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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Confession: I Have the World's Biggest Sweet Tooth

It's true... I love sweets way more than any person who claims to be a "healthy eater" ever should and still claim to be "health conscious". The Battle of Added and Natural Sugars
I'm not just any one kind of sweet tooth either. I love chocolate--all forms: brownies, hot chocolate, mochas, Valentine's Day chocolate, M&Ms, cookies... I'll stop before I have to go hunting around the house for a snack...

I love candy--suckers, skittles, suck-ons, mints, gummies, starbursts.....
I love ice cream--bars, cones, sherbet, frozen yogurt, soft serve, from a store, from a carton....
I love pastries--donuts, cupcakes, cookies, breads, scones, cakes...
I love drinks--lattes, cappuccinos, frappes, sodas, juices...

And even when I'm trying to be "healthy", I often attempt to 'disguise' my sugar-love... By getting a bagel instead of a donut...but getting the cinnamon sprinkled (+sugar) bagel... Or by eating oatmeal instead of Lucky Charms--but that instant oatmeal is full of sugar itself. 

But when it comes down to it, I KNOW... I know, know, know, sugar is terrible for me. There is absolutely nothing good about sugar for me... Nothing. The natural sugars in fruits, veggies, etc, are all my body needs. 
You’ll Stop Eating Sugar After Reading This Post
I know all of this, but, oh, how our world is filled with sugar. Sugar is even in the things we least expect, making it that much harder to cut out or steer clear of the sneaky sweetener.

It's funny, though, isn't it, that we are super concerned with keeping sugar away from our youngsters, yet we are completely OK with making the exception for ourselves? Is it because have fooled ourselves into thinking we only make our kids avoid it as to avoid the "sugar buzz" effect--and not the actual health aspect of it: that sugar is NOT good for our kids? Because if we face this fact, we must also face the fact that it is also NOT good for us!

My sister posted a link to this article and it's gotten me thinking about my sugar addiction--because, let's be honest, that's what it is. (Thank goodness Mingus and I try to keep most sugars out of our house, but I'm still amazed at the amount chocolate, ice cream, graham crackers, granola bars, canned fruit, yogurt...) 

I've been recently thinking about what I will give up for Lent this year. Luckily, Easter is coming late in 2014, making Ash Wednesday not come until March, meaning I have more time do make up my mind about my Lenten sacrifice (and I got to enjoy Valentine's Day sweets). Reading this post about sugar, and having a young baybo who will sooner rather than later be looking to me as an example, I think I have decided what I will do for Lent.

I would like to give up sugar completely. I really have no idea, though, how realistic this is and know going to an extreme like that is asking for failure. As slide #13 says, "Sugar is Sneaky". It's true. It has so many forms and names on labels. Of course, looking at the nutritional facts is the easiest way to find out sugar content. But how many things is sugar in that I don't even realize as I type this??
No Sugar, More Spice Blog
So, my goal over the next two weeks, before March 5, is to pay attention to labels--especially of the things I keep in the house and eat regularly. (Yes, yes...obviously I KNOW my instant oatmeal is out!) I will definitely cut out all obvious sugars--candy, ice cream. I will allow for honey as a sweetener as well as other natural sweeteners. As this article points out, it's the sugar we ADD to things that makes our intake level so poor. I think if I can go the 40 days of Lent with much LESS sugar--all while becoming aware of where it is hiding--it may help me at least cut back on the amount I consume after the fact. After all, Lent is how I learned to like to drink my coffee black! I found this blog to help keep me motivated.

How much does sugar run your life and you don't even think about it? Please take a moment to flip through these slides to read a little more into just how BAD sugar is for us--cancer stimulant, bad on our skin, addictive, an energy-suck, immune system killer and the REAL reason we're all FAT--the list goes on and on. Honestly, the cancer part scares me most, as I know too many people who get it and you never really know why... meaning I'm just as viable a candidate for it as anyone.

You don't have to go to the extreme of giving it up completely--I admit that's hard, but at least start becoming aware of the amount of sugar you consume on a daily basis and try cutting it out with some of the easier daily decisions--like in your beverages--skip the sugar in your coffee or pass on the soda. This article will help you figure out what sugar substitutes are actually OK for you--as opposed to those trying to pose as a positive alternative, when really they are no better, maybe worse. 

Everything begins with baby steps.

Food for Thought:

"Sugar is added to dozens of foods you didn't know about, especially "healthy" options. A 2013 study by the University of Copenhagen shows that sugar actually aids the growth of malignant (cancerous) cells." -25 Reasons to Stop

"We cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem. More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally." -Excessive Sugar

"Twenty years ago I wasn’t sure, but now there's little doubt in my mind  that artificial sweeteners can be far worse for you than sugar and fructose, and there is plenty of scientific evidence to back up that conclusion." -Sugar Substitutes

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hey...Where did you go?

I originally wrote this post sometime in November 2013, but the craziness of new parenthood kept me from getting around to finalizing and posting it... I hopeful now, a month into 2014, my blogging will return to my life!
Oh, did you notice my sudden disappearance from the blogosphere? I bet you'll never guess as to why that might have happened...hmmm....

I won't go into the long details of those final weeks and days... There were definite signs in the final three weeks, like losing my mucous plug just before 38 weeks and I definitely had more Braxton Hicks contractions, but the first real ones came on Saturday evening, Oct. 12. They lasted several hours before stopping all together. Sunday was normal and we had our 39 week appointment on Monday Oct. 14. I was 1cm dialated that morning and around 3 p.m. that afternoon the contractions--very light-- started at about 12 minutes apart. From there they never stopped even though Dorothy ended up not being born until Oct. 16 at 11:40 p.m.! It was a long, long labor... the tough contractions really began Monday evening around 8 p.m. Living so far from the hospital we went up around midnight to check my status...over the hour they monitored me I went from 1 to 2cms and contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart. However, we did not get admitted and instead spent the next couple of hours wondering Walmart in attempt to move things along... Thank goodness it was the middle of the night with mainly just workers stocking shelves, because when my contractions hit I was quite a site to see!

Unfortunately for me, when we went back to the hospital, I had not progressed and the contractions, while more intense from my perspective, were further apart! At that point we went on home, but with the contractions so close I couldn't sleep... I just pushed through them the entire day and Mingus stayed home with me...trying to get the place cleaned up and what not, assuming the baby would be coming soon. At 4pm Tuesday we went back to the hospital, wanting to get checked again while our doctor was still in the office. Again, my progress was small...which was disheartening considering it had been over 24 hours of painful contractions and I hadn't been able to sleep. Instead of going home, thank goodness I have family that lives in town and I went to their house to walk for another few hours. In my next hospital trip, I had progressed to 3cms and contractions were close enough we went ahead and got admitted around 9 p.m. I stole a bite to eat first since I wouldn't be able to after the fact.  

From there it was still a long haul with no sleep and only candy and Popsicles for me to eat. Mingus did an excellent job helping me through the contractions as they got worse and worse but basically the little Peangling wasn't progressing enough. I got to 5cm and nothing changed no matter what the contractions were like and my water wasn't breaking. In the end we chose to have them break my water the next afternoon... I did progress then but only to 9cm. She was face-up so that may have had something to do with her inability to move on down. I tried all sorts of tricks to get her to turn and drop--all while in crazy amounts of pain with contractions lasting as long as 2 minutes and only a minute or so break in between. Mingus took a true beating from me and the nurses couldn't help but laugh at my "manners" throughout the process. (I was still saying 'please' and 'thank you' despite screaming it.) After so long, since my water was broken, we had to make a call and chose to get the epidural, as a C-section was the next option. (They couldn't let me go too long with my water broken due to risk of infection.) Our doctor's hope was that the epidural would be enough to relax my body and allow the contractions to move the Peangling on down. It really only gave me about 30 minutes of true relief (which was awesome after over 50 hours!) Either way, finally being able to push was great. Our doctor was amazing and able to get the Peangling to "flip" and be face down and after an hour or so of pushing she came out with a head full of hair! 7lbs 8 oz and 20 inches long.

Excited, but so exhausted. The process was so different from what I'd imagined. Even though we did not go 100% natural, I have no regrets. I know we did what was necessary when the time came and we were so grateful for a wonderful nursing staff during the entire process, as well as a doctor who did an excellent job guiding us through each step and decision. I never expected labor to be so long, and even though I knew labor would hurt... It was so much more than I could have imagined, especially with being so tired (no sleep for three days!) and hungry. I'm just so grateful for the great conditions, a wonderful husband that was there through the entire thing, and to have come out perfectly healthy myself as well as a perfect and beautiful little girl!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sports Talk: Extra Soft High School Rivalry Pranks

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Feb. 12, 2014.  
What are high school sports without some rivalry fun involved?

For as long as I remember the Russell County Lakers have been Casey's biggest rival--and I cannot even tell you why, other than they are a short trip down 127. I'm sure somebody knows...

Last week our boys basketball team hosted the Lakers. Unfortunately, in recent years Russell has dominated the basketball court when the teams face off. That, in addition to the fact I was more or less out of the loop when it came to Casey sports during my seven year tenure in Louisville, means I had completely forgotten about the traditional "Toilet Bowl" game when a team's first points resulted in the students streaming the court with rolls of toilet paper.

I was probably in the seventh grade the first time I attended one of these games and saw it in all of it's glory. I remember it happening at both home and away games when the two boys teams faced one another.

This past Thursday night when I was perched in my standard seat in the upper section across from the student section, I had not even wondered whether I would be seeing any toilet paper fly until I saw Athletic Director Victor Black stepping out of the midst of the students carrying a giant garbage bag filled with TP. You could see disappointment in many student faces that their "fun" was being busted and suddenly the memories of the Toilet Bowl came flooding back.

I couldn't help but smile as what I was seeing simply rehashed very, very similar experiences of my own. Mr. Black, after seeming to have confiscated a LOT of Charmin (and hopefully some off brands--surely students are smart enough to save a little change since the stuff wasn't being used for its intended purpose!), I saw him return to the stands and leave with another partial bag. Surely he'd thoroughly searched and disarmed the students. But then, when Casey scored it's first basket less than a minute into play, the rolls magically appeared and began hitting the court. Oh yes, I thought, that's right... somehow, no matter how many times the school administrators came through the stands and how many bags were emptied and puffy jackets were searched, students always managed to keep some TP hidden that would magically appear when the moment was right.

I know pranks between schools should not be condoned. There are good reasons for the TP confiscation and one has to hope that it won't end up being a close game with the Rebs on the losing end considering it leads to technical foul shots for Russell County. You also have to feel a little funny about the prank when your team ends up losing by nearly 20 points.

Having said that, though, as a parent, fan or school administrator, on some level you have to be grateful that THIS is the prank our schools choose to make a tradition. I mean, how much less damage can one do than to throw toilet paper--something made to be extra soft to the touch! We could have students vandalizing one another's school property, stealing things, etc. Instead the game gets interrupted for a few minutes.

For the students, I think the fun of this prank is not even about doing it to spite the Lakers; (especially considering the odds of the winner have been heavily tipped in Russell's direction for a number of years). It's more about proving you weren't the group that let tradition slip. The TP came out slowly but surely when Collin Miller put in two points on a fast break. It wasn't a beautiful raining down of streaming toilet paper. When the final rolls got tossed to the court and still no one was cleaning it up, you eventually saw school officials come to the student section and next thing you knew it was students who were cleaning up the mess they'd just made. 

I can't speak for the students to know what they were thinking or feeling, but as an alum who once sat in the section where the TP flew from, I feel like the real accomplishment for the students is simply proving they can still find ways to make it happen no matter how many bags the administration fills when they file through the stands emptying bags and jackets. Having to eat their pride after the fact and pick up the mess they made doesn't seem so bad.

A prank is a prank and as administrators you have to try and nip them in the bud, but there is something to be said for tradition--especially when it's as harmless as tossing cushy rolls of paper in the air. There are much, much worse rivalry pranks we could be shaming our students for partaking in. So this alum had to simply smile to not only see the tradition of the toilet paper flying live on, but the complete tradition--which includes plenty of rolls leaving the stands in garbage bags!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sports Talk: Run The Bluegrass--Why Not?

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published Feb. 5, 2014.  
January is over so it's time we all ask ourselves... How are those New Year's resolutions going??

Good, great or not so great is not the point. The point should be that no matter how you're doing on a goal you've set for yourself, any day can be the day to buckle down; not just the start to the year.

If you're looking for something to give you a little extra motivation on a fitness related goal, I have just the thing for you: the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon.

This race, which covers the beautiful horse farms of Lexington, takes place on March 29--exactly two months away. And don't worry--if you don't think you're cut out for a 13.1 mile race, they offer a seven mile option.

I love that there is a seven mile option. This is long enough to be more of a challenge than your typical 5K, but not so daunting to train for as a half or full marathon.

In addition to being a great race that's not far away at all, it's considered America's prettiest half-marathon's, attracting runners from across the country. The event itself is more than just a race, aimed to show off all the beauty of our state and some of its stand out features--like our horses and bourbon.

One of the really cool things this year's race has focused on is their Guest of Honor, Heather Abbott of Newport, Rhode Island. Heather was one of the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon and has since had her lower left leg amputated. Heather and a loved one will be attending the race and get a full Bluegrass experience while the race coordinators are encouraging race participants to donate toward helping with her medical expenses for the prosthetic leg. Their goal is $10,000 and they were well past $5,000 as of December.

I should also mention, for anyone who has already signed up for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, which will be held on April 19, the two races have created a partnership, The Kentucky Half Classic. Those who finish both races get all sorts of awesome amenities like a unique finisher's medal and exclusive access to food, drinks and bathrooms.

Look to some of those in our community who hit major milestones last year--Nell Duggins, Erica Turner and J.J. Tarter who all became Iron Women. If you need words of encouragement for achieving your goals--whether it be this race or something much simpler--I guarantee you there are people nearby ready to give you whatever motivation you need to remind you that you can accomplish your goals.

January may be over but don't let that be the end of your 2014 goals!

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