back later to make changes... I still feel bad when I ask for a change on work that was already done or realize they did something differently than I requested. Half the time I find out it's an easy fix/change... 
Although contracting, we have chosen to take on certain jobs on our own--which I must say has really only been possible thanks to (Mingus's) family and friends. Most of the time I end up doing about 10% of the work--if that--because DL has my hands full. The things we have done ourselves include:
Exterior staining with the help of Mingus's parents. A MUCH easier job
to accomplish thanks to being able to use the GC's scaffolding.

  • Sub-contracting our in-floor Pex for heated concrete.
  • Locating, choosing and buying our outdoor wood furnace.
  • Buying the metal for our roof
  • Buying our windows and exterior doors
  • Buying the chimney pipe for the indoor wood stove.
  • Buying the paints, primers, stains, etc.
  • Staining the wood exterior.
  • Concrete staining (WHAT a project... more on that to come) 
We also plan to do all of the interior priming and painting as well as hanging the doors and putting up trim.   
We toyed with the idea of laying the in-ground pex ourselves, but I'm glad we
simply bough the pex and then sought out someone with experience.

In the end, I feel the expertise and efficiency has been well worth the money spent on not self-contracting. Another point I should make is, perhaps if either or both of us had any experience in home construction I would have leaned toward doing it ourselves, but we don't. Neither of us have ever even owned a home, so we are definitely noobs at every aspect. But with drywall ready to go up... I'd say we are quite pleased (and very excited!) about where things are at this point!
Friends taking in sunset with Mingus after a long day of cleaning--and
re-cleaning the concrete in preparation for staining.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lists... Dot firsts | Home Building | Prayers

I am an avid list-maker... and since time is running short, this issue I’ll simply make a few lists:

Dorothy Lou Firsts

1. She had her longest road trip to date, going with Mom and Nana to North Carolina to visit her Great-Aunt Anne and Lorms family members.
2. She attended her first Juice Plus+ training and was quite a hit as a happy, healthy Juice Plus+ Babe!
3. She experienced her first major power outage in February. We took refuge at Greystone for 3 1/2 days, keeping warm, reading books and playing by candle light.
4. She got the devil scarred out of her! She was baptized at Sacred Heart Church with Holly Jo and Michael becoming her Godparents.
5. She had her first play date with Sadie Jo & Maya together; however they were all only 3 months old and did not do much playing at that point. Actually... Dorothy screamed...
6. Enjoying springtime in The Valley. We are so glad for the warm, sunny days and getting outside. It’s amazing the effects the fresh air has on her.

 Home Building things that are exciting & scary
1. Pouring foundation. A real sign of construction! ...But we put in radiant floor heat. Hopefully it’s right because there is no going back!
2. Walls going up. It looks just the way I envisioned when drawing and redrawing sketches... But NOW is the last chance for any changes...what might we regret?!
4. Moving on from one stage to another. Progress is exciting, but this tight wad sees the dollar signs rolling...eek!
5. Picking out paint and stain colors. I’ve always been a creative person, so coming up with color schemes is definitely fun, but there are so many options! What if when everything comes together it just looks like a hodge podge of colors? Paint doesn’t come cheap so I’m not looking to redo anything anytime soon.
6. Staining our concrete. There are so many cool looks this can provide, but the colors are so dependent on your concrete and every slab provides a different look--not like paint. And once you’ve stained it, there is no going back!
7. Cabinets for our kitchen. I’m excited to fill out our kitchen (since the downstairs is very open concept and it’s still hard to envision the kitchen exactly), but this is such an important room for us (ME!) what with loving to host, making home-cooked meals daily and preserving garden food regularly. The kitchen is definitely THE room I don’t want to have regrets about.

Things currently on my prayer list
1. The continued guidance on decisions about our home construction and the guidance of the workers actively taking part in its construction.
2. Alyx and Mr. Special K... for a safe delivery (for Mom and Baybo) in the coming month. I’m so excited to meet him and for Dorothy to have a little boy cousin to join in on games of dress-up!
3. The upcoming marriages of Ian & Robin and Boo & Kristen. While I look forward to the fun of their wedding days, I mostly pray that it be the beginning of a wonderful union, one in which God is very present.
4. Guidance as a mother. All praying mothers ask God for help in this special responsibility as well as the health of their child, but more specifically I pray:

  • That I do all I can to guide this soul into becoming who it is God has planned, so she can best be on the path to achieve the tasks God has set out for her. I pray that our souls connect in our nightly slumbers so that we can better understand one another in our waking hours.
  • That I am loving you as much as any child deserves. I’ve always known I wanted to be a stay at home Mom, but I am still doing certain work from home and I pray that I am not taking too much away from the most important job: being a Mother.
5. For our financial stability. People often say, “I wish I could afford to stay home” in reference to being a single-income family. The truth is, I don’t know if Jon and I can afford it. It’s scary. We are not wealthy by any means, but we’re following what we truly believe is God’s voice. We simply pray that we hear his calling and are doing what he would ask of us--whether that be for me to be at home or otherwise.
6. My Aunt Anne, her battle with cancer and her entire family. Such a special person in my life and my Uncle Kelly was gone far too soon. She still has such an important role to play in the life of her children and grandchildren, at least from my perspective. Of course, God is all-knowing and we trust in him.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sports Talk: The Perfect Season

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Apr. 9 , 2014.  
Needless to say, Monday night was a let down to many of us. But, even before the game was underway I began thinking about the idea of a "perfect season". What do we consider that to be and would it be all it's cracked up to?

The Cats came into the season with their fans loving them and everyone else hating them just as much or more than usual. All eyes are always going to be on the pre-season number one, but let's face it... Unless you are in the Big Blue Nation, you pretty much despise it. While everyone else hated on Kentucky, we had the highest of high hopes for our Wildcats and between having the best recruiting class of all time and being the preseason number one, there was no reason not to have our sights set high.

The "40-0" idea was the idea of perfection. A perfect season. Obviously that was wiped off the table immediately, but looking back... Despite the losses and despite coming up one win shy of the ninth national title, aren't the imperfections what allow the BBN to thrive?

We went from the top, to being the NCAA's joke. No, that stretch of going 5-5 prior to the NCAA Tournament (including not just one, nor two, but THREE Florida losses) was far from 'fun'. But it gave the true blue fans a chance to hang with their team and stand behind them despite the fingers that were pointing and laughing.

And guess what? We got the final laugh. No, we did not win number nine, but the national tournament showed the college basketball world there is a method to the UK madness and the flaws and imperfections of the regular season were all just part of a bigger picture and part of what a young team has to go through.

I couldn't help but sometimes think of our own Rebel basketball squad from this past season when UK had some of their rough games and rough patches. "Freshman mistakes," we often heard--from Stallworth and Calipari. Despite the talent of a player, sometimes, their early experiences at "the next level" involve growing pains. UK had a lot of those this season, just like we saw from our Rebels; but between those freshmen mistakes and growing pains there were those shining moments. In the case of both teams, CCHS and UK, in the post-season we saw kids grow up. There were still moments of frustration and "What were you thinking?!", but then the moments when natural talent came into balance with the motive of playing for your TEAM came together to shine. Those moments outweighed all of the rest.

The Wildcats proved they were what they cracked up to be during the NCAA tournament. Sure, we lost in the end, but if we had one perfect season after another, it would be easy to live in this state and stand behind UK season after season. But these are the seasons that test how thick the blue in your veins really runs. The finish to this season should make all TRUE BLUE fans very proud to be a part of the BBN--even more proud than they would have been had the team come home with a championship--because that would make it easy to claim your Wildcat allegiance.

Congrats to all teams and fans on a fun March Madness--and thanks Kentucky schools for keeping the fun alive for us fans to the very end for three seasons in a row now!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sports Talk: What is an athlete?

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Apr. 2 , 2014.  
There are many ways to define an athlete and there are many types of athletes when you think of them in terms of sports, but at the heart of it, what is an athlete? I learned my own lesson in this last weekend when I participated in the Run The Bluegrass event in Lexington.

The fairly new half marathon event is a celebration of spring in Kentucky and my sister is the assistant race director so my husband and I decided this year we would partake in the event by simply doing the seven mile run they offer. I wanted to do the race for a couple of reasons:
   (1) To get myself back into running shape after having had my first baby. 

   (2) To support my sister first hand and see the end result of her hard work.

Unfortunately, with this winter's weather (and now having a babe to keep up with) my training did not exactly go according to plan and even the seven miles was a lot more than my body was technically ready to handle.

On top of being unprepared for the mileage, Saturday's poor weather was a major disappointment. However, waiting in our corral to get to the start line and very cold from the intense wind and the spitting rain (still unsure I could even complete the 7 miles!), I realized I was really unphased by the weather. I'd seen worse. Much worse. And it wasn't like there was an option to bail.

As an athlete you know that when it's time to compete, the things you can't control--like weather--might as well be a side note. It could be worse--and everyone around you, whether you see them as competition or teammates, is dealing with the same conditions. On top of that, you have prepared accomplish the particular feat and a little rain and cold will not stop you.

What is an athlete? Someone who doesn't back down from the challenge they have prepared themselves for, despite the conditions.
 So even though I got over the wet and cold, I still was unsure of how I could do seven miles I had not trained for; but I am blessed to have spent 11 years of my life training and competing and even more than that running in general. My legs were able to find their easy pace, settle in and stick it out. I remember even in my earliest track practices as a 6th grader running around the CCMS gym, if we were doing a 10 minute run for a cool down, I never walked. I found a way to keep going.

What is an athlete? Someone who battles through the obstacles to complete the task they set out for.

But my own accomplishments on Saturday were nothing compared to many of those racing that day. Especially one of Casey's finest, Amy Barlow.

photo courtesy of Amy Barlow
My memories of Amy go way back to being a youngster who admired the Lady Rebel star. Not did I look up to her for her skills as a basketball player who led the team to its first 12th Region Championship, but for the kind, humble, soft-spoken role model she was to those of us up and coming in Casey sports. She encouraged us and helped people like myself get on our own track to becoming true athletes. I remember later watching Amy play at Centre College during her collegiate career.

It's an understatement to say Amy's had her setbacks as an athlete. (And she is the first to praise God for the miracles and blessings he has showered her and her family with through the past several years.) Yet, Saturday I truly came to appreciate that the athlete in Amy cannot be extinguished.

My husband happened to spot Amy before the race began on Saturday so we joined the fellow Casey County crew--Marty Shackleford, Ellen Allen and Ashley Estes--for some pre race pep talk and commiseration over the poor weather. Amy and the others were running the full 13.1 miles. (Yeah, we felt like slackers...)

I have seen Amy at most of the local 5Ks I have covered over the last few years but on Saturday she completed a half marathon--something only a select group of people can lay claim to. Heck--I've been a runner for most of my life and I have only done one half marathon.

While I have always known Amy to be a very hard working and dedicated individual, I realized something else after she completed Saturday's run--in the wind, rain and cold. (And I will note that the weather turned worse around the time I finished my seven miles, so Amy was running in the worst of it.) Amy is an athlete through and through. When her basketball playing days ended, most people in Amy's shoes would have been ecstatic to simply be alive. And don't get me wrong. I know Amy is that, but she has found a way to let that athlete in her live on. She may no longer compete on a court where there is a scoreboard and she's attempting to outdo the opponent. The competition of a runner is oneself and sometimes facing that opponent is even tougher.

I learned long ago that Amy was someone to admire for the person she was, but many of us also admired her for the athlete she was. All of us still admire her for the person she is and what she has endured, but last weekend I realized the athlete in Amy is still thriving and is still worthy of much admiration. Young or old, any athlete should aspire to her level of dedication and work ethic in order to compete at their best and come out on top.

What is an athlete? Someone who loves to put in the work that it takes to be a competitor--even if the competition is oneself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sports Talk: Who will own 2014?

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Mar. 26, 2014.  
Back on New Year's Day I pondered over who the year 2014 would belong to when it came to this state's great college rivalry. I think this Friday beginning at 9:45 p.m. will be the determining factor.

For the second time in three years the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals will square off on the ultimate stage: the NCAA Division-I basketball tournament. While this time it may "only" be in the Sweet 16, as opposed to the Final Four in 2012, I think Cats and Cards fans will agree that victory claimed will be just as sweet.

Every tournament game always matters for a team. Whether you are a number one seed or a 16, fans, coaches and athletes all yearn to keep advancing. (And what I think UK and UofL fans can agree on after this year's seeding is that the seed is arbitrary and arguable.) At the same time, for Kentucky and Louisville fans, the December match-up is oftentimes equally important, so combining the two means this red and blue state is going nuts with anticipation this week.

Everyone knew the meeting was a possibility with the setup of the brackets, but aside from the truest UK fans, most felt the odds were questionable with undefeated Wichita State in Kentucky's path to the Sweet 16. However, what has been arguably the most exciting tournament game thus far puts our Wildcats in a rematch with the Cardinals.

While Kentucky took down Louisville in their previous season meeting, the Cardinal team saw more success in the late regular season. However, the Wildcats we saw last weekend look hungry for a championship.

Speculation over how things will pan out in Indianapolis could go on for days, but the bottom line is it's anybody's game. Not only is it tournament time but it's the biggest rivalry game this tournament will see. Kentucky pulled it off in 2012 and went on to become national champions. Will they do it again?

As a fan of all teams of the Bluegrass, I'm excited to know that one of our teams will be advancing to the Elite Eight, regardless of Friday's game; however, who will I be cheering for? Louisville.

While I am so happy to see Kentucky coming on strong after having some disappointments this season (and I would be cheering for them in any other game), I feel much more invested in the Louisville team. I admire the hardcore Kentucky fans who are not just on the bandwagon on the good days. For the sake of those fans, I want Kentucky to win, because YOU deserve the win. But when it comes to the guys playing, who deserves the win more for their devotion to their school and program? My vote is Louisville and I want to see those guys advance. It's not about "Louisville" but about the individuals. I feel attached to the guys on the UofL team. I want to see those guys--Russ Smith, Luke Hancock--advance. For me, there is such a difference in cheering for a team simply because of the colors they wear compared to cheering for people and what they mean to you.

When the day comes that these two teams face each other in the tournament again and both teams have a group of guys taking the court who have been wearing their colors proud for multiple seasons, well, I guess I'll be an individual divided. For now, though, I'll just be living in a house divided... No, not my husband and I. We'll both be cheering for the Cards... But our 5 month old daughter only has a UK onesie so I guess she will be repping the Cats for us. Somebody's got to, right?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sugar Count? ...Ain't Nobody Got Time Fo' Dat!

I will start off by admitting I do not have numbers for you this week. And I will also admit that while I did better in some aspects this week, I did much worse with the overarching goals: No Sugar.

Well, I think I did worse at least... While I did continue to track my food and sugar content this week, the problem came in the fact Mingus packed LouLou "over the river and through the woods" to Mamaw's house in Indiana. 

While Mingus and I are very conscious of our food intake and working to get good nutritional value (and keep out the bad stuff), we are far from perfect. This means, when we travel, usually fast food is involved. That's where things got dicey this week. Over the three days we were away from home we had Long John Silvers, Chick-Fil-A and Arby's. Additionally, we also ate Mexican out with the family. It's not that we indulged in treats on any of these occasions. I even passed on Chick-Fil-A's Polynesian Sauce after I looked at the ingredients and saw that high fructose corn syrup was the first thing listed. (I shouldn't be surprised at all, but it was still a major disappointment... I love that stuff!) We skipped sodas and really we just ate sandwiches and fries on all occasions (minus the Mexican of course). But based on what I am learning about sugar's sneaky ways of getting into our foods, something tells me those sandwiches and fries had sugar in them--at least to some extend, if not a major extent. 

I know I probably could spend a good chunk of time with Dr. Google and find out the exacts on everything I ate, but, really... Ain't nobody got time fo' dat.

In addition to the fast food, we weren't overly picky about the food that was available to us and I'm sure we picked up a little extra sugar in things like the peanut butter I ate or the crescent rolls for breakfast.

Next confessions: I used my once a week cheat allowance.
32oz Frozen Margarita: 156g Sugar Source
Mingus and I split a frozen margarita... Although we didn't exactly split it as half of it was remaining when we left the restaurant. Neither of us had had one in ages. For whatever reason, I felt better about this being my 'cheat' than something like cake. Maybe, because it's truly something I rarely indulge in and in the big scheme of things, when Lent is over, I hope to avoid indulging in sugary treats on a regular occasion (ie, any time the opportunity presents itself) and only for the rarities. The margarita is a perfect example: something I don't have the opportunity to enjoy too often. (The fact Mingus and I agreed, together, to allow this cheating moment also made it feel OK. He and I are in this together.)

Since it was my 'cheat', I did look up the sugar content of the margarita. I found that a standard 32oz drink has 156g of sugar!! Wowzers! Luckily, Mingus and I only had a 20oz drink... But only drank half of it (10oz) and I (at most) had half of that (5oz)... Which means I had approximately 24g of sugar. much sugar from 5oz!

Considering what this week could have meant... I did really well. Before our margarita splurge we'd attended our nephew's 4th birthday party, complete with a beautiful cake and scrumptious looking cupcakes. I originally thought this would be my cheat... But when it came time for cake cutting, it just didn't seem worth it. Probably the harder temptation to turn down this week was a brownie... Ooooh brownies. Nothing gets me quite like a ooey, gooey, chewy brownie full of chocolate goodness... But I resisted nonetheless.

At home, everything actually progressed (if that makes up for the weekend at all..) The only bad sugar I consumed came from ketchup, hot dog buns and one can of Campbell's soup. All other sugar was primarily natural occurring with a few things that had natural sweeteners like honey and agave syrup.

What I have learned is what a HUGE amount of sugar--naturally occurring sugar--we get from our fruits. It's crazy actually and when you do realize this, you truly understand why there is absolutely no reason to add sugar to your diet. Our bodies do need some, yes, but when you can easily get more than enough from a single apple, the refined sugars are completely uncalled for. I eat raisins practically everyday because of my oatmeal which means I'm probably getting over 20g of sugar just from that!

If you are more of visual person, this blog post gives a very simple and easy to understand picture of how much sugar we get from fruits, as well as from other foods. Take a look...then consider what you're eating for breakfast... or what you are feeding your kids for breakfast. 
On to another week... No major traveling happening so hopefully I'll be back on track!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sugar Dump Week 1: 9g/day... Fail?

One week of NO SUGAR (well, refined sugars to be specific) down ...aaannnd... How'd I do?

Excellent...yet failed miserably at the same time!
As promised, I have been keeping record of what I'm eating each day to track my sugar intake. I've kind of categorized things in 3 ways:
     - Naturally occurring sugars (like those in fruit)
     - Natural sweeteners (like honey, agave)
     - Refined Sugars (sugar, high fructose corn syrup)

With the first two, it's hard to track my sugar intake unless they are being used within another food that I bought at a store and the nutritional info is listed. For example, I've eaten a lot of grapes and pineapple this week... NO idea the sugar on those so they are not included in my totals; I simply mark them on my sheet to denote I DID get sugar from them. (Although I'm sure I could research online and get the info easy enough.) On the other hand, I bought a bag of apples and they had nutritional info.... 16g of sugar per (what they considered a) small apple! Perfect example of why there is absolutely NO reason to ever add sugar to your diet!

And I'll tell you one thing I've already learned... What's the fastest way to get me to refill the honey pot? Tell me I can't have sugar!! Our squeeze bear and our honey pot have both been empty for a couple of months now... We have VERY limited honey left from what we extracted two years ago (plus it's a sticky mess to refill), so both Mingus and I have put off refilling either... But, let me tell you, two days into no sugar you can bet I was digging out what honey we had left!

But, the point is, I did consume honey last week... in multiple things... I can't really track that one either, assuming it brings some type of sugar into my system. 

So total, for what I could track--of good and bad sugars--I consumed 233g last week, averaging 33g a day. How much was refined sugar? 63g... 27% of it. I averaged 9g of refined sugar a day even when I was cutting out everything to the best I could!! Now just imagine how much sugar I have been getting on a daily basis when I WASN'T cutting it out? When I was enjoying bagels, instant oatmeal, ice cream, chocolate...

So here's where my refined sugar came from:
  • Pasta Sauce: It's REALLY hard to find it without sugar... And we figured we didn't want to throw out what we already had open so this was definitely our biggest downfall. The Ragu we had contained 12g in 1/2 a cup of sauce!!
  • Ketchup: We LOVE our Brook's ketchup... Bad news... It has high fructose corn syrup :( But, again, we didn't want to waste what we already have open, but it has 5g/2T!
  • Store-bought breads: hotdog and burger buns plus any bread. I guess I need to get back to making my own and not just bumming a loaf a week off of my mom! These breads had 3g/serving... And sugar was actually listed as an ingredient. I'm sure our bread has sugar, but in the natural way and from the honey.
  • Balsamic Vinegrette Dressing: It's open in our fridge and for the little bit that is in there I have gone ahead and used it on the salads I made this week.... 4g/2T...
  • Ritz Crackers: For the record, I only ate a few... Because the packet was already open and would go bad if they sat for 40 days!
So, you can see, it's not like I was consuming the obvious sugar-loaded foods. In fact... most of the things we ate that had refined sugar were very minor amounts (in comparison to most sugar foods), but it adds up so quickly! Again, if I'm getting 9g/day and really trying to keep the stuff out... just imagine the overload we all get when we're not paying attention?

Has it been hard? Yes and no. 

Ironically, the hardest and most tempting place I've been has been church! Darn the good people and their delicious baked goods!! Both on Ash Wednesday and after Sunday mass there was food in the basement. I know I gave myself the "cheat once a week" rule and I was SO tempted to use it this past Sunday, but I opted out... I knew if I just got out of there I wouldn't regret not touching any of those donuts or pastries... 

The other hard part is breakfast... Not so much at home. I have been fixing oatmeal, but last Friday I headed out early. There was absolutely nowhere I could stop and grab something to eat, particularly because, in combination with the no sugar, as a Catholic I don't eat meat on Fridays... so no breakfast sandwiches either. At least I thought of my limited options before I left the house and I grabbed an apple... (16g of sugar right there--but natural!)

I did make a trip to Whole Foods to shop for items we needed (spaghetti sauce) and items I could use for snacking throughout the day. (This breastfeeding thing keeps me hungry constantly!) While I did not find teriyaki sauce or pasta sauce with zero sugar... I did find it with either organic cane sugar, cane syrup or agave syrup instead. In fact, everything I got at whole foods that had some amount of sugar content, I was able to get with one of those natural, organic sugars/sweeteners.

How did the shopping trip turned out?

Having new, safe, healthier snack options in the house has saved me big time! It's kind of funny when I think about it... I thoroughly enjoy snacking on what my options have been this week: grapes, pineapple, apples, sesame sticks, dried fruit and nuts, rice crackers, sweet potato chips, peanut butter... I think my past problem has been two fold: (a) I have bad sweets available in the house (b) As long as those sweet treats are there, the 'healthy' snacks don't appeal.

Mingus has been happy with his decision to nix the sugar as well. While we don't keep soda on hand, he typically drinks it for lunch and cutting it is definitely helping him. We've enjoyed a lot of popcorn for our late night snack (no microwave of course). 

Oh... And I have found my ice cream substitute: plain organic yogurt with honey and a drop of vanilla... Yum!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Sweet Farewell

It's official. No sugar.

Or something pretty darn close.

After paying attention to everything in our pantry over the past two weeks, I realize that completely cutting sugar will be next to impossible. Luckily, it will be easier since Mingus has decided to take on this Lenten goal with me. (Meaning he won't be tempting me with sweet treats and stuffing the cabinets full of things I can't touch.)

I admit, we've kind of gone overboard on sugar the last couple of weeks, knowing we were going this direction. We used the excuse of giving it up to kind of overdose lately. (I was also using the excuse that I needed to eat up anything in the house that would be tempting me later!)

So, I won't be eating anything that is outright sugary. However, I'm giving myself a couple of rules of allowance since this is a bit extreme.
(1.) If I make it from scratch, we can eat it. (With a 4 month old, a part time job and plenty of house work, it's not like I have time to bake cookies and cakes on a daily basis or anything.) I usually try to use at least partial honey as my sweetener anyway.
(2.) I'll give a once a week exception to a sweet treat.

Having mentioned honey already, I should note that we are OK with natural sweeteners like this.

Here are a few things that are going to be hard to work with:
  • Pasta Sauce: Mingus tried to find one without sugar over the weekend at our regular grocery with no such luck. Pasta is an easy staple, so we will probably still make it with our current sauce, but we are on the look out for something better at a health food store. (We also have a couple of jars of our homemade, but we're saving that for a rainy day.)
  • Teriyaki Sauce and Soy Sauce: Another go-to staple in our house is stir-fr. We always have veggies and rice in the house and usually some chicken breast or tofu. Again, though, these sauces have sugar/high fructose corn syrup. We will be using Tamari in place of the Soy (Tamari is REAL soy sauce... as in ONLY soy... Why it isn't called 'soy' sauce, I cannot tell you...) We'll have to keep looking for a healthy teriyaki option
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing: Probably our most usual salad dressing for our quick salads we eat with a lot of meals. We have made our own dressings in the past and it looks like we might need to get back to that.
  • Crackers: A lot of crackers have some sugar in them, so it's just something else we'll have to pay attention to when shopping. Also, I've taken to liking Wheat Thins as a snack, but they will definitely be out during this process. (Graham crackers will too obviously.)
  • Peanut Butter: We're actually OK with this one. We currently have a jar of Earth Balance peanut butter and its only sweetener is agave nectar. However, I know a lot of PB has plenty of sugar in it. 
Since I can't give up sugar completely at this point, I am going to do my best to track how much sugar I do have in a day's time. I'll write down the amount in anything that has a food label. Now, things like fruits and veggies all have an amount of natural occurring sugars in them I'm sure and I won't know how much I'm getting from these, so I'll just note if I ate certain fruits on a given day. I'm very curious to see how much sugar my body is still getting when I'm cutting out the obvious sugars.

Wish me luck and good luck to you and your Lenten sacrifices and penances. May it be a blessed season of reflection for us all. 

Now back to my last pint of ice cream I'll be enjoying for awhile...

Sports Talk: The 3 Week Home Game Frenzy

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Mar. 5, 2014.  
The last two weeks of CCHS basketball action has been a real treat and I am sorry to all of you Rebel and Lady Rebel fans who failed to make it to any games--especially since they've all been at our home gym, which was kind of the icing on the cake.

The best part all of these home games was the atmosphere that came with them. Having been to plenty of games over the last few years, I've seen plenty of nights where the stands are rather vacant. Even some of the nights when the student section has a crowd, they don't necessarily get "into" the games and the whole feel of the gym is pretty stagnant.

The electric atmosphere at CCHS started three weeks ago. First the boys' took a major victory over Green County the same night as the schools' Basketball Sweetheart ceremony, as well as seeing the two 2013 track and field state champions honored, Micah Smith and Shelby Stringer. The following night parents, players and alumni had a special night of honoring Coach Salyers.

Then, the final game of the season for both teams came the next Friday: a doubleheader hosting neighbor rival Lincoln County. It was a record crowd for a regular season game this year.

On top of being a great rival (particularly for the Lady Rebels) and Lincoln being close enough to send a respectable number of their own fans, Casey's crowd was aided by numerous before and between game events. Coach Salyer's was honored with the court being dedicated to him (a surprise for him) and unveiled at the beginning of the night. This was followed by a Marshall Forbes giving a spectacular performance of our national anthem. Then between games the senior ball players, cheerleaders and dance team members were recognized. After that the Casey County Bank did a $10,000 giveaway in which Principal Josh Blevins, a Rebel basketball alum himself, was randomly selected from a drawing to attempt making the necessary baskets to claim the prize... Much to his, and spectators' dismay, he came up short. The bank also honored players of the month during this break and Lakken Miller was officially welcomed into the Lady Rebel 1,000 Point Club after having hit the milestone earlier in the week.

All of this activity was just the side show to the main events: two basketball games. While the boys' took a pretty rough defeat, the Lady Rebs gave a stellar performance in which they took down the Lady Patriots, avenging their back-to-back 12th Region championship game losses from the past two years.

This night--the games, the crowd, the atmosphere--were the perfect prelude to the 47th District Tournament which Casey hosted. If you attended the doubleheader, it made you want to be there for the tournament games; if you missed the doubleheader and heard about it, you didn't want to miss out again.

Tournament time always brings a special buzz to the air--everyone knowing anything can happen and when it comes down to it, records are wiped clean and how you did all season does not matter--it's now down to earning one win at a time, one game at a time.

Casey's hosting of the tournament did not disappoint. The gym was packed night after night and saw plenty of excitement--at least for the Casey fans. Perhaps the Lady Rebel games weren't exactly nailbiters, but when you are on the winning side of a game, fans are always excited--especially when one of those wins makes history. Not only did the girls' earn the district title, but it's the first 'three-peat' in the program's history. As if that weren't enough, it gave Coach Salyers his first district title on his home court--now named after him.

Then you had the Rebels. You could not ask for a more fun game than what we saw last Thursday when the boys' took on Somerset and won by four points. The Rebels gave us everything you want in a tournament game: a comeback from behind (going down by 12 at one point), a second half that saw constant lead exchanges, a final 90 seconds that had you so nervous you could hardly stay in your seat, and a finish that made you proud to be a Rebel. They may not have come out on top in the championship game, but their second half performance gave Pulaski a run for their money and the young team fought to the end and proudly earned our school the runner-up trophy.

The home game excitement is officially over for this season, but thankfully the play is not. With both teams competing in the 12th Region tournament, the excitement only continues and if you have been to any regional games in the past, you know the electric atmosphere that exists. The boys are playing at Pulaski County High School and the girls will be at Lincoln County High School. Both teams play Wayne County. Obviously weather is keeping a lot of us at home this week but tune in on the radio if nothing else. These two teams and their coaches have given us a heck of a season and I for one don't want to see it end.

The Lady Rebels play today at 6 p.m. and the Rebels are scheduled to play Saturday at 7:45 p.m.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sports Talk: A Bittersweet farewell to Casey County's Finest

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Feb. 19, 2014.  
In his second to last regular season home game last Saturday, parents, players, alums, fans and friends celebrated the career of 19-year Lady Rebel Coach Randy Salyers. For those who missed it, I encourage you to be there this Friday in his final regular season home game.
Photo Credit: Carpe-Imago/Chris Zollner
It just so works out that Coach Salyers gets a couple extra (hopefully two!) games in the Rebel gymnasium since CCHS is the host of this year's district tournament.

For me, Coach Salyers has been everything from a coach to a middle school P.E. teacher to a friend, and, like many, I have never really known Lady Rebel basketball without him.

My relationship with Coach Salyers began around 1998. As a sixth grader, many of my peers and I stepped up to the play with the middle school basketball team. While Coach was already working at the high school level, it was obvious he had great interest in the up and coming Lady Rebs and developing them. (I also ran track for the first time this year and, for those who don't know, he was the track Coach in those days and oversaw numerous state contenders and even state champions.)
Presenting Coach with a quilt made of
Lady Rebel Tshirts from throughout his career.
I was too young to think a lot about the fact Coach Salyers was showing such interest in the youth of the Casey County girls' basketball program, but looking back, it's obvious he was already in it for the long haul. The summer after sixth grade he was already encouraging us to attend his open gym practices and working with the middle school coaches, including Coach Darryl Barlow. He was the eighth grade coach at the time and now sits proudly alongside Coach Salyers on the high school level and has for a number of years.

1998 would have only been two years into Coach Salyers' career with the Lady Rebs, but that detail was unbeknownst to a youngster like me. By the time I was in eighth grade, several of my classmates were dressing on his varsity squad that won the 12th Region tournament and competed in the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen. I had no idea I was riding in on the building of something historical for Casey County sports. I'm not talking about the program's first trip to the state tournament, but Coach Salyers' career that would see so many accomplishments and make Casey County a regular top contender in the 12th Region.

I did not finish my high school career as a basketball player for Coach. I gave it up my junior year to focus my efforts on running, but having dedicated so many years--summers included--to the basketball life, I could not so easily walk away. You see, Coach Salyers has a way of creating a family out of his basketball team and leaving that was impossible for me, so I stayed on as a manager for the next two years and happily saw my classmates capture back-to-back district titles in 2003 and 2004.

It's a rare exception that a parent is completely OK with someone besides themselves yelling at their daughter and it's a rare exception that a young lady can handle a grown man yelling at her, but, again, Coach Salyers has a way of making his team a family. In a family you genuinely care about each other and have a special understandings and every player under Coach Salyers understood how much he wanted to see us thrive on the court. We've all seen Coach Salyers yell at his players pretty intensely during games (that or we've experienced it first hand AS one of those players!) But Coach also always has his players' backs. He is the kind of coach that made you want to work your tail off for him, and when you did that, he would go to battle for you. If you were at last Saturday's Mercer County game, you saw that first hand.

Aside from being my coach, in both track and basketball, Coach Salyers has been a dear friend in my years since graduation, and like many I will sorely miss his presence in the county when he is gone, but could not be happier for him during this change in his life.

Two of my good friends whom I played ball with under Coach.
I have to add a fun fact to this article. I am sure many wonder why in the world my by-line includes "Peat" and I will not go into where the nickname originated. Honestly I don't even know, as I have had it since before I can remember and it began as simply a family nickname used by my parents and relatives. Coach Salyers, however, having heard my dad call me "Peat" at sporting events was the first person outside of my family to publicly call me "Peat" (embarrassing the dickens out of me!), but from there I began to embrace the name and more and more people called me "Rita Peat". By the time I was in high school few people did not know the nickname and some even confused "Peat" as my last name. If it were not for Coach Salyers, my by-line may only read "Rita Harris".

I still have not wrapped my head around a season of Lady Rebel basketball without Coach Salyers. The girls playing today were not even alive when his career began 19 years ago. But, without a doubt, girls' ball at CCHS will continue and it will likely continue to thrive on the foundation Coach Salyers spent so much of his life building.For that, he will never, ever be forgotten in Casey County. I like to think that one day my daughter, born only four months ago, will also know of Coach Randy Salyers' reign over the Lady Rebels and the name he brought to the program across the 12th Region.